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, May 29, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Quote from Mother Theresa

I'm reading the book, "Mother Theresa, Reaching out in Love" as a devotional. Here's a quote,

Without Prayer, no faith
Without faith, no love
Without love, no service
Without service, no joy, no peace

There are four essential steps - prayer, faith love and action- resulting in interior joy and peace in society. To obtian this result there is a preliminary condition: prayer requires interior and exterior silence. Silence of the eyes, of the ears, of the mind, of the imagination. One has to be self-composed, able to concentrate, open to God's inspiration. For exterior silence in noisy towns and cities one needs to find a quiet corner in a room or a park.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Back from a week of travels... Pt. 1

It's been a long week. Last weekend I was blessed to again attend 'Larry's Party', the annual Urban Youthworker's Institute conference in Los Angeles. I did a workshop on "Building Strategic Partnerships". By the way, you can hear select previous year's sessions and workshops here. Thanks to the UYWI staff for again putting on an excellent conference for those of us banging it out in the trenches.

It was great to catch up with many close friends at the event. Max Torres made a surprise visit. Saw Chris Brooks for a minute. (Pray for Chris, he was in a car accident last week. Check out his blog for more information.) Of course saw fellow bloggers Rudy and Jeremy (More about him later.) A close friend and now 'country' pastor in Gilroy, Angel Ruiz, stayed with me in my mod. It was a great time catching up with him and calling him names like, "Chongo".

I took Samuel with me again. Honestly, the most fun is having him there. He enjoys meeting everyone and the music at the main sessions. We had a great time being together and, of course, eating. He painted a picture at the art station.

After coming home on Saturday I took off for four day in New York...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Off to UYWI and NYC

Sam and I are headed to the
Urban Youthworker's Institute conference in LA. We come back Saturday. On Sunday I head to NYC to do some research with area credit unions. This is part of a strategic planning initiative for our project here in EPA. Posting may be sparse...

Looking forward to seeing everyone in LA. Jeremy found us tickets for the Yankee game on Tuesday night - vs Boston no less! It's definitely the bright spot of the trip!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Time's reflection on the passing of Jerry Fallwell and the current state fo the religious right

Maybe it was inevitable that the movement he had done so much to create would grow up, stretch out, even rebel against his strong paternal supervision. Part of this was the much chronicled disillusionment of some Christian soldiers who had duly marched onto the field, gone door to door and pew to pew in search of new voters, placed their faith in politics and politicians to promote their most precious values, only to find those values were a currency that could be traded away behind closed doors. After six years with a born-again evangelical in the White House and the GOP dominant on Capitol Hill and spreading through the judiciary, the religious voters who believed they exalted these leaders for a purpose had reason to believe they'd been betrayed. It was a bitter irony to see the bookstores filling with accounts of the rise of a new American Theocracy: what many conservative Christians saw was that the boardroom, not the sanctuary, was Republican hallowed ground. When their interests clashed with the GOP business wing, the money talked: concerns about persecution of Christians in China, disgust with internet pornography, alarms about global warming, respect for workers' right to wear religious clothing, would not translate into policies that might inconvenience American business.

But even more important was a spiritual and generational change that was occurring that made Falwell a less representative voice of people of faith in public life. The path twists and widens: It was not just his tactics the next generation rejects, but his political theology as well. Today's young evangelicals on campus still have their heroes and their causes, but it's less likely to be Falwell and James Dobson fighting abortion and gay marriage than Bono and Rick Warren leading the way on addressing poverty and "creation care" and AIDS in Africa When Falwell talked of AIDS, it was about God's punishment of homosexuals. When Rick Warren, who also views homosexuality as a sin, talks about AIDS , he's talking about how to stop its spread and minister to the suffering. When he hosts a global AIDS Summit, he invites both Barack Obama and Sam Brownback.

