Archive for December, 2005

immersion in poverty

As I walked to my car, the sound of gangsta rap music hit my ears. A group of men across the street from the building I was leaving were working on a car and listening to 50 Cent or N.E.R.D. or The Ying-Yang Twins or some other group that used to tickle my middle-class suburban fancy, but describes reality for many lower-class citizens in America today. Some may argue that hip-hop describes a misguided or unrealistic view of reality of life in the ghetto, but it is a view.

Walking to my car, the poverty scene of run-down housing, gang activity, prostitution, and hopelessness that greeted me could have been confused for Juarez, Mexico, or East Los Angeles, but it wasn’t. It was Abilene, Texas, just two miles from the affluence that exists on “the hill” at Abilene Christian University.

You see, I was leaving the Christian Service Center, a ministry of Churches of Christ in Abilene that provides physical and spiritual support for the underpriveleged of our town and the place where I will be a paid intern this next semester. I had a meeting with Jim Clark, the non-profit’s director, to discuss my goals and responsibilities in the “poverty immersion.” Jim is perhaps the most prayerful person I know, and he leads the social justice organization with a Christ-like spirit that seeks to be led by the Holy Spirit in every aspect of his life. In fact, I told Jim in a follow-up e-mail that whenever I leave his office, I feel like I’ve been with Jesus.

Many people wouldn’t be excited about spending 25 hours a week with poor people for next-to-nothing in terms of compensation. Just wouldn’t be their idea of an “entertaining semester.” I’m approaching the experience with great optimism and excitement, however, because I see it as an opportunity to be “gently unsettled” from my priveleged, “W.A.S.P.” (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) life.

You see, the waiting room of the CSC was full yesterday, likely with folks trying to get a little extra aide before the New Year’s weekend or the new school semester. These are folks that are, for all intensive purposes, my neighbors in Abilene. They live just a few miles from my spacious, 3-bedroom, wooden-floored “starter home” on “the hill.” Many of them shop at the same Wal-Mart, assuming they can even afford that. But how easily I forget about the plight of those just a few miles away.

My writing this semester likely will be colored by my experience with the CSC, as will my conversations, my spending habits, and my prayer life. I hope nothing is the same after this immersion into a world with which I am almost completely unfamiliar. It shouldn’t be. It can’t be.

millions




Millions

Originally uploaded by smh00a.

If you don’t rent another movie over the holiday season, rent Millions. It is the story of a young English boy’s discovery of a duffle bag fulla cash and his quest to give that money away to the poor. Many outside influences, however, seek to divert his attention away from those who need the money to their own selfish desires. That was a poor synopsis of the movie, but maybe it will be just enough to whet your appetite to rent it.

Spirituality (and even Christianity) run throughout this movie. For one, the boy has an (adorable) fascination with the Christian martyrs and saints from the past, and they show up periodically throughout the movie. Not to mention the theme of charity and material simplicity that runs throughout the movie. For all the crud that’s at Blockbuster these days, this one’s a real gem (“a real gem”?? I sound like I’m 80…).

Warning: This is a British film, and as you may know, the Brits are a little more…well…”liberal” with the content of their films (and commercials, advertisements, tv shows…). There is some mild language that runs throughout the movie, along with a mildly amusing scene involving the boy’s older brother and an online bra catalogue. There is also a scene or two of “peril”, as the MPAA rating indicates. Other than that, I think kids older than 10 could really benefit from seeing this movie. It likely will start a family discussion…it did with my family.

Primary Focus: “Church” or “Jesus”?

Before we can truly understand anything meaningful about the church, we must first be captured by a consuming revelation of the Person for whom it exists. Therefore, we must always begin with the Lord Jesus. We must always start with Him.

If we start out with the church, instead of with the One for whom it lives, we will end up with something quite distorted.

Frank Viola, the ooze.com

The church, or “wineskin”, as Viola writes, “has been given for the practical outworking of our glorious inheritance in Christ. Its purpose is simple: To contain and express the riches of His glory.”

