Kingdom Causes Updates

Terri Larson – Kingdom Causes

Check out some blog posts from our partners at Kingdom Causes:

Caring for the Bruised and the Broken…

Neighborhood Story

Crissy Brook’s Blog has new posts:

Catching Up – an update

Book Review – This is My Body: Ekklesia as God Intended

What Not to Prison

Solidarity Newsletter:

Informational Newsletter – Issue 4, April 2011


Community Garden Takes off in Bellflower

Check out a new post from the CFA AmeriCorps blog:

Community gardening is a way a number of our AmeriCorps members have been able to engage their neighbors in meaningful relationships, and create opportunities to serve each other. Please check out the recent post on the AmeriCorps blog on the community garden efforts in his neighborhood!

Trees in the Desert!

Monika Grasley – LifeLine CDC – CA

Isaiah 41 has a beautiful passage: “When the poor and needy are dying of thirst and cannot find water, I, the LORD God of Israel, will come to their rescue. I won’t forget them. I will make rivers flow on mountain peaks……. I will fill the desert with all kinds of trees…. Everyone will see this and know that I, the holy LORD God of Israel, created it all.”

Winton is in the middle of the ‘agricultural bread bowl of the world’ and yet the town is like a desert, with few trees to give shade during the hot summer months, streets without sidewalks for the children to walk to school and with gang activities that make it unsafe to visit the local park.

During community conversations it became clear that the community wanted more trees for the main street (Winton Way). Under Ernie and Adrian’s leadership community members researched what could be done.

They found out that a group has been working with the local state prison to grow trees for nearby communities. They learned that the local middle school was in the process to get some of the trees for their campus.

So their journey began!

  • They spoke with the County and received permission to plant the trees and to have the county maintain them. The County also donated some of the equipment.
  • They spoke with the business community and local volunteers to get them to commit to water the trees in front of their businesses.
  • They spoke with the school and prison to get 20 trees donated.
  • They spoke with community members to make it a joint effort of planting who brought with them the tools and expertise.

So when the day neared to plant the trees it was a day of celebration! So many community members came out to help with it, so many enjoyed the fruit of their labor.

2 weeks ago was the spring parade in Winton and the little trees were in bloom for the enjoyment of the community.

We hope and pray that these trees will have “Everyone see this and know that I, the holy LORD God of Israel, created it all.”

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Quite a LifeLine in Winton

Monika Grasley – LifeLine CDC – CA

Ernie Solis was LifeLine’s first AmeriCorps member 4 years ago and continues to be a strong voice in the community. This is one of the projects that he and a team of community members have been working on. Organized by community members a collaborative law clinic is being piloted in Winton, California, thanks to the leadership of Ernie Solis. This article appeared in the Merced Sun-Star newspaper:

A free legal clinic is planned for Winton on July 9. The Free Winton Legal Clinic is a product of the collaboration between Winton LifeLine Community Center, Merced County Public Defender, Central California Legal Services and UC Merced Law Clinic. The purpose of the clinic is to make free legal services and information available to Winton residents.

Winton LifeLine Community Center has been part of the community for several years. LifeLine has become a force for improving the community by engaging in graffiti abatement, involving the local youth in this project and working on other projects.

I first met LifeLine representative Ernie Solis several months ago….

Read more:

Give Till You Need Jesus!

Terri Larson – Kingdom Causes

By Tommy Nixon – Solidarity

“Give till you need Jesus!” I got the honor to MC the annual banquet for Urban Youth Workers Institute (a group of people that I deeply believe in and journey with, check it out At the end of the night the stories were told and the ask was given. As I wrapped up the night I encouraged the crowd to give till they needed Jesus and people laughed. Now granted every so often I get some good jokes in but I really wasn’t kidding. As someone who runs a non-profit that is all about getting people deep with Jesus we also have to raise funds. Yet my biggest concern for our donors and partners is not that they give to Solidarity or how much they give in dollar amounts but rather that they give in such a way that they are forced to go deeper with Jesus.

