Monday, May 30, 2011

Thank you, Clyde

[Reposted from Memorial Day 2009.]

Clyde Erwin was my father-in-law.

He died in December 1997.

He was a veteran. And, like so many others, very much worthy of our remembrance on this day of memory as a nation.

Nothing needs to be said about Nazi Germany, the result of the complete metastatic malignancy that destroyed an entire national community--economy, values, vision, humanity, soul and all.

Clyde spoke very little about his experiences in World War Two.

But he did tell me about December 1944.

He was caught in the very middle of "the Battle of the Bulge." He woke up on Christmas Day 1944 covered in a foot of fresh snow. Cold, fear, combat, in-coming shells, an advancing enemy army, all combined to make those days horrible beyond words.

Clyde was wounded in battle more than once. He witnessed the deaths of scores of fellow soldiers in the close combat involved in his assignment. How he made it back alive was something I know he felt to be a miracle. He never spoke of that horrible time without tears and great emotion. He earned a Bronze Star from the U. S. Army for his service in combat and for what he did in battle to save and protect those around him.

I wrote him a letter before he died to express my appreciation and that of our family for what he had done so far away from Wise County, Texas and the farm where he grew up outside of tiny Rhome. I am so glad that I did.

He was our hero.

Today I remember that he belongs to the nation as well.

Thanks again, Clyde. We miss you and we'll never forget.



Sunday, May 29, 2011

Beyond the limits

I'm not sure why I love fast cars.

Probably lots of reasons, not a few of which can be traced back to my teen years, my cousins and the culture of my southern upbringing.

Included in the list of my explanations I'd have to put "going beyond the limits." 

Race cars, especially the Indy type, blow my mind with their speed. 

I'll never forget my only live experience with Indy cars.  Several years ago I attended an IRL event at the Texas Motor Speedway. People who don't understand or appreciate speed will ask me, "Where's the sport in watching a bunch of cars go round and round a race track?" 

My answer is something like, "Everywhere!" 

I can' t explain the rush that accompanied each lap as the cars blasted by my position in the stands alongside the track. 

WOW!  What speed!  Talk about breaking the limits!

Sunday I'll try to watch as much as possible of the 100th running of the Indy 500

In all of the excitement, I can tell you I'll be watching for the limit-breaking speed!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Theology of CitySquare

CitySquare University is our internal tool for providing our team members the professional training they need to lead, work, serve and grow inside our organization.  A wide variety of class options make up our curriculum.  Included in this array of training options is what we call "The Theology of CitySquare."  The two-part training involves a fairly exhaustive review of the biblical literature regarding compassion, power, justice, community and faith's place in human relationships.  I teach this highly interactive course. 


Recently, after leading a class through part one, it occurred to me that I should post much of the content of the course here.  What follows is a summation of my notes and a listing of many of the biblical texts that we "unpacked" together. 

Part 1--the Hebrew Bible


In the Hebrew Bible justice is central to faith and to a genuine relationship with God. . .     How do you define “justice”?

One of the long overlooked, and yet, central aspects of the biblical message is the commitment of God to justice in human relationships. . . How does justice work in human relationships?

Rooted in every part of the Hebrew Bible:
  • Torah or Law of Moses
  • Hymnology and Wisdom Literature
  • The Prophets
The texts to discuss:

Torah

Exodus 3:7-10

7 The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."

Exodus 6:2-9

2 God also said to Moses, "I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, [a] but by my name the LORD [b] I did not make myself known to them. [c] 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.

6 "Therefore, say to the Israelites: 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.' "

9 Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage.

Deuteronomy 26:1-13

1 When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, 2 take some of the first fruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name 3 and say to the priest in office at the time, "I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the LORD swore to our forefathers to give us." 4 The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God. 5 Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: "My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. 6 But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labor. 7 Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. 8 So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. 9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now I bring the first fruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me." Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him. 11 And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.

12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. 13 Then say to the LORD your God: "I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.

Exodus 22:21-27

21 "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.

22 "Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.

25 "If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. [a] 26 If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, 27 because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

Exodus 23:9

9 "Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.

Leviticus 19:9-10

9 " 'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 19:33-36

33 " 'When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. 34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

35 " 'Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. 36 Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah [a] and an honest hin. [b] I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 15:1-11

1 At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. 2 This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the LORD's time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. 3 You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your brother owes you. 4 However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. 6 For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.

7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: "The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

Deuteronomy 10:12-19

12 And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

14 To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 27:19

19 "Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow."

Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

Songs and Wisdom

Psalm 9:9


9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Psalm 12:5

5 "Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise," says the LORD.
"I will protect them from those who malign them."

Psalm 72:1-4, 12-14

1 Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. 2 He will [a] judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. 3 The mountains will bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness. 4 He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.

12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. 13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. 14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.

Psalm 82:2-4

2 "How long will you [a] defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 113:7-8

7 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; 8 he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people.

Psalm 140:12

12 I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.

Psalm 146:5-9

5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, 6 the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the LORD, who remains faithful forever. 7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, 8 the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. 9 The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Proverbs 14:31

31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Proverbs 19:17

17 He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.

Proverbs 22:22-23

22 Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, 23 for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.

Proverbs 29:7

7 The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

Proverbs 31:4-9

4 "It is not for kings, O Lemuel—not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, 5 lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. 6 Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; 7 let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.

8 "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9 Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

The Prophets

Isaiah 1:10-17


10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11 "The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your evil assemblies. 14 Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; 16 wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, 17 learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. [a] Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 3:13-25

13 The LORD takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people. 14 The LORD enters into judgment
against the elders and leaders of his people: "It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. 15 What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?"
declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty. 16 The LORD says, "The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. 17 Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the LORD will make their scalps bald." 18 In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, 19 the earrings and bracelets and veils, 20 the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, 21 the signet rings and nose rings, 22 the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses 23 and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls. 24 Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding. 25 Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle.

Isaiah 10:1-4

1 Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, 2 to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. 3 What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? 4 Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.

Isaiah 58:1-12

1 "Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 3 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD ? 6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness [a] will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Jeremiah 5:26-29

26 "Among my people are wicked men who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch men. 27 Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful
28 and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor. 29 Should I not punish them for this?" declares the LORD. Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?

Amos 2:6-7

6 This is what the LORD says: "For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back {my wrath}. They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. 7 They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name.

Amos 5:11-12

11 You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes
and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.

Amos 6:4-7

4 You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. 5 You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. 6 You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. 7 Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end.

Amos 8:4-8

4 Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, 5 saying, "When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?"—
skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, 6 buying the poor with silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat. 7 The LORD has sworn by the Pride of Jacob: "I will never forget anything they have done. 8 "Will not the land tremble for this, and all who live in it mourn? The whole land will rise like the Nile; it will be stirred up and then sink like the river of Egypt.

Micah 6:6-8

6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Ezekiel 16:49

49 " 'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.

Part 2 to follow soon. . .

Friday, May 27, 2011

Economic fragility...financial stress expands

My friend, Jeremy Gregg, Executive Director of the PLAN Fund here in Dallas, reminded me of a Dallas Morning News report that the "average Dallas poor family" spends $800 annually on check cashing and payday lending.  Based on the report below, I expect many other families are forced to use the incredibly expensive financial services as well.  It was a big win on Wednesday when, thanks to the efforts of CitySquare and our partners, the Dallas City Council approved new zoning regulations as a means of beginning to regulate payday lending operations in Dallas.  Read the report and tell me what you think.

Nearly Half of Americans Are ‘Financially Fragile’
May 23, 2011, 2:22 PM ET

Nearly half of Americans say that they definitely or probably couldn’t come up with $2,000 in 30 days, according to new research, raising concerns about the financial fragility of many households.

Many Americans aren’t able to cope with an unexpected bill.  In a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Annamaria Lusardi of the George Washington School of Business, Daniel J. Schneider of Princeton University and Peter Tufano of Harvard Business School used data from the 2009 TNS Global Economic Crisis survey to document widespread financial weakness in the U.S. and other countries.

The survey asked a simple question, “If you were to face a $2,000 unexpected expense in the next month, how would you get the funds you need?” In the U.S., 24.9% of respondents reported being certainly able, 25.1% probably able, 22.2% probably unable and 27.9% certainly unable. The $2,000 figure “reflects the order of magnitude of the cost of an unanticipated major car repair, a large copayment on a medical expense, legal expenses, or a home repair,” the authors write. On a more concrete basis, the authors cite $2,000 as the cost of an auto transmission replacement and research that reported low-income families claim to need about $1500 in savings for emergencies.

Financial fragility isn’t limited to low-income groups. “Households with socioeconomic markers of vulnerability (income, wealth, wealth losses, education, women, families with children) are more likely to be financially fragile, and substantially more so,” the authors write. “The more surprising finding is that a material fraction of seemingly ‘middle class’ Americans also judge themselves to be financially fragile, reflecting either a substantially weaker financial position than one would expect, or a very high level of anxiety or pessimism. Both are important in terms of behavior and for public policy.”

