Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What I'm Reading -
An Invitation to Read Together
Monte's Book Club

Not as popular as Oprah - but just as good looking

I talked with several friends this past week about books that we've read, are reading and dream of reading. It got me thinking that reading is one of my favorite things, and it's made even better when I get to discuss books with others. The latter is increasingly difficult to do so I thought I'd try to do it with others through the blog.

I just finished Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana by Anne Rice. (The second in a trilogy she's writing on Jesus of Nazareth. The first is entitled: Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt). These are amazing books. Yes it's Anne Rice of all the vampire fame and gore. And she's writing a Novel in three parts of the life of Jesus - all in the FIRST PERSON. She's done a lot of research and study. She writes of Jesus as he grows up. The miracle at Cana (John ) takes place at the end of the 2nd novel. So she's been trying to flesh o
ut what was happening to, in and with Jesus as he grew up, and his divinity/mission/purpose emerges in his consciousness and his family system. It's quite good, weaving together the 4 gospel accounts, data from the Dead Sea Scrolls and stuff from the Apocrypha and the Gospel of Thomas on his childhood. Very thought provoking. Very much orthodox. Very human.

Has anyone read it? If so what'd you think?

The question it leaves me with is when and how did Jesus grow up? What influenced and shaped him: his community, his family, the divine presence in and around him? At what point did he choose to accept what he was being pulled to? How do you reconcile your experience or perspective on his humanity and divinity with that?

Next Month - MAY - I'm going to read 2 books:

Get a copy of one or both and look for my th
oughts posted in May seeking to invite discussion and dialogue online!

Presence: An exploration of profound change in people, organizations and society by
Peter Senge. (recommended by Sheila Denton)

Here's a review from Amazon.com:
Presence can be read as a both a guide and a challenge to leaders in business, education, and government to transform their institutions into powerful agents of change in a world increasingly out of balance. Since business is the most powerful institution in the world today, the authors argue, it must play a key role in solving global societal problems. Yet so many institutions seem to run people rather than the other way around. In this illuminating book, the authors seek to understand why people don't change systems and institutions even when they pose a threat to society, and examine why institutional change is so difficult to attain.

The authors view large institutions such as global corporations as a new species that are affecting nearly all other life forms on the planet. Rather than look at these systems as merely the extension of a few hyper-powerful individuals, they see them as a dynamic organisms with the potential to learn, grow, and evolve--but only if people exert control over them and actively eliminate their destructive aspects. "But until that potential is activated," they write, "industrial age institutions will continue to expand blindly, unaware of their part in a larger whole or of the consequences of their growth." For global institutions to be recreated in positive ways, there must be individual and collective levels of awareness, followed by direct action. Raising this awareness is what Presence seeks to achieve. Drawing on the insights gleaned from interviews with over 150 leading scientists, social leaders, and entrepreneurs, the authors emphasize what they call the "courage to see freshly"--the ability to view familiar problems from a new perspective in order to better understand how parts and wholes are interrelated.

This is not a typical business book. Mainly theoretical, it does not offer specific tips that organizational managers or directors can apply immediately; rather, it offers powerful tools and ideas for changing the mindset of leaders and unlocking the latent potential to "develop awareness commensurate with our impact, wisdom in balance with our power." --Shawn Carkonen

Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Clairborne. (Recommended by Ruth Villasenor, Matt Prinz & Mary Glenn)

Here's a review from Amazon.com:
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Here is the must-read election-year book for Christian Americans. What should Christians do when allegiances to the state clash with personal faith? Haw and Claiborne (The Irresistible Revolution) slice through politics as usual and well past the superficial layers of the culture wars with their lucid exploration of how Christians can and should relate to presidents and kings, empire and government. Their entertaining yet provocative tour of the Bible's social and economic order makes even the most abstruse Levitical laws come alive for our era. They also
provide a valuable political context for Christ's life, reminding readers that Jesus did not preach the need to put God back into government—he urged his followers to live by a different set of rules altogether, to hold themselves apart as peculiar people. The compelling writing is enhanced by a lavish, eye-popping layout. The pages are a riot of textured callouts, colors, photos and fonts—the perfect packaging for a message that must compete in a world of sound bites. With this second book, Claiborne emerges as an affable, intelligent, humorous prophet of his generation, calling people out of business-as-usual in a corrupt world and back to the radically different social order of the biblical God. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
New Madonna Album Today

OK - I'm a fan and a junkie. Can't wait to listen to the whole thing - how can I make a trip to Borders into a work opportunity....hmmmm. Here's the first single - and a cool video that's been going crazy on youtube and has some cool graphics. What is that black stuff taking over the world?

