Searching for Sugar Man - Trailer -
We spend most of our lives just trying to be noticed…first by our parents, then by the kids on the playground, later by the pretty girl or handsome boy, by the Divine, the potential employer or benefactor who will open doors for us, and eventually by the ones we give our lives to. To be noticed and valued for who we truly are and for the things we have to offer this world is truly a gift.
But imagine what it would be like to be known and even revered by millions of people and never know it. What would it be like to have changed the world and yet grow old thinking that no one ever really even noticed you?
This beautiful, mysterious, troubling, inspiring documentary is not just the story of the mysterious 70’s singer known simply as Rodriguez who helped change a nation without knowing it; it’s all of our stories. It’s a soul-warming reminder to all of us that our lives—when lived well and faithfully—will make a difference to someone somewhere even if we think we have gone unnoticed.
Courage to stand apart from the crowd.
We hear a lot about decisions being made on the basis of open doors and closed doors, but I find there are lots of closed doors we need to kick down and open doors we need to walk past for the sake of our souls.
Rather than critique, create!
Over the years I’ve heard lots of people of faith refer to Hebrews 11:13 as they describe themselves as “foreigners in an alien land.” Sometimes that identification plays out in healthy ways as it helps us not get overly entangled in the politics of a kingdom we’re not really citizens of anyway. And sometimes it plays out in unhealthy ways when we conclude we have a green light to just kind of check out and let the place go to hell. But what’s often overlooked in that same passage is that Abraham actually settled into that foreign land and made it his home (vs. 9). He made the West Bank—his home—a better place to live .
1500 years later the prophet Jeremiah beautifully unpacks the perspective we ought to have on the place we lay our head, regardless of where it is. To people who were taken from their homes and forced to live in slavery in Babylon, he writes:
“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” - Jeremiah 29: 4-7
If anybody had good reason to check out and let a place go to hell, it would have been Jeremiah’s people and the deserving place would have been Babylon. And yet Jeremiah tells them to settle in, plant gardens, raise families, be at home. But he goes even further, doesn’t he? He tells them to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city” where they live in captivity. What?! Intentionally set out to make their oppressor’s home a better and more prosperous place? Uh huh, because if Babylon is better place then their lives will be better too.
In our neighborhood our faith community has attended local council meetings to advocate for a neighborhood farmers market that brings fresh and locally produced goods to our homes, and we lobbied that same council to build a playground in the neighborhood park that once was the playground of dealers. We’ve planted a community garden and two of our friends started a store that offers creative up-cycled art from local artists.
We’ve done that to “seek the peace and prosperity” of the neighborhood we inhabit. We believe we’re supposed to settle in and do good…for our neighbors, and for our own well being. We might be foreigners just passing through, but for now and for as long as we are here, this is our home, and we’re here to help make it a better place to live.
For many of us tonight is a light-hearted chance to celebrate the year behind us and welcome in a new year we hope will be the best one yet. But for many African-Americans, this day carries far deeper significance. 150 years ago tonight, at the stroke of midnight, all those who suffered under slavery in the Confederate States were proclaimed free as the Emancipation Proclamation became the law of the land on January 1, 1863. Throughout the South slaves quietedly gathered to sing together and prayerfully wait for the world to change on this night which is forever known as Watch Night.
Tonight, we all celebrate. But we also remember that slavery still exists all around us. It exists in its more horrific forms like human trafficking where upwards of 27 million men, women, and children are still enslaved today. And it exists in less sensational but still life-taking forms of addiction, abuse, and all kinds of isms that own us.
As you ponder possible New Year’s Resolutions, consider resolving to help at least one person find freedom before we reach this night next year. Freedom from…
May freedom ring out for someone this year who you choose to fight for and love well.
Watching my grandson open his first Christmas present pretty much made my Christmas this year. For Kelton, tearing through the paper and taking the time to squish it in his little hands was as much fun as anything that was inside the paper. I think there’s a truth in there worth holding onto. I feel like I often live my life tearing through things to get to “the good stuff.” But what if joy was sought and found in the things—and in the people—we walk past everyday and all too often simply miss or even discard? What if happiness is found in the simple things that our everyday lives are wrapped up in? I want to be more like Kelton this Christmas and throughout the New Year and find joy in the paper.
