are we always sure what love should look like? no.

Folks who are invested in progressive politics often ask why I’m not more involved in work to change the filthy rotten system. How can you care about people who are being crushed by evil policies and not invest yourself in changing policy? On the other hand, church folks who care about community and neighborhood ministry sometimes ask why we would invest time in something like a march. How can you advocate for policy changes when this world’s system is passing away and God’s kingdom is all that will last?

My answer, in short, is the Jesus Rev. Barber introduced me to fifteen years ago. No love is more personal than the love of Jesus. We aim to share that love personally in everything we do. Whether it’s offering hospitality to the stranger at our door, spreading a table for neighborhood meals, mentoring young people from the neighborhood, teaching co! urses in prison, organizing for community self-help, or advocating for better policies, we want to live into the love we’ve received from Jesus. Are we always sure exactly what that love should look like? No. We have not mastered love in relationships nor have we perfected love in politics. But that is no reason to shy away from either. If God’s love really is for everybody, then we’ve got to try to put it into practice everywhere.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, in his monthly newsletter, talks about racism, Black History Month, and loving people – in person and through systems. God’s love, put in practice everywhere. Where are you putting it into practice? Are you drawn to work with people or with systems or both?



the best thing about it is that you never know

Well, should you do what you’re good at, or what you love?

laughter almost has to be subversive

Adam McKay is the founder of the Funny or Die website, and is interviewed here for the What’s Your Calling project. He talks about just doing whatever it is you need to do, and finding joy in the process. When’s the last time you lost yourself in laughter?

…our entire understanding of mission and ministry shifts

Because of some grave misunderstandings of the role of good works in Christian history – especially that we could earn our way to God’s love and saving mercy if we just did enough of them – we’ve been hesitant to recognize that they are central to deepening experiences of grace, and a fuller appreciation of the importance of good works in discipleship and holiness changes how we perceive their role.

If we see that care for persons in need is a response of love to Jesus (Matthew 25: 31-46), a chance to walk on holy ground, then our entire understanding of mission and ministry shifts. It is not what “we” do for “them”, but an opportunity for all of us to be enveloped in God’s grace and mercy. In God’s economy, it’s less clear who is donor and who is recipient because all are blessed when needs are met and when individuals receive care.

In their great book, “Friendship at the Margins,” Chris Heuertz and Christine Pohl talk about service in terms of friendship. Have you found the distinctions between “us” and “them” disintegrating in your work? Have you found friendship in unexpected places?

the people wore on me…or is it grew on me?

In BVS we talk about cold climate vs. warm climate cultures. In a warm culture, people are friendly, get to know you, and always see how you’re doing before getting down to business. Cold cultures are business-minded. No one wants to hear about your problems; just take my money and let me get on with the day. I am very much aware that I fall in the latter.

Even in college, when I signed up for Brethren Volunteer Service, my mindset was one of cold computed justice. I decided before graduating that I was being led to volunteer for a year in New Orleans. A hurricane had trashed things pretty thoroughly, and I would help fix it. Not because my heart bled for the recently homeless, but because something wasn’t right but I could help fix it. Here I was, making a huge life decision – basically resigning to be selfless for a year or two – and it was more out of anger than compassion. At first, I tried to work as hard as I could, sometimes through lunch, and didn’t get bogged down in survival stories or feelings or other human things.

I realized pretty quickly, though, that rebuilding people’s homes is kind of hard to do without involving the people. They like to pick things like curtains and paint colors. Skipping lunch didn’t help either. Slowly, over the next few months, the people wore on me. Or is it grew on me? Maybe both. I started to put tools down when the owner showed up. We’d talk; They’d tell their story and I’d just listen.

Work progressed more slowly, but, after being thanked by homeowners week in and week out, it started to dawn on me that something much greater than drywalling was going on here. People’s lives were being transformed, healing was taking place and the only thing they could do was give back: cooking lunch for us, taking us to lunch, maybe cooking us another lunch that week. It was surreal. It was like they cared or something!

Don shared this reflection on Service Sunday at his church, and posted it over on the Elgin BVS House blog. Are you warm climate or cold climate? Are there people who have worn or grew on you and convinced you to slow down, fix less, hear more?

i had a lot of questions

While at first I focused on what “calling” meant to the film’s subjects, over time I began to wonder what the notion of “calling” meant me and to those around me. Is a calling defined by what you do? Is it who you are? Is it both? Is a calling something that exists for everyone? Was I following mine? I had a lot of questions.

Danny Alpert spend 8 years producing the new PBS documentary, The Calling. After they wrapped on production, he began to wonder how it was that his questions could spark further pondering and discussion. Check out all sorts of people – from snowboarders to comedians to chefs – answering the questions about what calling means to them hereWhat does calling mean to YOU?

what would happen if we took peacemaking seriously?

Carol Rose, the Co-Director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, shares her story of finding radical faith and living out a radical vision of peacemaking with our friend Jarrod McKenna in this podcast.

What radical thing are you being called to do? Have you ever found purpose in rebellion?