Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A Jamaican proverb?

McLaren quotes a fictionalized Jamaican grandmother as saying:

If you find you-self on one mountain peak and you wanna get to anodda one, den dey is only one way up, and dat is to go down fust. (ANKOC, p. 80)
If it's not already a proverb, it should be.

He chopped her body into 12 pieces

Anyone else tired of the goofy ways we try to make sense of Scripture's more outrageous stories that contradict our theology and customs? Consider Judges 19-20:

But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, "Get up; let's go." But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. (Judges 19:25-29)

I for one have never preached a message from this text or analyzed and processed it in a Bible study. Typically I (and lots of others, considering the fact that I've never heard anyone else preach on this passage either) have ignored it (and passages like it) or avoided it or tried to contort it to fit our (Western) sensibilities. But CoCo challenged me a month or so ago with this story, and tonight Kevin (see post below) told me YW8? wrestled with it recently as well. Meanwhile, I read the following thought in ANKOC last night:
The parts of the Bible that bother you most are the ones that have the most to teach you. ... Instead of minimizing your discomfort trying to explain those parts away, you should bear down on those passages and maximize how different they are, really wrestle with [them]. (ANKOC, p.79)
I'm starting to get the hint that I need to pay attention to Judges 19-20. What is God saying here?

I'm proud of him

I ran into Kevin Cedeno this afternoon. He's still flying high after receiving an acceptance letter from John Jay College last week, and his work with the Youth Justice Board has him interviewing Department of Education bigwigs (on the schedule, Chancellor Joel Klein and possibly Mayor Bloomberg) and criminal justice experts. Three years ago, Kevin visited YW8? (Why Wait?) youth ministries at Abounding Grace at the invitation of a friend, and joined us the following month on a youth retreat upstate. He interned at Xcel Summer the next two years and was a founding member of Xpress and the XL Service Corps. Now he and Lorreal Torres (another incredible story in her own right) are the youth delegates on Generation Xcel's Board of Directors. We're so proud of Kevin that he's literally become an icon for us, with his picture Xcel's new logo:

(Photo by Michael Mowery. Logo design by Jason Bowman of Hopeful Productions.) The Dept. of Ed. describes the Youth Justice Board, sponsored by the Center for Court Innovation, as follows:

The Youth Justice Board provides an opportunity to introduce the voices of young people into the public safety policy-making process in New York City. Over the course of one year, fifteen teenagers research a public safety issue and recommend solutions in a final report. ... At the end of the year, participants will present their recommendations to policymakers in New York City. Participants will receive a stipend, and a hands-on education in investigation, policy development and presentations.
Not bad for a kid from one of the worst high schools in the Bronx who wanted to quit school two years ago.

From the jacket cover

You know the book's deep when even the endorsements provoke. Here's one from Dr. Leonard Sweet about A New Kind of Christian ("ANKOC" in future posts):

This is a book that heightens the depths and deepens the peaks. ... [I]t is not to be entered into lightly, but reverently and in the fear of a God who is waiting for the church to stop asking WWJD, 'What would Jesus do?' and start asking WIJD, 'What is Jesus doing?' (Italics mine.)
Think about it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

My boy's a prayer warrior

Judah has been praying for Rudy's 4 year old son Samuel almost daily ever since his Leukemia diagnosis last summer. Last week, he and I were looking at pictures of Sam online when I remembered that Liz Rios has pictures of her special needs son DJ online as well. We visited her blog and discovered this post and looked at this picture. Last night as Judah was praying for Sam before bed, he paused for a second to ask me DJ's name so he could pray for him too.

(Pictures from Palm Sunday 2004 Kidz Rock Sunday School production at Abounding Grace Ministries; courtesy of Michael Mowery.)

Monday, March 28, 2005

Community Building -- the 50 Cent Way

From the annals of "There goes the neighborhood" -- Big, bad Fitty (a/k/a 50 Cent) moved into a luxe suburban town and what did he do to endear himself to the neighbors? He threw an all-access, no holds barred party ("like it's your birthday") and invited just enough locals to generate some goodwill.

