The Vatican

Attending mass at 7 a.m. is not usually a big deal, but this past week, I managed to be at an early mass at  the altar of transfiguration inside the Basilica on St. Peter's Square. In other words, at the Vatican. 

Taking a brief tour with the priest afterwards, he pointed out various interesting facts about St. Peter's and the fact that this is the largest church structure in the world. HIstorical statues intersected wtih tourists who intersected with church history and before 8 a.m., we had walked, talked, prayed, and been duly humbled by a place unlike any other church on the planet.

As we walked outside, construction had started on the new showers being put in for the homeless, as ordered by Pope Francis. My new friend pointed up toward the window where the Pope regularly appears and mentioned that this particular Pope is known to simply show up for mass or suddenly appear for prayer--unexpectedly and without much fanfare. And then, one turns back to the showers being constructed for the down-and-out of Rome.

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A Lament for My Community

A year ago this month the Lord spoke to me about "Embrace."  I decided to go through my days embracing the people, situations, and opportunities that presented themselves.  It turns out that this posture has led to me having to embrace a lot of pain- my own pain and brokenness, the pain of my friends, and the pain of my city.  In learning to embrace, I have been learning a lot about lament and mourning.  In my attempt to obey the call to embrace, I have found the Scriptures rich with lament and mourning that is raw and open before the Lord.  These passages have become my comfort and guide and my permission to cry out in a world that tempts me to numb, distract, and fake my feelings. 

I share here a lament I wrote for my city:

My Lament:

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A Small Town Perspective on City Growth

May 2007 article from the Economist still seems like one of the better surveys of urban growth that I have read.
 
With that said, let me give a bit of a personal perspective and see if this resonates with anyone. Until I was 17 years old, I lived in a town of less than 5000 people in Northern Illinois. No one asked what school I went to, there was only one option. The only major fast food chain was Hardee's and Main Street was truly the main street. Over the years, I have seen the exodus of people my age and younger leave to head to Chicago, the nearest big city or to the four cornes of the earth. Why? First, two major factories shut down. The General Electric and Ethan Allen factories, which used to employ about a third of the town, each closed.
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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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