Thursday, April 26, 2012

Community Thoughts for Kids and Parents: Injustice or Selfishness

There is something very dangerous that happens when we decide to go about on our own way simply for the desire to do it our own way.  There definitely are moments where it is time to throw off the shackles of oppression and do things that are correct in a higher calling kind of way.  It’s important to follow a dream, strike off on a new path, take the road less traveled.  But when the only purpose of that road is to get exactly what we want - then we have accomplished nothing.  Maybe the only thing that we can do that is worse than that is when we encourage our children to do the same thing.  
Our kids from the moment they come out of the womb will want what is coming to them.  They will cry for it, whine for it, demand it, fight us for it.  (I don’t mean at every moment of the day of course.  I have four of the most amazing young people in the world living in my house and I can tell you that we are all learning to live together in community every day)  It is up to us to point out, to direct them to the things that are really worth fighting for.  In their teen years they will come to us with their perceived great injustice.  Sometimes they will be right and the tyrant will be us (me) and we will recognize our humanity and change our own perspective.  Occasionally it will be a teacher, a boss, a coach and it will be our job to help determine if it truly is an injustice, a false truth, that is worth helping them in how to properly bring change to something that is not working the best way that it could.  But just as likely it will be an error on our child’s part that we can help bring a life-long lesson to.  If we are the brave strong parents that we hope to be, we will show how and where we disagree with them.  We will explain how we agree with the teacher, the boss, the coach and describe to them how we agree that the best thing for them, for their class, their team is to listen, to change, to do the thing that feels harder and more personally unjust because they are not the only person in their community.  
There are others, living together in community, (whether that community is a classroom, a team, a city) that need their connection, not their disruption.  The greatest danger is when we as parents (and I include myself in this) decide that it is better to give my child whatever she/he wants rather than consider what it might do their small community, their school, their grade, their class, their team.  The best thing when we don’t get our way is not to take our toys, go home and just start our own game.  It’s to figure out what or whom it is we are having such a problem with and fix that thing, or at least fix our attitude towards that thing.  If we haven’t taught our child how to navigate that, then I don’t think there are many useful tools that we have given them. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cutting the Inspiration That Is Focus:Hope

I woke up this morning to an article in the Detroit Free Press that is disturbing to me.  There are certainly enough bad news articles out there but this one is personally infuriating.  The article describes how because huge cuts in state funding 70 of Focus:Hope's 300 employees will be out of work and 225 students who are currently enrolled in it's training programs will be turned away.

Let me back up a bit and give you an imperfect history of Focus:Hope.  In the late 1960's after riots had overwhelmed much of the city of Detroit, a woman from the suburbs named Elanor Josaitis joined forces with Father William Cunningham to not only try to help combat the devastating effects of poverty but also bridge the very tenuous cultural divide.  Their mission statement was this: “intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice." They understood that if anything good would ever come in the city of Detroit, it would be through the combination of faith, training, education and the belief that the future for the young people of Metro Detroit was brighter than the existing landscape.  Their passion inspired men and women like my grandfather, Donald Pizzimenti, to give of their time, talent and treasure to invest in this better tomorrow.  My grandfather would visit churches and meeting halls to convince the people of the congregations to give, to invest in the next generation of Metro Detroiters and the world.  It was not easy then, in that racially charged time, but they did it.  Generations of young men and women have benefited from this amazing work.

But now we see a lack of care and respect for the futures of young people, especially those in areas of increased poverty and decreased opportunity.  Areas where there are no longer any bootstraps for people to pick themselves up by to make something of their lives.  The talk continues to be that we need to cut programs, cut investments so that we don't leave our children with a huge government debt.  And the desire to not spend more than we take in is an appropriate one.  But a future without debt accomplished this way will mean nothing to a generation of young people who have less and less invested in them.  The cutting of funding to Focus:Hope is a symptom of a much bigger problem.We have forgotten that hope produces dreams which produce great futures.  We must find that spirit, that focus on community that truly believes that we are our brothers and sisters keepers.  Focus:Hope has always believed that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Where The Broken Go

Where the broken go

Where do the broken go
The bent, the skewed
Those who have sought and still wait
Ones who still wait to be new

Where do the broken go
Needing relief, un-renewed
Those who have loss and heartbreak
Each day they break anew

Will they find peace
Will they breakdown
Can hope still be found in this earthen town

Where do the hopeless go
The tired, the meek
Those whose minds cannot rest
Each day pushing the boulder to the peak

Where do the hopeless go
Hunger builds, thirst unquenched
They who have tasted life on the street
Ones who have felt useless energy spent

Will they find faith
Will they shut down
When no one feels as deeply as they, can be found

But as the broken come
And as the sick walk in
The hungry can then cease their searching

There is a new beginning
There comes relief
For them He has always been reaching

It is where the broken go

(Don Coppo c 2011)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I Will Follow

