We agree.  Let’s go see.

First, lunch.  The Hardee’s drive-thru near our office.  Charbroiled chicken sandwiches.  Neal’s driving so I get to eat mine first.  Neal wanted to try the jalapeno something-somethings, which look something like batter dipped french fries.  I try one.  Neal munches while he heads the car onto westbound I-64.

People, some people, around here still insist on saying “Forty” when referring to I-64.  US 40.  It is.  But after a year in St Louis I know it’s the old-timers.  Some of those old-timers really aren’t old.   It’s more a frame of mind.  US 40.  It hints back to a day before the federal interstate system.  Pre-Eisenhower.  I guess that when I was a kid someone was starting to build these interstate roads.

When I was a kid.  That would have been the days of Kennedy, Nixon.  The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

North on I-170.  East on I-270.  Exit and then south on Florissant Ave.  We turn left into the drive for a community center where Salvation Army and a few other agencies set up last Saturday, will again tomorrow, to serve people of Ferguson MO.  Park.  Go in.  Talk to a couple of the staff.  Who commiserate with us about the troubles.  Back in the car.  I drive so Neal can eat his now cold sandwich.

We continue south on Florissant.  It is a suburb that looks like a suburb.  Businesses, not close together.  Just enough space to give them the look of eyes a little too far apart.  We are seeing police cars everywhere.  St Louis County cruisers.  At about every corner.  It looks like the President could come through.  Not today.

We also see homes.  Neat, definitely not ostentatious.  Tidy neighborhoods.  Closer together than Florissant Ave. businesses.  Humble homes huddling together, still.  It’s early afternoon and they look very quiet.

Now, lots of police.  Cars, but now standing, small groups walking.  I notice the older policeman who seems to be represented in each group of county brown.  How they are described, they look, in their uniforms.  Yes, mostly white.

We have joined dense slowly moving traffic.

Somehow it reminds me of the tourists who visit Paris to see Notre Dame at Sunday vespers.  Worshipers sit.  Around them slowly circulate the tourists there to see the cathedral, hear the organ.  Not engaged, not worshiping.  Just came to see the thing.

On the left.  The burnt-out Quik Trip which is a landmark for these times of trouble in Ferguson.  Dramatic, how the burnt front and center is skeleton like, structural metal bare, swooping upward.  Now it reminds me of Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park.  I have an overactive associating mind.

On the right, the McDonald’s which is not burnt but has seen its share of troubles.  Lots of people and dozens of police.  Later in the day we hear it’s because Jesse Jackson was in there.

We see the Schnucks and Target stores and the ominous dark law enforcement vehicles in their lots.  I think Neal said ‘FBI’ and I think I saw SWAT on one.  Here and there, traffic lanes and drives blocked off.  Some shoppers.  All who we see, police and non-police, are in slow motion, not unpleasant.  Even the few protesters with signs seem to have that certain je ne sais quoi.

August night clouds 2014

I’m driving and Neal’s trying to take photos.  When he holds the iPhone up some give us looks.  Not real hard looks, just that squinty ‘hey, what …’ look.

We drive around the Schnucks/Target lots, back to Florissant Ave.  North to I-270.  The yellow then red traffic signal abruptly catches me and we joke about getting pulled over by the police.  We both give little nervous laughs.  We are out of here.


Not able to get to this year’s CCDA conference.  Hope you can.  Here’s the CCDA Flourish 14 link.

Noel video

Father Greg.

We were talking about who to get to say a few good words about the Salvation Army, to do it in a way highlighting the Army’s part in God’s mission in this world, and to say it in an, well, entertaining way.  Father Greg is entertaining.Father-Boyle

Father Greg Boyle is a Jesuit priest.  His life work in Los Angeles with gangmembers over the past several decades inspires me.  And Father Greg is great to listen to.  I’ve heard him more than once at CCDA conferences.  He makes me smile, laugh.  Get somber.  His words always seem to attest to the full life of John 10:10 Jesus brings us.

Here’s Brian O’Neil’s eight part radio documentary El Padre y los Homies that tells the story of Father Greg and Homeboys Industries.  If you want something a little less epic visit the Homeboys website and Father Greg’s Wikipedia.

We were talking.  And later today Neal sent me Orv Kimbrough’s blog post from yesterday In Search of Hope:  My recent trip to LA.  Is God pointing us toward Father Greg?

What I think God may be pointing more of us to these days is a fresh perspective on salvation.  If Jesus said “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full” then life in this world may possibly be part of his claim.  Okay, not ‘may possibly’.  I believe that the life of Jesus is meant to bring fullness here and now.  Our part in the mission of God includes life in this world as well as in the world to come.

Would Father Greg come to St Louis to speak at a Salvation Army gig?

