Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Life And Love And Why

I haven’t posted a “Weekly” @Switchfoot Song in quite a while, so I realize the title of these posts now are fraudulent to a degree. Offer me the grace to keep the “weekly” part of the title if you will, as I am on a personal journey to unpack the theology/philosophy of Switchfoot’s songs (which are many and will take a while), and the “weekly” part of the title puts pressure on my weird mind to keep working on this.

So today I’m highlighting the song “Life and Love and Why,” which asks many questions about life, it’s purpose and meaning, and is searching for something, not just to live for, but to give one’s whole life for, and even die for:

Life and love and why
Child, adult, then die
All of your hoping
And all of your searching
For what?
Ask me for what am I living
Or what gives me strength
That I’m willing to die for

Take away from me
This monstrosity
‘Cause my futile thinking’s
Not gonna solve nothing tonight
Ask me for what am I living
Or what gives me strength
That I’m willing to die for

Could it be this
Could this be bliss
Could it be all that
I ever had missed
Could it be true
Can life be new
And can I be used
Can I be used

Give me a reason
For life and for death
A reason for drowning
While I hold my breath
Something to laugh at
A reason to cry
With everyone hopeless
And hoping for something
To hope for
Yeah, with something to hope for

Could it be true
Can life be new
Could it be all that I am
Is in You
Could it be this
Could it be bliss
Can it be You
Can it be You

Some people say these are the questions of the 20 somethings, the idealists who are longing for more than this world has offered them, and will be discontent in life till they find that purpose.

I suppose many middle aged men and women look at this generation and say, “It’s only a matter of time until you realize the American dream is not worth fighting against, so just give in to it now before you’re let down and realize the idealized life of standing courageously for something is a let down.” With all the lost dreams out there and the relentless fight of wanting to die for something, I understand why people would feel that way.

To long for something that you would be willing to die for ends up really bad for most people in the movies, at least if it’s not a cheesy flick. It’s like William Wallace in Braveheart. Everyone wants to be the lover and warrior that he was, but no one wants the outcome of his life. Dying on the execution table having lost his love and the war he was fighting for.

The world we live in does not value lives that give everything up for truth and justice, at least not right away. We all think of the righteous martyr and say, “Wow, she was courageous! I want to be like her, but I really hope I don’t have to in this life.”

Whether we like it or not, we are in a time in history where the courageous men and women are being raised up again in the West, as there has been a season when courageous people were few and far between. The age of comfort and leisurely pleasure is over.

With the rise of social media and the global connectedness we can now have, even though there’s “relative” peace in the West, all of us know that it is not all good throughout the world and our lives of “bliss” are confronted with death, hunger, and grave injustices. We can no longer live in our bubbles and pretend everything’s good. We all belong to one another, I hope we believe that… and the only hope in the world is people not losing hope.

“With everyone hopeless and hoping for something to hope for, yeah, with something to hope for… Could it be true, can life be new, could it be all that I am is in You; could it be this, could it be bliss, can it be You?” The answer to these questions are found in the next song on the album entitled “You.”

“I find peace when I’m confused, I find hope when I’m let down, not in me… me
in You, it’s in You. I hope to lose myself for good. I hope to find it in the end, not in me … me in You.”

This is the hope this world’s longing for. This is the place where confusion is not disorienting, and being let down in the end doesn’t breed hopelessness. This is the place where losing is winning, and death is living. This is the place where the weak are strong, and the poor are rich. It’s the place where if you want to be somebody, you become a servant of all. You can’t lose when you arrive at this place.

I’m talking of course about the place of surrender. Losing one’s life while standing before a bloody cross with Jesus the Christ hanging on it, displaying the greatest act of love, sacrifice, courage, and compassion. It’s not in us, it’s in Jesus. Jesus is the hope in the darkness, and the love for the loveless. It’s in Him, not us. Jesus offers us life for death and makes love something worth dying for.

Because of Jesus, love alone is worth the fight. Love for our enemy is cast in a whole new light. Love for the underdog and the broken sufferer is the new normal. And today, there is an army rising up, learning how to die, resurrecting an old moral. What gives me strength that I’m willing to die for? It’s the hope of life in Christ that offers more.

A Path Towards Urban Renewal: Justice

Renewal. This is a loaded word. It’s a word that could be debated as to what it means for a city or neighborhood. I’m aware that attempting to define what renewal looks like is subjective and will certainly lack many elements that others think should be a part of renewal, especially renewal of the urban core. This is exactly why I am writing a series of posts not on what urban renewal looks like, but on what kind of people we must look like for urban renewal to have a chance to be a reality. This is an argument from virtues (areteology), rather than an argument from duty (deontology) or consequences (teleology).

