Monday, November 24, 2008

8th Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner

The church I serve as pastor celebrated it's 8th Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner yesterday afternoon. The church hall eerily seemed a bit too empty 45 minutes before the beginning of the meal, and was quickly filled to more than capacity with a diverse crowd of participants hungry for a hot meal, for the opportunity to celebrate with others, and the chance to meet neighbors. Kids running from the pie area to the crafts table, flutes melodiously playing underneath the brouhaha of discussion, snaking lines for food, quick moving hands dancing above the serving tables, Bertha surrounded by all those pies, Di-Di washing all those dishes and the different conversations I entered into: all those snapshots compose the mosaic of my memories from yesterday's event. Thanks to all who helped, from the meal coordinators, to the turkey cookers, from the flutists to the water servers, from the decorators to the cleaner-uppers!

What a statement of what community is and can be. What a proclamation of the power that Oakland needs to move forward harnassing and empowering the long-present desires for continued emerging organizing, school improvement, civic involvement, and local sense of community.

Here's some of my shapshots

Here's a video snapshot of some of the music. This piece performed by the Candelight Quartet.

If you're still looking for a way to volunteer this Thanksgiving Season here in Oakland, look for connections in my blog article from last week"Volunteering to make a difference"

Friday, November 21, 2008

Shaan Opens in the Dimond Tomorrow
Friday, November 21st

I heard today that new South Indian Restaurant SHAAN is opening tomorrow (Friday, November 21st) in the Dimond District. It's located on Fruitvale Ave. near MacArthur next to the Dimond Cafe, and roughly across the street from La Farine.

Owner Parmgite Sing, is offering a free buffet for the community from 5:00-8:30. I'm busy, but would love to stop by. You can go, taste and try it out and welcome this new restaurant to the neighborhood!

A photo of the interior was posted tonight on the Farmer Joe's & Friends Blog.

If you go, leave a message with your thoughts!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Urban Chicken Farming

In the past year we've taken in 5 chickens (the girls as well call them) that supply us with more than a dozen eggs a week, loads of nutrient rich manure for organic composting in our yard, and lot's of laughs. They're actually quite easy to take care of. Of course, we're still working out once happens when they're too old to continue producing eggs. Once we got chickens we started discovering chickens all over the place here in Oakland, from nearby neighbors to friends.

A great article appeared in Newsweek this week "The Craze for Urban Chicken Farming"

Some great online sites about chicken farming (at least among my favorites) include:
urbanchickens (blog)
Volunteering to Make a Difference at Thanksgiving

There are many Thanksgiving Community Meal events happening in the next week up until Thanksgiving Day itself. They all need your help. Here's a list of ways to get involved here in Oakland to make a difference (organized by date of event)

Fruitvale Presbyterian Church 8th Annual Community Dinner
Sunday, November 23rd @ 1:00pm
2735 MacArthur Blvd []
Help needed serving, with food donations [yams, green bean casseroles, jello salads & pumpkin pies] & clean-up.
Come and join the community meal to serve others and also to share a meal with a neighbor in view of building community in district 4 of Oakland. 530-0915 or

City of Oakland 17th Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Oakland Marriott Hotel
Tuesday, November 25th
11:00am -3:00pm
Food and jackets available
To volunteer contact Gesunda Royal-Shipp at 238-2077
[press release]

City Team Ministries
Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 27th
& Pre-Meal set-up on the 26th

[link for volunteering]

Two-Star Market Thanksgiving Feast
Thursday, November 27th, 1:00-4:00pm
2020 MacArthur Blvd.
Help prepare, set-up, serve & clean-up at this amazing meal that Abdo hosts & puts on every year. More info at 531-3576 or
[Online articles about Abdo's past Thanksgiving Feasts]

List of community meals published by the city

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oakland Unified School District
Kindergarten Options Enrollment

One of the most stressful times for me in the past years (actually in my existence as a parent) was registering our eldest for Kindergarten in Oakland Unified School District. I swung (daily...sometime several times during the day!) from elation to depression, anxiety, existential dread, middle-class guilt, all the way to a sense of powerlessness as one of the emerging urban power-poor.

That season is starting again in Oakland. December 10 - January 15
is the options window for the 2009-2010 school year.

One of the best things I did was attend the Options Fair for elementary schools will be held on December 4 from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM at the Oakland Marriott (1001 Broadway Oakland, CA 94607). In addition to the fair, schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels will be conducting site tours and hosting open houses for the community. More details will be available soon.

Look for additional detail on the Parents' portal of the OUSD website http://webportal. ousd.k12.

