The Urban Grind

Posts by Pastor Josh

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Why am I afraid of Fasting?


In a couple of days it will be Ash Wednesday. Don E. Saliers writes, "Lent is a double journey a journey together (and alone) toward the mystery of God's redemptive embrace in the death and resurrection of Christ. At the same time, it is a journey into the depths of our humanity." Humanity Mortality and Morality. Each of us. Humans. Every human. Lives are sp...

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A Hand in the Wound

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We are not so familiar with freaks as Jesus was. He daily handled as bad or worse than what I see weekly in the hospital. People coming to him for healing were maimed, mutilated, and desperate. They didn't even have on clean pajamas. It is we who have isolated ourselves from the Incarnation. Our fear of the flesh is so deep that we institutionalize death and decay wherever...

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The Unnecessary Death of Bianca Horton


Yet another unnecessary death in our community. Yet another victim of gang violence. Yet another victim of fear. Yet another victim of the cowardice of someone who postures unwavering toughness. Many in Chattanooga reacted to the unnecessary death of Bianca Horton last week with outrage, anger, and sadness. Most reacted with indifference or judgment. It was the kind of exp...

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Ironman: Road Closures and Road Trips


I have a love/hate relationship with Ironman. It's not what you think I hate running. Well, maybe that was what you were thinking. I hate to run but that doesn't mean I hate the Ironman. As a matter of fact I've debated training for a sprint triathlon in the past. I love to bike. I love to swim. All athletes who complete 70.3 miles of run, bike, swim deserve nothing but d...

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Fire + Meat = Church


Smoke filled lungs expelled tear-filled coughs and stinging winces of singed forearms. Don't worry! I wasn't tortured over the weekend for my faith or something admirable like that. I smoked a brisket. If the South has taught me anything it is a deep respect and appreciation of smoked meat. Let's be real - the only BBQ California had to offer my childhood was Tony Roma's....

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Corner Boys will always be with us


The Corner. What comes to mind? What images are conjured up at the incantation of this infamous locale? I would let you answer but I'd thought that I would refer to some resident experts on the corners of South Chattanooga. Here in the Alton Park The Corner is inescapable. Obviously, you have to drive around them to make it through the neighborhood. Perhaps not so obvious...

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Blessed are the Peacemakers


Let's just say Friday morning was a unique experience in my young pastoral ministry. And [Jesus] opened his mouth and taught them, saying:"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righte...

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Three Vehicles for Mission


When we started on our urban journey we experienced growing pains as we searched for the best way to describe what we do, who we are, and where we're going. I was given a strong classic theological education while at seminary and the roots that developed are what allow me to explore the frontier of church planting. However, I was not prepared in any way for urban, multi-et...

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Abandoning the Door of God's House for the Tents of the Wicked


I watched Jr. walk out the door after grabbing a cup of coffee and some donuts. It was pretty early and church hadn't started yet and I figured he would be back for worship. I was wrong. One minute he was sitting on the cold concrete bench with locked backdrop and the next he was gone. Not exactly the start to a Sunday I was looking for. What exactly was I looking for anyw...

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Listen to Speak


I have a tendency to speak before listening or even thinking for that matter. Since I was young I worked diligently to earn the reputation of joker, opinionated, blunt or, as my mom so politely described it: passionate. Yeah, most of the arguments between friends and I, teachers and pastors and I, my parents and I could were chalked up as "passionate" by my mom even though...

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I Didn't Preach on Easter. Am I Insane?!


Easter. One of two weekends in the church year where the pastor needs absolute focus. You would think this is the case due to the overwhelming amount of midweek worship services (Advent + Lent), added worship services on the day itself to accommodate throngs of visitors, or simply the busyness of the seasons. While all true this is not the true reason for the pastor to de...

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Segregated Swimming Pools


Yesterday was the first official day of Spring. For many of us spring means busting out bathing suits and hitting the pool. If you're like my family, with the arrival of the first signs of warm weather and the promise of long summer days spent in the humid sun we sign the kids up for swimming lessons. As a child I fondly remember the breezy northern California summer heat ...

