August 2018

I was sorting through old files today and came upon this letter I wrote over five years ago. I could have written it yesterday, as we are in that place of waiting for wandering sheep to come home again….so here’s a letter from the end of 2012- it still sums up so well what it means to stay rooted and waiting in the same place so that people may always come home.

*How do you communicate the love of God to those around you?  How do you respond when people make bad choices or make mistakes?  What do you do when kids walk away?  

Every single day, I ask God to help me be a communicator of the love of God in the world.  Lots of times my directions are simple.  God’s mother heart bestows lots of hugs and cooks meals, bakes treats, cheers at games, helps write papers…all actions that say, ”You are important. You are worthwhile.  I do this for you because you matter.”  And hopefully, that love and attention help people begin to notice those things come from the greater Source of all Love.

    But it is so hard when, after days, weeks, months, years of sharing the love found in Christ Jesus and trying to help young people know and experience love and truth themselves, they lose interest, choose other pursuits or spurn the love that is offered by us.  Once in awhile, kids disappear because they have screwed up and they feel ashamed.  That one’s not so hard…who among us can cast the first stone?  A few persistent invitations, a little space, sometimes a clearing of the air or a modeling on apology, forgiveness and reconciliation are often enough to restore our connection.  But, sometimes, the space is real and definitely chosen.  We are often identified with “God stuff” and a decision to separate from us can also signal what is really a choice to head out to see what the world offers instead of a life with God.

    And really, aren’t there lots of grown-ups who have gone the same way?  There is a time of growing in the love of God, but then we hear the call of power, money, influence, sex, success, etc. and we see if we can attain our share of all that and our paying attention to the still, small voice that calls us to our true home gets lost or drowned out.  Sometimes the cares of the world, fear, and what feels like the fight to survive, can choke out the light and life that has come alive in us and we become lost, if even for just a little while.

    There are people both young and old wandering in the wilderness.  The prodigal-wilderness can fill an hour, a day, the time it takes to spend the inheritance or forty years.  But the Father is always home, waiting, watching, in a place so near that we can be there instantly, just ready for the moment that we turn and listen to the voice of love.

    Fear took hold of me today and I spent some moments in the wilderness.  But I have learned through many years and much wrestling, that what is truly Real is always so much bigger than the things that make me afraid and I can return home where I live and move and have my being in Christ, where everything is ok, come what may. My true home is in the heart of Jesus and no place can be better.  So, I understand the wandering and the wilderness and right along with the One who loves them best, I watch and wait and keep the porch light on for my wandering friends, hoping and praying that their time in the wilderness will be of short duration and that they will come on home so we can all have a party and enjoy being fully alive together.

    Please pray that we would have wisdom in signaling the porch light is burning. That is often a much trickier exercise than getting to do straight-out-hands-on loving in Christ.  We appreciate your prayers for our family and ministry.  While costs are ever increasing, our funding is not, but we are trusting that as God calls, God will also provide.  It is the season when we reflect with gratitude upon the persons who have chosen to support us financially in the past year….*

And, God continues to provide and we are grateful for your prayers, gifts and love offered to Christ on our behalf. May God’s peace and joy be yours.

July 2018

Here’s a letter we forgot to post as we prepared to celebrate the graduations of our group of seniors–some of whom we have known since elementary school. It’s been quite a summer and it’s not over yet!

Me: “Hey man, just one month til you graduate!”

E: “Yeah, I can’t believe it.”

That’s how he said it. Not in an exclamatory tone, but with somber reflection. It made me pause, wasn’t he excited about this accomplishment? He went on to say that he never thought he would graduate. Then I realized… He didn’t think he would live this long. Now it was my turn to soberly reflect…

I wasn’t surprised. He had grown up in a violent part of North Minneapolis. His eight year old brother was killed by a stray bullet from gang violence which came through the walls of their house. He was thirteen years old at the time. Ever since then he has struggled with grief, loss, fear and survivor’s guilt.