In discussing the way church “oughtta be done” or the “problems with the church,” we often have a tendency to elevate the importance of the wineskin over the wine. I am guilty of this, as is evident in the amount of time I spend talking about the church as opposed to how much time I spend talking about Christ.

Jesus, The Perfect Man




Christ

Originally uploaded by smh00a.

The following editorial was printed in the Memphis Commercial Appeal a few years ago and remains one of the most popular editorials in newspaper history. You’ll see why. Merry Christmas, friends!

December 23, 2005

There is no other character in history like that of Jesus.

As a preacher, as a doer of things, and as a philosopher, no man ever had the sweep and the vision of Jesus.

A human analysis of the human actions of Jesus brings to view a rule of life that is amazing in its perfect detail.

The system of ethics Jesus taught during His Earthly sojourn 2,000 years ago was true then, has been true in every century since and will be true forever.

Plato was a great thinker and learned in his age, but his teachings did not stand the test of time. In big things and in little things time and human experience have shown that he erred.

Marcus Aurelius touched the reflective mind of the world, but he was as cold and austere as brown marble….

Thomas a Kempis’s Imitation of Christ is a thing of rare beauty and sympathy, but it is, as its name indicates, only an imitation.

Sir Thomas More’s Utopia is yet a dream that cannot be realized.

Lord Bacon writing on chemistry and medicine under the glasses of the man working in a 20th Century laboratory is puerile.

The world’s most learned doctors until 150 years ago gave dragon’s blood and ground tails of lizards and shells of eggs for certain ailments. The great surgeons a hundred years ago bled a man if he were wounded.

Napoleon had the world at his feet for four years, and when he died the world was going on its way as if he had never lived.

JESUS TAUGHT little as to property because He knew there were things of more importance than property. He measured property and life, the body and soul, at their exact relative value. He taught much more as to character, because character is of more importance than dollars.

Other men taught us to develop systems of government. Jesus taught so as to perfect the minds of men. Jesus looked to the soul, while other men dwelled on material things. After the experience of 2,000 years no man can find a flaw in the governmental system outlined by Jesus.

Czar and kaiser, president and Socialist, give to its complete merit their admiration.

No man today, no matter whether he follows the doctrine of Mill, Marx or George as to property, can find a false principle in Jesus’s theory of property.

In the duty of a man to his fellow no sociologist has ever approximated the perfection of the doctrine laid down by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount.

Not all the investigations of chemists, not all the discoveries of explorers, not all the experiences of rulers, not all the historical facts that go to make up the sum of human knowledge on this day in 1912 are in contradiction to one word uttered or one principle laid down by Jesus.

The human experiences of 2,000 years show that Jesus never made a mistake. Jesus never uttered a doctrine that was true at that time and then became obsolete.

Jesus spoke the truth, and the truth is eternal.

History has no record of any other man leading a perfect life or doing everything in logical order. Jesus is the only person whose every action and whose every utterance strike a true note in the heart and mind of every man born of woman. He never said a foolish thing, never did a foolish act and never dissembled.

No poet, no dreamer, no philosopher loved humanity with all the love that Jesus bore toward all men.

WHO, THEN, was Jesus? He could not have been merely a man, for there never was a man who had two consecutive thoughts absolute in truthful perfection.

Jesus must have been what Christendom proclaims Him to be — a divine being — or He could not have been what He was. No mind but an infinite mind could have left behind those things which Jesus gave the world as a heritage.

Copyright 2005, commercialappeal.com – Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.

welcome.

Welcome to the new and [hopefully] improved HarvestBoston blog, written and edited by Steve Holt Jr. Please update any links to this blog on your own Web pages or browsers. Continue to expect the same hard-hitting, fair and balanced, dialogue-sparking commentary that you’ve gotten for almost a year now over on Blogger. I hope this new venue will offer a few more amenities to the readers and author, along with being a little more aesthetically pleasing than its blogging counterpart. As always, a change in venue does not mean a change in subject matter; this blog will still deal primarily with mission, spirituality, culture, and ecclesiology within the Christian faith.