Although the neighbors admit sticking out among the Hollywood-types, the 28-year-old rapper gave them all VIP access.
"There were definitely a few people there who you wouldn't normally see at a 50 Cent party,"' said local radio DJ Buck. "But I guess he just wanted to prove to them that 'I can have a good time and there won't be any trouble.'" (Full story here.)
The ex-drug pusher, current porn peddler, and all-around hip hop impresario bought the 48,500 square foot manse in 2003 for $4.1 million. For more on Hip Hop Evangelism, go here.

The Litigation Effect

Court went reasonably well today. Actually, as well as could be expected. The judge is taking very seriously the problems with our purported landlord's ownership, and has agreed to prioritize discovery on this issue moving forward. In a ruling last month she suggested that First Ukrainian (the church that originally owned the building) may still be the actual title holder because the sale to Ukrainian Evangelical of Union, NJ (the purported owner now) was improperly transacted. If Union does not in fact own the building, then they cannot evict us except on the rightful owner's behalf. Keep praying as this case isn't going away any time soon, apart from a miraculous change of heart across the river.

I'm lovin' this book

I know I owe you a reflective post about McClaren's book, but I have too much to say and not enough time to write it. I'm about half way through it so far, and I'm thoroughly enjoying the journey. I'm not sure I agree with all of it, but I think that's partly the point. In a postmodern context, we can agree to disagree and still remain friends on a journey towards Truth together. More to come ...

Coming soon to a City near you

I've never been one to advertise my traveling itinerary, but I'd love to meet you if we can get together on the road. I'll be across the river in West Orange, New Jersey at The Life Christian Center this weekend (4/2-3) Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Next week, I'll be in DC (4/12-14) for a We Care America round table with federal agencies interested in partnering with faith-based youth organizations, and at Youth Explosion in Queens on 4/15. Next month, it's off to LA for the Urban Youth Workers Institute (5/19-21). Let me know if and when we could hook up.

Roasted my first leg of lamb this weekend

And our fifteen guests said: "It is good." (Thanks to the Food Network!) Also on my menu: garlic mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, and sauted spinach. Add to that Jo's Virginia ham, stuffed artichokes and salad, Teresa's meatballs and manicotti, and a bakery's stash of snacks, candy and desserts and we all were plenty stuffed by day's end. Our Easter bash culminated a busy weekend at the Del Rio household. Saturday was a prep day (shopping and spring cleaning) stacked on either end of my nephew Seth's first birthday. What a cutie! (Pics to come.)

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Court again on Monday

Please pray. (For more on the nature of the case, go here.)

Saturday, March 26, 2005

There's no resurrection without the cross

This weekend can make a person reflective. Christians the world over commemorate Good Friday and celebrate Resurrection Sunday, but what about the day in between? Although it gets no play in our modern traditions, I've often wondered about the first "Holy Saturday." I can't imagine the torrent of emotions -- fear, anger, grief, self-doubt -- that must have gripped the disciples. Or were they too numb to feel emotion? In either case, that Sabbath must have been the darkest day of their lives as the events from the previous 24-hours started to set in: "Could you not pray one hour?" Betrayal from one of their one. Arrest. Sham trial. Scourging. "King of the Jews." Thorns. Golgotha. Nails. Darkness. Earthquakes. And what to make of the prior three years? These men had forsaken everything to follow Jesus. They had lived with him, ate with him, learned from him every day. Those years weren't supposed to end like this, in colossal defeat with all the world watching everything they believed in shatter. The shame. But as painful as that Saturday must have been, the depth of their despair intensified the joy that came in the morning. I've come to appreciate the suffering of Friday and hopelessness of Saturday, because without them, we would never experience the joy and victory of Sunday. It's convicting for me to consider this truth. For while there are areas of my life that I pray would experience resurrection, I do everything possible to avoid Good Friday and Holy Saturday. They're no fun, to be sure, but well worth the hassle in the end. (For more on this theme, check out Beyond Passion: Living a Crucified Life.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Billy Graham to New York Youth: "Get Real"

Answer: 5 million. Question: How many young people under 19 live in metro New York? Answer: A reality check. Question: How are they going to have a credible opportunity to attend the Greater New York Billy Graham Crusade? Yes, the Youth Committee for the Crusade and the local pastors that appointed us need a reality check. That’s because last month, the Committee’s 787 participants adopted the modest goal of giving 5 million young people a credible opportunity to attend the Crusade. Fortunately, Billy Graham is coming to New York to provide just that: a reality check called “Get Real.”
[Read the rest of the article here. Reprinted from the April 2005 Tri-State Voice.]

