Friday, April 19, 2013

Faith & Love Tension ~ #iamccda

My job, so to speak, of being a Logan Square neighbor and community activist has put me in some interesting situations and last week I experienced another one. I was in a meeting where I had an identity crisis. The meeting included a lovely group of folks collaborating to care for those in need of food in our community. We each introduced ourselves and my identifying acronym was my neighborhood association; though, I felt some tension with that. Most people around the table were faith-based with their church and my motivation was really faith-based, too. However, I just did not know if I should identify myself with my church because I wanted to honor my church's theology and they do not support ordination of gay pastors. And, one of the most active churches opening it's doors in our neighborhood for a community event with our group was led by an openly gay pastor. What was I to do?  It finally came to me... I decided I was going to identify myself as an individual practitioner with Christian Community Development Association from here on out in these situations. My beloved association gives me both faith-based identity and the freedom to do what God is calling me to do in His love in my neighborhood - yea!

The other tension I felt in the meeting was because I was sitting by my alderman, who's Chicago's "Chik-fil-A" alderman. I felt tension not because he blocked the chain(though our family really wanted it!); but, because I have listened to my alderman a lot. To me, it seems that part of the reason he stood against the Chik request in our community stems from a childhood justice issue. He grew up in a mixed race family in a small Midwestern town; and, it seems like he was not treated very nicely by Christians. I don't want to speak for him; but, I have heard him talk about this so many times I can see his pain and passion around justice for all. I, too, grew up in a small Midwestern town and witnessed much discrimination around polarizing culture and race issues. So, I did not want to identify as an Evangelical Christian with my church in front of him simply because I wondered if he had ever experienced any love or justice modeled by a person claiming to be an Evangelical Christian... more tension.

Many grace boundaries still abound in our faith-based world and some days it's just plain hard to be honoring, loving and at peace all at once. In part, that's why I've decided I will identify as a CCDA Christian (#iamccda) in these situations. The association gives me the freedom to be who God created me to be as a social-justice type person, modeling Christ's love in my very diverse neighborhood.  And, I can still worship at the church where God has led our family to go. Is it a tension for me? - yes, again. But, we can't just put things in homogenous boxes any more in a globalized, pluralized world. So, thank you once again Christian Community Development Association for including me as an individual practitioner just trying to live different and model love as a Christ-follower in 2013!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Kids & Community

Last Fall I went to a conference where one of my friends introduced me as a community activist. Ha, I thought, that title is not on my name tag. Is that really what I am?! Then, I wondered if the church that sponsored my conference fee would be okay with that. Activist seemed like such an in-your-face, controversial title. Well, I have since come to own that I am an activist - a high reformer/challenger on the enniagram personality test. My passionate activist stance is focused around blended community development (y'all know that if you're reading my posts!). I firmly believe that neither stacked wealth nor stacked poverty are part of God, Bonhoeffer or Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Beloved Community" concepts. And, since some of you have asked me what I do in my activist role, below is a position statement I wrote last week in my education reform activism efforts with Stand For Children. Stand is a nonpartisan 501C3 organization, of which I am a member.  Their current campaign in Chicago is Renewing Schools, Renewing Neighborhoods.

I am Diane Miller, a mom, Chicago Public School parent/supporter and a member of Stand For Children. I live in Chicago’s first ward on the west side and have a daughter in the Honors Program at Lincoln Park High School. Our family believes in public schools. Yet, our daughter travels outside of our neighborhood to go to a good public high school. I also know that not every family in Chicago has the resources to do that. So, what I would like to address is the subject of school access. We, at Stand, believe that every child should have access to a good public school within a mile walking distance of their home. All children need to feel loved and valued for who they are and they need to have a sense of belonging in their own community and the availability and support of a good neighborhood school. 