We got into a great OUSD School (with much fighting, crying and praying) and are more than content.

Bumper Sticker of the Week

I wonder if this is a new water conservation strateg
that EBMUD is promoting?
Maybe it's a bit like making sure that your tires are properly inflated.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Soon To Open Restaurants in the Dimond

I heard from an on-line little bird last night that Naan: the Indian Restaurant on Fruitvale between WaMu and the Dimond Cafe is set to open next week, either on Monday or Tuesday. They've taken a while longer than they first projected to open. Most likely because of the state of the building. I'm looking forward to checking out their menu.

I noticed walking around today that the Little Ceasar's, going in at 2216 MacArthur between Cafe Dieum and Radio Shack is looking close to completed. Here's a picture I snapped trying to get an even better view of how it's coming along. I'm not that excited about LC's - we have more than enough of such to-go food shops in the Dimond AND I'm glad that a new business is coming in.
Blogging Towards Sunday
November 16th
Jesus for President
Called to be UNchristian
Matthew 7:24-29
Psalm 1

This week's scripture is the final in the Jesus for President, Sermon on the Mount
Series that I've been doing on Sundays with the faith community I serve in Oakland. At the end of the sermon, or big teaching, Jesus concludes by saying that hearing and doing are the same thing. Those who have heard and do what he teaches are like those that build a house on rock as opposed to sinking sand. The house metaphor still speaks to us today: building, movement, dynamic, homey, life in general. We have to build on a dependable foundation, one that gives and takes in when the earth shakes, one that stands up to the storms of life, one that is a reliable center and source for life. (similar to the tree metaphor in Psalm 1)

For me that's Jesus of Nazareth. And I've found myself confused, meditative and irritated by the recent (and long-time ongoing) demonization and polarization among "believers" over who is a real Christian and who isn't (or who is a heretic). [Chris is doing some great thinking & ranting about this on his blog] It seems like in our emerging public discourse there really is a tired-but-true evangelical affirmation that what counts in faith is predominantly what you believe about Jesus. That there is a right way and wrong
ways to believe in him. On the phone today insinuated to me that I'm on the right side, of those that really know who Jesus is (unfortunately for them I don't think I really am)....which argues the point: is it about what we believe, or if we ascribe to the "correct" doctrine/dogma, or is it about what we do, how we live, how we love? If a Christian is one that ascribes to the right things maybe I'm an UNchrisitian. I'm interested in following and doing what Jesus said, taught and lived. For me TRUTH is found in that relationship. It's not a fact, a doctrine, a dogma, or a proposition; rather it's relational, experiential, dynamic and personal. I'm more interested in doing what Jesus taught and challenged those that follow him to do and be, than worrying about who is or isn't following Jesus. I want to experientially and pre-emptively mediate upon the words he spoke and the vision he gave (and gives today) of what God wants the world and human community to look like - starting with you and me.

I'm struck as I finish this series by the first page in the Jesus for President book, as authors Shane Clairborne and Chris Haw explain why they're writing and what they hope to help change or birth in the name of all those that follow Jesus, both the Christians and the UNchristians. Amen.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bumper Sticker of the Week

The effects of Proposition 8 on Community
What is sanctity anyway?

In the past week I've been told that I'm a misogynist, a heretic and that it's too bad I'm no longer a Christian. These three affirmations about my personhood were made by people who had directly, or indirectly, encountered my rantings, ravings and sharings about my view of Proposition 8 as a Christian and as a Pastor, and regarding my vehement support of Obama for President with those same viewpoints. What's interesting is that there was no invitation to dialogue in the (re)definitions that were shared with me of who and how I live by faith. Maybe I thought I'd invited folks to discuss and had merely lauched a mono-logal diatribe. Yet my point was always to enter a discussion, to recognize and affirm (even with my dark humor) that we are community, that we are called to live in community, that such life requires and demands mutual-respect, self-respect, a refusal to embrace verbal violence and degradation, and a commitment to relationship.

I've seen and experienced this online, in the communities in which I live, even in my own family. There are consequences for every action that we take. We can say that something isn't personal, or that we weren't meaning for it to be personal in terms of hurting someone else. But everything is personal to someone.

Yesterday while the worship gathering was finishing at the church I serve the Mormon Temple of Oakland, which is about 10 blocks away, was being besieged by No On 8 Protestors who had gone to put a face on the consequences of the proposition, to forces those that were at the Temple that day to have to encounter those that are no longer legally married, or can't be married, because of Prop 8, which had been in large part (at least in the beginning stages) funded by the Mormon Community. I'm not against Mormons, or do I hold anything against them. Merely it's a story of my context. Here's a news video of the protest, and here's an online article about it.

