The Week That Was - 01.13.19

My day often starts here with silence, prayer and contemplation before it’s filled with a flurry of activity

My day often starts here with silence, prayer and contemplation before it’s filled with a flurry of activity

In an effort to write more, and provide opportunity to share with friends, family and supporters, I’m going to try and do this weekly summary.

These posts will be broken down into three categories, sightings, meetings and readings.

I hope you enjoy it and that it helps you understand, and even intercede more for me.

Readings

From 1 Kings 10 this week, I was struck by how Queen Sheba described who was benefiting from, Solomon’s wisdom. As she states in verse 8,

How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom - 1 Kings 10:8, NIV

As the ESV Study Bible notes,

While Solomon’s wisdom and wealth are still remarkable, and are still evidence of God’s abundant blessing, it seems that his great wisdom, wealth, and power have begun to distort his moral judgment in the proper use of these blessings. Chapter 10 as a whole in fact focuses on this benefit that wisdom brings to the royal court, and particularly to Solomon himself, rather than on any benefit that might flow out to the people

I have said for years that as I lead in justice ministry, I never want to reduce my work to just talking with other leaders about the nature of the work. I always want to make room and time be working on the ground, getting my hands dirty, spending time with the people dealing with and struggling through the effects of injustice. I want to learn from, hear from, see and stand with them, because I believe that the wisdom I get to share is really mostly about passing along the lessons they are teaching me.

I started 2019 prioritizing reading books that will help me grow and refine what I do as a faith rooted organizer and activist and Faith Rooted Organizing has been such a blessing already

Faith-rooted organizing ask “Power for what purpose? [I would add accumulation and wealth]

Shalom assumes a prior commitment to justice among everything and everyone

Faith-rooted organizing is rooted both in encouraging and helping people find their valuable place in the work of renewal. This though always has to be coupled with recognizing that power without humility, can and will often undo and even undermine the long-term effectiveness of the work.

This description of shalom is also so helpful in recognizing that not everyone will be on the same page about the goal and mission of the work. Relationship building, listen and learning play vital roles in helping individuals and organizations understand and then move towards this mission of shalom and making things right.

Zack Eswine’s book, Sensing Jesus [now repackaged and reduced as The Imperfect Pastor] is one that I come back to regularly in helping me reframe how I see myself, how I see others and Jesus in the midst of my wife and the work I do.

A husband who will not see beyond the body to the woman will soon find that God will no longer answer such a man’s prayers (1 Pet. 3:7).

Eswine is addressing how humans often can reduce each other to objects of desire and in so doing can actually find our prayers hindered. This however struck me in how we [I] can reduce people to objects that I get things and need things from. Forgive me God, for reducing people to objects rather than image bearers.

Meetings

Monday was a funeral for a long-time social justice warrior, Nicholas Heyward Sr. Having lost his son 24 years ago at the hands of a careless police officer, he spoke up and out for police reform and justice for his son and many others in our city who have dealt with the same loss. There was a poignant and painful moment, as I sat watching his older son clinging to his body in the coffin, not wanting to say goodbye to his dad that he loved and so respected.

This year I was nominated to be the Title 1 representative [a schoolwide program available to schools with a student base where at least 40% come from low-income families] at my oldest daughter’s middle school. This means I get to represent and support families in the school with limited financial means. It also means another way to hear about the specific struggles these families face and find purposeful ways to provide resources for them. This week, I was at the student leadership team meeting at the school talking about how we can use funding to support these families.

Poutine with Eric Hoke, pastor of All Saints Church in the Bronx and coffees with Edwin Pacheco pastor of Redemption Church Red Hook, and Russell Joyce from Hope Church Brooklyn and a phone call with Ryan Hairston from Forge Network Conversations about diversity, neighborhood engagement, collaboration, church leadership and discipleship practices as I continue to learn from and seek to collaborate with more churches and organizations in the city.

All this on top of the monthly, Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice meeting where a growing coalition continues to strength a justice platform in preparation and in response to a planned neighborhood re-zoning for our community and attending the mayor’s latest State of the City, hearing about his points of action to help New York be the fairest big city.

I don’t share all these things to boast but instead to help people understand what I do, the things I get to be a part of and the ways I am working to build collaborations for good in my city.

Sightings

Traveling around this city, whether on foot, on bike or by public transportation affords some pretty interesting opportunities for experiencing the uniqueness of what makes New York, New York.

Last week, on the 2 train, I was reminded about the often paralyzing situations that present themselves in the struggles that people experience publicly in our city. As I got on the train, I saw a woman of color sitting by herself in the far end of the train with all of her belongings. A shopping cart full of bags, recyclables, clothing and all sorts of other collectables, on top of other bags and boxes, making this section of the train look like her little apartment. As people got onto the train, bewildered and even angry glances fell on her again and again as she muttered to herself and continually organized and re-organized her things. This scene was disrupted by a poet who got on the train sharing his poems about life in public housing and about his faith. He mentioned Satan in one of his poems and this set the woman off, who immediately started to disrobe right there on the train. Some laughed, some moved, and I was again paralyzed, left wondering how do I step into, do I step into this situation? I found myself praying silently for her and for the full subway car, that people would learn to see the humanity and the plight of both of these individuals instead of seeing them as distractions, sideshows or nuisances.

People’s lives and struggles play out like this every day, all over the city, on the street corners, in libraries, restaurants and public transportation. One of my hopes is that more poeple would learn to see, listen and love the hurting and hopeless around them [more on that in a podcast coming soon]

And so the week that was