Friday, March 28, 2008

Easter Chocolates:
it's edible but should you eat it?

I got this chocolate cross for Easter. I guess it's the chocolate bunny version for pastors?! Of course I'm not sure if I can, or should eat it - it is sacrilegious? a bit too much to make the symbol par excellence of torture in the ancient world into a mass-sold-at-Target chocolate snack? Hmmmmm. At least it's not a crucifix with Jesus on it. I checked on their website and they're sold out if you want to stock up. Who would have known?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Presbyterian Meme

I was tagged by Aric Clark in an online game for bloggers. The game was started by Bruce Reyes-Chow across the Bay (at least for me!) at Mission Bay Community Church seeking to be elected as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Here's the rules (I received):
The rules are pretty basic In about 25 words each, answer the following five questions; tag five presbyterian bloggers and send them a note to let them know they were tagged; be sure to link or send a trackback to this post;

1. What's your earliest memory of being distinctly Presbyterian?
I grew up in a church know as ______ Baptist-erian Church in our Presbytery. Never knew what that meant until attending a Vineyard Church during the1st Iraq war and hearing the Pastor go off each Sunday about Sadam Hussein as the Antichrist and the end of days coming at any given time in the next week. (This went on - at least for me - for 5 months until I left.) It was then that I began to understand reformed theology and presbyterian structure of democracy all created to combat abuse, patriarchy and twisted preaching.

2. On what issue should the Presbyterian Church spend LESS time and energy?
Sexuality issues. Split already. G-6. I'm so tired of hearing letters and numbers mixed together to avoid talking about real people with real names and real lives. Let those that want to include do so, and those that want to exclude do so. Let us discover in our follow-through what righteousness means for all of us today. BUT - let's leave the door open to get together to dialogue, discern and maybe even rejoin later down the road.

3. On what issue should the Presbyterian Church spend MORE time and energy?
Serving the poor - in action in our increasingly polarized economy between the uber-rich and the urban poor - and in word in our increasingly secularized and bankrupt culture in which the gospel - if articulated in our cultural vernacular is better than Gatorade.

4. If you could have the PC(USA) focus on one passage of scripture for an entire year, what would it be?
"Jesus wept." John 11:35

5. If the PC(USA) were an animal what would it be and why?
No idea on this one. I'd say a chicken (since I raise them). They travel in groups, plagued by fear of being alone, stepping out, risking to go it alone - or to stand out - or to speak out in a definitive way.

EXTRA CREDIT: Jesus shows up at the General Assembly this year, what does he say to the Presbyterian Church (USA)?
- I'd have to go with my favorite quote from the Peter Parker narrative (the other one I base my life upon) - "With great power comes great responsibility!" Then I think Jesus would look at the crowd and say "pull your head out already would you!"

Here's who I tag in the game:
Karl Shadley, Matt Gough, Sarah Reyes, Sharyl Marshall, Matt Edminster, Steve Whitney and Corn Dog.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is the Dimond a G-Spot
(as in gentrification)?

What does that mean for our community?

The yahoo-group-o-sphere of the Dimond District has been awash for nearly 10 days now with
e-conversation, debate and dialogue about gentrification in our (re)-emerging business district. The whole conversation began from the discovery, or public announcement, about a Little Caesar's Franchise seeking to come into the Dimond Business district. Many members of our community - myself included - felt strongly about not having another cheap pizza place in the district (as there are already several at the intersection of Fruitvale and MacArthur). It's much the same - again in my opinion again shared by many others - in terms of Nail Salons and Cheap Chinese Take-Out places.

Both sides - or at least the emerging poles around which discussion seem to be centered in the ongoing discussion - want what's best for the neighborhood:
1. A safe place to shop, meet and live.
2. Access for all peoples, an affirmation of the unique diversity (both current and historic) of our neighborhood).
3. A diversity of shops and choice.
4. An improvement of the cleanliness of the sidewalks.

Several interesting online articles have been shared in the e-discussion:

Something from the New York Times about Hip-ification and the energy that "gentrification" can bring to a neighborhood: Cheers to Tim Chapman for the link!

The new blogsite for the Japenese Restaurant (Nama Sushi) soon to open in the previous diner located on Frutivale Ave. across from Peet's Coffee.

In my life, work and relationships in the Dimond my experience and participation leads me to the following opinion:

1. I doubt that Pottery Barn, the GAP, or Wolfgang Puck will be seeking to open any high-priced boutiques, restaurants, franchises for the creative class, juveniles and latte democrats that may - or may not - be leading to the gentrification of our neighborhood. There are several great new businesses that have opened recently that are local, small business owners all of whom are not only people of color, but women of color. That's where we need to put our energy, encouraging those kind of businesses and people, versus discouraging big-box, multinational franchises which frankly are going to risk it to "slum it" in the Dimond.

2. Several referred to the historic, and continuing, reality that the 580 splits our neighborhood along a quasi-racial, definite socio-economic line. Of course it's not this black and white. The Dimond has been declining since the 580 was constructed (along with the church that I serve) because of this division of the community. Maybe now we can use the creative energy that's potentially coming with the hip-ification of the Dimond to heal those wounds. Like one person wrote, "There is room for us all."

3. There's a lot of brouhaha about Little Caesar's. We should have restaurants that cater to the diverse population of our hood. I'm not against pizza. I love it, unfortunately even the card-board kind. But why do we assume that "poor" folks won't want quality, organic, trans-fat free food? We should be insisting that non-industrial food places open in the Dimond for all of us, not just those that are game to buy a $20+ hamburger with grass-fed beef (or tofu) with local, organic greens, and on a trans-fat free baguette.

4. Another person added that "neighborhood's are dynamic." TRUE! I've seen so many changes in the past 6 years (hardly anything in the long-term) that I've been present in the Dimond District and Community. We often fear change - "who moved the cheese!" - easily forgetting that change is oftentimes the most opportune moment for growth, maturity, flexibility, adaptability and to be alive. Maybe today is the moment that the Dimond has been waiting for these past 50 or so years? I love seeing - each time I go to Farmer Joe's and Peet's - the diverse population enjoying good - "slow" - food whether arriving in a Lexus, or by foot, purchasing their goods with a platinum Visa or with the change that the collected on the corner. That's the community I want to participate in and belong to - whether it's gentrified or not.

