What is a “live” neighborhood? Can the Church revitalize our neighborhoods?

Here’s something that maybe Christians could lead the way in, revitalize our towns, our neighborhoods, and bring a sense of community back to our lives. Markets have survived for centuries in other places, and we all love Pike Place, Portland Saturday Market, Fisherman’s Wharf and the neighborhood markets which have begun to find their way back into other communities.

Go, read this article or at least glance at it.


Make sense? Not the entrepreneurial type? Don’t worry, we can all be excited for this!

For this of us here in the Portland area we’ve visited and love the food carts, well this idea is far more than just food carts.  It would require changes in city codes, allowing for businesses to spring up and move around. Little stores where people can buy and sell things, literally niche stores.

Now, imagine these little stores distributed throughout our neighborhoods but backed by the Church, giving people work, and at the same time being an outreach to our communities through real tangible service. This could be a great way to activate our boring spaces and energize our neighborhoods with a neighborly feeling of “local store” again.  It’s a little far-fetched, and definitely out of the box as far as the Church is concerned.

In our travels there are small little shops like this all over European cities and towns over time people come to know each other and create relationships, your local shop keeper becomes in a sense part of your community. It’s in these kinds of linking conduits that we can make connections that eventually become meaningful and thus open the doors to sharing the Gospel. Getting out in our communities is what the Church is always “told” to do – but honestly I don’t see it happening… probably because we have no reason… generally our communities in America are pretty boring (outside some city centers).  If we had actual things to do, places to be, and people to see in our neighborhoods, we might, just might actually connect and begin making some differences.

Being conscience about food on TV


Food, a basic need, yet for most Christian Americans, it’s around us in far too much abundance, both in the way we consume and the way we throw out. Thanks to Google Reader I came upon this article on The Ooze, one of my favorite online magazines/blogs, an open letter to Food Network and the Travel Channel, and I have to say – I’m in agreement. When I paused to think about what the letter was about, I was convicted by the facts – not only is “food competition” and other extreme uses of food an insult to many parts of the world, it can’t help promote healthy ideas about food, nor the reality that food is in extremely short supply for many people.

While it may not be “our fault” that these food shortages exist, while it is a complicated and often hard to imagine circumstance, maybe we could use our resources in a more creative manner, humble ourselves and use our profits to educate and create sustainable ways of making a difference in other people’s lives. Maybe the Food Network and others like them could have these competitions and the prize is winning trips and documenting these places where Food (and other resources) are not as abundant and teaching others how to change those circumstances, maybe one family or village at a time? Just a quick thought…

Marriage, what does it mean?


So what is “marriage”? Actually the question I really am asking, is “is marriage something for the Church AND the rest of the world, OR is it something for just the Church?”  Basically my point (if you don’t want to read further) is that for people who are “outside” the Church (belonging to Jesus the Christ as their Lord) can not possibly be held to our values, we should treat them with the same basic values that any human deserves, love, respect, and equality among all. I know, this sounds almost heretical, but seriously, can we really even expect someone who does not call Jesus their Lord to understand the blessing? NO, of course not. Therefore instead of fighting over values which are almost impossible to understand, none the less live, when not belonging to Christ, we need to focus on evangelism, discipleship, and worship of our Lord – and then we’ll see people’s values dramatically change.  Now read the rest if you wish…

With the same-sex marriage issue hot underway, I have a harder and harder time with our institutionalized version of marriage. We’ve taken (one of many things) a biblical principal and turned it into a law for the land.  While this is most likely the most ancient of traditions, and therefore seeped in emotions and dogma, is it really necessary for the government to be involved?  Why must marriage be law?

To take this thought further, I wonder how much stronger the Church would be if marriage had remained only within the Church and the government simply provided the benefits of “marriage” (tax breaks) to registered households, since essentially this is what the marriage “benefit” essentially is (I’m in no way a tax expert, however). Forget legalized unions, marriages, etc… leave those titles up to us to decide.  Let us be married before our God.

There’s a lot of issues which could arise from this, one being the idea that “marriage” is only for Christians… and that’s not what this blog entry is about, and not sure how we would walk that out, I fear it would simply become another thing for Christians to demand that “marriage” be trademarked or some crazy idea like that.

All of this to say, if people who do not have Jesus as their Lord, want to be together and have a ceremony of some type, leave it to them to do, and leave both the state and Church out of it.  As Christians we ought not busy ourselves with “fighting” the culture, for our fight is not against flesh and blood, it’s spiritual – so let’s focus on winning souls and living as Jesus, who did not come to judge (as we do many times) but rather came to convict (point out, guide away, lead towards the light) us of sin.

