Call Vignettes- A Series of Surrenders 4- A Call to Embrace

A friend of mine called the other day to ask what my theme for 2011 is.  For the last seven years or so I’ve operated with themes that keep me on course throughout a year.  It started a few years back in the Fall when the Lord was speaking to me about hope.  I embraced hope as a theme for that next year and each Fall since then the Lord seems to show me an area of my life to focus in on.  One year it was “Rejoice” and I was excited because I was looking forward to celebrating many things.  Instead, that year everything fell apart.

As I cried and watched things unravel the theme would come to mind- Rejoice.  Rejoicing despite disappointment and pain got me through that year.  Another year the Lord spoke to me about gratitude and not taking things for granted so I chose “Thanksgiving” as the theme.   Every day I would write something I was thankful for on a strip of paper and make it into a loop. I lived each day looking for reasons to give thanks.   By the end of the year I had a chain of gratitude looped all around my room and a grateful heart.  In the process of intentionally practicing hope, joy, gratitude and such, I have experienced my life more fully.

So when my friend called to ask about this year, it was as if he was waiting to hear what he should be looking for in 2011.  Luckily I was ready with an answer.  My theme for 2011 is “Embrace.”  I know it’s vague but it’s supposed to be big enough for the whole year.  Besides, I don’t make it up, it comes to me as I sit with the Lord and he gently exposes parts of me that He is refining.  It is fun, like a game almost or a challenge to see if I can listen and focus in enough to see the opportunities and ways he is teaching me to embrace others and their ideas and his timing and his ways.  I think of that Sunday School song- “His Banner Over Me is Love”.  It’s like this year his banner over me is “Embrace.”  And instead of beating me over the head with my stubbornness, he marches out with me under the banner of embrace, out on another adventure.

Really he could beat me over the head with my stubbornness.  I am not the most embracing of people.  I tend to have an idea of how I want things and if I’m honest, I like to have things my way.  But lately the Lord has been whispering, “embrace” to me as I listen to others’ ideas and when I meet people that seem just a little off.  “Embrace” knocks around in my head when there is an opportunity for a new experience or new way of doing the same old thing.  In 2011 I am looking forward to embracing all that the Lord has for me.  I anticipate letting go of my own way and embracing the ways of others.  I look forward to a whole new cast of characters that enrich my life because I choose to embrace them this year.  And already I can see some realities of my life that I need to stop fighting against and embrace.  This year I plan to embrace my limited budget.  I will embrace my loved ones for who they truly are.  I can learn better to embrace my shape and my own feelings.   And perhaps in practicing embracing I will learn something of what it is to walk humbly with my God, freed up to embrace His leading.

What theme would you choose for 2011?  What will you choose to embrace this year?

Crissy Brooks MIKA CDC, Costa Mesa, CA

Mika CDC
Kingdom Causes

Shalom for Everyone

Greetings for the New Year 2011!

I’ve been reading Robert Linthicum’s book Building a People of Power. He does a great job at talking about the biblical concept of shalom as what a God vision for the whole world is to look like.

We talk a lot about shalom when we talk about Kingdom Causes to churches and people of faith. After all we use Jeremiah 29:7 a lot in our conversations: “Seek the welfare (shalom) of the city.” But what I didn’t think about is that shalom is for the “haves and have nots,” and Linthicum does a good job at showing these two are intertwined for shalom to be whole (and biblically speaking, the two themes are brought together in the book of Deuteronomy).

Shalom for the “have nots” is a message of liberation, salvation, of setting free. Shalom for the “haves” is of celebration for security and of wise management of all God has given. As Linthicum says,

The biblical message on shalom is that it is for both the haves and have nots. It is both for those who lack power and are in need of liberation and for those who hold power and seek to appropriately manage the resources God has placed at their disposal…One of the essential tasks of the church is to bring together through Christ those searching for liberation or salvation and those who are the managers of society and seek security, so that they might work together to build shalom that is truly just and equitable for all, that brings people in to an ever-deepening relationship with God and each other, and consequently contributes to the formation of society as God intended it to be lived.

Couldn’t have said it better myself! Here’s to seeking shalom and bridges between the haves and have nots in Alhambra & Monterey Park for the New Year!

Jesse Chang

Kingdom Causes Alhambra/Monterey Park, CA

Kingdom Causes – 2010 Reflections

Below is the text from the end of the year newsletter I sent to many others. Thanks for all the support this year!

It’s hard to believe the end of 2010 is coming soon. During this Advent season, I look back at the last year and have seen God’s provision and generosity through your support, prayers, and participation in our events and programs, even as I transitioned into full-time as the catalyst in June.

One word I can use to describe this past year is “favor.” We received a generous capacity grant this year that provided computer equipment, marketing material for our Believe mentoring program, and an urban gardening handbook for our Neighborhood Gardens program. This grant also included wonderful leadership coaching in handling finances, strategic planning, online marketing, and fund development, perfect for someone starting out full time! We also renewed our contract with the County of Public Health to continue giving workshops on having safe and healthy home environments for families.