The last post focused on being peaceable people, which in and of itself, cannot encompass the fullness of shalom (the way things are supposed to be). There is no peace without justice. What is happening in Ferguson, MO is all over the airwaves as well as the ISIS crisis that is killing and and displacing thousands of Christians in Iraq and Syria. There is no peace in these situations because there is no justice. If shalom is the end goal of all of creation (human and non-human creation), peaceableness is the top end and justice is the bottom floor, the foundation; they are book ends if you will.

So what is justice? In the Greek culture, justice most likely referred to the Greek goddess Dike, who would have been the personification of the virtue. This is where the Greek (and biblical) word díkaios would have come from, which means, “to be just, or right.” In the biblical sense, the word justice would imply not only the just execution of the law of goodness, but right living on behalf of those who cry out for justice.

Righteous and justice seem to go hand in hand in the biblical narrative, and they actually could be defined by the term justification. In salvation terms, to be justified, is to be declared righteous before God and having been justly acquitted of one’s sin because Jesus paid for what we deserved (justice).

So justice, in part, means to be free and forgiven of one’s sin, and empowered to do what is right based on the freedom one has received. This is the long and difficult way of saying that justice is that state in which everyone receives what is rightful and appropriate. Since humans are created with certain rights (food, clothing, and opportunities to work), then a society is just when everyone in the society enjoys the goods that everyone has rights to. But a society is also just when there are consequences for those who have disregarded or kept others from these certain rights as well. A city that is just is a city that respects the dignity of every human, especially within the Christian worldview that believes that every human is created in the image of God, the righteous and the wicked.

At the least, in the talk of urban renewal, justice is absent whenever basic needs go unmet. This means that liberation from in-justice and deliverance from oppression are at the very core of justice. If one skimmed the Old Testament to search out who were some of the people whom God had special concern for in view of justice, you would see that it is the most vulnerable of society: widows, orphans, aliens, the homeless and hungry, the hungry and afflicted, etc.

If we followed this theme throughout the Old Testament, it would be hard to ignore the loud and clear message that justice happens when the marginal ones are no longer marginal. And this Old Testament understanding of justice is fully embodied in Jesus, who was very concerned with those who were on the margins of society, those who were vulnerable and exploited by people who had the power.

This can also be teased out to include all who have ever come to Jesus for salvation (the forgiveness of one’s sin and being declared right before God). We are all marginalized because of our sin, cut off from God, but because of God’s mercy and love for us, Jesus became one of us, to once and for deal with the rebellion and tyranny that we created. God brought justice to humanity through Jesus’ bloody and ugly death on a cross.

The one who turns to Jesus for salvation, now stands before a just and holy God only on the merits of Christ’s righteousness that has now been assigned to us through what Jesus did to deal with the injustice of our sin against God. The righteous demands of the law—the legal expression of God’s justice—were satisfied when Christ was put to death and suffered the torment of separation from God, in our place. In simpler terms, it is because the “just” paid for the injustice of the “unjust”, that we can be granted mercy and grace as people on the margins, and be brought near to God (no longer in the margins).

This is justice, which flies in the face of a Western view of justice, which would condemn all of us, if we indeed held ourselves to the standard of justice that we hold others to. Justice doesn’t make sense to a world committed to the three P’s: progress, profit, and pursuit of happiness. When we see injustice happening in our city, it usually means that we will have to miss out on one or all of the three P’s if we’re going to stand against it. There’s no money in it for those who want to plead the case of the widow, feed and clothe the naked, or stand against oppressive systems and structures that abuse and exploit the weak. Actually, downward mobility is to be expected if one is going to give their lives to this kind of justice.

The result of living a life of justice in the biblical sense in our 21st century Western society, most of the time, means that we lose ground on the three P’s of our culture and this is not very attractive, at least not long term. To see renewal happen in cities then, I am convinced that we will need an uprising of men and women who are willing to not be controlled by the three P’s, courageously living as an alternative community in the midst of our over-indulgences and commitments to the bottom line and financial sustainability.

This will not be an easy lot for the pioneers of renewal, but justice has never been an easy virtue to live by. After all, justice on God’s part was very costly. What are you willing to give up to live a life of justice in your city? Is the promise of comfort too seductive for you to make radical changes? Ultimately, justice will always prevail, with or without us, but we do have a choice to be on the “just” side, but it’s not attractive nor easy these days.

