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Suburban Sprawl or New Urbanism and Gentrification

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Look into the golden honey colored past, upon the grey drab present, and onto the steel blue future.

When I started years ago, I thought I was going to change the world. I had grand plans of what I wanted to be and what I expected to do with life. I was going to change the world.

Having faith in the future should be liberating, it should free you from the worries of life, yet it's difficult (at least for some of us) to be able to sit back and simply say.
     "God, I'm here, what do you want me to do?"

As opposed to the more common thinking of:
     "God, this is what I think you told me to do, I'm going to do, and and you'll bless it, because it's your will."


This is the family that I have and looking back at, I'm proud of (Obituary from the LA Times)

Gim Fong was a member of one of the city's most important pioneering Chinese American families, a clan that helped the Chinese enter society's mainstream at a time when institutional racism prevented them from owning property or marrying outside their race. Many of those old families have left Chinatown in the last 100 years.


Although everyone deals with it differently, it's part of the maturation process in which your dreams are tempered by the hard reality of life. Is it really about sacrificing everything to God? In one form of another I've heard this struggle over and over, from religious worker, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs.

Years ago, my minister told the same story this way:

"When I started seminary, I talked to one of the graduating seniors. He seemed somewhat interested, and I was quite eager to tell him, why I was going to seminary, and what plans I had afterwards. Indeed I did have grand plans for what I wanted to do with my life at the time. I imagined myself married, with six kids, three of my own, three adopted, some of which would be cross-cultural. I'd be pastoring an inner city, multi-cultural church, committed to social justice, a beacon of the community. It'd be a place where all of God's kingdom would come together, there'd be wealthy politicians and businessmen, community leaders, educators, as well as the poor, and the needy. There'd be a community center, a drop in center for the neighborhood kids, we'd provide legal counseling, assistance with housing issues. It'd be respected far and wide. People would use the church as a nationwide model for racial reconciliation.

"The older seminarian politely listened, afterwards he simply told me that after trying for years to weigh the balance between simply serving in a church setting, and simultaneously trying to finish a pastoral degree, he was tired, broken, and unsure about what he was going to do next. After hearing my grandiose vision he replied that, indeed at one time he also had those dewy eyed dreams as well. Yet at this point he simply wanted to be faithful to God.

"Years later, broken, discouraged and wondering just what to do with life I understood what my roommate had meant. My dreams had been sacrificed on the altar, to be like Christ is to be willing to give up that which you prize most, even if it means sacrificing your dreams, only by being willing to give up everything can the spirit be liberated."

In various forms I've heard it again and again. This story comes from a doctor.

I wanted to add another thought about the liberation of giving up a narrow vision for our individual lives, even if we believe it is of God (recognizing that often times, later down the road, we look back and wonder if it really is/was of God) - surrendering our life visions really gives control back to God. It's a disillusionment for us to think we are in control, and even if I know in my head that I'm not, and will verbally say I know I am not, it is difficult not to *feel* like I am, and think and plan life as if I am. Keeping a "fuzzy vision", or a more broad spectrumed life vision seems like a compromise - if God truly is calling me in a direction, say like working in the inner city, then maybe the timing isn't right at this time, so it doesn't look like the vision is coming to fruition in the near future. But it may be a short detour towards the same end place, and I may very well end up in the inner city later in life. And by keeping other details out of the picture (eg just how I would work in the inner city, who I would work with, etc), I don't get so caught up trying to create this vision, rather than just letting God work to bring it to fruition the way it should instead of me impatiently creating a false creation that just looks like what I may think God is leading me towards. I hope this wasn't all too confusing - bottom line: giving up control of a life vision, especially a narrow-viewed one at that, is liberating not only in a practical sense, but also in a spiritual sense: it surrenders the control back to God, who had control all along, and forces me to realize my false reality, that I am really not in control.

So forever it's worth. Being content with your life means being willing to sacrifice your own dreams and living by faith. Knowing that God does have a plan in your life, and will be glorified by it. So many people I know seem to have lost site of that.

Five years later the pastor is still struggling to balance his church, and home life. His church's vision and goals are still solidifying. The doctor has moved to a wealthy suburb on the North Shore of Massachusetts.


I'd forgotten this story, but it's somehow fitting:

Years ago, Jim was a successful investment banker for Goldman-Sachs (in NY), and Chris was a humble mutual fund manager for State Street Bank (in Boston). Jim took them to his office and they stood on the trading floor of Goldman-Sachs, and looked over Wall Street as the sun was setting over New York.

And Jim says to Chris "You know, I could get you a job here if you want."

Jesus also stood on a high mountain, and looked out over all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.    

And the devil says to Jesus "All this I will give to you."

Chris replied "Away from me Satan!"

That was a long time ago ago, Jim quit his job there a few years later to for WorldVision - a global nonprofit organization. Like anyone else the skills aquired in finance helped his job, even non-profits need to move large sums of money around the globe.

Chris is a missionary to China. Chris no longer lives in Boston. I imagine that Jim might still be there, married now, living in the same shabby, InterVarsity subsidized apartment across the street from Columbia.

July 20, 2007