So we find ourselves in a place that most churches do. We need money to run so we provide a service (literally, many churches provide a church service, some even with Starbucks inside) and in turn give the clients something worth the money they give. That my friends is what is called transactional giving (thank you Matt Bates and Mission Increase instead of transformational giving. If the Church is all about discipleship then shouldn’t giving be about getting closer to Jesus through the art of dying to oneself and clinging to the true vine? John 15. We say that but then build our churches around the idea of a service or Christian oasis that non-believers will flock to and believers will feel comfortable in stadium seating. So what we offer believers is a place to join in with what Jesus is doing in the world and then help them articulate that journey. That’s a tough sell! It would be easier to just tell people we work with gang members and show pictures of how messed up our neighborhoods are to get that money, then we would be selling clear consciences and charity.

As you read you might think, “Here goes another believer being critical of the Church.” Please understand I am not angry at the Church, I am fueled by my experience with Christ to see my brothers and sisters experience the same and more. I wake up everyday believing that when the Church is healthy it is unstoppable and holistic transformation occurs. I deeply love the Church.

I know through the scriptures and experience in the Kingdom that depth with Christ does not come without great sacrifice. It does not come from giving 10%, showing up on Sundays, two week mission trips or cleaning out your garage to give to the poor. It comes from letting go, giving up and intentionally making life choices that will cause you to have to run back to Jesus to survive.

The last year and a half have been the toughest for us at Solidarity. Yet, it has been the most spiritually rewarding. We feel like we have gotten to places in our relationship with Christ that we have never experienced before. It would never have come without the pain and the struggle. It wouldn’t have come if we received pay checks on time or had excess beyond our bills. It wouldn’t have come if we didn’t choose to carry the burden of our friends and neighbors. It wouldn’t have come without deliberately placing ourselves in situations where we do not have control and are forced to run to God.

Yet a majority of the Church doesn’t really believe that. If it did I think the world would look a lot different. I think the majority of the Church believes that giving everything up for Jesus is for missionaries and other professional Christians. The tragedy is not that we don’t have enough help to do what we have been given to do, the tragedy is that many believers do not get to experience depth with Christ, which is truly a magnificent thing, yet found in dying to oneself. We are not all called to the same context, but we are all called and invited into the same way of being, values and teachings that we live by that are not bound by culture, race, context or country.

Give till you need Jesus. Give your time, talent and treasure, give until you lose yourself and find your true identity in the One that made you.

The trick is that pesky faith thing, we have to believe that on the other side of the pain and struggle, the giving away, the dying that we will experience what we were created and intended for, a deep loving relationship with our creator. Its real, its worth it, I can’t go back living any other way. Give till you need Jesus.

Kingdom Causes CFA Updates

Terri Larson – Kingdom Causes

Check out some blog posts from our partners at Kingdom Causes from the past couple of months:

A Warehouse of Hope
Anchor Baby Revolution
Alhambra City Prayerwalk Reflection

Crissy Brooks:

Call Vignettes: A Series of Surrenders 5
Call Vignettes: A Series of Surrenders 6
Call Vignettes: A Series of Surrenders 7
A View from the Mesa
Catching Up – An Update


Unidos en Baker
Virtue and Vice
Celebrating Hope

ABCD Training Reflection

It can be widely agreed upon that each individual or community has needs. Each community lacks something. Whether it’s a local park for children to play in, better roads, or safety, it is not difficult for us to identify what is not right about a community. I was privileged to be introduced to Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) a couple of weeks ago in a training led by Terri Larson and Susan Sngiem. It was a great time of learning, fellowship, and listening to stories of the journeys God had brought each individual that was there. The message was simple, yet a complete shift of thinking. Instead of starting from a needs perspective, the goal was to start from what the community already had or was good at. This shift thus allows each person in the community to directly participate in their community in a way that promotes empowerment and a sense of ownership. As I carefully tilted my ears towards Terri and Susan as they spoke, there was only one thing I could think of. “But what about the needs!”

This phrase stuck with me the next couple of hours after the training. I knew there was nothing really wrong about focusing on the needs, but something led me to believe it wasn’t the best way. How do we really know what we need anyway? Perhaps an analogy to prayer can help us unpack this further. When I usually pray about a petition or request to God, I start with my needs. I ask God for things to help me with ministry, school, and finding parking (which God has answered many times by the way!). The ABCD training really challenged my way of thinking. Perhaps ABCD is so compelling because it teaches us to acknowledge what God has already blessed us or the community with. It tells us that God has already given so much and that there is “hidden treasure” waiting to be discovered by those who are willing to search. Having such a perspective may also allow us to realize that our preconceived needs were never really needs in the first place.