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Calling all "New Christians"

Matt and Bob, I finally got the book this afternoon. I probably should have been reading tonight, instead of bloggin', but I've only completed the introduction so far. If the rest of the book lives up to the intro, I'm psyched. McClaren's asking the right questions, and at least setting himself up as not having all the answers. I'm pumped to continue tomorrow, with my first real reflections on the book tomorrow night or Thursday. Feel free to comment before I do.

I know one of the protestors

I'm struggling to make sense of the Terri Schiavo case. Lord knows, I wouldn't want any judges, legislators, governors, and especially not United States Presidents making feeding tube decisions for anyone in my family. (Note to anyone who cares: should you ever have to decide this issue for me, never keep me artificially alive on life support. When it's time for me to go, let me go. For me, "To live is Christ, but to die is gain.") But they've been all over Terri's case for fifteen years, culminating in the extraordinary congressional action over the weekend and a rearranged Presidential schedule Sunday night. As I write this, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is deciding yet another appeal to have the feeding tube reinserted. Sadly, much of the hullabaloo is old fashioned political pandering, as evidenced by the Republican memo calling Schiavo a "great political issue" that has "excited" that party's "pro-life base." And indeed it has. What bugs me even more than the pandering (which is, unfortunately, to be expected) has been the inflammatory rhetoric by my Christian compatriots on the Right. Some of our most media savvy evangelical leaders have been quoted leveling horrible accusations at Terri's husband Michael, comparing him to Nazis and calling him a killer. How does this help? Doesn't compassion for the living demand that after fifteen years of his wife's coma followed by persistent vegetative state, medical treatments (some extraordinary, like implanting electrodes on her brain, which failed to produce any results), hospice care, and litigation, Mr. Schiavo deserves the benefit of the doubt -- or at the very least, a little less hostility? At least the protestor I know is one of those silencing his mouth with red masking tape. While I'm not sure I agree with their cause, at least they're not piling on. Maybe they could spare some tape for their allies?

Monday, March 21, 2005

A surreal life -- breaking news -- please pray

Last month was Square One. Today was Day One. Last Thursday, the Greater New York Billy Graham Crusade offered me a three-month retainer to direct the Get Real youth campaign as part of the June crusade. (More on Get Real in a future post.) What an opportunity! In an earlier post I wrote about Billy Graham coming to New York at the moment of his greatest anointing. I've also written about the unprecedented response from area youth leaders to the invitation to get involved, and the historic opportunity this represents to communicate the gospel to 5 million young people under 19. And now I've been thrust into the middle of the action. Please pray for wisdom, favor, and anointing as time, and intensity, accelerate from here.

Friday, March 18, 2005

"Say it ain't so"

That mythic phrase directed at disgraced baseball legend "Shoeless" Joe Jackson nearly a century ago resounded loudly once again throughout the halls of Congress yesterday. Contemporary baseball hero, the "Bunyanesque" Mark McGwire, was exposed as a coward as he refused to own up to his past during Congressional hearings on the sordid steroid scandel. As the AP reported:

In a room filled with humbled heroes, Mark McGwire hemmed and hawed the most. His voice choked with emotion, his eyes nearly filled with tears, time after time he refused to answer the question everyone wanted to know: Did he take illegal steroids when he hit a then-record 70 home runs in 1998 -- or at any other time?

Asked by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., whether he was asserting his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, McGwire said: "I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to be positive about this subject."

Asked whether use of steroids was cheating, McGwire said: "That's not for me to determine."

To a couple of other questions, all he would say is: "I'm retired."