5. I find most folks I meet in the Dimond want to shop and spend their money in their neighborhood. We should encourage that, seizing that energy and building upon it. It's like an upward spiral that might have the potential to bring us all upwards (not in a gentrifying class way) but in a sustainable, holistic community way, vs. the downward spiral that the Dimond has slipped down since the birth of the 580. Most people don't want it to become another Rockridge or 4th Street in Berkeley. They want to shop, eat, and connect with others in the neighborhood in which they live - all in relative safety, with beauty, performing public schools, and the diversity that characterizes our city of Oakland.

If you want to be involved in the effort to impede the arrival of Little Caesar's here's how you can act and be involved (taken from a community email sent by those heading the effort):

  Dear Neighbors:

After learning that a Little Caesar¢s franchise is applying to open
a store in the center of the Dimond District, residents raised concerns
that we already have too many fast food chain stores / pizza
restaurants. An informal survey demonstrated that this sentiment is widespread.

Years ago, our community successfully lobbied for our district to be
granted C-31 designation in order to control the variety and quality of
businesses. A Little Caesar¢s would violate this law since it is
within 1,000 feet of another fast food establishment (several to be exact,
including McDonald¢s, Giant Burger, Subway, and others).

Due to these concerns, city planners delayed approval of the Little
Caesar¢s restaurant. If they hear from enough residents, this
restaurant will not be granted the legal exemptions it needs to operate. Please
contact them to relay your concerns:

Scott Miller, Zoning Manager; 510-238-2235

Michael Bradley, Case Planner for Little Caesar¢s application; 510-238-6935

1. State your name and address (or that you live in the neighborhood)
2. Explain why you believe a Little Caesar¢s will be bad for the
Dimond District (examples: too many fast food chains, already two pizza
take-out restaurants within a block, need stores of greater variety and
quality to fit our desired character for area etc.)
3. Ask them to deny Little Caesar¢s a zoning variance and any other
required approval
4. Thank them for listening

We need to keep track of how many people contact the planners. Please
copy and if you send an
email or notify us if you call.

Residents and other partners are actively working to recruit more
desirable businesses, so stay tuned!

Thank you,
Owen Li and Julie Johnson

Monday, March 24, 2008

Our Life is Like a Cartoon

Our Easter party morphed into a Mika-based junior version of American Idol last night. Here's our best ofs:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 15/15
Mark 16

Today's chunk is what it's all about. You can take away Christmas - the story of Christ's birth - and the whole Jesus story will still stand...but take away Easter and the experience of the Empty Tomb and it doesn't work.

We have a lot of questions: How did it happen? What did it look like? Can we trust who is telling
us this story? Is the Bible true or not? Do miracles really occur or not? Can we - I - believe in something that's supernatural, or not? Is Jesus alive today, or was a group experience of delusion, or general a feeling that he still lives in the actions of those that follow him? In the end I echo the words of NT Wright, "The question is not simply what we know but also how we can know, and at this point all our knowing is called into question."

The gospel accounts of the empty tomb vary from each other a bit. The gospel are loaded with quotations and re-interpretations of scriptures from the First Testament, but in the resurrection stories those are suddenly absent from the narratives.

I'm struck as I sit outside watching the sunrise by the cold, the sounds of the birds waking up, the sky colors changing and morphing into a deeper fullness, life itself waking up. Women tell the story of first seeing him - women, who in the ancient world were not considered as legitimate or trustworthy witnesses. He appeared to the poor, the lonely, the outcast, the oppressed, the broken - not to the president, chief priest, emperor in Rome, or local political leader. He didn't rise again to justify himself, to prove it with science, or to attack his attackers. His resurrection subverts everything: poverty, power, limited notions of community, exclusionary worldviews of what life is, and most of what we call the -isms.

I myself can't explain it either, how it happened,....but I do see how I've heard about it: the gospel stories, and the way that this event and the telling and re-telling of it has impacted me on my porch in East Oakland 2,000 years later - and the entire world for good (of course there's some bad in there too imperialism, witch hunts, inquisition, racism, sexism, exclusion)...but those first witnesses were all about something radically new - freedom, love of your neighbor, radical visions of equality and brother/sister-hood - living as the servant of all. That's what changed the world. It's the ball set in motion that transformed the Roman empire and impacted all of it. I've also experienced that power, passion and purpose in my life. Christ is risen, indeed.

The goal of this whole reading challenge was to experience the gospel, to do something new, to take on a practice.
How did it work for you?
What did you enjoy?

How did it challenge you?

How did it impact you when you consider the question, who is this Jesus of Nazareth?

Why have so many abandoned everything to follow after him?

Let me know - let the community know by sharing a comment.

Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 14/15
Mark 15

This chunk tells of the judgment, crucifixion, and death of Jesus. He's judged by mob mentality, not because he's proved guilty of anything. In fact it seems as if he condemns himself to death by his integrity. The telling of his death is done in a way that's maybe more narrative than history. To me it seems that Mark is more about what happened - or what it meant - than what happened in each second in some sort of scientifically observed way. This man died. His death changed the world, transformed people, shook the very foundations of the earth. If his death was like that........then who was he?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 13/15

Today's chunk tells of the last day of freedom of Jesus. He spends it talking of what he's always one another as he loves, blessed are the peacemakers, love your enemies, whatever you do to the least of these you have done to him. He shows that it's not just words, but the essence of life, not just idle talk but his consistent walk - for he loves his enemy who will sell him out, shows mercy to the dearest of friends who will abandon and deny him, shows unconditional love for a woman who can read the signs in the heavens of what is to happen.

Jesus' teaching on love, relationships, the notion of community (who's in and who's out), service, mutuality, and solidarity and deeply powerful. It's not just a speech but an interactive discussion, not just a personal ethos but an invitation to radical participation in a new emerging community, it's much more like Wii than the Atari 2400 (check out the Mission Bay Church page and Easter invite to get the last one). How are we participating? How are we "living" this dream or a beloved community in which we are known, and know not only each other, but also the loving God and ourselves as we truly are?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 12/15
Mark 13

At first glance this chunk came seem like reactionary, and violently polarizing rhetoric. But then I remembered the context. Jesus is near the end. He sees the writing on the wall, the irritation among the people by his insistence to speak truth to the powers, to challenge the status quo, to invite all to a deeper way of living, a wider vision of inclusive community, a radicalized monotheistic dependence on the living God. If anything he's realistic, consistently honest with those that follow him and call him master.

