Have I mentioned yet how much I love my son?
Judah turns four in two days! It was exactly four years ago tonight that he began his journey beyond the womb in one of the most memorable and exhilarating two days of my life.
Diana's due date was January 8 (or 10? I don't remember exactly), but I wanted a New Year's Baby. Not because of any sentimental fondness for January 1, but because I thought a birthdate of 01/01/01 would be very cool. Call me a cornball, but the symmetry and rarity -- happens just once in a century -- made that date appealing. I figured that if I teased Diana often enough about going into labor at our church's annual New Year's Eve Party, it just might happen.
Sure enough, at around 2 or 3 am, Diana told a friend she was cramping. She refused to call it labor or contractions -- to do so would have given me too much delight -- but they were noticeable enough that she asked to go home to bed. Then around 7 am, she woke me to say her water broke! We called the doctor, and went to the hospital that afternoon.
Daddy's impassioned pleas notwithstanding, Judah waited until just the right time for him to make his grand appearance. His terms were fully satisfied approximately 32 hours after those first cramps on New Year's Eve, and Judah Jeremy Del Rio left the shelter of Mommy's belly at 10:19 am, 01/02/01 -- symmetry of his own choosing.
Judah's addition to our lives has been a far greater joy, more rewarding privilege, and humbling honor that Diana and I ever imagined. He's hysterically funny, musical (composing songs nearly every day), enormous (weighing the same as our eight year old nephew and taller than our nearly seven year old niece), athletic (with a cannon arm and tackling form that would make any linebacker proud!), wise beyond his years (how many 3 1/2 year olds ask how Jesus could be God and God's son?), with a passion for God and compassion for people. And he knows how to work a room! The total package. My buddy. My son.
Happy birthday, Judah! I love you forever.
(Read A Letter to my Son on Father's Day here and view Christmas 2004 pictures of Judah here.)
Jesus Walks with Me
I've been wrestling with the unexplainable lately. Throughout this week, the tsunami. Yesterday, Adam Jeremiah. For nearly two years, ministry difficulties, personal struggles, even health challenges. In countless bizarre, almost surreal ways, it feels (deep down, where life hurts) like a flame upon my flesh has been turned seven time hotter.
Against that backdrop, I rediscovered a song that's been generating buzz all year, both in Christian circles and on secular playlists, when the Grammy nominations were announced earlier this month: Jesus Walks by Kanye West. Nominated for ten Grammys, Jesus Walks is a prayer from a fallen, broken man desperate to find God's way for his life. The chorus:
God show me the way because the Devil trying to break me down / (Jesus Walks with me) / The only thing that I pray is that me feet don't fail me now / (Jesus Walks)
The song is remarkable for its simplicity and effectiveness. While it's use of expletives (sh** is said twice, along with one "hell yeah") shocks and offends many Christians, the song's intended audience could care less. For them, Kanye delivers a powerful message that Christ came to heal the sick, comfort those who mourn, free the prisoner, bring sight to the blind, and walk with us along life's journey.
In revisiting the message of Kanye's prayer, I was reminded that it was only in a furnace turned seven times hotter that three Hebrew boys literally "walked" with the Fourth Man.
Download the rest of the lyrics here
. Watch the music video here
Evangelism 101, Hip Hop Style
I helped a friend move yesterday, along with a crew of seven teenage boys. They're all great kids from God-fearing, evangelical families. They're all actively involved in a local church youth group, and most, if not all, attended Christian elementary and middle schools. One of the boys' parents are pastors of a leading church in New York City. Unlike many classic PK's, he actually loves the Lord. Three or four of the boys, including the aforementioned PK, were wearing G-Unit t-shirts.
Ah, the irony. Great kids, Christian kids, representin' G-Unit. Among G-Unit's recent memorable moments:
- Frontman 50 Cent's claim to fame is surviving nine bullets from an attempted hit on his life in 2000.
- On Nov. 19, 2004, Young Buck surrendered to police on charges he knifed a man during a melee at the Vibe awards.
- Tony Yayo was released from prison this past spring after a year and a half incarcerated for multiple offenses.
- In January 2004, "G-Unit Adult Films" announced plans to produce "Groupie Luv" with adult film producer "Digital Sin."
- For more G-Unit headlines, visit MTV News.
