Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday
June 29, 2008
Matthew 10:34-43
Romans 6:12-23

The Scriptures this week are a challenge to us to live life as Messenger of God. Jesus tells those that follow him that they re-present God in the world. They are not God. They don't speak in God's place. They re-present, they make God present in a sense in the world through their actions, words, testimony, relationships, use of resources, and compassion. Romans 6 is Paul talking about the freedom known in and by following Jesus as master, teacher & Savior. It's a freedom to be part of something bigger, that reshapes us, liberates us from narcissism, delivers us from existential dread and reconnects us to what it means to be human in community. Paul says in 2 Cornithians 4-5 that we are "ambassadors for Christ" living in and moving throughout the world. We are called to ambassodorship, to living life as a messenger, not a passive spectator, ego-maniac usurper, or violently reacting vigilante.

So what does it mean to be a messenger of God?

I spent the week at summer camp with the children of our church community as well as my own. I was struck by several conversations that challenge the question "What does it mean to be God's messenger? And how do I welcome God's messengers sent to me?"

Two kids asked me if I knew who my dad was. They've never met theirs. They know his name. They know that he took off when they were mere babies, or that he was arrested and is still in jail.

A foster-system child seemed neglected, forgotten, desperate for human contact and affirmation.

Someone in active ministry talked of how they're desperate to get out, to find anything else in which they might be treated with more respect, given more creative freedom, and able to share their passion for God's world-transforming love.

How are we called to be messengers of God's love, purpose and passion to such folks?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Answer to the World's Problems: Hanging Out
Dirty 9 Square - Political/Cultural Segregation & Doing It Pirate Style

I've been thinking non-stop these past few days about the hypothesis of this amazing article I read in this week's Economist "The Big Sort: Political Segregation in the United States" all based on a book by Bill Bishop entitled "
The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart. ".

The author asserts that we are increasingly segregating ourselves geographically by our politics. We gather and live in like-minded clusters. Some would argue that only the wealthy can really choose where they live. This is in part true, and the study shows that when Americans move they most likely have equal options where they can live in the new city. They usually choose a new neighborhood to call home based upon the dominant political view of that 'hood. This mild preference for living with like-minded individuals leads to increasing and deepening political segregation. This is dangerous because when a group is homogenous it tends to grow towards the extremes of the dominant worldview or foundational thought. They are exposed less and less to contrary views and so it becomes easier to rally around the flag pole in a balkanizing way and to villify in a personalized way "those" of a different perspective who are kept at an experiential arms-length as a mentality of us vs. them deepens.

I found this amazing thinking about events of the last week: same sex weddings and my experiences at the General Assembly. I think our faith communities are becoming increasingly balkanized. I heard a woman of a modernist or "old school" perspective ask me last week if Bruce Reyes-Chow was conservative or liberal. When I wouldn't answer the question with he's ______. She was pissed and threw down the info sheet I'd given her and walked away. After Bruce's election at a celebration reception/party I overheard a man express his indignation and quasi-paranoid fear: "That guy wasn't even wearing a tie! How can we elect someone to lead us, a pastor, who doesn't even wear a tie!" A phone call from a parishoner this week shared with me the tension of their doctrinal understanding of same-sex relationships and their experience of personally knowing a same-sex couple that was married in Oakland this past week.

This polarizing "Big Sort" isn't just in our housing and neighborhoods. It' definitely in our faith communities. We know which is liberal, conservative, accepting, or Bible-Based and act accordingly and talk about each other in the same way. But Jesus calls us to a larger community embracing diversity not just in race, culture and age, but also in theology, worldview and political perspective. If we as communities are seeking to know God how can we expect to do so in a polarized congregation that more correlates more to an ethnic ghetto than to a gathering of seekers.

At Summer Camp this week I see this same thing personified. The more diverse people "hang out" singing at campfire, playing dirty 9 square things change. Really BEING together breaks down barriers, invites conversation, opens doors to discovery, maturation, and collaboration. Here's some of those experiences that jogged my brain.