We live in a culture of “destination communities”, meaning it has become normal to travel outside of our home neighborhoods to jobs, sports activities, churches and even our schools. Well, I ask, “What are we modeling for our kids with this scenario?” Constant going and doing of life’s activities outside of our neighborhoods has stripped both us and our children of a deep sense of belonging in our geographic neighborhoods. So, how do we restore that in this city? We start with neighborhood access to good schools. Children should be able to walk to school, to have kids to play and do homework with and feel part of a community that gives care, accountability and hope by a close village of adults that watch over them. In this city, we are now busing, driving and taking public transportation to grade schools and high schools outside of home neighborhoods to get children into good schools - it’s nuts! And, the process to get them into these schools is even crazier. Providing good schools in every neighborhood is a necessary lifeline in developing deep community bonds and nurturing a healing culture of hope and caring in every Chicago neighborhood. Again, we at Stand ask you to consider a plan where every child has access to a good grade school in their own home neighborhood within a mile radius. And, if we have to have Welcoming Schools beyond that range while neighborhood schools improve, may they be within a 1-1/2 mile radius, or within a child’s zip code at the very least. All of us, especially children, deeply need that sense of belonging that comes from being in community.  May your school utilization plan be community-honoring, supporting all Chicago's beloved children in their own neighborhoods, creating hope and smashing the evil of fear, anger and hopelessness that grips this city…Thank you.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Culture & Childrens Fear

When I was a kid in school, not much frightened me. Well, other than seeing a fire safety video in 3rd grade and not being able to sleep for a week, worried that our house might burn down. Life was pretty comfortable and my parents created a home that made me feel very secure. We walked or rode bikes everywhere as kids in our small hometown. We did not lock our cars or the front door to our house. Many times I remember being thankful for living in a modern age and not having to worry about the rough and tumble pioneering days with cowboys and Indians.

Fast forward 40 years... this is a text I received from my daughter last week, "Mom, there's a gang coming to school to shoot, can u pick me up ASAP?" Needless to say, I dropped everything and headed to the high school. I signed in, chatted with the office staff and found out that my daughter's text was caused by a Facebook post. This post created a social media "fear frenzy" at the high school and many parents were picking up their kids. There was supposedly nothing behind it; however, because of the post and an earlier neighborhood shooting that week, the school had a huge police presence.

I think a lot about how life has changed for kids growing up in this world. My daughter's inner city public school fears are much different than mine were growing up in rural central Illinois. So, I ponder... How do I, or we, work together to create a different world in which all of our children flourish and have a hope for the future without being gripped by the fear of violence?

Friday, October 26, 2012

HS Mom Chats

My daughter just attended her first big girl homecoming dance. It was at Chicago's Field Museum and the cost was $45, plus dress and accessories. She went with a group of freshman gal pals and had a blast. Dad got the immediate taxi backseat conversation review on the way home from the party because mom could not stay up that late.  The highlights - they had fun, wanted to go to the next dance and felt the admission cost was really only worth $20 max.

The next morning my daughter and I were driving downtown and she spilled more details during our windshield time. I heard about the risque dresses, grinding and upper class girls pulling out flasks in the bathroom. All I could think was... how do I ask questions and not shut down her authentic sharing? (big gulp) So, I began asking about the inappropriate dresses and if she thought the gals wearing them had any clothing boundaries. Then, I asked her if she thought the girls' parents knew what their daughters were wearing and if the parents might have clothing or behavior guidelines for  high school events. Humans have to have a logic or moral base for actions(Judeo-Christian, or otherwise); however, many teens and parents simply seem not to have any solid baseline these days. They simply go with the flow of what everyone else is doing because it is popular or has become "normal" this week. I own this struggle myself in a constantly-changing culture... normal does seem different every day.

I think the car chat went pretty well... not that I liked what she was telling me; or, the fact that only the principal and hired security guards were the chaperones at the event - what? And, I'm sure there will be even more challenging conversation processing to come with this hormone-ridden high school season. I'd love to hear any of your successful and loving input!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Am I an Evangelical?