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Identity Crisis: Have we become what we swore never to be?


Occasionally I have an identity crisis. By me, I mean myself and Bridge City Community. I am acutely aware of my whiteness and tend to err on the side of self-consciousness when it comes to our reconciliation efforts. I have had numerous honestly transparent conversations with black friends who have allowed me to say some ignorantly raw things on the road to understanding....

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Are We Really So Ignorant?


Are we really so ignorant, so dense, that we need an animated children's movie to demonstrate systemic injustice and cyclical stereotypes of race and class? I thought I was just going to take my kids to a much anticipated Disney film but what I discovered was a poignant and provocative message aimed at the adults in the audience. Are you so ignorant? Are you so dense to c...

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Honor. Truth. Duty.


Honor. Truth. Duty. This is the mission statement of The McCallie School - a well established, top tier, boys college-preparatory school in Chattanooga. Confused that I'm writing about a prep school instead of the projects? Wealthy, privileged, and predominately white boys instead of the urban plight of poor, black ones? Hang in there. It will make sense, I promise. The l...

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Daps Bruh


Let's start with a brief vocabulary lesson. Here are two potentially new terms and I would hate for Google to interrupt your reading so here you go... daps: the knocking of fists together as a greeting or form of respect.Guido Merkens: church planter who founded Concordia Lutheran Church in San Antonio, TX in 1951. What does Guido Merkens (pictured on the graphic for thi...

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Dispelling the Myth [that we don't have a plan]


I am now acutely aware of the need to provide pragmatic insight into our operational strategy as an urban mission. We are part of a growing effort to pioneer the frontier of urban, multi-ethnic church planting. Considering this lies outside popular church planting methodologies I feel the need to clear up the muddy waters surrounding this type of ministry. As a pastor one...

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Mercy is Polarizing


Do you want the mercy of God all to yourself? Yes? You are selfish. Stop pouting. Keep reading and consider this: Mercy is polarizing. *Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. The thought of mercy is sweet, but even more so is mercy itself. It is what all people hope for, but unfortunately, not what all people deserve. For while all people wish to receive...

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Remember that Time You Said "F*** this S***" to Your Pastor?


No? Didn't think so. It has probably never happened. My guess is you've never sworn at your pastor and your pastor has never been cussed out. Tuesday afternoon marked the third time I've been cussed out by a member of my congregation. At this point it's no longer shocking. Well, the first time wasn't either really. How did this happen you're wondering? What could possib...

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Happy New Year - My Christmas Sucked


[ DISCLAIMER ]This post is not an inspirational/motivational post about the urban grind of our mission here at Bridge City Community. I will not be sharing stories of success, epic life transformation, or even anecdotal testaments to our efforts. No, this is a lament. You know what I hate - what irritates me and inflames my cynicism more than anything else? When successf...

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Do #BlackLivesMatter?


Do #BlackLivesMatter? Dumb question - of course they do. If you're reading this sentence then the title worked. It grabbed your attention for one reason or another. Perhaps you answered the question for yourself. Maybe you were salivating at the opportunity to tear me apart. Maybe, just maybe, you disagreed... Do me a favor and keep reading. The tendency of the general p...

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Standing Between Two Worlds Pt. II | Police & Community


I stand between two worlds. I stand between black and white, but I also stand between law enforcement and community engagement. I am a recently trained and certified member of the inaugural Chattanooga Police Department Chaplain Corps. I am also pastor to gang members and community residents in a neighborhood where tension, antagonism, and distrust between the two run hig...

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Standing Between Two Worlds Pt. I | Alton Park & St. Elmo


I stand between two worlds. Nothing new for many people in this country. Refugees, immigrants, and first/second generation children of immigrant parents find themselves in an identical situation. It is fascinating to stand between two worlds. Bilingual communication is necessary and cultural conflict is unavoidable. For those who are born into it the transition between la...