His mom tried frequently to move them out of that neighborhood but was not able to for a long time. He was afraid to go out of his front door for school or anything. In order for him to participate in activities with us, I’d have to pick him up from his doorstep and drop him off there. If he was dropped off a block from his house he would run til he was home. He would call ahead to have his mom unlock the door so he could rush right in and not have to be waiting outside on the street.

We were so thankful when they were finally able to move out of that neighborhood, but violence seemed to follow him. When he was sixteen he watched his girlfriend’s mom be brutally murdered and was threatened by the perpetrator when he was asked to give his testimony in court. This young man was never involved or associated with gangs, never did drugs or committed crimes. He is a good-hearted person. School has always been a struggle for him due to behavioral and emotional issues stemming from obvious reasons. His experiences are common for many of our youth who grow up here in the city.

On my birthday he sent me this text (slang translation in brackets):

“& frfr [for real, for real] like… Iont know where I would be if I ain’t meet you man you really help me a lot on the low [confidentially] god has blessed you so many ways thanks for showing us a positive way to everything not many men like you to show the youth the right thing to do thanks for the motivation & being hard on us when it’s time to amen it’s a blessing to be in your life 1k [I really mean it!]”

So now he’s about to graduate and he can’t believe it. He has been active in our ministry community since he was a child: playing basketball, coming to church, going to camp… He has found, with our group, community, safety, acceptance and even joy. He’s found identity in Christ and purpose for living. He has plans and hope for the future. He will probably always be afraid, but he knows the perfect Love who casts out all fear.

 

June 2018

Terrell: “Coach, I read a Bible verse today and it made me think of you.”

Me: “Oh yeah, what was it?”

Terell: “Let’s see… something about… if you bring a kid up right then he’ll have a good life, or something like that.”

Me: “You mean, ‘Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it’?”

Terell: “Yeah, that’s it!”

When I asked him why that made him think of me he said it was because of all the stuff we do together and all the things I try to teach them. I confess it made me feel good…

After this conversation (we had already dropped off the rest of the kids in the van) Terell asked if I would feed him. Now this is a common ploy by the kids. I always give the boys a snack when we have an activity and sometimes take them to McDonald’s, or Lisa will make a meal… but whoever is last in the van will usually ask for more, thinking that since they are last I’ll break down and hand out more treats. I told Terell that I had just fed all of them but he replied that he was still hungry, they didn’t have any food in the house and he hadn’t eaten all day. Now I’m tired and Terell is the last kid to drop off and I want to get home, but he seems earnest so we stop at an Asian food counter near his house.

Terell lives in a very seamy part of the neighborhood and as we sat down waiting for our food I asked him what it was like for him living there. “At home it’s fine but it’s rough outside coach… I have to keep my eyes open whenever I go out.” While we are waiting for our food a disheveled looking man comes in and rushes straight up to me. His face is literally an inch from mine and he looks like he’s either drunk or high. In a threatening manner he asks me for money. I employ my usual defenses in this situation (I pray in the Spirit) and reply, “Naw man, sorry.” And he leaves. Terell says, “Coach, I though he was gonna jump you!”  “Yeah, I thought he was too”, I say. “But you were so calm. Were you scared?” he asks. “No, I was praying” I say. We finished our meal and I took him home.

Earlier that evening I had asked Terell if he was going to play basketball for me this season. He is a decent player and his dad likes him to try out for other, more competitive teams. He told me yes. “Well what about this other team?’ I ask. He tells me his dad says he can play for me. When I ask why Terell says cause I told my dad when I play for you I do more than just play basketball.

The whole dynamic of my time with Terell that evening is an example of the spiritual warfare we engage in for the welfare of our kids. In one evening I am addressing physical, emotional and spiritual needs. I didn’t plan it that way… stuff just happens. When people ask how they can pray for me I ask them to pray that I be prayed up and ready for any situation which may arise when I am with the kids. It is in those moments that they see things and are greatly influenced, much more than in planned activities, camps or Bible studies. My experience with Terell that night signified a great victory in that I’d been trying to pull him in for two years. This night showed me that he (and his dad) were buying in to what I was offering him… a relationship.