Sample G-Unit Lyrics:
- "Vacate your home I come to brake your bones / Americas nightmare we at it again ... Come with me but dont run and die where your standin' / See i'm holdin' on this cannon and your life i'm demandin' / Put the pipe to your melon and your brains on the pavement ... Nobody gon speak when homicide pay a visit ... You betta get used to it you know how we do it" (from "G-Unit")
- "Sometimes i ride um slow sometimes i ride um quick / Thats the reason these groupies is on my ****/ Listen young and old these hoes is loose / Wintertimes the staircase summertimes the roof ... Have a church girl on the bus move an wait ... When you see me in V.I.P with hoes around me / Man now give me that groupie love ... Tonight you wanna **** wit me its alright with me / Come on an gimme that groupie love" (from "Groupie Love")
- For more G-Unit lyrics, go here.
I have to assume that none of the boys -- never mind their parents! -- actually know or understand the lifestyle that G-Unit represents. Yet they wear G-Unit t-shirts (along with Sean John, Roc-a-Wear, Phat Farm, and other Hip Hop fashion labels) because they're cool. Therein lies the genius of Hip Hop.
Read more about how Hip Hop has revolutionized youth culture while CCM (so-called "Contemporary Christian Music") has only revolutionized itself, here
Into Your Hands We Commend His Spirit
It's nearly midnight, 12/30, and I've just returned home from the funeral for 27-day-old Adam Jeremiah Jaruczyk (12/2/2004 - 12/29/2004). He died last night at 9:02 pm, after a valiant fight against a terminal disease. Most children with his condition don't survive their first days, never mind a first Christmas. His parents Richard and Jessica named him Adam Jeremiah -- Adam meaning "fashioned by God" and Jeremiah meaning "upheld by God" -- when their doctor told them after a seemingly routine 4 1/2 month ultrasound that there might be complications. From that day until his last, they prayed fervently that God would heal their son, and, even if He did not, that God would be glorified in little Adam's life. He was.
Pastor Michael Durso of Christ Tabernacle reminded the congregation that in God's timetable, "A day is as a thousand years and a thousand years are as a day." While Adam's days seemed in our understanding short lived, in God's providential timing they were exactly what He needed to fulfill his eternal destiny. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Reggie White might have died from Sleep Apnea?!
Reggie White, world class athlete, dies at the age of 43 of a massive heart attack which may have been induced by Sleep Apnea. [Story here.] This news struck a nerve with me because several years ago a close family member was diagnosed with the disorder.
Providentially a friend who knew of his history of extreme snoring and increasing fatigue heard that a local hospital was conducting clinical research on a new treatment for a condition called Apnea. We had never heard of it, but the symptoms matched his experience so he volunteered to participate in the study. That meant spending a night at the hospital connected to machines that monitored his breathing during sleep. When he awoke, the doctors had grim news. At times, more than a minute would lapse without any oxygen, making his condition among the most severe cases they had observed and exposing him to the risks of heart attack, stroke, or worse.
They prescribed a breathing machine for him to use as he slept. The results were immediate! For the first time in years, he felt rested in the morning and able to function without weariness throughout the day. For the first time in years, his wife was able to sleep without his labored snoring causing concern.
My relative received treatment that quite possibly saved his life. After his diagnosis, two other relatives were also tested and properly treated. Apparently Reggie White was not so fortunate. For more on Sleep Apnea and treatment options, visit WebMD.
From Wikipedia, on what Triggered the Tsunami
From the Wikipedia entry about the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake: The total energy released by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake exceeds the total amount of energy consumed in the United States in one month, or the energy released by the wind of a hurricane like Hurricane Isabel over a period of 70 days. Using the mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc2, this amount of energy is equivalent to a mass of about 100 kg (220 lb) (much more than is actually converted to energy in a nuclear explosion), or enough to boil 5000 litres (1,300 US gallons) of water for every person on Earth. (I stole this entry from Tony.)
Global Disaster ... Global Compassion
9/11/01 was a defining moment for our world in part for igniting the Global War on Terror. So too 12/26/04, or more specifically the world's collective response to it, can redefine Global Compassion. The scope of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami has claimed at least 135,000 lives (as of 12/31) in 11 nations spanning two continents. Indonesia alone has confirmed 79,940 deaths. (Visit CNN.com for a country by country breakdown.)
