Friday, December 31, 2010

fruits of justice

When we step up and join the struggle for justice in our world we help bring life and hope to those who have been victimized for far too long. That alone is worth the sacrifice…and the risk. But Gary Haugen, President of the International Justice Mission, unpacks a few other fruits that are born in the fight for justice in his inspiring little book Just Courage:

First, we help bring about an equilibrium in power that helps make justice sustainable. Bullies oppress people not because they are courageous, but because the powerless are vulnerable. When we stand with the powerless and empower them to exercise their voice and battle for justice, aggressors back down.

Second, we are changed. Haugen writes, “ Give me a Christian who has walked with Jesus in the struggle against aggressive, violent injustice, and I will show you a Christian who has been changed by the journey.” Far too many church-going people are near comatose with trivial pursuits and boring routines. We need to take risks. We need to stand up against people and systems that probably scare us for the sake of the victims and, as it turns out, for our own sake.

Years ago, in our relentless pursuit of safety, the cul-de-sac was inserted into the suburban landscape to address our anxieties about the danger that traffic presents to our children. The thought was that the cul-de-sac would both slow and reduce traffic and our kids would be safer. Ironically, we have since discovered that the cul-de-sac is far more dangerous to our children than through traffic because cars backing up injure far more children than cars moving forward. By trying to protect our kids we actually put them at much greater risk. We make that mistake in lots of ways with our kids and with ourselves as well. Haugen notes that as we have sought safety from a “dangerous world and threatening culture” we have “turned inward to the prosperous cul-de-sac, only to find spiritual atrophy, mediocrity, and boredom that is lethal to the soul.” We are created to fight for what is good, not to run from what is bad. God’s call to “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow” is a divine antidote to our trivial pursuits. It is a pathway to personal transformation and courage.

And finally, the engagement of injustice adds integrity to our faith and makes following Jesus more compelling. Over the centuries the validity of the life Jesus offers has been expressed differently in different eras. In some eras it was most effectively expressed through acts of compassion; sometimes through non-violent resistance, and sometimes through proclamation. But today, the truth of what we say we believe might best be seen through acts of justice.

But just what is injustice? Scripture defines injustice as the abuse of power by taking away the good things God intended all people to have—namely their life, freedom, dignity, and the just fruit of their labor and love. So when a stronger person takes away what rightfully belongs to all people, the sin of injustice has occurred.

Where is dignity being taken from someone you know? Where are people working for wages that won’t be enough to feed their children? Where are the powerless being taken advantage of by landlords, governments, or employers? Probably not as far away as you might think. As we have befriended the powerless we have found the fight is often right nextdoor.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

solid food

Among a sea of hopes for the new year, I pray especially for an increased appetite for the Holy Scriptures. As I was reading Paul's letter to Timothy this morning I was reminded again how vital it is to take in Gods' written Word deeply and often. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the Scriptures:

• Teach us what is true
• Expose what is wrong in our lives
• Coach us to do right
• Prepare us to do every good work

Wow. So if I'm not regularly feeding my soul with God's Word, how will I know what's really true? How will I really know what's right and what's wrong in my life? How will I make course corrections? How will I be able to do what is truly good?

Honestly, I can easily think of lots of other viable options to help me address these questions because I go to them so often. But this year I want to turn to the irreplaceable Scriptures first and let all the other good resources take their complementary place.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Over the past 2 weeks I've been teaching on the role of vision in our lives. Simply stated, vision--from my perspective--is a picture of the life God has created me to live. It's not so much a picture of my preferable future as it is my best understanding of God's preferable future for me. It naturally changes over time as it comes into sharper focus, but it always inspires and moves us. Here's my best understanding of the life and the work I believe God dreams of for me:

As I experience the shifting tides of culture and see a new kind of church emerging wherever I go, I’m compelled to co-create working harbors that provide...

Time for people to linger with God and to be shaped in the crucible of community;

Space for people to explore, experience, and extend the missional life they are meant to live; and a

Place for people to gather the essential gear they will need to live that life well on whatever seas they are called to navigate.

The attached picture of the boats in the harbor is another way for me to visualize my vision. They're not just boats, they're working boats. Some are bigger and some are smaller. Each of them is unique. Some will go farther out to sea and others just beyond the harbor. But all of them have a job to do.

What do you imagine when you think of the life God created you to live?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

girls (written by laurie)

Over the last two weeks I've had the opportunity to spend time with a woman in Tijuana, who's a wife and mom of 3. Over lunch one day, she talked about a ministry she's involved in that gives food and a bath to the poorest of poor in Tijuana, in addition to trying to get them uniforms so that they can attend school. She has a heart for the girls but the ministry she works with tends to prioritize the boys. As she shared her struggle and frustration, I thought about the book my family and I have been reading this summer, Three Cups of Tea.

It's the story of Greg Mortenson, a mountain-climber who came face to face with poverty in the rugged mountains of Pakistan and began building schools for children--but especially schools for girls. When asked why he focused on educating girls, Mortenson says: "Once you educate the boys, they tend to leave the villages and go search for work in the cities," Mortenson explains, "But the girls stay home, become leaders in the community, and pass on what they've learned. If you really want to change a culture, to empower women, improve basic hygiene and health care and fight high rates of infant mortality, the answer is to educate girls...If the girls can just get to a fifth grade level, everything changes."

This has caused me to think about the Nepalese refugee families here in San Diego that we work with as they struggle to figure out life here in the US. We primarily work on their English but this gives rise to many other significant challenges. Things like how to deal with children whose behavior is out of control. Or what to do with a teenage daughter who is depressed. Or how a mother can stay healthy and keep her milk supply up while her newborn son is in the hospital.

