Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Isn't she lovely?

My wife, at our home on Sunday evening.
It's the first time I've taken pictures of her posing in a long while, so I had to share.

Podcast: "You are Not Alone: We > Me"

Here it is, my message from Saturday's Youth Explosion Conference. Download the Podcast. Thanks to all who offered technical advice on how to stream the audio.

Lou Engle to appear on Nightline tonight

I'm guessing Nightline's interest has everything to do with the abortion-related Supreme Court cases this week and the pending nomination of pro-life Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. I met Lou in 2001 when The Call, a prayer movement he organized, wanted to come to New York, and I served as one of the youth coordinators for the effort the following spring. (Read one of my New York Call testimonies here.) He struck me as the real deal, an intercessor cut from the same cloth as an Old Testament prophet. When The Call finished its run of massive prayer and fasting rallies in 2003, Lou poured his energy into forming the Justice House of Prayer in Washington, DC, and its related bound4LIFE campaign. I wrote about one of their prayer protests during the Schiavo case last spring. We'll see how Nightline spins the feature, tonight on ABC @ 11:30 pm. I've had many conversations with politically Conservative evangelicals about how to broaden the definition of "Justice" to include more than just abortion, with little success so far. Any ideas how to engage such a dialogue? I for one would love to see people attached to something called "The Justice House of Prayer" pray about social and economic justice, global AIDS and hunger, education and immigration reform, genocide in Darfur, child soldiers, the health care crisis and so many other critical issues as well as abortion. CORRECTION: The Nightline story aired last night in a segment called "Faith Matters." Get the direct video feed at The tone was respectful and curious and provided a great opportunity to see young people impassioned by the intersection of faith and culture and public policy. It was predictably focused on today's abortion cases, but without the cynicism that often accompanies such stories.

Read Barnyard Births

... at Relevant magazine, here. Other articles of mine that they've published include:

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Spiritual Awakening within the Ivy League?

My cousins lived in Hanover, New Hampshire, in the early-90's, a town known for little else but its Ivy League institution, Dartmouth College. Whenever we'd visit, they'd take us around campus and tell tall tales about the college culture. That's why the following, from a speech given by the Dartmouth Senior Class president this fall to incoming freshmen, was so shocking:

"Character has a lot to do with sacrifice, laying our personal interests down for something bigger. The best example of this is Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed, 'Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.' He knew the right thing to do. He knew the cost would be agonizing torture and death. He did it anyway. That's character. "Jesus is a good example of character, but He's also much more than that. He is the solution to flawed people like corrupt Dartmouth alums, looters, and me."
Something's stirring up north. Read the full speech here. (HT: Peter Ong.)

Exchanging Freedom for Justice?

I mentioned in my CCDA recap Jim Wallis' invitation to pray at the Capitol in DC on behalf of our nation's poor:

On Wednesday, December 14, we will pray for and call on our nation’s political leaders to reject a budget that harms our nation's most vulnerable (learn more). This peaceful act of prayer is likely to result in arrests for those who are willing, but not everone who joins us is required to get arrested. We must lift up another voice – a voice in prayer that speaks the truth of God’s word.
Check out the Sojourner's website for details. I'm still trying to arrange my schedule to attend. Not sure yet if it's possible, but I invite those of you who can make it to be there.

He's officially down with the blogosphere

My friend Ralph Castillo of Youth Explosion and Christ Tabernacle started a blog today. Check it out.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Techie help needed - streaming audio

I have a 37 minute audio track from my message at this weekend's Youth Explosion conference that I compressed to an MP3 file, but it's still too large to post (appx. 40mb). How can I compress it further? UYWI has a 35 minute MP3 of me preaching online that's less than 5mb.

Youth Explode in Glendale, Queens

Thanks to Adam Durso, Ralph Castillo, and my friends at Christ Tabernacle for inviting me to participate in the first Youth Explosion Conference this weekend. Also on the program: The Will Rodriguez Band, Ambassador of Cross Movement, Bishop Roderick Caesar, and Pastor Michael Durso. What a privilege to share the program with them. They asked me to present, "You are Not Alone: We > Me." (Podcast coming soon.) One of the first messages I recall my father preaching was, "Alone we cannot do it, but together we can take this City for Jesus." I was nine or ten at the time, but the words made an impression and have guided my ministry trajectory ever since then, whether as an undergrad at NYU, with the 9/11 relief efforts, the Coalition, or the Billy Graham Crusade. To be able to represent the idea 20 or so years later in this context was a thrill. I even got to work in my unconventional Christmas wish. The Conference launched with a concert and CD/DVD release on Friday night. The Christian Post said of the event: "Two hours before show time, throngs of young people wearing baggy jeans, insignia T-shirts, and their caps backwards were thumping and bobbing their heads in a church that looked more like a nightclub." (Article). Purchase your copy of "Youth Explosion: The Concert ... The Story" online.