John Lennon said that "all we need is love." It may sound cheesy or trite, yet I suspect he was onto more than just a good lyric lick. Jesus continually said to those seeking answers in his teaching, "Come after me. Follow Me. Come and See!" It was all about joining a community comprised of rich and poor, men and women, Jew & Gentile, fundamentalist and synchrotist in view of discovering deeper faith. Maybe a part of the truth emerges only from hanging out, spending time together, experiencing each other, which can't be known simply in academic study, intellectual reflection, or communal polarization? As we sang at campfire last night, "It only takes a spark to get a fire going and soon all those around are warmed up in its glowing. That's how it is with God's love. Once you've experienced want to..."
Bumper Sticker of the Week

Monday, June 23, 2008

What I Read this Week that was Read Worthy

"The Big Sort: Political segregation in the United States" [Economist] - I wonder how this translates to communities of faith

"Will gay rights trample religious freedom?" [Editorial in Oak Tribune] - would be great to discuss over coffee

"Unabomber cabin newest DC Sight" [AP] - pack your bags to visit real American history, or is it?

"'08 - The Year Women Won't Forget" [SF Gate] - the state of the glass ceiling for women in America today

Bruce Reyes-Chow: opening speech comments for the Moderator Election this past Saturday. Great comments and discussion about faith, culture, and the tension of living in it and from it as part of the Presbyterian Church family. Worth the read.....

Online Announcement about Bruce's election by the Presbyterian Church

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bruce Reyes-Chow Elected
Moderator of the 218th General Assembly
of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

The past few days I've been spending safely out of the heat in the air conditioned convention center in San Jose supporting the GA Moderator campaign of Bruce Reyes-Chow. Last night in first principal session of the gathering he was elected on the 2nd vote. I was encouraged because he's a friend, shares my worldview parameters and hopefully will succeed in his desire to shape the conversations in our church community that they might more effectively, honestly and directly not just talk about our culture, call and community - but invite dialogue leading towards communal praxis and institutional transformation.

I heard a 30something person share with happiness after his election, "I have hope for the church. I know that I'll have my place and that the church will seek to engage me not just talk about me." I hope that's the case, not just for 30somethings but for all people, Seniors, Children, Immigrants and Gays & Lesbians all seeking to follow Jesus in the contextual community of the Presbyterian Church.

As the crowd of Bruce supporters stormed the stage in matching t-shirts for a moment of prayer it seemed like some sort of Barack Obama-esque moment with a mosaic of folks gathered in a common hope and shared vision. Can the church connect or re-connect with so many people (that I meet in Oakland and elsewhere) that are passionate about spirituality and faith-full living yet have given up on the church as a community of faith? I don't think you can just "fix" that situation,...but maybe we can begin new discussions aimed not just at opening our church system eyes but also in engaging those around us.

Online Announcement of Bruce's Election

Follow developments at GA
Official PCUSA Page (including live streaming video)

GA Bloggers
Shawn Coons at I, Geek Rev
Adam Clevland, Pomomusings
Bruce's Blog with other links

Here's a video from youtube sharing Bruce's vision

Saturday, June 21, 2008

General Assembly 2008 of the PC(USA)
San Jose, California

I went today to support Bruce Reyes-Chow in the effort for him to stand and serve as moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Here's a short video interview of Rev. Tara Spuhler-McCabe of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church of Washington DC on why Bruce is the one to choose and elect as moderator.

I was struck working at his campaign table today by the conversations that happened. Many were the times that folks came to the table and said to - or even towards - Bruce: "Hi Bruce. We're already friends on facebook and it's nice to meet you in person." It struck me as a radically new way of relating to one another and building community. Not based on an old school, or old-boy network of hierarchical relationships and quid-pro-quo, but rather upon a decentralizing nexus of relationships and connections. Isn't that's what our culture, country and faith communities increasingly resemble and long to become? Something has to change in the way that the church community of faith works, how it expresses faith in and across the syntax of language, presence, witness and litrugical feast days/celebrations. How can we expect those that speak one cultural language to learn to speak another when it's not just a question of learning some new words but rather of living from and into a different worldview?
Blogging Towards Sunday
June 22, 2008
Matthew 10:24-39
(NRSV) (The Message)

Family Values

The scripture selection proposed by the Lectionary list this week is a section of Matthew's re-telling of Jesus' teaching, ministry and life that talks about what it means to follow Jesus as master, teacher and savior. Jesus calls us to understand family - the basic unit of human community - in a new way. Is it genetic?; learned?; nature?; nurture?; chosen? - or something else? It's about following. Those that follow Jesus in their life, words, actions, relationship, work and rest - constitute a new sort of community, a family that transcends our established, in-the-box-defintions of community. To follow Jesus means to find a totally new, radically different self-identity. It means giving everything up in order to receive everything. An iconic and ironic mystery.