Bumper Sticker of the Week

This is on the car of a friend who is a community organizer in Oakland.
By the looks of things I'd say he's working pretty hard.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Three Strikes and You're IN
If You're the Victim of Violent Attacks
at Piedmont Avenue Elementary School

A 1st grade boy in Oakland spent the night at the hospital after being supposedly bullied and beaten by a 5th grader at his elementary school this past week. Turns out it's the 3rd time since the boy started school there that he's been bullied and physically beaten. What in the world?

Turns out Piedmont Ave Elementary - with 344 students, had 312 suspensions last year, 97 of which were for violent incidents (Oakland Tribune). YIKES! When I went to an OUSD public forum last week I heard it said that this school is one of the up-and-coming schools of the district, that goes unnoticed because it's under the radar. Well not anymore. Why is it that we tolerate such crap? We talk a lot about change in our city and nation. But how will it come if we don't stop tolerating what we want to transform in the behavior, worldviews and daily life of our children. We bemoan our schools falling behind China, India and Singapore in terms of science and math education....maybe part of the blame is with the tolerance of violence at school that induces such fear that I wouldn't want to go, and tolerance of parents/care-givers who do nothing to intervene.

Read more online:
[Oakland Tribune] "Bullying Incident Awakens Officials"
[SF Gate] "Oakland Police Probe alleged bullying incident"
[Review of School at great schools.net] Piedmont Avenue Elementary

Who knows what happened that day, and in the past. If I've learned anything the past few years in visiting school administrator friends at work, it's that they have an insanely difficult job, with too many hats, juggling diverse and myriad things all day long. I have experienced at my daughter's OUSD school - just this past week - in the office the school secretary not tolerating at all the fall out from a fight that had just happened between a 1st and 2nd grader on the playground. It seems like it's all about the context and climate we create, nurture and demand for our children. How do we want it to be a safe, collaborative and participatory learning environment?

If you're interested attend the public meeting to address this issus on May 14 @ 7:30 at Piedmont Gardens, 110 41st St. Oakland

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday, April 27th
"Have you caught any fish?"

John 21:1-19
Luke 5:1-11

“What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?"
“Smell the cheese often so you know when it's getting old."

This 6th in the series of the 7 Next Words of Christ (after the Resurrection) is the scripture I'm using at our church this week. The passage is so human, about change, our fear of it, and our reluctance to embrace and live into transformed lives with new God-given purposes. Peter was called from being a fisherman to become a fisher of men (and women). He follows Jesus for 3 years, is transformed, grows, is stretched and changed...yet when Jesus is gone, seemingly for good because of the Crucifixion he goes back to his earlier, previous life. He just gives up on his dreams, abandons his hopes, settles for the status-used-to-be. It's in his fear-full return to his earlier life that the resurrected Jesus appears and explodes into his comfortable and familiar routine, challenging him to deeper waters of conversion, spiritual transformation, and existential purpose.

We're - at least I am - just like Peter. Something new happens. God pushes me, stretches me, trying to get me to grow in spiritual maturity, knowledge or experience. I want to move there. I'm overjoyed to move there. And then I quickly move back out of fear to my familiar, and/or comfortable place of life, action and thought. I settle for what I know instead of hoping, dreaming and seizing the gift that God is offering me.

How is it that after having seen the risen Jesus in Jerusalem and been commissioned as apostles that Peter and his friends would return to their earlier lives of fishing in Galilee?
After having seen Jesus twice, face to face, why would they fail to recognize him when he appears again in this passage?
Some might say it points to textual errors, or editing in this passage. Perhaps. I think it points to the deepest aspects of what it means to be human: fear of change, desire for comfort, a tendency to settle. Jesus calls us - as he calls Peter in these 2 passages - to follow him, not to a no-man's land, but to a better future out of settlement to an unexpected and long-dreamed-of banquet feast. Why is it that we prefer to settle?

If you haven't seen or read "Who Moved My Cheese?" you can check out a nice powerpoint show of it (HERE). It can be a helpful tool in talking about transformation and adaption to change.

The Key Stone State Primary
Race Gender Generation & the Future

I stayed up late last night watching the analysis of the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary on CNN, Fox and MSNBC and then spent the morning listening to talk radio (after having read the papers) about the primary results. I feel stunned and let down.