Although the sight of all of this snow and ice in the trees and the field outside my office window is quite beautiful (even with the shadow of the Aflac Duck in my sill), I must admit that the presence of any wintertime weather makes me want to quickly retreat inside and put on many layers of clothing.  I know this is quite a drag for my kids, especially my son who would like to snowboard, sled or ski at any given moment in the winter months.  The thought of following him or anyone else into the frozen tundra has absolutely no attraction to me.  This is the kind of thing that reminds me that I have limits.  Some limits are upon me because of physical challenges.  But many limits, I must admit are self imposed.  These limits can be good, limits that keep me from burning out quickly in a blaze of glory.  But many keep me, keep you from living out our full potential.  More than that, they keep us from knowing the fullness of God and the deeper things of a relationship with Christ.  If I am unwilling to go out into the snow for a little while, would I have been willing to respond to a call of "follow me and I will make you fishers of men."  
I've loved the song "I Will Follow" by U2 since I was a kid.  But somehow Chris Tomlin's "I Will Follow" has much more meaning for me today:

Where you go, I'll go
Where you stay, I'll stay
When you move, I'll move
I will follow...

All your ways are good
All your ways are sure
I will trust in you alone
Higher than my side
High above my life
I will trust in you alone

Where you go, I'll go
Where you stay, I'll stay
When you move, I'll move
I will follow you
Who you love, I'll love
How you serve I'll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow you
I will follow you

Light unto the world
Light unto my life
I will live for you alone
You're the one I seek
Knowing I will find
All I need in you alone, in you alone

In you there's life everlasting
In you there's freedom for my soul
In you there joy, unending joy
and I will follow

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How to Know How Far to Go

We don't create art in a vacuum.  People in popular music are always so interested in pushing the barriers, and many times exploding them.  Madonna, Lady Gaga, Usher, John Mayer, as gifted as they are, probably have very few thoughts about whether what they are doing or saying will hurt anyone, offend anyone or if they have to clean up their mistakes from their art.  But those of us who want to create art for the church have much more to consider.  Of course, the main part of what we are doing is to worship God and to connect people to do the same.  But there is the other part of ministering through music, through art that is about creating an atmosphere of safety, joy and readiness to hear the Gospel.  Sometimes we do this in serious moments, light-hearted moments, gut-wrenchingly deep moments, comical moments.  But these moments should never just serve themselves.  We shouldn't shock for the sake of shock, or push the limits simply because we can.  We must consider the listener's, the watcher's souls. Are we preparing the heart to hear something greater, helping to connect to an idea, an expression, a God filled moment.  And do we know our people?  I want to understand in a greater way their sensibilities.  Of course I always want to challenge my friends to hear a new point of view, a new style and culture and especially be moved to do something by the Word.  But I never want to go to a level that there is fear, discomfort, or make our people feel scared, stupid or not in on the joke.  We are our brother's, our sister's keepers in what we create, communicate and promote.  Because ultimately knowing how far to go can be the difference in a person being encouraged, loved, and appropriately challenged, or being hurt by the place that is meant to help bring restoration and life.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Creating With My Head In the Clouds

I've had a real thing for taking pictures of clouds lately.  I've always stared at them, beautiful and fluffy or dark, ominous and wall-like.  I used to have a real problem in high school with staring out the windows and looking at clouds.  Staring out into space continues to be a problem for me.  When I am having a conversation it is incredibly difficult for me to keep eye contact with my fellow conversationalist.  Not because I am uninterested, but because my eyes just want to go everywhere and most notably skyward.  What is it that puts these things together, forms them and moves them along, I wonder?  I understand the science and meteorology behind it somewhat, but I mean the whole creative process that went into designing the whole production.
When my wife Rhonda and I were on a second honeymoon in the Bahamas many years ago, a ferry boat took us out to a small private island owned by the cruise line.  When we got there we quickly went to the beach area which was beautifully filled with white sand with green/blue water all around.  As I looked to the sky, it was a deep blue everywhere, except in this tiny corner to the Northwest.  In that corner was a wind shift line, that was ever so slowly producing a fine white cloud, almost as though it was coming out of the chimney of an old steam locomotive.  It started as a wisp, filled out into a fluffy cloud, and then in the middle of the ocean formed a tiny rain cloud that fizzled itself out, only to continue to produce new clouds in the very same spot.
Clouds to me have both great order to the underlying process and yet chaos in their actual creation.  Their artistry shown in peace and tranquility and violent storm.  They pop up to tell the tale of the moment and don't hide their joy or anger.  They are simply honest art and speak volumes of how heartfelt art, art that worships should be created.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Songs that Break the Heaven/Earth Barrier

We did a song last week by a band that is not typically on my radar.  Mercy Me is a very well polished group but tends to place itself a bit too much in the overly poppy Christian radio category for my listening palate.  But this song "All of Creation" just jumped right out at me.  The chorus has a fantastic "sing along" feel with lines that connect people together and really struck a chord with our church.  But I am magnetically drawn to the lines of the first verse more than anything:

Separated until the veil was torn
the moment that hope was born
and guilt was pardoned once and for all

I'm captivated
but no longer bound by chains left in an empty grave
The sinner and the sacred resolved

My point is, and I'm saying this to myself here, be willing to step out of what you perceive as your chosen genre or style of music.  There is much that is being spoken in different generations, corners of the world and through many instruments and vessels. Listen to what God is saying to his people and what they are replying back to Him.