Bonus:  transcript of Krista Tippett’s On Being American Public Media interview of Father Greg.

Kirsten sent The New Face of Hunger.  This month’s National Geographic features food around the world.  This article focuses on hunger in the USA.

Watch the video It’s Not Enough.  It could have made me cry.  To see people struggling to provide for their children, humbly doing so, ignoring the embarrassment.  Eminently decent parents.

I had a bowl of ice cream tonight after dinner.  It sure tasted good.

Today hunger in the suburbs is growing faster than in cities, having more than doubled since 2007.

For dinner tonight we had grilled chicken thighs, salad and whole wheat tortillas.  Yummy.

The root problem is the lack of jobs that pay wages a family can live on, so food assistance has become the government’s—and society’s—way to supplement low wages.

If I wanted, I could walk over to the fridge, the cupboard, and find something eat.  The only times in years I’ve felt hungry is when I’m too busy.  But the food’s there.  I can eat when I want.

But most of the working poor don’t have the time or know-how required to eat well on little. Often working multiple jobs and night shifts, they tend to eat on the run. Healthful food can be hard to find in so-called food deserts—communities with few or no full-service groceries. Jackie Christian didn’t resort to feeding her sons fried gizzards because it was affordable but because it was easy. Given the dramatic increase in cheap fast foods and processed foods, when the hungry have money to eat, they often go for what’s convenient, just as better-off families do.

Fried gizzards?

Those priorities are reflected at the grocery store, where the price of fresh food has risen steadily while the cost of sugary treats like soda has dropped. Since the early 1980s the real cost of fruits and vegetables has increased by 24 percent. Meanwhile the cost of nonalcoholic beverages—primarily sodas, most sweetened with corn syrup—has dropped by 27 percent.

So what is the problem, why do so many Americans, 1 in 6, struggle with food insecurity?

‘We’ve created a system that’s geared toward keeping overall food prices low but does little to support healthy, high-quality food,’ says global food expert Raj Patel. ‘The problem can’t be fixed by merely telling people to eat their fruits and vegetables, because at heart this is a problem about wages, about poverty.’

Time for bed.  I will not go to bed hungry tonight.

“We’re not starved around here,” she says one morning as she mixes up powdered milk for her daughter. “But some days, we do go a little hungry.”

food insecurity



Tonight, catching up with Perfect Duluth Day, a link takes me to The Way North series from the New York Times.  Damien Cave and Todd Heisler travel I-35 from Laredo TX to Duluth MN.

Day 37 of their travels brings them to my hometown.  Mayor Don Ness describes “A Missing Piece” -

… he often hears that one of the city’s drawbacks is its homogeneity. Those with experience in other parts of the country have come to expect a mix of ethnicities and cultures, he said over dinner and beers at a neighborhood restaurant where the only sign of international flair was the hummus on the menu. In his view, and especially of those Duluthians who moved elsewhere for college or work, diversity and the conflicts and benefits that immigrants bring with them are an expected norm — an integral part of what defines the contemporary American city.

“A lot of them, they’ll come back and say that’s a missing piece,” Mr. Ness said.

I agree.  On return trips, after decades of living in Chicago, Detroit and now St Louis, Duluth seems really white.  And I feel out of place.  It is a strange feeling to return to one’s home and not fit in.  I don’t.

Am I a missing piece?

photo 3

My alma mater. What a great looking high school.

I am riding northbound on I-55 to my next destination. Got some time on this Monday afternoon.

Last Friday official approval was given for the Urban Mission Center in St Louis. As it is with any process demanding careful planning and count-the-cost questions, it took time. But enough planning and answering has taken place. Gail now is excited.

Gail gives oversight for the UMC. Sara Johnson serves as UMC Director of Program and Recruitment. Gail, what’s your title?

She grinned. She’s not sure. Maybe Director of “find the money”. Gail’s driving. I’m riding. I-55 northbound.

September 5-6 will be the Design Days for the UMC. A group of design-type people (I get to be part of it) will gather in the Temple Corps building on Arsenal Street. Two presenters from Leadership Network, Alan Roxburgh and Craig Van Gelder, will lead us in two days of design.

The drive north today is remarkably comfortable. My window’s open. Upper 70s and dry air. Feels good. Summer in St Louis, where is thy humidity? Where is thy heat?

September may not be too hot, humid. It may be a good month to listen, talk, think. Design a center for urban mission. For Salvation Army people and others who want to be of use in this yet fresh Urban Millennium.


Mission takes place via ‘servant-leaders’.

I have strong feelings about this term. That it is best described for our times by Robert K. Greenleaf. If the urban mission is to happen it will be by servant-leaders. A few thoughts here about what servant-leadership is and isn’t.

