Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Heart of Dallas Bowl almost here!

Plan to attend the Heart of Dallas Bowl tomorrow in historic Cotton Bowl stadium at 11 a.m.  The game benefits CitySquare!

Last Sunday we hosted players, coaches, cheerleaders and others from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and from the University of North Texas.  Watch the video to get a feel for our special day!

Urban Harvest

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 
Matthew 9:35-38

“I feel like I’m here to learn something special,” a homeless friend I met on the street explained to me earlier this week. 

“It’s like I’m in a field, a wide field and the ‘harvest’ spreads out before me, but there’s no one to help with the gathering!” he continued. 
Read more!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Last chance to lend a hand to our neighbors in 2013! Help us reach our goal!

Check in on our year-end fund drive right here!

We've one more day to break through our $1MM goal from November 1 to December 31!

Gifts of all sizes are gladly accepted and desperately needed!

Join our effort today!

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings speaks to poverty's threat/challenge

Here's a very interesting interview with Dallas Mayor, Mike Rawlings.

What he says about the challenge and threat of poverty to our community is worth your  time.

Serious words to ponder.

Go here to listen.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas truth

An Incarnation Into Littleness
The incarnation is the irruption of God into human history: an incarnation into littleness and service in the midst of overbearing power exercised by the mighty of this world; an irruption that smells of the stable. The Son of God was born into a little people, a nation of little importance by comparison with the powers of the time. He took flesh among the poor in a marginal area—namely, Galilee; he lived with the poor and emerged from among them to inaugurate a kingdom of love and justice. That is why many have trouble recognizing him.
Gustavo Gutierrez
The God of Life

Saturday, December 28, 2013

January 1, 2014 HEART OF DALLAS BOWL benefits CitySquare!

From Dallas Morning News:
UNT or UNLV? Denton, Las Vegas mayors make a friendly wager on Heart of Dallas Bowl
 Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / pheinkel-wolfe@dentonrc.com
For the mayors of Denton and Las Vegas, it’s game on.
Mark Burroughs and Carolyn Goodman will be watching the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year’s Day with a special interest. The two have bet on the outcome of the football game between the University of North Texas Mean Green and the University of Nevada Las Vegas Rebels. The loser has agreed to wear the winner’s jersey at the next regular council meeting, Burroughs said.
“We’ve already exchanged sizes,” Burroughs said.
There was a flurry of activity leading up to the call on Christmas Eve between the two civic leaders, he said.
An early idea would have seen Denton dispatch a small group of musicians should UNT lose, and Las Vegas, a group of showgirls, should they win, to respective council meetings, but it fell flat, Burroughs said. After all, several members of the One O’Clock Lab Band recently performed for the City Council to mark the release of its latest album, Lab 2013, which contained a number of jazz tunes as a homage to Denton.
The city staff reached out to UNT athletics to make sure that a jersey would be ready to go to Las Vegas, if needed.
Or, when needed.
Burroughs isn’t worried, he said. Goodman’s husband told him that Las Vegas odds-makers favor the Mean Green by 6½ points.
Tickets to the game are still available online at www.meangreensports.com or by calling 940-565-2527 or 800-868-2366.
Remember:  The Heart of Dallas Bowl benefits CitySquare!!!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Special Christmas card from housing residents at 511 N. Akard

This is a photo of the inside note in a Christmas card sent my way by a grateful family who lives in an apartment in our CityWalk building Downtown. In case you can't read the handwriting, it says, "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to live in a delux apt. in the sky"

The opinions and self-understandings of our neighbors rule the day at CitySquare!  Opportunity is everything for people committed to making life-changes.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Homeless Outeach

Every month I receive a report from our Homeless Outreach Team (HOT Team) that summarizes their activities in Downtown Dallas. 

For the past several years Downtown Dallas, Inc. has contracted with CitySquare to do outreach in Downtown Dallas among the chronically homeless neighbors who call these hard streets "home." 