It will be tempting to call Falwell's passing the end of an era, but that risks missing the larger point. The movement he helped lead was never monolithic, or as tidy as its critics imagine — or obedient to earthly powers. In every generation, Christians have wrestled with the question of whether their efforts are better spent changing laws or changing hearts, and how to proceed when those goals seem to conflict. Falwell enthusiastically practiced the politics of division, flinging damnation at those who disagreed with his vision of a Godly America. Now a rising generation of Christian leaders is looking for ways to bring people together: the politics of division may be a shrewd electoral strategy, but it's a shallow spiritual one. Their God is bigger than their party, more mysterious, more forgiving and more embracing. It is only partly wishful thinking when a progressive evangelical counterforce to Falwell like Jim Wallis declares, "The Evangelicals have left the Right. They now reside with Jesus."

Read the entire article here. I've very encouraged by the current national discussion between left leaning and right leaning Christians. I think it's a healthy diologue for the church to be involved in. I pray the next election cycle spends more time on the real issues and not mud slinging and sound bites but I expect we'll be wallowing in mud sooner than later.

As I've said before here and in other venues, I believe the church is the answer to the world's problems both in the 'now' and eventually in the world to come. We must be salt and light in the political arena yet understand that we are not of this kingdom.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Caddy Pastor

Thanks, Jeremy.

Great story about a man who ministers to caddys and players on the PGA tour. Shows how much of an impact you can have when you put yourself in the middle of where God wants you.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., May 13 — Early in the afternoon, on the final day of the tournament, Tiger Woods came to the 13th tee at The Players Championship, along with his playing partner, Davis Love III. A large black man in funky gold-framed glasses and a bright-white NBC baseball cap ambled over to them. He knew them and the golfers knew him. The two caddies, Steve Williams and Cubbie Burke, knew the man, too. He's known on Tour as T-O-W, The Other Woods. At one point on Sunday, Tiger Woods was on the 13th tee — and so was George Woods.

At The Players, George Woods was working as a spotter for NBC, relaying the clubs the players were using back to a producer. He's averaged 30 events a year for the past four years, although he hasn't been out much this year. When the Tour's in your system, you do what you can to stay out there.

On the Sundays before tournaments, he sometimes cleans the outsides of the big trailers of the equipment manufacturers, using a powerful water gun he travels with. On Sunday nights after tournaments, he sometimes helps load a trailer that transports player baggage to the next Tour stop. For a while last year, he drove Love's massive mobile-home trailer across the Tour landscape. Now he's doing the same for Chris Couch. A few years ago, when Craig Perks's caddie was arrested, George Woods stepped in as a pinch-hit caddie.

But his main thing is his work as the unofficial pastor to the Tour caddies. "You can't get caddies to Bible study, so I bring it to them," Woods said between groups, sitting on a large ice chest positioned underneath a tree. Sometimes, he'd get a drink out for the players. He said to one, "You want the red or the green?"

Read the entire article here.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Barak Obama on Reconciling Faith and Politics

Saw this video on Obama's website. Interesting discussion. This video is somewhat long, but worth watching. I'm certainly happy there is some honest discussion on the separation of church and state and the role of the church in society and politics. What do you think of Obama?

Check the video out here.

Questions with Richard Stearns, President of World Vision

Sometimes I think I should just link directly to Guy Kawasaki's blog. His blog consistently makes me think. Here's some excerpts from a recent post where he interviews Richard Sterns, the President of World Vision.
Question: You had a nearly seven-figure salary, a corporate Jaguar, moved and took a seventy-five percent cut in pay. Why did you leave the corporate sector in 1998 after twenty-three years to run an international Christian humanitarian organization?

Answer: It wasn't something I planned. At the time, I didn't even want the job. I had been a donor to World Vision for fifteen years when, through a long series of circumstances, I was approached by World Vision, interviewed and offered the position. As a committed Christian, I felt I couldn't say no. When God gives you an opportunity to serve, you obey. I had "talked the talk" of being a Christian for many years, now I needed to "walk the walk." It has turned out to be the greatest privilege of my life to serve the poorest of the poor in Christ's name.

Question: Are you trying to end poverty or evangelize Christianity?

