Friday, September 11, 2009

Historical context

A Heart for the City: Section 1
How important is it for missionaries and/or pastors to study and know the history of the cities they are ministering within?

When I first met my husband, I hardly knew him. I liked him, of course, but I didn't really know him. Through the years, I've gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of who he is; part of that understanding has come from getting to know his family. By family, I don't simply mean the people who make up the family tree; I'm referring to the stories, the hardships, the joys and the pains of family life. And the more I learn about where he has come from, the better equipped I am to respond to his needs today.

Cities are no different than my husband.

Choose any city and you will find some sort of allure or charm. There are beautiful buildings, big businesses, funky shops, great art, amazing music. There are also addictions, violence, broken families, lonely people. And each city is different, having its own distinct set of strengths and weaknesses.

In order for me (or you), as community servants, to appreciate those strengths and, more importantly, to address the weaknesses of the city, mustn't we understand the heart of the city first? It is absolutely essential to realize the truth about a person or a place before trying to step in to offer assistance. Otherwise, our efforts are futile and we are creating more problems than we are solving. Briefly, a few of the things that will happen if we neglect our city's history are:

* Answering needs that don't exist. We might base our "service" on something we've done or seen done elsewhere, completely missing...or dismissing...the actual needs of the immediate community.

*We will disrespect the people we have come to help. Cities are made of people. The history of the city is the history of those people, and if we don't take the time to understand their personal histories, let alone their collective history, then we have thoroughly missed the point.

*We are only serving ourselves. We say we are trying to help others, but simply put, all we want is to feel good about ourselves and what we are "doing".

If you (or I) are working in community service, we should be experts on our communities. We must take ownership of our cities. This obviously means knowing all the current statistics and trends. It means knowing your neighbors. It means knowing what's happening in your schools, synagogues and city halls. It also means knowing where you've come from (because you must consider the city's story as part of your own story). What are the events that shaped your city? What cultures influenced the founders of the city? What tragedies has the city survived? What does the city celebrate? What does it mourn? What is it good at? Has it always been good at it? Has it overcome obstacles? Has it struggled with the same obstacles since it's inception? Why? There are a host of other questions we could ask here, but you get the point. We must be intimately involved with the cities we serve, and that means knowing as much as we can about the people and their history.

This is especially important for anyone whose motivation for community service is faith or religion (I will use Christianity because that is my experience). Trying to help a city without knowing that city is incredibly presumptuous...especially for someone of faith. Service for the Christian should be out of humility, driven by grace and a deep appreciation for what Christ came to do on this earth. We are to follow His example.

Scripture tells us that when Christ was met with the diseased, the blind, the promiscuous, etc., he didn't only meet the presenting need. He also forgave sins, encouraged faith, and extended grace that no one else could...or would. He was able to do this because he knew what was behind the requests for help. He saw the deepest needs and He met them. He was (is), in essence, their Creator.

Now, keep in mind, those deepest needs aren't always the most obvious or accessible. They are needs that sometimes only their Creator, or someone who is very close with their Creator, could know. This is why faith-driven community servants must be incredibly humble, seeking as much understanding as they can--from God, but also from every resource possible. God already knows where the city has been (and where it's going); however, He will probably not lay out complete histories for us during our prayers when we could simply walk to the computer or drive over to the library. We must take the steps. We must do the work. We must make it our mission to know and understand as much as we can about our cities.


Well, because you and I are not God. We need to remember that we are not God (something easily forgotten by those of us who like to "fix" things). And in order to meet the real needs, we've got to do the work, search for the answers, see what is actually there underneath all the layers of city-life. And the more truth we collect, about both God and our cities, the better equipped we will be to handle the deepest needs.

Just like Jesus did.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Heart for the City

For those of you who live in a city--an urban epicenter--you might understand me when I talk about falling in love with a city. Maybe you were a tourist who found a home in your favorite vacation spot. Perhaps you were a suburban or rural kid who'd always dreamed of living in the "big city". Whatever it was, there was something that lured you into the city life. For me, I think the fascination was of being a part of something bigger than myself. Cities are where life happens. There's diversity. There's change. There's growth. There's trend-setting. In short, there's to the fullest, if you will.