The potential for ABCD is tremendous. It provides an avenue for grant money to be used more effectively and directs us to see the good in our communities, to see God in our communities. I was truly blessed by the ABCD trainings. It has changed the way I think about what it means to be lacking and to search for God’s Kingdom wherever I go. If you ever feel like you can’t see the Kingdom of God in your community, you may only have to search next door to find it. Blessings.


One More Handout or One Hand-Up?

Recently I met with a church that wanted to do an event in a specific neighborhood we are involved in. Their great heart and passion to help people was apparent . They wanted to be a blessing to the under-resourced community, wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus. And they already had a plan…. give out food and clothing…have games and prizes for the kids… share the Gospel message….pray for the hurting people… invite them to church…love them with the love of Jesus. Their hearts were in the right place, they wanted to spend their time and energy outside their church.

Constituent transformation starts with offering people a new frame of reference. What really happens when we just do these “parachute jumps” into a community? What does it look like from the other side, the side of the community members whose kids want to participate?

•    Strangers are coming in and interacting with my kids – can I trust them?
•    People are telling my kids about a God that I don’t know about – are they a sect? Will they mislead my children?
•    People give my kids snacks – but are they healthy? Are they safe?
•    Who said I need food and clothing? Do you not think I can provide for my own family?
•    If I take your food will I get more next month? I have gotten used to getting free stuff from churches.

Maybe these questions are not exactly what is on people’s minds, but I am sure that it undermines their dignity, that it makes them feel less capable of providing for their families, that it does not bring out the gifts, passions and abilities that these families have and that it creates a dependency on outside resources.

What if instead of spending the time, energy and money for a 2 hour event this church would ‘adopt’ a neighborhood? What if they would learn some of the Asset Based Community Development principles and practices and get involved in a neighborhood for 5 years? What if instead of handing out free stuff they would learn people’s names, find their passions and giftings and exchange those gifts? What if the church would come every week, not with cookies and soda, not with clothing and gifts, but with hearts open to see God’s image  in every person, with minds open to hear their stories and discover their amazing gifts and with hands willing to work side by side on the issues that the community sees as necessary?

What if the neighbors would see Christ lived out in the lives of the Christians and would want to experience some of that Shalom in their own lives? What if the church is invited to start a Bible study, not because they forced themselves in, but because the love of God was so evident that people are curious about a God who cares enough to be involved in that neighborhood?

What if they get to see a God who doesn’t give hand-outs and abandon them afterwards but a God who walks side by side with people helping them up the hill by giving a hand-up!

In the end the church went ahead with their outreach as planned, but we continue our dialog.

Monika Grasley
LifeLine CDC

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down Starting with Being Repainted

On any given day you can see a group of young men driving through Winton looking for graffiti  defacing the walls and fences of their town. What makes young men get up and be at ‘work’ at 8am to clean up graffiti?

Instrumental in this was a young man who wanted to give back to the community.  He connected with Winton LifeLine Community Center and his enthusiasm, leadership ability and passion soon led him to be surrounded by young men who were on the verge of being gang members, young men who were taggers themselves, young man who were looking for a role model they could follow.

At 28 A. had done his share of damage in the community. When he missed yet another birth of one of his children, because he was incarcerated, he decided that it was time to change. And a huge change it was!

Now he helps young men to make better choices, helps them to see some of the consequences of his past actions. Now he spends his mornings driving around with a bucket of paint and 4 or 5 people in tow.

In the conversations about the graffiti he found out that these young people do not have a place to display their art work… so we asked for a ‘legal’ graffiti wall. They met with the Historical Society to learn about the community and they are partnering with some artists to create a mural that will be based on certain themes.

Through A’s involvements walls are broken down. Seniors who are heading up a group are now interacting with young people and they learn from each other. Neighbors are asking how they can help. The owner of one of the walls took a bucket of paint and his helping with it.

When young and old care for something, when rich and poor have the same interest at heart and when together they act to make things better we get to see a glimpse of God’s SHALOM present in a community.