Donald Hooten, father of a high school baseball player who comitted suicide in 2003 after using steroids, said it best:

Players that are guilty of taking steroids are not only cheaters, you are cowards. ... Show our kids that you're man enough to face authority, tell the truth and face the consequences. Instead, you hide behind the skirts of your union, and with the help of management and your lawyers you've made every effort to resist facing the public today.
Others were exposed as liars. For instance, witnesses Rafael Palmiero and Jose Canseco blatantly contradicted each other. Canseco famously fingered Palmiero as a steroid user in his infamous book, an accusation Palmiero flatly denied. "Period." One of them is lying, but Congress was unable to determine who exactly. Interestingly enough, Curt Schilling was one of the few MLB witnesses who actually came clean about something. He admitted, in effect, to being an opportunistic wordsmith. Schilling said he had "grossly overstated" the impact of steroids in baseball in numerous interviews throughout the past year, just because, "I think at the time it was a very hot situation and we were all being asked to comment on it." Apparently in Schilling's book it's ok to offer a "grossly" exaggerated quote on a hot story in order to get media face time, then backtrack faster than a Curt Schilling fastball when you have give an accounting for your words. Meanwhile in other steroids news, Barry Bonds had his second knee surgery since January yesterday. No longer benefitting from the otherworldly benefits of "The Cream" and "The Clear," could it be that his 40-year old body is finally starting to break down? Will 2005 be for Mr. Bonds what 2004 was for the Yankees own Jason Giambi? Hmm. [Sarcasm alert!] Ain't this game great?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Something's Happenin' Here

Vibe Magazine on our friends at Youth Explosion:

"Rap meets religion at the Christ Tabernacle in Queens, where they bring the ruckus as much as they repent."
Check out the six page photo spread here. What was that I heard about every knee bowing, and every tongue confessing?

Monday, March 14, 2005

this is a test

of the email posting system

Last call to join the club

This week is the last call to join Bob, Matt and me in our experimental online quasi-book club. We'll start posting reflections on chapter one of Brian McLaren's New Kind of Christian next week. Reply to this post if you want to join the fun.

Judah's latest

Judah's laying in my bed composing yet another original song. Here's the chorus:

In my little heart, I know about my God ... and I never forget about Him.


I'm not big into murderers, but I posted about two of them this morning. And I was violently ill all weekend. Hmm...

Heros among us

Inspired by faith and a willingness to treat a mass murderer humanely, 26-year old Ashley Smith heroically survived capture by Atlanta courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols.

Smith said she asked Nichols if she could read. She retrieved a Bible and a copy of "The Purpose-Driven Life." She said he asked her to repeat a paragraph "about what you thought your purpose in life was -- what talents were you given."

Smith said she asked Nichols why he chose her.

"He said he thought I was an angel sent from God, and that I was his sister and he was my brother in Christ," she said. "And that he was lost, and that God led him to me to tell him that he had hurt a lot of people."

"I basically just talked to him and tried to gain his trust."

Serial murder suspect retains leadership at Church

This story is baffling. Charged with ten murders between 1974 and 1991, BTK ("Bind, Torture, Kill") serial murder suspect Dennis Rader was finally identified after coming out of hiding to taunt local media and police in the last few months. Yet the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, where Rader served as president of the Church Council, said he will retain his leadership position at the church for now. I understand pastoral care and the need to provide spiritual support for members of the congregation even during the most difficult of circumstances, but to allow for continued leadership in the face of such charges, some of which Rader has apparently admitted? Sure, that's the guy I want holding my pastor accountable. If people in Witchita needed any more excuses to avoid church, Pastor Michael Clark gave them a huge reason to stay away from Christ Lutheran. God help us.

Healthy Monday?

Last week I played the role of nurse for my sick wife and son. This weekend I was the patient. Saturday was a great day. Judah woke up without a fever for the first time since Tuesday. Diana was also feeling much better and spent the day with her aunt at a conference in Queens. Judah and I stayed in but he was generally energetic and even regained some of his appetite. At 7:30, I ordered Chinese for dinner, but something happened between the time I placed the order and when the food arrived around 8:15. My stomach got violently ill. Without getting too graphic, let's just say I don't recall my body ever doing what it did for the next 24 hours. This morning I'm feeling better, but still weak and no appetite yet. I'm hoping to get into work this afternoon for a couple of hours, but we'll see. Need strength for a long week. Saturday evening, Judah gave me yet another reason to think he's the coolest kid ever. Faced with the realization that his dad was basically dying and he was the only other person around, he kept praying for me, kissing my head, and putting his little hand on my shoulder. Then when I laid in bed at around 11, he offered to lay with me rather than watch another video. (He doesn't usually watch so much tv, but Saturday night was special.) Judah, you're the greatest! Thanks for helping daddy get better.

