Tag Archives: community

InsideNorthside: A Brilliant Idea or a Major Flop?

logo About a year and a half ago, I had this idea. Basically, I wanted to create a community-driven, Wikipedia (online collaborative information hub) for North Minneapolis.

Like many struggling communities, there are a million different efforts for the betterment of the community going on all at the same time. Some are established non-profits with up to date websites, others are a few neighbors planting a community garden. There are lot’s of businesses, neighborhood activities, school projects, and a deep rich history. Basically, there is enough information to fill a book, or a website. And the benefits of a central information hub are far reaching. Getting the hours for the local hardware store, to foreclosure help. to the history of the neighborhood park. But, who would write it?

I figured wiki software, giving anyone the ability to contribute to the website, was the perfect solution for bringing together and building this community information hub. However, I didn’t want to launch anything on my own, being new to the neighborhood and relatively unknown. So, I put together a mock-up of the idea and sent it to a few of the community organizations and folks I knew in the neighborhood. I got a few “great idea” responses and one organization that jumped at the opportunity to make it happen, so we launched InsideNorthside.org. Long story short, the organization has done nothing with the project except pay the $200 hosting fee for the wiki site.

In the mean time, I’ve put in several hours designing the site, spreading the word and building the pages. It’s still something I think is a good idea, but it won’t succeed as just a one-man project. I’ve made efforts at finding others who believe in the project and want to contribute, but so far no one has really jumped on board. In all the edits to build the site there have been about 10-20 contributions besides my own, and that’s all.

So, I’m at a crossroads. Do I continue to try and build the site, growing it until it becomes a useful resource for the northside on my own? OR is it time to just put it to rest and join in other projects and efforts as I have opportunity?

To Christians in California, Arizona and Florida (Vote NO on Marriage Amendment)


How do we truly love our neighbor? If I may contextualize a bit: Jesus says do as the homosexual prostitute did when he, not judging or condemning, had compassion and cared for the needs of the church-goer who had been left for dead in the alley outside of the ministry she worked at, even after a fellow church member and a pastor drove by. (LUKE 10:30-37).

Some in our community feel that loving your neighbor is best done by voting yes on Marriage Amendments that would restrict “marriage” to be recognized only between a man and a women; I’m fearful of that action. We must be very clear that a Yes Vote on those amendments (Prop 8, Amendment 2, Prop 102) is NOT a stand against homosexuality as sin, but a political statement concerning the rights of those already practicing homosexuality. 

Jesus’ public condemnations where almost always directed to the Religious authorities within the religious community that he was a part of. In the early church we see most rebuking and moral standards being dealt with within the church, not to non-Christians. Paul even says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” (I Cor. 5:12)

The Support for these amendments are coming primarily from churches. The loudest statements being made by churches are a statement to oppress homosexuals (it’s not to “support family,” just ask a homosexual what they think). If this is passed it will define in many minds a view of Christianity and Church in direct relation to this issue. Literally using a secular governments physical force and laws to mandate religious views.

How did Jesus address the idea of using physical punishment or the threat of to uphold morality? He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone.” (Jn. 8:7) We are not to use the law as a means to force adherence to our moral standards. You want to love your neighbor who is a homosexual? Go hang out with them, be with them. Work with GLBT Teens, sit at the bedside of someone dying of AIDs whose family has disowned him or her. That is where you can share Christ love.

Before we try and take the speck out of others eyes (and I think by “brothers” Jesus meant other believers), have we made sure there is not a plank in our own? I’m not sure exactly how we go about doing that but I have some ideas of statements that we could make to the greater community that would at least be a step in that direction.

I have two suggestions for possible proposals and resolutions that I think we can as a Christian body collectively pass and send to every major organization that is fighting for gay rights. First, as it relates to the support of marriage. I think we can be humble and admit that Christians have not been a very good example of the sanctity of marriage. We can let the world know that we know that we too are sinners and fail to live up to God’s ideals. We can explain to others that God is and will forever be the one who has defined marriage, and no matter what we the church or the rest of the world does we cannot change that. And we can commit to being an example in years to come of what true marriage is, as a union before God.