Lusardi, Schneider and Tufano also looked at the ways in which people coped with an unexpected expense. Most would use multiple methods ranging from dipping into savings, asking for help from family and friends, using loans or credits cards, taking out payday loans or selling possessions. “Taken together with those who would pawn their possessions, sell their home, or take out a payday loan, 25.7% of respondents who were asked about coping methods (equal to 18.6% of all respondents) would come up with the funds for an emergency by resorting to what might be seen as extreme measures,” the authors write. “Along with the 27.9% of respondents who report that they could certainly not cope with an emergency, this suggests that approximately 46.5% of all respondents are living very close to the financial edge.”

Meanwhile, Lusardi, Schneider and Tufano also looked at how different countries compare. They consulted with local partners to set the number used in local currency at a comparable level. “Perceived capacity to cope with an emergency is lowest in the U.S., U.K. and Germany, all countries in which 50% of households or more would probably or certainly be unable to come up with the emergency funds,” the authors wrote. “France and Portugal occupy an intermediate position; 46% of respondents in Portugal would certainly or probably be unable to come up with the funds as would 37% of those in France. The highest levels of coping capacity are found in Canada (28% certainly or probably unable), Netherlands (27.9%), and Italy (20%).”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Perfect Teacher

Gracie Bea Toombs is my 9-year-old granddaughter.  She is a very special little girl.  Of course, you'd expect me to say that, but it is true.  Gracie is about to complete the 3rd grade at White Rock Elementary School.  She loves school, even more her teacher, Ms. Cornett.   Not long ago, Gracie wrote the following tribute in honor of her teacher as the school year draws to a close.  I think you'll like it, and I think you'll see what I mean about Gracie.

The Perfect Teacher

There are many kinds of teachers.  Some tall.  Some small.  Some teachers just speak matter of fact like.  Some teachers just teach the way textbooks tell them to.  But the best teacher's lessons don't come from a textbook.   Her lessons come from her heart.  If you were uneasy, mad or sad, the perfect teacher comforts you.  She loves each and every child for who he or she is. 

This year, I am one of the 21 fortunate third graders who are in her class.  I like all teachers, but this year she has stood out to me.  She opened up her heart to every student in my class.  She has taught us so much this year.  Sure, she's taught us reading and math.  But that's not the most important thing.  She has taught us about protests in the middle east and the struggle in Japan and how it effects us.  For black history month she had us memorize speeches about segregation and women's rights.  While the other classes were just reading from textbooks, we were there at those freedom marches and protests.  For earth day we helped the world by making new paper from recycled paper.  We also planted sprouts while all the other classes colored bookmarks.  We gave water to people in Africa through thewaterproject.com

She has taught us life skills:  kindness, love, peace, organization, and self-estemm.  But those aren't the most important things she did for us.  She has told us to stand up to injustice, that we could be anything we wanted, and that we can change the world.

But it is not us.  It's her.  The other classes may say they learn more than us, but you can go up to any one of them and ask them about protests in the middle east, or the struggle in Japan or about changing lives in Africa or about life skills or about standing up for what we believe in, and trust me, they won't know as much as WE do. 

Sometimes it only takes ONE TEACHER to change the world world.  And that teacher is my third grade teacher, Miss Cornett.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

God's home

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them." 
~Bono

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Basic solutions

Encouraging report on challenging hunger and caring for public health via a time-tested strategy.  We need more projects like this one!  Thanks to my friend, Richard Corum for sharing the story from the Memphis Commercial Appeal!

Farmers markets cover up, freshen up farm produce offerings

By Linda A. Moore
Sunday, May 8, 2011

While there's certainly been enough rain to satisfy the Mid-South, there were few complaints on Saturday as rain fell during the grand opening of the Urban Farms Market at Broad and Tillman.

Vendors, dry under the cover of a former gas station, offered fresh produce, some grown as close by as the Urban Farm in Binghamton, locally raised meats, cut flowers, soaps and handmade jewelry.

The market was created through the larger Binghamton Development Corp. in order to bring fresh food to the inner city, said Rosalie Bouck, market manager.

"A lot of grocery stores won't come into areas like this," Bouck said. "We're trying to make way for a model for a nonprofit food store."

The store is also graced with a mural done by local artist Danny Broadway and students from St. George's Independent School in Collierville.