1. It seems to me that we live in an incredibly racist culture - not just in terms of skin color and ethnicity, but in terms of culture (age, generation, worldview, and communication styles). I'm not naive, but horrified to hear some of very leaders questioning whether a black man can win as president. I was stunned last night to hear on the new the analysis that the old white guys just didn't turn out to vote for Obama.

2. We had dinner guests last night from the Key Stone State. In our conversation it was shared that someone suspected that Barack Obama might be a muslim extremist because of his name, and surprise was articulated that he isn't Arab but rather African-American. I heard it said aloud at some point yesterday that folks in Pennsylvania had to basically chose between a woman and a N*&%*$. I almost choked on my own revolusion.

3. How can things change in our country when we won't let them? Most people are afraid: of terrorists, the economy, the insane amount of foreclosures, the emergence of China and India, techonology, the soaring cost of food, crime, failing public schools, and the looming crises of health care, Social Security, and All Our Children Being left behind in comparison to others nations. So why is it that we look for leaders who will give us the same old comfortable familiar solutions and sound-bytes? How can sticking our head in the sand help?

4. This is crass. If it offends you I'm sorry. But it's my impression of where our nation might be, which developed in listening to all of this analysis and processing of yesterday's results and what it means. Maybe this election is basically going to come down to who has the oldest, most experienced and whitest penis....he'll be the winner and our next president.

Maybe it's time to move to Europe.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Dimond Cafe
more than just a good cup of coffee

I spent the morning working at the Dimond Cafe this morning on Fruitvale, just below MacArthur next to WAMU. Great place. Good coffee. Nice free Wi-Fi connection (the only one in the Dimond) and great looking baked goods. I'd have eaten this baked on the premises cinnamon roll - but my pants already barely fit.

The crowd was a cool mix of the Dimond community - 3 bloggers (besides myself), older ladies talking about a Senior Traveling Cruise, the neighborhood UPS guy and young professionals on work breaks.
I'll be back.

Tomorrow night - Wed., April 23rd they're hosting a reception for local artist Rita Skylar and her Diversity in Dimond Park Painting Exhibit.
Bumper Sticker of the Week

I ran across this one in Emeryville last week.
Perfect for the big election day that today is.

Good luck Harry!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Keeping It In the Family
Pesach 2008

We celebrated Passover (Pesach) with our extended family last night. I was struck throughout our 4 hour dinner (and we left early) by the participation and connectional involvement of everyone. As we shared a meal and conversed our way through the Haggadah, a modernized re-telling of the Passover story of the Israelites deliverance
from slavery in Egypt, I was struck by the conversations in which I participated covering immigration, family fun, theology, philosophy, the historical Jesus, elementary school, the view of same-sex marriage in Judaism and Christianity, and many jokes. As the evening went on the children moved from being distracted by toys in the other room to the center of attention as they re-enacted the Exodus story in a skit for everyone. My girls loved it (you can see them dancing their way through the parted Sea of Reeds). The evening was powerful, reminding me of the uniqueness of the meal - it's not just about eating, it's not just a religious service or traditional ritual, but a group experience or re-experience of a foundational story that makes meaning for those gathered, and gives meaning to our lives today.

I'm reading a book on rituals which states that we're living in a time of constant and chronic change. Some who haven't experienced much of it in their lives look at it that way, youngerish X-ers,
Millenials, etc. would simply call it "normal." In the midst of all this change and transition we are losing our way. Some would say we've lost our moral compass. I'd say - in following the line of thought of the book - that we're losing our roots, not traditions in a comforting smooth-over stuff way, but those that root us in the past - in our story - so that we can more confidently move into the future emerging all around us. In our Christian tradition, the community I'm a part of, most folks look to me as the clergy to do it all: tell and re-tell the story, offer the prayers, do the justice work, walk folks through things, teach the common faith that binds us together. I'm not against it, but why just me? Last night it was all in the family, we told our children and they retold us the story. We worked our way through the story, claiming it for our lives today, in conversation, poignant question-asking, goofy folks songs, and prayers. How come we don't do that more often - or even at all - in the Christian tradition? We moved from following Jesus who said that we don't need a building to worship God, but rather to do so in word, thought and action, to a semi-sociological group that is worried about who our pastors/clergy leaders are and what they're doing (I'm not just talking about Jeremiah Wright). Often I experience folks who judge others "faith" or "righteousness" based upon the church they attend, the books they read, or the pastor they listen too. Aren't we called to follow a man from Nazareth who invited himself to dinner in order to spark good conversation, create dialogue, birth community and facilitate a new way of living? We seem to have little congruence in our lives between what we live on Sunday morning and our Monday-Saturday lives. When did we move from being about faith in all we do, in particular in our families (however we define them) to regulating faith to an hour (or more) on Sunday mornings?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Oakland Unified School District
Open Enrollment / Quasi-Lottery Options Program
What is an Oakland Public Education Really About?
What kind of Success are they really asking us to expect?