I heard someone this week advocate stoning (not with joints, but with rocks) all gays and lesbians. Because that's what the Bible (in some parts) says we should do. This person was invoking the sanctity of marraige, while denying or forgetting about what I'd have to call the sanctity of life. My own nuclear family is torn among gay family members who are legally married and those that voted to overturn their marriage in the name of sanctity. That word has been thrown around so much lately, that I'm not sure what we do, or claim, to hold sacred and saintly? We forget that everything and every-issue has a face, a personal narrative, and consequences. I'm not advocating nihilism. Rather it seems that we in our culture completely disconnect. We place blame when we don't want to be connected. Just look at Governor Palin who today blamed George Bush for McCain's defeat, and Yes on 8 forces that blamed Obama (and his large people-of-color turn-out-the-vote apparatus) for the passage of 8. At the root of it all it seems that we - out of fear or something - don't want to recognize the other as subject, and not just object - in our society, in our communities, even in our families.

I got this sarcastic (and what I consider cleverly funny) Funny-or-Die video from someone today talking about Prop 8 and pushing it to the extreme. It seems over the top. Yet is it really that different than what we tend to do on most issues when we neglect the dominant grey reality of life, place blame elsewhere, or judge others in order to make oursevles feel better. Watch it. Then share a comment if any of this has struck you.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die
Monte's Skew on Blogging
blogging 101

In the past weeks I've had several questions and conversations about my blog Monteskewed, the purpose, the format and the frankness with which I speak, or write. I thought I'd take a post to talk about what it means for me and my hopes for what it can birth.

The wording alongside my glasses says it all. The photo gives you a snapshot of how I see the Bay Area (my context for life and ministry) through my glasses. It's a great visible metaphor for why I blog. My header disclaimer states "I'm seeking to skew you to my worldview." That's it in a nut shell. Of course my thoughts on being a follower of Jesus who enjoys Oakland and loves to garden, eat, parent, live faith and life in community, to talk about politics, culture, music and not meant so much to tell you how to live, as it is to share some of my thoughts, with an emerging cynicsm and my dark (kept in the closet too often) humor AND to invite you to a dialogue, a give and take, a listen and speak, about different issues, topics and emerging events here in Oakland. I write as a pastor because that's my life. I don't write as a pastor of a given church or the one I work with. I don't speak for or on behalf of that church community of faith on my blog, which is often my role in my daily life. It's a fine line. When you read Monteskewed, remember what the title is, that should help keep things clear.

I try to write quickly, honestly, organically and with humor. I try not to proof-read. Rather I think, letting my thoughts stew in my head...then I whip them out onto the screen via the keyboard. For me it's a fun way to share my thoughts, a sort of spiritual discipline in terms of thinking about faith and theology and how they interact with culture, politics and daily life ethics. It's also a way I seek to expand my work and ministry as pastor, recognizing that technology plays a crucial part in our relationships, communication and experience of faith community.

You can make a comment, and enter into a dialogue - or start one - for every post. Simply scroll down to the word "comments" at the bottom of the post. Click it and you'll be linked to a form through which you can enter and share a comment (or more) in the emerging discussion.

I have a two rules for my blog, that you can't get around.

1. It's about discussion to build community, not to convict or convert anyone to one particular view (except mine!) So you have to identify yourself on the form. You can use a code or nick name. But there are no anonymous postings aloud. Being in a real dialogue necessitates that we know who we're talking with, to and who is talking to us. We're all subjects, not objects.

2. I reserve the right to erase comments that are violently racist, sexist, homophobic or just plain destructive in terms of my goal to build community in person and online.

I hope you'll join the conversation. If you want to learn more about blogging, how it started and what the general consensus about blogging is try this [link].

