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'

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.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Guy Kawasaki on Why Smart People / Companies Do Dumb Things

Great wisdom on why we do the things we do... Read it here.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

I've been reading Eugene Peterson's Book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Isn't that a great title?

The book is a commentary on the Songs of Accents found in Psalms 120 to 134. The Songs of Assents were what the Israelites would sing on their way up the hill to the temple when they were making their pilgrimages. These Psalms reminded them during the tough trek uphill why they were going and what their faith is about.

Today I was looking at the chapter on Psalm 132. The point is that in our Christian life we must have the, "strength to stand and the willingness to leap." A Christian standing just a statue, and one who has no roots and jumps around is nothing but a 'jumping jack'.

The essence of all this is that to be effective we must be grounded in our faith. To know our personal, individual history with God as well as the communal history of the church. This keeps our feet grounded and our path sure.

However, without the leap of faith the future never comes and our Christianity becomes stagnant and dull. We must grow, learn, fail - step out in leaps of faith to advance the work of the KIngdom of God in our life and the world.

Peterson says, "What we require is obedience, the strength to stand and the willingness to leap, and the sense to know when to do which. Which is exactly what we get when an accurate memory of God's ways is combined with a lively hope in his promises." (p. 171)

Oh God, that I would have the strength to stand and the willingness to leap!

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 Thoughts

Much has been said today about the anniversary of 9/11. I don't know how much more I have to add and there are definitely more articulate and heady authors out there. However - I have a few thoughts from my perspective.

I had a strong and personal reaction to the 9/11 attacks. I have a deep connection to the New York / New Jersey area and considered myself a transplanted yankee all my life - despite my parents dreaded move to the boondocks (Florida) when I was a child. I was born in Wanaque, New Jersey and used to spend my summers with my grandmother and her husband in Butler, NJ, about 40 or so miles from NYC. My grandmother's husband was a milkman. During the days I would go on his route with him to places like Paterson, NJ and Newark, NJ delivering milk. Part of my passion for urban ministry and the poor hearken back to the times I had in Paterson and Newark. I came in contact with the urban poor in a very unique way through those experiences. Both cities are burned out shells of what they once were.

Paterson, Newark, Wayne, all in New Jersey and all almost literally in the shadow of Manhattan. You could see the skyscrapers. The city would fascinate me. I remember staring at the World Trade Center, the Chysler Building and Empire State Building with wonder and awe, dreaming about the city. At night the city was a beacon. Every once in a while they would take me into Manhattan. Even as a youngster I could almost feel the city breathe and pulse with energy. Even as a boy of 10 the city was calling me...

My father was born in Patterson, NJ - my mother in Newark. My grandfather on the Liotti side was a delivery man in Manhattan. He lived in Staten Island - where the Liotti's lived after coming through Ellis Island. Many of them still live in the area. My cousin Michael has a shipping store on 39th and 7th near Times Square. If you're in the area stop by and tell him, "hi" for me. There are many people I admire in NY - guys like Jeremy DelRio, Louie Carlo, Ray Rivera and Dimas Salaberrios. It's been fun getting to know them over the past years.

When I was 18 I went with the ministry I was with, Youth With A Mission, for about a month we lived on Long Island and did outreaches in the metro area. It was in the South Bronx where God confirmed His call to devote my life to urban missions and the urban poor. At times I wonder if God will ever call me back to NYC. I always feel drawn to the area. My wife and son seem to feel the same call. I have no plans to leave Nor Cal right now - we feel happy and blessed to be here. But - sometimes I wonder...

When 9/11 happened I felt a deep sadness, as did much of the nation. I felt as if a close friend was in jeopardy and there was nothing I could do. I turned the TV on right as tower one was falling. I stood there in tears as I watched thousands die in an instant. I remember the time I took the PATH train across the Hudson to the station under the WTC.

Many of my family worked on Wall Street as floor traders. They were on the floor during the attacks and their lives were forever changed. Two quit, most of the others are planning their exit. They told me harrowing stories of the desperate sprint to the waterfront to catch the ferry or anything out of lower Manhattan.

I remember looking at the skyline the first time I returned after 9/11. Flying into Newark Airport, looking at the sad gaping hole in the profile, again tears coming to my eyes remembering my youthful days when I would dreamfully look at the Twin Towers.

I remember the summer of '02 talking to the BCM interns who came from NYU. They were still dealing with the affects of the event. Young lives forever changed.

What did we learn? Have we (the US church) changed? 9/11 was a wake up call - a loud alarm bell calling us to remember who we are and what we are called to do.