I went last night to a community forum at Bret Harte Middle School regarding OUSD School Admission and Attendance Boundary Policies. In Oakland there are good school, dismally failing schools (such as the one in my neighborhood) and many schools in the middle that are good (not great) but slipping under the radar of public school shopping community-organizing-bent Oaklanders. The good schools - mostly in the hills - and I'll name them (Hillcrest, Chabot, Montclair, Thornhill, Redwoods Heights, Lincoln, Crocker Highlands) are all over-crowded. [School information & rating here. Find your neighborhood school here.] Everyone wants to go there...those that can afford the high priced homes in those areas (except for Lincoln downtown) and all those that will do anything to get in - use a fake address for registration, appeal, appeal, appeal and anything else in their means. So what do you do?

The School Board is reviewing the policies of boundaries and the Options Program, looking to help ease the overcrowding of these schools. I'd ask though is that the real question? Is that what the School Board is really looking at, or is that the lone value they want to affirm?

What's the real priority in our school district?
Keeping folks happy?
Keeping families together at the same school?
Improving all the schools?
Ensuring equitable access and just education for all families across socio-economic and ethnic/cultural diversity parameters?

I was moved by several comments at the forum (which was well led) and feelings that I share, including:

What are the real problems of the OUSD?

Why does the OUSD spend some much time tinkering around with periphial issues (like the Options Program details and boundaries) as opposed to address key and deeper issues (some of which I'd identify as 1) the need for help for those "under-the-radar up-and-coming-schools like Glenview, Sequoia, and Laurel; 2) the need to build up parent involvement so as to spread the wealth of parent-organizers who can create and sustain transformative energy for PTA leadership in every school - which seems to be one of the key indicators of elementary school success; 3) the need to do more targeted and intentional marketing/outreach to future parents who may be considering their neighborhood public school and may bring with them much-needed organizing skills and willingness - what would it take to motivate and empower such people to choose their neighborhood public school over the myriad of private schools in Oakland? 4) the need to encourage and empower partnerships between schools and communities of faith and/or neighborhood associations in view of expanding and maturing the success of the school through community solidarity and collaboration).

A last speaker stood and shared about the beauty and power of and in the Oakland Unified School District, of her children being blessed by being in a vibrant community of diversity, encouragement and challenge pushing them to be the best that they can as well as pushing our city to become all the best that it already is. Power and Beauty - a bold statement we so often overlook when we shrug our shoulders, admitting a seemingly defeat and acknowledge Oakland as a "not-as-good-as _________ city."

What are the values of the Oakland Unified School District?
What's an Oakland Public Education really about?
and finally
"The whole approach of the OUSD to recruiting, retaining and relishing families in the public schools of Oakland - in all of the schools - raises the question, "Do people even want to send their kids to Oakland Public Schools and if not, why not?" Interestingly enough this community forum was nearly impossible to find at Bret Harte School, located in the back of the labyrinth camps, with a handful of handwritten - nearly difficult to read - signs indicating the path, several of the early comers depended upon students still at the school at 6pm to show them the way. What does that say about our system and about those perseverant enough to find in and for it.

This difficulty of knowing what you're getting in to (will the school actually be any good? How can you tell that in one visit? What will the school be like when my second child goes to Kindergarten in 2-4 years? Will they get into the same school?) is what attracts so many quality folks to private and charter schools. Our daughter nearly went to one because of this whole process and the completely dismal suckiness of our neighborhood school. I'm a proponent and marketer for the Public Schools - I love love love the one we attend - and yet in the communities I'm a part of in Oakland, which contain many middle-class, multi-racial, organizing-type families, the majority of them choose private and/or charter schools over Oakland public schools. And they're just the ones that could push an under-the-radar/up-and-coming school over the top in terms of parent leadership and collaboration in and through PTAs. A lot of it is an image problem. Simply making out of date websites (the OUSD one still has the 2006-07 academic calendar on it) and signs that read "expect success" isn't going to get people to think that success is really there.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday, April 20th

Matthew 28:16-20

John 13:12-17, 34-35


We're continuing our series on the 7 next words of Christ at Fruitvale Presbyterian Church.