As the growing season progresses, produce will be brought in from the community farm, Bouck said.

The market and corner store will be open Tuesdays and Saturdays. In addition to produce, there are limited canned goods, meats and dairy products. A drive-through coffee window will be open on weekday mornings.

Many older residents in the neighborhood need to be able to walk to a grocery store, said Binghamton resident Roger Bowen, president of Binghamton Senior Watch.

"This is a good place to find healthy food," Bowen said.

Downtown behind Central Station, the Memphis Farmers Market rolled out the green carpet for the grand opening for its West Pavilion, a new nearly $300,000 covered market area.

"We love it," said hydroponic farmer Ami Hughes. "It protected us from the rain."

She and her husband, David Hughes, run Micmak Farms in Batesville, Ark., and expect to enjoy the new pavilion this summer as well.

Funding for the West Pavilion included a $100,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, $65,000 from the Hyde Foundation with the remainder from supporters, said Beth Brock, board chairwoman.

The new space is west of the original market and has room for about 20 vendors.

Before, vendors used the space that was part of the parking lot and didn't really feel like a part of the market, Brock said.

"We wanted to do more for the vendors," she said. "We knew it wasn't ideal but it was all we could do."

"I think it's awesome," said regular shopper Jackie Oselen of Whitehaven. "It was a smart thing to do."

The Memphis Farmers Market opened in 2006 with 20 vendors. It now has more than 70 vendors. Also during those years, about 14 farmers markets, including markets in South Memphis, Cooper-Young, Arlington and Whitehaven, have sprung up.

With the shared goal of bringing more fresh produce to consumers, the more farmers markets the better, Brock said.

"We're so excited about the number of of farmers markets," she said. "It's wonderful."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Waiting for care?

Sooner or later in just about every debate over national health care reform the issue of waiting times for services comes up.  A widely held belief is that in the U. S. we don't have to wait for our care, at least not as long as citizens of other developed nations who have some form of universal health coverage.  In light of that notion, I found this report from Ezra Klein enlightening. 

America’s waiting times are the worst in the developed world

By Ezra Klein

Any discussion of waiting times must begin with the observation that France, Germany, Switzerland and many other developed nations manage to combine universal access to care with rapid access to care. It’s an unfortunate quirk of international health-care policy that Canada and England, the two countries that do struggle with waiting times, happen to be the two nearby, English-speaking countries in the sample, and so our impressions of government-run health-care systems are disproportionately influenced by their experiences.

That said, it’s important to understand that America also struggles with waiting times. Someone who can’t afford to go to the doctor, or can’t afford to purchase an elective surgery, waits. In some cases, they wait forever. In some cases, they’re killed by the delay. But we don’t count them as having “waited” for care, and so they don’t show up in measures of American waits. But which would you prefer? A three-month delay for an elective surgery? Or no surgery at all?.


To read the entire report click here.

Reactions? 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

To Understand

"You can look at a slum or a peasant village, but it is only by entering into the world -- by living in it -- that you begin to understand what it is like to be powerless, to be like Christ."


-Penny Lernoux
[from Red Letter Christians, Tony Campolo's weblog]

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Money

Reflecting on the 1997 Microcredit Summit,  Professor Muhammad Yunus wrote:

"In teaching economics I learned about money, and now as head of a bank I lend money. The success of our venture lies in how many crumpled bank bills our once starving members now have in their hands. But the microcredit movement, which is built around, and for, and with money, ironically, is at its heart, at its deepest root not about money at all. It is about helping each person to achieve his or her fullest potential. It is not about cash capital, it is about human capital. Money is merely a tool that unlocks human dreams and helps even the poorest and most unfortunate people on this planet achieve dignity, respect, and meaning in their lives."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Interesting tool from United Way: Common Good Forecaster

United Way now provides a "Common Good Forecaster." 

Interesting tool for anyone interested in community data and attacking community challenges. 

The tool slices the data by state and county across the nation. 

Check it out here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Number 7: the Mick!

This from Clubhouse, the website of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Cut me some slack here, Rangers fans.  I grew up in Dallas when there was no Major League Baseball franchise.  CBS owned the New York Yankees.  As a result, I watched the Bronx Bombers every weekend on then local CBS affiliate, Channel 4 with play-by-play provided by Pee Wee Reese and Dizzy Dean! 


May 18, 1956: Mickey Mantle homers from both sides of the plate in one game, setting a new record

By KEVIN STINER
May 16, 2011

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Hitting a baseball is widely considered one of the most difficult tasks in all of sports. Many men dedicate their whole lives in an attempt to hit the ball consistently either as a right or left handed batter.