Where was God in the tragedy? It's impossible to say for sure, but we do know where God is in its aftermath: walking among the broken people; comforting shattered lives; mending battered bodies; restoring families and villages with dwellings; loving each person individually and every nation communally. His agents of compassion? People like you and me who love God with everything we have and our neighbors as ourselves.
This unprecedented horror provides an unprecedented opportunity for Christians the world over to respond with unprecedented Compassion. It's perhaps not a coincedence that the nations hardest hit fall squarely within the so-called 10/40 window that Evangelicals have been praying for for decades. Now is time to put our money and our lives where our words and prayers have been and become the answers to our and others' prayers. Not to preach at victims, but to love them unconditionally as Christ loves us.
Below are four global relief ministries that were integral parners for New York Christians in responding locally to 9/11. They are similarly at the vangaurd of compassion in the wake of the tsunami.
Northwest Medical Teams
World Harvest/Somebody Cares Indonesia
As you pray, please consider a donation or perhaps even volunteering.
UPDATE - January 3 - From my Friend Doug Stringer of Somebody Cares America:
December 31, 2004
Today Dr. Hartadi [of World Harvest] spent the day with [a representative of the Indonesian Navy] arranging for the shipping of medicine to Meulaboh, which is located on the western coast of Aceh province. [Meulaboh] experienced the full force of the tsunami, with over 10,000 casualties from that city alone.
The tidal wave destroyed all roads leading to the city, leaving shipping as the only means of transporting goods. World Harvest/Somebody Cares Indonesia is using ships of the Indonesian Navy to transport its relief supplies. Today's shipment is earmarked for the Navy Hospital in Meulaboh which is treating the survivors of last Sunday's disaster. We spoke with him at 6pm and the medicines were being loaded on the ship. This is our second shipment to Aceh and another one ready to be shipped to Banda Aceh (capital city of Aceh), but no TNI AL (Navy) ships sailed for Aceh today.
On Monday we will receive another Rp100jt($11,000) of medicines (from the Rp150jt ordered on Friday) and will arrange for delivery. Additional supplies will be ordered to acommodate the need there.
Today, our Indonesian vice president Lew Belcourt were on duty with the American Embassy at Halim Airport. We loaded 2 airplanes with donated items from many NGO's and also supplies bought with money from USAID. There were 30 trucks of goods, filled up the 2 airplanes and had to turn back 15 trucks. Many people are frustrated because they have goods, but no way to get them to Aceh. There is a warehouse full of goods at Halim (and I hear also at Tanjung Priok), but no way to get them to Aceh. The trucks were filled with rice, biscuits, tents, body bags, water. BUT, there was no medicine! This confirms two things to us:
1. World Harvest/ Somebody cares Indonesia is doing the right thing using TNI connections. Other agencies are frustrated because they can't get their goods to Aceh. World Harvest goods, when purchased, have priority and are put on the ships!
2. Buying medicine is the correct priority. World Harvest/Somebody cares Indonesia cannot compete with USAID, World Food Programme, etc., in buying food. But no one is giving medicines to the military hospitals. And, we can follow up later to re-equip hospitals in Aceh with our partner in USA.
[For regular updates from World Harvest/Somebody Cares Indonesia, please visit http://www.worldharvest.cc/.]
A Hero Passed ... His Legacy Endures
He is universally regarded as one of, if not the greatest ever to play his position. Yet when he passed away tragically at the age of 43 this past Sunday, the consensus among commentators on Fox, CBS, ESPN, and other sports talk shows was that he was a better person than a football player. What a testimony to the life of Reggie White, certain hall of famer and one of our finest ambassadors of faith. Flawed though he was, his humility and transparency left a legacy that lives on. See for intance, the ESPN.com tribute penned by Greg Garber:
It was appropriate that White departed on a Sunday, the day when both of his passions -- football and faith -- are typically celebrated. His nickname was "The Minister of Defense," a hybrid tag that reflected those passions, but he was a man of many parts. Football was merely the most visible.
The bare numbers fail to do him justice. Many consider him the greatest defensive lineman to play in the NFL. He played for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1985-92 and the Green Bay Packers from 1993-98. He was named to the NFL's 75th anniversary team and was voted to 13 consecutive Pro Bowls, a staggering accomplishment since the honor is a measure of respect from one's peers. His 198 sacks have slipped to second on the all-time list, to Bruce Smith.
