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'

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...