A Path Towards Urban Renewal: Peaceableness

In the previous post, I began to talk about my view of what urban renewal ought to begin with; a proper worldview. This doesn’t mean having a perfect worldview, but it does assume certain things. There’s no way to true renewal apart from a God-centered worldview, a set of lenses that sees God’s heart for people, neighborhoods, cities, and nations. This means at the core or urban renewal is a confrontation with ourselves and the world views that live by that need to be challenged. We all want the world to look a certain way, and we all have our opinions and judgements, but few of us live our lives in line with those opinions and do not want to be judged with the same standards of judgements by which we judge others.

So renewal begins with us, asking ourselves, what kind of people do we need to be in order to resist the destruction that our prejudices and judgements create? What are the virtues of true renewal? Virtue number one is to be people of peace and to be peaceable with God, ourselves, people, and the non-human creation. To begin, let’s get a biblical understanding of what peace is.

In 1 Timothy 3:2-3 Paul writes about what it looks like to be an approved overseer of the church: An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable (other translations use “not quarrelsome), free from the love of money. (NASB).

So peaceable in this text has the understanding that it is not looking for a fight. The word “quarrel” is often times seen as an argument, but it actually refers to an “angry” argument. Someone who is quarrelsome, is not just someone who is looking for an argument, but someone who is angry and looking to beat people in arguments. Arguments and disagreements are bound to happen in life, but looking for arguments in anger, so that you can win and prove yourself to be right is to be quarrelsome, or not peaceable.

James speaks of peaceableness as a key ingredient to the wisdom from above: But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18, NASB)

Hebrews 12:11 tells us that righteousness is a “peaceful” fruit of loving disciplines, which implies peace-making is not always passive.

From the very words of Jesus; Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

This is one of the main tenants of discipleship, to be a peacemaker, to move into places where peace does not exist and to display what it looks like.

Listen to the words of Jesus in Mark 9:50: “Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” To be at peace with others, true peace, is to be salty and useful. But what does true peace look like? It doesn’t always look like we think it does.

Jesus says something in Luke 12 that stirs the pot and moves us into more questions: Luke 12:51: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” What’s Jesus doing here. Is he contradicting himself? I thought one of His names was “Prince of Peace”?

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the One who says often, “Peace be with you”, knows that for true peace to be made, there must be a stirring, a realization that we are not alright and all right. Peaceableness then sometimes entails bringing to light that which others want to corruptly keep hidden… this will cause division and anger, but peace will prevail eventually.

Maybe an understanding of shalom will help in this discussion. Shalom is a Hebrew word that has been translated in English as the word peace. But shalom is a loaded word in the Hebrew language. Shalom does means peace, but it means more than that; peace with justice, universal peace, flourishing of all creation, the way things are supposed to be. Shalom is one of those words that we learn what it means the more we see/realize the absence of it. Where shalom is absent, we begin to grieve the way things were supposed to be and then we receive a new set of lenses with which to view and interpret life because of that experience.

To be peaceable is to be shalomic, displaying the way things were supposed to be when God created the heavens and the earth and all of the life that inhabits planet earth. Where shalom is absent, we are called to move into those places to display and model it, to be peaceable, not quarrelsome. To learn the discipline of living in the tension of disagreements and bringing light to those who are not at peace. To be able to navigate difficult friendships, networks, differing political parties and beliefs. However, being a presence of peace will often disturb first. It’s like turning on really bright lights in a dark room when people are sleeping or just waking up; angry shouts are hurled at the one who turned the lights on.

I have a friend who shared with me a time when he was a young leader and he tagged along with his mentor to attend a board meeting. Little did my friend know that he was being brought to a firing squad that wanted to crush his mentor. Let’s give his mentor the name Frank. There was tension in the organization and many decisions were made that hurt people. When they arrived to the meeting, the board members started out quickly by verbally bashing Frank and the blame game began.