Jesus tells his disciples to go into the world. Faith, following, being a disciple isn't about living behind closed or locked doors. It's about engaging your neighbors, leaving the familiar to experience the new, abandoning enslaving traditions to be transformed by the liberty of God's grace, about faith not as comfort but as adventure that leads to deeper waters and blessings. It's not about being served as much as it is about serving others. What great words for us as a community - both of faith and of humanity sharing our planet - on earth day.

But how do you know what God's wants you, or us, to do? I think we often get so freaked out by either the seemingly impossibleness of discerning God's will or the fear that we're going to be called like the prophets Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah or Esther to do something totally radical. Or we think it's some impenetrable secret that only God knows and we're too ______ to ever glimpse. Maybe it doesn't have to be that hard! In fact I think it is so easy that we have no excuse to not be out in the world.

Frederick Buechner writes:
“[God’s Will for you today, here and now] is found where our deep gladness and the world’s deep need meet -- something that not only makes you happy but that the world needs to have done.”

Basically we're called to go into the world, to do what God's Spirit has already put upon our hearts, the things we're passionate about that we also see as a need in and for the world, or context, in which we live. Here's a great online tool to discern where your passions and the needs of the world intersect. We have no excuse...I think that's what Jesus was saying to his disciples on the Mountain Top. Curious and ironic that Jesus gave this great commission, or invitation to discipleship at the top of a mountain from where there's nowhere else to go besides down and into the world.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

10 Things I love about Oakland 6::10 The Big Longs

I haven't been working to diligently on my top 10 list for Oakland and realized that the Big Longs has to be in the list. This is one of my favorite places - if not the best place - to shop in Oakland. This store has everything from Nefretiti statues to little Buddhas, from an amazing collection of Tiki Torches, to the best nursery in Oakland, from Twinkies to Organic produce. I love it! In shopping yesterday I took some photos to share the joy. If you've never been you should go! Turns out it's the 2nd biggest Longs in the Universe! WOW! Here's some reviews on Yelp

April Crime in Oakland
What's up with robbing the diner joints with a gun?

In the past 10 days at least 5 restaurants have been held up at gun point in Oakland, and in the stretch of Oakland I call home (District 4) from the Glenview through Millsmont).

In my online reading this morning I read the article in the Tribune about the most recent robbery of Milano's on Grand Ave. this past Sunday night [Fifth eatery's diners, workers robbed in 2 weeks and Three Oakland eateries robbed over weekend], and then while thinking about the continuing dialogue about crime, gentrification, safety and justice on the Dimond Web Link ran across a thoughtful response on the Laurel Village Yahoo Group this morning posted by Gracie B.

She was talking about trying something new, that instead of just hiring more cops, bullying folks, and having zero tolerance in a New York sort of agenda, that we need to live fully in our neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods are too easy of a target she says because too many of us leave it for so many parts of our lives (work, socializing, shopping, eating out, schools, etc.). She advanced that "
Urban planners say that this knowledge and a consistent pattern of activity in a neighborhood are important to preventing crime
and having speedy resolution if something happens." And then offered 2 ways to act to not only prevent crime, but to also enjoy life:

be active within the neighborhood just to be active.

be nosy with a purpose. Pay attention to the neighbors who are around you. What kids and teens are on your street? Who are their friends? When are they around? This not only helps deter the troublemakers, but also should something ever happen to one of the kids (abduction, bike riding injury, gets lost, whatever) you know where they belong..

Good words. She also has a blog (Brilliant and Fabulous) that's new to me and worth checking out for the writing and humor and insightful commentary on the issue of crime, latent racism, ageism and what I'd call "urban narcissism".
Favorite Bumper Sticker of the Week

I saw this one in Rockridge today in a parking lot.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday
April 13th
John 20:19-29
Philippians 4:1-9

This week in the ongoing series of the next 7 words of Christ that we're doing at our church we move on to "Peace Be With You!"
What is peace? What is the peace that Jesus is talking about in John 20? It has to be more than just a greeting of Shalom. It has to be more than a hey I'm back! What is peace for you? I love this book (The Peace Book) by Todd Parr that I shared in slideshow format in worship today. Here's a version for you to enjoy online.

