Sunday, February 19, 2017

"Poor in G.R. - a series of posts"

Sunday in Grand Rapids. Kids of school age, and kids too young for school, and kids too old for high school. Woke up in my city this morning hungry. They went to bed last night or early this morning hungry. They will walk into the kitchen. There will be little food. Perhaps a few cans of beans from the food pantry handed out by those nice people? A cold can of beans for Sunday morning breakfast?

Then, perhaps in a suburbia coffee shop, I will be able to hear how 'those people' should get jobs. But you see, let's think about that. What job offers a living wage to someone who has no high school degree? What bus line does your business reside on so they could come and fill out an application? Never mind that the bus does not run at the hours you need her to work? How does someone get a 'starting job' without a means to move beyond that job? Why have we simplified our economic system to make the poor bad people and the wealthy good people?

When Jesus came, he flipped that system upside down. He spoke of the poor, the hungry, those who seek justice & mercy. These are the people who Jesus blessed. And yet... on this Sunday? I am sadly disappointed that too many of my suburbia friends won't let their pastors speak these kind of words.

These words are terrifying. These words don't bless our efforts to make a profit this past week. These words don't bless our desire to be safe in our country. These words don't resonate with sound economic principle.

These words actually speak to a different way of doing life. Good-wholesome. Life-giving. Hope-enabling. Mind-blowing. Goodness-of-life.

I long for my pastoral friends to be able to speak the fullness of the gospel. But I fear as long as they are not allowed. Because their jobs depend on it. That I will be able to write this series "Poor in G.R" for the rest of my life.

So be it. The alternative would suck my soul into hell... whatever that is


“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:3-10)

Friday, February 17, 2017

We are better than this...

Some suggest I am hard on my congressman. I say I am only being honest. Here are his words from a telephone call to his people this week: “My faith says that I need to personally and through my church community, care for those who need care. I do that. My constitutional job and duty is to also to protect this country…it’s a difficult balancing act.”

So when I say he has no moral conviction, that he bows to those who fund his campaigns, that he is not a reformed Christian, and that his faith is not lived out in in his policies, I am not wrong. HE said it himself. We deserve better leadership. We are better than this. #RepHuizenga

Sunday, February 12, 2017

"Poor in G.R." - a series of posts

So, how am I being transformed to love people without power, without much money, in the city of Grand Rapids? I want to take you along because there is plenty more room for goodness & kindness to blossom in our city. This is a journey that has no ending point for me, but I do know there can be a beginning point.

When I walked the streets of Grand Rapids this past November, encouraging people to vote,I realized how many of them have jobs. Some people have 1st or 2nd or 3rd shift jobs. Others fix cars in their garage, and others are incredibly creative entrepreneurs trying to make a living selling hotdogs or knitted blankets. Many of these people work hard, really hard. Most started their adult life with very little, and they are trying to make their way as individuals and families. The people of the city are not lazy.

Poverty is not about laziness. If you believe poverty is about laziness, as I once did, you are terribly mistaken. It is simply not true. This belief is a false narrative the we need to expunge from our lives. To hold onto this false narrative does not speak truth to the reality of being poor in Grand Rapids.

Please know that this is one of the first shifts that I needed to allow in my own life. Some days I still fight this feeling that I believed for too many years. Yet, if I am to be a person who can come alongside poverty in my city, I need to change my attitude. Coming alongside, learning to love our neighbors regardless of their financial reality, without giving them the title of 'lazy' is a beginning point.


Thursday, February 09, 2017

"Poor in Grand Rapids" - a beginning to a series of posts

I am going to begin a series of posts, and perhaps continue it for some time. I'm calling it "Poor in G.R."

For people who do not understand my journey from nearly being an insider of the Republican party in Ottawa County (it was once mine for the taking), to seeing the world through very different eyes (yes, I lean left because of my experiences & deep faith convictions), I want to share some realities of being poor in the city that shadows the suburb in which I grew up.

I've come to deeply love Grand Rapids & the people who live in poverty here. For those of us who grew up in the suburbs, and those who grew up in the city but do not know the realities of being poor in Grand Rapids, let me share. Allow yourself to be transformed towards goodness...

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Resist

In response to a CRCA pastor who attended the National Prayer Breakfast with my congressman, Rep. Bill Huizenga.
Mr. Huizenga's pastor praised him while ignoring the repressive actions that Donald Trump has created as our president.

For the record, here is the post of Rep. Huizenga's pastor:

Today I had the privilege to attend the National Prayer Breakfast with Congressman Bill Huizenga. Bill is a member of my congregation and a good friend whom I deeply appreciate. Some thoughts today about the breakfast:

First, about 4,000 people of all colors, political parties, religious persuasions, and countries were in attendance. I witnessed different political parties having fun, making jokes, and truly respecting each other. Wow!