My friend goes on to share all of the nasty things that were said about Frank, and all along he knew that most of them were twisted lies and half truths. He was sitting there waiting for Frank to blast them with the real facts about what had happened, but after the verbal assaults stopped, Frank asked the board if there was anyone else who was angry at him and had anything to share. Another guy then spoke up and shared more of his frustrations about the situation.
After everyone got their anger off their chests, Frank very sincerely began apologizing for the hurt that he caused them during the conflict and disagreements and began asking each of them if they would forgive him. One by one, these angry men received his apology and offered forgiveness, then there was a long pause of silence. Then one of the board members spoke up and said, “You know what, we all just sat here and blamed and blasted Frank, but none of us took responsibility for our roles in this mess. Frank, you have been above reproach in this mess, and always took responsibility. We are the guilty ones for using you as the scape goat. Would you forgive me for being a part of that?”

Frank forgave him, and then once again, one by one, these grown men were confessing their faults in the conflict, and with tears, forgiveness and reconciliation took place, and the way things were supposed to be began to take form. Peaceableness is a transformative power that God desires to use to restore individuals, families, neighborhoods, cities, and nations. Frank employed peaceableness in this meeting instead of it’s opposite virtue; contentiousness.

The late Martin Luther King Jr. is famous for his peaceful protest amongst his enemies. In one of his essays, “Non-violoence: The Only Road to Freedom,” King says that the way to shalom “will be accomplished by persons who have the courage to put an end to suffering by willingly suffering themselves rather than inflict suffering on others.” King called for the Black community to match their most bitter enemy’s capacity to inflict suffering on to them by enduring suffering; to match their enemy’s most vicious anger towards them with God’s most extravagant love for their enemies. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus says, “for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9).

In Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement, Brian Walsh and Steven Bouma-Prediger say this about contentiousness: “Like a parasite living on a host, contentiousness feeds on rage and rancor, antipathy and animosity, to fan the fire of discord and accelerate the spiral of violence.” (214).

Peaceable people look for non-violent ways to address conflict, although I do not believe this means that there is never violent ways to deal with evil. Peaceable people don’t deal with others in stereotypes or labels, rather they seek to know people beyond hot topic issues. Peaceable people expose the empty promises of the worldviews of consumerism and materialism not by loud arguments, but by lives of simplicity and contentment. Peaceable people know when to say enough. Peaceable people are essential oils to the soul of humanity and the changing tides of culture. Peaceable people seek peace with God, themselves, people and the non-human creation with equal fervor. Peaceable people are part of God’s plan for urban renewal in cities throughout the world.

Renewing Urban Renewal

Urban Renewal is a phrase that, for the last 50-60 years or so, has referred to the government program that wanted to revitalize urban slums. The renewal process included demolishing old or run-down buildings, constructing newer housing, or adding in features like a theater or stadium. Urban renewal is usually undergone for the purposes of persuading wealthier individuals to come live in a particular area where land owners, years earlier, left the neighborhood but held on to their property.

In the 1940’s this government program became a nationwide push to clear, rebuild, and redevelop slums. Although there has been good things that have come out of this program, critics of the urban renewal project have contended that although they bulldoze slums, urban renewal programs often have led to their replacement by office buildings and by apartment houses for the well-to-do. The critique with hindsight has seen that “renewal” was seen through the lens of a Westerner Capitalistic mindset that paid no attention to culture, personal needs, and esthetic beauty.

For instance, you may have heard of the phrase, “the projects” when referring to government housing in a “rough” neighborhood. These are apartment buildings intentionally built to be simple, same, and lacking any character at all. The plan was to demolish old buildings and houses, move out the poor, and build them new buildings without the frills. In some cities, you can see “the projects” built in rows, almost like corn fields, where all the people who were part of the crime and poverty of one neighborhood, were relocated to “the projects” (lower income housing) to start a new life.

The idea was that a new place with a new building was going to stimulate the neighborhood’s poor to live differently. This has not been the case. The projects have been a terrible project that have not only uglified neighborhoods, but has destroyed cultures of so many diverse groups. This is because when renewal is understood to be brought about by new physical buildings, we have terribly misunderstood what renewal is. It was also a bad project because no matter who the people are, when any neighborhood is made for only those who have little to no resources, you will always get the ghetto.

An older mentor of mine who has lived in the “ghetto” most of his life shared with me a dream he had one night. He said that he was speaking at a large church in a wealthy part of town, and he asked every one who has a broken family to stand up (divorce, abuse in the family, chemical addiction, porn addiction, addiction to needing material things to feel happy, homelessness, etc.). The whole church in all of it’s courage rose to their feet, and then he declared, “The ghetto is everywhere my friends!”, then he walked off the stage and sat down. Sounds like a profound dream to me; the ghettos is indeed everywhere.