Going to camp with me last summer was a big part of the process of bringing Terell in. He has already asked me about going to camp this summer. Y’all know there are a lot of Terells out here… decent kids in difficult situations. We are asking you to give beyond your usual giving to enable us to offer some of them a camping experience this summer. It costs us $300 to take Terell to our Christian sports camp or to our discipleship camp… any amount would help.

Summer camp is one of the tools the Lord equips us with to draw kids nearer to Him. Join us in giving these kids opportunities so they can grow up right and have a chance at a good life. We appreciate your partnership with us in this ministry through your prayers and gifts.

May 2018

“Hey Thomas!” I called.

“Hey Pastor Chris!, he responded as he crossed the street in front of me. I had a feeling of deja vu… I’d been in this exact situation many, many times over the last twenty years. Sometimes we’d chat and pass the day, sometimes I’d give him a ride to where he was going… work, school, a basketball game, sometimes we’d just wave at each other and go our separate ways, but always the warm greeting and fond memories and close connection it signified.

Last week Thomas was almost killed. He was robbed at gunpoint here in the neighborhood by a group of youth on his way home from work. They took everything he had, and beat him with a pistol as well. They took everything he had, but they didn’t take his peace of mind as he calmly complied with their demands. Everytime I see or think of him I thank God for His grace for being with Thomas that night.

I remember when I first met Thomas… he was nine years old and coming to my afterschool boys program–always friendly and engaging, ready to have fun. In later years he began playing basketball on my team. At one point he moved to Texas for a year, but he called me regularly so I wouldn’t forget him. I couldn’t believe this little kid was calling me long distance on the phone. So basketball, camp, boy’s club… we spent a lot of time together. Through mentoring and discipleship we walked with him through the growing pains of life in the city for a black boy. He became a pretty good basketball player and played for elite AAU teams in the city, but he surprised me by still coming to play for my little park and rec team every year. Thomas was a hood kid, but he would surprise you with his generosity, wisdom and compassion. He never became hardened or disillusioned by life’s circumstances. He always treats people well.

Although academics were never his strong suit, he graduated high school through a lot of determination and hard work. Encounters like the one described before happened with some regularity. One week after church we were playing basketball out back when we heard some gunshots nearby. We looked around to account for everyone but Thomas had already left. Soon we got a call. “Pastor Chris”, he said. “Are they still shooting out there?” “Where are you?” I replied. He was on his way home but ran over to the park building as soon as he heard the shooting.

Thomas was quick to stand against injustice. He’d defiantly argue or stand up to teachers, principals, even the police if he felt he was being disrespected. Always in a respectable manner, but because he was young, black and male, he often suffered unfair consequences. It never dampened his spirit though. He has always been a loyal and faithful friend. He’s always called us family, and our boys his brothers.

Thomas went to various junior colleges to play basketball, then he came to a pivotal point which many of our young men face…. what to do when it becomes obvious that your dream of becoming an NBA star doesn’t pan out? Thomas passed the test. He gave it his best shot, went as far as he could, then he took assessment of his life and options and regrouped. He chose to go to school (a choice that astounded those of us close to him) and get a college degree. He is weeks away from achieving that goal. We are so proud of him.

Upon graduation he has the opportunity to go to North Carolina and take a job there in the criminal justice system. His family is moving as well. It is the end of an era. We’ve literally watched him grow from a child to a man. His house on the corner up the block from us, his always welcome pop-in visits, the levity and joy he brings to every gathering… he will be sorely missed. Here in this inner city neighborhood often beset by violence, turmoil and dysfunction, he has brought a richness to our lives that we wouldn’t have found anyplace else. Go with God, Thomas. We love you!