In a week that began for me celebrating the marriage of some dear friends at City Hall and concludes with my experience of the larger Presbyterian Church community at the General Assembly in San Jose, I'm struck by the notions and my experience of community. How often do we exlude others out of fear, or lack of experience? Isn't that what Jesus was talking against? The exclusion or denial of those that the culture of his day avoided, excluded and feared: lepers, the sick, prostitutes, foreigners, those that were considered "un-whole"?
New Indian Food in the Dimond

Here's some snapshots of the exterior of the Shaan the new Indian Restaurant preparing to open in the Dimond on Fruitvale Ave. (next to Dimond Cafe). Can't wait. They even have applied for a liquor license to sell beer. It seems like exactly what some many Dimondites have been looking forward to a "nice" place where you can go with your family and even get a drink. Here'
s some photos of what I encountered today. Check out reviews of the Berkeley restaurant.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What I Read this Past Week that was Read-Worthy

Most of this past week has been experiential for me as opposed to literary narrative read in a book or media birthed articles. Celebrating equality in marriage, experiencing the bitterness of some older adults in my faith community in terms of the boisterous and movement-filled presence of children (including my own), thinking of the future for my own sanity and the growth of my own family, the future of the church which I both love and loathe, and conversations and brief moments with friends that I treasure and love beyond words. YET - in all of that there were still some things I read that were more than worthy reading:

"The Same People
" by Anna Quindlen (Newsweek) - if you don't read anything else this week - read this!

"Let Me Worship as I Am" (Newsweek)- too Catholic in worldview for me in the end, yet meaning-making.

Jesus for President
- the most innovative and thought provoking book I've read this year. BUY IT! READ IT! TALK ABOUT IT!!!! (official website)

"Vultures, Marriage and the road to Hell" chez Corn Dog - always a good laugh with deep thoughts throughout!

Sandworms of Dune - great conclusion to a fantastic series of sci-fi novels. Loved it!

Romans 12 - I can't get away from this amazing call to faith from the Apostle Paul even in the midst of my anger with the retardness of the church faith community I participate in.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It's all about Love (MORE)

I've had several phone calls from friends and acquaintances to talk about the beginning of same-sex marriages, with diverse reactions. One call was from someone who isn't sure what they really think about the whole thing, and they saw our common friends Ruth & Diane on the news and were so happy both for and with them. So I thought I'd post a list that I received yesterday describing briefly the couples that were invited to be the first to be married at city hall last night. Their stories put a real breathing human face on something that remains distant for many Californians today. Yeah Diane & Ruth!!!!

To be married on Monday, June 16, 2008

Mayor Ronald Dellums, Marriage Celebrant

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Witness

Karen Boyd and Samee Roberts

We have been together since 1999. As long-time City employees with 12 and 21 years of dedicated service respectively, we became friends while planning the dedication ceremony for Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall . A year later, our love blossomed. We were joined as domestic partners in September 2003 and married during the 2004 Winter of Love wedding ceremonies in San Francisco . Our love of Oakland is manifested in our passionate commitment to public service and casting a bright light on all that makes Oakland a great place to live, work and experience. We are mothers to a beautiful, 20-month old son Quinn, who inspires our love every day.

Brendalynn Goodall and Nancy Hinds

We have been together for the past 15 1/2 years. It started with romance and dating. It then evolved into living together and later owning a home for the past seven years in lovely Sheffield Village with their miniature schnauzer, Raven. We registered as domestic partners in 2002. Brendalynn is the Aging & Adult Services, Manager with the City of Oakland , Department of Human Services, and Nancy is a Human Resources Specialist with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. In addition, we have been politically, socially, and culturally active in the LGBT community. We are both members of the African American Lesbians 40+ Group. As long time Oakland residents, we are both proud to demonstrate diversity in action. Our immediate and extended families have been supportive of various milestones in our lives. We love and care for each other and believe Oakland is a great place to grow old. We both are elated to be part of this historic day of human rights for all people.

Mauricio Perez and Ryan James

We have been together 7 years and are lifelong California residents. We were first married on Valentines Day in San Francisco City hall in 2004, just after purchasing a home together in Oakland . After being married, we became the Alameda County chapter leaders for Marriage Equality USA. We also volunteer our time to the Lavender Seniors, PFLAG East Bay , The Chabot Space Center and The Oakland Museum of California. In 2007, we donated our original VOID marriage license to the Oakland Museum of California, hoping one day to replace it with a valid document issued from our own county. We are very proud and honored to be a part of Alameda County and the City of Oakland .