I was intrigued by something Tim Timmons said at a Christmas concert last week about the meaning of the word “merry.” To wish someone a Merry Christmas is more than just wishing them happiness, (which we could also use a little more of, right?). And it’s certainly not the same thing as wishing them a super sparkly season.
Tim pointed to Robin Hood and his merry men to find the deeper, historical meaning of the word. You know the story. Robin’s merry men were anything but super sparkly consumers of good cheer. They were rugged radicals. They lived on little and fought against greed. They sought justice and they gave their lives to overturn the prevailing culture of callous privilege.
“Merry” described the counter-cultural commitment that characterized their lives. To be merry was to be filled with courage. So when we wish someone a Merry Christmas this year, lets wish them courage to do what is right, to live justly, to resist greed, and to seek the common good during this sacred season.
Love is the only antidote to fear. — Or as it is written in the scriptures, “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).
Contentedness…Kelton and Laurie.
anxiety or anticipation -
We get to choose. Great perspective from Seth Godin.
I’m lobbying for a new word for “potluck” that is befitting of the monthly meals our community currently calls “potluck.”
“Potluck” would actually be a fairly generous description of some of the shared meals I’ve had in the past when it really was a crap-shoot if you’d get anything to eat at all let alone something you’d even want to eat. But the meals our community puts together are anything but a “potluck.” They’re a feast created with lots of love. I’d even go as far as to say they’re a symbol of what a community of faithfulness ought to be: everybody bringing their best and when it’s all put together it’s complete, whole, thoughtful, inviting, and oh so tasty. Our community meals are far more sacrament than potluck.
So what do ya got? Any ideas for a better name than “potluck?”
I tend to think like an architect, so if something seems a bit off in an organization, in a community, or in a project, my mind naturally goes right to structural changes that could be made to address the issue. And sometimes that’s exactly what is needed to get things working right. But rarely is that the best place to start.
I was coaching a gifted young leader yesterday who is operating within a structure that doesn’t suit him perfectly, and we naturally began to focus on possible structural tweaks that would help him lead more effectively. But going directly after those external changes—changes that would take time to implement even if they were widely embraced—was actually distracting him from the internal changes he could make right now that would make him a better leader regardless of what happens around him.
I asked him these 2 questions:
Given the structure you’re in right now,
1. Are you leading as well as you could?
2. Are you loving people as well as you can?
That shifted the conversation from the future to the present, from focusing on external circumstances to focusing on being a better leader from the inside out. And that’s where we usually need to start.
Regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, we would do well to ask ourselves these two questions:
1. What can I do to be a better leader right now, right here?
2. How can I love people better right here, right now?
When we live into the answers to those two questions we might even find that the structures we’re in are not quite the obstacles to success that we thought they once were.
I was having lunch yesterday with a pastor in San Diego who has some friends that live in our neighborhood. He told me a little story about something that recently happened here in Golden Hill that I thought was super encouraging and worth passing on.
A few months back Zac was hanging out at our local Starbucks and somehow he got into a conversation with “two gnarly old dudes with no interest in spiritual things.” At some point in the conversation Zac mentioned some hopes that their church has for the neighborhood. I was really curious how these “gnarly old dudes” would respond to that.
“Well, if you’re going to do something in this neighborhood, then you need to talk to the NieuCommunities people. Those guys know this neighborhood, they live here, and they really care about it. So talk to them first.”
I have no idea if I’ve actually met those guys, but somehow they know our community, and in their eyes, we’re good news in this neighborhood. And that’s good news.
Inhabit your neighborhood. Care for it and for the people who live there. Be good news. Your neighbors will notice.
Once we’ve thrown off our habitual paths, we think all is lost; but it’s only here that the new and the good begins. — Leo Tolstoy