Discipleship has a cost. You can't skip Good Friday on the journey from the jubilant crowd celebration of Palm Sunday to the empty tomb of Easter morning. What does it cost us to follow? What are we not willing to pay, or what are the easy ways that we're taking to try to get out of the challenges that authentic, integrative following of Jesus in all aspects of our lives might imply and lead to? Today is Maundy Thursday. The Maundy comes from the Latin verb "mandatum" or "to command." It recalls the teaching of Jesus as the last supper he shared with his closest friends, "
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." John 13:34 In the end following Jesus is challenging for it's a radical, counter-cultural invitation to serve others, not just those that we love, or who can help us get ahead. It's about loving our neighbor as ourselves, loving as God first loves us - even to the least of those around us and even to those that seem to be our enemies.

Urban Garbage & Sacred Space

I was cleaning up the small yard in front of the urban church I serve today and was struck by the weird places that I found trash. The building is on a corner, with a popular bus stop site heavily used by the neighboring middle school. I find junk everywhere. But this morning was surprised to find a juice box at shoulder height in a bush near our front door (see the photo). I guess it was easier to throw it out than just throw it down. Of course it was easier - and less nasty - to clean up then the cat carcass I found in a neighboring bush last year on a clean up day. Thank God for gloves!
Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 11/15
Mark 11:27-12:44

Today's chunk contains several episodes of the religious leaders challenging Jesus, seeking to trap him into contradicting himself or saying some sort of heretical affirmation. They fail repeatedly mostly because of their ego-centric underestmation of Jesus. Each time they ask Jesus a question he basically asks them a question back (in the rabbinical tradition).

How often do we do the same thing?; look for an answer we want to hear to confirm our judgements and stereotypes as opposed to truly listen, engage and dialogue with each other? Jesus pushes all there to go farther, deeper, to confront life, death, and how we live each day. I'm struck by Obama's speech yesterday in which he pushed us as a nation community to face the hard issues, to go deep, to not skim the surface and skip to the next "hot" topic. That's what faith is about - living life fully from birth to death, seeking to live each moment from a spiritual center, to live not by reacting to everything but by responding to the world around us. No wonder they wanted to arrest and kill Jesus...he'd pissed them off by asking what they wanted to overlook, but holding the authorities accountable. How do we do that today? Do we today? On this day of the 5th anniversary of the war in Iraq, how are we as followers of Jesus challenging the powers around us to authentic, organic, coherent actions? We the people that affirm that Jesus "give us his peace, not as the world gives," that "Blessed are the meek and the peace-makers," that Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life," that "whatever we have done to the least of these, we have done to Christ." What are we doing? How are we testifying? How are we integrating our life, work, faith, decisions, rest and relationships?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

10 Things I Love About Oakland (5::10)
The Community

I was struck by the thing - maybe my number 1 - that I love about Oakland these past 2 days, working at the coop preschool one child attends, helping with science at the elementary school our other daughter, and Obama's speech on race and politics today.

I love the diversity of Oakland. Here are 3 stories that illustrate it and a quote from Obama's speech today that echoes what I treasure about our beloved (and still troubled) city.

1. I ran an errand with a 3 year old daughter to Berkeley 2 weeks ago. Another 3 year old friend came along. While in the store picking up th printer I was having repaired, the owner asked if they were my children. Seems normal. Yet my daughter is clearly Anglo and our friend is clearly African-American. The following day I was at the preschool talking with another parent who told me a similar story about being with her daughter and another same-aged girl about town and again being told, "Your daughters are beautiful!" Again surprising as one girl is clearly Anglo and the other very clearly Asian-American. The statements weren't ironic or meant to make a statement. They were matter of fact, stating what is normal in Oakland today.

2. I was working in my other daughter's elementary school classroom on Monday, St. Patrick's Day. The kids were all in green - their hair dyed, clothes, hair accessories, make-up. While working with a group of kids I asked who was Irish. They all raised their hands - Asian-American, Latino, Anglo and African-American. Maybe they were having some St. Paddy's fun, yet odds are that many of them are actually Irish!

3. In the church I serve as pastor we work intentionally to celebrate, affirm and integrate our faith and culture in our worship celebrations. We do this in many ways, which are most often my favorite and most memorable worship gatherings. Two years ago a woman in our church was scheduled to give a testimony in a Black History Month Celebration. She is often sick, and usually home-bound, and always saying she is "blessed." I went to see her before church to get a testimony quote to share on her behalf that same morning. She blew me away with her comments: "I never thought I'd ever be in a church with white folks and with a white pastor. Growing up in Oklahoma I never dreamed, let along believed, that it could happen. Only God could make it happen." I continue to be marveled by her honesty and love every time that I see her, whether in her Sunday best or homebound in her apartment. What better faith community to be a part of as pastoral leader and in which my children are discovering, growing and being shaped by in faith. It's a big part of our congregation seeking to allow God let us reflect the reality of our neighborhood community.

What better place to raise my children, to live in a community where expectations or stereotypes of backgrounds, class, ethnicity, culture and orientation - YES THEY DO STILL REMAIN AND OPPRESS - but can oftentimes recede into the background and even disappear.

In listening to Obama's speech today and re-reading the text (online here) I was seized by a line that rings with what I just shared about loving in Oakland.

That [not changing anything and being distracted by beside the point policies] is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Peter Parker Potato Head
Gotta have it!

At Target this weekend I saw the greatest mix of pop culture from different Mr. Potato Head's - Peter Parker style and also Star Wars. I wonder if they'll make a Homer Simpson model?
Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 10/15
Mark 11:1-26

Today's chunk tells the story of Palm Sunday and the first day or so of Holy Week...up until about today. Jesus arrives in glory in the town. The crowd that is gathered welcomes him not only with hospitality but with admiration and anticipation. Is he the one? We've seen what he's done. We've heard the stories running through the press. Maybe he's the one to fulfill the ancient prophecies, to be the new king, the promised Messiah, to come and change things, to chase off the Romans, to bring the rich low and raise up the poor....could it be? Undoubtedly the crowd was not as big as we make it out to could the whole town be for him and within 5 days be against him?'s chunk tells us how. I've been struck the last few days by the biting comments and polarizing statements by Ferraro, and the Obama and Clinton machines - comments that spew hate, anger, division and destruction in order to be chosen, to become the leader, to bring peace. It gives a glimpse into how a crowd can change so quickly.

