Friday, June 18, 2010

Skid Row Experience

This is us on our way to "Skid Row" an infamous part of LA that is where thousands of people who are down and out because of poverty, mental illness, or addictions congregate. There are churches and community centers that provide free meals and programs on literally every street corner. I am not sure what came first, the people looking for help or the community centers.

Either way I have seen poverty, addiction, and mental illness many times in small doses but skid row was like nothing I had ever experienced before. The streets are filled with
people who are thin and worn down from addictions, there are people who when you look into their eyes you can instantly tell they are mentally ill or hopeless. I was extremely discouraged as I walked these streets and talked with the people who did not get to go home to a warm bed at night. These words echoed in my head:
This is not how God dreamed the world to be and The poor will always be with you

I was giving my self a history lesson and came to the conclusion that there has always been a class, race, or group of people that have been pushed to the side by greed and abused by the systems we humans create.I thought to myself: "If God does not want this to end than I want know part with God."But I have searched the scriptures (especially the prophets and the Gospels) enough to know that God hates poverty, mental illness, and addictions more than I could ever imagine.

I also refuse to blame anything of what I saw on a fictious Satan character that tempts and controls our world. I believe full heartedly that the broken world I saw this week was a product of my sinful heart. My sinful heart combined with your sinful heart, and all of the sinful hearts that have ever and currently walk this earth culminates into the evil of this world.

As failed, fallen, and sinful people we have created systems like capitalism, American democracy (that I assure you is not democracy), corporations, social security/welfare, or many of the other systems, that are nothing more than outlets for our sinful hearts.

Capitalism, (how America does capitalism) is wrong and God hates it. I can not be convinced otherwise. This week I got a tiny tiny tiny look into the hearts and eyes of the people's lives that are directly affected by the systems we create with our sinful hearts. Every single second of the day, from now until eternity, God looks into the eyes and hearts of those I only got a glimpse of and sees the hurt, brokenness, and hopelessness in ways that I will never be able to wrap my mind around.

Thank God for the power of the resurrection. Ephesians says that the same power that brought Jesus back from the dead is the same power that we now possess. I am convinced that the only place to find hope when we get down deep into the brokenness of this world is this power that we now are vehicles of to bring into this world.

Redemption, transformation, reconciliation, and Shalom in a way in which I can never fully imagine happens to each of us that let God into our hearts. And God is not just concerned with our souls but with the very world we live in that causes his children that he died for to suffer.
I would not have been transformed by God's grace if it was not for being broken into a million pieces as I stood in the shadow of the cross and was scorched by my sin. In the cracks of this broken world are the seeds for Jesus to do his work to redeem, transform, and reconcile this world.

Sin is the root of evil and the root of evil is the dehumanization of our fellow humans. If we looked into the hearts and eyes of people like God does to see their beauty, potential, hope, and capacities for love in the midst of their outward and inward brokenness we could not let the world exist in the way in which it does.

I pray a big prayer that God would do a work in every Christian trapped in complacency and comfort and break their hearts for how our God's heart breaks. Because if you do not want to face the realities of this world for what they are and dive into the brokenness than do not label yourself a Christian.

A Week in the City

I have never been to Los Angeles before or even Cali for that matter. This past week I spent a week of training with World Impact Ministries experiencing the dynamic, diverse, and interesting city that LA is. I will tell the story of my experience through a few pictures I took.

They do not have trees like this in the midwest. I remember when I was looking at colleges I wanted to go to a school with a different culture, food, people, and different trees than what I was use to in the midwest. LA has many many things that run contrast to the environment but one thing that sticks out more than others is the unique trees amongst a very urban environment.

I learned and played more card games in my 6 days in LA than my entire life combined. Euchre, hearts, kemps, and dirty pirate hooker to name a few.

So many hours spent in a car ride waiting on traffic or lost. I was cramped, hot, and car sick a lot this week.

We spent 3 days of our trip at a park in South Central playing sports with kids, doing arts and crafts, and telling them about Jesus. I was in a my first and hopefully my LAST Bible drama. The kids were precious and such a joy to be around. They climbed all over us and begged us to throw them in the air. Often their parents would sip "kool aid" on a bench or drop them off and not even be to concerned for there where abouts or how high these crazy white kids were throwing their kids in the air. I buried a couple needles with my foot into the ground that we played soccer in while stray dogs, drunk people, and homeless people slept in the park. The dynamics and contradictions were extremely interesting.

