Monday, October 27, 2014

On Living Between Suburbia and the Ghetto

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I live on the border of suburbia and the ghetto. North of my house is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in my city. South of my house, at the end of my street, you will hit a literal fence that divides this affluent neighborhood from "those people." You know, "other side of the tracks" people. Except it doesn't.

People who live in the sought after suburb want what most Americans, lulled by the American Dream, are taught to want. Safety, white picket fences, comfortable (in this case multi-million dollar) homes. Because my "neighbors" are so closely located to "bad neighborhoods" they have chose to insulate themselves from the problems around them. They have put up fences, both literal and figurative. An instead of keeping the "bad" out it has done something of the opposite.

Crime is an increasing concern in this area. The fences are hurting rather than helping. People who have the means to alleviate poverty, become fathers to the fatherless, love and serve those in need, have chosen to wall themselves up in their American Dream. They have turned their backs to the hungry, the hurting, the addicted. Instead of extending the hand of generosity to those who need it most they have had meetings, hosted ridiculous social media threads, and called 911 on every pedestrian they don't recognize.

This has made them both unfriendly and fearful. They don't wave at a young couple walking their dog. They firm up their faces and their defences. They serve the needy when it is sociably acceptable (ie. during the holidays or when a local school has a food drive) but they don't live lives of service, love, and consideration of their neighbors.

Hear me out. We have lived in an urban area for over five years. We have had legitimate needs to call 911. Those instances do exist. And I am not saying that charity, service and love would eliminate all crime in our neighborhoods and cities. What I am saying is that safety and security is a myth. The Kool-Aid of the American Dream has caused us to put ourselves first with disregard for those suffering around us. Our approach of building fences and walls, installing the most advanced security systems and walling ourselves in against the world has done little to alleviate the root of our society's problems.

I believe we could truly change the world if we practiced Jesus' way of hospitality. If we invited strangers and friends to share our tables. If we were more aware of the woman behind us in the grocery store than our to-do list. If we looked at people as brothers and sisters instead of inconveniences. How would our lives and communities be different if as Jeremy Courtney says we "love first and asked questions later"?

I'm joining with She Reads Truth for a study of Biblical hospitality. You can join us here.

My friend, Lori, lives in the hood and extends radical hospitality to hard people everyday. If you want to read more on this topic I highly recommend her blog here.

I'd love to hear about your neighborhood and how you extend Biblical hospitality in the comments below.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pratical Ideas for Being Missional on Halloween

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Can you believe Halloween is only two weeks away? As many consider it the start of the holiday season I'm left wondering where 2014 went so quickly?

Halloween is one of the only nights of the year that people come out of their homes and interact with their neighbors willingly. It’s an open door to relationships and an opportunity we often miss when getting to know our neighbors. 
Why not make the most of this night with some fun and practical missional ideas? You can choose something really simple or more complex based on your neighborhood and abilities. Here are a few of my ideas:

  • Have two drink dispensers on a table outside. Label one “For the Kids” and one “For the Adults.” Fill each container accordingly and add the contents to the label as well, (ie. lemonade or apple cider for the kids and cocktails for the adults). Stay outside to hand out your Halloween candy and offer drinks to each family that comes by. You’ll get an opportunity to have conversations and the parents will love you for giving them a treat on what can be a very long night.
  • Host a cookout or potluck. Have neighbors bring something while you provide an affordable entrĂ©e like hotdogs or chili. Setup in your front yard (this is critical if you really hope to engage the whole neighborhood) and enjoy a relaxing night of making new friends.
  • Partner with your friend to host a front yard party or block party. Think of your front yard as a mini fall festival. Have bales of hay or other seating and perhaps a fire pit for lingering. Setup some simple games for kids (ie. bobbing for apples in a kiddie pool). Provide a hot drink bar and of course candy. (This requires the most work and investment, but will pay off exponentially.)

For more ideas check out the free to being missional on Halloween from Verge here.

What ideas do you have for being missional on Halloween? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On Hope, Words, and Remembering

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It was everywhere. It was written on chalkboards and spelled out in Scrabble letters. Sometimes it played in the back of my mind like a tune that won't go away. Other times it hung over my head like a banner emblazoned over my life. Everywhere I've went, through the highs and lows. It has been there.

My word of the year is hope. And hope I have. In January, what I really hoped for was some relief from the past year that had left me beat up, worn out, hopeless.

In the spring I flew to the Missional Women conference and hope held my hand when I publicly shared a part of my story that had been known to only a select few in private. A month later I began to share that story here in hopes that you would be as gracious as the women in that room were.

Summer found me busy, overwhelmed and in need of a break. So with hope for the power of less I gave up a lot of things for a month. It was good and right. But at the end of the month I picked them all back up again and added in some more.

So here I am in Fall (my favorite season of the year) with less than 100 days left of this year. Once again I've had to lay things down in search of less. I know God is working in my heart in some new ways. And so I hold onto hope uncertain of the future but trusting The Source of Hope for what lies ahead.

This has been my first time choosing a word of the year and it really has made a difference. But I don't think I would have held onto it throughout the entire year if I hadn't had so many visual reminders around my home. If you're wanting to be reminded of hope perhaps the new Letterpress Blocks would help you hold on to it or whatever you're needing to remember most in this season. You can use the interactive interface here to customize any word you choose.

I'd love to hear how the power of words have helped you this year in the comments below.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

When God Says No: on Disbodedience and Choosing Less

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I've been writing in this space for three years as of today. I launched this blog by joining The Nester's 31 days series in 2011. Albeit a crazy way to jump into the world of regular blogging it was one of the better decisions I've made with my writing. I would highly recommend it to any new blogger wanting to get into the habit of writing regularly and looking to build their platform.

At the beginning of each new year I'm already looking toward October and brainstorming a topic I could write on for an entire month. Once I narrow it down I plan each day, research thoroughly, and save quotes and resources that I can use for my series. This year was no different and I announced a topic I was thoroughly excited about and prepared for last week.

But for months God has been calling me to less. To lay down things I hold dear. And I have been ignoring Him. Consciously disobeying. Sure I fasted some things for a brief spell in July but as soon as the month was over I jumped on the "more" bandwagon and filled my calendar and my life with too much of everything.

Everything came to a head last week and let's just say God made it impossible for me to keep ignoring Him. So in this season I'm choosing less even when I what I want is more.

Today would have started my fourth 31 days series but I won't be linking up. In October I'll be embracing less and seeking God about the future of my ministry, my life, my pursuits. I will be writing for five minutes each day using the 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes prompts from Five Minute Friday host, Kate. You can find all the October prompts here. Perhaps some of that writing will show up in this space.

I still have content 31 days worth of Celebration and Traditions for anyone who wants to really live. I do hope get to share that with you in the future.

In this season of less, I want to thank those of you who have given me so much by reading faithfully and encouraging me. Thank you for your grace.