Jesus makes much tougher comments. He's not talking in the abstract he's condemning his own people and their religious practice. If you thought Rev. Jeremiah Wright's comments about "God damn America" were inflammatory, then Jesus comparing the temps to a "den of thieves" is more than the equivalent in terms that were religious, cultural and nationalistic. Jesus marvels the crowd with his comments and actions, which they deem as offensive or below-such a famous one, but Jesus does as consistent with his vision. He doesn't call the people to warfare, to violent overthrow of the rich, the Romans or other oppressors. Instead he calls them to lives of prayer, of peace flowing from a passion for God's heart, priorities, and purpose. Is it any wonder that they quickly wanted to kill him? He not only didn't live up to their expectations, he actively and strategically subverted and challenged them, calling everyone to a new way of living by faith. Would we - would I - have done any differently?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 9/15
Mark 10
(Eugene Peterson's Translation of the Bible - "The Message")

Jesus dives deeper into his teaching. To follow costs everything. You can't simply pick and choose what you want to apply in terms of God's commandments. You can't justify and interpret this phrase and that phrase in this context or that context in order to make it "easier". It costs everything: your mind, your heart, all of your life, your money, your decision-making, your courage to follow, giving up an old, or familiar life, in order to receive a new, or more whole one.

Today I find the encounter with the Pharisees challenging regarding the teaching on divorce. They want to nit-pick. Jesus says do it! It's more complicated than that, but I find myself challenged with my theological and philisophical support of many "hot button issues" that I believe are consistent with what it means for me in my experience to follow Jesus as teacher, prophet, gentle healer and lord. I believe in gay marriage and gay ordination, believing that Jesus would too. How do I justify that? Am I nit-picking, or following? How do we know and decide what it means to follow in the "grey" areas that Jesus didn't cover in the sermon on the Mount? And how do we live in community with other followers of Jesus who have opposite interpretations than we do? Our culture tends to push us to stick with those that are "like minded" and to leave behind those that are our opposites, inviting and encouraging us to view them as polarized ennemies. But that can't be for a community seeking to follow Christ, loving as Jesus loved, choosing to lift up and serve the "least of these." So how do we do this? And why don't we? (Bruce Reyes-Chow ironically blogged a bit about this from a different perspective this past week "How Presbyterian may be able to play 'nice' "

Interesting Articles I Read this Weekend

Several things got my attention in my catching up with newspapers,magazines and online posts this past weekend. Here's a list and links if you're interested:

A great editorial about the whole debate started or continued by Ferraro's comments about race last week.
"Geraldine Ferraro and role reversal" by Ruben Navarrette Jr. (Oakland Tribune)

The emergining ugliness of the Decoractic Nominee battle.
"The Democrats: Getting Fratricidal" (The Economist)

"America 2.0: The creative imperative" (SF Gate)

An update about the forthcoming Indiana Jones Movie (in theatres May 22)
"National Treasure" (Entertainment Weekly)
Preview of the new movie "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"

Faith/Christian Practice
Great entry about Palm/Passion Sunday
"Sunday Bloody Sunday"

An article about 94605 - the most populous zip code in Oakland - and where I live - demographic changes and the decreasing amount of recruits for the military from the diverse place I call home.
"Oakland 94605: They don't make recruits anymore"

"How Presbyterians May Be Able to Play 'nice'" on Bruce Reyes-Chow's moderator blog.

"Buzz in the Burg Dimond Style" by Corn Dog over at Farmer Joe's - new business info for the Dimond.

Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 8/15

Mark 9:2-50
(Eugene Peterson's translation - The Message)

This chunk contains the famous Transfiguration scene in which the disciples, who've been asking who Jesus is, actually witness, experience and participate in a divine revelation of Jesus' identity, purpose and passion. Then the desire to be powerful, famous, influential, meaningful, by being attached to Jesus sets in. They fight among themselves over who is the greatest, who will be and who should be. They miss the boat on what Jesus is talking about, teaching by his example and proclaiming in his exclusion-exploding relationships.

Peterson translates the passage in a lively, modern context. He ends with "Preserve the peace." That's what it's about. The question is how do we live as "preservatives" of peace? What does it cost to make peace? What does it cost to preserve it? Challenging questions and a timely translation in this week of the 5th anniversary of the war in Iraq (among other things).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 7/15
Mark 8:1-9:1

This chunk is the beginning of the larger central chunk section of Mark. It confronts the question that Mark is teasing out in his re-telling of the Jesus experience. Who do you say that Jesus is?

It's a weird one. Peter the curve-breaking, uber-achieving disciple, goes to the blackboard with his answer and not only fails miserable but is shamed for his answers. Jesus is not who we want him to be. Jesus is who he is called to be. He's called to lead not to make us fell better, to justify a regime, to legitimize a worldview, to regime change by installing a new one. He's about something deeper, bigger, more foundational than merely a cosmetic coup d'etat, cultural tweak, or composing the more recent "How To" best-seller. It's about a new way of living - that though we can "get" it is always beyond us. "those who want to live must lose their life. If you want to be one of my disciples, take up your cross and follow me."
Leadership 2.0
The Creative Imperative needed
for America & the Church

Several experiences in the past three days got me thinking about leadership and what it is that we need in our culture, in terms of the next President, in our cities, in our communities and in the church. I met with a group of pastors I covenant with for growth and conversation, had several conversations about Obama/Hillary around shared meals, accompanied a church member at the death of her husband, shared in a Senior Seminar Class at San Francisco Theological Seminary, participated in the ongoing discussions in the Dimond about desired businesses in our preferred and emerging community future, and read a great editorial on sf gate, "America 2.0: The creative imperative."

Here's my thoughts (not original in anyway, but definitely skewed by me):

1. We're at a time when we need creative, new, organic, inspirational, hope-giving and inventive leadership to get us out of our stuckness (whether that be the quagmire in Iraq/Afghanistan, racial reconciliation, the credit crisis, the budget crisis and education in California, crime in Oakland, business development in the Dimond, and transformation/contextualization/sexuality debates in the church). A leader, or leaders, who are classically trained in past decisions and policy-making in view of making new ones to help us today just won't cut it. Looking for a cassette tape won't work when what we need is the next generation of Ipods.

2. Our culture values creativity, innovation, collaboration, participation and risk. So why are we avoiding that in terms of who we look at to lead us, and how we're seeking to solve our myriad of problems.

3. We claim democracy, equality and the pursuit of the American Dream, but we need to recognize that we often do this in lip service. We feel entitled to our own opinions and visions to the extent that we expect our democratic processes and community decision-making and corporate discernment to simply - and logically - validate what we already know to be true and right. It's our narcissism (polarizing selfishness, stubborn doubt, avoidance of the topic of death at all costs, all-too-familiar comforts, and rigid sense of self-righteousness) that blinds us to the path less taken that's called for today.

