Friday, May 18, 2012

of music, maps, and abandoned Homes

When your work has a face, a heart, a mind, a soul, then it is all worth doing.  After just completing a set of maps at work for a meeting of the minds, maps identifying vacant and dangerous homes surrounding select schools in the Detroit Public School system, the maps came alive.

Working within the conceptual has its limits.  Maps are simply representations of the physical environment, and can be portrayed in many ways.  The hope of utilizing such data are important, one tells oneself, because it is for the children (at least in this case).  Or for the betterment of all so decisions are made with better data.  But what is this really for?  Who exactly are the ones walking home looking at abandoned buildings everyday?  Staring at dots reveal there are a lot of dots on a plain sheet of paper, minus the stories of those dodging the dots on a daily basis.

Cafe Con Leche, Detroit, MI.  Elementary band performance.
After finishing the maps I got to enjoy an afternoon at Cafe Con Leche in Southwest Detroit.  To my delightful surprise the owners were setting up a band performance.  A band made up of elementary students in the area, from the exact schools we were just analyzing!  These kids excitedly played their music for a packed house.  And all of a sudden, work had a soul.  And a beat.  Detroit's future played a concert for me as I had worked towards stabilizing its future just hours prior.  We were practicing earlier that day together and didn't even know.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

humble Pie

9 Jesus also told this parable to some who were confident that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else.  10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  11 The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself like this: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: extortionists, unrighteous people, adulterers - or even like this tax collector.  12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.'  13 The tax collector, however, stood far off and would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!'  14 I tell you that this man went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."  -  Luke 18:9-14 

The Parable of the Pharisee
and Tax Collector.  From
This is a parable that I find myself going back to constantly.  I am quoting this parable to others often, and not just trying to wedge it into the discussion.  What Jesus describes here seems to be right near the core of His overall message.  Anyone coming into contact with Christianity has to evaluate themselves compared to these two key figures presented in the parable.

Realizing that these are two people who already have a concept of God is what is very central to this particular parable.  You may as well imagine that these two characters were members of the same church.  It is not the case of a non-believer and a believer that is in play but two people who are attempting to approach God.  It is the intent of their approach, the obvious difference in their tones and reactions, that reveals Jesus' plea to us.

Approaching God in humility is what I would consider the only thing we 'do' in terms of getting right with God.  The Internet Monk provides a wise perspective of this parable, that we can even become trapped into thanking God that we are not like this wretched, self-focused Pharisee.  Focusing our attention on Jesus is what humbles us, focusing on what He has done, how He has made the first move towards restoration.  We do need to, as a result of this parable, constantly evaluate if the thought process of the Pharisee is creeping into our minds.  If they are showing up, then we really need to take a knee before God and re-evaluate our intentions with our relationship with Christ.

Knowing that God is pleased with those that are humble is what provides so much hope.  Anyone can come to the God of the universe, as long as they see how limited they are in their present state.  And always their present state, not just during the saying of the initial sinner's prayer.  We are moved to humbleness throughout the rest of our lives as servants of Jesus.  Woe if we begin to find ourselves better than others.

Monday, March 07, 2011

giving till it is Questioned

What happens when  I wait for things to happen, not much.  Nothing really happens.  But when I take what has been given me and run with it, things happen.  And this not of my doing, so that I would boast about it.  It is all given to me from God, and yet I squander much of what is going for me. 

Christ is just too important to be taken advantage of.  I don't simply want His grace alone, I want to be able to run with that grace that has been given, with the peace that passes all understanding. 

This is true witnessing of Christ, that what has been restored restores others.  That what has been given is shared.  Then, and only then, is someone curious as to where I got this grace from. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

open for Business

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a rundown, inner-city store.  It is open all the time yet not many enter in.  The paint peeling away on the one side of the building, the dilapidated awning, and only a couple parking spots in the front on the street deter many passing by from checking it out.  On the inside, it is part cafĂ©, part coffee shop, part book store. 

Much time is spent there for those who do enter into the store.  Many relationships are deepened with conversation that goes late into the night and people come to realize who they are more and more.  Causes are taken up to paint the plumber’s store across the street, to clean up someone’s mother’s yard, to take in the drug addict on the street.  And all the more, these people come to realize who they are.

But people keep passing by.  People who attend churches painted well, with covered doorways, and a sea of parking available.  And no relationships are developed.

But in the rundown, inner-city store that sells, well, no one really knows, there is a store Owner that people can’t stop talking about.  And the store has still never closed. 

The story above is a concept of how God is always available, yet many seem to not want to engage Him.  It may have to do with how the Kingdom of Heaven works among us, and not how we want it to work.  How we won't go where Truth goes, instead pleading with Truth to come to us.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

what just Happened?!

I find myself freed from something I created on my own.  It was the entrapment from what I thought was school and the push towards that goal.  When I finished my last class, with just my masters essay to go, I went to work the next day.  And that's when it washed over me that I could do anything I wanted; start another band; join a gym; begin recreational reading; become an avid bowler.  So many choices that are now available to me all of a sudden!    

As quickly as that wave of emotion came, what followed was a profound question.  What stopped me from doing all that before?  I know that I may have literally been busy, but the more I realized what was hitting me I understood that it wasn't that all those ambitious things were not available to me to do, but that instead it was that I prevented them.  And more so, I was emotionally stopped.  It was the feeling of burden, and for no more reason then that I was in a self imposed stupor.

What hit me that day after my last class was the enlightened feeling that all is possible for me to do.  My ambition meter immediately shot off the scale.  And so I am left realizing that I never want to be the way I was before, bogged down in a rut that I get to attribute to my worries of tests 3 months in the future.  Or papers due in a week.  Or anything else like that for that matter.  I am free to do anything, I hope that I just don't do things for myself now but to better all around me and in my life.