Akemi Hamai and Amy Haruyama

We have been together for 19 years when they met in college in 1989. We had a commitment ceremony with family and friends in 1994 and registered as domestic partners in 2000. Akemi teaches middle school in Berkeley and Amy teaches first grade in Oakland . We are also the proud mothers of 2 daughters, Maya (10 years old) and Anna (6 years old), who keep our lives busy with school, Temple , and social activities. We are excited for our family to be a part of this historic moment.

Mar Stevens and Saundra "Sandy" Mills
We have been together for nine years. When the Supreme Court decision was rendered we were ecstatic to be able to further validate our love and devotion to one another through marriage. We share a love for the City of Oakland . Sandy is a Southern California native who moved to Oakland in 1981 to do an emergency medicine internship and residency at Highland Hospital and never left. She has worked as an emergency medicine physician in the Bay Area for over twenty years. Mar is a public servant and has worked in the San Francisco District Attorneys Office as an Assistant Criminal Investigator for nine years after leaving the public sector to work on the other side. To be a part of history as one of the first couples to be married in California, and to have the privilege and honor to be married by Mayor Dellums and Congresswoman Barbara Lee is truly a dream come true.

Huda Jadallah and Deanna Karraa

We are Palestinian -Americans born and raised in California . We have been together for over 17 years. We have two domestic partnerships: one by the City and County of San Francisco in 1995 and one by the State of California in 2001. We have three children including twin boys age 10 (Omar and Hady) and a daughter age 7 (Hind). Deanna works for Alameda County ’s Public Health Department as a Public Health Nurse and Huda is a PhD Candidate in Sociology whose work focuses on Queer Arab American Families. We feel honored to be a part of this historical moment and acknowledge with gratitude all the pain and labor of everyone who helped pave the road for this day.

David James Bellecci and Jason Victor Serinus (pronounced serene-us)

On February 13, 2004, the second day of San Francisco's month of lavender love, we looked in each other's eyes beneath the rotunda of San Francisco City Hall and made a spiritual commitment to love, honor, nurture and protect each other for the rest of our lives. Jason, a veteran of the civil rights, anti-war, and early gay liberation movements, is thrilled that two of his freedom fighting idols, Ronald V. Dellums and Barbara Lee, will together seal the couple’s indelible commitment into law. David, a proud Oakland native, is tenor (Cantor at St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church), hair stylist, and freedom-loving husband beloved and adored by a huge circle of family and friends. We met in April 2002, and fell madly in love shortly thereafter.

Victoria Susan Kolakowski and Cynthia Anne

We met in September 1994, and quickly fell in love. Victoria is an administrative law judge with the California Public Utilities Commission, the transgender outreach director for Marriage Equality USA, and board member of the Transgender Law Center . Cynthia is news editor of the Bay Area Reporter, one of the country's premiere LGBT newspapers. Our marriage in San Francisco on February 12, 2004 was invalidated by the California Supreme Court, and we subsequently registered as domestic partners with the state. We are thrilled to be married in Oakland on the first day of California 's recognition of marriage equality. We live together in Oakland with our Welsh corgi Nicky and three cats, Slider, Puff and Espresso.

Diane Pfile and Ruth Villasenor

We have been together for 10 years and have been registered domestic partners for 8 years. In 2000, we purchased a home together in Oakland . Envisioning the potential of our neighborhood, we decided to open Paws & Claws, A Natural Pet Food Store & Bathhouse in the Dimond district in 2004. We share our home with our two dogs J.J. and Bandit, and our elderly cat Macabre. We love Oakland for its diversity and are honored to be part of this historic ceremony.

Karen Anderson and Gwen Boozé (Boozé is pronounced Boo-zay).

We have shared a life together since 1991. We became friends upon Karen's arrival to Oakland in 1985 and soon learned of our mutual interests, and community concerns. We are board members of the East Bay Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club, Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), as well as members of African American Lesbians - Forty Plus. Karen is past member of the Oakland Human Relations Commission and an employee of the Peralta Community College District; while Gwen, a graduate of Mills College , is past owner of The Barn Restaurant in Oakland and current owner of Accutech Auto Care of Berkeley. We have been Oakland home owners since 1993 and are pleased to share our commitment to each other with the community. This ceremony is an acknowledgement of a promise already made.