Friday, March 11, 2005

"Waiting for Medici vs. Fight Club"

Check out Rudy's thoughts on resourcefulness. I'm feelin' this, mainly because it so aptly describes our story. Thirteen iner city kids ages 14-22 started Generation Xcel in 1996 with no money, no space, no equipment, and no paid staff. And no Medici (benefactor). Objectively, there was no way we could open a youth center in less than 6 months, but we did. We took a generous helping of heart; mixed in creativity, resourcefulness, initiative, unity, resiliency, and a passion for eXcellence; sprinkled in tons of encouragement from a local church family that rooted for us; placed everything in an oven roast pan with lots of room to (cook and) grow; and the rest is history.

Odale, vato. The homies are comin' from LA

I spent the afternoon with John Teter and three of his InterVarsity leaders from Long Beach, California. They're planning a six week urban intensive this summer with a dozen or so students, and they're crashin' with us in New York. After a couple hours with the Dodger lovin' wanna-be-Yankee fans, it's clear we're gonna have a fun summer. Good old fashioned East Coast/West Coast smack ... for six weeks! And they're steppin' to our turf to hear it. Loudly. In surround sound. See you again in 3 months. We're looking forward to it.

Muslim clerics denounce Osama

What's amazing about this story is that it's taken over three and a half years since 9/11 for Muslim clerics to issue "the world's first fatwa, or Islamic edict, against Osama bin Laden ... calling him an apostate and urging others of their faith to denounce the al Qaeda leader." Why?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Where's the Beef?

Classic images endure. They're timeless and unforgettable, like the confrontational Wendy's woman from the 1980s who shouted at fast food clerks: "Where's the beef?!" Sometimes I feel like that little old lady. Leaving aside the obvious physical differences (such as me being 40 or so years younger, 6'2", 225, and male), I often feel like I'm being sold a shred of meatfat between two pieces of Wonderbread that someone dubiously calls a burger. So I'm gonna rant for a second, with the naming of the first ever Beef(less) Award recipients (in no particular order). 1. "Pastor" Benny Hinn. Who's pastor is he exactly? Apparently his "ministry" is organized as a "church," even though he has no congregation, in order to avoid filing a financial accounting with the IRS. (Did someone say, "Audit"?) Then his extravagent spending casts doubt not just on his own judgment, but on the rest of the faithful as well. (Are other ministries equally contrived?) Meanwhile he raises money on the strength of testimonies that are rarely -- if ever -- verified, and occasionally demonstrably false. 2. Shows about plastic surgery. They're the latest craze in reality TV, with literally a dozen or so littering network airwaves and basic cable, promoting the idea that a little more flesh there and a little less here can actually make people feel better about themselves. Boob jobs, nose jobs, chin impants, butt implants, face lifts, tummy tucks, botox, lypo -- enough already! Why can't people see it's a racket? Get one procedure, then another, then another. And the only ones who feel any better afterwards are the doctors lining their wallets with cash from people who are insecure about how others perceive them. 3. Fitty's bravado. 50 Cent creates controversy with other rappers to sell records, and he's done a phenomenal job. His first album, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," sold 11.5 million units in part because of venom directed at rival Ja Rule. His second, released last week, immediately soared to the top of the charts in part because of attacks on Fat Joe, Nas, R Kelly, and half a dozen others. Then the day before his album hit stores, Fitty announced that he was dropping former protege The Game from his G-Unit crew. The announcement was followed by a shootout at a hip hop radio station, and a rataliatory shooting at Fitty's manager' office. Ka-ching! 4. Bud Selig. He's the drab commissioner who presided over two work stoppages before ignoring Baseball's growing steroid scandel for most of a decade. Selig's willful ignorance would probably still be official MLB policy had federal prosecutors in the BALCO case not forced some of the game's greats to testify under oath before a grand jury. 5. Democratic whining. I'm all for vigorous debate. But give us something beside Bush-bashing every once in a while. Complaining about one's adversary is not debate, especially if that's all you ever do. It's nauseating. We want something to digest, not puke. That's it for now. Stay tuned for more Beef(less) recipients (and perhaps a "Beefy" or two as well).