Monika Grasley
LifeLine CDC

Bar-B-Q in the Backyard

Family Bar B Q in the back yard?  Sure; great family time, great food, quite, intimate, good conversations, fun, safe, and all the comforts of home.  But it is enclosed and separates you from your neighbors.

As a practitioner of ABCD it seemed to me that the exclusivity of a Bar-B-Q in the back yard went against all that I know and practice with CFA.  So the next get together my wife and I decided to move our Bar-B-Q to our front yard.  The first time we did our two sons with their families were surprised and I believe, felt a little “exposed” as we sat there in our driveway and ate with some of our neighbors walking by.  All our neighbors said hi as they jogged or walked their dogs.  To our surprise and satisfaction our next door neighbor came over and joined us.  Soon his family came over and a couple of the other neighbors joined us.  They all had a hot dog and sat with us and we had great time.

The following month we decided to have another one.  Our two son’s first question was “Front yard or back yard”.  To our surprise they both thought our idea of front yard was a good one.  So they came.

This time however, we decided to invite our neighbor from our immediate right and left.  We planned it for a Sunday afternoon when both of them were available.  The Saturday before the event we asked Talia, our neighbors nine year old, to go around the neighborhood and let everyone know that they were invited to a Bar-B-Q on Sunday.

After she went to a couple of homes she breathlessly knocked on our door and told us that everyone wanted to know what to bring.  Our plan was to be as spontaneous as possible so that our typical busy American organizational style would allow them to join us and just relax.  I told Talia to let them know that we would be providing everything and they should bring their appetite and come and enjoy.

At 2pm on Sunday we began setting up in our driveway.   Our two neighbors came over with additional chairs and a table.  They also had cold drinks, chips and dips and a salad.  We fired up the Barbie and started our afternoon.  Soon a couple of the other neighbors joined and throughout the day others came.  We had approximately seven families join us and had some wonderful conversations which continued into the evening (which reminded me of the definition of hospitality: making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were).  The kids climbed our tree and had a great time in our front yard grass area.  As we ended the day we heard a very consistent comment “this was a lot of fun and very relaxing, we should do it again”.

Prologue:  A couple of weeks ago Bill and Sue came over and said they had bought all the food for the next neighborhood Bar-B-Q and wanted to have it in their driveway.  It is planned for next week.

In every community people seem to be hungry for relationships.  Most of us feel such a wide disconnect from our neighbors that it just take’s a small spark to get connected.  Our independent lifestyles have separated us from each other but, I have found, if we bring folks together they will come.  What is missing in most communities is a connector.  The person that will take the first step.  How do we identify the connector?  Well, maybe it just might be you!

We live in a middle class neighborhood with fences that separate us.  We say hi to each other as we pass by but we don’t know each other.  I’m looking forward to see if this progresses to something more than just Bar-B-Q’s.

Woodland Historic District

Woodlawn Historic District an 8 block long 4 block wide neighborhood which began in 1913 with bungalow one story homes. It is two blocks from the state capital and is the center for homeless shelters. The area is very transient with very high unemployment in addition to the homeless wandering the street.

A house church was started about 18 months ago of 14 young adults which calls themselves, Apprentice to Jesus (A2J). All live in the neighborhood. We introduced the church group  to ABCD and how to become known in the neighborhood. They have been going to neighborhood association meetings and they have been doing things to develop relationships with people in the neighborhood like basketball games by the side of one of their houses. Also they have held barbeques and coffee house discussions.

About three months ago we made with Jeff who had decided to work one half- time in reaching out to the Woodland neighborhood who went through our five day Neighborhood Transformation training. He returned and Nov 6th we did an ABCD training for the young adults and a number of other people in the neighborhood.


Neighborhood Children Learn How to Advocate on Extreme Poverty

Have you ever tried to teach a kindergartner about extreme poverty? What about teaching first and second graders about advocacy? Yesterday, I gave it my best shot. I had some resources from the people at Micah Challenge. They are pros at this stuff. I was just passing on their message.