Jason Cornejo and Mauricio Calderon

We have been together since 1997. We met and fell in love while living in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles. We moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the year 1999. Later, we purchased a home in the Millsmont area of Oakland in 2002. A major member of our family is named Cocoa Chanel. She is a beautiful chocolate labrador (we are avid fashion aficionados, hence her name). We love gardening, trying new recipes in the kitchen and improving upon they little home. It is our pride and pleasure to be a part of this historic civil rights movement and look forward to the time when racism and discrimination against same-sex marriage will all be but a fleeting memory.

Helga Sigvaldadóttir and Lexi Leban

We met seven years ago in the summer of 2001, while Helga, a native of Iceland was studying for her test to become an American citizen. We moved to Oakland together a year later and have been in Oakland ever since. We were married in 2004 during the Winter of Love ceremonies in San Francisco and became domestic partners before the birth of our daughter Sóla in September of 2005. We are proud to raise our daughter in Oakland , a beautifully diverse city where our family is accepted and celebrated by the community. We would like to thank Mayor Dellums and Barbara Lee for their support of civil rights for all.

Margot Yapp and Koko Lin Margot (“t” is silent)

We have been together for 11 years and this will be the third time that we have married each other. The first was in our commitment ceremony at Tilden Park in 2002, the second in San Francisco in 2004 and hopefully, this will be the third and final time in Oakland . Margot is the Vice President of Nichols Consulting Engineers and Koko has her own software consulting business in Oakland . We are first generation immigrants from Malaysia and Taiwan and own a house together in Oakland . And just like the other straight couples and families in our neighborhood, we shop at local stores, go to the Farmer’s Market on Grand Avenue , eat in Chinatown , and watch movies at Jack London Square .

We have a wonderful 4 year old daughter, Megan, and want her to grow up knowing that the right for Mama and Mummy to love and marry each other is protected by her country. We also hope that this is just the first day of forever for GLBT couples to finally get married!

Dignan Phoenix Banes and William Marion Jennings (Dignan is pronounced dig – nan)

We have been together since the fall of 2002 when we met at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco after Sunday morning services. We haven’t been apart since that day, being declared domestic partners in 2005. Though we dreamed of it, marriage seemed so out of reach until this day when we could, at last, publicly celebrate loving each other as we have been blessed to do for the past 6 years. Family, community and service are pillars of our relationship. Will is a retired teacher from Bay St. Louis Mississippi, who worked for over 40 years as an educator. Dignan, originally from Omaha , Nebraska , is a retired organizational development consultant who now manages communications for LifeLong Medical Care, a community based health organization serving low income residents of Alameda County . We continue our work together at Glide Church as well where Dignan volunteers as an interpreter for the Deaf and Will serves as an usher. Our marriage is a testament that love crosses all barriers including age and color lines. We could not be happier than to be among those married by the Honorable Ron Dellums with Barbara Lee as witnesses, two leaders who have continuously stood for the cause of equality and justice for all.

Tara Miller and Linda Jo Morton

We met in the summer of 1997 at a back yard B.B.Q. in San Francisco . Tara, a dedicated kindergarten teacher, and Linda Jo, an Artist and Student of Horticulture and Photography; We formalized our commitment to each other in a back yard spiritual ceremony six years later at our Oakland home. Our son, now 2 ½ was born two years later. Our lives together have been marked by love, hard work, trials, good planning, and blessings from the Universe. This historic day will be among our many counted blessings.

Maya Hart and Monifa Porter

John and Dennis Hanley

We have been together since 2001 and became domestic partners in 2003. We were denied the opportunity to marry during the San Francisco Winter of Love wedding ceremonies by just 24 hours. We formally joined as partners in a loving ceremony with family and friends in October 2004. John is a major gift administrator at the UC Berkeley. Dennis is a key account manager with Le Creuset of America , and served as Charter Co-chair with the Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center , and as Board Chair of the Asian AIDS Project. In 2006, we welcomed into their home three wonderful boys from the California foster care system, and in 2007 we legally adopted Isaac (8), Brian (6) and Christian (5). As longtime residents of Oakland , we are active in the Redwood Heights Elementary School community and are proud to truly represent the diversity of Oakland as a tri-racial family. We are honored to be included among the first gay couples married by Mayor Dellums on this important day in California history.

Robin Baker and Kathleen "Feney" Matthews (Feney is pronounced FEE-KNEE)

We have been together for three years and recently moved into our new home in Berkeley . We were looking into getting married in Canada or Spain when the amazing decision was handed down by the California Supreme Court. We have dedicated our lives to justice. Robin is the Director of the Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health , which advocates for workers' rights to safety and dignity on the job. Feney is an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service where she researches declining native fish and amphibians in the Sierra Nevada . We are thrilled to be among the first couples to exercise their right to marry in California , and to be married by Mayor Dellums with Congresswoman Barbara Lee as witness, two giants in the civil rights movement.

