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'

Sunday, April 29, 2007

More thoughts from Yancey

It's been a challenging couple of weeks for me. Between fundraising, negotiations with credit unions, landlords, attorneys... I'm feeling kind of spent. There are some amazing things going on right now. For the first time I can honestly say the credit union will open this summer. But - there are some big challenges that are testing my faith and perseverance. I'm sad to say - but my first instinct is not to pray but to do. There are many things about our organization that are completely out of my hands - all I can do is be diligent, keep my eyes on the goal and seek God. Sounds simple, right?

I've been reading Yancey's book on prayer on and off. Yesterday I came across this section that quotes the director of OMF, formally China Inland Mission started by Hudson Taylor. These words challenged me:
"...Yet sometimes we hear of great defeats, of stubborn opposition, of missionaries persecuted and even martyred (we lost seventy-nine missionaries and children in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900). We continue to pray, and let god sort it all out. We cannot force our will on others, just as we cannot force people to support our work financially, or to volunteer with our mission - nor would we want to . We present our requests and pray, as the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, to be patient in adversity and thankful in prosperity."

Saturday, April 28, 2007

East Palo Alto Starts New Parollee Reentry Program

The Palo Alto Daily News reports:
When they are released into East Palo Alto, prison parolees will be offered an array of services designed to help them adjust to society and, it is hoped, avoid the kind of trouble that got them behind bars in the first place.

Thanks to a $3.3 million California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections grant, the city will run a pilot parolee program over the next 3 1/2 years that is expected to aid about 120 parolees annually. The city, which already has about 200 parolees, signed a contract for the grant this week.

"I would say it has officially started," police Chief Ron Davis said.

If successful, the pilot program eventually could become the model for a statewide version, Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, who sponsored a bill authorizing the experiment, said.

Split into three phases, the program exacts various commitments from parolees, including 2,000 hours of community service work such as cleaning up graffiti or giving public speeches. Parolees also must take regular drug tests and visit program staff daily. In return, they can get help with obtaining housing, getting jobs, enrolling in school, or receiving substance abuse counseling and treatment.

A Franciscian Benediction

I've been reading Philip Yancey's book, "Prayer". He includes this benediction in his chapter on partnership.
May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what other claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

May it be so, Jesus.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Updaete from Intervarsity at Virginia Tech

Thank you for your emails, phone calls, and prayers. I am just now able to get back to everyone as I was completely devastated and overwhelmed last week. While I would love to respond to everyone individually, it would be impossible since I received over 1000 emails.

Today was the third day of classes since the tragedy. The mood on campus is somewhat of a hopeful melancholy. While some things are getting back to "normal" (most of the media has left), we all know that our community is very different.

The Christian community has been a source of hope on campus. We have had many prayer and worship times, some planned and others were informal. Our Large Group meeting on Friday with the Korean-American fellowship allowed us to grieve, heal, reconcile and declare our adoration of the Lord Christ Jesus. Alumni, members of the community, and local IV chapters came to support us and worship with us.

Many of you have asked what you could do to help. Here are a few ways that you can help financially:

To support the families of the victims: http://www.vt.edu/tragedy/memorial_fund.php

To support the work of InterVarsity at Virginia Tech: www.intervarsity.org/donors
(Search for Virginia Tech)

In Christ,
Wes Barts

Wes Barts
InterVarsity @ VT

Monday, April 23, 2007

Barry Who?

A-Rod is the MAN!

Maybe he'll be wearing a Giants jersey next year... Who knows...

When to Quit and When to Stick?

Guy Kawasaki interviews author Seth Godin on his new book, "The Dip" Apparently, the book deals more with start up issues - but it has implications to life. When is the right time to call it quits?

Question: Other than hindsight, how does someone know when it’s time to quit?

Answer: It’s time to quit when you secretly realize you’ve been settling for mediocrity all along. It’s time to quit when the things you’re measuring aren’t improving, and you can’t find anything better to measure.

Smart quitters understand the idea of opportunity cost. The work you’re doing on project X right now is keeping you from pushing through the Dip on project Y. If you fire your worst clients, if you quit your deadest tactics, if you stop working with the people who return the least, then you free up an astounding number of resources. Direct those resources at a Dip worth conquering and your odds of success go way up.