I often think of peace as a calm, a break, a get-away-from the rat race, my children's melt-down or my own personal freak out. The peace that Jesus is talking about isn't just the momentary absence of stress, anxiety, hardship, suffering, war, or other crappy stuff. It's the presence of the fullness of God - God's love, God's power, God's grace and community in and with us in those moments - good and bad, hard and easy, challenging and empowering. The Jesus who offers that peace is marked with scars from the crucifixion. He's both old and familiar and radically new and different. He's present in the extreme pain and suffering of the cross and the radically freeing joy and liberation of the empty tomb. Peace - the peace that Jesus is talking about - is a center from which we live our lives...it's not a momentary feeling, but the foundation upon which we build and from which we live, learning in increasing spiritual maturity to recognize that God is present, that God's peace is with us, all around us and inviting us to new life in every moment, working to transform the division, destruction and decay we know into wholeness, new life and freedom that we long for. It's an invitation to a "zen-like" way of living, not denying hardship, but seeing a larger picture, finding strength in the solidarity of God's presence and the liberating encouragement of life in Christian Community.

Where do you find peace?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dick Cheney and his Fishing Buddy(ette)?

I ran across a funny photo and lot's of chat on the blogosphere about a photo of VP Dick Cheney currently on a fishing trip vacation. If you look at the image reflected in the glasses you have to ask yourself if it's a naked woman. Turns out many have. The Vice-President's office says that it's clearly his arm holding the rod and casting for fish. Hmmmm. Take a look and you make the call.

Here's some funny reactions on the Blogosphere to the photo and news. Here's an article on the whole thing.
5 Things Barbie Has Taught Me About Life

We went on a road trip to LA this past week. Our daughters watched movies up and down I-5, in particular Barbie Island Princess. I'm not sure that we should let them do so. Here's what I learned from the front seat listening to the movies over and over and over and..... Thank God my kids don't know that there is a Wii version of the movie! Don't tell them.

1. Your Step-Mother (or worse yet your potential Mother-in-Law) probably wants to: steal your tiara, steal your throne, steal your man, and/or kill you (or all of the above).

2. You might feel like a princess, and odds are you are one...but you probably were stolen as a child, cast overboard in a storm at sea, or kidnapped...so you most likely have a lot of psychological baggage, but don't worry it won't surface until you and Ken (or whatever your prince's name is) start having kids.

3. Talking animal friends always help in a pinch.

4. Good hair is essential. If you have the right DNA is will just happen naturally every day.

5. Don't give up! Just when you're about to lose hope you'll discover: you actually are the queen, you actually have a family, you won't end up a lonely bitter old maid all alone with talking animals on a remote island, and/or you're actually rich so you won't have to wear the same (miraculously never dirty) dress for eternity.

Has anyone else learned any life nuggets from Barbie? If so, do share! I need all the help I can get.
live on the web, in the news & on the radio

Montana Slim (my favorite blue-grass band)...ok it's my brother's band so I'm not objective is on tour throughout the Northwest. They're playing tonight in Portland. The concert is going to be streamed live on the web at


You will have to register for free, but after that, you should be all set. Just follow the Montana Slim live at the Laurelthirst Pub link.

They've also been selected as a feature artist of the month on the San Francisco Happy Brigade website. You can read the article by clicking on the following link:


Montana Slim will also be playing live on-air on KHUM in Arcata, CA tomorrow afternoon (Friday the 11th) between 4 and 5pm. You can tune in live by going to www.khum.com and following the live streaming links.

Here's a youtube clip of a concert that they played at the church I serve earlier this year.

Friday, April 04, 2008

What Would Your Pastor Do?
Jeremiah Wright - Barack Obama - Racism - & Christian Faith

I'm slow in responding to the whole debacle - and what I'd call sensationalist political inuendo and slander - of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity Church in Chicago (Obama's home community of faith). But here I am finally waying in. This editorial cartoon that I scanned from the SF Chronicle on
Easter Sunday says it all. Of course I'm a man of words so I can' t just stop there in my response to this whole thing.

1. I think Jeremiah Wright is a damn good pastor. I would go to his church if I didn't already work at one and happened to live in Chicago.

2. We've somehow settled in our culture for a watered-down, anti-prophetic, bought-into-some-false-american-dream vision of church. We want our pastors to tell us in 40 days or 40 short stories about how simple it is to live lives of faith. I don't mean to criticize the who purpose driven life craze of Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, I just mean to compare it to the urban prophetic presence of Jeremiah Wright. What do we want of our religious leaders: that they'll tell us what we want to hear?; or that they'll challenge us with what we don't want to hear, not primarily as condemnation but as an invitation to both personal and corporate transformation? I'm down with the latter.

