26 February, 2015
Chat with Chad

Chat with Chad
The latest news and perspective from the Director of Urban Homeworks

Thursday, 12 February 2015 08:12

The power in hope. The hope in power.

t8px6dGoogle defines hope as: “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” Synonyms include: aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, and plan.

…to perpetuate the hope of Jesus Christ… to perpetuate the expectations, desires, aspirations, wishes, ambitions, aims and goals of Jesus…

Jesus didn’t sit around with his hope of “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:9-13), Jesus did something about it. The ability to “do” brings us to grapple with power.

Google defines power as: “the ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality.” Synonyms include: ability, capacity, capability, potential, faculty and competence.

To “perpetuate the hope of Jesus Christ”, in my mind, marries together the ideas of hope and power. To aspire and act. To desire and do. To plan and produce. To expect and to execute. The slippery slope is toward what, and what has to do with how we understand what Jesus was all about.

Humor me for a moment as I explore this thread of thought: Jesus lays out his manifesto (Luke 4) and the poem ends with “the year of the Lords favor”, which is the year of Jubilee. Jubilee is the ultimate Sabbath (every fiftieth year): debts forgiven, slaves freed, and land returned to its rightful owner. Sabbath was to be practiced every seventh day (a time to stop, reflect, remember…). This idea preceded the 10 commandments and is found in the creation narrative (among many other places in scripture).

I’d like to point out and summarize a time where it shows up in the Exodus story around manna, the bread (nourishment) that God miraculously supplied (fell from the heavens) to the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness: gather enough for today, not too much, trust me for tomorrow (gifts and limits). Gather too much and the excess will stink and rot in your possession and you are stealing from your neighbor. Gather enough on the 6th day to eat through the 7th day of rest.

Enough. Enough so it doesn’t stink and rot. Enough so I’m not stealing from my neighbor (enough so I don’t stink and rot). Enough as an act of trust. What an underestimated and under appreciated word. A word I’m going to apply more and more in my evolving economic theology.

As I consider and uncover what it means to ‘perpetuate the hope of Jesus Christ’, I can’t help but think that maybe an iteration of our mission statement, written through the lens hope and power, may be re-written as: to “ignite/excite/animate/re-imagine the ability/action/competence to live into and realize the aspirations/yearnings/desires of a God who desires that all have enough”.

“Jesus replied, “What is impossible with woman/man is possible with God.”” – Luke 18:27 (beware, the context around this little Biblical ‘nugget’ is… ah… well… um…)

2015: Let’s do this. Let’s attempt the impossible. Powerful hope. Hopeful power: “On earth as it is in heaven”.

Friday, 19 December 2014 10:44

500BC to 1843 to 2015...

With the closing of a year and the dawning of another, moments of reflection and anticipation emerge within me. Two-thousand-fourteen represents a period of time with some significant movement in people’s lives, powerful people emerging, a heck of a lot of nails pounded, hundreds of keys cut, and the tangible elements of hope felt in the hands where these feelings have been elusive for days, months, and years and even decades prior… and it represents a period of time punctuated by the pain of cancer, sickness, violent deaths of our children, tragic deaths of uncles, heartbreaking losses of daughter-in-laws, and the ever-growing and ever-glaring need that smacks me in the face every morning when I hear another name has been added to the constantly growing waiting list of 387…388…389… Nothing new under the sun:

confucius589In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of. –Confucius

I’m not say’n… I’m just say’n… Confucius lived around 500 BC. I’m feeling the frustration and indignation rising within me and within us as the Dow Jones Industrial Average bloats to nearly 18,000 while our children are being bent over and crushed by full-to-overflowing shelters and exploding “waiting lists” for a place to call home.

“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses????” (As said by Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, 1843)

My God, forgive us, and as evidence of that forgiveness, may two-thousand-fifteen be marked by the ignition and explosion of sight that allows us, as a people, a people in pursuit of your “kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven” to see deeply the monster my excess makes me when I willfully withhold it in the face of scarcity. I don’t want to be a monster. In the kingdom of God, there is neither poverty nor wealth (so there Confucius, now that’s good governance!), there is neither slave nor free, no police dominance that makes a neighborhood or people group prisoners in our own backyard, none of our precious children “caused to stumble”. My God, may 2015 be marked by the ‘recovery of sight’ to my blindness that ‘I might see again’ and do something about it!

 

Friday, 07 November 2014 15:11

We're Going to Rattle a Few Cages

This might “rattle a few ‘cages’” as my dad often said growing up, but I am beginning to think there’s a lot of truth in it…. The economics of the Judeo-Christian faith, that is… and I might add the over-looked and/or almost suppressed economic considerations of an authentic, faithful pursuit.

An interesting expression of economic implications is when a business ties performance to philanthropy. A great partner of UHW starts the strategic planning process each year with a philanthropic goal and then works backwards into the performance measures that need to be hit in order to hit that goal. Bell Lumber and Pole, through this process, has pledged to match any new and increased gift through the end of the year to energize and excite more people to invest and support the work of Urban Homeworks. Economic. Considerations.

loanpoolcoverAnother expression, is in launching Loan Pool 2.0 as a way to raise funding but even more potent, as a way to constructively participate in an attempt at an economic alternative that connects racially concentrated areas of wealth with racially concentrated areas of poverty. It may be a feeble, insignificant, and altruistic attempt in the eyes of some, but it is an attempt nonetheless. The following is an excerpt from the letter that I wrote as the introduction to Loan Pool 2.0. I invite you to contact us for more information and download the information packet.