Here's a snapshot of the November report (with annual totals/YTD included):
  • HOT engaged 157 (2266 YTD) different persons
  • 76 (1145 YTD) individuals allowed the team to conduct assessments
  • 76 (845 YTD) happened to be first time neighbors
  • 81 (649 YTD) were returning neighbors
  • HOT referred 83 (1252 YTD) for more intensive/extensive case management services
  • 1 (22 YTD) person was placed in permanent supportive housing
  • 18 (153 YTD) were referred to and placed at local shelters
  • 42 (98 YTD) were approved for Dallas Housing Authority apartments and were waiting to be placed
  • 4 (38 YTD) neighbors received medical treatment
  • 2 (35 YTD) received psychiatric services
  • 1 (8 YTD) was referred for substance abuse treatment
  • 10 (55 YTD) received bus passes for DART
  • Funding was provided for 24 (199 YTD) persons to go back to their homes after a plan was worked out with family/friends at destination
  • HOT provided 26 (207 YTD) local transport to various places/appointments
  • 50 (211 YTD) received clothing
  • 1 (14 YTD) person received food
  • 13 (102 YTD) received hygiene packs
CitySquare's HOT team is making a big difference in the lives of homeless persons who move about in the central business district.  Friendships are being made and evidence of progress is seen daily.  Further, public safety has improved dramatically. 

That said, we expect funding for the continuation of these efforts to be under great pressure in 2014 to be cut.  I'm hoping the business community supporting Downtown Dallas will seriously consider extending the funding and the public service.  The benefit will be shared by all of us.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Celebrate the child, the misunderstood child

But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The people who walked in darkness
   have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
   on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
   you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
   as with joy at the harvest,
   as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
   and the bar across their shoulders,
   the rod of their oppressor,
   you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
   and all the garments rolled in blood
   shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
   a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
   and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
   and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
   He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
   from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Disruptive child

Disruptive people change the world.

Somehow it seems that "going against the grain" results in big time change.  If the motivation is correct and the values true, disruption can mean big time improvement for everyone involved in the change. 
I didn't grow up thinking that the arrival of Jesus had anything to do with disruption.  Clearly, I didn't "get it," nor did those who dutifully shared with me the story of Christmas. 
Here is the song that Jesus' mother sang in anticipation of the birth of this special child.  Take a moment to read it, paying special attention to the words highlighted in red.
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Luke 1:46-55

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
What does this song communicate about the nature of the child?
Who does God stand with according to the words of this song?
What should we expect to see from those who choose to follow this child?
What application should be made of these truths should be made today?
How does this song change the way  you regard the meaning of Christmas? Or, does it?
What does Mary's song tell us about the fundamental nature and purpose of this child's  life?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Need tickets to the Heart of Dallas Bowl?

If you'd like to attend the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl on January 1, 2014 in the historic Cotton Bowl, just shoot me an email (ljames@citysquare.org) or Tweet (@lmjread) and we'll work out a way to get you all the tickets you need!

This year's Heart of Dallas Bowl pits the Runnin' Rebels of the University of Nevada Las Vegas versus the Mean Green Eagles of the University of North Texas.   The game promises to be a real dog fight!

Best of all, CitySquare is the beneficiary of this year's game.  

Spread the word!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Report from our Homeless Outreach Team (HOT)

Here are field notes on a neighbor we know and with whom we are working to secure permanent housing. This report does get at the heart of an important part of the work we are doing every day on the streets of Dallas.

The team and I went out to engage Tony, who was located on Park and Canton. Tony didn’t appear to have any immediate need for medical attention. Tony wears SEVERAL layers of clothing that includes many pairs of socks, which would make him appear swollen. We engaged Tony, as we have done many times before, and Tony was resistant to going to immediate shelter. However, Tony was willing to begin the process of applying for our housing program. We will continue to work with him in hopes of getting him off the streets.

Ashley Postell
Manager of Homeless Outreach Team

Friday, December 20, 2013

Public morality--rich and poor

For years, actually decades, and in rural, urban and suburban settings I've noticed that the background assumptions of our culture, our economy, our policy, our leaders and, yes, even our churches would lead one to believe that the poor are bad, evil or flawed.  At the same time, the rich we consider basically good, moral and favored largely because of their superior moral decisions.  This uniquely American brand of economic morality feels very Calvinistic in its interpretations of life and the human struggle.

These assumptions have led us to a national battle over the proper response to poverty and those captured by it.  Food stamps and unemployment benefits set over against corporate subsidies and tax loopholes:  these are the particulars of our current national debate. On Thursday, (12-19-13), The New York Times published an op-ed piece by Timothy Egan titled "Good Poor, Bad Poor."

It will be worth your time to read it right here.