 

 

February 2018

Our life is full of boys this season. Chris has three basketball teams going—a high school team of juniors and seniors, some of whom have been with us since third grade—a high school/middle school group of eighth to tenth graders and a new group of fifth graders that he has gathered from different schools and families we have ministered to for years. Chris is busy most nights and weekends with the guys.

Recently a thirty something man we have known since fifth grade called Chris to get together to talk through some things he has been dealing with. At the meeting he told Chris there had been other men in his life, but none like Chris. “You were always somebody I could trust and you were always there—“ Nothing makes our hearts more glad—that people realize that the bonds we form through Jesus and love do last forever. It is the strength of being “lifers” in the same place, not moving on to other pastures, but continuing to love and serve the flock of people God has given us.

The blessing of this has been brought home to us over the past months as Chris has been dealing with some severe arthritis and deterioration of his knee. There have been a few times when swelling and pain made mobility difficult. During this time we have been blessed by our young men in their twenties who have stepped in to help—Nathanael, Tyler, Thomas, Jordan, Pierre—helping coach basketball, push the van out of snow, help with retreats, shovel snow. Nothing blesses my heart more than to see that these bonds of love and family have been formed and that our young men so readily join in the work of caring for us and for the younger boys.

We are also busy with our high school seniors, filling out applications and forms and trying to make sure that as their graduation approaches that each one of them would be set with options before them and paths that they can pursue to make sure that they will be able to have lives where they can support themselves and one day, a family.

It’s funny how God opens doors. Last week I happened to be taking some soup down the block to an elderly neighbor who is battling cancer and as we were visiting I happened to find out that he had retired from a career as a welder—a second career that he took on after night school so that he could better support his family. I am looking forward to having some of our boys go down to meet him to hear about his work and what it took for him to prepare for and obtain that career. It’s just the kind of thing I want our guys to see—somebody who has walked a path before them and used it to make a life for himself and his family.

Chris took a group of high school boys on a winter retreat this month. The boys had so much fun in the snow and cold—inner tubing down the hills, playing broomball, laughing, playing. Chris reported that when the dvd player didn’t work for the night time movie, the camp highlight may have been the dance contest that ensued. Apparently, we have a lot of talented movers and shakers! That retreat is like a family vacation—preparing meals together, cleaning up, praying, eating, sleeping and Bible studying together.

We are so grateful that after so many years, we are still here—lifting up the name of Jesus and loving young men as they grow from boys to men of God. Just like with any growing up, there are a lot of bumps in the road—but we pray that God will continue the good work he has begun in each of our guys and that we will be able to be there to walk alongside encouraging them to follow Jesus with all their hearts.

January 2018

Sunday I woke up dreading church. This happens sometimes. I don’t exactly dread it, but I don’t always feel the same passion for it. I guess if you do the same thing the same way it becomes boring sometimes no matter how much you love it or believe in it. We have been doing our house church now for over twenty years and our mission remains the same… to provide a worship experience and sense of Christian community for the unchurched here in our inner city neighborhood. But if we are not careful we take the grandeur of God for granted.

In point of fact, church is anything but boring… simply because we never know what to expect. We don’t know who will show up and we don’t know what God is going to do. But there are some things we know will happen every Sunday. The first is that I leave the house early to pick up whoever has expressed an interest in coming that week… from a pool of twenty young people. And then there are a dozen families and young adults who may come on their own on any given Sunday. So from this pool of fifty on any Sunday we typically have anywhere from five to twenty people in our house… and we don’t know who’s gonna be there until fifteen minutes after the start of church.

The second thing we know will happen is that Lisa will prepare a wholesome family sit-down meal for whoever shows up. Again, she literally does not know who or how many until after the scheduled time for church to begin. I am convicted of failing to appreciate the patience, love and compassion, not to mention sheer hard work, which goes into this labor of love she performs each week. But every week people leave here full in tummy as well as full in Spirit. Some weeks it is literally the loaves and the fishes… If we are not careful we take the grandeur of God for granted.

The third thing we know will happen is that God will show up. Whether through my teaching, or Lisa’s sharing or worship leading, or any contribution by any member of our parish… Christ is lifted up. But if we are not careful we take the grandeur of God for granted. Last Sunday it almost happened to me. It was one of those times after which you sit and wonder what just happened. There were a dozen of us… half of whom were young men who if they were walking in the neighborhood the average passerby would cross the street to avoid them… and we worshiped and prayed and read scripture and shared a meal together. And it was halfway through church I realized… there are very few places where this could happen. What was happening now before my eyes was a manifestation of God’s grace.

But you have to understand… I metaphorically eat, sleep and live with these people. I am involved in their lives almost everyday. I witness the struggle with injustice and with sin, I see the shortcomings, I feel the heartache and disappointment, I experience the anger and frustration… right there with them. And so when we together are exalted into God’s presence through worship, prayer and the teaching of scripture… I’m right there and it is not lost on me. I try to be careful not to take the grandeur of God for granted. Don’t you do it either. Thank you for your gifts and prayers which enable our ministry here and the transformation of all of our lives by God’s grace.

December 2017

A few words about the solstice and Christmas.

As we move to the winter solstice, the darkening days seem reflective of the shadows thrown across our world—shadows cast by human selfishness, war, greed and lust for power and prominence. One can scarcely open an information source without being completely undone by the waves of bad news crashing upon one’s heart and mind.

We can try to drown out the bad news by throwing ourselves into Christmas shopping, parties, special events and family time. It is easy to circle our wagons and try to make sure that our piece of the American pie is tasty and topped with whipped cream, whatever form that might take.

This kind of response, though, is only a prettified way of avoiding the world and is in fact, contributing to the status quo. So what can we do?

In this advent season, I am praying every day that the Holy Spirit would keep me attentive to the voice of God, helping me to see and hear and respond, not despairingly or emotionally, to the waves of news and bad news, but to what is real and important–that which God chooses to put in my life right in front of me each present moment—whether that is an appeal for funds to help women in small African and South American villages, the clerk at the Aldi who is singlehandedly serving an entire waiting line of people, a child needing to unburden his heart or a friend needing a listening ear.

God’s call can be to politics or prayer, to baking or business. But if we move in those directions, it can’t be with the same old status quo, tit for tat or automatic pilot that has become the American way of life these days. Our responses need to come from a place of deep listening so that no matter what we are doing, no matter where our energies are directed, we are motivated by love, by service, by humility and by a willingness to be listening for the voice of Jesus—whose coming taught us about God’s kind of doing things upside down where power comes in the form of weakness and lowliness.

We celebrated our annual church Christmas party on Sunday—a cherished time together. Every single year I have to pray every day leading up to it that amidst the endless lists of preparations and work, that my heart is turned to the real purpose of our party—to remind each one of our people that they are beloved members of God’s family and that the joy and welcome we extend to them when they come into our home is a direct and tangible reflection of Jesus’ welcome and love for them. The work, the shopping, the cooking and baking–all of it would be wasted if it doesn’t contribute to reflecting Jesus’ love for his people.

So friends, I pray as I write today, that you will continue to be attentive to Jesus in your hearts as Christmas flows on to the new year and that you may join me as we stretch to be ready to hear how Jesus wants us to manifest his love and mercy and welcome in the world to the people we meet each day and  be ready for the opportunities to respond to energies of the Spirit that will challenge the status quo and contribute to light and life amidst the darkness.

November 2017

We have six seniors that will be graduating this year that have been with us since elementary school. They have been with us through Simba school groups, basketball teams, camps, trips, retreats and church. We have walked with them through good times and bad, crises at home and in the neighborhood, celebrations in school and athletics, and moral and spiritual growth.