I'm being training to be a police chaplain. With how busy I am, sometime I wonder why I take on other things. Last night I saw a documentary on CBS about the two French guys who were filming the NYFD and got caught in the middle of the event. It had a remarkable scene with a fire chaplain, Fr. Judge, who was the first recorded death. Here is the now famous picture of him being carried out after the tower collapsed. In the documentary it showed him praying in the lobby of the Twin Towers, just minutes before the tower fell. His very presence offered peace to the fireman who were soon to face their deaths. Jesus was there, with Fr. Judge and the fireman. That's why I'm making space to be a chaplain. I'll be commissioned next month. Pray for me!

I'm praying for New York today. Praying that God will place His hand over the city. I'm praying for revival for NYC. I'm also praying for our city - and that we can find the courage to do what we need to do now - before the next '9/11'

Photos are from here. (Thanks for the link, Rudy)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Time Mag Article. Does God Want You to Be Rich?

Time Magazine article on the prosperity gospel. In my opinion, this is one of the most dangerous doctrines that are confronting the urban church. Sure - we want our people to be successful and break the cycle of poverty. But - that is done through a commitment to the Kingdom of God and right living. IF you've ever watched BET on Sunday evening you've seen some of the false prophets and shysters. This kind of teaching lends itself to American style, consumer based Christianity that is far from what I hear in the teachings of Christ. I have no problems with people making money and being prosperous. However - our resources are to be used for the extention of the Kingdom of God and not for raw, personal gain.

I get sort of worked up over this stuff... as you can see:)

I love the Rick Warren quote in the article, "This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?", he snorts. "There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?"

It's a good article. What do you think?

Hope the link works... Read the article here.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Another Perfect San Fran Weekend!

Went to the Giants game today. Samuel, Max, Maria and I went. Perfect weather, 65 degrees. Giants won in the 12th inning with a triple from Ray Durham and a single. Great game. They're in a playoff race for the wildcard and maybe the west. OK - yea, we root for the Yankees - but we had to adopt a NL team so I've rooted for the Giants since I moved to Nor Cal in 1995.

Minorities Pay Higher Rates for mortgages

Read the article here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

John Ortberg quotes Dallas Willard on about Sin

I've been listening to the podcasts from John Ortberg from Menlo Park Pres.. You can get them on itunes. I like Ortberg's teaching. MPPC is a good church with a lot of great folks, including one of our board members Marc.

So - Ortberg quoted Dallas Willard like this, "It is the responsibility of every Christian to carve out a soul satisfying life under the loving rule of God so that sin will not look good."

What a great quote. Sometimes we focus so much on the action of sin we forget that there are preventive measures we can do at avert the desire to do bad things. I'm trying hard to find and do the good things that satisfy my soul - art, music, friends, etc... and make time for them. I find I'm happier and more Godly when I do those. I also love the activity of 'carving out'. How many times do I talk about it being my responsibility to find good things that satisfy me? God help me! I'm gonna try to 'carve away' more...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

East Palo Alto Crime Rate Drops

As I reported on this blog - the crime rate rose dramatically last year culminating with the tragic homicide of Officer Richard May. As a respose the faith community in EPA hosted an anti violence summit, community prayer and prayer walks. THis year, as reported below by our chief of police, violent crime is down dramatically. Sure, some of this is do to traditional police action. But - I also have to attribute the change to the church of the city coming together in unity and prayer. God listens to the cry of His people.

Forgive the small print - I'm trying to figure out how to upload pdfs... Anyone know's how - please let me know...

NCUD Press Release Re: Credit Union Project

Stanford Federal Credit Union
1500 Page Mill Road
Palo Alto, CA 94306

Sept. 5, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Margaret Wold, 650-842-6031 or margaret@sfcu.org


East Palo Alto, a struggling city filled with leaders who believe in its potential, scored a victory in the fight for community reinvestment.

Preliminary federal approval has just been granted to build a credit union that will serve the people of East Palo Alto, many of whom lack access to a bank. The new not-for-profit financial institution is scheduled to open in 2007. All profits remain in the community.

“A credit union, which is owned and operated by the people who bank there, inherently generates trust. This is about providing financial resources as well as a platform to talk to people about becoming financially independent rather than being victims to predatory lending institutions,” said John Liotti, CEO of the Northern California Urban Development Corporation which submitted the application to the federal agency that charters federal credit unions.

The project is modeled after successes in Modesto, Calif., Mississippi and North Carolina. “We know that many people are ‘unbanked’ and lack access to money for purchasing a home or car,” said John Davis, CEO of Stanford Federal Credit Union. “People who live in a cash society cannot get credit and they often pay outrageous fees just to cash paychecks.”