Answer: As a Christian organization, we are motivated by our commitment to Christ to love our neighbors and care for the less fortunate. That's why we do what we do. We don't proselytize. We do not force our religious beliefs on anyone, and we don't discriminate in our delivery of aid in any way. If the people we serve want to know why we are there, we tell them. St. Francis once said: "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." Love put into action is a compelling and attractive worldview.

Question: How can people who do not want to radically change their lives make a difference in the lives of the poor?

Answer: To really change the world, values must change. Consider the civil rights movement. Racial discrimination was once openly accepted in the United States. Today it is unacceptable to our mainstream culture. Very few of us are civil rights activists, but we let our values speak in our work places, our schools and to our elected officials.

Today, we live in a world that tolerates extreme poverty much like racism was tolerated fifty-plus years ago. We can all become people determined to do something to change the world. We can speak up, we can volunteer and we can give. Ending extreme poverty will take money, political and moral will, and a shift in our value system. When enough ordinary people embrace these issues, things will begin to change. Margaret Mead once said: "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Question: In the eyes of God, do you think someone who goes to Africa and helps AIDS victims is better or worse than someone who writes a check every month?

Answer: I can't speak for God, but I believe God is pleased whenever anyone does something out of love to help the downtrodden. Hands, hearts, and checkbooks are all vital. If we all just did a little--our part--we could change the world.

Question: What are biggest hurdles to alleviating poverty?

Answer: One word: apathy. The very frustrating part is that we actually have the knowledge and the ability to end most extreme poverty. The world just doesn't care enough to do it. The U.S. government has spent more than $400 billion on the war in Iraq to date.

Our annual humanitarian assistance budget for the whole world is only about $21 billion. We spend less than a half percent of our federal budget on humanitarian assistance and less than two percent of private charitable giving goes to international causes. People and governments make choices based on their priorities. Poverty is still not a high priority for the world.

Question: What's the biggest obstacle to get rich people to care about poor people?

Answer: The obstacle is that poverty is often not personal. If your next-door neighbor's child was dying and you could save her for $100, you wouldn't think twice. But a child 10,000 miles away whom you have never met, that's just different.

About 29,000 kids die every day of preventable causes--29,000! These kids have names and faces, hopes and dreams. Their parents love them as much as we love our kids. We've got to make poverty personal. Stalin once said: "A million deaths is a statistic, one death is a tragedy." We must try to see the face of the one child.

Question: What advice would you give to someone reading this who is considering leaving a corporate job to "change the world?"

Answer: There's a tendency among those uninformed about global poverty to say, "This ain't rocket science. People are hungry; let’s feed them." What they don’t realize is that the deeper you get into relief and development, you realize it really is rocket science. Problems like poverty, disease and hunger are humanity's most intractable problems. They haven't been solved in 5,000 years, and they won't be solved overnight.

We need to systematically address a wide range of social, environmental, cultural, political, and religious issues. But the good news is that we do have the answers. Now, we just need the resolve to make poverty reduction a priority and persevere until we see results. We can fix this; we really can.
Great stuff. When you get the chance, check out Guy's post and read the reply comments... (Thanks for the great material, Guy...)

Latest NCUD Letter

Recently I came across a Franciscan benediction that grabbed my attention. It says:

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

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 others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

That is why we began this journey—to bring justice to the poor by breaking systemic poverty in East Palo Alto. Many factors motivated us; the lack of appropriate financial services, check cashing places that are charging exorbitant rates, the fact that East Palo Alto has no grocery store, no downtown, and few local businesses. When I look into a grandmother’s eyes, who is struggling with paying her bills and caring for her family, and when I see despair in the families of my son’s classmates, a fire is lit within me to fight injustice. As we stepped out in faith to start NCUD, we were “blessed with enough foolishness to believe that we could make a difference in the world”. Finally, I can look into that grandmother’s eyes and know that change is about to happen.