Happy (Belated) Thanksgiving

Some reflections on the holiday, which Diana and I were privileged to host at our place this year:

- George Washington proclaimed the first national day of Thanksgiving back in 1789, to offer "sincere and humble thanks" to God for his provision and protection, and also to repent of "national and other transgressions." I wonder how much repentance took place on Thursday.
"Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection.... "And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions...." Read George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation.
- Seth is addictively cuddly.
- Cooking is now officially my latest hobby. Inspired by Nonna, Uncle Jorge, and Aunt Gail, I volunteered to make the turkey (my first!) this year, along with several sides. According to Uncle Richie, our resident food critic, Food Network made a chef (for a day) outta me: "That bird was bangin' yo. And the homey cranberry sauce was off the heezy fo' sheezy." Thanks to all who contributed to the feast. My menu:
Dad carving the Big Bird.
- I have so much to be grateful for, most notably the greatest son any father could ever hope for.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Barnyard Births in the City: Wishing you an Unconventional Christmas

[My latest article from the December issue of Tri-State Voice; syndicated by Relevant magazine, Next Wave, and Youth Ministry Exchange]

When we were kids, people called us little devils. So when we grew up, we called ourselves Satan’s Sinners. – Cochise, founder and president of Satan’s Sinners gang; incarcerated since December 1993; incarnated since January 1994
It was a typically hot and humid July afternoon in New York, but about to get hotter. Several dozen members of a Manhattan storefront church were gathered in a housing project courtyard when two men passed, hissing and mocking and gyrating in front of the preacher. On their backs, gang colors proclaimed “Satan’s Sinners.” Abounding Grace Ministries had just begun its annual “Jesus Loves You New York” outreach, so the next morning, Pastor Rick Del Rio (my father) asked the volunteers to pray for the gang throughout the week. Specifically, we prayed that we would meet the Sinners again and that they would encounter Christ within our community. Days later, dad sang a Spanish corito at another street meeting. Translated into English, the chorus said: “Send your fire, oh Lord.” Before the song finished, wisps of smoke could be seen rising above the buildings from around the corner. I ran to see what was happening and found a shanty in a vacant lot engulfed in flames, with a dozen or so Satan’s Sinners out front watching the blaze consume their clubhouse. The church gave an offering that weekend to help the Sinners rebuild, and over the next several months, my father became friends with Jose “Cochise” Quiles. Cochise, the gang’s founder and president, was one of the mockers we first encountered that sultry afternoon and prayed for all week. Now he invited dad to present the offering to the rest of the gang, and asked him to pray a blessing for them. He would frequently drop by the office unannounced to ask my father to interpret his dreams. Cochise had previously served two prison terms, and both times experienced jailhouse conversions and vowed a life of ministry. Dad looked him the eyes one day and promised: “You’ll either serve Him inside our outside prison, but you will serve Jesus.” Then Cochise disappeared for a few months, until a collect call on New Year’s Day. He was calling from Riker’s Island. Cops had stormed his apartment, leaving him just enough time to grab a handful of papers from his bureau. One of them had dad’s home number. Cochise told of his arrest and the two attempted murder charges he faced. He wept freely and said he wanted to serve Jesus, even though he’d have to do it behind bars. He pled guilty and received a 12-25 year sentence. Thus began Cochise’ service as a missionary to various maximum security state prisons for the last twelve years. A Satan’s Sinner on the outside, Cochise now reflects Christ on the inside, a transition that began when Christ moved into his neighborhood in the person of Rick Del Rio. The Christmas story we celebrate this month tells the story of the “firstborn among many brethren,” (among whom are we) yet we sanitize the tale (for the sake of the kids, or us?) by focusing on the angelic visitations and cuddly sheep. At its core, however, Christ’s birth was unseemly (single mothers were capital criminals); unsanitary (born in a barn, surrounded by farm animals, stench, and bugs); controversial (astrologers were the first to perceive it, by reading the stars); lowly (shepherds got it, innkeepers did not); dangerous (it provoked the ire of a villainous king); deadly (the king slaughtered innocents in response); not to mention politically radioactive (Jesus was “king” of an occupied people) and religiously scandalous (“Messiah”). The oft overlooked Christmas narrative of John 1 puts it this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” What could be more scandalous than the divine becoming human? Two thousand years later, the Word again became flesh for Cochise when Pastor Rick moved his family into the neighborhood; refused to be intimidated by taunts or horrified by a “Sinner’s” reality; pursued him with kindness; gave sacrificially; made himself available and was willing to be stretched. For the inmates upstate, the Word became flesh when the seed that was conceived in Cochise in July gave birth on New Year’s Day in a frigid jail, a (barn)yard of a different sort. Merry Christmas to all, along with a messy, incarnational reality that loves a few more Satan’s sinners into the Kingdom in 2006. - Jeremy Del Rio, Esq. celebrates the holidays with his family and city kids from Generation Xcel. Read more of his articles at