Mickey Mantle, however, hit the ball from both sides of the plate like no one before him.

Mickey Mantle was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Fifty-five years ago this week – on May 18, 1956 – Mantle showcased his talents in an unprecedented way. Mantle connected for two round-trippers, one from the right side and one from the left – becoming the first player to achieve the single-game milestone three times in a career.

Mantle began the 1956 season on a torrid pace, entering the game on May 18 with a .387 batting average, 13 home runs and 29 RBI, leading the Yankees to an 18-10 start.

The Chicago White Sox sent staff ace Billy Pierce to the mound that day, hoping to avenge the loss from the game before. He was also off to a strong start in the season with a 4-1 record.

But Mantle went 2-for-2 against Pierce with a single, walk and a two-home run in the fifth inning. The Yankees had built a 5-1 lead by the time Pierce, a lefty, was removed from the action. But the White Sox rallied for two runs apiece in the sixth, seventh and eighth to take a 7-6 lead heading into the ninth inning.

The White Sox’s right-handed relief specialist Dixie Howell had already pitched a perfect eighth inning, striking out two. In the ninth he got the first two batters to ground out, so all that remained between a White Sox victory was Mantle.

Mantle stepped up to the plate, having already hit a home run from the right side, and now delivered one from the left side. He tied the game before the Yankees went on to win in the 10th inning.

Mantle began the season on a pace to break Babe Ruth’s single season home run record from 1927. Although he didn’t break the record, it didn’t stop him from earning his first of three career MVP awards. Mantle led the league in average, runs, home runs and RBI taking home the Triple Crown with a .353 average, 52 home runs, and 130 RBI.

Hall of Famer Bill Dickey saw the raw power Mantle possessed from both sides of the plate very early in his career.

“I was pitching batting practice when the kid came to the plate,” said Dickey. “The boy hit the first six balls nearly five hundred feet, over the lights and out of sight. He hit them over the fences right-handed and left-handed.”

Mantle finished his career with 10 games where he homered from both sides of the plate, a record at the time of his retirement.

Mantle joined Dickey in the Hall of Fame when he was inducted in his first year of eligibility in 1974.

(Kevin Stiner was the spring 2011 Public Relations intern for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Summer Lunch numbers

For several years now, CitySquare has contracted with the Texas Department of Agriculture to provide the summer lunch program to children who receive the benefit during the school year.  The logistics of providing so many meals to a "scattered" population are challenging to say the least! 

Sonia White directs CitySquare's Nurture, Knowledge and Nutrition division which administers the food delivery program during the summer, as well at to a growing number of program sites during the year who operate after school programs.  Sonia has been recognized as a state and national leader in childhood nutrition and feeding programs. 

Here's a rundown on our summer numbers:

In 2009, we had 142 sites where we served approximately 382,800 meals to 10,000 children, total. For the mobile, that included 18 stops, 50,000 meals to approximately 1800 children. We had 5 sites in Austin, where approximately 150 children were served 3000 meals.

In 2010, we had 213 sites total, where we served approximately 717,000 meals to 17,000 children. For the mobile, that included 95 unique sites, 285,000 meals to 8000 children. In Austin we again had 5 sites, where approximately 200 children were served 6000 meals

We are projecting that in 2011, we will have 258 sites serving over 26,000 children, over 1,100,000 meals. The mobile would make up approximately 100 unique sites, 500,000 meals to 10,000 children. The Austin project would have 37 sites, 50,000 meals to 1200 children.

Even with this amazing growth, there are still 275,000 children in Dallas county eligible for this program who are NOT being served through our sites. I would guess that MAYBE a combined 25,000 of these children MIGHT be served through other sponsors in Dallas County.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Family. . .generations

As I grow older, I'm constantly reminded that I am now at "the head of the line" in terms of my place in the natural generational flow of my family.  When did I become the patriarch? 

Over the weekend Brenda and I spent three days with two of our grandchildren while their parents got a away for some renewal time. 

We had a blast! 

More, we enjoyed some very special one-on-one time together with each of the kids, Gracie (9) and Wyatt (7).  As they grow up, we find ourselves doing more of a "boy thing," "girl thing" division of time and activity. 

The conversations, the questions, their delight at some old stories of our families, meals together, shopping, fishing, playing catch, working on art, styling hair, pretending to be secret agent type spys. . .what a time! 

