Mi Casa Uptown – a review

Mi Casa Uptown: Learning to Love Again by Rich Pérez is a good read if you are thinking, or are in, a urban setting or if you are thinking about doing missions work in the city.

Rich Pérez is from New York City; Washington Heights to be exact.  He left there to go to college and seminary and then returned to his neighborhood because he feels deeply about connecting with neighbors.  In this book he explains how we’ve become disconnected to our neighbors and how, with God’s help, we can become connected again.

One point that Rich makes that hit with me was that to engage in any community, humility is needed:

“Humility is a posture that demands intentionality and sacrifice; it demands a compelling example.  It’s sacrifice and not entitlement that inspires authentic relationship.  In the end, thriving communities are not monolithic communities, where one group or culture runs the show.  Instead, the kind of humility I’m referring to is revolutionary – quite literally helping to shift the way neighborhoods exist.  Humility inspires people to live differently toward on another and, more important, honors the stories that have existed before your own by dignifying them rather disregarding them.”

Even though I enjoyed this book, I had a hard time relating to it.  I come from a rural background and have never really engaged the Hispanic community.  Even so, I found quite a few “take-aways” about how to live in community.  I give this book a solid three stars.

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Who Me?

Maybe you don’t think you’re not good enough to lead.  You have sins in your past (not to mention present);  you don’t have the right skill set;  you aren’t educated enough and so on.  If you feel this way, take a closer look at some of the great leaders of the Bible.

Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossip, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sara was impatient, Elijah was moody, Moses stuttered, Abraham was old,… and Lazarus was dead. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the CALLED!

I’m not sure where this quote originated, but it hits the nail on the head.  Those Biblical heroes we admire had plenty of problems and flaws.  They weren’t perfect.  They didn’t get it right the first time. They often messed up more than once. They did have one big thing in common:  they loved God and they followed Him.  They allowed Him to take their lives, warts and all, and mold them into vessels He could use.  If you have that quality, you, too can be used by God to lead somebody.  Humility and dependence upon God are key qualities of Christian leadership.

I am reminded of a hymn written by Monsenor Cesareo Gabarin,  who was a  well known composer of Spanish liturgical music.  It’s called “Lord You Have Come to the Lakeshore” and expresses Gabrains’ admiration for the humble Christians he encountered during his ministry.  Here it is.  I think you’ll love it like I do:

Fanning the Flame #10 — Creating a Culture For Change

“And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel;  instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:24

This past Saturday, the Fanning the Flame team gathered to listen to a talk on a CD, given by Pastor Harry Reeder, author of From Embers to a Flame.  The title was “Creating a Culture For Change” and it dealt with leaders and how they are to deal with the difficulty of leading a congregation through transitional times.

HUMILITY is the watchword.  People are not won over by force and impatience.  They will be won over by leaders who exhibit the teaching methods of Jesus, leaders who see themselves as servants.  Leaders must earn the right to lead by their own behavior.

Here were some of his suggestions for the Pastor:

  • Believe the gospel
  • Exemplify in his own life a dedication to the disciplines of prayer, study, worship and the means of grace
  • Pay close attention to himself and his teaching — be stable, share what is going on in bite-size nuggets
  • Keep watch on his words and attitude
  • Let people know that he is committed to them and to his call
  • Be appropriately committed to his spouse and children
  • Do not make excuses or become defensive.

Suggestions to the leadership team included:

  • Pray for the team
  • Be ready for the team to change
  • Develop a meaningful relationship with the Pastor
  • Spend time together in fellowship and prayer
  • Find ways to encourage and empower each other

To be continued …..

Celebrating Christmas Correctly

See the source imageI originally planned to simply post this quote, but I found it so challenging personally that I decided to blog about it.  I have to admit that Christmas is often a time when I want to impress others, at least a little.  There are those family members and friends I don’t see or hear from too often during the year so ….when we get together I’d like them to see me at my best.  I take care with how I look and what I wear, and even what I tell them about how my life is going.

Then there are the gifts …I prefer to be the giver, rather than humbly receiving.  I enjoy giving gifts and feeling generous.  Isn’t there some pride in this?  I don’t like others to see that I need them or what they have to offer.

What about food?  Instead of a simple meal together, Christmas has to be a feast … in fact, a series of feasts and parties and excess.  Through it all, I’m hoping that my culinary contributions will measure up and be appreciated as “the best.”

I can give myself a pass on decorating, probably because I simply don’t have that talent or inclination.  However, for many of us, it’s worthwhile to consider:  am I decorating to welcome the King?  Or to impress my visitors with ‘house beautiful’?

Jesus came on Christmas as a helpless infant.  He was born in a dirty stable to poor parents.  He left honor and glory behind to become one of us, one of the least of us… and why?  Simply out of love.  The least we can do is love others and receive His sacrifice in humility and grateful worship. I see clearly how things should be, but understanding it is much easier than living it.  Authors and readers have you found ways to celebrate Christmas correctly?  I’d like to hear some suggestions.

 

Martin Luther on Christmas

Luther’s writings contain a multitude of references to Advent and Christmas. The following excerpt comes from a sermon on the Nativity that he preached in 1530:

See the source image

If Christ had arrived with trumpets and lain in a cradle of gold, his birth would have been a splendid affair. But it would not be a comfort to me. He was rather to lie in the lap of a poor maiden and be thought of little significance in the eyes of the world. Now I can come to him. Now he reveals himself to the miserable in order not to give any impression that he arrives with great power, splendor, wisdom, and aristocratic manners. But upon his return on that Day, when he will oppose the high and the mighty, it will be different. Now he comes to the poor, who need a Savior, but then he will come as a Judge against those who are persecuting him now.

The Mind of Christ

“….complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord of one mind.”  2 Philippians 2:2

In this letter to the church in Philippi, a church Paul obviously loves, he tells them that nothing would please him more than knowing they are in agreement, or having the same mind.  Then he goes on to tell them exactly whose mind they are to have– not their own but Christ’s!

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Philippians 2:5-8

The mind of Christ means having a humble spirit, willing to sacrifice for others.  Paul explains further that being of one mind with Christ means they will:

“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit” Philippians 2:3

“look…to the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:4

“in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  Philippians 2:3

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were all in our right mind (Christ’s)?

Image result for images of the mind of christ

 

Which One Are You?

“One of the criminals who were hanged, railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us!  But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed, justly, for we are receiving the reward of our deeds;  but this man has done nothing wrong.’  And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’  And he said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  Luke 23: 39-43

When I read these verses, the thought that comes to me is which criminal am I?  Make no mistake, I am a criminal, condemned for my sins and unable to save myself.  Sometimes I, like the first man have expected God to rescue me from all the consequences of sin in my life.  If I say I believe in Him, doesn’t He owe it to me?  Or shouldn’t He do it to prove Himself to me?  I’ll happily be a good follower, if Jesus does His part and makes my life easy and comfortable.

Not the right attitude.  I need to accept the fact that I deserve all the problems I’ve created and more.  I am indeed a poor, miserable sinner, justly condemned to an eternity of separation from God.

The second thief got it right.  He realized that he was only getting what he deserved. He recognized Jesus for who and what He is;  the blameless savior of the world.  The one who is willing to die so that even if sin (mine and others) causes me to suffer today, I don’t have to suffer eternally.

Isn’t it amazing that all I had to do is recognize my plight and say, “remember me, Lord”?  Then I’ll find that He has never forgotten me.  The God of the universe has never forgotten me, because I’m one of His children.  I’m engraved on the palms of His hand.  He’ll welcome me into His kingdom as soon as I ask.

Which one are you?