4. We do not have a shared understanding of what it means to:
be experienced enough to lead,
be viable enough to succeed.

5. We're about participation and collaboration. Yet we keep articulating surprise when we obtain the same results when we undertake the same actions (someone once told me this is a definition of insanity). We look to others to solve our problems and give us the answers, as opposed to leaders who will speak truthfully and ask the questions we must work through together to find the way out. We say we want 2.0 solutions and community, but we seem to always choose a 1.0 worldview as our fall-back or fail-safe way of operating.
Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 6/15
Mark 7

Oops! I'm a day late in posting this.
Following several encounters of challenge and confusion with his disciples, the circle of confrontation and invitation to deeper, more organic belief is expanded. In this chunk Jesus moves on to a conflict with the Pharisees, the established religious leaders of his day. It's about faith and daily life. Are we living what we're saying, what we say we believe? Or are we couching our inauthentic or measured responses in our actions, words, presence and relationships with justifications and philisophical re-interpretations. Is Jesus a fundamentalist? Is he encouraging that? Seems like it in a sense. And yet the Pharisees were actually the "fundamentalists" of the day. Jesus challenges them to organic, authentic, concrete faith. It seems that shortly there after Jesus himself is challenged - by a foreign (syrophenician, and thus not Jewish) woman - to live out what he says - that God loves all people. A challenging story chunk. Does she convince him to do something new? Does she change Jesus' mind? Does this encounter irreversibly transform Jesus' faith, practice of it and understanding of sacred community? Was it all planned on his part? Or is it the editing of Mark as he writes down the story that flavors it with such complexity? Hmmm. The whole chunk ends with a deaf mute man, becoming whole, hearing, recognizing, and proclaiming what has happened: "the deaf hear, the mute speak!" I wonder why there was only one such healing when the whole scripture chunk seems to be about really hearing and authentically speaking?

It all makes me wonder about today. We're so split - in and out of the church community - over polarization: liberal vs. liberal, hymns vs. praise songs, styrofoam vs. paper, same sex couples vs. other sex couples, traditional vs. modern, big vs. small, zune vs. ipod. In the end I hear Jesus challenging the Pharisees, the disciples, the deaf mute man, even the Syrophenician woman - everyone he encounters (even us today as readers) to authentic faith, which is organic in nature, action-oriented in practice, engaging, committed, focused on real people as opposed to policy and/or programs. It's about here and now as well as the future and not yet. On his facebook page, Jim Kitchens shares the moto he hopes for the church community he serves, "We take the Bible seriously, but not literally." Maybe he's on to something. (More about Jim on pomomusings,

Friday, March 14, 2008

Basta to More Fast Food in the Dimond

My email account filled today with e-chat comments about the possibility of a Little Caesar's franchise opening at 2216 MacArthur Blvd in the Dimond District (the former Beneficial Finance site). It seems like maybe Fast Food does in fact kill - not just in a Michael Pollan organic way, but a slow death of (r)emerging communities and business districts.

Many of the comments shared reflected a no more attitude about:
1. More Fast Food places
2. More cheap Chinese restaurants
3. More nail shops
4. More cheap pizza outlets

Many of the comments expressed interest in:
1. a good pizza restaurant
2. a deli
3. a good Italian place
4. an Ethiopian restaurant
5. a Fabric/Craft store
6. some sort of store that were serve "senior" needs
7. more businesses like Paws & Claws, La Farine, Farmer Joe's, the Dimond Cafe, Loka Yoga, and Peet's that are about more than just making a dollar and who see the long term potential business - and community - gain in the development of the entire neighborhood in a sustainable way.
8. I'm hoping for some sort of a family-style beer/brew pub place!

In the past the Dimond Merchants Association facilitated a survey that tried to gather the opinions and interests of members of the community. I remember many hoping for another Arizmendi or Barney's to open in the Dimond. It looks to me like something along these lines will happen again. Check out the Dimond District online group for more info.

Kudos to Ruth for all her hard work. Support her efforts and the Dimond by going to Paws & Claws and buying your pet supplies exclusively from them!

Check out the updated 2.0 website Shop Dimond .
Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 5/15
Mark 6:7-6:56

Jesus continues on the journey. The way that Mark tells the story I feel myself being dragged along with the action. He sends out his disciples in twos, giving them instructions on what to do, where to go and when to know when to move on. The story then shifts to the moving on from John the Baptizer to Jesus the Prophet. John, whom the people went out to along the Jordan to be fed spiritually, is replaced by Jesus to whom the people go out to and by whom they're fed both with teachings and food. Jesus then walk on water out to his disciples, whose hearts are hardened? Who don't recognize him? What's up with that? Were they short-sighted or just clueless? And then once landed on the far side of the lake, in foreign (Gentile or non-Jewish) land - the people go crazy, following Jesus around closer than the paprazzi follow Britney hoping not for a good shot, but for a chance to even touch them hems of his garments in order to receive some of his power.

I'm always struck by the story of the feeding of the 5,000. I served for a while in a church community in which many wanted to explain away, with rational scientific and logically plausible explanations, the miracles in the Bible. They insisted that everyone must of had enough food to eat that day. They just didn't want to share it. It always struck me that in that line of thought, the fact that Jesus by his words and presence insights gratitude and generosity in a small boy, through which over 5,000 people are convicted of their sinful greed and are moved to share what they have with everyone else, so much so that there are left overs. I always laugh remembering a conversation about this around a table when folks were being pushed to choose to believe in miracles or to reject them. It seems to me that walking on water is a piece of cake compared to trying to get 5,000 greedy people to become generous! Maybe that's why the disciples hearts were so hard?

Parenting and Inclusive/Exclusive Communities

I had my girls with me today for the leadership of a worship service at a retreat and then for a hot date to California Pizza Kitchen in Walnut Creek.

While trying to lead a meaningful worship celebration my 2 girls climbed around the room on furniture, fighting over 1 of 12 pens on a table, crying over poked eyes, and writhing around on the floor singing songs while I stood trying to lead a community of folks in singing a different song. Stressed that they were bothering others, I tried to sneak directive comments to them in between the verses of the song I was leading on my guitar. It all failed. They sang, climbed, cried, and colored despite and with my best intentions. As we left someone said to me, "What? You're taking all the enthusiasm with you? What are we going to do?" What I feared as judgment, irritation or frustration was actually a community experience of acceptance, inclusion and grace. These folks not only welcomed but loved and appreciated my children for who they are.