The motivation of this post is to share my heart for true urban renewal, which has some to do with material things eventually, but has more to do with learning to address the issues of the ghetto, the issues that find their origins within all of us: namely, issues of prejudice (racial, social, cultural, political, spiritual, etc). Renewal begins with us. What we believe is how we think. How we think is what we believe. I have spent a long time trying to figure out which one comes first, and I believe we think before we believe, but I have landed on the conclusion that both comments are true. What we believe is how we think. How we think is what we believe.

I believe urban renewal must address the whole person, the whole neighborhood, and the whole city, and all the issues that come with people, neighborhoods, and cities. But the starting place is confronting within ourselves the presuppositions (our worldviews, what we think and believe), the lenses that we interpret life through. No one has a neutral lens. So renewal begins with us, asking ourselves, what kind of people do we need to be in order to resist the destruction that our prejudices create? What are the virtues of true renewal?

In the series of posts to come, I want to make a case for the kind of thinking/believing that I think must take place in our minds and hearts if we are to ever experience the renewal in our lives and cities that we are longing for. I will spend more in-depth time talking about the virtues of peaceableness, justice, compassion, hospitality, simplicity, community, and wisdom. Here’s to renewing what urban renewal was always meant to be.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Concrete Girl

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to write about another Switchfoot song from their first album, The Legend of Chin. This is more of a personal project for me, going through each album from their first to the last. Switchfoot has represented to me a band that stays rooted over many years of change and adversity. They also represent a band who hasn’t been, nor is, afraid to address real issues in life, writing about the beauty of life, relationships, God, creation, and the battle of life in the midst of the beauty. They continually live in the tension of pain and joy, loss and gain, beauty and ashes, and gives hope to the hopeless. This particular songs is addressing the coldness of life at times, and how the modern view of architecture (mass concrete al over the place) presents a coldness to life, a life that values sameness at the cost of people faking who they are. Here are the lyrics:

Bleeding thoughts
Cracking boulder
Don’t fall over

Fake your laughter
Burn the tear
Sing it louder
Twist and shout

Way up here
We stand on shoulders
Growing colder

Laugh or cry
I won’t mind
Sing it louder
Twist and shout

Immovable shadows
The concrete girl
They’ll rock your world to nothing

And they’re swimming around again, again
And they’re swimming around
The concrete girl

Catch your breath like four-leaf clover
Hand it over

Scream to no one
Take your time
Sing it louder
Twist and shout

Nothing to run from is worse than something
And all your fears of nothing

And they’re swimming around again, again
And they’re swimming around
The concrete girl

Concrete girl don’t fall down
In this broken world around you
Concrete girl don’t fall down
Don’t fall down my concrete girl

Don’t stop thinking
Don’t stop feeling now

One step away from where we were
And one step back to nothing

And we’re standing on top of our hopes and fears
And we’re fighting for words now concrete girl
And we’re swimming around again, again
And we’re swimming around now
Concrete girl

Concrete girl don’t fall down in this broken world around you
Concrete girl don’t fall down
Don’t fall down my concrete girl

Concrete girl don’t fall down in this concrete world around you
Concrete girl don’t fall down
Don’t break down my concrete girl

Now I am well aware if that when you read these lyrics, you can feel lost and might not get what they’re trying to say. On one of their websites, they describe the context for these lyrics that, I think, speak to the way we think about urban development of buildings: “Here at the University of California San Diego, concrete reigns supreme. I love my school and wouldn’t go anywhere else, but the contemporary buildings here are noticeably different from the stately facades of the Ivy League schools. The sterile modernity here is cold and impersonal, the concrete corners immovable and severe.”

Sterile and cold. The modern architects of the “Urban Renewal” Act of 1949 thought that they could clear the slums of major cities across the country by designing multiple housing units in the slum that all look the same, sterile and cold, and simple some would say. Build it and they will come some thought. Well this “urban renewal” act was what created all of the projects in the inner city that we know of today. Sterile and cold, with no personality and no thought of the cultures of the people who would live there.

Some of the urban development that has taken place across our country is void of character, with mass track housing, no personality, the sameness of model homes, the loss of true neighborhoods when subdivisions were created, and before you know it, we have a concrete world around us, that takes a car to get you from one place to the next. The concrete world around is built to cater to the car more than the person; the development than the neighborhood; the marketing than the connecting. Concrete worlds tempt us to stop thinking and feeling, and conform to the world of technology and advancement.