It was his faith, however, that sustained him. Since his retirement, after a one-year stint with the Carolina Panthers in 2000, White, a devout Christian, attempted to deepen his understanding of religion. He had undertaken a study of Hebrew, the ancient language of the Bible.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated observed:
What stood out was the respect White had for his wife. Because Sarah was going to have to live and raise a family wherever he went, he wanted to make sure that she was OK with whatever decision was made. This wasn't just a husband dictating the next move to the family; there was a legitimate sense of, "I wanted to do what's best for this family."
Maybe he could've done more big works in a metropolitan area. But he established a base for doing good things in Green Bay, Milwaukee, as well as his adopted hometown of Knoxville. Was the money a factor? Yes, a big one. But Reggie White put his money where his beliefs were, helping unwed mothers who couldn't afford to help themselves. ...
I know there must be a river of tears in Knoxville, Philadelphia and Green Bay today. There should be great sorrow. But there should also be a feeling that the man made many lives richer in his 43 years. That's what we should remember.
The Emerging Leader Debate Continues
I'm in North Carolina for the Billy Graham Institute for Emerging Evangelists, where the debate continues about how to empower "emerging" leaders to actually lead. Thank God for Eddie Gibbs, professor of evangelism at Fuller Theological Seminary. If ever there was a contemporary example of what happens when, as Joel prophesied, the Spirit causes old men to dream dreams and young men to see visions, we saw it this weekend as Dr. Gibbs taught. He's a 66-yr. old theologian and academic who gets it! He speaks the same language and understands the heart's cry of an emerging generation of leaders half his age, desperate to see an authentic outpouring of grace such as Isaiah 43:18-19 foretold:
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
The era of cookie-cutter evangel-"ism" is over. Postmodern evangelization (the Great Commission is not an -ism or ideology) will look, feel, smell, sound, and in fact be
different in different contexts. Figuring out how it should look, feel, smell, etc. is the duty of those called to reach postmodern people, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In Pursuit of Authentic Community
I had one of those conversations this afternoon. You know -- the kind that meanders off totally unexpectedly into a vulnerable and transparent place with someone you barely met, but trust. (Or maybe you don't know... I'm not sure I did a couple years ago, but I'm learning.) A colleague and I thought we were talking about ministry stuff when we found ourselves instead sharing about personal, intimate matters. On the surface, the issues were painful, difficult, and frankly, avoidable in polite society. But superficiality goes but so deep. We discovered in each other two men from different places, generations, and ethnicities, who nonetheless both yearn for an authentic Christianity, lived in community, where people love God totally and each other completely. Thanks, Jerrell. I'll be praying for you, as I'm sure you will for me.
What Does it Mean to be an "Emerging Leader"?
A friend and I were talking today about the phrase "emerging leader." What does it really mean -- in practical terms -- in the context of being among the youngest members of a network or working committee comprised almost entirely of "established leaders" 10-40 years senior? Does being considered an emerging leader simply mean one gets invited to sit in meetings that would have previously been off limits, or is one expected to pay his/her network dues as a grunt? At what point does the "emerging" label come off so that one is respected simply for leadership? And how long before "respect" translates into empowerment, with real responsibilities to steward both vision and resources, as well as the corresponding opportunities of success or failure?
Christmas Greetings from Jeremy
December 13, 2004
Christmas celebrates a love that that gives its best to enrich others. This year, Generation Xcel will experience this in a profound way as we commission one of our homegrown leaders to join a national ministry later this month as a project manager for their “Urban Youth Strategy.”
Enid Almanzar has been a standout staff member for four years and my right hand for two. The first in her family to graduate college, she is a role model and mentor to our children; an innovative site director, program coordinator, and administrator; and a confidante and friend. Enid first learned of Xcel in 1996, when she visited as a neighborhood teen with a crush on one of our cofounders. The crush never went anywhere – he told her they couldn’t date because he was “of the light” and she wasn’t – but his new-found faith inspired her to explore the Bible. She discovered Christ and later joined Abounding Grace, where I met her.