3. When did being Black - or whatever racial/cultural background we come from - become a bad thing? Trinity Church should be proud of being unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian! They actually practice what they preach - how novel?! As is stereotypically usual, we - the white establishment or majority culture (or whatever you want to call) - gets afraid when a person of color seems to be angry in particular in the way that they present their opinion, beliefs or assert themselves. I wonder if we 'maintstreamers' would ever have liked Jesus in the first place, that brown man who overturned tables in the Temple, invited the outcast into the limelight, and challenged the powers at be to legitimate leadership.

4. There's a ton of hoopla about Obama's pastor saying such things as "God damn America!" First of all we live in a screwed up culture in which we think truth and wisdom can be conveyed in 25 second sound bytes. Talk about decadence and intellectual bankruptcy! If you'd judged Rev. Wright on that sound byte, have you listened to his sermon!? I think - from the excerpts I've read - that it's one of the best I've heard in several years. Prophetic. Unapologetic. Challenging of cultural hegemony and privilege - and inviting to a new way of living and being. Sounds like the gospel to me.

5. When did people do exactly what their pastors say? People freak out about Obama following Wright's teaching to the letter. I ask people in my church to simply stop doing ineffective things, or to be team-players, or to simply follow-through on a task...and they don't do it. So why would we assume that Obama is simply a mind-washed follower of the pastor who used to lead the community of faith in which the Obama family has placed itself and grown spiritually?

6. Pastors are not meant to be the Way - to incarnate the Messiah - the living truth of God. They simply point to it - in all their weakness, depravity, sin and brokeness - indicating the way to journey, the goal to aim for, the relational-praxis-story that makes meaning of life. I cringe when people ask me to tell them what to do. Who am I to think that I'm that smart, wise or with-it? Why would anyone ask what would my pastor do? They should be illuminated, educated and trained enough to ask themselves what did Jesus do? and what will I do in my context?

7. Many articles in papers said that Wright's doctrine veers from Mainstream Christianity. Bullshit! When did Jesus talk to the middle and lower class challenging them to go shopping at the local mall and spending lot's of money to bring balance to the nation after a disaster? When did Jesus talk about excluding particular groups from the community of God as less than equal? When did Jesus teach that the poor are lazy, deserve to get what they get, or are cursed by God? When did Jesus encourage us to simply go along with the powers that be, assuming that they are following God in all that they do, say and enact as policy? Jesus consistently challenged notions of nationalism, tribalism and ethnic purity. He repeatedly subverted the notions of quasi-genocidal self-righteousness, social indifference, and racial inequality. Jesus taught that we are called to love each other as God first loves us, whether our neighbor be poor, black, white, latino, asian, democrat, republican, muslim, gay, straight, transgender, capitalist, socialist, a member of operation rescue or of al qaeda. It's not about self-esteem. It's not about feeling good and safe because we've found our life purpose. It's about living from the center that we've experientially discovered in the love of God in Christ. Jesus wasn't aiming to please the mainstream. He didn't placate the masses, nor did he offer an opiate to the proletariat. He turned the world upside down. That's why the powers killed him. Not because he was nice, or cute with all those baby lambs and kids. He was dangerous, challening, radical, revolutionary, PROPHETIC! Who is veering from mainstream Christianity to please and placate the masses? Let a retired pastor like Wright rest in peace. The question we should be asking is who are we as a church following? What is it or they teaching? And is it who we should be following if they're not actually "mainstream?"

So what do you think? Am I a heretic? Am I veering from mainstream Christianity? Or is there something else going on?

Here's some articles and blogs I've read and found helpful:

"Obama's Church Pushes Controverisal Doctrines"

OK - lot's of the articles in print are no longer "findable" on the internet.

Bruce Reyes-Chow on his blog
"the promise of our ideals"

Sarah Reyes on her blog (she's been to Trinity Church)
"The Power of the Pastor"
"Have You Worshiped at Trinity UCC in Chicago?"

Ruth Villasenor pointed out that in as much as Obama's speech on race and racism was great, it left out a whole invisible people that we repeatedly overlook yet who was first living here in the land we call home:
"Include the Invisible Americans in the Debate" by Tim Giago (so good that I have to include the whole thing since I can't link you to it on the web" Thanks Ruth for the article!!!!

Opinion: Include the invisible Americans in race debates

Tim Giago syndicated columnist

Published Monday, March 31, 2008

As most of us knew from the very beginning of this political season when a black man and a white woman entered the final leg of the presidential contest, gender and race would also enter the arena.