There he goes again

Rudy's back to stirring the waters, this time on "What's Missing from Justice Ministry." His basic points:

  1. not enough emphasis on investment and development for the poor, and an unhealthy overemphasis on protest and “speaking truth to power”;
  2. we do not expect enough of the poor, and instead we find ourselves practicing “the soft bigotry of low expectations”; and
  3. challenge and accountability for all ethnic groups when it comes to racial issues, not just for whites.
Be sure to read his whole post and comment thread that follows. What do you think?

Malcolm Gladwell on Rick Warren

Here. HT: Tony and Jordon Gladwell has become of one my favorite authors this year, after reading Blink and Tipping Point.
The New Yorker article is loaded with interesting observations, like:

Churches, like any large voluntary organization, have at their core a contradiction. In order to attract newcomers, they must have low barriers to entry. They must be unintimidating, friendly, and compatible with the culture they are a part of. In order to retain their membership, however, they need to have an identity distinct from that culture. They need to give their followers a sense of community--and community, exclusivity, a distinct identity are all, inevitably, casualties of growth.

and ...

But there is another approach: to create a church out of a network of lots of little church cells--exclusive, tightly knit groups of six or seven who meet in one another's homes during the week to worship and pray. The small group as an instrument of community is initially how Communism spread, and in the postwar years Alcoholics Anonymous and its twelve-step progeny perfected the small-group technique.

and ...

For the first three months, he went from door to door in the neighborhood around his house, asking people why they didn't attend church. Churches were boring and irrelevant to everyday life, he was told. They were unfriendly to visitors. They were too interested in money. They had inadequate children's programs. So Warren decided that in his new church people would play and sing contemporary music, not hymns. (He could find no one, Warren likes to say, who listened to organ music in the car.) He would wear the casual clothes of his community. The sermons would be practical and funny and plainspoken, and he would use video and drama to illustrate his message. And when an actual church was finally built-Saddleback used seventy-nine different locations in its first thirteen years, from high-school auditoriums to movie theatres and then tents before building a permanent home--the church would not look churchy: no pews, or stained glass, or lofty spires.

Pray for Jordon Cooper

He's a pastor from Canada who's asking great questions about faith and loving Jesus while suffering from a miserably painful disease called neuropathy.

"Life stinks right now. There isn't any way to see it any other way. A friend of mine has said this is a little like Job but it isn't that bad. For me, it has just been the process of understanding how life works right now and how do I treat the disease carefully enough that I can hopefully make a recovery, something that hasn't happened so far." Read the rest of his update here.

Last Chance - Sign up today

Coming this weekend. Don't miss it!

Monday, November 21, 2005

CCDA reflections

What a wonderful weekend. Something special happens when 2,200 people gather who love God by loving people (com)passionately. Some highlights for me:

Congratulations, Jonathan

As forecasted back in May, my brother Jonathan officially graduated from Nyack College this weekend! Congratulations for sticking with it and doing so well. Your dedication inspires me and serves as an excellent example for the youth you lead and the community you love and serve!

Justice and Mercy, Not Fasting

"'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the LORD Almighty."
What did the people refuse to hear that so offended God that He would close his ears to their cries?
"And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.' "But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry. "'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the LORD Almighty. 'I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land was left so desolate behind them that no one could come or go. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.'" Zechariah 7:8-14

"We are the ones we've been waiting for"

And other great reflections from CCDA, by:

  • Rudy Carrasco, 1, 2, 3 -- "There is race fatigue in this country. What is usually unspoken is that it now appears that African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and others also have responsibility when it comes to racism, and no one is talking about this. "
  • Neil Cox 1, 2, 3, 4 -- "What a blur! Record attendance (up nearly 70% from last year!), great cyber cafe and internet connectivity, GREAT PRAYER ROOM, great spiritual temperture, great networking and real relationship-building, and great everything."
  • Bob Campbell, 1, 2, 3, 4 -- "Extreme inequity is unjust. God wanted to make sure that no one got stuck on the bottom of the pile. Our system keeps people stuck on the bottom of the pile. We shouldn't be standing for justice. We should be moving for justice! Standing doesn't get us anywhere."
  • Noel Castellanos, 1 -- "We brought together 25 young leaders to express to them that CCDA needs their input, leadership, and experience."
  • Jose Humphreys, 1 -- "John Perkins said, and I'll paraphrase, that we as individuals will never be totally more like Jesus. That's why we have the church, the collective embodiment of Christ here in this world."
  • Allen Greig, 1 -- "It’s deeply convicting to hear an unashamed, prophetic rebuke for us His Bride to act like His bride - a sweeter, truer gospel of times gone by, missing in far too many of our anemic, lazy churches."
  • Glen Peterson, 1, 2, 3 -- "Juan Herndez ... spoke ... about the justice issues surrounding immigration. Very interesting facts. Like this one from Exodus 23:9. 'Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.'"

Why Blog? (At least) 50 Reasons

Neil Cox, my co-presenter of the City Blogging workshop at CCDA, has a great article with 50 reasons (and dozens of links) to blog. Read it here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Question of the Week

"Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again." With that, I'm going to try a second Question of the Week while I'm away, even though the first one flopped as a conversation starter.

  • How do people perceive you, and how do their perceptions differ from reality?

Word of the week

Resuming a pseudo-tradition (is it tradition yet when you've done something just twice?), this week's totally random Word of the Week. I literally opened a dictionary and it lept off the page at me:

Shavian: n. An admirer of George Bernard Shaw. adj. Of, pertaining to, or like George Bernard Shaw.
Can you imagine having so much impact on culture that someone invents a word to describe fans and imitators? George Bernard Shaw was a character, a literary genius and religious skeptic who famously said, "I am an atheist and thank God for it." He also penned one of my all-time favorite quotes:
"Some look at things that are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?"
Other Shavian quotes of note:
"He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches." "Nothing is worth doing unless the consequences may be serious." "People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it." "I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation." "I want to be all used up when I die."

Off to Indy

Tomorrow morning, for the CCDA conference. It's officially my first one (although I did crash part of the conference in New York back in 2000; that's where I met Rudy). I'm participating in a panel and another "emerging leader" conversation. (There's that term again.) While I'm not sure exactly what that means or what the expectations are, these talks are usually fun. Louis Carlo ("CoCo") is going with me (although he thinks he's going for grad school credit). Among the friends I look forward to seeing again are Rudy, Tali Hairston, Corryne Deliberto, Dr. Ray and Steven Rivera, Dr. Louis Carlo, Sr., Larry Acosta, Noel Castellanos, Andrew Sears, Paul Baker, and I'm sure quite a few others. Also on the agenda: finally meeting virtual friend Bob Campbell live and in person. Let me know if anyone else from the blogosphere will be there that I should look up.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Call to Action - NYC residents and pastors

When silly policies create needless headaches and can be easily remedied, it's incumbent on us to demand change. One such issue came to my attention this month, when my Annual Clergy Parking Permit expired, and I am requesting your assistance. If enough of us make noise, this can be cured.
The New York City Department of Transportation ("DOT") issues Annual Clergy Parking Permits to alleviate the parking hassels clergy face while performing pastoral and community work around houses of worship, funeral homes, and hospitals. (Download application.) Nine years ago, the Permits did not exist. As a result, clergy who were counseling grieving families at hospitals, for example, were forced to leave prematurely to feed parking meters every hour or face stiff fines. The persistent outcry from pastors and congregants compelled then Mayor Giuliani to create the Permit program, which was made available to up to three clergy from particular churches and ministries. The DOT would issue one Permit for up to three license plates and allow the churches to reproduce it for each car bearing the plates. This year, DOT changed the Permit to include a hologram and watermark so it can not be reproduced, along with a warning that reproduction is now a felony. This makes sense to eliminate fraudulent misuses. What does not make sense is that DOT will not issue multiple copies of the Permit for each authorized vehicle. So even though up to three clergy can use the Permit in their respective cars, only one can use it at any given time, which means as a practical matter that each church can only have one Permit. For churches with large congregations and/or pastoral staffs, this reintroduces the very same frustrations that were eliminated nine years ago. God forbid one church has simultaneous hospital visitations, or for that matter, more than one pastor present at the church for worship services, or a funeral in one location and a hospital visitation in another and a counseling session in another. There are literally dozens of inconveniences this creates, some with potentially very serious consequences. The DOT website invites complaints and comments. Let's accept their invitation:

"E-MAIL US: Send an e-mail to the Commissioner. You will receive a prompt reply to your complaint or inquiry. "WRITE TO US: Write to Commissioner Iris Weinshall at the Department of Transportation, 40 Worth Street, New York, NY 10013. "USE AN ON-LINE FORM: Use an on-line or downloadable form to report certain types of problems or to file some applications. "Call 3-1-1."