For Christians, or even for the casual church-goer, there might be a connection of the idea, "life to the fullest," to the teachings of Jesus Christ. If you trust the account of his followers, we are told that Jesus said he would bring us life as it was meant to be. Life to it's fullest. Complete life. He promised--and delivered--this to the people who encountered him here on earth. And if you are a follower of His, maybe He's delivered on this promise to you as well.

Somewhere along the line, these two pieces, the city and Christ, have been completely disconnected. Today's Christians have missed the point. We have believed God's promises insofar as they apply to us. We have forgotten about living to the fullest. Half the Christians I know spend their lives trying to hide from the world instead of living boldly within it. The city scares them because it's where most of the sin lives (go figure...most of the people live there too).

The Jesus I know is not afraid of the city. He loves the city. One of the most poignant pictures I have seen in the Gospel is that of Jesus, standing above the city of Jerusalem, weeping and mourning for the people because they were so lost. So hurting. So confused by the world around them. So entirely like me...and like you.

If only we could develop the compassion of Christ. If only we could stand on a hill overlooking our nearest cities and see the needs instead of the depravity. Are we capable of seeing what Christ sees? Can we look through the facades to see the hurting? Can we catch a glimpse of the hearts God has created so that we can help reconcile those hearts with their Maker?

Instead of running. Instead of judging. Instead of ignoring.

I, for one, am interested in giving this a try. My blog has taken many shapes over the last year...mostly to keep me on track with whatever goal I need motivation to reach. This segment will be a bit different because I will be responding to a book in essay form. The book? A Heart for the City. The authors? Those who've given their lives to serving a city. Edited by John Fuder. Read along if you want. I look forward to your comments to challenge me along this journey.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A toast to my friend...reception teaser. :o)

When I first met Tara in high school, never did I dream that I would be standing in the wedding of such a loud, gaseous, and slightly obnoxious teenage girl from Northern Harford County. Yet, here we are, 13(ish) years later and I have the honor of toasting my beautiful friend and her new husband.

When Tara first told me about this guy she'd met while she was at home visiting, I knew there was something special about him. He understood Tara in a way that no other person could, and he barely even knew her yet. I knew he was going to be one to watch out for.

Jonathan, you are, without a doubt, the man God has created for Tara. And Tara, your heart has always belonged to Jonathan. He is your match.

And now we raise our glasses in celebration and blessing to the new Mr and Mrs Jonathan Rasmussen. May the light of friendship guide your paths together. May the laughter of children grace the halls of your home. May the joy of living for one another bring a smile to your lips and a twinkle from your eye. May the Spirit of Love find a dwelling place in your hearts always. And may our God be your constant joy and strength. We love you. To Jonathan and Tara!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Looking for comments

Grocery Game Blinkie Pictures, Images and Photos

Okay, so the grocery game isn't really my thing. But I've thought about making it my thing a couple of times. Then last Thursday, I went to a church workshop that talked about utilizing the Grocery Game to save money in order to give away more of what we have.

A lot of people know that health is important to me. I fail at it many times, but it is, nonetheless, an important part of my life and in the forefront of my mind (even when I'm eating a half gallon of ice cream).

I've also had numerous conversations with various individuals prior to and since this particular workshop regarding the benefits of going organic. There is a ton of information out there about the things that are put into our food, the way our food (in animal form) is treated and why we should avoid things with refined sugars, hormones, etc. and eat as many raw and unprocessed foods as possible.

So here's my question. If you are a Christian, or Spiritual at the least, what do you think: Should your family eat the cheapest food you can find so you can give money away, or should you spend a little more on the products that are known to be better for them and, quite frankly, take into consideration the treatment of God's creation (whether it's your body or that of the cow that produced the milk you're putting into it)?

This is a tough question and I have a feeling there will be all kinds of opinions. But I'm honestly interested in your opinion, so let 'er rip!

Monday, March 23, 2009

My house is a mess and so am I

My current Facebook status says, "Leanne isn't sure if it's good or bad." That's one of those ambiguous jr. high kind of things to say, but that's how I'm feeling about my life right now. The last couple weeks have been like a roller coaster for me and I honestly can't tell you if it's a good thing or a bad thing. My house is a mess, my brain is even more of a mess, my body's in terrible condition, my self-control is nil, my purpose is unclear and I can't find anything that brings me fulfillment.