We then headed off to our hot date at CPK. When seated after a short wait, I realized that we'd been exiled to the nether-regions of the kids only room. Tragically a young couple was seated near to us, and we were placed alongside 2 women who conveniently failed to hide their eye-rolls as we sat down. Within 10 minutes one daughter was sining, another was clicking her tongue incessantly, and one of the glasses of milk was upside down with its contents all over the carpet below our table. The 2 women made an audible noise of what I assume was irritation. The young couple tried to hide their laughter out of pity for me. The scene continued with chuckles and noises of irritation and consternation.

We left and I found myself wondering why I always insist on taking 2 kids under 6 out to dinner by myself? You'd think I'd learn, or at least be less clueless by now. I also reflected on the way back to Oakland on the 2 experiences of inclusion and exclusion. Thank god that hot date night at CPK isn't too often.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 4
Mark 5:1-6:6

This chunk of scripture contains some of my favorite stories. It's all about power - who has it, who doesn't it. It's about a reversal of who's in and who's on the outside. Jesus heals a foreigner, or Gentile, of not only a demon but also total social exclusion and isolation. He then restores a woman with a horrible case of menstrual bleeding to inclusion within her community and a newfound clearly established status as not only "clean" (according to the ancient Israelite purity laws) but as a beloved daughter in faith. She's part of the family. He then brings a dead girl back to life, challenging the cultural notions of life and death - of human existence at its core. It's then that he's rejected by his own people, his signs of power and grace go unrecognized, even rejected, for his notion of community and inclusion is foreign to those of his native culture. By being alive, in every breath, he subverts, transforms and makes whole the brokeness of the world in which he was born and lived.

We're quick in our secular western culture today to want to justify away with a supposed scientific worldview, or deny the power and possibility of miraculous healing. Yet we see increasingly that there is a transforming power in prayer, positive thought and rest (no, I'm not advocating a rejection of medicine, etc.). What's remarkable about Jesus for me in this scripture chunk today is that he's not only about healing bodies, he's about restoring the larger body, making the whole person free, recreating community, inclusion and solidarity where there was before division, exclusion, and slow death. How are we called, by our transforming experience of God's healing power and presence in Christ, to be agents of change, healers in our own right working for the redemption of the earth, human community, our economic systems, and our family units?
Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 3
Mark 3:13-4:41

I'm struck in reading this chunk by the power and purpose of Jesus. He's all about life - living true life - which flows not from the clan we belong to but to the way that we make God's priorities reality in our words, actions, rest and relationships. What does it mean that the disciples themselves - the closest friends of Jesus - don't know who he is when they're with him in the boat? Was it not clear? Were they just stupid? Did they expect something else?

In my own life I think I'm most often like those sea-sickened disciples, failing to recognize the presence of God around me because I'm looking for something different, something I can quantify, or more often control. How might things be different if it was more about letting God happen then doing all to stop &*$# from happening?
Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 2
Mark 2-3:12

Jesus continues healing physical brokeness, and expands to challenging the brokeness of the world - including the excluded, showing mercy to those that haven't to others, subverting the powers that seem to be in control. He's talking about newness, a new thing that God is doing which comes at the cost of the old way of living, doing, being, and relating. Ironically Mark tells the story in a way that lifts up that those who most recognize the power of Jesus are those that have the most to lose.

I find myself wondering if I'm not the same way. I often don't recognize the power of God in my life and around us unless I have something to lose, or my world is "rocked." How might I - and when I say "I," I mean "WE" - lived in a more centered way, focused on the essential in the moment, the real in the shifting, being fully present in the chaos of daily life.

Reading Large Chunks of Scripture
Day 1
Mark 1

The beginning of the gospel is about identity. Jesus seems to be identified by his first actions and words - healing, exorcising demonic spirits, creating community, and resisting the will to power above the desire to serve God - all of which flow from the identity of Jesus, affirmed at his baptism, as the beloved son of God.

As I read through this scripture chunk I'm challenged by this fact. How often do I find my identity, my self-worth, the ways in which I make meaning in life, from the fact that I too am a beloved child of God? Not all that often. I think more often my decisions are made based on the moment, a sense of the tyranny of the urgent, a survival mode as opposed to seeing a bigger picture, a worldview based first and foremost upon the way that God sees me as opposed to how I see the instant.
growing your faith through daily practice

This is a series that we're doing throughout the 6 weeks of Lent at the church I serve as pastor. I'm going to blog my way through these daily readings from now through Easter.

Reading Large Chunks of Scripture

We often read the Bible in our lives of faith, in worship, sharing favorite passages, maybe on a verse-a-day calendar. But we don’t often study or read through large chunks of scripture. The goal of this is more to get the whole story, the big picture, as opposed to studying or reflecting in depth upon a particular passage or event.

There are many ways to read the Bible. Reading through an entire book on a regular basis can be one of the most powerful in terms of experiencing the Gospel message. Most books of the New Testament were written with the goal of them being read aloud in one sitting to a particular church community. In our efforts to squeeze worship within the bounds of 1 hour (or up to 90 minutes when I’m really preaching J) we miss out on some of the purpose for which many Biblical books were composed – to be read in one sitting – to be experienced.

This week’s spiritual discipline to try out is to read through the Gospel of Mark in one sitting, or more realistically in 15 sessions from now until Easter Sunday.


  • To experience God in reading through the Gospel of Mark.

The Exercise

  • Sunday, March 9 Mark 1
  • Monday, March 10 Mark 2-3:12
  • Tuesday, March 11 Mark 3:13-4:41
  • Wednesday, March 12 Mark 5:1-6:6
  • Thursday, March 13 Mark 6:7-6:56
  • Friday, March 14 Mark 7
  • Saturday, March 15 Mark 8:1-9:1
  • Sunday, March 16 Mark 9:2-50
  • Monday, March 17 Mark 10
  • Tuesday, March 18 Mark 11:1-26
  • Wednesday, March 19 Mark 11:27-12:44
  • Thursday, March 20 Mark 13
  • Friday, March 21 Mark 14
  • Saturday, March 22 Mark 15
  • Sunday, March 23 Mark 16

Tips for the Practice

Don’t try to understand every nuance in the passages that you read each day. Rather focus on the big picture. It’s more about experiencing something that “getting it” intellectually. As you read, take in the story.