Reactions invited.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Heart of Dallas Bowl--January 1, 2014!

Do the math!

11:00 a.m. January 1, 2014

. . .in the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium. . .




Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Those people. . .

The first ones to hear the news, and thus mark the advent of an age of reconciliation with God, were poor shepherds, some of the lowest ranking members of Jewish society. Their work made it impossible for them to observe the Jewish ceremonial laws and temple rituals, so they were considered religiously unclean and unacceptable. They weren’t considered trustworthy and were not allowed to give testimony in a Jewish court of law. They were social outcasts, yet they are at the heart of the joyous message—that Christ came for lowly shepherds, for all the forgotten people of the earth, for all of us.

Kate Lasso is a member of the Eighth Day Faith Community and loves remembering, and being reminded of, what the Advent season is really about.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Holiness to Justice

“Going on to perfection”: from Social Holiness to Social Justice in the United Methodist Church
Larry James
United Methodist History HX 7365, Fall 2013
Professor Tamara E. Lewis

            The United Methodist Church demonstrated a consistent and, at times, increasingly significant commitment to the realization of social justice in American society during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  While at times this witness to social equity and justice appears as a “minority” report of sorts, both in the larger culture and even in the church, the commitment to realizing the living presence of the Kingdom of God on earth remained a constant refrain throughout the period, and continuing to date into the second millennium.  To be sure, other voices in the denomination ignored or, worse, formed critical responses against Methodist advocates of social justice who considered the work for justice to be the very work of Christ and of the church.  But, throughout the period in question, a steady stream of advocates for justice did important work, often at considerable personal sacrifice. 
            Interestingly, Methodists and Methodist organizations committed to the realization of social justice in the values of the church, and as expressed in its work in the world, refer to the founder of Methodism to explain their fundamental motivation.  Often Methodist preachers and advocates linked the work of social justice to the values of John Wesley in regard to his commitment to “social holiness.”  Interestingly, especially in the twentieth century and up until today, Methodists employ the admonition attributed to Wesley himself, “There is no holiness but social holiness,” to validate and position their commitment to works of social justice.  In fact, as Andrew C. Thompson demonstrates clearly, John Wesley almost certainly never made the statement.[1]  It is found nowhere in his extant writings.  The phrase “social holiness” appears once in Wesley’s writings and that in the Preface to the 1739 edition of “Hymns and Sacred Poems.”[2]
Reading the phrase in the context of Wesley’s point reveals that by “social holiness” he had in mind (and directly contrary to the practice of the mystics whom he rejects) the social nature and shaping influence of the societies and the essential role of the group, the community as the “environmental context”[3]in the realization of holiness or sanctification and walking faithfully in the world, including concern for doing good to everyone, especially to those of the community of faith.  Wesley envisions his experiences with the societies that he worked so hard to establish.  Wesley argues against the mystics,
If thou wilt be perfect, say they, trouble not thyself about outward works. It is better to work virtues in the will. He hath attain’d the true resignation who hath estranged himself from all outward works, that God may work inwardly in him, without any turning to outward things. These are the true worshippers, who worship God in spirit and in truth. For contemplation is with them the fulfilling of the law, even a contemplation that “consists in a cessation of all works.”  5. Directly opposite to this is the gospel of Christ. Solitary religion is not to be found there. “Holy solitaries” is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than holy adulterers. The gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness. “Faith working by love” is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection. “This commandment have we from Christ, that he who loveth God love his brother also;” and that we manifest our love 3Ori., ““by doing good unto all men, especially to them that are of the household of faith.” And in truth, whosoever loveth his brethren not in word only, but as Christ loved him, cannot but be “zealous of good works.” He feels in his soul a burning, restless desire, of spending and being spent for them. “My father,” will he say, “worketh hitherto, and I work.” And at all possible opportunities he is, like his Master, “going about doing good” (pages viii-ix).[4]