Amongst all that was so disconcerting was such hope, joy, and potential in all of the kids we were given the blessing and honor to hang out with.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cali Hiking

Here are some pics from a hike I went on today. There are some pretty nice short trails around the camp that offer some good views.

I have been at the Oaks now for about 48 hours. I have enjoyed almost everyone that I have met here so far.

I thought that coming to cali I would get away from all that IS the midwest and not only experience new places but new people. So far though, the majority of the people minus a handful of people, people that I work mostly with our from the midwest.

So in many ways I came here thinking I would be a minority as a midwestern, in fact it is quite the opposite. I am a minority in other ways though. For example almost everyone that is in college, minus
maybe 3 or 4, goes to a Christian
school (i.e. Taylor, Cederville, and other Bible or Christian schools in Cali). So as a religious studies major from a secular school I have some different perspectives and ways of thinking about the bible, ministry, god, religion etc than probably most of the people from Christian schools. I guess I do not have to much to base this one just yet, and I am working off of stereotypes and over generalizations but never the less I am a minority.
I am also a minority because (it seems) that most people are also all kids that grew up in the Church and that were youth group kids. This is not my story and my background with young life is mostly what has carried my faith journey.

I had a hunch that this would be the type of people that I interacted with here and is a lot of the reason that I thought it would be a good growing experience. To get outside of doing ministry inside young life. I say all of this when I have had very few "spiritual experiences" with people or the group yet and I have not witnessed how the Gospel will be preached to the kids here. Basically I have nothing yet to form any opinions but as usual I am jumping to conclusions prematurely.

I pray that I God will shatter stereotypes and generalizations that may inhibit my experience here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Begins

Hopefully one of the many beautiful views I will see at the camp I am working at this summer...

Yo! I am so ready for summer to BEGIN for me. Granted I have been done with school since April 29 and havent done a lick of work since then, summer has yet to begun for me. I have been in limbo this last month trying to work out my summer plans.

Summer plans are always hard because I am stubborn and dont want to just work at a diaper factory making money. I want to do something that is:
for the kingdom
will allow me to become closer to Jesus
is something that is good "experience" for whatever future I pursue
that pays
and most importantly that is fun!

A lot of things fell through. Either I didnt get the position, it was to expensive because of travel, or they just wouldnt hire me!
What did work out, was a chance to work at a summer camp in California that ministers to Los Angeles by building relationships with the diverse urban poor of the city. Kids ranging from elementary to high school get to spend a week at a beautiful camp in California.

My job will not to work directly with the kids but to be a boat driver. And maybe some other stuff (I'm not really sure yet).

Either way I am very excited and I will blog about my experiences there as they come.

If you are interested here is the website to the camp:
and here is the website of the ministry that works at the camp:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Love's Birth

We love him, Because he first loved us -1John 4:19

I just opened up a BIG book that is a completion of Charles Spurgeon's sermons on Jesus and and the Holy spirit. I recently finished a sermon on God's love and wanted to share some of the highlights:

When we begin to love Christ, we love him because he first loved us; and when we grow in grace till we are capable of the very highest degree of spiritual understanding and affection, we still have no better reason for loving him than this, "Because he first loved us."

May your love, like a drop of dew be exhaled and carried up into the boundless Heaven of God's Love; may your heart ascend to the place where your treasure is, and rest itself upon the heart of God. Blessed shall you be if in your hearts Christ's love and yours shall both be fully known and felt at this moment. O, blessed Spirit, cause it to be so.

The Lord hates sin, but yet he loves sinners; he compassionately loved us when sin was pleasant to us, when we rolled it under our tongue as a sweet morsel, when neither the thunders of his law nor the wooings of his gospel could persuade us to turn from it.

and whatever your outer works, though you give your body to be burned, and all your goods to feed the poor, yet, if there be no love to God in your soul, the mark of God's sheep is not upon you, and your spot is not the spot of his children. Rest assured that whosoever is born of God loveth God.

See clearly that you have by faith to trust your soul with Christ, and perceive that it is vast love which sets before you such a way of salvation in which the only thing required of you is that you be NOTHING, and trust Christ to be everything, and even that faith he gives you as a gift of his Spirit, so that the plan of salvation is all of love.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

This morning on a great digital channel "Palladia" I watched the U2 documentary/concert film called "Rattle and Hum". It artfully displays the passion and character of the musicians in the band who have been playing awesome music for a really long time.

This clip displays how U2 has never just been about music but intersecting their lives and passions (in this case political) with a message through music.

Powerful stuff...