Second, I heard probably one of the best messages I have ever heard from Senate Chaplin Barry Black. YouTube it and listen, it’s truly remarkable. His message was powerful, full of grace, and trumpeted loud and clear the gospel message salvation through Jesus Christ.

Third, even though President Trump isn’t my favorite, he spoke and did have some good things to say that I respect. Yes, he slammed Arnold Schwarzenegger but it was a joke and the media is blowing it out of proportion as they usually do. Trump stinks at humor and shouldn’t use it because he digs himself a deep ditch when he tries to use a joke.

Fourth, I have been in D.C. now twice and have met people who love God, truly want to do what is best for our country and the world, and truly care for humanity. I leave tomorrow with hope for our country and a deep realization that our country and the countries of the world are truly in God’s good care.

Fifth, I have generally mistrusted the media but after being here and hearing and seeing what I have, I truly do not trust the media. They practice “yellow” journalism and desire to make money for their news outlet and get a bunch of hits and retweets on articles from people. They don’t desire to tell the truth and desire to create hysteria because it is good for their back pockets. I encourage us all to be wise followers of Christ and seek to discover the truth of what is going on and why it is going on, instead of the deplorable drivel we are fed by the news.

Finally, even though I’m posting on Facebook, I encourage us to stop the garbage we post, repost, and news stories we tag. It really doesn’t do much good for any of us. What I encourage us to do is instead of posting most of the garbage we read is to PRAY. After today I will pray again for my country with hope and pride!

________________

My response:

THIS entire report on the National Prayer Breakfast reads like a GOP endorsement of Bill Huizenga and Donald Trump.

What of the biblical text about protecting the refugee, the foreigner, the stranger, the marginalized, the orphan, and the widow, do we NOT understand clearly?

To be frankly honest, this post is a betrayal of a faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we bow to powers that care NOT for ‘the least of these,’ we care not for the ways of Jesus Christ.

In the past week, we have experienced pain among refugees, Latino populations, and immigrants who are now stranded in places where they have no home.

For us to stand with leaders of power, such as Trump and Huizenga who betray the ‘least of these,’ we can no longer claim “Jesus is Lord.” While we can speak it with our mouths, we fail to proclaim him with our lives. We are so scared of ‘others,’ that we are unwilling to look into their eyes. We have passed the person on the road who needs our help. Do we really not recall the story of The Good Samaritan? What is wrong with us?

Know that someday justice will flow down the mountainsides like mighty waters. For those of you who stand in the way of righteousness, I hope that your hearts are changed. May love for your neighbors win in your hearts.

Grace & peace in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Randy Buist
Hudsonville, MI
Unity Christian, ‘84
Calvin College, ‘91

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Two Standars - Tim Cook vs. Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick has chosen to kneel instead of stand for the National Anthem. Tim Cook and Apple made an illegal agreement not to pay taxes of $14.5 billion dollars.
Apple has chosen not to to pay its fair share of taxes to the European Union for its ability to conduct commerce in this region, use its infrastructure, and incur massive profits.
Kaepernick has chosen to kneel to protest the continual racism of institutions of power within our nation. He wants Americans to realize this nation that claims of liberty and freedom are not really either for vast swaths of Americans.
The intentions of Kaepernick have been towards justice. The intentions of Apple and Tim Cook have been to keep profits above honoring the nations in which they do business.
The actions of Apple are intentional deception and have no pure motive; yet who is receiving the wrath of red meat America? May justice roll down from the hillsides -- or perhaps is called out from the sidelines.  

Saturday, April 02, 2016

It's National Poetry Writing Month

So I have these amazing friends who write really good stuff. On occasion I can write decent prose. But poetry. Why even bother.

Tonight I threw caution to the wind... 'What the heck. Why not try.'

So my friends write poetry
Freaking amazing stuff
When I was 8 and 10 and 15 I thought poetry sucked
Then these amazing friends
First with their prose
And now with their poetry
An entirely different genre
You can slam on the brake
Hit the gas
Break all rules or type real fast
But there is rhythm
Not so much rhymes like people often think
But rhythm like real life
And sometimes not rhythm  
Freaking amazing writing all jumbled together
And yet it makes sense but not quite
And in this mess is a depth of breath
That does not happen with prose so much
It can
Sure it can
But is seems more rare
Now to get my 13 year old to love this stuff

Yeah right

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sometimes my voice quivers in the presence of power...