Working to ensure that as many children as possible make such vital connections to parents and grandparents is an important part of what we are about where I work.  That said, I have my own responsibilities along these lines as a grandfather. 

"What do you do, Granddad?' Wyatt asked me over an ice cream cone late on Sunday afternoon. 

He really wanted to understand, so I told him. 

I felt like I was conversing with a dear and trusted friend. 

And, of course, I was. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Witness

"To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda or even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery; it means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist."


- Emmanuel CĂ©lestin Suhard

[From "Verse and Voice," May 12, 2011, a service of Sojourners via sojo.net.]

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Moral Mind

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we're left, right or center. In this eye-opening talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most.  Haidt delivered this talk at the 2011 TED Conference.  As you watch, don't give up on his thoughts--he takes the discussion to a challenging and surprising conclusion that calls us all to live beyond our seemingly natural divisions.  Let me know what you think.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Money

Reflecting on the 1997 Microcredit Summit,  Professor Muhammad Yunus wrote:

"In teaching economics I learned about money, and now as head of a bank I lend money. The success of our venture lies in how many crumpled bank bills our once starving members now have in their hands. But the microcredit movement, which is built around, and for, and with money, ironically, is at its heart, at its deepest root not about money at all. It is about helping each person to achieve his or her fullest potential. It is not about cash capital, it is about human capital. Money is merely a tool that unlocks human dreams and helps even the poorest and most unfortunate people on this planet achieve dignity, respect, and meaning in their lives."

Thursday, May 12, 2011

"Dangerous" Christians

Here's an interesting take on faith, the world and life purpose.  Let me know what you think about it. 

Dangerous Christians Who Teach Us To Live Like Jesus

Posted: 05/ 9/11 12:10 AM ET
By C.K. Robertson

Systems resist change. The old joke, "How many _____________ does it take to change a lightbulb? -- What, change!" still gets a laugh precisely because we all have experienced some kind of relational system that has been change-resistant. As things have been, so they always will be. Now, change for change's sake is not always a good thing. Sometimes it can be quite destructive. But all too often the failure of an institution to explore possible adaptation has led to years, even centuries, of setbacks and repression. Individuals who challenge the status quo are viewed as threats, and the system deals with them accordingly.

This is true whether the institution in question is corporate, government, academic, not-for-profit ... or, yes, religious. In fact, an ecclesiastical system can the most difficult, for to suggest change there is to risk being labeled a heretic or apostate who has been (as I once heard with my own ears) "co-opted by the darkness."

Throughout the Christian Church's history, "dangerous" believers have arisen, challenging comfortable definitions of who or what is acceptable to God, who can lead and who needs to keep quiet. Jesus himself was perceived as a threat precisely because he challenged seemingly unchangeable laws about the Sabbath and broke down the boundaries between the pure insiders and the unclean outsiders. It is significant that the followers of Jesus would eventually take as their primary identity marker not the rainbow or the fish, but the cross ... a constant reminder that to embrace the way of Christ is to risk following in his footsteps either figuratively or, at times, literally.

Read the entire essay here
C.K. Robertson is the Canon to the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and author of A Dangerous Dozen: 12 Christians Who Threatened the Status Quo But Taught Us to Live like Jesus.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Cottages

For the past two years CitySquare has been at a table of unique collaboration. The mission: to develop 50 units of permanent supportive housing for 50 of the most expensive homeless persons in Dallas. 

By "most expensive," I mean those who use the services of public institutions, including the police, EMS, hospital emergency rooms, mental health and jail resources.  The most expensive 250 homeless persons in Dallas cost the county/city approximately $40,000 per person annually, not counting value of services provided by the non-profit community.

The consortium, convened by the leadership of the W. W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation, includes MetroCare (MHMR of Dallas County), Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (The Bridge), Dallas County Criminal Justice System (the county jail), University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, the Meadows Foundation, and CitySquare. The group plans to build 50 single family cottages that will house 50 of these most expensive, most shelter resistant homeless persons in our community--people who are chronically homeless with mental illness issues and criminal backgrounds/involvement.  The innovative development will be known as "The Cottages at Hickory Crossing," and is similar to a number of 50-unit housing developments across the nation. 

Central Dallas CDC serves as the developer for the project.  Brent Brown's bcworkshop and Brown Architects is handling the design. 