But I am afraid that they are woefully unprepared for the next stage of life, for a variety of reasons; not the least of which are low school standards and expectations, lack of home support, and little initiative on their part. These guys are not strong students. They cruised through their school years, concerned mostly with hanging out with their friends and having fun, not preparing for life. This may not be uncommon for high school students, but for our kids, who do not have the safety nets of financially stable families and strong social support, this dynamic leads to an unchecked fall to the bottom strata of society. Kids like these can easily slip through the cracks, despite my desperate admonitions or those of caring educators.

Last year, when most of them turned seventeen and were juniors in high school they began thinking about their future. They’d talk to me about college and ACT tests and the like… conversations I found disheartening because the reality was that they were not well prepared for any of these things. I had to burst their bubble and tell them that as of this moment they were not prepared to move forward in life. But I encouraged them that with work, each of them could make plans for themselves to be on the path to self sufficiency and adulthood. Now bear in mind, these boys have little if any male role models for this kind of success in life; neither at home nor among their peers. On the contrary, the situation they found themselves in was quite common among urban black youth. To come to the end of a long struggle in primary education, with absolutely nothing to show for it… and equipped to do little besides working at McDonald’s or some low skilled/low wage job. But we want them to succeed… so for the last six months we’ve talked about and visited programs like community college, technical schools and post high school programs like transition plus.

Our goal is to have them in a position next spring where they have a few different options to choose from for a path to success in their adult life. I don’t want them to graduate and then not have a plan for life after high school. No shacking up with a girl and letting her take care of you. No extended time in the unemployment ranks and becoming homeless. No hanging out on the streets with nothing to do but get into trouble and eventually ending up in jail. We want them to have prospects and hope. “Coincidentally,” I tell them, “this is what God wants for you.”

“For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29.11)

So far they are responding with hope and relief. Left to their own devices, which young black men in our neighborhoods often are by their families and schools, they would have no inkling of preparing for a full life after high school. But now, they have a Plan!

September 2017

I’ve been reflecting on how God has been gracious this summer… We’ve been blessed to do many things and spend a lot of quality time with over sixty kids this summer. We’ve had two camps, many activities and strengthened many relationships. We’ve seen our boys triumph over circumstances and we’ve seen them fall as well. We’ve helped young men in crisis and seen many overcome obstacles to continue on the path to manhood. We have seen many come to Christ this summer. God is good!

When I think about how the summer has gone, I think about a comment one of our high school boys made: “I can’t believe we’re seniors already. It seems like just yesterday that I met you guys and met Chris. We’ve been through a lot together… you guys are like family.” And another one: “Man, my life is so different since I met God! Before I met Chris I didn’t care about God but now I’m cool with Jesus.” And yet another: “I remember when I met Chris back in the fourth grade… I’ve never known an adult outside of my family who I trust like I do Chris.”

Longevity and permanence….relationship. These are the things that come back to me when I reflect on this summer of ministry and our work in Christ.   I’ve begun pulling together a new group of nine and ten year olds to bring up. I have known one boy’s mother since she was in elementary school herself. As I was explaining the activities I wanted to involve her child in this summer she cut me off… “Oh I told him all about you, Pastor Chris. How you do basketball and mentoring, and how you will be his friend for his whole life.” We are blessed to interact with many different kids here in our inner city community, through sports, mentoring, camps, school. We offer a lot of kids a lot of different opportunities for positive pursuits. Some respond and some don’t, but every young person who comes into our purview by God’s grace gets introduced to Christ.

I listened to one young urban youth worker this summer share about kids in his program who didn’t have enough to eat at home and could not read. His concern was the kids would come to the Bible study program and be cussing up a storm. A young man who grew up in our program and recently graduated college spoke up and said, “They don’t have enough to eat at home and can’t read and you’re worried about his language?” He went on to share about his experiences in our ministry… The gist of it was that since he had met me and Lisa at a young age we had always been there for him, through good times and bad, and that is what made a difference in his life.   What we’ve learned in our ministry is that what kids remember most as they grow older is the time spent with them and the example you set over a long period of time. Relationship matters, permanence counts… especially when sharing the gospel.