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(Heavy 3/3) - A River of Blood(s) Threatens to Drown Us All


Violence is a generational epidemic. It is widespread, extensive, global, and indiscriminate. Many attempt to avoid prosecution but every single one of us is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Humans are by nature violent. Our hearts are turned in on themselves and the result is a violent disposition intent on preserving our preferences and pushing our systems of belief. Chri...

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(Heavy 2/3) - The Night I Wanted to Smoke Weed in the Projects with some Bloods


Yes, you read that correctly. I must admit something that no one ever seems to believe about me. I have never smoked weed. More often than not in my life I have been profiled as a stoner, pothead, hippie who loves his ganja, or any other descriptor of someone who admires the marijuana high. I've held a blunt in my hand, found buds in Berkeley thrift store clothing, and bee...

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Heavy (1/3) - The Chief of Police, a Pastor, and the Director of Public Safety


No, this is not the beginning of a joke, and no, the end of that phrase is not "walk into a bar." All joking aside it's been a heavy few weeks. Heavy. Really, it's the only word that seemed appropriate to accurately describe the moments, events, conversations, and ironies of recent activity. And it all started with some vinyl banners. Yeah, I know, I was surprised too. Th...

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You're closer than you think...


You're cold. Ice cold. Getting warmer No, now colder! You're getting warmer - hot, hot, en fuego! I remember playing the Hot or Coldgame as a kid. A step above I Spy it included a bit more mystery and intrigue for my taste. I remember hiding toys from my brother and sister then watching in delight as they tried to discover my ingenious hiding place. Sometimes, I would kee...

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Uncomfortably Comfortable Comfort


All church planters and missionaries dread the break up text or email. From: foundationalmemberofthechurch@gmail.comSubject: Can we grab coffee this week? It's rarely the case that a simple request for some artisan espresso or the casual invitation to sample the finest craft beer Chattanooga has to offer ends well for me. Typically, when I receive a text or email like th...

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Zoey & the Lost Boys of Chattanooga


"A 1-year-old baby girl is in critical condition after she was shot once"My heart is broken right now," said neighbor Cassandra Robinson. 'This little girl just had her first birthday in September. She's just starting to find out all the things she can do. But now she's laying up there [in the hospital] clinging for her life.'" "Last weekend was full of chaos, with back-a...

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Hospitality: Creating Space for Change to Take Place


This is gonna sound super awkward so feel free to cringe, giggle, or perhaps a little bit of both. Mamre. Imagine attending a church called Mamre. It's ok - laugh, be confused, or allow your mind to imagine going to church on Sunday where the name evoked an uncomfortable check-up for women. I'll explain the genius of that name in a moment, but first... Hospitality is not ...

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Holding Space


I was completing one of the required classes in becoming a Chattanooga Police Department Chaplain when the case manager from the local rape crisis center dropped an enlightenment bomb on my eardrums. Holding Space. Those words rang loudly my ears as soon as they left her lips. Admittedly, a little too loudly considering I daydreamed for quite a while after she said them. L...

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It's the Little Things that Sustain


"Pastor Josh, I wanted you to have this cross. It's been in my family four generations. Many of my family members have worn it while assisting with the Lord's Supper. Take it with you in your ministry in Alton Park," is what I heard on the phone yesterday morning. An aging storyteller Christyna exaggerated the whole four generations thing considering the stamp on the back ...

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A City Apart


A City Apart. These were the words splayed across the front page of the Chattanooga Times-Free Press yesterday (read full article here).I don't pay for a newspaper subscription. But, my father-in-law (who somehow always has a paper in his possession) handed it to me and told me to take a look. "The lives of too many black Chattanoogans are marked by poverty, struggle, poo...

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Consistency is double-edged - it is necessary but also a liability. To succeed, we must endure the sharp edge of inconsistency while utilizing the other edge to sharply remove any weeds that threaten to choke the roots that are deepening and the plants that are sprouting....

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R.I.P. Rest in peace Darcside even thought I never knew you. It was like stepping back in time. I was transported back to day one at the south Chattanooga rec center. But this time I was in Bushtown at the Carver Rec. Moving from the lobby couch into the multi-purpose room the kids looked at me like I was an alien - clearly recognizing me as a stranger to their hood. One...