La Raye L. Lyles and Lisa Fujie Parks (Fujie is pronounced FOO-JEE-EH)

Our story began in Oakland in the fall of 1999. Re-meeting after many years, we feel in love and developed a commitment that was fast and deep. Eight months into the relationship, while we were camping in Baja for three weeks and on our last day, La Raye wrote in the sand, “Lisa Fujie, Will you be my baby’s Momma?” And Lisa said, “Yes!” Since then, each day we’ve deepened our bond, becoming domestic partners in 2004 and parents to our beloved daughter Sekai in 2006. As African Americans whose ancestors were not allowed to legally marry until after the end of the Civil War (1865) and as mixed race person who's parents were married the year that all anti-miscegenation laws were overturned (1967), we celebrate our love and another milestone in the pursuit of freedom and justice.

Bumper Sticker of the Week

It's All About Love

That's what the sign read which was held by the first couple to get married tonight at Oakland's City Hall. Some friends invited us to share in their joy as they were among the first 10 (which turned out to be 20) same-sex couples to be married at city hall today. Delayed because of paperwork chaos with the rush of marriage licensing, we waited with over 100 people in the city council chambers while some talked on cell phones, others took photos, friends connected, politicians angled for the best location, and we simply tried to keep our daughter from freaking out in the midst of the waiting. When the couples entered the was a loud enough to be nearly violent round of applause as every person was on their feet for their entrance and for what seemed to be the rest of the evening of marriages lasting for nearly an hour. Here's a video clip I shot of the entrances.

Talking with another friend, I heard of one lone protester who had stood stoicly outside the City Registrar's Office. Yet I found as we witnessed the weddings from afar and alongside our friends that no marriages seemed to end, I didn't feel the sanctity of my own marriage crumble during the celebrating, rather my wife and I both had tears in my eyes. Here's a collage mosaic of some of the photos I shot tonight.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

School's Out
Happy Summer

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

20 Minutes to Save the World
The Story of Stuff

A friend passed on this great video (worth spending 20 minutes learning with) about where all our stuff comes from and how we are not only prisoner to our possessions, but enslaving our planet and earth resources to be so.
I'm Going to Hell
with Obama & Rev. Wright

I received an interesting message on the voice mail today at the church where I work. Here's and exact transcript of what the unknown and un-named caller of the female persuasion said:

"I can't imagine a minister of a church who puts a picture of a political figure up next to a church where a picture of Jesus should be. Have you ever heard of the separation of church and state? I'm still for Jesus! If I was a member of your church I'd leave a trail of fire behind me. I'll be seeing Jesus in heaven. You go to hell with Obama and Rev. Wright."

Interesting call. I don't know who it was or what they were talking about. We don't - as of yet - have a picture of Senator Obama, nor one of Senator McCain, up in our church sanctuary space. I don't have one on my car or in my home. So I can only assume that this woman is referring to the "I support Obama" widget on the right-hand corner of my blog page. What a troubling call. She must really hate Obama, and really hate me, to take such effort to communicate this message. Even more it took her 2 calls to succeed in leaving a message on my work voice mail. Why go to so much effort to tell me that I'm going to hell and that she doesn't care - if she even does know me - I just don't get it? What most troubles me is not that I'm going to hell, but rather that someone feels such a need to call me at the church I work at to leave a message informing me of that.

Maybe, she - or you, are a reader of the blog. If you're game to dialogue on line about your perspective I'd love to do so.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Monday, June 09, 2008

Short Urban Street E-Fiction
The Bush (Not Burning)

And the bush by the church was so beautiful, that even when it stopped blooming its image was sent in an email to El Jefe to cheer him up.
the Gospel according to LaTina

Check out the beginning of the short fiction strand on monteskewed (here)

Check out more of CornDog's fun writing on her blog at
What I Read that was Read-Worthy this Past Week

"Reshaping Faith: 'Emerging church' seeks the justice Jesus taught" (Oak Tribune 6/7) - interesting main media presentation of local, and possibly foundational, emergent church experiences.