And then there's the recovery home in our neighborhood where women of different ages fight to stay sober and change destructive patterns of behavior in their lives. Or the old homeless woman who lived in the alley behind our house for a few months, tenaciously fighting for what she needed each day. And I think of my sister and brother-in-law who have lovingly raised and continue to care for their 35 year old daughter who has Down's Syndrome.

I'm sure as you read this, you can think of girls and women in your life who have needs, some of them very great needs. Why not take a moment to pray for them and even ask God how you can be a part of changing the lives of girls nearby as well as girls far, far away? Sometimes our world is changed one girl at a time.

Friday, September 10, 2010

a kingdom investment in real estate

Twelve months ago we moved two streets over into an old Victorian house in our neighborhood that has quickly become our home, the home to another family in our community, and the home-away-from-home to many other friends and family from around the world. This big historic house is more than just a home though; it's the hub for our missional community; it's the site of countless times of leadership training and coaching; it's a house of worship and prayer; and it's a lighthouse in our

It's also up for sale. Our landlord recently told us that he needs to sell the house and that he would really like to sell it to us so that we can continue to use it to advance the Kingdom. Well, we'd like to buy it. We've seen God bless this home and those that pass through it and we just don't feel like God is done with it yet! But if God wants us to keep this home, we'll need help. If you're potentially interested in investing in a property like this, read further. If not, could you simply stop and pray that God would provide all the resources we would need to keep and use this property for God's purposes? Thanks!

Property details

The property is a 5-bedroom, 3-bathroom house on a huge lot with an unfinished granny cottage in the backyard. The main house is approximately 2300 sq.ft. and the cottage is another 400 sq.ft. With 20% down, the rental income on the house would more than cover the PITI payments and leave sufficient reserves for maintenance, improvements, and potential cash flow to the investors. The house may also qualify for historic property status and that would reduce the property tax rate by
approximately 90%.

We are personally ready and willing to invest in the property but we would need a small handful of kingdom-minded partners to
invest with us as equity share partners. If this is something you might be interested in considering, can I just ask you to do 2 things? First, click on the link below to watch a short little video that was taken in our house a few months ago and ask God if He might want you to invest in this house and the ministry that flows from it. And second, if you feel God nudging you, (or you're at least interested in getting more information to explore it further), let me know and let's talk. Thank you!

A Day in the Life of NieuCommunities

Friday, March 05, 2010

why i'm part of a learning community

Here's one more reason why I love being part of a learning community:

"In times of change, the learners will inherit the earth, while the knowers will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists." - Eric Hoffer

Thursday, February 18, 2010

in defense of "missional"

The word "missional" is one of those words that came on by storm a few years ago and is already losing its cachet. It's been widely misunderstood and generally misused, and now some are calling for it to be jettisoned from our vocabulary all together. I was tempted to jump on the bandwagon until I read Christopher Wright's examination of the word in the introduction of his notable book, The Mission of God. Wright makes a strong case for the importance and use of the word missional especially in light of what words like mission and missionary have come to mean in people's minds today.

I agree with Wright's assessment that the word mission now refers to all kinds of human endeavors, eternal or not. Lots of people, businesses, and churches have personal and corporate mission's statements that attempt to describe the unique task they've set out to accomplish. That kind of focus can certainly be helpful, but in our attempts to distinguish ourselves from others we inevitably end up using mission in a narrower, more individualized, customized sense. Mission is what we do and how we do it. Hopefully our unique missions are connected to the mission of God, but they're rarely assumed to be synonymous with the mission of God.

Missionary has become an even more limiting word. Missionaries are seen as unusual people who are called to carry-out the task of mission usually in some far away place. Not many people can identify with the calling of the missionary and even fewer would want to be one.

It's against this backdrop that the word missional entered our conversation. It's not a verb that refers to a customized task, (our mission), or a noun that refers to a unique kind of person doing a unique kind of work (i.e. a missionary). It's a powerful adjective that denotes that whatever comes after it is related to or characterized by the mission of God to redeem and reconcile all of creation. A missional life then is a life that is actively experiencing and extending God's redemption and reconciliation. And a community is only missional if it is collectively experiencing and extending the redemptive and reconciling mission of God.

As an adjective, missional redefines everything that follows it and gives it new meaning and identity. It reminds us of who we are, who we're related to, and the ultimate mission we have all been invited to participate in. And that makes it worth keeping.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

food, inc.

Of all the illuminating, convicting, and disturbing things I heard and saw in the movie Food, Inc., I think the words of a small farmer from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia named Joel Salatin will stick with me the most: "A culture that just views a pig as a pile of protoplasmic inanimate structure to be manipulated by whatever creative design a human a can foist on that critter, will probably view individuals within its community and other cultures in the community of nations, with the same kind of distain and disrespect and controlling type mentality."

If you haven't seen this film yet, you need to. But be warned: it begs a change in choices that won't be easy.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

nueva generacion

We spent the afternoon yesterday at Nueva Generacion, a boys home in Tijuana led by Luis Salinas, his wife Aida, and family. It was an amazing day, playing futbol with the boys, eating pizza, and learning more about life and ministry in Tijuana. While many Americans avoid Tijuana, we've been blessed by staying the course. See God's children here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

shared leadership

Here's another great reason why we've created NieuCommunities to be an all-play community:

"Jesus exercises the only kind of leadership that can evoke authentic community--a leadership that risks failure (the crucifixion) by making space for others to act. When a leader takes up all the space and preempts all the action, he or she may make something happen, but that something is not community."

"When a leader is willing to trust the abundance that people can generate together, willing to take risk of inviting people to share from that abundance, then and only then may true community emerge."

- Parker Palmer

love like crazy

Be your best friend
Tell the truth
Over-use "I love you"
Go to work
Do your best
And don't outsmart your common sense
Never let your praying knees grow lazy
And love like crazy.....

-Lee Brice