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday

This week's portion of the Sermon on the Mount is all about practicing wh
at Jesus preaches. It's about doors and roads, city gates and wolves in sheep clothing, good fruit and rotting messes. Traditionally I've heard that this passage is articulating the need and challenge of salvation, that few will know God's heart and choose Jesus as Savior. I think it's much deeper, tricker and stickier than that boundary-enducing evangelical language would lead us to believe. I think Jesus is talking about the city gates through which you have to enter in order to move from not being in the city, to being in the city. Jesus lived in Roman times. The Empire was know for its power, profits and pax (peace). The Romans built roads everywhere, and new cities surrounded with protective walls. It's what made the empire work and be so profitable. When you traveled into or from a city, you couldn't help but remember what Empire you lived in. Everywhere you turned you saw signs and symbols of the Romans' militry might and economic power (or oppression, depending upon your place in society). Jesus is challenging that, saying that we're called to live in and from the Kingdom of God. A hard choice. An existential choice that has to be made personally and lived out communally. A choice that implies an alternative identity, a counter-cultural daily life, a radical inter-dependence, a new passport. That's what's hard about it, not that few are saved. Rather it's that few want to make that difficult yet life-transforming and sustaining choice to follow Jesus, which necessarily implies producing good fruit through living as Jesus lived.

In our age today I wonder how often we actually hear about this? A friend sent me a blog [link] that talks a bit about this in terms of Proposition 8 that passed in yesterday's election. It
doesn't matter so much what you thought about the proposition, I include the link because it's a challenge to all those who claim to follow Jesus. Who are we following - the empire o? How are we following - as radicals or as ordinaries? Are we being genuinely honest about it?

Here's 3 relevant pages from Jesus for President (pp 242-244). Click on
the images to read them in a larger format.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election day isn’t just November 4th

For the past 6 weeks I've been blogging and teaching my way through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): the essential teachings of Jesus – his vision of life, his understanding of community, his relational experience of God and neighbors, his invitation to live in and into the Kingdom of God. We’ve playfully interpreted this teaching through the creative lens of the recent book Jesus for President: which lifts up the Jesus Doctrine of radical non-violence and neighborly love in view of empowering the redistribution of the wealth of God’s compassion and justice among all peoples. A friend recently told me that it didn’t look like my candidate (Jesus) was going to win the election on the 4th. I laughed. Thinking about it in hindsight, I’m struck by the poignancy of that comment. Jesus doesn’t call us to partisan in the way we live our faith. Jesus isn’t running for election on the 4th of this month, rather he’s inviting us to a daily election as those courageous enough to choose the third way of Jesus’ radical doctrines and vision of daily life. Voting is our duty as citizens. It’s the primary way we participate in our democracy. And we’re also invited, as we’ve seen in this election, to participate even more through the gift of our money, our organizing skills, our presence, our relationships, and our active engagement in discussions. Jesus invites us to an even more radical participation. To vote everyday with the way we live. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) is his call to action, his inauguration speech pointing towards the kingdom that he wants not only to build for us, but also calls us to build alongside him through our actions, words and relationships. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” How are you using your gifts (time, money, relationships, and talents) to further the candidacy of our maverick candidate for change, who wants us to vote for hope everyday by our participation in his kingdom work of loving and living as Jesus first loved and lived for us?

Peace to you and yours, and to all of us - no matter if we feel like our hopes win or lose in the election unfolding today. We're called to more than just victory....

How Voting Today Skewed Me
millenial meaning-making, technology & community organizing

We went as a family this morning to vote shortly after the polls opened at 7:00am.Once there we encountered a line of maybe 50 people, snaking it's way through the school hallway. Of the 50 people, probably 6-9 children were also there: playing in the Obama Baby T-shirts, coming to watch their parents vote, participating in order to learn about democracy in action. While there I was struck by several things that point to some of the deep (and already made) transformations of our society, culture and means of communication/organization:

1. Our kids played video games on our phones while they waited.

2. Half a dozen people were doing what I was doing while waiting in line: updating their facebook pages, and twittering.

3. Three people were taking pictures (along with me) of the line - to blog with, or something else.

4. The woman behind me kept calling friends of hers on her cell phone. Each person she called seemed to have a background in a particular area of expertise (Water District, Schools, etc.) She would ask them how to vote. Talk about swaying last minutes deciders in an election.

5. Folks were all excited, talkative, happy to be waiting in a long line so early in the morning.

6. No one checked ids of those that are voting (I think it's because our precinct workers know everyone personally).

7. I had to park far away (ok 2 blocks - super far for our precinct!) in order to vote because so many people were there.

8. We celebrated our post-voting with a family breakfast at Peet's in the Dimond and La Farine. About 30 other people had the same idea with about 10 kids there, wearing "I Voted" stickers, and obviously going to school late.

I'm stuck by something I heard on Talk of the Nation yesterday [listen to the podcast here of A Grown Up Digital Generation] featuring Don Tapscott writer of Grown Up Digital. He pointed to the revolutionary ways that technology, online social networking, blogging, etc. have already transformed the way we talk, communicate, think and organize/relate to one another. Our entire society (economy, educational insitutions, political system and faith communities) have to adjust, adapt, and transform to this new way of thinking, speaking, organizing and relating that is potentially predominant in the Millennial Generation (those under 30) and also beyond.