Should this be banned?

I wouldn't want Judah to see this, but should it be banned totally from U.S. airwaves? It communicates a jarring message jarringly. Apparently it has been censored by the networks.

If Rudy's among The Ten, where are we?

Congrats, Rudy, on having your blog named by Worship Leader Magazine one of "Ten Emerging Blogs" (whatever that means exactly). Since you're the brother most singularly responsible for me having a blog, where does that place mine, and Liz's, and all the others that have been inspired by Urban Onramps? It's great to be able to say, "We knew you when."

ABC - Always Been Credible?

Nightline did this great show on Tuesday re. the rising influence of bloggers. It's just a bit bizarre to hear that my little corner of the blogosphere is somehow part of a larger whole that's reshaping the worlds of journalism, activism, policy, socializing, and so much more. But what was with the sanctimonious sign-off on credibility? No doubt bloggers have to earn their stripes, but (forgive my cynicism) isn't it just a bit disingenuous for a major network to preach about credibility? Network news has been losing audience share for years because they exchanged old fashioned journalism (just the facts, maam) for editorializing long ago.

Health Coming

Good news on the Judah front. It appears he had a virus that should work its way out of his system by tomorrow. Already today his energy is up and a partial appetite has returned. The fever still spikes occasionally, but the highs haven't been as high and the energy lows haven't been as low. Tomorrow Boom Boom (Di's mom ... long story) will be able to watch him for a few hours so I can return to work. Diana had her follow-up today. They gave her an antibiotic treatment and scheduled phase 2 for next Tuesday. That means she can attend a conference tomorrow with her Aunt Teresa that she's been anticipating for a while. Thank God!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Health Wanted

Sinuses. Fevers. Argh! Diana had phase one of the procedure to finally rid her sinuses of infection yesterday. She's battled chronic sinusitis for 18 weeks now, systematically resisting every conceivable antibiotic treatment. The procedure was originally scheduled a month ago but had to be postponed twice for medical reasons. Tomorrow she has a follow-up to determine if and when phase 2 is necessary. Meanwhile Judah woke up this morning at 6:30. Said he was freezing and couldn't move. I touched his forehead and no wonder! HOT. He had a sky high fever. Judah's always been a good sick. No matter how pathetic he looks or feels, he never complains or whines or gripes. Just kinda hangs there, limp. Today was no different. Except to say when he was cold, he didn't say much. Mostly laid on the couch, alternating with the love seat and mom and dad's bed. Watched some kids shows. Slept. Watched Veggie Tales. Slept. More Veggie Tales. Then more sleep. Benji Unleashed at night. Then bed. No appetite all day. No other symptoms either, except for a fever that spiked to 104 more than once. Let's hope for healthful sleep tonight and a better morning tomorrow.


My buddies seem fixated on the topic. Liz channeled Salt-N-Pepa flava recently and Jose and Mayra are all lovey-dovey every chance they get (see for instance, 1 and 2). For whatever it's worth, here's another perspective on the topic I wrote last year after Nipplegate.

A sixteen year old boy ogles internet porn on his bedroom PC. His fourteen year old sister listens to Jessica Simpson's "Sweetest Sin" while text messaging gossip about her fantasy with green eyes. Their twelve year old brother lost his virginity last week. And mom and dad are still irate about Janet Jackson's sunburst nipple ring. It's time for a little perspective.
Read the rest of the article here, which seems to be timely again in light of the recent findings that 3 in 10 "young teens" (13-16) are sexually active and “have been with someone in an intimate or sexual way,” as reported by NBC News.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Coalition launched a blog today

Check it out here:

Radioactivity in the city

Chain Reaction is back in New York this week for the first of three week-long projects in the city in the next six months. Matt, Joe, and 45 college students on spring break from Wake Forest, Tennessee State, and Wheaton, plus half a dozen guests from Alabama, Baltimore, and Houston, are staying at Abounding Grace in the East Village and volunteering throughout lower Manhattan in random acts of kindness and community service. Check out dates for future CR events, or schedule one in your own community, here.