            Clearly, it is anachronistic to assign to Wesley’s phrase “social holiness” the burden of the twentieth century church’s developing concern for the realization of social justice in its fellowship and larger culture.  At the same time, it seems fairly clear that the progressive values of Wesley himself and the life and order of the fellowship he did so much to create did inform the church’s modern day concern for doing works of justice and compassion, while working for the establishment of justice in society. The radical seeds of social revolution that can be found in portions of Wesley’s rather advanced worldview.  For example, Wesley’s view of the heinous evil that was slavery, as revealed so powerfully in his sermon/pamphlet, Upon Thoughts of Slavery serves as an example of his radical thought.  While he might not have framed it this way, his position on the subject, over a century ahead of  his time, contributed to the revolution that eventually “sanctified” the secular culture by ridding it of the scourge of chattel bondage. 
            In a very real way, Methodists have been utilizing and at times rediscovering Wesley’s social ethic against various forces and influences that have tended to obscure a practical understanding of his basic theology and of the Wesleyan tradition.  Included in any listing of these veiling or intrusive forces would be scholarly biblical form criticism and its revolutionary view of scripture,  the rise of the Social Gospel movement, evolutionary theory, industrialization, urbanization of the United States and the growth of organized labor.  Further, the rapid growth of the Methodist Church in America beginning in the period following the Revolutionary War and well into the mid-twentieth century served to establish the denomination as proto-typically American.  What had begun as an English reform movement to revive a moribund Anglican Church, worked its way across North America to become the best expression of the American Church.  With highly placed political, educational and social leaders in the membership of Methodist Churches across the nation, the denomination’s influence grew rapidly while its understanding of and reliance upon the heritage of John and Charles Wesley became more distant, obscure and forgotten, if not irrelevant.
            At every important turn in the history of the denomination, prophetic voices have been heard that call the people of God and of the nation on to a new kind of society, one much like what Wesley envisioned when he spoke of slavery and the social outcomes of personal holiness.  Examples are not hard to find.  The tragic division of the church in 1844 over the issue of slavery among Christians demonstrated the ethic of the northern church to stand in Wesley’s position, while the departing Methodist Episcopal Church South allowed profit and southern culture to rule the day.  Again, in the 1939 “reunion” of the church, even though the compromise leading to the formation of the Central Jurisdiction prevailed, shoring up southern racism and Jim Crow with the apparent blessing of the church, prophetic voices could be heard.  The Central Jurisdiction itself spoke truth to power against racial segregation in the church [5]  Groups such as the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) worked hard and aggressively in agitation and lobbying for the church to live up to its heritage by ending segregation in the Methodist Church.[6] 
            Some Methodists at the time were considered so radical that they appeared before the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee to defend their words and activities.  One of the more notable cases involved Methodist Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, at that time assigned to Washington, DC.  Oxnam’s career in the church had been exemplary, including his longstanding position and action in support of desegregation of church and society.  While the committee brought no official action against the bishop, he was accused, along with other activist Methodist clergy, of being a communist because of his support of social change and due to his associations with and support of national and international ecumenical organizations that took liberal stands on a number of issues.[7] 
             Methodist history in the twentieth century is replete with example after example of men and women who took courageous stands for social justice.  Just two, obscure examples include the support of the Black Liberators in St. Louis by the United Methodist Church during a community struggle for labor and human rights[8] and the steady and amazing work of lifelong educator Emma Buckmaster among the Japanese community in Bakersfield, California following Executive Order 9066 resulting in the interment of her and her friends, neighbors and fellow church members who were Japanese.  The practical and heroic efforts of the First Methodist Church and Trinity Methodist Church to organize and store the belongings of Japanese friends relocated to Arizona calls to mind the work of Wesley’s societies in caring for one another in the name of Christ.[9] Clearly, many Methodists were not afraid to speak up or to take action in defense of  the rights of the oppressed among their fellows in the nation and in the larger church.  While the record was far from flawless, again and again Methodists, both lay and clergy, could be found on the side of social justice.
            Wesley’s theology of “social holiness” and his deepening understanding of the importance of compassionate and sound witness in the world paved the way for the new American Church, a church that challenged its culture and compromised with it, a church that reflected the best and worst of the American experience, but a church that continues its journey “on to perfection.” 