I felt like I experienced a lot of what was lifted up in that radio discussion while voting this morning. The church I serve and work with is not functioning in this way. Most communities of faith I know aren't either. Yet our children, colleagues and neighbors are functioning and thriving as grown up digital-folks. Is this a world-view shift? Is this the end of an era in our culture and maybe in the world? Is this an apocalyptic foretaste of the end of days? Is this the dawn of a new chance to live, work and thrive together? Obviously the Obama efforts taped into this more than McCain in the amazing ways that his website empowered not just voting, but organizing via the website. Bruce Reyes-Chow is a pastor of the Presbyterian Church to which I belong as pastor. He too has plugged into this monumental cultural shift [Bruce's Blog]. It's not something that may happen. It already has. How are the communities you're a part of responding to it? Are they even responding?

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Monday, November 03, 2008

10 Things to Do
While You Wait to Vote on Tuesday

So I've heard non-stop the past few days about the long lines to expect on Tuesday, and the possibility to wisely go and vote early today to avoid the waiting. [yahoo news link] I've refused. I want to vote on Tuesday. I love the rush of going on election day, of participating in something bigger than me, of seeing all my neighbors serving as precinct workers - trying to not just get along but even work together - and I love getting that sticker and wearing it all day!

So I was thinking about 10 things that I (or you) could do to pass the waiting time on Tuesday.

10. Bring a snack to munch on while you wait: either chili (if you're for Obama) or ribs (if you're for McCain) [more online info]

9. Watch past SNL episodes to kill time on your iphone. [link]

8. Watch past Jon Stewart episodes on your hand-held in order to know how to vote. [link]

7. See how many Obama (or McCain) buttons you can covertly wear into the voting booth without being asked to take them off, or leave them outside. [Sacramento Bee Fashion Tips for Voting]

6. Look up the donation lists regarding proposition 8 in order to see if there are any neighbors in line that you can "out" for their political perspectives. [site] [spreadsheet].

5. Get a ticket, then go hunting using your personal helicopter while you wait for you number to be called.

4. Carry a chicken in a cage to see what response you get from others.

3. Read Twilight so that you're ready for the movie (coming out November 21st). [site]

2. Either try to post as many mobile upload photos of other peoples pre-filled out voting card help/cheat-sheets as you can to facebook - or - twitter with other people in the room.

1. Fill our your immigration application for permanent residency in Canada or France - just to be safe. [Canada] [France]

Anyone have any other tips?
Jesus Freaks Out or 
Who Freaks Out for Jesus

I attended a Vote NO on Prop 8 peaceful vigil in the neighborhood in which I serve as pastor.  I decided to make my own sign, so I created one that read "Jesus Freaks Against Prop 8."  It took 3 people to hold it up.  Several asked me what it meant.  Some smiled in immediate recognition.  About 20 minutes into the vigil a middle-aged woman pulled up alongside me and started lecturing me that I should be "more tolerant.  Gay people should be more tolerant of religious people.  You should be more tolerant when YOU vote!" - then she screeched off in her tired out Toyota, trying to make it up the hill across from 7-11.  WHAT?  I didn't get what she was all about?  Did she think I was saying that "Jesus followers" are freaks?  Did she think that only freaks would vote against prop 8?  Or did she just think that I'm a freak?  She was so angry.  During her diatribe she looked at me so intensely that I almost wondered if she was medusa come to life in East Oakland.

What has pushed us to become so violent in the past days in terms of the election, in particular proposition 8?  To become so intolerant? - a reflection which troubles me, for I have no desire to be tolerant, to simply tolerate other people.  I want to enjoy them, to participate with them in community building, to learn to appreciate whatever gift they bring in our often-overwhelming diversity.  Maybe I am a freak?  Or maybe she just needed to get a Coke slurpee at 7-11 to recaffenate herself?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Political Satire Home Shopping
SNL Skit with John McCain from 110108

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Evangelical Sex:
Juno? Jamie Lynn? or Ann (from Arrested Development)?

This week's New Yorker has a great article on teenage pregnancy in the evangelical context. What are we telling and not-telling our children? How is it effecting us - and them - and what does it have to do with faith.

religion is a good incidator of attitudes toward sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior, and this gap is especially wide among teenagers who identify themselves as evangelical.

"Red Sex, Blue Sex: Why do so many evangelical teen-agers become pregnant?"