I sat outside staring up at the sky crying for a while tonight. It's the first time in a very long time that I've felt that free. Like I was the only person in the world and the space was full of God-like substance instead of smog and noise. It was nice. I mean, I didn't get any answers, but it was good to just be broken for a little while with nothing that I had to try to hold together.

And maybe that's a good place to be. Maybe I need to be able to cry and to know that there's space for God to let me cry. It's one thing to cry. It's another thing to cry out. Crying out takes an admittance of failure, or at the very least, weakness. Crying can be a response to anything from fear to self-pity to anger to hurt feelings...and it can easily turn into bitterness. And those tears can last a while before coming to the point of crying out. They may never make it to that point for some people. But crying out...that's when something starts to happen. When Job started crying out, God started talking back. When David cried out, God considered him a man after His own heart. When Jesus cried out, his final breath was expelled. And then 3 days later, he rose up from the dead.

Here's hoping for new life.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hello, Old Friend

This morning, I decided to check out all the "new" comments to my know...all the ones from the last 3 months. I honestly didn't think that I would pick this up again. I'm a seasonal doer of anything. I do it for a while and then I stop. But I've had some people ask me when I would be blogging again, so for today, I'm back.

We celebrated Isabella's 2nd birthday yesterday. She's growing into a beautiful, fun and sweet little girl. We spent most of the afternoon at the beach. This is, of course, after we spent 2 hours looking for parking. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but I've never spent more than 5 minutes looking for parking at Seal Beach. We spent what felt like hours driving past full parking spots and No Parking on Monday signs only to end up in the pay parking lot with a pay machine that would not accept my credit card. An old surfer told me that apparently that part of the contraption wasn't working yet and I could go to the ATM at the liquor store. After leaving the parking lot and almost coming to blows with the ATM at said liquor store because it didn't want to read my card the first 5 times I swiped it, I got my $20, quietly returned to the passenger seat of the car and we returned to the parking lot.

Returning to the payment machine with my $20 in hand, I thought I'd have my parking ticket in no time. Wrong. I put the bill in the machine. Twice. Fail. Fail. Then some nice people came up behind me, and I switched bills with them. Fail. Again. And again. And again. So I asked if they would like to go ahead of me so that I can find the man patrolling with the ticket book, explain to him my sob story and pay him the whole flipping $20 (it's only $6 to park all day) just so he won't give me what's probably a $100 ticket for parking illegally...which, by the way, we were about to do.

Because God knew that I was about to hurt someone, he sent a nice man in a red truck to the ladies at the payment machine. The man offered them his all day parking ticket. They had already gotten their ticket, so they yelled over to me that he was giving up his ticket. I walked over to the lady with the ticket in her hand, thanked her profusely, threw the ticket on the dash of my car and went about my day incident-free.

And not only was it homicide-free, it was actually enjoyable. Bella loved playing in the water. She was soaked and so was I after the myriad of "Come on, Mommy"'s I got from her at water's edge. We took some breaks from the waves to dig in the sand and fly her kite (which Daddy put together and held most of the time). After a couple hours of that, we got some lunch at the NY pizza shop on Main Street. I call it a shop because it feels like a real pizza shop. It's super good. Bella enjoyed her pesto pizza and lemonade, as well as the fruit snacks she was given by the pizza man.

Last night, a couple of friends came over unexpectedly for Bella's birthday cake which was fun for the girls (and boy) as well as the parents. This was a good impromptu party considering I must have been delusional planning Bella's party for a Saturday. But more on that later.

Happy St. Patrick's Day. I'm off to prepare Bella for a different kind of birthday treat...her 2 year Doctor's visit. Woot.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Happy New Year!

I promise there will be more to come from my blog soon. It's been a very busy Holiday Season which is now quickly turning into a season of moving into a new home. We are very busy, and quite honestly, I've not done a great job of staying on track since Christmas hit. Fortunately, a new year begins now, and I will continue on my journey to being a whole, healthy and happy person in this new year! And you are still invited to join me. :o)

Love and best wishes on this New Year's Dawning,


P.S. Please give a warm welcome to my Little Seester. She's brand new to the blogging world and would appreciate a little love and encouragement. Welcome, Seester. I look forward to sharing the blogosphere with you!