Two years ago, the specific dream was birthed of bringing a community development credit union to East Palo Alto. The hurdles have been high: Starting a financial institution can be mired in much more red tape than other endeavors. However, with the support of the City Council, the local churches of East Palo Alto, and experts from some of the leading law firms and financial institutions in the Bay Area, the launch is now in sight! With the continued blessing of God, and through much hard work and effort, all signs point to the East Palo Alto credit union opening this summer! God is truly good!

With the credit union opening approaching, NCUD has a vital role to play in its success. Our goal was never only to start a credit union, but to foster an array of programs that will help people rise above their circumstances. We have now begun to invest more time and effort into some of these projects that will support and enhance the credit union activities.

Our next project is a youth financial literacy initiative. Set to begin this fall, this initiative will bring desperately needed financial education through a cutting edge, web-based virtual economy called Economis that teaches kids how to earn, save, invest, budget, and give in an amazing and interactive way. Created by the organization, Ele:Vate, and implemented through the National Association of Street Schools (NASS) this program is truly the best of class. We're currently developing partnerships with several local youth organizations and schools to offer this program.

Following later in the year is a youth-led and youth-managed credit union where local young people can bank with real money. They will learn basic financial management skills, leadership and management skills, as well as serving their peers and community in a meaningful way. This is based on a very successful model in San Francisco that has been operating for over ten years and has over $140,000 in youth deposits! (More information about both these programs can be found at www.norcaludc.org.)

Other initiatives are poised to follow, timed with the growth of the credit union. I'm especially excited about NCUD’s plans for micro enterprise lending, but that's a little further down the road.

All of that said, I want to ask for your help. As we approach the opening of the credit union we are doing some very specific fundraising to lay the groundwork for the youth financial literacy initiative beginning in the fall. Would you be willing to help out? Your gift right now will play a vital role in pushing toward the finish line with the credit union project as well as insure the successful launch of our youth programs. There are three ways you can help:

1. Make a financial or stock contribution. Your gift right now is important ‘fuel’ for our engine, helping us to drive our vision beyond the credit union opening this summer.

2. Support our July 13th golf tournament. If you’re a golfer, bring you’re ‘sticks’ and join us! If not, we’re looking for major and hole sponsors, quality auction items and raffle prizes. If you’re not a golfer, please join us for our banquet and presentation following the golf. More information is on our website at www.norcaludc.org or call Jenni (NCUD’s Administrative Assistant) at 650-328-1890. More information can be found HERE.

3. Be a volunteer. We need skilled volunteers to help with construction build out, office / administration help, teaching financial literacy skills to youth and many other tasks, large and small.

We have come so far, but there is still much to do. I’m thankful to God and to all the people who have partnered with me in striving for justice, freedom, and peace for the oppressed through the power of the Gospel. Please stay tuned for the exciting announcement about the East Palo Alto credit union opening day!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Yesterday was my mother's birthday. She and my father are down in San Luis Obisbo right now. Dad is working the nuclear outage at Diablo Canyon. For a few weeks. She came along to be with him.

A couple of weeks ago they came up to hang with us in Capitola, near Santa Cruz. We had a nice weekend by the beach. Some friends have a wonderful house down there and graciously allowed us to spend the weekend at their place. The photo was taken at 'Mr. Toots' coffeehouse in Capitola. Melissa and I used to hang there over 18 years ago - before we were married.

Anyhow - Happy birthday, Mom! Where would I be without you?

Jane Fonda on Conversion

In the current edition of Rolling Stone Jane Fonda speaks about her conversion to Christianity Jane says:
"Someone very hostile to me said, 'Are you saved?' I tap danced around that, but later asked a friend of mine who teaches a Bible study, 'What does that mean?' And she said, 'what it meant to me was taking the next step.' Well, that's all anybody has to say to me - I'm always ready to take the next step (laughs)! So I became a Christian.

And I'm still a Christian, but I'm still on a journey to define what that means. I very much feel the presence of God, and that person is Jesus - I am utterly fascinated by this man. I feel what he preached was revolutionary, and it's totally what we need now. The most revolutionary statement anyone could make is 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.' Whew, man. If we could live what he taught, everything would change. But it ain't what goes by the name of Christianity right now.