The second statement I think we can make, relates to the homosexual people who this impacts. We, the church, have been a horrible example of Christ love to the homosexual community for years. Christ would have sat by the bedside of dying homosexuals in the height of AIDs in this country, yet we stood outside with signs saying they would burn in hell (or we passively stood by while those statements were made). We can beg forgiveness from the homosexual community for the hurt and hatred that has been dealt to them by members of the Christian community. We can commit to spending much more time personally showing and spreading the love of Christ in genuine ways to people who practice homosexuality.

If you believe it is best and most loving to vote Yes on these marriage amendments, then I pray you are doing equally as much to assure the that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons know the love of Christ. My personal opinion? Vote NO on the Marriage amendments and start a movement within the church to be a shining example, a light on the hill, of what a God-ordained, Christ-centered, loving relationship looks like.

[photo credit]

On Neighborhoods and Tragedies

There was a tragedy on our block on Thursday. It’s hard to know how to respond to a situation like this. I didn’t personally know any of them, but plenty of neighbors did, and despite the encouragement of seeing people come together amidst the situation, it doesn’t make the difficulty of it any easier.

We’ve been on our block less then a year and I’m trying to do my best to be an observer and a learn. I’m trying to keep my ears and mind open to learn about the neighborhood and the community, and to learn about life.

What I’ve Been Doing Lately

Sorry for all the random housekeeping posts, but why stop now. If you want some good reading and dialog (okay, not all of it’s good) check out my 4th of July post.

I’ve been doing a lot of random things lately, so I thought I’d consolidate it all into one post and give you an update on things.

  • The first is my website, ariahfine.com, which I mentioned yesterday. I’d still really like some feedback on it if you have a minute.
  • I’ve been doing quite a bit of freelancing reporting for the Twin Cities Daily Planet. It’s been a good learning experience and helped me broaden my writing a bit. I hope to do mostly stories focusing on my community, but for now I’m trying a lot of different things just to get in the game. Anyways, two of my stories I just wrote actually turned out to be in the top five most read on the site. Here’s a screenshot:
    My Articles on TCDP
    I wrote ‘Bike Cops Nab Bat Man‘ (and no, it’s not fictional) and ‘Book note: Pious parable parses presidential politics.’
  • The project that’s been on my mind a lot is called the North Minneapolis Encyclopedia. It’s basically a Wikipedia specifically for North Minneapolis. For those who don’t know what a Wiki is, it’s a collaborative website, meaning anyone can add or edit content. Here’s just a couple reasons I think this could be beneficial. First, in an area like North, there are a TON of non-profits, churches and others who have programs to meet people’s needs, but rarely is there a central resource to know about them, and those that do exist are often incomplete, meaning a lot of people don’t know were to go for help. This site could allow anyone, from staff at the non-profit to a web-savvy patron, to edit the information on the site and keep it updated.
    If I can get others on board it could be come a valuable resource quite quickly. If it just me working a few minutes here and there it might take a while but it will still become a useful resource and collection of information I think. We’ll see what happens. I’d really love to find some partners in the project (even web-savvy, long distance interested parties who are good with a little google searching).
  • On top of that project I’ve picked up a number of different web design projects for community groups. I’m doing a website for the Northside Food Project (focused on bringing health food options to North Minneapolis), another for Northside Resident Redevelopment Council, and another handful of other sites that are currently in the works. I’ll probably post links once they are each up and running and fully operational.
  • A just wrote an article for the Sanctuary CDC
  • I’m still meeting a lot of neighbors and trying to figure out my role and opportunity in the community
  • Still working on a children’s book manuscript, hoping some connections will help get it going.
  • Last, I’m working on trying to make a free pdf ebook about finances to post on my ever so popular Why I Ditched Dave Ramsey blog post.

That’s probably enough to bore you for now. Seems like one topic sort of dominated the conversation above, but it is what it is.

Your Assignment: Attend an Open Mic in Your City

Just got back from another open mic night at the coffee shop down the street from my house. Have I told you yet that I love where I live?

Anyways, I’ll just make this post brief, but I really want to encourage you to attend an open mic somewhere in your city. I’m talking about the kind of open mic that spoken word artist show up at and share the most powerfully poetic prose you’ve ever witnessed. Words that are so real, so passionate, and so true they resonate in your mind and heart for days after. If you don’t know where one is, tell me what city you live in and I’ll help you find one.

This is what is so cool about the open mic in my neighborhood, it’s not only honest, but it’s extremely encouraging. I’ve seen such an array of people get up and share something that comes from their heart, and there is always clapping, always shouts of encouragement. It’s beautiful.

And it makes me want to try my hand at a spoken word piece. Spoken word is an art form. It’s performance poetry in a sense, but there is something deeper about it that creates in you a longing to be able to articulate and express yourself in similar ways.

Seeing as this is my playground and sandbox, you might have the opportunity to hear me experiment in spoken word sometime down the road. For now, complete your assignment.


Happenings At Trying To Follow

If you haven’t noticed or known already, there’s quite a few changes going on at my house. For those who know me well, and those who don’t here’s a brief update/insight into Ariah’s Life and Blog these days.

In less then one month our little household community will begin to disband. It’s been an exciting year, and a life changing one. I’ve spent the last ten months in a house hold with 8 other people, two of them young children. It’s been an incredible time and I think it has shaped and changed each of our futures in dramatic ways. I’m sorry I haven’t blogged more about the experience, I think it’s a hard task to write on when your in the midst of it. I think I might interview all our housemates on how this experience has effected and changed them and post those as podcasts…

And the big change for me is coming any day with the birth of our first baby. I’ve had the last week off or work to clean and prepare the house, tend to my wife’s needs and try and wrap my mind around the idea that I’ll be a father. I’ve done okay at the first two, but conceiving of holding my child in a few days is hard to grasp. I have been adjusting to the fact that my life will never be the same, I’m really soaking in the transition that this moment in time is.

And, I guess sort of a reflection of the outward changes going on in my life, I’m sort of in a transitional stage with Trying to Follow and my writings, hobbies and interest. Not sure what that means for this blog at the moment yet. I’ve thought about pursuing different avenues of blogging, writing, podcasting and more. I love to write so I don’t plan on that going away, just morphing into something different. I might not write as much (as you’ve already seen), or I might write more. I just added the Asides, minipost that don’t hold as much expectation to be profound, which you won’t find in the RSS or emails, you’ll have to come to the site to get them. I’m also going to be doing a podcasting segment with Josh Brown for the Nick and Josh Podcast, I’ll link to it when it’s up and running. Oh, and if you haven’t subscribed to my blog let, please do so.

So, we’ll see if any new changes come this way, but for now, enjoy your weekend. Hopefully I’ll have a baby by the end of mine.

Space: More Or Less? (Reflections on Community)

From The Suburban Christian

American houses are larger by far than those in other societies – the average size of an American single-family home has increased from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,329 square feet today. The typical American has 718 square feet of living space per person, compared to 442 square feet in Canada and just 170 square feet in Japan.

I currently live in a house (2 units in a triplex, think of it as a big house with an outdoor hallway) with 9 other people. Our home is about 2100 sq. ft. total space, averaging 233 sq. ft./ per person. Two of the 9 are small children, you decided if that’s more or less impeding on others space.

It’s interesting because a lot of people who come to visit and see our place often comment that we have a lot of space, and there is some truth to that. 2100 sq. ft. is much bigger then any apartment we’ve lived in. Even just the common areas are much bigger then our old apartments, however, on a square feet per person basis, we have much less then most people. Do we have more space or less?

