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This Is Our City

I am in a sermon series right now called “This is our City” I have been thinking about it and dreaming about it for months. Praying about how God could use me and the church he has ask me to shepherd to make greater impact for His Kingdom.

In the meantime, I have been reading books, studying scripture and keeping a close eye on my city and my interactions with it. For some they maybe wouldn’t call my City an actual city compared to other large cities in the US. But Allentown is the fastest growing City in PA and is experiencing growth all around.

This series has been eye opening, gut wrenching and thought provoking. But honestly shouldn’t all series be that way? I started with the scripture found in Deut. 14 27 And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you. 28 “At the end of every third year, bring the entire tithe of that year’s harvest and store it in the nearest town. 29 Give it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all your work.

This scripture I have read many times, but new insight popped out at me. God loved community so much from beginning to now, he put a structure in place to care for it. He loved is to much he put “churches” in community to protect it, to care for it. He puts a whole tribe in place to guard community. And if the church operates like it is supposed to then we would need a whole lot less government involvement. And yet, the church hasn’t done a stellar job at times in history of protecting the community and meeting its needs.

The directions are clear on how we are to care for the community and the people in it. First, I should say, I do not have an answer for the crisis on the border. I am not smart enough or educated enough to know how to handle massive amounts of people seeking a fresh start, safety and basic needs of life. And I am in no way making any kind of political statement here, laws and the ability to support this must be in place or people fall through the cracks, children get lost in the shuffle and lives are damaged not helped.

What I do know is that as a Christ Follower, I better be taking care of them, showing them kindness, helping them in any way I can when they show up in my community. That is the church’s job. Maybe it is helping them navigate a broken process or helping them with basic needs or simply being a friend with open heart and open home.

Taking care of the marginalized, the widows, the orphans, I wish it was easy and clean. But it isn’t, it is difficult and messy. Looking at the state of PA alone, over 15,000 children in our foster care system, and over 15,000 churches… what if just one family from each church stepped in… we would take care of every child needing a home in the state of PA.

I love Jesus with all that I am, and sometimes I get it right but often I get it wrong. I love the church, the body of believers called to live out the great commission of Jesus Christ. My eyes have been open of late to things I have never picked up on before. My heart has been broken in fresh ways for the way the world is broken. But if I throw stones at the church, who does that help? No one. It just shows the world that we can’t even get along so why should they be part of it.

A year ago, March, something significant happened in my life. I became a Gigi. Michel’le our beautiful bonus daughter gave birth to our adorable little Nora. Her life was prayed over and for long before she took her first breath. My days with Nora are filled with snuggles, giggles and playing.  Maybe you wonder how this has to do with love our city… Let me explain.

Nora looks a little different than me, I tell everyone she has my eyes and smile. I don’t see her different than me, but that isn’t the reality of the world we interact with. Recently we went to the store together, she had her Starbucks Tea, I had mine (Shhh… don’t tell her mommy!) and I noticed with fresh eyes how people begin to look at us. Some ladies gave me the bless your heart for caring for “that” child look. Others looked away. But then there was a young couple with their little boy, who waved, smiled and interacted with Nora and we stopped and talked. Then as we were leaving a beautiful African American couple stopped and talked to me about my beautiful granddaughter. We exchanged names, information and where we went to church.

I left sad that racism on all sides exist.  I left reflective on how I can be a voice of change. The church I shepherd is 84% white and although it reflects our immediate neighborhood it doesn’t reflect our city. We strive to honor God in our worship not just reflecting just one style or ethic groups. Finding worship music that transcends all races and styles. Looking at the global church and seeing what can be done in multicultural, multi-generational settings. And yet even then, those would still stay, we are just not doing it right or effective or reaching other groups.

I just don’t have the answer, other than my heart is that we find ways to close gaps, heals hearts and be a true representation of the global church of Jesus.

As I continue this Series “This is Our City” my prayer is that it just won’t be four weeks in the year we look at how to make in roads into making a bigger impact on our city. My prayer is that we take seriously how to be the pastors of our neighborhoods, missionaries in our communities and the people that carry the Hope of the world. That one day we will look back and see that walls have been broken down, and God’s kingdom came here as is it in heaven.

I leave you with this quote from the book that I am reading and rereading by Alan Briggs, Staying is the New Going, For God’s work to become tangible, it must become local, invading our everyday thinking and the places we inhabit.

His kingdom comes here…in our city through us!

It’s Just Not Fair…

I was reading this morning the parable of the Vineyard worker found in Matthew 20: 1-16. Jesus is telling the story of a man who owned a vineyard who needed workers. So he went to the marketplace to find workers. He hired them through out the day and promised them all a days wage. (more…)

Is anyone out there…

Not even sure anyone still reads this… I myself let days, week and sometimes months go without as much as even logging in… Blank pages are intimidating… Words are powerful…and relationships are hard!

People write about all sorts of things these days. I find it unbelievable all the things people write about, take pictures of and do in our ever changing world.

For those of you who have read my blog for any length of time, you know that over a year ago, I lost all of my past blogs…maybe forever that is still unclear. And for some reason the other day I was thinking about all of them… all of the words that have been written that are simply gone now. Parts of me wants them back, so that I can see what they were, perhaps some were silly in nature, or angry, or trying to make some hidden point that really wasn’t all that hidden.  I hope some were filled with Hope and Christ’s love.

Words are powerful. We are getting into that time of year that happens every 4 years where I want to shut off all types of media so I don’t have to see or hear all the people talk about politics…who or who shouldn’t be our next president. I see Christians and Non Christians alike start tearing people apart… and I think we give Christ a black eye. My hope isn’t any one in Washington DC. Christ came to bring us all a full life. We should pray for our leaders and I do! But Christ doesn’t change based on who is residing in the White House! Whew! Boy am I thankful!

These days I find myself focusing in on a Word… Trust! My word for the year. And I think this word is super powerful. My verses of the year are found in Jeremiah 17:7-9. And it is a beautiful word picture of what trust looks like.

Verse 7 Starts with blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. Those who understand that they can trust The Lord. But then it goes on to what I believe is another level. “whose trust is  the Lord”. Its just not trusting him but all of our trust rest in Him. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we can trust him in everything… everything. When it hurts, when its hard, when we cry, when we laugh, when we get a new president, when we wake up and when we go to sleep. We can trust him.  And when we do… we will be like a tree planted by the water, with deep roots, watered by the stream, when heat (worries, the hard times) comes we keep green leaves, and we are not anxious and we never cease to bear fruit.

Wow! Don’t we all want that? I do. This year, I focus on trusting him more. In perhaps one of the best and not the best  times of my life. And yet you can have both at the same time. I trust him to lead me when and where he chooses. I accept the hard things as learning, discipline and growing opportunities. I rest in the fact that I can lean on him when I can’t stand anymore.  I praise him for the great days that happen on regular bases. The answers to prayers, the life change, the Holy Spirit moments that are so powerful I can’t even put them into words.

This year I can’t script what will take place but this I know…He is already there and I can trust him! I can trust him without worry. I can rest in his unchanging grace and mercy. I can rest in his love for me… and so can you!