She interned at Xcel the summer before her senior year in college, then joined the staff after graduating New York University in 2001. In the last four years, she has grown as an indigenous leader who both understands and relates to urban kids and can communicate their realities to people from other contexts. Thus, her promotion. She is one of our treasures, someone it has been my distinct pleasure to mentor and serve with as a colleague.
Our staff loss is gain for urban kids around the nation. In her new capacity, Enid will manage the development of curricula and products that will potentially redefine urban youth ministry for generations to come.
As Enid makes this transition, I am reminded of other Xcel success stories who, like a certain baby born in a stable, have emerged from obscurity to empower others to achieve their dreams. Co-founders like my brothers Jonathan and Jamie, who, respectively, co-pastor a youth group and serve as an NYPD officer. Rollie directs a neighborhood youth center. Mei-Ling graduates NYU with a nursing degree this month. Luis graduates from Nyack College this month and will replace Enid as one of our program directors. My lovely wife Diana, the greatest teacher and mother I could have imagined for our son. And the other co-founders: Arturo, Dennis, Ling Mei, Celeste, Joey, and Kristi.
Others have followed their lead: Alisa, who sings with the Dove-award winning group Zoegirl; Dorothy, now a junior high science teacher and missions coordinator at a local church; Louis, the Xpress director and a music minister; high school students like Kevin and Loreal, who were recently named to Xcel’s Board of Directors; and junior high XL Service Corps members like Ciarra and Jeremy.
These are but a few of the dozens from Xcel who have elevated their lives with a passion to share their successes with those around them. There’s no geater reward than watching them succeed and share the lessons they learned here far beyond our walls.
This Christmas, as we remember so many gifts that continue to give, please consider making a gift to Generation Xcel. Your donations to our ministry help insure that many more Enids will follow in her footsteps, even as those footsteps get larger and there influence exponentially grows.
Tax deductible gifts may be made online via PayPal at www.GenerationXcel.com, or by check to: Generation Xcel, 9 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003
Jeremy R. Del Rio
The Revolution Continues
We believe in a faith that's relevant, transformative, and real. (Check out "From Irrelevant to Revolutionary" for more.) This weekend, inner city teens are grappling with age old questions in Life in Translation, a nontraditional, original holiday production featuring jazz, Shakespeare, and acting by The Company. Check out pictures here.
The Life in Translation program included the following statement:
The Holidays remind us of the Author of Life. Amidst the commotion and busyness of the season, we celebrate the lives we live -- and the life a baby, born humbly in a stable, would ultimately give for us.
We pause each year to remember because life as we live it can be confusing, filled with emotional highs and lows, successes and failures. Timeless questions echo across centuries of history as every generation grapples to understand their meaning.
Life in Translation is one community's 'xpress'-ion as we search for meaning to a Life worth living. We invite you to celebrate with us, and engage the questions as part of our community.
Life in Translation
Generation Xcel presents
“Life in Translation”
an original stage event featuring
Shakespeare, Xpress, Jazz,
and modern reinterpretations
of age-old Questions
Two Nights ONLY
12/10 & 12/11
Hosted by Abounding Grace Ministries
9 East 7th Street, Manhattan
Corner of 3rd Avenue a/k/a Cooper Square
R/W to 8th Street; 6 to Astor Place
Adults: $10 / Students: $5
Reserve seats by emailing
The X Factor - Redefining a Generation for Xmas
"Scrooge has gotten younger. The new face of the famously stingy foil is no longer old or crotchety. According to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, Generation Xers - roughly those of us 23-39 years old - are the new misers. ...
"The Scrooge of Charles Dickens' timeless classic doesn't remain greedy forever. Haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, he comes to realize that a life worth living is one, like Christ's, that is freely given away. ..."
Read more here: http://www.generationxcel.com/x_factor.htm
Kudos to Larry and Urban Youth Workers Institute
Larry Acosta and the Urban Youth Workers Institute visited New York City with their Reload tour on Saturday (12/4). Larry -- Thanks for your heart, and your generosity! We consider it a privilege to serve alongside you in urban ministry. Keep up the great work. Everyone else -- Check out Reload at a city near you, and the Urban Youth Workers Institute in May 2005.
Rudy's Finally Done It
Hooked me into his blogosphere, that is. I'm now officially a blogger. Only time will tell exactly what that means, but I look forward to the discoveries that no doubt await us. (Rudy's blog: www.urbanonramps.blogspot.com)