Stanford Federal Credit Union, which serves 44,000 members of the Stanford community with assets of some $640 million, will mentor community leaders and create a framework for proper policies, procedures and financial goals. It will also coordinate efforts to build the financial base needed to serve the community. Outreach efforts will include Spanish-language services.

Preliminary approval for the credit union charter was won in late August from 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.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

NCUD Revieves Letter of Determination from IRS!

Another update!

We have just received our official non profit status from the IRS! This has been a long process for us since we first filed in January 05. We've been operating under a probationary status since filing. We had to provide lots of extra information to the IRS to explain our mission. We're thankful to have made it through the process!

God is good! Thanks for your prayers and support! Also, if you haven't yet, please check out out new website at: www.norcaludc.org.

John Perkins Videos Online

Seattle Pacific University now has videos of John Perkins online. See them here.

Dr. Perkins is serving on the advisory board for NCUD. If you haven't heard him speak - check him out...

Lyrics & Influences Changed my life

Still in a nostalgic mood. Every once in a while I have to remind myself I'm a child of the 80's.

I don't know - I guess I've been thinking about what changed me and made me think as I do. I came across some old disks of the Resurrection Band from Jesus People USA (JPUSA). I know in late years they have come under some scrutiny - I have no comment about that. All I know is that Glenn Kaiser and Rez Band / JPUSA changed the way I look at faith and Christianity. They used to have a magazine, "Cornerstone". Each time it arrived it was like a breath of fresh air. They were one of the first influences on me to think of social action in an evangelical context. Today I came across some lyrics that I vividly remember from my youth. God really used songs like this to change me. I'm deeply indebted to JPUSA for the influence they had on me. Read the lyrics below - tell me they aren't great!

Stark/Spare 3:50

Rez Band - Mommy Don't Love Daddy Anymore - © 1981

Stark/spare and barely there
The ghetto moves beyond the knowledge
Or even consideration
Of the upper-middle riddles
That just don't care
Stark/spare an' tell me who cares
Slumming ain't the answer
To the cancer poverty
That so many of the poor
Slip into degree
Jesus walked among them
Pausing to refresh
Finally giving to the point of blood
To share their emptiness
Mark and Teresa (Mark Buntane and Mother Theresa)
Godspeed to you
Suffering in love
When you don't have too
And God have mercy
On the rest of us to
'Cause when we shut out the poor
Lord, we're shutting out you

Jesus walked among them
Pausing to refresh
Finally giving to the point of blood
To share their emptiness
And we must walk among them
For we can do no less
Than what the Saviour taught us
By his life and by his death
For the truth is on our tables
The crumbs are on our floors
We must give while we are able
Both Lazarus and our judge are at the door

From their third album, "Colours" I came across the below song. As I listened to it today it reminded me of the struggle against sin and for holiness in my life. This song impacted me in my teens, and still does now. How many of us live in the struggle - like the Apostle Paul recounts in Romans 7? Trying to find the balance between the struggle of sin and redemption/ freedom. Romans 8 waits for us declaring that there is freedom and release for those of us who are living the Kingdom life.

The Struggle
Rez Band - Colours © 1980

Sometimes You scare me by what You cause me to see
And I'm afraid of knowing who I am
Although You've changed me there's still a whole lot of old wineskin
And to open up would destroy the me
I'm afraid to show
One part of me doesn't want to grow
But I'm tired of this lingering winter
Tired of ground so hard and cold
Plow Your way through, I'm asking You to, Jesus
Lord, You're my only hope

Without You . . . I can't face myself

My pride wants me to hide inside myself
But I love You an' I don't want our love put on the shelf
I'm tired of fighting to be who I am
Jesus, make me what You want me to be
Because of You I desire reality
A love for You is what I'm dying to receive
Though I hate what I am I understand what You've promised me
You've promised me freedom in the truth
But I can only face myself when I've faced You
An' I'll be ready to face myself when I face You

I'm thankful for JPUSA, Rez, Keith Green, Loren Cunningham, Dan Sneed and others who made such a difference in my life. Also for old friends like Vann Hardin and Randy Zacharias (RIP) who turned me on to JPUSA, Keith and others who showed me how to be a 'New Kind of Christian".

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Bay Area Labor Day Weekend

Trying to take things easy this weekend... The family (including Max Torres who is staying with us!) went on an outing to a place we saw on tv - Port Coast. Well - Port Coast was somewhat of a disappointment. But after dinner we went to a nearby place and watched the sun set over the Carquinez Bridge in the East Bay. Beautiful day, beautiful family. I love the Bay Area... God is good - his creation reminds me of His greatness and beauty. Photos on the right sidebar.