[1] Andrew C. Thompson, “From Societies to Society:  The Shift from Holiness to Justice in the Wesleyan Tradition,” Methodist Review, Vol. 3 (2011):  141-172.
[2] John and Charles Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1739; http://divinity.duke.edu/sites/default/files/documents/cswt/04_Hymns_and_Sacred_Poems_%281739%29.pdf
[3] Thompson,  145.
[4] Ibid., pp. viii-ix.
[5] Russell E. Richey, Kenneth E. Rowe and Jean Miller Schmidt, The Methodist Experience in America: A History (Nashville:  Abingdon, 2010), page 391.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Angela Lahr, “The Censure of a Bishop:  Church and State in the McCarthy Era,” Methodist History, Vol. 44:1 (October 2005), 29-42.
[8] Kenneth Jolly,Reaction to Liberation: Official Response to the Black Liberation Struggle
in St. Louis, Missouri,” by Gateway Heritage magazine, Vol. 23, no. 4, Spring 2003 (no pagination).
[9] Gilbert P. Gia, “Emma Buckmaster and Executive Order 9066,” Historic Bakersfield & Kern County, California, www.gilbertgia.com, 2011.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Authentic faith

   A Difficult Truth

I am a shepherd who, with his people, has begun to learn a beautiful and difficult truth: our Christian faith requires that we submerge ourselves in this world. The world that the church must serve is the world of the poor, and the poor are the ones who decide what it means for the church to really live in the world.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

This note came to me after our all-staff meeting on Tuesday.  Inside look into the world of CitySquare!

The TED Talk reminded me of a new program at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library that launched in September with the help of two CitySquare AmeriCorps members.  The program is an effort to more proactively embrace the homeless neighbors who regularly visit the library, a constituency that has long been ignored, marginalized and dismissed by fellow patrons and library staff. In fact one homeless neighbor expressed that she has visited the library every day for the past 10 years and has never been addressed or approached by a staff member…until now.

To more effectively understand the needs of these neighbors, the library now hosts a regular “Coffee & Conversations” hour where homeless neighbors are directly engaged in conversation with each other and perhaps more notably, with library staff. For the first time in the library’s history, staff are learning the names, stories, needs, interests and dreams of folks they have discounted for years.

New programs are being implemented at the library that is driven and developed by the homeless for the homeless. The change is transformational and exciting and it would not be possible without the two AmeriCorps members.

If you ever visit the Central Library, you will see a Resource Center on the first floor staffed by two members. They are available daily to any neighbor in need of referral services – or even just to chat. The next Coffee & Conversations is this Thursday, December 5th at 2 pm on the first floor. If you are available, I encourage you to stop by! In fact, one of the projects they are starting is a podcast with these neighbors to share their stories and there has already been a request to get an interview with you!

Here are the two members serving downtown, both are Food on the Move alum from last summer as well! (L: Antoinette Carey Spriggs; R: Dominique Edwards)

Had to share!

In service,

Jennifer A. Rajkumar

Director of AmeriCorps 

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

New sounds from Francis I

Pope Attacks 'Tyranny' of Markets in Manifesto for Papacy

That's how the headline read in a recent news report in The New York Times about Pope Francis' latest and most comprehensive teaching to date. 

What the pope has to say about poverty is refreshing, and a word that we haven't really heard in decades from the Vatican. 

It appears this pope reads the bible!

Check out the story here.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Understanding the decisions "poor people" make--or, moving into another's world

Want to "get inside" the mind, soul and life of a chronically low-income person?  Here's how her story/essay aims to help us understand that which can only be truly understood from her position:

There's no way to structure this coherently. They are random observations that might help explain the mental processes. But often, I think that we look at the academic problems of poverty and have no idea of the why. We know the what and the how, and we can see systemic problems, but it's rare to have a poor person actually explain it on their own behalf. So this is me doing that, sort of.

To read more click here.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Chance and grace

Nicholas Kristof asks "where is the love" in his recent opinion piece in The New York Times.  He raises a needed challenge to us all as 2013 runs its tough course:

John Rawls, the brilliant 20th-century philosopher, argued for a society that seems fair if we consider it from behind a “veil of ignorance” — meaning we don’t know whether we’ll be born to an investment banker or a teenage mom, in a leafy suburb or a gang-ridden inner city, healthy or disabled, smart or struggling, privileged or disadvantaged. That’s a shrewd analytical tool — and who among us would argue for food stamp cuts if we thought we might be among the hungry children?
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s remember that the difference between being surrounded by a loving family or being homeless on the street is determined not just by our own level of virtue or self-discipline, but also by an inextricable mix of luck, biography, brain chemistry and genetics.
For those who are well-off, it may be easier to castigate the irresponsibility of the poor than to recognize that success in life is a reflection not only of enterprise and willpower, but also of random chance and early upbringing.
Invest your time wisely, read on here!