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Here We Go Again - You Ready?


Our summer plans didn't go exactly as planned. Back in May we looked forward to a sabbath from serve+share, mentoring, and the chaotic rhythm of the academic year. Our goals were to plan ahead, set new goals for the following school year, rest up, catch our breath, and prepare. As most of you know a minor incident of arson stole the show for about six weeks. Thank you all ...

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Thirteen youth from completed their summer internships last week. All too often youth like these are recruited into local gangs and the cycle of violence and poverty continues in neighborhoods likeWithout a support system, skills, and alternative activities, these youth lack what they need to succeed. Particularly in the summer when the rhythm of school is long forgotten, ...

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THANK YOU!"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." {Romans 8:28}The last few days have been overwhelming. I have never had to fill out insurance content forms (not fun), speak with fire inspectors (not too bad), or explain to people why an act of violence like this would happen to a raci...

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Ashes to Ashes


Ashes to Ashesthe death of the BCC shed... "The shed's gone - it burned to the ground." These words from Mark were jarring as Jenny shook me awake this morning at 3:00am. "Wait, what happened?" I asked. "The fire department's here and they just finished putting out the fire and burned the shed up. They want to talk to you." I hung up the phone, groggy, and started puttin...

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What then is humility?


WHAT THEN IS HUMILITY?#TeacherAppreciationWeek #UnassumingAward #hospitality What then is humility? I hope I have an answer, or at least some insight, considering to walk humbly is in our mission statement at Bridge City. Great question... wish I would've come up with it but, alas, I didn't. Nathan, thank you. I could launch off on some Biblical exposition of humility. I ...

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Why Cash Advance Businesses Aren't All Bad


CASH ADVANCE The combination of those two words evokes a variety of reactions depending on who you are and where you come from. For some of you it is worse than dropping an F* Bomb, saying "Sh*t", or yelling 'Shut up!'. Perhaps a few of you are innocently ignorant of such establishments. Maybe, just maybe, you have utilized the unique services of businesses that offer pay...

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I am a child of God


LeBron Jordan. No, not Lebron James or Michael Jordan. LeBron Jordan. I met LeBron while taking a couple Covenant students, who are die hard BCC members, on a bus tour of the neighborhood. While driving around I rolled up on a former student at Calvin Donaldson who I mentored last year. Larry is in sixth grade but looks like a grown man. He sells dope, is usually high hims...

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Listen Up!


It didn't take long to realize that we would need a youth group. I know that sounds antiquated, "churchy," or even cumbersome to the vitality and energy of a brand new church. True, unless the majority of that church's most committed members are under the age of eighteen. Welcome to Bridge City Community! We average between 25-35 "unaccompanied minors" on Sunday mornings ...

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Let Freedom Ring


LET FREEDOM RING --a display of community an affirmation of education... The students were stoked, not because it was the last day of school before Christmas Break, but because that evening they would be participating in the 1st Annual Let Freedom Ring event. What was this magical evening you ask? Well... In Partnership with Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academ...

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Baptism, Bacon, and Incident Reports


BACON. Now that I've got your attention... It is a universal truth that bacon is delicious - even vegetarians, vegans, and PETA supporters secretly admit it. Bacon is amazing scrambled in eggs, lovingly folded into a velvety Mac Cheese, or just fried crisp and eaten alone in all of its glory. Aside from being restricted in Torah, anathema to Muslims, and potentially thr...

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"Why People Should Be Nice." [an open letter]


People should be nice together because you don't know what they been through and somebody in they family might be dead. The second thing you should be nice to people is how they look and talk and dress, and they go end up thinking you're bullying them then they go end up killing theirselves. Everyone would know because they always tryin to be funny when it not. Keorra is ...

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Changing Colors - Changing Communities


ONE YEAR AGOI walked into the South Chattanooga Rec Center arms piled high with retractable banners, boxes of stickers, info cards, and candy. It was National Night Out - the first community event that Bridge City Community was participating in. We were brand new. I was still a stranger to the center and it's staff. I didn't know the throngs of people moving past me in a ...

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