Prayer from the Mesa

This week was our city prayer meeting.  A group of us from different sectors gather monthly to seek the peace and prosperity of our city together.  This month we were praying for the lonely in our community.  We split into small groups and the pastor in my group started it off.  "Lord", he prayed, "I'm lonely today."  That was as far as he got.  He hung his head, unable to continue.  We sat in silence for a moment and then I reached out and began praying for my brother.  It was as if his sincerity broke open our prayers.  From there we prayed for others who may be lonely:  single parents, seniors, prisoners, the hospitalized, , those far from home...it just kept going.  As we prayed for each one, the Holy Spirit led our prayers, reminding us of others. 

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Stories to Remember

So my sister has the apron on, little cousin is begging to go to the park.  Some family aren't coming because they are upset and others are sitting in traffic on their way as I type.  Dad just yelled out, "Let the football games begin" and Mom is trying to squeeze one more place at the table.  Grandma has only insulted me once so far with an attempted compliment and our British friend is photographing every dish...   Just another holiday here at the Brooks' home.

In a couple of hours we'll be all settled in.  The prayers will be said and the food will be shared.  And then someone will bust out the first of Aunt Katherine's brownies and the stories will begin.   My grandmother has seven brothers and sisters.  They were raised in Hong Kong.  I have spent many Thanksgivings eating brownies and listening to their adventures.  This year there will only be two of them at the table- my grandmother and her sister in law are the ones left of that generation.  Considering the dwindling group, the stories become more precious. 

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Isolated by Insurance

This week my neighbor, Karina, borrowed some money so she could pay a physical therapist.  This summer she fell into an unmarked, open trench where our city had been doing street construction and broke her arm.  It still doesn’t straighten out despite her surgery so she’s seeing a physical therapist. 

Karina doesn’t have insurance so her community has rallied around her.  Some neighbor ladies watched her kids during her recovery and appointments.  Her husband has stepped it up at home.  A friend of a friend prays with her.  A doctor comp-ed his fee.  I help her fill out all the paperwork.  Another friend gave his law expertise toward the claim with the city.  

Don’t get me wrong- I’m all for insurance.  It’s just that my dependence on insurance is all part of the lie telling me I don’t need others.

Remember Your Chains

After I watched the beautiful, young bride walk down the aisle an old Steven Curtis Chapman song came to my mind: “Remember your chains, remember the prison that once held you before the love of God broke through…” When I saw her glowing in her white gown, I was reminded of the girl all dressed in black whose heart was as hard as her eyeliner was thick when we met nine years ago.  Remembering her past and journey to freedom in Christ made her beauty shine even brighter.

 

The song came to mind again the next day as aI visited a friend in prison. He allowed himself a moment to dream about his release.  He admonished me to enjoy the freedom I have and spoke of what he will do to embrace life when he gets out.

Being Church

Sometimes you just want to be with people who know and love you; people you don’t have to explain yourself to, who accept you for who you are. That’s how I was feeling Sunday morning. That’s why I was so glad to be in church.

It had been a rough week for many of us. One brother had been out on the corner with some day laborers working through power struggles there. One sister patiently works all week with autistic children. Our pastors’ family and I had been visiting with a family whose son passed away tragically. A few of the women jumped in and put on a bridal shower for a young neighbor woman whose mom is out of the picture. Some of us had rallied to support the families of six men deported. I was coming into church feeling a bit beat up and bruised by the attempts we’d made all week to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. It turns out that there is quite a bit of opposition to justice and mercy in our world and we were feeling it this week.
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The Rest of Romans 13

Many people have different reasons for wanting to maintain the status quo. Oftentimes it takes a lot of energy and effort to make change. Maybe you benefit economically from the way things are. There is the risk of things actually being worse instead of better if I rock the boat. There are lots of reasons to maintain the status quo.

When it comes to immigration reform I often hear Christians quote Romans 13 as a reason that we should keep things the way they are. The chapter starts out, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” The argument tends to go that God has established the rulers, they make the rules and therefore we should submit to them.
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Putting in the Time

There is something to be said for longevity. There are certain direct, honest things you can say to people when you have history with them. You earn an influence and voice in people's life sometimes just by sticking around. There is an understanding of situations, relationship dynamics, and context that comes over time. It is helpful in seeing the way forward and navigating partnerships.

I've worked in my neighborhood now for eight years. That's the longest I've ever done anything besides go to school. I wouldn't call it longevity but it is long enough that I am starting to see how community works at deeper levels over time. Wayne Gordon, a respected Christian community developer http://www.lawndalechurch.org/ says that you have to be in a place for at least fifteen years to really see fruit. I am somewhere in the middle between a rookie and a veteran and I'm beginning to think he is right.

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Faces of Reform: Immigration

Roman was a pretty average student at the after school teen center where we met nine years ago.  He was timid but he liked to joke around. As neighbors, I still saw him after graduation.  He worked here and there and was always trying to keep his sister on track. 

At the community center, church volunteers are great about helping kids with their homework.  Volunteers coach kids in soccer.  They teach Bible studies and put on Vacation Bible Schools.  Our volunteers truly want good things for our students.  They plan field trips and college visits.  They take kids to the theater and sporting events to expose them to culture and our community. 

 

People love to be a part of seeing an immigrant kid be the first one in his family to go to college.

How Long Must We Sing This Song

I just crammed $5 into a box with a kid's photo on it. We just found out he died so all my neighbors are chipping in to cover the cost of the funeral. There is no way any of us could give a substantial sum but all together it is a big help to the family.

This morning I drove Karina, my neighbor with a broken arm, to the police station to pick up a police report and file a claim with the city. Last week she accidently rode her bike into a ditch on our street where the city was doing some construction and broke her arm. It was dark. There were no cones up. The ditch was in front of a driveway. The police took a report and confiscated her bike. They are holding it for evidence. She needs surgery for her arm so she collected $2000 from family and friends. She can't work, which means she loses income. She has a bit of insurance but it doesn't cover emergency visits or orthopedic surgery so we went to ask the city to help with the expenses. The supervisor was very nice, but he was sweatin' it. It will take forever to get any money from the contractor's insurance he told me. Every time I turn on the radio or open a blog, it is teeming with debates on health care reform but today the debates seemed silly in light of my neighbor's urgency.

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Go Big or Go Home- "This American Life"- Going Big

"Go big or go home" is a phrase you will hear often around my family. While I appreciate small gestures and I find beauty in simplicity, there are some occasions when you just need to go all out.

National Public Radio's "This American Life" highlighted some of those occasions today in their episode "Going Big". The first vignette is especially inspiring.

Check it out at this link;

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=364

What do you need to do up big right now?

How could your community be changed if you stepped up in a huge way?

 

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I love our world- the sights, noises, and flavors of it all. I've found the best way for me to make a difference globally is to be rooted and engaged in my community. Every day is 1 more adventure in loving God and loving my neighbor.


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