Another black eye for the cause

Flamboyant televangelist Benny Hinn continues to embarass the faithful with over-the-top spending, outlandish behavior, questionable testimonials, and, worst of all, a growing reputation as someone whose word cannot be trusted. When one makes an (irresponsibly) lavish living championing the Word who became flesh and incarnates Truth itself, one's own word must remain above reproach. Sadly, Pastor Benny's hasn't. For decades he has danced along the fine line of eccentricity in the tradition of locust-eating John the Baptist and outright charlatanry. For his own sake, and more importantly that of his followers, let's pray last night's expose on Dateline NBC awakens the Truth that he claims resides within him in a way that past scandals have not.

Akon's achin' ghetto

If you ever wondered why God loves inner city kids, check out the (cheesey pun alert!) aching song Ghetto by hip hop/R&B singer Akon. An immigrant to NJ from Senegal, he was ensnared by the streets until a jail stint forced him to concentrate on his music. A lyrical sample follows:

These streets remind me of quicksand (quicksand) When your [sic] on it you'll keep goin down (goin down) And there's noone to hold on too [sic] And there's noone to pull you out You keep on fallin (falling) And noone can here you callin So you end up self destructing
Read the rest of the lyrics here and watch a performance here.

Freedom marches on

Syria's occupyers began moving out of Lebanon today after moving in nearly 30 years ago in 1976. This after Lebanon's pro-Syrian puppet government "resigned" last week to make room for democratic elections, in response to demands by community protesters. Does this mean the so-called "Bush Doctrine" is actually working? Even Bush cynics from mainstream media, such as the editorial board at the New York Times, conceded in print last week: "The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance." This week, Time magazine asks whether it's "springtime for Arab Democracy." Among the signs of freedom's march: Syria's pullback from Lebanon, the recent elections in Iraq and Palestine, Saturday's announcement by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak allowing political rivals in future elections, and municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, with the possibility for "further expansion of democratic reforms." The reforms are early and largely unstable, but the developments are promising nonetheless.

Tiger envy

After a 26-week hiatus, Tiger Woods is back on top (of his game and the PGA rankings). Yesterday he overcame a two stroke deficit on the tournament's final day, beating arguably the hottest player on the tour and establishing a course record along the way. And he did it in vintage Tiger style, with an ice-cold 25-foot eagle putt and a 30-foot birdie putt among his last 6 holes. For you non-golf enthusiasts out there, that's insane. For all Tiger has accomplished in the last decade, including eight major championships and 42 tour wins, it's easy to forget he's still only 29. YW8 (why wait) to make history?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Discipleship as Reality TV?

As if throwing him on stage to preach to 10,000 people and then parading him in front of the media spotlight weren't enough pressure for former Korn guitarist Brian Welch's emerging faith, now he wants to "make TV history" by doing a so-called reality TV show to document his "life change." Four months ago, Welch was "depressed, addicted, even suicidal." His "life now is about helping kids." So he wants the world to watch him "writing checks for a quarter, a half-a-million dollars at a time on big business deals," like skate parks. "People will tune in to see what kinds of things I'll be buying for them with our money we make from my solo career. I don't like money unless it helps people." This is bad news. Consider, for example, the eroding testimonies of Jessica Simpson and her former youth evangelist father Joe, documented for the world to see on reality TV.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Deja vu all over again

A Thursday afternoon conversation felt like deja vu. Josh Carey, a junior from the InterVarsity chapter at City College, drove me back to the office after I spoke at the school, and shared with me his desire to see the Gospel relevantly presented on campus. Simultaneously hopeful and frustrated, empassioned and cautious, Josh sounded like an all too familiar college undergrad I knew around 13 (yikes!) years ago at NYU. I wrote about the experience in 2001 for InterVarsity's Student Leadership Journal. An excerpt follows.

Small, bare-bones campus ministries proliferated at NYU and had little, if any, impact on non-Christian students. We all seemed so focused on resolving internal struggles simply to survive that evangelism was at best an afterthought, when we thought about it at all. When we actually did something about it, our attempts typically left us feeling ineffective and irrelevant. ... The opportunity to produce Luke with the student council’s funding finally galvanized the fellowships to collective action. ...