What’s the worst time to quit? When the pain is the greatest. Decisions made during great pain are rarely good decisions.

Question: Should America quit the Iraq War?

Answer: My opinion doesn’t matter. But I hope my method matters a lot.

Here’s what we know: it’s easy to record and print a CD and hard to make a hit. Easy to write a book and hard to make it a bestseller. Easy to build a website and hard to create a viral success. We also know, and I hope Dick Cheney now knows, that it’s easy to invade a country and hard to be a successful invader and to dominate and change a culture.

So, the questions are simple: Are we in a Dip in Iraq? Everyone knows we’re in pain, but is it the pain that comes from being in a dead end—a cul-de-sac—situation that might very well get worse but probably won’t get better? Or is it a Dip, where sufficient effort can push us through and get us out the other side…we better know the answer.

The giant mistakes were made early. Cheney didn’t tell us what the Dip would look like, nor did he outline what we would do when we hit it. That’s a big difference between the current team and Churchill or Roosevelt. If you’re not ready for the Dip, it’s a lot harder to stick through it.

Article - "The Organizational Importance of Honesty"

Not sure about you, but I've experienced organizational dishonesty in the past. When it happens it can be damaging to the organization at large and the people who serve. Here is a great article that addresses this issue.
"We have all experienced the public lie that goes unchallenged. It may be baldly untrue but somehow accepted as the basis for action with life and death consequences. Some of our experience of public lies may be based on differences in values or perceptions, but sometimes what is said just simply violates the facts—this is disheartening and drives people out of public participation.

The same may be said of organizations. A nonprofit may, on the surface, be making every effort to promote teamwork and “the higher good,” but if its people continue to perceive a culture that supports a different and less reliable set of operating norms and assumptions than what is written or espoused, they will not bring themselves wholly to our efforts.

Here are some typical reasons for telling lies:

· to avoid pain or unpleasant consequences;

· to promote self-interest and a particular point of view;

· to protect the leaders or the organization;

· to perpetuate myths that hold the organization or a point of view together.

Regardless of why they are told, untruths and lies can cause people to disengage—and they can also diminish the spirit people bring into the workplace.

Our challenge is to buck the culture and engage people in building a climate of truth telling that will lead to a newly revived work ethic and heightened individual and collective energy. To do this effectively, we must understand the conditions that support the emergence of truth, and understand and eliminate those that routinely undermine its presence in our organizations."
Read the entire article here.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Street Code and Rapper Cam'ron

The folks at FYBY and Street Soldiers are always talking about the destructive code of the street. Here's an example in today's NY Daily News where a rapper articulates a part of the code of the street, "Don't snitch." These are the folks our kids look up to. As I've said before, we have to seperate the rap form and expression of rap music from negative role modeling and image projection that negatively impact young people.
Harlem-raised rapper Cam'ron says in an upcoming TV interview that he would never cooperate with cops - even if he knew his neighbor was a serial killer.

The 31-year-old millionaire entertainer, founder of his own record label, says helping the police solve crimes goes against his "code of ethics" and is bad for business.

"If I knew the serial killer was living next door to me? I wouldn't call and tell anybody on him. But I'd probably move," Cam'ron, whose real name is Cameron Giles, tells CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview to be broadcast Sunday.

"I'm not going to call and be like, 'The serial killer's in 4E,'" the rapper tells correspondent Anderson Cooper.

Cam'ron has practiced what he preaches. He refused to cooperate with Washington cops in 2005 when he was shot in an attempted carjacking of his Lamborghini.

He maintains a wall of silence with the cops even though he has lost friends to gun violence, including famed Brooklyn rapper Notorious B.I.G.

"It would definitely hurt my business, and the way I was raised, I just don't do that," the platinum-selling artist tells Cooper.

Geoffrey Canada, president of the Harlem Children's Zone, says on the program that rappers like Cam'ron care more about their "street credibility" than the safety of their streets.

"It's one of those things that sell music and no one really quite understands why," Canada says.

"It is now a cultural norm that is being preached in poor communities...It's like we're saying to the criminals, 'You can have our community...Do anything you want and we will either deal with it ourselves or we'll simply ignore it.'"

New York police have accused other rappers of stonewalling investigations of violent cases.