Thanks again for your prayers for our ministry and your support of this blog. Blessings.

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I just may fly to Boston myself, march into the Red Sox upper management offices, and knock some heads together. The Sox let Johnny Damon, the team’s former center-fielder and former fan favorite, go to the New York Yankees last night. Apparently, the Sox didn’t offer the long-haired “idiot” (self-acclaimed) enough money, so Damon will have to cut his locks and shave his beard as he joins the Evil Empire. If it wasn’t enough that we (the Sox) don’t have a center-fielder and appear not to know what “we” are doing, our poodle is named after the newest Yankee: Damon.

I could just puke.

Read the entire, horrifying story here.

thanks and books and telemarketers, oh my!

Great conversation about the death penalty the last few days. That post has garnered the most responses I have ever had on this blog. I hope this blog displaces us all just a little bit, causing us to dialogue with opposing views or consider new ideas. Thanks to all who read this on a regular basis…you are appreciated! (by the way, you should place your “pin” on my world map in the righthand toolbar, if you haven’t already. I’m always interested to see where readers are coming from)

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Kevin Cawley just posted “The Missional Church: A Beginning Reader’s Guide” on his blog site. Check it out. He’s mostly right, in my estimation. I’d add a few more, however: Organic Church, by Neil Cole; The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert E. Coleman; The Present Future, by Reggie McNeal; The Celtic Way of Evangelism, by George C. Hunter III; and, of course, The Shaping of Things to Come, by Robert Hirsch and Michael Frost (can’t believe that one got left off!).

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I work in an office at ACU that receives several telemarketing calls a day. So it was no surprise when this guy asked for the Director of Human Resources to see if she wanted to hear about new training programs. The rest of the conversation, however, was a surprise:

Me: I’m sorry, Suzanne is not available right now. Would you like to leave a message on her voicemail?

Him: Well, I work for a company that markets training manuals for companies. Yeah, well…hey, this is a Christian university, right?

Me: It sure is.

Him: Do you follow Jesus Christ?

Me: [thrown for a loop] Uh…yeah…yeah, I do.

Him: How’s your walk with Jesus Christ?

Me: Uh…

Him: I mean, is it going strong? Are you happy with it?

Me: Uh…

Him: Because I follow Jesus, too, but I’ve been struggling a little bit lately. I’m in need of some spiritual guidance, you know? So, do you like wake up every morning and spend time with the Lord — like praying and reading your Bible?

Me: Uh, well, I don’t do that as well as I’d like to most days.

Him: But you’d say that you have a strong relationship with Christ?

Me: Well, you know, it’s a day-to-day thing. It’s a hard life. Where do you live?

Him: Pennsylvania. I’m just asking all this because I want to serve God more, but I’ve been backsliding a little bit lately. Struggling…

Me: [realizing that I am at work with a customer and fellow worker in the office] Well, I’d love to talk with you more about this, man. I really appreciate this conversation! Do you want to e-mail me sometime?

Him: Yeah, yeah I do!

Me: Do you want to leave a voicemail on Suzanne’s machine?

Him: Well, you know, we’re telemarketers and we don’t really do that, because people can’t call back to reach us. So I’ll just try calling back another time.

I gave him my e-mail address. I haven’t heard from him yet. I hope I do hear from him. Needless to say, it was the strangest telemarketer conversation I’d ever had. I was reminded how lonely some Christians can feel outside the Bible Belt. I was reminded how much we need each other, even strange brothers or sisters over a phone in another state. I was reminded how important my own interior spiritual life is to my witness in the world. Shoot, someone might just ask me “how things are going!” Other implications?

Justice? “Playing God?”


story.vert.williams
Originally uploaded by smh00a.

I just can’t get this story off my mind. It’s haunting me.

What are some of your thoughts on the execution this morning of Stanley Tookie Williams, the former leader of the Crips who allegedly was reformed in prison?

I’m curious to see how Christians are coming down on this issue after the circus surrounding the imminent death of Terri Shiavo last year.

Maybe we can get a good little discussion going here today. I’m at work and need frequent breaks…