A tract of property at the southwest corner of I-30 and Malcolm X Boulevard has been purchased for the development.  W. W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation created a $2.5 million match fund, providing $1 for every $3 raised by the consortium for the project.  In addition, the foundation invested $1 million upfront to provide special housing support for our city's overcrowded homeless assistance center, The Bridge. 

The unique housing development intends to be operational by 2012.  More details will be published here in the future.  If you need more information, feel free to contact me.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Healthcare reform looming

The following article appeared in the Harvard Gazette, May 6, 2011.  Here's an honest, comprehensive assessment of what we face in healthcare's needed reform.  The counter-intuitive truth remains:  the way out of our bankrupt system of health care will involve providing Medicare-like coverage for everyone. 

Health reform may require a crisis

ABC’s medical editor cites obstacles to improved care system

A new, more sweeping version of health care reform that provides universal coverage and controls costs is still a few years away, according to ABC-TV’s medical editor Timothy Johnson. Unfortunately, it likely will take a budget crisis to get it through Congress, Johnson said.


Despite the passage of national health care reform that extends coverage to the uninsured, ends discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, and allows parents to keep children on their insurance until age 26, Johnson said even more sweeping changes are in the works that would create a system similar to Canada’s single-payer program.

The reason, Johnson said, is that health care costs in the United States remain far higher than those in other countries and are climbing fast enough to threaten the nation with bankruptcy within a few years.

“In five to seven years, we’re going to be facing true financial catastrophe, with the possibility of actual bankruptcy in this country,” Johnson said. “We’ll probably throw up our hands … and what we’ll probably do at that point is expand Medicare to cover everyone.”

Johnson, who is also the medical editor for the local ABC affiliate, WCVB-TV, and who holds appointments at Harvard Medical School and Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, analyzed America’s health quandary Wednesday evening (May 4) during the annual Lowell Lecture, sponsored by the Harvard Extension School and the Lowell Institute of Boston.

Johnson based his talk on his recent book “The Truth About Getting Sick in America: The Real Problems with Healthcare and What We Can Do.” He was introduced by Dean of Continuing Education Michael Shinagel.

There are no easy answers to America’s health care problems, Johnson said. Per capita costs for health care in America are more than double those in other industrialized nations. Though some observers may say that the quality of care is better in America, Johnson argued that it is not more than twice as good, and the problems of the uninsured and of the bureaucratic burden placed on doctors far outweigh any benefits.

Read the entire article here.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Father Pfleger

Father Michael Pfleger

Posted by Smiley and West on April 29, 2011 at 12:05pm in Hot Stuff Segment

The longtime head of St. Sabina’s parish in Chicago was suspended by his boss, Cardinal George, for his comments on Smiley & West three weeks ago.


Smiley: He is as authentic as they come. A truth-teller, committed to bearing witness.

West: He's a white brother who loves Black people more than many Black people love themselves.

Click here to listen.

Friday, May 06, 2011

"Say Hey Kid" celebrates 80th today!

Baseball great, Willie Mays celebrates his 80th birthday today!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Mays! You've brought joy and thrill to lots of folks. Just had to remember "the catch" before the day got away.

Sad cities

10 Saddest Cities in America


posted by Melissa Breyer Apr 29, 2011 6:01 pm

What makes a city sad? A lack of fluffy frolicking puppies? Burnt-out buildings and vacant lots? Limited access to cupcakes? Measuring which cities in the country are the least content seems an objective pursuit, at best. Yet last month when the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index published their findings about which cities were the happiest, they ended up with the other end of the spectrum as well. The miserable, no-good, down-and-out cities, where, clearly, not a soul can manage a smile. I kid, of course. Undoubtedly there are sad people in the nation’s happiest city (Boulder, Co) as well as happy people in the saddest. But nonetheless, it’s interesting to see what the index came up with.

Read more.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"Just" good

Over the years we've been asked often about "how we do ministry" here at CitySquare.  Most of the time those who've asked this question have wondered how or if we "share the gospel" in our work or if we've done so as a condition of our willingness to help those who come to us seeking assistance.  We've attempted to be clear and kind in our answers.  The fact is, we discover deep, resilient faith in the hearts and lives of some of the poorest people in Dallas.  In other words, most of the time we receive more theological insight from "the poor" than we offer back. 

We do our work because of our faith.  The values of our faith provide us motive.  On a day-to-day basis, we operate like St. Francis, who, it is claimed, once said, "Preach the gospel at all times.  Use words only when necessary." 

In this light, I love what follows.