This week I wondered if the label I wear as an evangelical really fits me? Many days I feel so different from the folks I do church with... I don't have any desire to be part of a structured precepts Bible study, I question church rules that seem more about culture than Christ and I have always been curious about both understanding and befriending others with worldviews very different than my own. I started my faith journey never needing anyone to lay out hermeneutics or apologetics to convince me I needed God.  I simply sought Him, believed the Bible, and after so many years of studying, wanted to spend time hanging out with the poor to develop a deeper faith. It just seemed there were more scriptures about walking with the poor as a human love model than anything else. In Western culture where we tend to label, this choice put me in a box of having a mercy gift; and, I'm sometimes written off with this posture because I've been told it's not for everyone. Well, all I can say is spending time hanging out with the homeless poor allowed me to see Jesus in a way I had never seen Him before... and, it made the scriptures come more alive for me than through any of my Bible study. Basically, it changed my entire perspective in being an evangelical.

That said, I am also a creative-type and am inspired by creativity... and, us creatives don't seem to fit the mold with evangelical academic types either. I can look at art and see or hear God sometimes better than reading a scripture or following a study. And when I do study, I am way more inspired by the juxtaposition of biblical concepts as they relate in a current cultural context or a personal life story. That's just me, being real, and it has taken me a while to figure all that out and not feel guilty about either the art thing or the study style. Though, again, both don't seem very evangelical compared to my traditional church teaching focused around Bible study and discussion.

These above scenarios highlight my evangelical label wondering... it's a tension for me. However, this week I was encouraged by some folks that do not seem typically evangelical either. They are three people I know and their postings are not like anything I have ever heard in church. So, I guess if these folks are evangelical and see things differently and live in the tension of not being traditional with their viewpoints in a postmodern, post-Christian culture... well, then I can, too.

A Call to Transform Politics

The Silence of Women

God & Gays: Bridging the Gulf
(ps - this Marin Foundation post is an older, but powerful BBC broadcast)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Katy Perry Inspiration

I am a creative-type. I own it. Last month I took my teen to see the new Katy Perry movie and I loved it! I entered the theater with a narrow-minded, conservative, "what could I possibly see redeeming?" attitude about the flick... I own that, too. But, I left very inspired by Katy's creativity gifting and her authenticity before the masses of kids around the world that are just looking for somebody to be real with and to try and understand what it is like to grow up in this century.

So, I tinted my hair auburn... pink or blue is too much maintenance; and, I started pondering. Those of you who know me know I'm always pondering something in this culture. I have always been curious and a deep-thinker. Anyway, my questioning mind wonders... Why could this girl not make it in the Christian pop culture, she is brilliant? What about Christian culture is so limiting, so prohibitive and non-affirming to creatives? Why are Christians unable to talk about sex/sexual issues in 2012... it's been 40 years since Woodstock & the free love movement, for goodness sake?

Don't get me wrong, seeing 9-year-old girls singing, "I kissed a girl & I liked it", still makes me cringe. But, I am beginning to think that some of these pop singers have to sing about this stuff because it is the only way some kids have to emotionally vent or process some of the crazy cultural stuff... through music, that is. And, that is because some of us adult parents don't want or have the energy to keep up with everything, let alone  talk about it. I own that, too. I always feel a hundred years behind... however, I am now in full recovery mode with my teen heading into high school.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Power Perfected in Weakness

Jesus says,“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”2 Corinthians 12:9

There are 3 things I read almost every day... the Moravian Daily Text, Sasha Dichter's blog and Crain's Top 10. The above scripture from today's Moravian text really hit me in pondering thoughts about women. I really believe that empowering women will change the world for God's good... partly because power is made perfect in weakness and for most of our world's history women have been looked at as weak, in one way or another.

I ponder why Christians do not buy into the concept of empowering more gals as leaders and pastors, rather than primarily valuing them as supportive spouses. We live in a postmodern culture where the values of living a God-honoring life of moral absolutes seems to be rapidly dissipating. I truly believe women could help change this with their emotional intelligence gifting, if they were nurtured to lead with their emotional strength perceived as a weakness.  Did I not just read that power is made perfect in weakness? Could that weakness be interpreted as emotional intelligence, which now seems to be highly valued in our business world?

Nicolas Kristoff and Sheyl WuDunn, in their book, "Half the Sky", promote the empowering of women worldwide as the next great world movement. Is this another world issue that people outside of church world seem to get better than those in church world? I wonder.

PS - Here is today's Crain's article, also relating to this subject: