Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Headed to Florida

Tomorrow I head off to Florida to officiate a funeral for a long time friend of our family, Dr. Fred Seilkop. Dr. Seilkop and my father have been long time friends and co-laborers in the harvest back to the Catholic Charismatic movement in the early 70's. Not sure how often I'll be posting, but I'll try to keep the blog updated.

Have a blessed New Years!

- John

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Another Video For "Window In the Skies"

The New Face of Philanthropy

Young, entrepreneurial philanthropists leave their mark on nonprofits here and abroad

Early employment at Google has enabled Khan and her husband Zain to become philanthropists in a fashion once reserved for wealthy retirees. They donate money, sit on nonprofit boards and volunteer.

Younger donors are fully invested in their contributions, seeking to apply their business savvy and expecting to see quantifiable outcomes from the organizations they fund. They also view their contributions as social investments. For them, the lines are blurring between for-profit and nonprofit ventures.

Analogies to venture capitalists and stock-market investors have begun to permeate the language of philanthropy.

Hero likened Silicon Valley charitable gifts to investing in the stock market. Through increasingly popular donor-advised funds through community foundations or financial management companies like Charles Schwab or Merrill Lynch, philanthropists are choosing to diversify their gifts.

Find the entire article here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Job Opening at NCUD

We have an opening (starting in January) for a program manager for youth programs and administrative assistant. It's one full time job split in two parts. Email me for further information and please spread the word!

Q and A With Aziza Mohmmand

Found this on Guy Kawasaki's blog. 15 Afghai women participated in a class on entreupenship at Thunderbird. Aziza Mohmmand is from Afghanistan who, through a micro enterprise loan, is changing the destiny of many in her country. She makes soccer balls and other goods in her factory. She says,
When the interim government announced its arrival in Afghanistan, I came back to Kabul and started my nonprofit organization named Moscau, and it was soon registered at the Department of Economy.

In my NGO, I trained more than 2,000 men and women in baking, sewing, leather treatment, ball assembly, carpentry, electrical, blacksmith, plumbing, computer, and English language. In the ball assembly department, I hired 200 trainees who were widows and their family’s bread winners. They had no opportunities to work elsewhere.

My intention was to make a difference in the life of women in Afghanistan and keep them busy while they have an income with an active role in the growth and building of the new infrastructure of the country.

Q. Where did you get the money to start the company?
A. I started with $5,000 personal savings. I also took loans from friends in the beginning. I was lucky to have $3,000 worth of machinery from my previous business which I could use in the leather goods production.

Q: What can someone who’s just a “regular person” do to help your country?
A: Anybody in any country can help his/her fellow human being. However, in an advanced capitalist country such as the US, entrepreneurs can greatly help the Afghans who are novices in investment. Americans can further provide social, economic, and humane support for Afghans. I need your support in order to better help the women in Afghanistan who are expecting my support.

Q: How many people work for your company?
A: There are 220 widows who are the bread winners of their families in ball assembly and forty women in the leather goods department. I also work with five masters who specialize in treatment of leather goods.

Q: How many balls do you sell per year?
A: In the first years we didn’t sell much, maybe 5,000 or 6,000 per year. In 2006, however, we sold 10,000 soccer balls, more than 3,000 children soccer balls, and 1,000 volleyballs. Our revenue in leather goods department was also good. Right now we have a contract with UNICEF for 173,000 school bags.

In the Bible the book of James states that true religion is caring for widows and orphans. What a fabulous example of empowerment and social action. I aspire to do the same kinds of things - with the forgotten and marginalized in our country.

How many lives can $5000.00 change?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pics of my niece and nephew in Florida

These are my sister Kelli's kids... Aren't they beautiful? You can see where Sam's red hair comes from...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Weird Al - "White and Nerdy"

Reinforcing stereotypes...

Book, "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism"

I heard this author on NPR last night. He wrote a book on the state of charitable giving in the US. I just ordered it - so this is more for information than endorsement. However, in the interview he confirmed what I already knew from experience. Some of the things he mentioned were:
- Conservatives tend to give much more than liberals. The inference is that liberals tend to rely more on government programs to solve societal issues.
- Government programs can sometimes have the opposite effect by impeding private donors from giving to causes.
- The most stable form of income for a non profit is through private donors.
- America gives a TON of money.


You can see the book here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cracked Pots Blog

I met Jose Humphreys yesterday. Been reading his blog - good stuff. Check it out here. If you haven't noticed - we sort of have a mutual admiration society going on;)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Four Way Video Chat

Good Times! Had a four way video chat today with Rudy from LA, Jeremy and Jose from NYC.

I borrowed an isight camera from Max. Gotta love macs (and Max...) - just plugged the camera in and I was good to go! All the rhetoric aside I really believe the Mac is such a superior machine.


- I've been golfing more lately. My friend Steve Zeisler from
Peninsula Bible Church has me golfing with a group of retired men each Friday. It really sucks to have a 75 year old man out drive you by 25 yards - so I'm recommitted to the game. Last Monday I snuck out for nine holes at dusk at Palo Alto Muni. I ended up golfing alone, sun setting, moon rising over the bay... like a slice of heaven, with a slicing golf ball. The pic does no justice.

Golfing with these gentleman has been one of the highlights of the week for me. All of them are men of faith who are still serving God faithfully. The wisdom I recieve from them is priceless. Please pray for Steve - he recently had knee replacment surgery and is laid up...

- My friend at church, Marche, got blessed with a new car (FREE)! Really - God is Good! Marche is a faithful servant. Yea God!

- Giants resign Barry Bonds... hmmm. $16 million a year to play 1/2 the season??? I guess it's good work if you can find it.
- Yanks resign Andy Pettitte. Good move I think. Ancillary note, I have a jersey with his number that I got at a clearance rack in NYC. Now I can hold my head up when I wear it!
- Dolphins CRUSH the Pats yesterday. Why couldn't they do this when it mattered?
- Went to a pastors appreciation service in SF last night for Pastor and First Lady Dorn. I really like them. They are a great example of folks following the call. Blessings to them and their church family.

- Sam took a random picture of himself with my camera phone. Gotta love him!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Grace and Good Works

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Therefore, remember..."

Eph 2:9-11a

God, help me to do the works you prepared me to do so very long ago...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New U2 Song, "Window in the Skies"

Great Lyrics...

The shackles are undone
The bullets quit the gun
The heat that’s in the sun
Will keep us when there’s none
The rule has been disproved
The stone it has been moved
The grave is now a groove
All debts are removed

Oh can’t you see what love has done?
Oh can’t you see what love has done... what it's doing to me?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Now really, what would Jesus do?

There are many important discussions regarding the church floating around right now. Admittedly I am a right leaning liberal - meaning I'm progressive in my politics with a strong moral leaning. As those of you who read my blog know that I've been thrilled and encouraged by recent church leader's, namely Rick Warren and Joel Hunter, waking up to some of the pressing justice and poverty issues in the world. However, I'm saddened (but not surprised) by the reaction of extreme right wing evangelicals. In a recent ABC article rightly stated:
"This debate is just the latest in a number of contentious fights emerging within the Christian conservative community. Many evangelical Christians are openly questioning whether their leaders have focused too much on issues such as abortion while ignoring subjects more relevant to the vast majority of what's in the Bible — such as helping the poor and the sick.

"What would Jesus do?" they ask."

I am firmly in this camp. While against issues such as abortion I've chosen to focus on the root issues of our moral problems. I've found that by and large in urban communities most of the abortions are decided on economic (poverty) issues. Simply put, relieving poverty solves many (but not all) abortions.

David Kuo, who recently published a book on the White House faith based initiative office stated,
"Christians have spent so much time evangelizing their politics that they've really corrupted the name of Jesus," Kuo said.

He responded to those criticizing Warren by writing on his blog, "Are they so blind and possessed with such a narrow definition of life that they can think of life only in utero?"

However in a answer I believe is typical of many narrow minded evangelicals, Rev. Rob Schenck, who heads the National Clergy Council responded,
"We are not done with the big issues — again, the sanctity of life, marriage, our public expressions of faith in this country — we have not even begun to resolve these issues,"

When asked why Christian political leaders in Washington are more focused on preventing gays and lesbians from marrying than addressing poverty, Schenck said that's our "peculiar platform."

"Our peculiar platform is to address the paramount moral issues. That's our charge. That's my job," he said. "That is in fact in my job description." He said the morality issue sets the "direction for everything else."

"It's pretty tough to say, 'you should be concerned about that homeless woman on the street if in fact we have no respect for the dignity of human life,'" Schenck said.

The Bible that I read tells me that Jesus was less concerned about public morality issues than private morality issues. The gospels record Jesus' disdain for hypocrisy and moral posturing much more that sexuality and correctness. I applaud Warren and Hunter for being prophetic. They are fast becoming the Christian moral compass pointing to the issues at the heart of the gospel - the poor, the lost and those who need the Kingdom of God to change their lives.

Important discussions...

Read the entire article here.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

U2 - Mary J. Blige Video

This is one of my favorite songs. Earlier this year U2 did a remake for the One.org campaign, I believe. This is powerful...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

God's Whisper

"Everything we are, everything that is said to us, everything that happens to us is some kind of call from God. In fact, everything that happens is God's call to us either to accept what we should not change or to change what we should not accept so that the Presence of God can flourish where we are...

Finding God is a matter of living every minute of life to it's ultimate.

- Joan Chittister

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Quote for Today

"Faith is Action, Based upon Belief, Sustained by Confidence in God's Word and His promise to perform it"

-Dr. Gene Scott

Second New Leader Resigns From the Christian Coalition

The Rev. Joel Hunter, pastor of a nondenominational megachurch in Longwood, Fla., said he resigned as the coalition's incoming president because its board of directors disagreed with his plan to broaden the organization's agenda. In addition to opposing abortion and same-sex marriage, Hunter, 58, wanted to take on such issues as poverty, global warming and HIV/AIDS."My position is, unless we are caring as much for the vulnerable outside the womb as inside the womb, we're not carrying out the full message of Jesus,"

What a travesty! I have not been a great fan of the Christian Coalition mainly because of this issue. Yes, I'm undoubtedly against abortion - but I'm also against a host of issues including poverty, injustice, etc... If so called conservative Christian groups, which at times seem to be more of a mouthpiece for the Republican party than the Gospel, would broaden their embrace of issues then I would be much closer to their ideology. However, as is in this case, there seems to be a continued reluctance to look at the whole, even global view. I applaud Pastor Hunter for being bold and willing to take a stand.

I believe God is speaking to the church at this time - using voices like Pastor Hunter and Pastor Rick Warren. I feel He is calling His church to a greater awareness and commitment to fulfilling the commission to extend the Kingdom of God until He returns, hopefully soon. However - this very extension must come by, yes, preaching the Gospel, but also by serving the poor, protecting the environment and ministering to people with HIV/Aids. Will we hear the call?

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Google Stock Hits Record

I had to 'google' google to find this article... No wonder they have made so much money!

"Buy Google" became the cry of investors Tuesday as its shares surpassed $500 for the first time and kept climbing.

Mountain View-based Google closed Tuesday at $509.65, giving the search engine-turned-media heavyweight a market capitalization of $156 billion and making the eight-year-old firm more valuable than Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Coca-Cola, Mitsubishi, Chevron and AT&T.

An investor who bought 10 shares of stock in the company's August 2004 Dutch auction-style initial public offering would have turned his $850 into $5,040.80, a return of 493 percent on paper in little more than two years.

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Johnny Cash video, "God's Gonna Cut You Down"

Rick Ruben (founder of American Recordings and producer of all the content that resurrected Johnny Cash's career) wrote these beautiful words in the insert to American V: A Hundred Highways, Cash's first posthumous album.

We had a ritual to speak every day since just before June had passed.

One of the reasons for the ritual was actually Dr. Gene Scott, the outrageous televangelist who did a show explaining how he cured his own cancer by doing communion every day. His argument for how is worked was thought provoking. I told Johnny about it on the phone one afternoon, and the next time we were together in person we discussed it further. I had never taken communion before, so he had someone find his old communion kit. He hadn't used it in many years but he did that day and Johnny game me my first communion. We spoke about doing it every day, and that's when the ritual began. each day we would speak on the phone and Johnny would perform the communion rite. We would both visualize and internalize, eyes closed. It was performed as a meditation. A moment to connect deeply to spirit. Every call always ended the same way.

"I love you, John."
"I love you, Rick."

(Thanks for the content, Travis...)


The East Palo Alto Credit Union, a byproduct of an innovative partnership among Silicon Valley and Bay Area credit unions, has just announced the appointment of two key financial leaders. Two executives from local credit unions will provide the expertise to complete this project, which is designed to inspire investment in the community.

Stu Fisher, the new interim CEO, will finalize charter requirements and help locate a permanent CEO for the East Palo Alto operation.

“This project represents everything that is good about the credit union movement ~ by the community, for the community and people helping people toward greater economic empowerment. The East Palo Alto Credit Union will change lives significantly. It’s an honor to be part of such a legacy.”

Fisher is known for his work as vice president at Addison Avenue Credit Union, which started as a credit union serving Hewlett Packard and has since branched into the technology arena. It has 25 branches nationwide and $1.8 billion in assets.

Keith Troup, vice president of operations at Stanford Federal Credit Union, will set up operations, lending policies and procedures for the new project.

“East Palo Alto will now have the resources needed to make its citizens financially independent rather than having to suffer predatory lending institutions,” he said.

John Liotti, CEO of the Northern California Urban Development Corporation, said, “We're blessed and humbled to have Stu Fisher serve with us in completing this great task of empowering our community. And without the help of the Stanford Federal Credit Union, we would never have gotten to where we currently are in this project.”

The East Palo Alto Credit Union is scheduled to open in early 2007. It will serve local residents in English and Spanish, many of whom lack access to a bank. Some 65% of the residents in East Palo Alto are Latino. The new not-for-profit financial institution will be owned and operated by the residents. All profits will remain in the community.

In August, preliminary approval for the credit union charter was granted by the National Credit Union Administration. Credit unions throughout the region -- including Patelco in San Francisco and Community Trust in Modesto -- are working to coordinate efforts and build a $10 million asset base for the project. The project is modeled after successes in Modesto, Calif., Mississippi and North Carolina.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Report: East P.A. vice mayor made racist, derogatory comments to city staff

East Palo Alto politics are fascinating to watch. In many ways it's a small young city trying to legitimize and establish itself. EPA was founded only 25 years ago and began with a dream of self determination. It was almost named Nairobi to celebrate it's African American heritage, maybe should have been. At lease I wouldn't always have to explain that no, we are NOT the eastern part of Palo Alto. But I digress...

A report was recently issues about one of our local council members. Pete Evans is due to be the next mayor and there is some concerns about him taking the reigns of the city. Mr. Evans has done many things for the city over it's history but at times he takes a somewhat extremist stance on issues.

Either way, a recent Mercury News article states:
"East Palo Alto Vice Mayor Peter Evans has made racist comments and has attacked the character of some city employees, according to a City Council-commissioned report released this week.

Evans, who is African American, has made derogatory comments about Caucasians and verbally criticizes employees, investigator Karen Kramer wrote after interviewing 11 staff members and the five council members.

The council launched the $30,000 investigation June 27 after Assistant City Manager ML Gordon sent a letter to the city manager claiming Evans had created a hostile work environment. The council will discuss the report and possible responses at its Nov. 21 meeting.

Evans refuted the 21-page report's findings in a telephone interview Thursday.

Evans said the report is a political witch hunt intended to keep him from becoming mayor next year. Council members take turns as mayor and Evans said he is next in line.

"This report was done to keep the mayorship from happening," he said. "That's not what I think, that's what I know."

Read the entire article here.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

East Palo Alto Election Results

The voters spoke! East Palo Alto election night was successful for all the candidates and measures we were supporting. Measure C, the one I was specifically working on passed! It was a tough fight since a competing measure had to be defeated. But in the end, through the hard work of the EPA Fellowship of Faith and Peninsula Interfaith Action (PIA) we were successful. A local newspaper article stated:
"Mayor Ruben Abrica was celebrating his re-election to the City Council along with the passage of Measure C, a crime prevention initiative.

"The results show a willingness by the community to sustain what we're doing to reduce crime," he said Wednesday.

Measure C needed two-thirds approval to pass, and squeaked by with 68 percent of the vote. The measure will create a parcel tax for 10 years that will split funds between the Police Department and community groups.

The city's measure was in direct competition with Measure D, a similar initiative that would have granted all of the funds to the Police Department.

Abrica questioned the motive behind Measure D, since it was being touted by the same organizers of Measure E.

The measure lost after receiving only about 20 percent of the vote.

"The community saw through those two measures," Abrica said.

The funding Measure C will provide community groups is the missing link to fighting youth crime in the city, said Dr. Faye McNair-Knox, director of One East Palo Alto, a local nonprofit.

Some projects like after-school programs have had funding problems, McNair-Knox said. Measure C will hopefully solve some of those issues, she said.

"We think this is a huge step forward for the community," McNair-Knox said.

Read the entire story here.

In the other races, Ruben Abrica and David Woods were both reelected to the city council. Larry Moody from Menlo Park Presbyterian was elected to the school board. All very good things for our efforts in the city.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Interim CEO Joins NCUD's Efforts to bring Credit Union to East Palo Alto

Great News!

As you know, we have been seeking an interim volunteer CEO to serve NCUD's efforts to bring a community development Credit Union to East Palo Alto. We are now at a place where it’s critical to have someone with the right experience to help us complete and submit the final charter application to the National Credit Union Administration. Once the charter is completed the interim CEO will assist us in communication with the NCUA the search for a permanent CEO. The interim CEO will take the lead on the operations side of the plan with NCUD continuing to be the sponsoring organization and maintaining the community connections.

As a result of our request, Stu Fisher from Addison Avenue Credit Union stepped forward to serve in this role. Addison Avenue C.U. began as Hewlett Packard's Credit Union and have branched out to serve the technology sector. They now have 20 branches nationwide with $1.8 billion in assets.

Stu brings over 15 years experience in marketing, strategy, business development and general management for both entrepreneurial and established business groups. He serves as Addison Avenue's VP for Business Development and Retail Sales. He has a BA in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and a MBA in Finance and Accounting from the Kellogg Business School at Northwestern University in Ill.

We're blessed and humbled to have Stu serve with us in completing this great task of empowering our community.

However it gets even better!

In addition, Keith Troup from Stanford Federal Credit Union will also assist us in setting up our operations, lending policies and procedures. Keith is currently serving as the VP for Operations for Stanford CU. Stanford CU continues to be an amazing ally in our efforts. Without their help we would never have gotten to where we currently are in this project. Keith's will play a major role in helping us to complete this task! We’re thankful for John Davis, Margaret Wold, Michael Hiller, Indiana Ortega and all the Stanford CU staff for their help, encouragement and assistance in our efforts. They have been our ‘Cardinal Angels’!

God is good! Among many other faithful volunteers and organizations we have two outstanding men and leaders (in Stu and Keith) serving our community!

Please continue to pray for us as we strive to complete this great task. There are some significant milestones in terms of funding, deposits and planning we must reach in the upcoming weeks. Your prayers and support are playing a vital role in helping us more ahead! Please let me know how you can help us reach our goals!

New York Times Article, "A Neuroscientific Look at Speaking in Tongues"

"Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania took brain images of five women while they spoke in tongues and found that their frontal lobes — the thinking, willful part of the brain through which people control what they do — were relatively quiet, as were the language centers. The regions involved in maintaining self-consciousness were active. The women were not in blind trances, and it was unclear which region was driving the behavior.

“The amazing thing was how the images supported people’s interpretation of what was happening,” said Dr. Andrew B. Newberg, leader of the study team, which included Donna Morgan, Nancy Wintering and Mark Waldman. “The way they describe it, and what they believe, is that God is talking through them,” he said.

Contrary to what may be a common perception, studies suggest that people who speak in tongues rarely suffer from mental problems. A recent study of nearly 1,000 evangelical Christians in England found that those who engaged in the practice were more emotionally stable than those who did not. Researchers have identified at least two forms of the practice, one ecstatic and frenzied, the other subdued and nearly silent."

Read the entire story here.

Haggard, Tired and Poor...

It's been hard to go too far without hearing of the demise of giga church pastor and leader Ted Haggard. I have never been a big fan of the religious right although I am a committed Christ follower and pastor. My first reaction to the Haggard issue was one of pride, of which I had to repent.

Then I thought about my life. What if everything I have thought, looked at and even engaged in was brought to light. Who would I embarrass? What skeletons do I have in my personal closet. Maybe not of the sexual kind, but certainly ones of improper justification, pride, gluttony, selfishness.. Yes, I strive for holiness and purity but as the Psalmist and others before me I sometimes trip and have to fall back on the throne of grace. I'm praying for the Haggard family. As U2 once said, grace is the thought that moves the world.

-I was impressed at the letter that Haggard wrote over the weekend, and the one his wife wrote. You can view them HERE. I was around in the 80's during the Swaggart and Baker scandals. Ted took the high road and owned up to his issues. In the letter Haggard states:
… I am guilty of sexual immorality, and I take responsibility for the entire problem.

I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life. For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach.

Through the years, I’ve sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me. Then, because of pride, I began deceiving those I love the most because I didn’t want to hurt or disappoint them.

The public person I was wasn’t a lie; it was just incomplete. When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me. As a result, I did things that were contrary to everything I believe. …

Once I read these words I thought of King David and his cry to be clean in Psalm 51. It by no means excuses sin, but reminds of that where sin abounds grace abounds even more.

As I've thought about what has transpired I come up with the following thoughts:

- If we are Christ followers, we have to deal with the sin in our lives. As simple as it seems, it comes down to the daily struggle with sin and the need to 'crucify ourselves' daily. Sin damages our lives, it damages our families and friends it damages our effectiveness. Whether it be arrogance or sexual sin - we have to be brutish in dealing with our shortcomings.

- We as a church have to be much less arrogant and much more Christ like. The simple fact is this: if you're going to preach against homosexual marriage then don't frequent gay prostitutes! Sounds simple right? However as Christian leaders we tend to think we're above the law. There can be a compartmentalization of our lives where we can act one way in public and another way in private. We have to stop appearing 'holier than thou' and start being holy without words. That will do much more to change our culture than lobbying or marching. We must simply start being the church.

- Grace goes a long way. I'm so thankful that God is a restorer, deliverer, forgiver, cleanser, healer... The Blood of Christ is such a perfect sacrifice - covering all my sins.

- I need Jesus. I need more of Jesus in my life and less of me.

I've been reminded of the text in Revelation 4:17-20 that says:
...And you don't realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. I advise you to buy gold from me - gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. And also buy white garments so you will not be shamed by your nakedness. And buy ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I am the one who corrects and disciplines everyone I love. Be diligent and turn from your indifference.

Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.

I'm praying for the Haggard family. I'm also praying for my family...


Sunday, November 05, 2006

New check for credit opens door to housing for immigrants

"Creditors such as Citigroup Inc.'s Citibank see recent immigrants as a growing market niche, but those who lack Social Security numbers or legal status in the U.S. are often rejected by the three major credit bureaus.

A handful of new credit reporting systems already used by 200 real estate brokers, community groups and mortgage counselors nationwide allows them to calculate risk by evaluating a prospective client's utility bills and rent checks."

"Gateway states like California and Texas will disproportionately benefit from the housing boom because so manyof their residents are immigrants," said Gary Acosta, the association's co-founder, speaking from the group's annual convention in Las Vegas. "Boosting homeownership among these populations is a positive contribution to the overall fabric of our society and our economy."

Read the entire story here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Measure C Push To Victory Breakfast

As many of you know, I've been involved in the campaign for Measure C. Measure C is an East Palo Alto parcel tax that would provide over $1.7 million dollars annually to be split between the police force and local community organizations serving to combat youth violence in our community. The cost for each homeowner is about $2.00 a week. It excludes senior, renters and those with disability. Now - I'm no fan of taxes. But this measure is the City empowering itself to make a change. As for the cost - how much will house values go up if violence is dramatically reduced? It seems like a small investment and a winning idea to me.

Photos are from a rally we held in our building last Saturday. It's fun to see the space being used for community functions. One photo is of Mayor Reuben Abrica addressing the crowd, the other is of community leader Stewart Hyland training the folks...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Guy Kawasaki on... well... 'Idiots'

Most useful blog post I've seen in a long time. It's on how to deal with, well, to say it nicely for this blog ... jerks. Good stuff from Guy! This is a 'must click' link... Read it HERE. Note: not for the faint of heart or those who are offended by language...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Prison tour program tries to keep boys on right path

Program takes Oakland teens into San Quinten prison to spend a day with the inmates. The program is similar to the famous "Scared Straight" program from the '70's - but with a lighter touch. The stats quoted in the article are obscene. We have much to do to save the young men of our urban communities.

"More than 100 inmates in orange jumpsuits flashed gang signs and screamed at the four Oakland teenagers entering San Quentin Prison's cell block courtyard, urging the youths to join them and to "keep thuggin'." One boy turned his head, wincing as his gaze fell on an open-air toilet."

"Based on current trends, 32 percent of black males will enter state or federal prison during their lifetime, compared with 17 percent of Hispanic males and 5.9 percent of white males. Forty-six percent of jail inmates nationwide had a family member who has been incarcerated, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Studies show that teens have a greater chance of winding up behind bars if they have a father or uncle who has also been incarcerated. Pastor Brondon Reems of East Oakland's Center of Hope Church, who organized the program along with San Quentin Public Information Officer Lt. Vernell Crittendon, said warnings from inmates often have a greater impact on teens than admonitions from parents, teachers and church leaders."

Read the entire article HERE.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Oakland CCDA Institute Next Weekend (November 3rd and 4th)

Just a reminder about the upcoming CCDA Institute in Oakland next weekend. Be sure to register and attend! Bob Lupton will be speaking on Empowerment on Friday and Andy Bales on Relocation on Saturday. Please take advantage of this awesome opportunity! You don’t need to come to both days, each day is a module in itself. Please let me know if you have any questions.

I know the text is kinda small. Drop me a message and I'll send you an full size version. More information can be found HERE.

Best Comedy Bit Ever!

Abbot and Costello famous skit...

Caught Mehul Thakker on NPR Yesterday

I heard the Green candidate for Treasurer, Mehul Thakker on NPR yesterday. He made a ton of sense. I was impressed by his priorities and articulation. He's worth checking out. He spoke of community development credit unions and issues of micro finance and economic justice. However, he didn't come across as a bright eyed liberal either. Check him out here. He seems to be a bright young thinker.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Seeking Interim CEO for East Palo Alto Federal Credit Union

Below is a position description for an interim CEO for the emerging East Palo Alto credit union. If you know of anyone with the appropriate experience and could serve in this capacity, please forward this on to them. We are coming to a critical juncture and we need to fill this position as soon as we can. Initially we're looking for a volunteer but there is a possibility of a small stipend. There is also a possibility of this position growing into a full time paid position for the right candidate.

If there are any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.

TITLE: Interim CEO, East Palo Alto Federal Credit Union
REPORTS TO: CEO - Northern California Urban Development
TIME COMMITMENT: 5 to 10 hours per week


This position will serve NCUD’s efforts toward establishing East Palo Alto Federal Credit Union. This will require a broad range of skills including financial management experience, volunteer leadership and strategic implementation.

Work to complete credit union chartering application. This includes completion of business plan, compiling survey data and necessary forms.

Work with NCUD staff to develop credit union board of directors and appropriate committees

Serve on committee to hire full-time CEO

Bachelor’s degree and broad knowledge in the financial services industry or a minimum of five years of progressive management experience in the financial services industry.

Seasoned professional with strong business development, corporate strategy and marketing acumen. Prior management experience with P&L responsibility preferred.

John Liotti - CEO, NCUD

Monday, October 23, 2006

Statement From Pat Tillman's Brother About the Iraq War

Interesting comments from Pat Tillman's brother. Also interesting are the comments to his article. This is a unique time for our nation - and a time where we are called to speak truth and perspective. Read the post here.

Blogger Slacktivist on Public Funds for Small Non Profits

Post by blogger Slacktivist regarding small ministries taking federal funds. Interesting point of view. Read his comments here.

Would Defeat in Iraq Be So Bad?

"While the Ford and Carter administrations worked hard to cushion the falling dominoes (after the Vietnam conflict), the Asian dominoes moved quickly to save themselves by buttressing our power. We can't expect to be as lucky with the denizens of the gulf region. And we certainly wouldn't make our luck by staying the course and hiding behind Bush's fears of Middle East dominoes. We need him to unstrap America's still muscular diplomacy to seed the antiterrorist soil within Iraq, to structure a regional peace among states that cringe from regional war, to blunt the disasters of chaos and defeat--and perhaps even to snatch successes beforehand."

Interesting viewpoint on the Iraq situation. Read the entire article here.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Thanks for Praying - Update on Melissa

Whew, what a crazy couple of weeks. Some of you know that my wife Melissa had a minor accident two Saturdays ago when she tripped coming out of St. Samuel and fell on a piece of glass. She tweaked her back, twisted her ankle and cut a huge gash in her hand. After a frantic ride to the emergency room she required stitches. The doctors said she would need surgery. Immediately many thoughts go through your mind. Will she be alright? Will there be permanent damage? Thinking about surgery is never a fun option, for whatever reason.

We have an amazing extended family here in East Palo Alto (and in the blog community). Many came to our aid with many things, the most important being prayer. Melissa was incapacitated, her hand wrapped up so she wouldn't tear the stitches, her back and ankle out of commission. Of course sleeping was difficult.

However, good new was forthcoming. While it seemed inevitable at the time of the accident, the hand surgeon determined that in fact she hadn't severed a tendon in her hand. Feeling and movement was returning and therefore she did not need surgery! God is good. She had her stitches removed last Thursday and returned to work full time on Friday.

I'm grateful that God protected us during this time. I'm grateful for health insurance. I'm also thankful to all of you for your prayers and help.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Gospel Bob

As I mentioned before, my dad took me to see Dylan in the early 80's, during his 'Christian' era. The show impacted me forever. Is he still a Christian? I don't know (it's not really for me to know). I still hear alot of the Gospel in his lyrics. Here's three videos I found from this era... Pretty powerful! His voice was clear and strong. I've seen Dylan a number of times - I think he sang with more passion and heart in these shows than ever.

Here's three songs from the album 'Saved' called 'What Can I Do For You?' and 'Are You Ready?' and 'When He Returns'. Kinda reminds me of St. Samuel on a Sunday morning!

What Can I Do For You?

Are You Ready?

When He Returns

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bono / Alicia Keyes - Don't Give Up On Africa Video


Group Plans Strategies To Help Low-Income Community Development CUs

Credit union professionals met at the Silicon Valley United Way in San Jose last week to discuss the needs and challenges of low-income community development credit unions.

The meeting, hosted by the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (NFCDCU), was the second time the group has come together this year. During the all-day roundtable, the group discussed the networking opportunities and resources available to low-income community development credit unions.

The morning session focused on sharing resources, challenges, and information among the group and the afternoon was spent brainstorming action steps to help meet community development credit union challenges. A large emphasis was placed on the need for maximized partnerships between community development credit unions and their neighboring established credit unions.

League President and CEO Bill Cheney; VP of Research, Communications, and Public Affairs Lucy Ito; and Director of Research and Information Rita Fillingane attended the meeting and discussed the resources available through the League, including its Research & Information Consulting Hotline, Shapiro Group listserv and grants, and the new Community Development Credit Union listserv. Fillingane has been named as the League liaison for this group.

“Assistance to small credit unions including low-income credit unions has been identified as a priority area by the Assembly Delegates of the California Credit Union League,” said Cheney. “The League looks forward to working with the network and NFCDCU to build alliances and partnerships with other credit unions and system affiliates.”

NFCDCU Executive Director Cliff Rosenthal and NFCDCU Associate Director of Member Services Pablo DeFilippi also shared the resources available from NFCDCU, including grants and training classes. Two NFCDCU board members were in attendance as well: Episcopal Community FCU Board Member Marv Jensen, and Community Trust CU Community Development Director Sandell McLaughlin, who was instrumental in arranging the day’s meeting. Also in attendance was John Liotti, CEO of Northern California Urban Development Corporation and organizer of the proposed East Palo Alto Community FCU, which recently received preliminary field of membership approval from the NCUA.

In addition, Orange County Teachers FCU (OCTFCU) Division Assistant Gianfranco Piccollo gave an update on the credit union’s plan and progress to get Comunidad Latina FCU up and running. Comunidad Latina FCU just recently received its charter from the NCUA and expects to open its doors to serve the community of Santa Ana by year end. OCTFCU, along with several other area credit unions, provided the resources and funding to help bring the community development credit union to that underserved community.

Following an afternoon brainstorming session, attendees formed working groups to devise strategies aimed to help meet the challenges outlined earlier in the day. They focused on:

Education for the credit union community about the needs and challenges of community development credit unions.
Funding sources, including grants and specialized investment products.
Partnerships with other credit unions, NFCDCU, the League, and other worthy organizations.
Political benefits of working with community leaders and other non-profit organizations to develop policy statements and policy agendas.

The group plans to meet again after the first of the year.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bob Dylan Show

Sam and I went to see Dylan last night in SF. It was fun having him along with me. It's somewhat of a tradition since my father took me to see him when I was about 12 - my first real concert.

Dylan was great, as usual. He is traveling with an outstanding band. Here's the setlist:
1. Maggie's Farm
2. She Belongs To Me
3. Lonesome Day Blues
4. Simple Twist Of Fate
5. Rollin' And Tumblin'
6. Boots Of Spanish Leather
7. 'Til I Fell In Love With You
8. I Shall Be Released
9. Highway 61 Revisited
10. John Brown
11. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
12. Workingman's Blues #2
13. Summer Days

14. Thunder On The Mountain
15. Like A Rolling Stone
16. All Along The Watchtower

I've seen Bob a few times over the last year. Each show is different. My friend Steve and I saw him twice together, once at the HP Pavillian in San Jose and once at the Paramount in Oakland. Both were outstanding. Melissa and I saw him at the Greek Theatre in Bereley and once in Reno. For me the show at the Greek and in San Jose were the best. Last night was great - but made better because Samuel was with me.

Best songs last night were Simple Twist of Fate, I Shall Be Released, Summer Days and the encore set.

Go see Dylan if you have the chance... Even as an older man he is still vibrent and relevant. He's been able to adjust his sound as his voice changes.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Time Magazine Article - Book on Faith Based Initiative Office

Time Magazine article on a book by David Kuo called,"Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction."
...I am finding the courage to speak out about God and politics and their dangerous dance. George W. Bush, the man, is a person of profound faith and deep compassion for those who suffer. But President George W. Bush is a politician and is ultimately no different from any other politician, content to use religion for electoral gain more than for good works. Millions of Evangelicals may share Bush's faith, but they would protect themselves—and their interests—better if they looked at him through the same coldly political lens with which he views them.

It's an interesting article. However, I know personally of two faith based organizations who have benefited from federal funding, namely the Latino Coalition for Faith Based and Community Initiatives and La Eeperanza. A friend of mine was also involved in setting up the office in the White House. Politics, from a local to a national level is a tough game. It's not always easy to figure out whois wrong or right.

Read the entire article here.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Micro-Credit Pioneers Recieve Nobel Peace Prize

Bangladeshi microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for advancing economic and social opportunities for the poor that has helped millions lift themselves from crushing poverty.

In awarding them the prize, the Nobel Committee said their efforts showed how working to eliminate poverty can result in a lasting peace.

"Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty," the committee said in its citation. "Microcredit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights."

Read the entire article here.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Larry Moody for Ravenswood School Board

I'm happy to support Larry in his campaign for our local school board. Larry is a great guy and has done much for our community including leading the charge to revitalize MLK and Jack Farrell Parks. Larry serves as the urban ministry director for Menlo Park Pres. Read his position paper here. His wife Lisa works with my wife Melissa at New Creation Home.

Message from Dennis Parker, "Will East Palo Alto be Another Katrina?"

The rain has returned, and the San Francisquito Creek levee adjacent to East Palo Alto has not been repaired. The mayor declared a local state of emergency last February and funds were recently allocated. But no construction has begun. This means that East Palo Alto residents—especially those in the Gardens neighborhood—are at great risk for a disaster if the levee breaks from the combination of winter storms and high tides. Please make this an issue when you speak to candidates for City Council, and let it guide you when you vote this November.

Although collaboration discussions are underway with the school district, medical clinic, and local emergency response agencies, there is no published disaster preparedness plan, and the community forums that were promised have not taken place, to my knowledge. At the Special Joint City Council/Ravenswood School District Meeting last Tuesday, Councilmember Pat Foster asked that the City meet with the Gardens Neighborhood Association within the next three weeks, but it sounded more like a comment than a commitment (the Gardens Neighborhood Association meets on the second Saturday of each month).

There has been a lot of activity along the levee, and I will give you my detailed observations in another message. In the meantime, be reminded that government agencies from the Federal to the local level have cautioned you that in the event of a widespread disaster—such as an earthquake or a flood,--you are on your own for the first three-to-seven days. On the positive side, emergency preparedness agencies have published a wealth of self-help literature on what to do before, during, and after a disaster. I’ll point you to some of these resources soon, as I did last year.

In the meantime, this would be a good time to refresh you emergency supplies, update your emergency contact list, and review your personal evacuation plan.

Dennis J. Parker
Community Advocate

SF Chronicle Article on Asian Sex Trade

Informative article on the Asian sex trade. I didn't know that the sex industry is over 4% of Korea's economy. Many sex slaves end up in the Bay Area. Read the article here.

No Joy In Mudville - or EPA

Man, could yesterday have been the worst day of my life? The Tigers (yes, those Detroit Tigers, the one's who haven't won a playoff game since the Taft administration) pounded the Yankees. My beloved Yanks are out... down and out. Now we'll have to spend the off season counting our world series rings - but only to 26.

During the 7th inning I get a frantic call from Cheryl Bains. My wife Melissa tripped on the steps at church, falling on to a piece of glass. She cut her hand deeply, twisted her ankle and tweaked her back. It was a full production with fire trucks, police cars and a frantic ride to the hospital emergency room (in my car, not the ambulance). Next week it's surgery to repair a torn ligament in her hand. Bummer. What a day!

Please pray for Melissa...

No joy in mudville.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Foley / Packard Blues

The last couple of weeks has brought a couple of major scandals to light, namely the issue with Rep. Mark Foley and the Hewlett-Packard spying scandal. Both are huge lapses in ethical judgment. Foley, who served as the Chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children steps down after ABC news uncovered alleged sexually explicit messages with 16 and 17 year old male congressional pages. HP, one of Silicon Valley's banner companies spies on its own board, staff and journalists. Chairperson Patricia Boyd, along with four others, faces charges for conspiracy, identity theft and fraud.

Foley's issue may have sealed the deal for a Democratic take over of congress. Silicon Valley is reeling.

The press is having a field day. There is nothing more salacious than a politician being charged with a sexual crime, or a juicy corporate scandal. We love gossip, love standing on the sidelines when those who are richer, prettier, smarter or more recognized fall or stumble. Why else would voyeuristic reality shows retain their popularity?

As I struggle to resist my tendency to watch these stories unveil while wearing a sly grin, I thought about my own life. What if...? What if my choices, decisions and actions were brought to light for the whole world to see? This is not to excuse a politician who pledged to protect the helpless turn (allegedly) into a predator himself. But what about me? It's easy for us to scoff, kick the dirt and cast a stone. But what about my life?

The Gospel calls us to, while being a prophetic voice for the poor and helpless, look deeply into the mirror and search our own souls for the duplicity and deceit we find within. No excuses for Foley, HP, Clinton, Bush, Enron and the like. But, along the same lines, no excuses for John. No excuses for the church.

Today I woke up thinking about the familiar text from he dedication of Solomon's temple:

"At times I may shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or I might command the locusts to devour your crops, or I might send plagues among you. Then if my people, which are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land. I will listen to every prayer made in this place, for I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be my home forever. My eyes and my heart will always be here."- 2 Chr. 7:13-16.

(Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that under the New Covenant our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.)

While I'm grieved by each and every scandal and indiscretion that comes to light - I'm reminded that the church has a specific role to play in our society - as salt and light. Could it be that the strength of our country rests not on the congress or business leaders, but on the church's humility and acts of repentance, falling into our Father's arms of grace? Could it be that the simple yet profound act of caring for the widow or orphan will have a much greater impact than a political campaign or press conference? Jesus calles us to be people to be who do simple 'mustard seed' acts of faith. Small things making huge impact.

Let the church be the church, in humility and prayer speak truth, care for the poor, commit to living in a redemptive community. If we do so we extend the blessing of the Kingdom and impact the world waiting for His return. We used to sing a song at St. Peters Catholic Church, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Reflections on the CCDA Conference / NYC

Currently returning from the east coast. I'm happy to headed home - but wish I knew the score from the Yankee game!…Go Yanks! (They won! what a lineup!)

CCDA was again a great event. CCDA tends to be more like a reunion and networking meeting than a conference. It continues to be the one place where I consistently do more networking and ‘pollinating’ than anywhere else. I read something in the New York Post today regarding social networking styles. I discovered there are ‘butterflies’; those who flutter around pollinating and ‘dolphins' those who run in tight ‘smart’ networking groups. It seems to me that CCDA is much more of a ‘dolphin’ group. It’s a pleasure to be with folks who understand what I’m doing and sharpen my vision and goals. It’s also great to be inspired by the speakers and conference attendees.

Pastor Bains and Gilbert from the NCUD board went with me to the conference. Certainly one of the highlights was in being with them. We shared a room; Gilbert graciously took the hide a bed. It was fun to be able to introduce them to the CCDA experience. We even went to Pat's for an autentic Philly cheese steak!

I had a great conversation with Amy Sherman at Ele:vate /Economis. Amy impressed me. She has the unique quality of being truly brilliant with great social skills. We talked extensively about a collaboration with NCUD where we would use her ‘token economy’ as part of our Youth Credit Union Program (YCUP), as well as serve to introduce the curriculum to other community based organizations in the area. The essence of her program is that the kids ‘earn’ credits through whatever criteria we set up (i.e. Grades, attendance in a particular program, public service...) They manage a virtual checking and saving account make investments using real time wall street values and can even have a credit account set up. They can visit an online store and purchase real items (that we would receive through in kind donations), based on the money they have and have earned. This provides the incentive that other financial literacy programs don’t have and has been one of my concerns about starting a youth program. We’re looking at other models - but so far she has some of the best components I’ve seen.

Each morning at the conference Dr. John Perkins does a Bible study. For me, it is one of the highlights of each year’s conference. Dr. Perkins continues to be a major influence on me. I’m amazed that he can be evangelical in his attitude toward sharing the Gospel while being socially conscience. For a man with a third grade education, he handles the Word adeptly. Tony Campolo also spoke. He was great. He spoke about having a ‘testimony - living life in such a way so that your actions and experiences mean something at the end. I remember hearing Tony 1980Â’s and as a teenager being deeply impacted about his messages about poverty and being a true Christian.

Other than that - I attended some great workshops including one by Larry Acosta on fund raising. It was a joy to catch up with Phil Jackson, Marcos Gamez, Jeremy Del Rio, Rudy Carrasco, Noel Castellanos, Erik Iverson, Crissy Brooks and many other friends. One highlight was the time I had with Pastor Dan Hutt from Palo Alto Christian Reformed. We talked much about our lives, ministries, networking, collaborating…. I hope I can see him more on the ‘left coast’ than having to travel to Philly to see someone who lives two miles away!

After the conference I hopped a Greyhound to New York to spend a two days in the city. I stayed at Jeremy Del Rio’s father’s church near the East Village. Abounding Grace is a great church reaching lower Manhattan. They have a growing and active congregation. They are working out of a four story building right in the center of all the action. I stayed ‘YWAM’ style, on an air mattress in the youth room.

I arrived on Sunday and traveled out to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to hang with Jeremy and his son Judah at a street faire. I had a great New York Italian sausage and peppers sandwich and watched Judah run his father around looking for a toy and trying to bankrupt Jeremy with tickets for the jumpy houses. After the faire we met up with Jeremy’s wife Diana and drove to Chinatown to have ‘soup dumplings’ at Joe’s. Man, those dumplings are awesome. Judah LOVES them. It was fun watching him tear them apart. Made me miss Samuel.

On Monday Jeremy and I spent a few hours hanging out and talking about life and ministry. One of his board members has a restaurant on the ‘NoHo’ part of Manhattan. After an awesome lunch I went and visited my cousin Michael at his business on 39th and 7th, in the Fashion District. I then walked around the city, praying, listening to U2 and taking pictures. I stopped in St. PatrickÂ’s Cathedral on 5th Ave to meditate and pray. I prayed specifically for East Palo Alto and the Measure C meeting that happened on Monday night. I capped the night off visiting with Jason Lewis, a friend and former BCM summer intern.

Tuesday was spent packing, grabbing a final few minutes with Jeremy (it’s his birthday) and taking the train to JFK for the trip home. We walked by the famous 'CBGB" club. I remember going by there in the late 80's when it was in a seedy neighborhood. Now it's in the central part of the a revitalized area. Gentrification is touching all of our cities. CBGBs is due to close this month. It was the incubator for famous artits and bands like The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads and others. The end of an era. It makes me believe that San Fran and Austin are the best places to see live music - even better than NYC.

I’m thankful to God for allowing me to go to the conference and NYC for this last week. I feel reenergized and ready to continue driving toward the vision we have for the city.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Time Mag Article - "A Racial Rift That Isn't Black and White"

Time just did an article on Black / Brown racial tension. In EPA we've had many issues around this - especially regarding violence between Latinos and Blacks. Rudy Carrasco has been working on a conference to specifically address this issue. Please pray for his efforts.

Read the Times article here.

Marcos Gamez Highlighed in Moody Bible's Alumni Mag.

Go Marcos! Read the article here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Homicide in EPA / Off to the CCDA Conference

As I write this I’m flying the first leg of the trip to Philadelphia to attend the Christian Community Development Association’s (CCDA) yearly conference. CCDA is the organization founded by Dr. John Perkins. At the conference will be about 2000 pastors and leaders who are engaged in or care about community development activities in a Christian context. For more about CCDA there is a link on the right. I’m thrilled to have Pastor Bains and NCUD board member Gilbert Chaidez joining me for the conference. I’ll try to post updates during the next few days. After the conference I’m going to travel up to New York to have with Jeremy Del Rio and hopefully Dimas Salaberrios as well at take a day or so in the city. I love New York…

Many know that I’ve been training to be a chaplain for the East Palo Alto police department. The chaplaincy was recently started by Pastor Bains to serve the needs of the department and community. I prayed about whether or not I should serve in this way. I’m so busy already. But, I had a clear sense that God was calling me to do this and that this is an area in which I can make a difference.

Thankfully this year has been more peaceful year in the city. Last year we had 15 homicides. This year, while starting horribly with the murder of police officer Richard May, has been relatively quiet in comparison. I attribute the difference to prayer, the community’s response to the violence and good leadership by Chief Ron Davis.

After church on Sunday and Samuel’s baseball game we settled in for a quiet night together. We were preparing Sam for a week away at science camp and I for the CCDA trip. I was preparing a late supper (a new recipe…) for the family, chatting on the phone with my mother when Pastor called. Moments before I heard the cacophony of sirens. We live on the route for fire trucks, so sirens are not uncommon. However, this time something seemed more urgent. I remarked to Melissa when I heard the sound, “Something is wrong, too many sirens.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t surprised when Pastor called.

Pastor asked me to come to Three Brothers Taqueria on University Avenue. Only five hours before we grabbed a burrito after church and before Sam’s game. We are frequent customers of Three Brothers. The pasta was just reaching the ‘al dente’ stage - so I quickly finished up the meal preparation, changed clothes and jumped in the car to head to the scene.

When I arrived at the corner of University two Highway Patrolmen blocked the intersection. I identified myself as a police chaplain and they allowed me through. I parked on the corner of Bell and University and waited for Pastor to arrive. Police cars surrounded the taqueria. Once Pastor arrived we walked into the scene where a covered body was laying on the ground. We were escorted into the restaurant to assist with the patrons who witnessed the event. Many were shaken; the restaurant prior to the event was busy filled with lots of people including families with small children. We stayed in the restaurant for a time, speaking to and praying with the patrons who requested. After a short while we were asked to follow a rather large policeman to speak to the family.

Months before at our training we practiced making a death notification. The training itself was intense and disturbing, the ‘real thing’ is indescribable. I’m very thankful that we had that practice. Without it I would have had no reference on how to conduct myself. The family, upon receiving notification erupted into wailing and tearful grief. The policeman, having to attend to the investigation, left us with the family. We did all we could do to offer prayer and comfort. All of our efforts to me felt insignificant, but nonetheless I know it’s vital to the family and their healing process. Pastor Bains, thankfully, called another female chaplain to help. In addition we called the local Catholic priest and the pastor to the victim and his survivors. I was especially impressed with Father. He is an older man with many years of ministry under his belt. He was composed, focused, relaxed, attentive, compassionate and ‘loose’ at the same time. I could tell he had done this before. His experience and demeanor taught me a lot.

Our role as a chaplain is two fold. Our first priority is to care for the family, doing what is called the ‘ministry of presence’. The second is to be available to serve the police department in any way they request; water, food, running ‘interference’, serving as a liaison with the family when requested. There are two types of chaplains, law enforcement (of which I am) and community. The law enforcement chaplains have the added blessing to provide pastoral counseling and support to the police department.

The evening was long. Each time a family member would arrive to the scene the crying would begin anew their grief inconsolable. It was especially hard to hear the victim’s mother asking God, “Why?” Throughout the night the family would ask for information about the investigation and process. They, understandably wanted to see the body - but because of the circumstances and the case that wasn't possible . In all, we were there for around five hours.

The evening ended with Pastor Bains, Father Goode and I kneeling before the body as Father administered the last rights. The remaining police officers looked on with respect.

I learned much that night the call of God to provide comfort the grieving, the need to continue the fight against violence and injustice, the need for the Gospel to penetrate and create change in lives and communities. I walked away with a greater respect for the police department and the work they do. I’ve at times been critical of some police tactics and approaches. There are many heroic officers who have a horrible and unending task to do. There are many brave men and women who serve us. I’m privileged to support them.

Please continue to pray for our city. This was our third homicide for the year; I pray it’s our last. We’re concerned about an upsurge of violence in the city and need the Body of Christ to cover us with thoughts and prayers for protection and peace. While I wish it was, I’m sure this won’t be my last call to provide prayer and assistance to the police department and the city. I have much to learn - many ways to grow. The presence of Christ has meant so much to me. So many people have been agents of God’s peace in my life. It’s the least I can do to offer the same peace to others.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sarah McLachlan Video Produced for $15.00 to Combat Poverty

Surf over to the 'world on fire' website to see a Sarah McLachlan's video new video. She produced a video for $15.00 and donated the $150,000 usually spent for a video to combat world hunger. It's stunning... What a commentary of abundance and need. This kind of imagery reminds me of why I do what I do... Go Sarah!

(BTW - this is my 100th post... Time to open a bottle of bubbly!)

Prosperity preacher Creflo Dollar Comes To the Bay

Creflo Dollar, one of the leading purveyors of the what I believe is a heretical and damaging theology was in Oakland yesterday for what they call the "Change" convention. The article in the Chronicle has a sidebar with the quote from Dollar (yes, that's his real name),

"I don't care what you favorite preaches says. I'm giving you what the Lord says. The Lord says to live life in abundance."

I'm shocked by that statement. I'm incensed that someone as for away from Atlanta would stand in the pulpit and actually discourage people from listing to their own preacher or pastor, setting himself up as speaking the Lord's very own words. The Jesus I know said quotes like, "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it" and "Seek first God's kingdom and righteousness"

This is not the Gospel I know or preach. This is a damaging gospel influenced by all that is bad in the contemporary American culture. I remember, as a young man in the 80's when the 'Word of Faith" movement swept our small southern Assembly of God. I remember how that doctrine turned the church from a outreach church to an inreach church. I watched the congregation focus more on what they had or could get then what the message of the Gospel was and how it changes society. I'm saddened to see that these crooks are turning their focus to the inner city.

In my view, any preacher who tells you that God will bless you if you give, then takes an offering for his own ministry is a manipulator and a crook. God will bless you when you give, but don't use God and me to pad your personal wallet. I'm glad that God blesses and takes care of the innocent. My heart goes out for those who are manipulated by these preachers.

I live in an area where there is phenomenal wealth. We're in the Silicon Valley - surrounded by Google, Sun, Apple - and the people who started those companies. I've seen two things:

- Rich folks aren't always happy. They have everything - but still lack.
- Rich folks who use their wealth to extend the Kingdom of God are some of the coolest people I know. I've watched some people use the money they made in the tech industry do amazing things with their resources. They've used their wealth to change the world.