Since day one, Sen. Hillary Clinton has taken her lumps for being a woman. Sen. Barack Obama started to get his lumps last week on the heels of the comments made by his pastor Jeremiah Wright. But in the case of Obama, the Republicans chose to attack him more for what they called his lack of patriotism rather than his race. Attacking him for his race would have been much too blatant and would have been seen as overt racism.

However, the comments by the Rev. Wright about America really steamed Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and the Glen Beck of talk radio. Of the attacks on the twin towers on September 11, 2001, Wright said it was the “Chickens coming home to roost.” Instead of “God Bless America ,” Rev. Wright said it should be, “God D*** America .” Now that is like waving the red flag of anti-patriotism in the faces of the conservative talks show hosts.

Their main despair was if Barack Obama sat in the pews of this church and heard these attacks upon America , which he admitted doing, why didn’t he leave the church? Or, according to many white Americans, why didn’t he cast the Rev. Wright out of his life?

The gender thing started early in Sen. Clinton’s campaign. For instance, have you ever heard anyone on television or radio comment on the suit worn by Obama or about his hair style? There have been plenty of comments about the clothing worn by Sen. Clinton and about her hairstyles. In fact when she wore a yellow pants suit it was called her “Bumble Bee” outfit by Ingrahams. Does this say something about bringing gender into the race?

Let’s get back to the issue of race. Americans, black and white, seem to think that racial discrimination only involves African Americans. Even in his speech to dispel doubts about his connections to the Rev. Wright, Obama talked about Hispanics and Asian Americans, but he did not mention American Indians.

When it comes to race relations, Native Americans are the invisible people. Any Indian living in North or South Dakota , Montana , Idaho , Arizona or even Washington , has felt the pain and the shame of racial prejudice. It has come in the school yard, in the search for decent housing, in restaurants and department stores. When I was publisher of Indian Country Today, the paper covered the story of an Indian man suspected of shoplifting at a department store in Rapid City and how he was wrestled to the floor and humiliated by the store’s security only to find out that not only was he not shoplifting, he was also a minister in the Episcopal Church. By reporting this story my newspaper lost a very valuable advertiser. The local daily did not carry the story.

There are still many issues about race that arise nearly every week in the states I mentioned involving Indians and Whites. Several school districts in South Dakota have taken the issue to court and won. The ACLU has stood up for the rights of the Indian people across America because the state and federal courts have often been so lopsided in dealing justice to Native Americans. In many Western states there is a dual system of justice when it involves Indians.

But even in the face of bigotry and discrimination, Native Americans have continued to be among the most loyal and patriotic of any ethnic group. According to The American Legion Magazine, 181,000 Indians have served in America ’s wars; 21,947 American Indians and Alaska natives are now on active duty; 3,868 American Indians and Alaska natives are currently deployed in combat zones; 47 American Indians and Alaska natives have been killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since the war on terror began.

For several days last year our local daily newspaper printed the names of individuals with outstanding arrest warrants. Starting with A and running to Z the daily list was tedious, but it was noted immediately by nearly every Native American reading that newspaper that the vast majority of the names listed each day were those of Native Americans. This brings up the question: Are all Native Americans prone to criminal acts or is there an awful lot of profiling going on here? Although Indians make up only 10 percent of South Dakota ’s population, nearly 33 percent incarcerated in the South Dakota State Prison are Native Americans.

I have no doubt that if either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is elected president there will be a solid review of race relations in America . I only hope that they also include the long history of racial prejudice and discrimination against America ’s smallest minority, the American Indian.

Thoughts on Resurrection

I'm getting this bulletin together for worship this Sunday at the church I serve, reflecting on the scripture Luke 24:13-35 and the after-the-fact experience of the resurrection. Found this great prayer we're using Sunday that I thought I'd share...then I went youtubing and found a great video on the resurrection. Don't know where it comes from, but like it - cool flash backs to scripture stories as the resurrection unfolds.

God of Easter hope, grant us the courage to believe in your resurrection miracles. Forgive us when we fall into despair or blindness. Give us new eyes to truly see you walking with us, standing beside us, living in our neighborhoods, and speaking through our friends and our enemies. Forgive us when we prefer simple answers to prophetic challenges. Forgive us when we cling to old, familiar ways, and refuse to see the extraordinary miracles you set before us. Open our eyes, that we might see you standing before us in your resurrected glory, proclaiming the miracle of life and love that never ends. Amen.