So here’s a plea for those who are struggling in the concrete world around us: change happens when we chose to live differently. Walk more. Drive less. Shop locally. Plant a garden. Start a farmer’s market in your neighborhood. Advocate for development in your town that caters to the pedestrian. Help design neighborhoods where the poor have equal access to goods and services as those who have cars do. Don’t buy into “bigger is better” or success means growth. Cancerous growths are not successful, nor are growths of urban concrete sprawls that kill creativity and culture. The change starts one life change at a time. We can help our cities and neighborhoods be truly better places of justice and righteousness. Concrete girl, don’t stop thinking; don’t stop feeling.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Might Have Ben Hur

This Switchfoot song title seems to be a play-on-words, talking primarily about a relationship, but is seemingly referring to the old 1959 film, Ben-Hur. Here’s the lyrics:

Everything I know
Tells me she’s everything
That I could hope for
Everything I know
Tells me I can’t let her walk away

[bridge:]
I took my time to find the words
I hope she’d feel the same

[chorus:]
‘Cause I want someone to share my smile
To share the pain
To be there when the sea turns gray
To share the joy
For better or worse
And I thought that it might have been her
I thought that it might have been her

Wonder if she knows
The way I saw her soul
Light up my life
Wonder if she knows
of the pain I feel tonight

The setting of the movie is in AD 26, where Judah Ben-Hur (played by none other than Charlton Heston) is a wealthy prince and merchant in Jerusalem. His childhood friend, the Roman citizen Messala, is now a tribune. After several years away from Jerusalem, Messala returns as the new commander of the Roman garrison. Messala believes in the “glory of Rome” and its imperial power, while Ben-Hur is devoted to his faith and the freedom of the Jewish people, at any cost, even by the sword. Messala asks Ben-Hur for the names of Jews who criticize the Romans, but Ben-Hur refuses, angering Messala.

As the plot of the movie goes on, Ben-Hur falls in love with a woman named Esther who has been following a man named Jesus, and as love has it, Ben-hur is curious about him because of his love for Esther. Ben-Hur’s mother and sister are sick and he takes them to see Jesus, but by this time, Jesus has been arrested on his way to be crucified. Ben-Hur witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus, and during the rain storm, Miriam and Tirzah are healed. Ben-Hur tells Esther that he heard Jesus talk of forgiveness while on the cross, and says “I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.” He let go of his hatred for Rome, put his sword away, and was relationally/emotionally reunited with his mother and sister.

What’s love got to do with it? Well, this song speaks to the reality of love, which in this context, is someone to come along side of you and share the joy and the pain of life. It’s having someone to share life with, especially when loneliness sets in, skies turn gray, and the need to have companionship and feel heard, understood; this is a human need.

For Ben-Hur, it was Esther, the woman who lit up his soul, who opened his heart to a new way of being human. It was the love of a woman who allowed his heart to be opened to the suffering savior. It was ultimately a soft heart that allowed Ben-Hur to receive the love and forgiveness from Jesus. This is the power of love, compassion (to suffer with), friendship, companionship. This is what Jesus offers, but he often uses relationships to prime our hearts to receive the beauty and worth of His great love. I want to take my time today with my words to share with those whom I love that I’m thankful for them.

I took great liberty to interpret this song the way I did, but the title allowed my imagination to consider the old film’s plot and see what the power of love and relationship can have over us. I’m considering all those who love me and have loved me this morning, and am thankful for everyone who has walked by my side when the pain has been unbearable. I’m thankful for my wife who has displayed the love and compassion of our suffering savior, and has been a patient counselor in the midst of my anger. My heart is softer because of her and many others.

A Short Update

This past January I began raising financial support as an urban missionary in Phoenix through a non-profit (5o1c3) organization called Ambassadors AZ. Two really good guys (and good friends) started Ambassadors years ago as a non-profit that is committed to promote the joy of the gospel. Ambassadors exists to help leaders like us who serve in communities that generally have a transitional nature, and where sustainability is harder to come by. They provide a service that administrates and manages the finances we raise for support.

Recently, they just put up a new website and a new way to give financially in support of our family. The website is http://ambassadorsaz.com/Donate.html. To give, click on “Donate” and it will take you to a PayPal site where you can set up monthly donations or give a one time gift. If you donate through this site, you will need to write on the memo of the PayPal donation that it is for “Fund # 17” which is assigned to our family. If you have any questions or difficulties setting up a payment, email me at kineourbanrenewal@gmail.com. Have a great summer!

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