For your convenience, below is sample language you can use in your correspondence:
Commissioner Iris Weinshall Department of Transportation 40 Worth Street New York, NY 10013 Dear Commissioner Weinshall: Thank you for recognizing the important work clergy contribute to communities and for facilitating such work by issuing the Annual Clergy Parking Permits. Recent changes to the program have created needless impedements to that work, however. Specifically, the new Permit design makes it a felony to reproduce the Permit, and yet the department only issues one Permit for use in multiple (up to three) vehicles. As a practical matter, this means that each church can now receive only one Permit. For example, if one pastor is counseling an abuse victim at the church while another is comforting a grieving family at a funeral home and a third is visiting a parishioner in the hospital, which two should be required to end their duties prematurely to feed the parking meter or risk steep fines? The remedy here is straitforward and easy to implement. Rather than issue one Permit that must be shared by three vehicles, issue three copies of the Permit for use in each approved vehicle. Thank you for your consideration. Feel free to contact me with questions or for additional information at [telephone number]. Very truly yours, [Name]

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Reflections from church today

1. Sixteen year old Anthony Liatsis led worship at New Hope's third service, consistently the largest of the three, with 250-300 attending. Once a month for four or five months, the youth band has led worship at the second service, but this was the first time, to my knowledge, that Anthony led in the third service. He did a fabulous job. Why is this noteworthy? Because the myth that young people are the future is being shaken in New York City churches, and those that embrace and empower young people to "serve the purposes of God in their generation" are experiencing transformation. Kudos to New Hope for modeling what empowerment looks like in our city. 2. Pastor Teresa McPhail preached a great message on dealing with the crises of life by contrasting two Old Testament women, Deborah and Naomi, contemporaries who responded to hardship very differently. When famine hit Israel, Naomi and her husband took their boys and fled to a foreign country. Within ten years, her husband and two sons had all died; she had changed her name from Naomi, which means pleasant and joyful, to Mara, or "bitter"; and she returned to Israel because bread had come back to her homeland. Deborah on the other hand responded to crises by defying conventions, breaking molds, and fighting. At a time when women "knew their place," she arose to serve as a judge, a prophet, and a warrior. She was steady, wise, discerning, and willing to fight, and under her leadership, Israel overthrew the oppressors who had caused the famine by plundering the nation. 3. Pastor T took a 5 minute detour to Psalm 22:4-5 to exhort the congregation not to give up:

In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
Her encouragement was for me.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

He's an artist now too

On Thursday in school, Judah drew a portrait of his dad preaching.

Click thumbnail for larger image or here for the full page, with instructions.
Note the details: the podium, with a cross; the tie "with a t-shirt," he said; the round belly; and the goatee and shaggy hair. He's still only four!

Another Miracle!

In September, Generation Xcel hit the bottom of the financial barrel and received an $8,000 miracle just in time to get things rolling for the after-school year. That well dried up on Friday. I just received an email promising another $8,000 miracle this week! Join the Thanksgiving fun by making a tax-deductible, holiday gift to Generation Xcel, online here or by mail to: Generation Xcel, 9 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003.

The Meeting, Day 2

Youth Explosion's gazillion-voice choir rocked once again, especially a dance-infused rendition of "Holy." The Man was even better the second time around! Live music -- horns, percussion, tympani, acoustic, bass, and electric guitars, drums, middle eastern melodies, even classic hymns -- takes hip hop to another dimension, and it's amazing what three Alvin Ailey dancers can do to spice up a show. Nicky Cruz gave the most post-modern sermon I've heard from an "older" preacher since Eddie Gibbs last December. I'm still trying to figure out what he was talking about, but his stories captivated the audience, and by the end, the altar was filled with young people dedicating their lives to Christ. Most memorable for me was his one-of-a-kind sermon closing, the testimony of his "first convert": a two-bit thug mocked Nicky for days after his own conversion until Nicky gave him a beat-down, broke his nose, and threatened even more bodily harm until he prayed to receive Jesus. Nicky left the discipling to someone else. Almost as fun was Nicky's description of Jesus' reaction to Peter -- whose "spirit" Nicky claimed to "possess" during that first evangelistic experience -- after Peter cut the soldier's ear off trying to defend Christ: "Peter, how's he going to listen to me?"