Luke proved more successful than any of us could possibly have expected. For more than a week promotional materials blanketed the campus. It sold out in less than two days, with more than 250 people attending. Students lingered afterwards to discuss the “script” at a reception. The school newspaper covered it on the front page, we raised more than $600 for charity, and our university, a very secular institution, named The Gospel of Luke “Event of the Year” and awarded the various Christian clubs for “Best Co-Sponsorship.” At Urbana ’93, Rev. Peter Cha cited the event at a general session attended by 18,000 students as exemplifying the impact campus unity could have on evangelism. ...

Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Viva la revolution! - Part 2: the Mobilization Strategy

So my original report from Square One promised a follow-up post with next step instructions. Here goes. 1. Grow the army. To the extent we're serious about giving 5 million young people in the Greater New York area a credible opportunity to attend Billy Graham's "Get Real" Crusade, 787 youth leaders is a nice start for our mobilization -- but it's merely that. A nice start. The guerilla army needs to grow. God promised Elijah 7,000 just like him (See the report for more on this). 787 youth leaders should be able to recruit 7,000 field officers. That's less than 10 for every one who attended the breakfast. 2. Register. Encourage the youth leaders you recruit to register their involvement with the Crusade office. Do this by emailing Kris Revelle at or calling 212 857 2006. This allows for effective communications and coordination of efforts. 3. 4 Pillars. Embrace the Billy Graham 4 Pillars for effective evangelism: Prayer, Training, Outreach, and Follow-up. Learn more about this strategy at the Church Leaders seminars and other upcoming training events. See crusade website for dates and locations. 4. Be strategic. Identify the high schools in our area that your students attend, and send that information to the Crusade office. For example, there are 298 public high schools and alternative high school programs in the five boroughs. (800 youth leaders. 300 high schools. You do the math.) Get Real has embraced a grassroots marketing strategy that empowers students themselves to invite their friends and schoolmates to the crusade. We will provide credible invitation tools that they will not be embarassed to distribute, with your help, at their schools. 5. Be committed. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. If your ministry commits to get the word out to a local school, follow through. Four months is not a lot of time and leaves little margin for error. 6. Extend your vision. Understand that the Crusade is not the destination, but merely a scenic overlook on the journey. The army we mobilize for the Crusade must remain engaged long after the Crusade is over in order to expand and preserve the harvest. Cultivate relationships for long-term impact at monthly Youth Committee meetings, hosted by the Coalition of Urban Youth Workers at the American Bible Society, 1865 Broadway, New York City (at 61 St.), the second Monday of each month, 10 am -12 pm. Next Committee meeting: 3/14. (Directions: various subways to Columbus Circle; walk two blocks north on Broadway). p.s. In case you're wondering, "Get Real" is the theme for the Billy Graham youth outreach. More on Get Real in a future post.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Too much too soon?

Former Korn guitarist Brian "Head" Welch quit the multi-plantinum metal band last week, 2 months after receiving Christ into his life, due to conflicts over their videos and lyrics. This weekend, he shared his testimony at a southern California church to an estimated 10,000 church goers. MTV has been all over this story for the last week and it's generating buzz throughout cyberspace. It's always thrilling when someone comes to Christ, and the testimonies inspire and challenge us, but I get nervous when Christian leaders parade new converts, especially celebrities, on stage so soon. Talk about racheting up the pressure. It's hard enough for an anonymous everyman to follow Christ in the face of Satan's mad as hell reaction to conversion. The pressure only intensifies in the glare of the public spotlight. Let's pray for Welch, that God protects him and that seasoned Christians safeguard his discipleship with wisdom and care.

2 Cents for 50

Trouble seems to follow hip hop bad boy flava of the month 50 Cents wherever he goes. The latest: someone got shot last night during a melee between 50's entourage and Game loyalists in the lobby of Hot 97 while "Fitty" was on air in the studio. My 2 cents for 50: Get some new friends -- soon! -- or else you may well end up joining Tupac and Biggie six feet under.