This favor also extended into some of our initiatives. Our Monterey Park Ministerial Association has completed another year of finding ways we can reach out to our community together. On Good Friday, over 100 people prayerwalked to pray for peace in our city and community. In the summer, a number of churches coordinated their VBS program schedule so they could provide families with 6 weeks of VBS for the community. And our annual Community Thanksgiving Service also provided a candle prayerwalk to City Hall as we put into practice our role as “salt and light” in our communities.

We also facilitated several neighborhood BBQs this year, as a way for us to practically reach out to our literal neighbors. Without fail each time, neighbors say, “we should do this more often!” Even in Los Angeles, people realize they want to know and trust their neighbors even though the default is to live in isolation.

Next year, we are going to capitalize on this year’s favor to use the urban gardening handbook to help our low-income neighbors using local food banks to grow their own food. We hope to expand our mentoring program with Alhambra School district to be more robust and hire someone part-time to lead that development. We are also growing a new Alhambra Ministerial Association of pastors and ministers who will work together on ways to bless the city (we are planning a join prayerwalk at the beginning of Lent next year).

Thanks for all your support this year, and may you have a blessed 2011!

Jesse Chang, Catalyst

Kingdom Causes

Kids Art Exhibit

For the past 7 weeks, 20 neighborhood kids have been coming through our community center doors working on fabulous art projects! They have been learning all about different art mediums including painting, drawing, photography, oil pastels, 3D building, collaging, and more! The cool thing about this Art class session is that all the art work is about Community! We have been learning all about Community and the different aspects of our city while creating Art!

Here our some pictures we snapped at the Kids Art Exhibit! It was so great to see how exited all the kids were to show off their art work to their families and everyone who stopped by!

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Christy Padilla, Associate Catalyst, Kingdom Causes Bellflower

Kingdom Causes

The Nativity Story and Vampires?

Over the last 13 weeks our students at Step Up (Mika’s afterschool program) have been learning to “listen with their hearts” during our devotion time.  We have spent time teaching them some ancient Christian practices such as Lectio Divina, contemplative prayer and the Examen.  The younger ones are not so great at being quiet or still – major components in these traditions, but they’re practicing…

During the last four weeks we have been preparing our hearts for Christmas and doing a series for Advent.  We have been on an imaginary journey to Bethlehem to see the Messiah.  At first we did not know the way and encountered different people to help us reach our destination.  The first week we met the Prophets and the second week Mary and Joseph reminded us to “not be afraid”.  Week three we met the Shepherds who shared their great joy of the Good News of the birth of Jesus and week four the Wise Men told of the precious gifts they brought to the newborn King.

As part of our Lectio Divina practice, the students listen to the scripture and then sit in silence to see what they hear with their hearts.  What word stands out?  What phrase?  What image do they get?  When they slowly open their eyes, they are encouraged to share with the others.  It is unbelievable to hear what they come up with at each session.  The Holy Spirit impresses amazing truths to these tiny, innocent hearts.  They are unedited and open and excited to share what they hear from God.

I gave the lesson at both of our sites on Thursday and during my time with the kindergarten, first and second graders at the Hope Center I had asked the question I always ask when they open their eyes.  “What did you hear with your heart?”  Carlos raised his hand to share.  “Frankenstein.”  I tilted my head a little and repeated it – just to be sure.  “Frankenstein?”  He nodded.  “Yes.  Frankenstein.”  Hmmmm???  I had heard some odd things over these last thirteen weeks but not close to this.  I looked down at the scripture I had read, hoping for a clue.  Ahhhh – there it was.  “…gold, frankincense and myrrh…” – got it!  I explained what it was (without laughing)…after all, he had heard it with his heart!

An hour later I did the same lesson at the Maple Learning Center.  This time when I asked the question, “What did you hear with your heart?” I received another surprise.  Eduardo raised his hand and said, “Vampire.”  What?  Vampire?  First Frankenstein and now vampire?  Once again, I scanned the scripture and their it was – “…a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire…”  I smiled and told the students a very basic version of the political, economic, military and cultural influence on a region (history, right?) and closed in prayer.

Later that night, I smiled when I thought about how Carlos and Eduardo had actively chosen to open up and hear from God while they listened to His word.  It was precious to see these young boys confident in what they heard with their hearts.  Ok, so they needed a little explanation.  Don’t we all?  I am grateful they are in a place where they feel safe enough to share and explore what they are practicing.  For all they knew, there were monsters and vampires in the story of Christmas!  I was happy to set it straight and clear up any blurry areas but it did get me thinking.  Where do I need clarification in my study of God’s word?  Who can I go to get the right explanation?  Can I be open like Carlos and Eduardo and just be honest with where I’m at right now or do I pretend I know more than I do?  Over this Christmas break, I’m going to spend some time being quiet and listening to my own heart and hearing what it says.  Who knows?  Maybe it will be even better than “Frankenstein” or “vampire” in the Nativity Story.

by Caryn Kallal

Mika CDC
Kingdom Causes

Thanksgiving on Baker St.

Thanksgiving is a time to share, celebrate and to give thanks for what we have. This has been my favorite holiday since I came to the States ten years ago. This time of the year people gather together and express their gratitude for whatever they have received during the last 365 days they have been in this earth, but especially for being here in this great country of ours.