“Economics… it’s all economics.” 8 years ago a couple of Lutheran ministers uttered this little phrase referring to how they are beginning to understand the underpinnings of their theology, and it’s been bouncing around in my grey matter ever since. Jesuit theologian John Haughey says it like this: “We read the gospels as though we have no money and we spend our money as though we know nothing of the gospels.” John the Baptizer says it like this: “…if you have two coats, give one to him who has none… and do the same with your food”. Mary the Mother of Jesus says it like this: “… and the hungry will be filled with good things.” Jesus of Nazareth says it like this: “for the spirit has sent me to proclaim good news to the poor… and proclaim the year of the Lords favor (which is Jubilee = debts are forgiven, slaves are freed, and land returns to its rightful owners… sounds pretty economic!).

Whether you are a person fueled by a faith, or by other motives, that inspire you to catalyze and fan the flame of the human spirit on both an individual and collective level, this loan pool is a tool for you. It’s one of the tools in your toolbox to construct the change you desire to see in the world while investing in making available asset-building tools for more people. Thank you for investing deeply in this attempt to constructively and creatively build toward a better tomorrow.”

Let’s keep on dream’n and schem’n constructive and alternative ways of living into that ‘kingdom’ that gets talked about so often in those old Gospel stories. Thank you for fueling the dream all across and up and down the many dimensions of our community. It takes all of us and dog-gon-it, if we’re all in, we’re (and it’s) enough!! Thank you and happy fall!

Friday, 05 September 2014 14:27

Failed. Again...

6a00d8341d17e553ef01a5118b388c970c-800wiI had lofty goals of reading through the “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith. AND, I was forewarned by a scholarly sage from Bethel University to abort mission and go for “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” instead. I shoulda. According to my Kindle reader app on my phone, I’m on page 123 and 34% of the way through… and that’s as far as I’m gunna get. Sorry Adam.

In June, a good friend and member of our board of directors handed me Thomas Piketty’s book “Capital” and said “Schwitters, we gotta get you back into this century…” Message. Received.

Here’s what is emerging for me through some of this stuff: There is a gap between some people’s ability to effect change in their lives and those around them and other people’s ability (this is the working definition of power that I’ve adopted: the ability to effect positive change for myself and my neighbor). There are two primary elements of power: organized people and organized money. How we organize as people (democracy, politics, government, and grassroots) and how we organize our money (from a macro-economic perspective to a micro-economic) may or may not align with what we care about and are trying to positively change.

It seems like (very generally speaking) we’ve confounded the situation by making ‘democracy’ (how we organize as a people) and ‘capitalism” (how we organize our money) synonymous. I have recognized myself and others talking about democracy, but really meaning to address capitalism, and when talking about capitalism really trying to get at democracy.

When I read this through the lens of scripture and especially Luke 12-19, I find myself wondering if we really need to try to examine each of these systems on their own merit instead of all muddled together. The first time I’ve ever seen these two words together was in Piketty’s book: patrimonial capitalism (I admit. I had to look up “patrimonial”). One of the side-effects of patrimonial capitalism is the control it tends to have on a democracy and that influence tends to disproportionally benefit a few and not-so-much benefit the many.

Anyway, I’m thinking that what I would like to work on is liberating our democracy by democratizing our capital. Participating in the Loan Pool and the investing in the mission and work of UHW are stepping stones on this pathway toward the betterness that lies ahead: we all have enough power to effect positive change for ourselves and our neighbors. Come on down to the Depot on 9/16 and join the movement!!!

Can’t make it?  We still need you.  Together, we can meet and surpass our goal of raising $1,000 representing each family on the waiting list (356 total=$356,000!) Click here and Perpetuate Hope with us again this year!

Friday, 08 August 2014 11:00

A Family Reunion of Sorts

In just over a month, we will be gathering at The Depot in downtown Minneapolis for a bit of a ‘family reunion’ of sorts.  You know how family reunions can be… especially the kind with a pot luck.  We all get together from across the many dimensions of our family dynamics to gather around a table filled with a cornucopia of ‘offerings’ knowing that there may be some stuff served that doesn’t grace the pallet as easily as others but confident that there will be something tasty and nourishing for all.

Here’s the deal: To perpetuate the hope of Jesus Christ we have to begin by truly seeing each other.  When we see one another, we can’t help but to identify with one another’s experience and reality.  When we enter into this identification and awareness we must work towards freedom where there’s bondage and liberation, where there’s captivity and constraint.  When we work toward freedom and liberation (spiritual, physical, historical, economic, …) patterns and themes inevitably emerge… and can’t be ignored and remain in authentic relationship.

As clumsy and messy and funky as it is, we are hopefully getting better at grappling with the holy exchange of what happens when we all bring what we have to share. We understand a little better and taste a little more fully what we need to receive.  Our hearts continue to break for the 356 households full of mom’s and dad’s, grandpa’s and grandma’s, and girls and boys on a waiting list looking for a place to ‘be home’…. And it is driving us to action.

Our goal this year is $356,000, which represents $1,000 for every household on that forsaken list.  $356,000 to fund the ideation, generation, and perpetuation of home for all of us.  Help us get rid of that list.  PTH 2014.

 

Chad

PS… we have a match this year--- for every new dollar raised, $.50 is matched up to $80,000.  Let’s do it.

 

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