"Holiday in Hellmouth: God may be dead, but the question of why he permits suffering lives on." (New Yorker)

"Hypocrites" (New Yorker)

"Easy Food for Beginners: Homegrown craze brings bumper crop of fresh veggies, healthy bodies" (SF GATE 6/7)

:"There's a lot to crow about on the farm these days" (SF GATE 6/7) - raising chickens at home in the bay area

"Crises of faith: Both Barack Obama and John McCain have problems with religion" (Economist)

(excellent time waster making your own superhero!)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Il Faut Cultiver Son Jardin
reducing my footprint one day at a time

I've been working and wondering recently a lot about how I live my life, seeking as one friend calls it "to go off the grid" in order to become more self-reliant, earthy-friendly, less consumeristic, and leave a smaller carbon footprint as I seek to follow Jesus as spiritual guide in my life. So I've decided to take up a weekly blogpost on my efforts ranging from organic gardening to supplement (and maybe primarily produce?) our family's green intake, raising egg-laying chickens in an urban context, reflecting on the integration of faith and ecology, and seeking to raise our children to be more about cultivation than consumption.

I'm calling this weekly blog-post "Il faut cultiver son jardin." The phrase is the concluding word and principal theme of Voltaire's short novel Candide. In English we'd say "One has to take care of one's garden," the notion that life is about cultivation, growth, maturation, discovery and life-living. It's an a propos title for my emerging thoughts on this.

I read a great article in today's SF GATE "Quest for Cutlural Oasis: Standford professor finds hope that consumerism won't render caretaking obsolete" by Susan Fornoff detailing the book "Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition" by Robert Pogue Harrison. It all makes you wonder. We live in a culture that's so quick to replace something old with something new. Don't cultivate, encourage growth or transformation of anything we already have...rather just buy something new. Replace don't reuse. Isn't it ironic that when an appliance breaks it's almost always cheaper to buy a new one then to have the old one fixed? We are being spoon-fed a culture or impotence, where we have to have the latest thing we see on tv, on the internet or on the side of a passing bus. Bigger is oftentimes better. And we don't have to always being upgrading to have it. We seem to place our optism on future products that can be made for even less money in the 2/3rds world. Where is our hope beyond in the next season of clothes, generation of cell phones, and next cd? Maybe that's what Voltaire was on to. I myself am a freak in the sense that I feel this deep "have to" urgency to make purchases when items are really reduced and cheap, like I can't miss out on the deal so I overbuy instead of using what I have. I'm a sucker for our modern advertising powers. Undoubtedly I'm not alone. No wonder our carbon footprints are so big. We're always buying bigger and better shoes.
Did you ?
I don't know what the exact turnout was today at the election.  I do know that the precinct that is housed in the church I serve here in Oakland had under 150 votes cast at it today.  My home precinct couldn't have fared much better regarding the issues, candidates and propositions up for a vote today.  What would it have been like if we had been voting on the primary today like we were supposed to?

A friend of my used to always tell me that anyone who doesn't vote, and doesn't appreciate and practice democracy, should be deported.  Sounded harsh...yet I wonder if it's not that bad of an idea now when we realize how complacent, distant and seemingly disempowered most of our electorate is and feels.
Best of the East Bay
What do you think it is?

You can help decide the 2008 "Best ofs" in terms of life in the East Bay by voting online with the East Bay Express 2008 Best of the East Bay Survey.  You have to vote by June 16th.  They cover a large spectrum from restaurants to family activities.

Here's the link if you want to vote.  You do have to provide your name and email address.  You can also check out the Best Ofs of 2007.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bumper Sticker of the Week

OK - it's not really a bumper sticker. But it should be. It's on a classroom window at my daughter's school. I love seeing it every time I drive into the parking lot there.
Blogging Towards Sunday
June 6, 2008

Karma Foundation Problems Jesus & Sharon Stone

This week's gospel selection from Matthew's telling of the Jesus experience is the concluding words in one of the foundational teachings of Jesus (aka the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:1-7:29). Jesus ends his teaching with a warning to not just listen but to put what his audience hears into action. The crowds are astonished at the authority with which he teaches. He claims his own authority in terms of speaking, teaching and interpreting the Torah scriptures - and seems to practice what he preaches - as opposed to the traditional way of invoking the authoritative teaching of previous established teachers (as seen in the opening lines of the Pirqe Avot Chapter 1). Those gathered to listen to him and dialogue with him seem to hear a glimpse of God's own power and voice in his words.