 

Sometimes I hear my voice quiver in the presence of powerful people. It bothers me, and then sometime I become quiet, begin to lose sight of my values, or simply stop thinking clearly. This is a great reminder to speak truth. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

So much for decency. We don't even dare.

I'm too tired to write. I am too tired to not write. My brain hurts. It may be my head. It still hurts. I need sleep. My teenager is sick on the couch. She still wants me to sit up and be dad.

A few days ago Max Lucado, the highly respected evangelical writer titled a piece, 'Decency for the President.' You can imagine his thoughts. These are not too hard. He asks for the American people to expect decency of our leaders.

But here is the problem with decency. When President Obama gave an passionate speech in the wake of the Charleston shooing last June, complete with his rendition of Amazing Grace, plenty of Americans questioned his faith. Someone even suggested the speech writer of President Obama was behind everything our President said at that service.

Fast forward nine months. We now have candidates who claim to be Christians. One of them can not even pronounce Two Corinthians correctly. Another claims to be a committed follower of Jesus. He fails to realize twelve million immigrants are his neighbors. Apparently he failed to read at least half of the Bible. Another wants to bomb the world into American submission. So much for Jesus call for peacemakers.  

The irony. We have no problem believing our current list of candidates are Christian. Yet. We still have issues with the black guy, our President, being Christian. 

Maybe... just maybe he has struggled to be faithful to what he believes. Maybe following the ways of Jesus while being the most powerful person on the planet is really difficult. 

And maybe we as white America do not believe President Obama because he is black. 
Maybe we are still far more racist than we want to admit. And we refuse to look into the mirror. Do we even dare. So much for decency.


Monday, February 01, 2016

Their politics are not what they claim to believe...

Justin Amash and Bill Huizenga both held town hall meetings in our community on Tuesday. As an advocate for issues of social justice, I decided to attend both meetings. I did not speak but observed much during these meetings.

Justin Amash attracted about 90 people, about fifteen were women, and I believe two were people of color. The crowd was largely welcoming. Attendees asked questions including veteran benefits, VA accountability, immigration reform, the Paris agreement, and global warming among other topics. Rep. Amash tried to answer the questions as best as he could. He was willing to get into specifics, and he came across as warm in nature.

Bill Huizenga had about 25 people in attendance, five or six who were women, two who were immigrants, with the rest being white males. Without the group who was present advocating for immigration reform, along with staff, the number of attendees would have been closer to a dozen people. Holding a town hall meeting at 3:30 pm on a Tuesday perhaps is problematic.  

The difference between the two representatives was stark even apart from the attendance. Rep. Justin Amash tends to answer questions in detail. Rep. Bill Huizenga speaks in generalities with most answers. Amash rarely deviates from his strict interpretation of the Constitution; Huizenga rarely deviates from the current party line.

My frustration with both, however, lies in their willingness to put aside their claimed convictions, in favor of continual support for their political positions.

Rep. Amash believes in a unadulterated free market. Yet he forsakes the Orthodox commitment to the marginalized of our society. With his perspective, eventually we will have only two classes of people, those with much wealth and those who are the poor. This is our trajectory. Anything else defies reality. To do such is self-deception for the sake of holding to his libertarian view of the Constitution, which also happens to be the same position his primary financial backers hold.

Rep. Huizenga, a graduate of Calvin College and a member of the Christian Reformed Church, holds a view that politics can be done apart from a deep longing for justice and mercy, both of which are central to his denomination’s theology. The Christian Reformed Church has recently supported the Paris Agreement on climate change. Calling for Immigration reform for our 12 million immigrants who are undocumented are also high priorities for the denomination. Yet, Rep. Huizenga has adopted political positions on these issues that are in complete opposition with his faith affiliation.


For a community that holds integrity as a high value, our two representatives hold moral convictions apart from their political convictions. Among our previous esteemed West Michigan representatives, most notably Vern Ehlers and Paul Henry, this was not the case. Their personal convictions and political convictions went hand it hand. Why we are not expecting the same today is baffling. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I Need to Write - Even if Only for Myself.

It seems that about once or twice a year I write about how I want to write more. I once thought it was for others to read about what I had to say... maybe this is still my reality.

Yet, I increasingly believe that in a fragmented world, writing helps me think better, more clearly. It forces me to put thoughts on a white surface. It requires more than a single response or brief social media post. It requires thoughtfulness, editing, questioning one's own ideas, and then figuring out if their is a reasonable response to those ideas. 

It's time to write a couple of times a week. Now I just need to figure out the discipline that makes it so that I have the time and space to do so... more later this week I hope. Here's to hoping.