If it helps use these three questions as guides for your reading and reflection:

  • Who is this Jesus of Nazareth?
  • Why do so many abandon everything to follow him?
  • Why are you following him in your life?
  • Or why might you begin following him.

If you like this practice there are many ways to do it. Many study Bibles include reading timelines in them. You can also find many books written to empower such scripture experiences. One I like is Mark My Word. 40 Days with Jesus through the Eyes of St. Mark by Richard Giles.

Reflection Questions on your experience of the Gospel through this practice:

  • How did this practice challenge you?
  • How did you hear the gospel anew, or differently, through this reading practice?
  • Has your vision or experience of Jesus of Nazareth changed these past 16 days? How?
  • Has your vision or experience of yourself changed these past 16 days? How?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Just In Time to Keep You On Your Toes for the Last 2 Weeks of Lent
The Vatican Announces 7 New Deadly Sins

I spent Friday evening with some old and new-er friends. Opening a bottle of wine to enjoy as we hung out, several mentionned that they couldn't - or shouldn't - partake because of Lent and their choice to give up alcohol during these 6 weeks (between Ash Wednesday and Easter). Well the Pope is making things even harder for those trying to give up sinful habits during this Lenten Season and all year round. They're adding another 7 deadly sins to the list of the original seven. In our era of globalisation we'll need not only a Savior but also a Prius, to avoid shopping at WalMart, and getting a mani-pedi. I'm not against his idea at it's foundational level. But while he's bemoaning the de-Christianisation of the Western World I doubt that the intentional effort of expanding the list of deadly sins from 7 to 14 will be a motivator for faith throughout North America and Europe. Good luck avoiding Sin today.

Here's the list of the news sins
1. Drug Pushers
2. The Excessive Accumulation of a Few, who've gotten there at the expense of the poor and have thus caused poverty
3. Environmental Polluters
4. Related to Abortion
5. DNA/Genetic Manipulations, in particular on Embryos
6. Social Injustices
7. Economic Injustices

Articles you can check out online
Read the Principal Article in Yesterday's Edition of "L'Osservatore Romano" (paper of the Vatican) - in Italian, couldn't yet find an English Version.
"Seven New Deadly Sins: Are You Guilty?"
"Vatican Lists New Sins: including Pollution"
"Vatican Lists New Sins (MSNBC)"

Latest Buzz in the Dimond & Laurel

Corn Dog blogged a great update entry on the new and emerging business in the Dimond and Laurel Districts hosted over on Farmer Joe's and Friends entitled "Buzz in the Burg, Dimond District Style" - as good as any entry by Carrie Bradshaw.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Is Oakland's Dimond District the NEW Rockridge?

I met Corn Dog for coffee today at Peet's in the Dimond District (my favorite Oakland Cafe). When I arrived she told me of a passerby who had just asked her when the Dimond had gotten so nice. While having coffee we saw a mutual friend who is co-owner of the local store Paws & Claws as well as president of the Dimond Merchants' Association. We saw other folks that we knew and are instrumental in the neighborhood ranging from other merchants, to the homeless folks we know, to the UPS guy that serves our hood. It's a small village in the midst of the city of Oakland. Ruth told us while we hung out that she recently saw a man wearing an advertising poster board for a store located in Jack London Square (on the other side of town) hanging out - or publicizing -in front of that same Peet's store. When asked why, he responded that his employers had heard it's the place to be. Then at a meeting tonight a friend Debbie mentioned that we should meet at La Farine to hang out, sharing to the other members of the group with were with that the Dimond is the new Rockridge. Maybe she's right?

Here's some photos of the Dimond that came up when I googled it. Thought it was interesting to see what's in the first hits.

Beyond Blast Off Weightlessness at Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland

My family went to Chabot Space and Science Center today and experienced their new exhibit "Blast Off: Surviving in Open Space." Very fun. You even get to take these great digital photos that they emailed to me directly from the museum for free. Here's a photo of my daughter...weightless right here in Oakland.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Spiritual Practices (4)
Growing faith Through Daily Practice
don't give something up - take something on

Here's another practice that I've presented at our church in our bulletin during Lent.
Lectio Divina with Music

Music lovers are in for a treat with this prayer. Instead of listening for a word from the written page, you will be listening for what is evoked in you by music. You are allowing God to speak to you through musical notes, phrases, and images.

The choice of music used in this prayer is entirely up to you. It can be instrumental or vocal. It can e from any genre that inspires you – it does not have to be religious of from the inspirational genre. If you have a music collection, start with a selection that has moved you in some way previously.

After doing this prayer intentionally for awhile, or may find yourself moved to prayer spontaneously when listening to music. That’s the beauty of lectio divina – it becomes a part of life as you practice it regularly. It helps us “pray always.”

  • To experience God in music.

The Exercise

  • Choose the music you want to pray with.
  • Begin with silence, asking God to be present in the music.
  • Listen to your selection more than once. As you do this, be aware of any image, word, emotion, or memory that is called forth in you.
  • When you settle on an image, word, emotion, or memory, sit silently with is and bring your attention back to it when your attention strays. Allow this prayer gift to deepen in you.
  • What might this image, word, phrase, or emotion have to say about your life today? How is it connected to your spiritual journey? Ask God to reveal that to you.
  • Rest silently with your image, word, phrase, or emotion . Offer it to God. Wait patiently on God.
  • What would you like to express to God about the experience of praying with this piece of music? You might want to write in a journal about it, share it with someone, or return to it in prayer at another time.
  • Settle into a wordless and imageless time with God. When distractions get in the way, simply acknowledge them and return to contemplation (spiritual wondering).
  • Thank God for what is received in this time of prayer.

Tips for the Practice

This prayer will be easier for some people than for others. In traditional lectio divina, we have a lot of words to work with. With music – especially instrumentals – we don’t’ have word hooks to grab on to. We are propelled into the ephemeral world of emotion, images, and memories. Perhaps what comes to you is a word. But more likely it will be a feeling that leads you to a memory or an image. Whatever feels important to you is what you take into prayer and spend time on with God.

Shamelessly plagurized from 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Time by Teresa A. Blythe pages 52-53. If you liked this entry buy the book for 49 more prayer practices!