Our lifestyle of ministry is certainly not a bed of roses, and sometimes we see more despair than victory. For the second time this summer a young man with whom our kids were aquainted was killed through gun violence. I checked in with our boys, telling them, “Y’all be careful out there.” One of them responded, “We know how to stay away from trouble, Chris.” I guess they do, or they would not be here now. We teach them to stay busy with positive activities, to hang out with each other, and to hang out with me (or someone like me). So they grow older, into manhood and they remember. Even when they get into trouble they remember. They remember us. They remember Christ.

July 2017

Over the many years as we prepare for a camp, we pray for the kids who will attend and as the days before camp roll around, Chris inevitably fields the calls from kids who are changing plans for one reason or another. But this year, only hours before departure for camp, Chris received one of those calls we never want to get—one of the guys calling to say he couldn’t leave for camp because his older brother had just been shot and killed.

We sat and prayed for his family–that God would comfort them and guide their plans and decisions. Hours later, as Chris drove around the city collecting kids for departure, he stopped to pay a visit to this grieving family—whose shock and pain were palpable. The grieving dad and stepmom decided to send their boy on to camp for the week, trusting that Chris would look out for him, hoping that the week away would be a good thing for their son.

So, that night J___ and a van full of other middle and high school guys hit the road for camp with Chris and Tyler, our once camper—now grown-up college-graduated volunteer—for Kids Across America sports camp where they are completely immersed in an environment of Christian teaching, love and fun with an urban cultural emphasis. All the boys had a really good week and every day, when I would ask Chris how J___ was doing, Chris would say, “It is so good to get to see him here, just getting to be a kid.”

I wish the world wasn’t filled with evil, brokenness and destruction. Sometimes it is hard to see just how cruel and harsh the world can be. This family who lost their son to a violent death already had to bury their wife and mother five years ago after a short and unexpected strike from pneumonia. How much loss and suffering should one family have to bear? How do these horrible losses affect the growth and development of children? These are questions I have been holding in my heart for weeks and I don’t really have any answers. But God drew me to keep meditating on Luke chapter 7 and the two stories it tells—of the healing of the Centurion’s servant and the raising of the son of the widow from Nain. As I remember and hold in my heart this family that has had to grapple with so much pain and loss and the unfairness of life, as I feel sometimes so despairing of how many slings and arrows fall upon the hearts and spirits of so many young black men in our community, these are the things the Holy Spirit brought from Luke 7:

  • The Centurion surprised Jesus because of his faith—although he was an outsider, he understood, better than the Jewish insiders, that Jesus had authority in the world and could choose to use it. In the same way, I need to keep trusting that Jesus can heal and help and will use his power and authority, still, even now, in our broken and hurting world, to help and to heal in these broken and hurting people and situations.
  • When Jesus saw the widow and her only son being carried out for burial, his heart broke. Jesus knew, felt and understood the immensity of her loss—a loss that was not just about emotional loss, but all the practical loss in what it meant to be a woman with neither husband nor son in that culture. Jesus had compassion for both the individual heartbreak and the societal, cultural brokenness for this woman and her situation. So, in spite of all the brokenness of our world and the horrors of its evils for our children, I can see and trust that there is a God, who came to us in Jesus, whose heart breaks for our pain, who sees the sickness of our society and who has the power to bring healing and new life right in the middle of all this desolation.

And so, in my own imperfect way, I try to hold to trust and lean into the God that I see revealed through Jesus Christ. I ask for your prayers for J___, for his brothers and father and stepmom. I ask for your prayers for all our young men, who have so many obstacles tossed into the paths of their growth and development from such an early age. I ask for prayers for Chris and me, that God would keep us faithful and grounded and discerning all the time to keep lifting up the One whose heart breaks for us—and to keep trusting that he sees, knows, cares and will use his power and authority here on earth to help his little ones who are ground under the heel of the oppression of our broken world.