Jesus embodies his words in verses 21-23. You can distinguish between a dependable, solid leader [prophet] and unwise ones by where they put their money. Do they work to ensure that the faith community they lead looks and acts like the kindgom of God? Do they practice what they preach? Do they show mercy & forgiveness or merely talk about it with beautiful prose and poetry? Jesus invites the audience crowd - and us by extension - to not just listen to the words, hearing them with our ears, but to pray them with our feet, hands and hearts.

Jesus ends this teaching by comparing those that obey, or practice his challenging words, to those that build houses on solid foundations and those that don't to folks that build a house upon the sand. I've heard this a million times and am struck by it this week. I've been talking with others about karma. Do we get what we deserve? Why do good things happen to bad people? Maybe you heard Sharon Stone talk about China and how they got what was coming to them via the earthquake for what they've done in Tibet. (If not see it below).

Is that what God is like? A friend was told by their doctor that the pain they were feeling was because of bad karma. Where did they guy go to medical school? It's easy for us to accept the common cultural saying that what goes around comes around. Yet Jesus isn't teaching that. He's saying more that in life $%&* happens! Storms comes and go for the good and the bad, the wise and the unwise, the builders on the sand and the stone. It's not about God's sense of justice, omnipotence or benevolence. Suffering - the storms - is a given part of human existence. Jesus challenges us to build our lives based upon truths that are foundational, that hold up. If we base our house on greed it will fall when the economic situation changes (think of all the sub-prime stuff). If we base our house on power it will collapse when the political climate shifts (think of the neo-cons). If we life for the moment in everything it will collapse when we're faced with the mystery of birth, deep suffering and death.

I don't think Jesus is challenging us to live some pleasure-denying puritanical fundamentalist monastic lifestyle, but rather to be fully engaged in life, culture, society and community with perspective, recognizing and claiming what is essential in life, basing our worldview, moral compass, ethical guidelines and community building upon the key teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. Maybe it's easier said than done. Yet it's what struck those that encountered Jesus. He had authority because he wasn't just a good orator, but an experiential prophet calling others to dialogue, participation and missional community.

Here's my concluding thoughts (at the moment on all of this):

"The truth is a snare: you cannot have it, without being caught. You cannot have the truth in such a way that you catch it, but only in such a way that it catches you." - Soren Kierkegaard.

and this video of a collapsing building in Nigeria.

I don't believe in Karma but I do believe in cause and effect. Good is not always rewarded (nor evil punished) but our actions, choices, relationships and words do change the universe and us as people

What do you think? Is it Karma, chance or something else that flows through our human existence?
Little Caesars in the Dimond
What's value mean when it comes to food?

Michael Pollan wouldn't be happy - and many Dimond residents aren't to hear that Little Caesars seems
to most likely be opening a new franchise in the Dimond District between the 99cents store (adjacent to McDonald's) and Mary's Beauty Salon (next to Caffe Dieum and the Post Office). Today was a big day for filing complaints in view of stopping the arrival of another fast food pizza store in the Dimond. Many were the voices asking for more diversification in terms of the eating establishments that we encourage to open in our business district. The opinions sparked a vibrant dialogue about food, gentrification, ethnicity and justice on the Dimond Weblink several weeks ago, which continues today. I walked by the space today and notice the application form with detailed plans posted in the window.

I think it's bad news for the Dimond. We don't need Chez Panisse to open (which would never happen) but we do need some sort of justice in terms of more establishments that offer healthy, fun, edible, family-friendly and community-building food and meals with less trans-fats. Why is it that these establishments are the ones to open so quickly and so dominantly in 'lower income-typecast' neighborhoods. We deserve to be able to buy economically priced food, that isn't only processed in a far away factory shipped here and re-heated for fast-food service. That's justice too. LC's claims on their website to be voted "best value," I'd argue that value isn't just about cheapness.
Dimond Sushi

If you've been noticing the small but visible changes in the building (previously Mel's Diner) across from the Peet's on Fruitvale Ave. in the Dimond these past weeks, you most likely encountered the sudden appearance of 2 large banners proclaiming the soon-to-be-opening and coming Nama Sushi.

I've heard that they'll be open by summer's end. They have stores in SF and in
Walnut Creek. You can read about the stores on their yelp critic pages [SF Restaurant] [Walnut Creek]. Mixed reviews. Yet sounds like the food is always good. I'm eager to have some more diversification in terms of what food is available in the Dimond and another potential "family friend" eating establishment in our hood. Nama-ste

Monday, June 02, 2008

Music for the Week
India Arie: Better People

What I Read this Past Week that was Read-Worthy

Recoil (The Economist)