I love this. It's fun. Challenging. Fits me. Yet I'm struggling to practice this with a recent fav. Big Girls.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Dimond in the News
Trail of a Resident accused of murder and torture

Last year the Dimond district of Oakland made national news for the story of a torture chamber similar to that in "The Silence of the Lambs" that was found on Coolidge Ave. (across the street from the church I serve). This story is again in the news today in the SF Chronicle, "Accused's ex-girlfriend says he abused her, too" and in the Tribune "Ex-lover recounts abuse by murder defendant."
God Bless America
even the ignorants

I led a memorial service today for a member of our church community who died last week. She had special needs, was someone that is most often overlooked in our culture and society. What struck me during the celebration of her life and the gift of God that she was to so many in our community and neighborhood was the deep existential truth that we often reject what is different, that we avoid it, deny it, and seek to subvert it, when in fact we don't have to. The comment I heard repeatedly at the reception today was, "she taught me so much...." What are we missing out on in our culture of uniformity, conformity, and anonymity?

I've blogged about the recent trip I took to France. On Sunday as I preached on the Gospel text of the day (for March 2, Jean 9:1-41) I told some more stories about that trip which illustrated the blindness of the pharisees in that story as they missed out on what Jesus was doing, talking about and modeling. I thought of them again today after this memorial service/celebration of life.

In returning from Paris I flew through Philadelphia where my wife and I went through customs. As our passports were checked we gave 2 distinct answers to a question, so the customs agent, doing a good job, followed up with a myriad of questions. Included in those were why we had stamps from Jordan, Israel, and Egypt in our passports. The agent was stupified that we had visited those places. When we shared how fantastic they were and are, he quickly responded saying, "Why would you go there? They hate us. They're all out to get us. Better to just stay home." Flabbergasted I muttered politely that they were amazing places and people to visit.

We moved on, getting our bags and then proceeding through customs again, turning in our forms. As we approached that place there was a huge bottleneck in the line of waiting people loaded with baggage. Many were foreigners visiting the USA, unable to understand what was going on - like all of us there - because of the chaotic atmosphere and then also because of their limited English skills. A woman with a jersey accent pushed past us, trying to cut us off. When she was blocked by an unaware foreign person, she got in her face and screamed "IGNORANT!" Then stomped off to return to her family behind us. My wife and I laughed and reflected upon who was actually the ignorant person in the situation.

If you know me, or merely have read the blog, I admit that I am an Obama supporting Democrat, relatively socially liberal, Californian greatly shaped by the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and my desire to follow in his footsteps. I find myself troubled when I repeatedly hear the statement "God bless America." Now I'm not anti-American, nor am I un-proud of who I am, where I come from, and who we are as a nation-state-community. But I have to wonder (not that this is a unique reflection), why would/should God only bless us? Why is it that we are so quick - all human beings - to reject what's different, to overlook the different, to dis-engage - even villefy - the other? I'm as screwed up, making as many mistakes every day as the next person. But I have to wonder what we're missing out on when we act like that customs agent and the jersey-born woman when we not only reject, but utterly refuse to even engage with what is different. I too do the same. Yet when I think about the people that have greatly influenced, and shaped me for good, they often aren't like me and weren't the people that I would necessarily gravitate towards out of a sense of facility, efficiency or safety.

A friend once told me a saying of the South, "We know where we've been, but We don't know where we're going." We definitely won't just get there if we only stick with what we've known, where we've already been, and what we ourselves are like. Bruce Reyes-Chow wrote a great entry with a similar thing talking about the PC(USA) and the future of the church "Four Cultural Shifts the PC(USA) Needs to Make." I wonder what the shifts are that WE and by we I mean ME (too) need to make in order to move from ignorance to sight, from blindness to perspective, from ego-centricism to holistic worldviews?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Blogging in Oakland

Chip Johnson had a great article in the SF Chronicle on Oakland and the state of blogging in our city today. "Small band of bloggers keeps eye on Oakland." Turns out the blosophere - at least the political one regarding our city - is quite small in Oakland. The local paper is stretched to cover the whole East Bay...and so much goes unnoticed, un-debated, and un-questionned. The article ordained "" as the number 1 blog of Oakland (political) and included an interesting quote:

"When I [Chip Johnson] called her [blogger at www.abetteroakland .com] Wednesday, she reluctantly accepted a compliment as the city's No. 1 blog site, then complained about Oakland's lack of news coverage - and a smaller blogosphere than Great Falls, Mont., whose population of 56,000 compares with nearly 400,000 in Oakland."

What does that say about Oakland? I'm not sure, but it makes me wonder when we live in such a technologically advanced and politically motivated area why are there so few bloggers out there addressing the emerging needs, vision and tension in our city?
Oakland Unified School District
Oakland Under Serving Devoted Citizens
Notification about the School Assignments for 2008/09

A friend told us tonight that his son didn't get into their number 1 choice for public school in Oakland for kindergarten next year. Instead they were assigned to the crappy under-performing - but surprisingly not categorized as failing - school closest to their over-priced home. My heart was wrenched and went out to him and his family, remembering my own depression-enducing travails with OUSD last year doing the same with our daughter. The notification letters were to be mailed out before or at the latest by tomorrow - March 1st - so I excpect to hear more and hopefully read something in our local paper regarding our school district. It all makes you wonder.

1. Is the Middle Class already dead? Our children will not take one, but maybe 2 steps down from us.

2. What's wrong with California and Oakland? We pay half a million dollars for old houses on a potentially devastating earthquake fault in order to then send our children to schools were 30% or less of the students can read at or even near grade level?

3. What does it take to turn a school district around?

4. We live in the home of the free and brave, talking about equality but is it all just blowing smoke? For what we experience in our school district is a supposed "lottery" that isn't even that in name, and in which those with good home value don't have to worry about anything. If our city is really about solidarity, equality and improvement - if the district is really about "upsetting the status quo to in order to provide a high quality of education for every student" (OUSD annual report)....then where the hell is the beef?

5. How transparent is this whole school assignment options process? It seems often more like smoke and mirrors than an authentic process. If it's not a lottery they shouldn't describe it as such. At least then people would know if they can afford to move to a good school neighborhood in advance, or expect to be screwed over.

6. The annual report talks about equality in education as it directly translates to equality of opportunity. What I seem from my experience is that there is only equality if you live in the right neighborhoods (Montclair, Redwood Heights, Upper Rockridge). What exactly does equality mean in our school district?

7. I read in the paper today that the estimated bill for everything in Iraq is 3 trillion dollars. My daughter's teacher regularly asks for donations of paper towels for the classroom because there is no money to buy them. I doubt that there are any in the schools in Bagdad either. So what are we doing with all our money?