A day of action. A day for prayer. A day for promise. A day of advocacy. This is what is at the heart of the Micah Challenge as they ask people around the world to join in the commitment to pursue justice for those living in extreme poverty and encouraging our leaders to take action. 2010 is the 10 year mark of the promise made by nations of the world to meet the Millennium Development goals. The UNDP (the UN’s global development network) has been working with global leaders to cut poverty in half by 2015. Micah Challenge is spear heading the Lend A Hand campaign to focus on our promise to those living in poverty. We need to remind our leaders that this is a promise worth keeping.

This is where our kindergarten, first and second grade students at Mika CDC come in…we decided to “lend a hand”. We talked about extreme poverty. Many of our students are from low-income families themselves and it gave us an opportunity to talk about the difference between struggling and survival. It gave us an opportunity to consider just how much we do have and to count our many blessings. We made a list of ways that we can help those living in extreme poverty. Jorge said we could give money that we save. Monica suggested that we could collect food. Carlos thought it would be good to give all of the clothes and shoes that don’t fit anymore to people who need them. As for the problem of a lack of medicine, one student said we should gather all the medicine in our houses and ship it to whoever is sick…maybe not do-able but hey, at least they’re thinking!

As a sign of our promise to do what we can to help the poor, we made postcards with our handprints on them. We will be sending them to the folks at Micah Challenge and they will be sending them on to Washington, D.C. along with others they are collecting from around the nation. We also made a banner with our names and handprints to send along with the postcards so our nation’s leaders would know that we care about the poor and that they need to continue to serve them and pursue justice on their behalf. What a great way to spend an hour with our Mika students!

By the end of our time together most of the students knew that there are 500 million people in the world suffering from extreme poverty and that we are trying to get that number down to 250 million. They knew that 10-10-10 is not a holiday but a day of remembrance – a day of prayer, promise and advocacy. Most of all they knew why we at Mika CDC chose the name of our organization and the verse that inspired it. Not only do we share the name with our brothers and sisters at Micah Challenge, but we share their vision to reduce poverty in our world as well.

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

View MIKA’s blog.

Jerry the Organizer

“Hi this is Jerry from the …. apartments, you mentioned that you could bring the Bus Boutique to our apartment complex if we get it organized… is that still true?” I was pleasantly surprised. I met Jerry in his neighborhood several weeks prior during an event that our local Christian Radio station organized. The station wanted to bless an under resourced community and picked an apartment complex in partnership with several churches and Christian non-profits.  50+ Thanksgiving baskets had been distributed and then Thanksgiving morning the groups came with a bounce house for the kids and goodies for the adults. I was invited to join…but I did not bring anything, I just came to have conversations with the community members.

One of the principles of Asset Based Community Development is not to do things for others that they can do for themselves. We want to empower neighborhoods; we want them to be the decision maker and the owner of their projects. So I spent most of my time just listening and hanging out. It is amazing what you can find out! I gave them our information to let them know about the winter clothing on the Bus Boutique and that if they wanted the bus to come, they needed to organize it! … and so they did!

When we drove the Bus Boutique up to the apartment complex the whole group was out from young to old, having great conversations. They unpacked the bus, set things up, brought out the supplies that were needed and even had the things that we had forgotten.

They helped each other, helped the handicapped people who could not get on the bus and found clothing for each other. It was such a delight to see. In times when everyone is looking out for number one, they assembled a deep community spirit. We had great conversations, learned from each other and decided to work together on other things.

When the time came to a close they all helped put things away, cleaned up the area and thanked me before they helped me maneuver the bus out of the complex.

I am sure Jerry and I will have more conversations and under his natural leadership this ‘low income’ apartment complex is a ‘rich community’ on its own!

Monika Grasley
LifeLine CDC

Long Lasting Transformation

Our relationship with Carlos, Mario and Charlie has deepened since they started coming by our office after school. At first they stopped to say hello on their way home. Then they would stay to help with projects we had going on. Yesterday they came to get help with job applications. As we help one another we see that the relationships they have built with Mika staff and volunteers are not just beneficial in the short term, but have long-lasting impact as well.

Charlie is starting his senior year of high school this week and as he looks ahead to college applications and long lasting decisions, he recognizes that key role his mentor and other volunteers play in his life. “I see that these relationships are not only beneficial to me now, but will continue to impact my life later as well.”