As I said, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday but the love for this day has increased even more since I started working at Baker St. with MIKA. The reason why is because we at Baker, have started a new tradition of getting together two nights before the holiday, although last year was kind of informal, this year it was better organized.

People stepped up this year by bringing ALL the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner components, we even had three turkeys and there were so much food and best of all, so many people that it just turned out to be a great celebration.

I am so glad that we had the opportunity to celebrate this holiday with our regular neighbors, but this time we had two representatives from the CM Police Department, also Mike from the Halecrest/Hall of Fame community, MIKA staff members and other members of the Baker community that usually don’t attend our meetings. All in all, we had over 50 people in attendance.  I think that the celebration served its purpose of bringing people together and have a good time but most of all, have a time to give thanks.

by Walter Garcia

MIKA CDC, Costa Mesa
Kingdom Causes

Call Vignettes- A Series of Surrenders 3- “The Crash”

My mom talks of the crash in terms of a year, not a week. She talks about our household being off for a year, my dad distant, stressed and hurting after losing his friend; my mom trying to navigate their upturned relationship and maintain a household. There was much happening around me that I was insulated from by my own self-centeredness and ego.

The morning of the crash I crawled into bed next to mom. Dad was already up and out of the house. Mom rolled over and said, “It’s going to be a hard day for the Ketchum’s.”  It seemed like a strange thing to say first thing in the morning. The Ketchum family definitely wasn’t what was on my mind. Then she told me- the police helicopter had crashed in the middle of the night and my dad’s flying partner and friend, Dave Ketchum, had been killed along with two other men.

I was twelve years old and Penny Ketchum, Dave’s daughter, was my friend. I didn’t know what to do so like any preteen, I called my friends. After school a bunch of us went over to Penny’s house. She was sitting on the bumper of a car in front of her house. As we walked up she said, “Did you hear my dad is dead?” It seemed like such an obvious thing to say. Of course we heard, that’s why we’re here. But what else do you say when you’re twelve and your world just fell apart?

For the next week I vacillated between the two awkward preteen extremes of completely smothering my friend to staying away out of a total lack of knowing what to do or say. In my self centered mind the whole week played out like a big party. Mom and Dad were completely disconnected and unavailable for us kids.  They didn’t check our homework or make us dinner. We were at the Ketchum’s every night after school. All the kids rode bikes in the cul de sac as people came and went from the house. The adults sat around and ate and drank. They drank a lot. And they cleaned. The women buzzed around the house always cleaning, keeping themselves busy while Mrs. Ketchum sat on the couch.

I remember a couple sobering moments when I would be snapped out of my party mentality and be forced to remember why we were gathered. The second night we were over at the Ketchum’s, a few of us kids were in the front yard with Penny. She had broken down and was crying, and began asking all kinds of ‘why’ questions. “Why did that man have to steal a car?” “Why did it have to be my dad working?” Then she looked straight at me, “My dad tried to trade shifts with your dad. It should’ve been your dad! Why wouldn’t your dad trade shifts?” I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know if it was true or not. But I figured it was a legitimate question for anyone feeling that much pain.

The evening of the funeral we were all gathered back at the house. TVs were on in the bedrooms with a constant parade of news coverage of the police funeral. We kids were sprawled on the bed and playing on the floor. One kid was playing a hand rhythm game against the wall, slapping the floor with her hands every few seconds in a constant rhythm. It seemed as if everyone was talking at once but no one was speaking to each other. All of a sudden Hilary, Penny’s sister, screamed at us, “You are all playing and acting like nothing happened. My dad is dead.”

The room was silent.  No one said a word. I felt ashamed and yet so estranged from her pain. I went to find my own dad in the swarm of adults. I found him sitting with Penny’s grandmother quietly listening to her despite his own grief. In the middle of the noise and chaos and pain, he sat peacefully, his presence comforting a grieving mother. It was then that I saw the difference between saying I believed in Jesus and choosing to live like Him.

In the midst of all the pain around me I saw something of the Kingdom of God. I recognized the difference between my parents and the other adults around them. This was the first time I saw my parents interact with non Christians over an extended period and there was a marked difference. Everyone was dumbfounded. No one knew what to do. The cops drank. Their wives huddled in corners whispering, so glad it wasn’t them, pitying the Ketchum’s. The news media buzzed around the periphery. But my parents and the other believers among us knew how to rally. They kept their heads. They sat on the couch with Mrs. Ketchum and sent her to nap when things were overwhelming. They had words of encouragement.  They were beacons of hope in a sad, sad place.

In the brief moments when I stopped thinking of myself, I recognized that we were different because we were Christians. We had a hope for the future and we had a trust in God that others could not muster up on their own. And in the year of the crash, I decided how I wanted to live my life.  I would live as a Christian, not because my parents did, not because that’s how I was raised, but because I wanted to stand out as a light in dismal situations. I wanted my heart to carry the hope I saw my parents leading with. In the year of the crash, I saw the difference I had heard about my whole life.

Crissy Brooks MIKA CDC, Costa Mesa, CA

Mika CDC
Kingdom Causes


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