I'm not against money - and, heck, I like to pay my bills and have nice things as much as the rest. But - I believe, as Jesus said, that if we seek the Kingdom first - everything else would come. I don't want too much money, I might forget God, I don't want too little money, I might get angry... I want enough to care for my family, have a good time every once in a while and serve the Kingdom...

The funny thing is I believe that many church folks, especially pentacostals, are looking for a release from a legalistic religion that doesn't allow for any type of enjoyment or expression. I wonder if part of the attraction to these preachers and events is that they are fun but it's couched in religious jargon? It's not the same old 'woe is me' religion. In our churches the message of grace is sometimes lost. If we preached grace, fiscal discipline and a Kingdom mentality. I think we'd serve our folks better and not be tempted to believe such foolish lies that are contrary to Kingdom values. I want our church to be prosperous - but in God's way and not man's.

"The challenge of this convention is to change the way you think; you are not going to be peaceful and happy in life if you are broke," Dollar, his real name, told the more than 2,500 gathered at the Oakland Convention Center. "Some Christians need to get a life, to enjoy life in abundance and stop taking everything so serious. "Get a boat or a Jet Ski. It's all right to enjoy life."

Prosperity preaching has been around since the 1980s but has reached new levels as ministers build megachurches and gain notoriety through television shows. Though gaining in popularity, prosperity preaching has its critics.

The Rev. J. Alfred Smith, pastor at Oakland's Allen Temple Baptist Church, said he considers himself in a different camp than Dollar. "I preach Gospel to the poor in the East Oakland flatlands," Smith said in a telephone interview. "The tradition in which I stand puts emphasis on justice and peace and endeavoring to rectify the plight of the poor.

"I do not believe the purpose of the church is to make us capitalists."

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Les Moonves and CBS - Focus and Leadership

I caught Leslie Moonves the current CEO of CBS on Charlie Rose. (God bless Tivo!) He has taken over CBS led a transformation in the network. CBS, going from last place in programs has come to first with shows like CSI, Survivor and others. He led a successful split of CBS and Viacom which led to a sharp incline in stock process - making CBS a Wall Street favorite.

With the current scandal at Hewlett Packard, I've been thinking a ton about companies and leadership. Living in the Silicon Valley makes the HP scandal even more real (HP's offices are about 2 miles from my house). I hope to write more soon. I'm impressed by people who can take a loser and turn it into a contender... Moonves has done it with CBS...

Rose ashes, "Since coming to CBS - how has your outlook changed, what have you learned since coming to the job? (Stepping into a company that was in last place, on the buy side rather than the sell side.)?" Moonves stated that he hated his job in the first year an a half, coming from a successful tenure at Warner Brothers. CBS was destitute. However, during the time he learned:

- You can't replace hard work.
- You have to look not only at next week but next month, next year and two years down the line.
- Whatever can go wrong will go wrong. He goes through life with that assumption. He is never surprised about a mishap and he has generally anticipated them. Because of this he is rarely blindsided by someone trying to take advantage of him.
- When you have great people you hold on to them dearly. (Says this is 'number one'. He has people who have been with him for 18 years.) You do this from both the heart and paycheck, they go hand in hand. "Love only goes so far." However it's not just about the money - people have to enjoy where they work and what they do.

On another segment he talked about focus being key to the success. CBS is about providing content and efficient distribution. He says content is king, and distribution is queen. Many companies lose their way because they get fractured and unfocused - forgetting what they are good at.

Too many times leaders get distracted and unfocused - I suffer from that at times. I thought about the section in Kawasaki's book, "The Art of the Start" where each company must determine it's 'mantra'. What is at the core of your efforts, on the DNA level? For us it's, "Combating systemic and generational poverty."

Of course he is talking about the corporate world. Everything is not completely applicable to a ministry or non profit. But - there is wisdom to be learned here...

Conversation with Amy about my life

On 9/19/06 11:15 AM, "Amy Kushner" wrote:

Thanks, John. You’re a pretty good egg yourself. It was good to talk to you last week.

John wrote:

I’m just hanging here with the three of me – me, myself and I. I is a jerk, me can be somewhat grumpy and myself spends most of his time daydreaming and blogging. I get sick of them – come and see us sometime.

On 9/19/06 11:31 AM, "Amy Kushner" wrote:

Are you OK??????
Do I need to come over right now???
Deeply concerned….

John Wrote:

WE’RE doing fine... If only myself would get off his rear end and do some work I and me would feel much better.


Measure C Meeting Tonight in East Palo Alto

YES on Measure C Rally tonight!

Tuesday September 19th

7:00 pm

7th Day Adventist Church
994 Beech St.
East Palo Alto

Please come and support this important initiative!

For more information call: 650-714-5259

Why is Measure C a Fair Proposal?

- It Funds Violence Prevention including: Programs for youths and seniors, job training, family counseling, parent education and support for ex- prisoners.

- It Provides funds to improve policing. This initiative works hand in hand with local law enforcement, but in a more 'preventive' manner.

- The funds are given to local non profits. Programs are chosen and overseen by 15 local community members. This funds the local groups who are working on the street, not creating more government programs. It does so in a way that provides the proper checks and balances on local groups to insure the funds are used correctly.

- It Exempts seniors form paying, protecting those who are on fixed incomes.

- It Protects renters from increased rents. This prevents landlords from passing on the costs directly to renters.

If you are an East Palo Alto voter, please support this measure. The few extra dollars in property taxes each year will go a long way toward making East Palo Alto a better community.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Night Cabbie

A few years ago there was a regular column I used to read in the SF Chronicle called the Night Cabbie. The author was a San Fran cabbie and spoke about his experiences with the fares he picked up as well as general commentary about the City. It's a great glimpse into life in San Francisco... The column stopped the column in 2004. I found the archives here.

Friday, September 15, 2006

East Palo Alto Measure C

Here's a couple of pictures from the Measure C meeting at our offices yesterday. Measure C is a local ballot initiative that funds local youth programs. It will raise about $1 million in funding per year for youth programs that will be paid for by a parcel tax. We project that this will go a long way to preventing youth violence.

I'm sitting on the organizing committee with EPA Mayor Ruben Abrica and Councilwoman Pat Foster. I'm glad to be volunteering for what I believe is a worthy cause.

Why is Measure C a Fair Proposal?

- It Funds Violence Prevention including: Programs for youths and seniors, job training, family counseling, parent education and support for ex- prisoners.

- It Provides funds to improve policing. This initiative works hand in hand with local law enforcement, but in a more 'preventive' manner.

- The funds are given to local non profits. Programs are chosen and overseen by 15 local community members. This funds the local groups who are working on the street, not creating more government programs. It does so in a way that provides the proper checks and balances on local groups to insure the funds are used correctly.

- It Exempts seniors form paying, protecting those who are on fixed incomes.

- It Protects renters from increased rents. This prevents landlords from passing on the costs directly to renters.

If you are an East Palo Alto voter, please support this measure. The few extra dollars in property taxes each year will go a long way toward making East Palo Alto a better community.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

U2 / Green Day Help New Orleans

Read about U2's efforts here. Gotta love Bono and U2 - they are a great example of faith driving social action...

End of the article says that the new U2 record will be produced by Rick Rubin (producer of early Def Jam stuff, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chile Peppers...). That should be a fun collaboration.

NY Times Article - "Philanthropy Google's Way"

I love Google - I use it every day. I have friends that work there - they are about 7 miles from EPA. For the past year they've been setting up google.org - their philanthropic arm. The NY times did an article today on their philanthropy efforts read it here.