Mentors and volunteers are developing skills in kids like Charlie and Carlos and Mario in areas of finances, healthy relationship, leadership development and service. These are values and practices that create long lasting transformation in our community. Carlos, Mario and Charlie say that as others have poured into them, they have come to understand the importance of helping others. They recently told their mentors that the best part of their summer was the opportunity they had to serve and develop friendships with some of our homeless neighbors. Its a privileged to watch these young men transform before our eyes.

View MIKA’s blog here.

Shalimar Community Garden

The neighbors of Shalimar have planted their first community garden!  Shalimar’s Neighborhood Action Committee (NAC), Comunidad Unida have been working with local experts to move forward on their project.

Land was donated from one of the apartment owners, neighbors contributed funds, and project leaders rallied the troops. As of Wednesday, May 19th the garden has been planted!Stop by the Shalimar Park to check it out!

Enjoyed by Generations

If you come to Center St, chances are you will meet Juana and her family. Juana lives next to the Hope Community Center and was part of the core leadership team that envisioned the center and ultimately made it happen. Juana is a quiet leader that understands the heart of true leadership is serving her neighbors. One of the great joys Juana has experienced over the last few years is watching her own kids grow and develop. Ulises, her oldest, has also become a leader in the community. This summer, he was a part of a teen leadership group that planned and hosted a Christian Rap Concert for other teens. This same group also spent time exploring individual strengths and serving the homeless community in Costa Mesa. Ulises has learned from his mom’s example and is confidently following in her footsteps.

Juana and Ulises are just one example of multi-generational family involvement. The children in Mika’s target neighborhoods are growing up watching their parents and neighbors lead change. They have seen first-hand what can happen when neighbors work toward a shared vision for their community and identify, design, fund, and manage projects that get them closer to their vision. Mika has opportunities to engage all ages in the process of building communities with VISION.

View MIKA’s blog here.

Refreshing Our Community

Ian Stevenson has lived in Costa Mesa for many years. He has been a pastor at The Crossing Church for over 20 years and has participated in Mika’s work from the beginning. Ian feels the most refreshing sense of community when he comes to Shalimar Dr. for the annual C3 Basketball Tournament. “There is a sense of community that wasn’t there before. The neighbors are in it together.”

Police presence on Shalimar Dr. is not a new thing. This street has seen its fair share of crime and violence over the last few decades, but for the last six years Mika, city residents, and Costa Mesa Police have been working together to make it a better place. The goal of the C3 Tournament is to uniquely bring the whole community together. Each team is comprised of one Cop, one Church leader, and one Community member. This event draws area businesses, organizations, individuals and families to enjoy a day of basketball, food and lots of fun! It has become a community tradition that many look forward to each year.

Establishing neighborhood traditions is just one small aspect of the work of Mika’s Neighborhood Action Committees. The traditions that Mika’s neighborhood leaders have initiated and sustained are part of building a community where neighbors look out for one another and support each other. Mika’s Neighborhood Action Committees meet weekly to discuss and plan how to welcome new people to the neighborhood, gather funds for those in need of special help and to plan trainings to educate neighbors on topics that they want to learn more about.

View Mika CDC’s blog here.

Summer Night Lights at MLK Park is Going Strong

The collaborative effort of community stakeholders continues to be a success. In pursuit of holistic care of local neighbors, the faith community has been stepping up to the plate on Wednesday nights. In addition to creating lots of laughs, putting some amazing local talent on display (see event flyer in a post below), serving up some great food and providing a safe and fun place for families to come out to the park there has been a message of hope and healing being shared each week to all attendees. It is great to see many aspects of a healthy lifestyle being addressed for community members through this 5 night a week summer effort. *(though if you had to pick one, Wed night is the one night during the week that you want to come out!)

Special thanks to LB police and fire for their support. They have both been contributing to this effort and some of them have even been seen working a spatula behind the grill!

The picture is of Councilman Dee Andrews receiving a birthday cake on stage on a recent Wednesday night. Due to the fire codes and a potential wax shortage we were unable to put candles on the cake Totally kidding. It has actually been great to see the councilman out supporting this community driven effort! And Happy Birthday young man! Your passion for the community is contagious.View Mika CDC’s blog here.

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


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