Busta Rhymes has refused to cooperate with police probing the slaying of his bodyguard, Israel Ramirez, who was shot dead in February 2006 outside a Brooklyn recording studio.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bereft of BlackBerrys, the Untethered Make Do

On Tuesday night at 8 p.m. Eastern time, technical problems cut off more than five million BlackBerry users in the United States from their cherished wireless e-mail. Service was restored 10 long, data-starved hours later.

“I started freaking out,” he said. “I started taking it apart. Turning it off. Turning it on. I took the battery out and cleaned it on my shirt. I was running around my hotel like a freak. It’s very sad. I love this thing.”

At 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, full of anxiety about the prospect of spending a traveling day untethered, Mr. Gold awoke and made a beeline for his still motionless phone. At 7 a.m., it started vibrating with activity. “I breathed a sigh of relief,” he said. “Life was good.”

Elaine Del Rossi, chief sales officer for HTH Worldwide, an insurance company, reacted to the severed electronic leash with several panicked calls to her office in the belief that the company e-mail system was down.

“I quit smoking 28 years ago,” she said, “and that was easier than being without my BlackBerry.”

Even at the White House, officials complained that the blackout had badly disrupted their morning routines, and a spokesman, Tony Fratto, pleaded with reporters to be patient with him.

The BlackBerry blackout, just like the power failures of yore, could have even helped in the romance department — if couples could actually connect. Robert Friedman, president of the media and entertainment division of @radical.media, a production company, said the disruption gave him “a lot of free time on my hands to spend with my wife, although I couldn’t find her since her BlackBerry was off.”

When! At least I have a treo! I lost my treo a couple of months ago - it was a dark day. What are we coming to? Do these devices actually help us reduce or increase our work load?

Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Been gone too long...

Isn't that a song?

It's been a crazy couple of weeks. We're pushing hard with the credit union project, trying to insure opening day this summer. Our target is July. This project at times seems to move at a glacial pace. It's been at times very frustrating. But, I have to continue to remind myself that this is a different type of project, one that takes alot of legal wrangling, negotiations and planning. Pray for me... pray for the project.

Beyond all of that, I switched DSL plans at home and was cut off for a week from Internet service at home. In some ways it was nice to be 'unwired' for a while, but it limited my blogging.

Here's some pictures of what's been going on over the past few weeks:

I was blessed to baptize my 76 year old mother in law, Betty. After studying "The Purpose Driven Life" at a study at my sister in law's house, she decided to publicly declare her faith. What an honor it was to serve her and Melissa's family in this way.

Opening Day for little league! The EPA tradition is to march from city hall to MLK park. Sam's playing for Coach Andy once again.

Sam and I took a trip to LA for some meetings. He was on spring break. We made our traditional pilgrimage to Roscoe's. Sam and I had a blast. In addition to my 'boring' meetings we spent the night at the Acosta's and had lunch with long time friend Pastor Jim Ortiz.

The St. Sam kids did a couple of dramas for our Easter service. The young ladies did a praise dance and all did a version of Carmen's "Champion". The Champion reminded me of my YWAM days, since I did the same drama many eons ago.

Not sure who these folks are! It looks like Melissa and I, but truly can't be!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Go Gators!

National Champs Again! Football and Basketball!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Pastors' Wives Come Together

Where would I be without my wife?
HELP WANTED: Pastor's wife. Must sing, play music, lead youth groups, raise seraphic children, entertain church notables, minister to other wives, have ability to recite Bible backward and choreograph Christmas pageant. Must keep pastor sated, peaceful and out of trouble. Difficult colleagues, demanding customers, erratic hours. Pay: $0.

The basic job description for pastors' wives hasn't changed in a century. But pastors' wives have. The rise of megachurches, dual-career couples and women's independence have complicated the role and in some cases intensified the frustrations. A recent spate of scandals involving prominent pastors has underscored the challenges their wives face. Eight in 10 pastors' wives say they feel unappreciated or unaccepted by their husbands' congregations, according to surveys by the Global Pastors Wives Network (GPWN); the same number wish their husbands would choose another profession. "Wives' issues" is the No. 1 reason pastors leave their ministries. The divorce rate among ministers and their wives is 50%, no better than that of the general public.

Read the entire article here.