I wonder if people often respond with the comment that we have a lot of space because their idea of community is being trapped in a small place with no room for privacy. That seems to be one of the common response people give to us when we talk about community. “I could never do that, I need my privacy.” “We need our family time.” “My alone time is important.” The responses and excuses go on and on.
It’s funny because you often want to reply, “I value privacy, alone time, and family time too!” Community isn’t as evasive as it’s made out to be.

I’ve said before that it’s all a matter of boundaries. We are taught by our culture that appropriate boundaries for a married couple is their own front door, bathroom and kitchen. Families might even need their own fence, with a yard and play things. Yet, the majority of the worlds couples and families are lucky if they even have a separate room! It’s time we consider changing our expectations of appropriate boundaries. I feel blessed we can have our own private bedroom, but I’m totally open and fine with sharing a bathroom, living room, kitchen and front door with others.

What are your boundaries? How much space do you really need?

The Very Resistible Revolution

Tonight, it’s Wednesday again, and for the past many weeks we are supposed to have a Book Study on the book by Shane Claiborne called the The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. It’s a great book, and it was instrumental in three of our community (meaning the people I live with: Daniel, Josh and Chris specifically) members decision to radically change their life and join our little community venture in Christ-like living.
Anyways, back to the book study. The book study is part of Josh and Daniel’s church, it was one of many community group options this fall at their rather large church. It started off great, with about 8-10 folks signed up to come (plus those already at our house), and for the first night most showed up. Some even showed up for the second night and a few stayed around to the third or fourth. But then things seemed to drastically drop off.
Maybe it was the decision’s to put down our books for a couple Wednesday evenings and help a women in the church’s neighborhood fix up her house that had been ransacked by area drug dealers. Maybe it was conversation about giving up your stuff, stopping our rampant consumerism, or loving Jesus by loving others to the point of real sacrifice. Maybe it was when Shane’s book started talking about war, or hanging out on the streets with homeless folks, or throwing money out on Wall Street to declare a jubilee.

Whatever it was, it’s caused us in the community to think a little about the decisions we’ve made. We’ve realized the revolution is extremely resistible. Not many people want to talk about a faith that requires more of us then we are willing to give. That includes me. It’s a lot easier for me to resist the revolution when I surround myself with others who will acknowledge with me that there is no revolution, or if there is we are already a part of it, without making much change in our lives.

All that to say, I’m quite thankful for my community, they are leading me into the revolution whether I try to resist or not. Is your community doing that for you?

You won’t question it, unless you step out of it.

It’s extremely difficult to recognize and acknowledge that what you are doing is wrong. It’s much easier after the fact, or when you are not in the midst of your crime, to reconsider things and give an opportunity to entertain the otherside.
So many arguments are often worthless because we are such stubborn creatures, standing firmly in our opinion refusing to back down. It’s only after the argument when we’ve stepped out of defending our views that we can go back and acknowledge the correct views of our opponent.

Specifically, I’m talking about our lifestyles though. I’ll give some specific but controversial examples. It’s hard to willingly acknowledge the arguments of Walmart’s clothes being made in sweatshops, when we regularly shop there. It’s difficult to agree to the benefits of using less gas, when we have a long commute and drive everywhere. Seeing how good it is to compost or recycle or not eat red meat is tough, when it has never been a regular part of your lifestyle.

This is one of the reasons I’m so excited to be living in the community that we are a part of now. All of us have chosen to step out of our normal lifestyles and come together to live in an intentional way. The way we are living is a bit different then are lifestyles have been in the past. What is exciting is that this will give us a huge opportunity to consider our faith again, and really address how we feel our faith is to be lived out in our lives. And, we are having the opportunity to do it, while not in the midst of a lifestyle that might strongly contradict what we want to acknowledge as part of our faith.

Step away.