The servant does your will.

The leader either gets and makes you to do their will.

The servant-leader? Seeks God’s will for others. Thus seeing what could be, then does what can be done on earth for it to take place. For, as Greenleaf is certain of, the servant-leader is servant-first.

The servant only? There is no change, it is serving action which sustains a status quo.

Leader only? The same, the only variation being that it is the status quo world as realized in the leader’s interior kingdom.

Servant-leader? change, for it is now the will of God, the realization of the kingdom of God. Even when it is such a tiny start. Leaven. Mustard seed. Transformation, renewal, restoring as it once was, to become again the created wholeness of the beginning. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

Servant-leaders are needed in urban settings. The systems of cities call out to be challenged. So that all will have a place in the 21st century’s dawning Urban Millennium. Including the marginalized and the vulnerable.

It is only in this way that shalom will come to the city. To those who are the least. And to those who may suspect contrary to appearances that they are not the most. Cities can become very good places. Where we really do need each other.



Vox Nova addresses a growing concern. We are perceiving a widening gap between urban and rural America. Politically defined America appears to grow more regionally concentrated, such as in Missouri where I live: City of St Louis, West County, St Charles County.

But the effects of 21st century urbanization overlay even the smallest of places. Example: urban culture in SE Kansas where in our frequent visits we observe urban music and social inroads. The life of cities extends more widely than ever via media, commerce, especially through the internet. Urban life informs and shapes our world-view.

Our increasingly connected urbanized America is more densely populated, diversified, and prominently income disparate. We may be seeing rural and urban socio-political differences more regionally defined. But can they pull America apart?

The overlay of urbanization – it’s density, diversity, disparity – may be more definitive of America’s future.

Originally posted on Vox Nova:

I’VE MENTIONED BEFORE IN THIS SPACE that I have been worried about the long-term prospects for the survival of the United States as a unified and cohesive political entity. I still am.

Before I get to the specific reasons for my concern, it is worth pointing out that countries and empires have been breaking up, merging with one another, annexing territories, granting those territories independence and so on since the first farmer planted the very first crop 10 or 12 millennia ago and the whole project of human civilization began. Recent world history suggests that the breakup of the United States into a sort of commonwealth of independent countries need not be violent or otherwise ruinous, at least in principle. The breakup of the old Soviet Union was accomplished with relatively little bloodshed.

Go back a few decades, and we have examples in our own history — the Philippines, the…

View original 959 more words

pre June 14 2014 419As part of my work (now a year at it) I receive weekly the St Louis Business Journal.  Business interests me though I wouldn’t claim expertise.  Each issue of SLBJ teaches me something; it also brings enjoyment in the Mark Vittert column.

This “economic growth is bypassing St. Louis” article from the June 27-July3 issue caught my eye.

economic growth bypassing St Louis

I enjoy being here in St Louis.  But it has taken me a year to almost have a grasp of ‘where am I?’  There’s City of St Louis.  And there’s St Louis County.  The City is not part of the County.  Unlike Chicago in Cook County.  Or my Minnesota hometown of Duluth in a county also named St Louis.

I choose to believe Wikipedia which claims there are 41 independent cities in the USA.  38 in Virginia (what’s that all about?), Baltimore, Carson City, and St Louis.  St Louis has a most interesting story as to its non-county existence.

Sorry, SLBJ restricts access to the Greg Edwards article.  But it reports Rick Bagy of First National Bank of St Louis as saying St Louis’ many municipalities with so many different rules, regulations and paperwork make starting a business here difficult.

I heard from a major retailer with quite a few locations who wishes they hadn’t come here because of how hard it is to open another location … How many municipalities do we have?  They all have their own rules.

It can also make it confusing to know where one happens to be.

There is no confusion as to where a person may be when one crosses the Missouri River on I-64 or I-70.

Several months ago I attended a large gathering of business leaders in St Charles County.  It is a population and economic powerhouse neighboring St Louis County to the west.  The two are separated by the wide Missouri.  They are also separated by politics, and race.

The gathering grew respectfully quiet as a prominent St Charles business figure made clear that the river and its bridges were valued for their important role in ensuring continued separation.

I’m not convinced all who grew quiet at that gathering agreed with the speaker’s philosophy.  But I’ve picked up in my twelve months here that such thinking can substantially define life in St Louis City, County and our region.

And I’ve also suspected that as beneficial some might find this separation it’s not in the best interest of metropolitan St Louis.

I think what Mr. Bagy points out about a passively balkanized St Louis is becoming more seen.  And less helpful.

Check out the just created website for our Urban Mission Center in St Louis.

Also make sure to check out about the upcoming Weekend Intensive on Missional Leadership taking place at the UMC September 5-6.


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