From Tony Campolo's blog, Red Letter Christians:

Good for Goodness Sake. . .Not Conversions

by Tony Campolo Thursday, April 28th, 2011

We should do good for goodness sake, not to achieve some other goal. A good act is good in and of itself. There are some people who believe that the only reason we should do good to others like providing the poor and oppressed with food and medicine, etc., is in order that we might win them to Jesus.

In other words, the good is simply a hook that we use to catch them and drag them in. I believe that when good is done with such motives, the good loses its spiritual dimension. Good is not good because of a pressured conversion or awkward Gospel message. Good is good for its own sake.

Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “When you do good (i.e., alms), make sure that you do it in secret. Make sure that your left hand doesn’t know what your right hand is doing.” When you read that in the Sermon on the Mount, you have to ask yourself, “How can I reconcile those red letters in the Bible with doing good with an ulterior motive such as getting people to be willing to listen to my rip on the Gospel which should be done in secret?”

I told a youth group once that when they delivered their Christmas baskets, they should knock on the door, wait for the people to answer, present them with the food, and then sing some Christmas carols. I asked these young people, “Do you really feel that the recipient is going to fall over, converted to Christ because of your generosity? In all likelihood, they will feel embarrassed that they are in an impoverished state and have to depend on the gifts you are giving.” When these young people asked me what should be done, my response was simple. Sneak the presents and food onto the back porch and go away, call the people on the telephone and say, “There’s stuff on your back steps. Go and get that stuff. It’s for you. This is God!” Then hang up.

The Bible says that the God who sees what you do in secret will reward you openly. It couldn’t be clearer from the Sermon on the Mount that the good that we do should never be for manipulating people into believing our doctrines.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Going deep, staying at it: the price of creativity and breakthrough

April 28th, from Roderick MacIver's Journal

There was also a film made of Picasso painting on glass -- The Mystery of Picasso -- in which he uses felt pens and is filmed through the glass from the back. He's shirtless, drinking wine, completely focused for several hours on the images he's creating. At one point in the film he walks around to where the camera is located and talks to the director. Here's a paraphrase:

"What do you think?" asks Picasso.

"Wonderful. What do you think?" says the director.

"It is a little too superficial. It needs to go deeper. I should use paints, like I do at home."

"That's risky," says the director.

"Risk is what we need," says Picasso. "To go deeper, you need to take risks."

Five hours later, a painting is completed. Then Picasso works on a large canvass. His images start out fairly realistic -- it is a compendium of many different scenes built into one painting. The primary figures are a couple in bathing suits. Many hours later, the shapes are geometric abstracts. He has probably repainted over the entire surface at least twenty times -- each layer very different from that which proceeded. Toward the end he pastes cut out paper over the top of the bathers. Then he removes it, and says, "This has gone wrong. Terribly wrong. But now I know where I'm going. I'll start over on a new canvas."

And he does, but creates a much simpler painting based on a few geometric shapes and much more white space than there was in any previous version. Then he announces that he's finished, signs his name with a flourish, and strides off triumphantly.

The total concentration, the search for a perspective that somehow resonates with his vision, the process of painting over and over until something emerges. That thing, whatever it is, is indecipherable -- a collection of symbols representative of aspects of life, I suppose. I'd be surprised if he knew, but he knew he had found something.

All that is clear is that he's dug deep and he's satisfied.

from Heron Dance

Monday, May 02, 2011

Street Stuff

My friend Roger once told me that his life on the street was like one, long, unending parade from morning until night.  I'll always remember how he described the "parade route." 

If in a night shelter, awakened at about 5-5:30 a.m. and rousted out of the facility. 

On the sidewalk now the day's journey begins. 

You walk in circles often.  Your mission simple:  find a place to eat, find something to eat, find the money needed to do both of those activities. 

Find a place to stop and rest--try walking all day long he told me.  Find a place to rest where you won't be targeted as a nuisance by the police or business owners.

Find a place to take care of the necessities of the day--toilet, sink, mirror, etc.  Find such a place where you won't get into trouble with anyone. Find even a moment or two of privacy, a scarce commodity on the street.

Keep walking and time the parade so that you find lunch and dinner before retreating into a shelter at an appointed time, The Bridge or an alley, often the night lodging of choice by homeless persons really weary of being told what to do about everything.

Through it all, keep up with your possessions.  Stolen possessions is a major problem on the street before, during and after the parade. 

"Larry, people just don't know," he told me as he concluded a much more graphic description of his daily "parade." 

Of course, he's right. 

We don't know.

Good reason to listen, I'd say.