In this way the Christian marriage would be unique, mean something more, and most of all, a truly different covenant defined by biblical standards, not governmental, cultural, or traditional definitions.  I understand this doesn’t “solve” all the “problems”, but it’s at least a direction which firstly allows “us” (Christians) to walk the high road in humility, Secondly, it’s a graceful step out of the argument and allow the Christian marriage to be what we believe it to be – a covenant between a man and a woman to love, cherish, and support one another for our rest of our lives; all other unions can remain whatever they want to define them as, and we can befriend, and show that love is stronger than human will.  God is much bigger than definitions of marriage, his love lives loud when we focus on walking with him instead of “proving” and “legalizing” “his” ways to the rest of the world.

As I’ve grown closer in my walk, I’ve come to realize “our” (I can hardly say I’m a part of “them” but can’t exactly divorce myself, since the body of Christ is ONE) methods need to change, and we have all heard it, if there is not love then there is no reason to claim Jesus as lord.  This means we live by the spirit, in love towards everyone, and turn the other cheek when others mock or take offense, but we don’t bite back, and we don’t argue back – we walk the high road, and allow people to make their choices, we can’t make it for them (forcing “our” laws and viewpoints) – we can pray, we can talk, and for those that want to hear and see we can be a witness to Christ’s glory.

The path of least resistence


Something I observe multiple times throughout my week is that people fall into two camps, either they are “go getters” or “resisters” and in most cases, people attempt to take the “path of least resistance”.  In nearly every job or role I’ve been placed in I’ve seen this phenomenon, and I’m guilty of it as well… “what’s the easiest,  fastest, and most ‘avoidant’ way of getting X done?” and man it irks me.  It seems to be an especially strong disease throughout my generation.

This is even stronger when it comes to relational dynamics, I see it so many times, people going to all kinds of lengths to avoid a possible “conflict” or “situation” – in my mind though, this kind of avoidance makes waters down our relationships, and actually breaks down the desire for strong friendships and family that we actually want.  It certainly takes guts to overcome our cultural boundaries, and most of the time takes courage since most of us have not been shown how to healthily confront awkward (or simply saying no) situations.

A lot of the time when I’m faced with the decision to resist or “go get it” I have to ask myself, what is the pro-relationship path I could take? What will build up the relationship? What decision might tear it down, or leave it flat? As a person who looks to Jesus for direction, I usually can’t choose to skim past a relation-building choice… (of course if it’s unhealthy and not safe, then that’s another ball-game which actually might be just as challenging to make the choice to step away from a relationship). Often times I find myself wanting to avoid talking to someone because it’s harder than just making my own choice to “skim on by with what’s acceptable” – however, I’m not so sure this is how Jesus goes about ministering to us, and I want to reflect this. I want to go above just the “satisfactory” and I want to be a servant, even when it’s not exactly pleasant for me.

Good work ethics are demotivating


Picture was taken at the central Library MAX stop downtown Portland waiting for the train home. Mobile post ahead, spelling and typo errors ahead…

I work with a lot of people, both in ministry and in my vocation. A lot of these people are fantastic hard working people, and…. well a lot are just not. Now when I say hard working I’m not talking about the work-aholics, that’s a different breed. I’m talking about people who have good work ethics, people who take on what is theirs, don’t blame shift, and look for solutions. When people opperate like this then I’m glad to work along side them, past mistakes, and help accomplish the bigger goal.

When I’m working with the type of person who is constantly blame shifting, covering up mistakes, and not looking for solutions then I begin to get frustrated. This is always a hard line to walk, because ultimately I need to walk the high road and love the person through the conflict without enabling them to live/work on in dysfunction. The issue and temptation I run into is paitience within myself to work with God and find the teachable moments.

Whether Christian or not, people are in one of these two categories, to varrying degrees of course. Living in harmony as Paul instructed the Romans is key to my walk with Jesus, so a value I live out is having a strong work ethic, working alongside others who don’t share that is frustrating, but not a license to micro manage, freak out, or ignore the issues. Nor is it the time to become demotivated and give up on humanity, it’s exactly the opposite, it’s time to act and be who I’m called to be and work in my skills and gifts.

Got grace or just truth?

Telling the truth about God, life, people, or just about anything, is very hard to do in a graceful way, in a way that keeps the truth of God’s character intact. I hear peers today so concerned by the church’s image, afraid to use words like “saved” and “blessing”. While I admit those words have made me cringe as well, I have also realized that people not in the know, really aren’t offended by these words, instead, my observation from co-workers have been simple questions, like “what do you mean by saved” – which opens a door.

What I’m getting at is, yes we need to communicate in a way that the most people can understand, yet we must also remember that God’s character is the most important thing to communicate. If we communicate that God is anything but what he tells us in the Bible, than we’re failing. So in our attemp to communicate on issues of homosexuality, politics, war, etc, in a graceful way, we must not leave out crucial truths, and in our attempts to communicate his truth we must not use shame.