Last night at The Meeting

Tony Evans preached Acts 13:36:

"For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed."
He emphasized three aspects: 1. "David served God's purpose" -- His was not a plotless life. (Why was Seinfeld so successful? People with plotless lives like plotless television.) 2. "In His generation" -- David translated timeless truths within the time and place in which he found himself. 3. "He fell asleep" -- A day without purpose is a day wasted. Our days are numbered, so live each one as "preparation for the postseason." There's so much to add, but that's about all I have time for right now. Tonight at The Meeting: The Storytellas, presenting a special showing of The Man; the Youth Explosion choir; and Nicky Cruz.

Freakonomics' Answer to Question of the Week

Despite the lukewarm response to last week's Question of the Week, for the three of you who cared, here's Freakonomics take on it.

Q: If drugs dealers make so much money, why do they live with their mothers? A: Except for the 2-5% of dealers at the top of the drug trade, drug dealers don't make so much money. In fact, average "foot soldiers" make less than minimum wage working what is statistically the most dangerous (not to mention illegal) job in the United States.
The chapter is really quite revealing. The authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner begin by challenging conventional wisdom in broad strokes, pointing out that conventional wisdom is often, "simple, convenient, comfortable, and comforting -- though not necessarily true." The idea that drug dealers make alot of money, they suggest, is another example of conventional wisdom run amok. How they arrived at that conclusion is fascinating. A PhD sociology student from the University of Chicago set out to study how young people form their identities, and along the way stumbled upon members of the Black Gangster Disciple Nation. Although they held him captive for nearly 24 hours, threatening repeatedly to kill him, he became obsessively curious about "the daily life of ghetto criminals," and so arranged with the leader of the gang to live among the gang members (literally sleeping at one apartment after another) for four years. He discovered, among other things, that the drug trade is run like a typical American franchise, where individual franchisees have the chance to make a decent living, but the burger flippers and janitors barely make a liveable wage. The study occurred in the mid-1990s at the peak of Chicago's crack epidemic and lasted until the gang was taken down by federal indictments. Among other findings, the gang's records (meticulously kept to make sure the top dogs got theirs) showed:
"The top 120 men on the Black Disciples' pyramid were paid very well. But the pyramid they sat atop was gigantic. ... There were some 5,300 other men working for those 120 bosses. Then there were another 20,000 unpaid rank-and-file members, many of whom wanted nothing more than an opportunity to become a foot soldier. They were even willing to pay gang dues to have their chance."
While the gang's typical chapter leader earned approximately $8,500 per month (tax free, not including off-the-books money he skimmed), his officers earned only $700 a month ($7/hr) and the foot soldiers earned $3.30.
"The top 120 men in the Black Disciples gang represented just 2.2% of the full-fledged gang membership but took home well over half the money."
In addition to the abysmal pay, dealers faced terrible job conditions, including working outside year-round, doing business with crackheads, and risking violence and arrest. As a result, members of the gange during the four year-study faced the following fate:
    • Number of times arrested, 5.9
    • Number of non-fatal wounds or injuries (not including injuries meted out by the gang itself for rules violations), 2.4
    • Chance of being killed, 1 in 4 ["Which means that you stand a greater chance of dying while dealing crack in a Chicago housing project than you do while sitting on death row in Texas."]

Why I'm blogging on a Saturday afternoon

My wife and Judah went to Mass to visit her sister, so I'm trying to redeem the time (or just exhibiting a non-life?).

Friday, November 11, 2005

Shine like stars

I referenced Philipians 2 as a parrallel to the innovaton case study in response to Ruben's comments below. Here's the passage:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place... Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Over the Edge

Pat Robertson did it again this week. Following-up his call for assassinating Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez this summer and his irresponsible accusations about Iranian nukes last month, this week he warned "the good citizens of Dover":

"If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city."
Their offense? Participating in a free and open democratic election and ousting controversial school board members who had previously determined that Dover public schools should offer intelligent design theory as an alternative theory to evolution. Regardles of one's belief in intelligent design or position on whether it should be taught in public schools, it's over the edge to promise:
"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there."
If Dover's unbelievers needed more ammunition for justifying their unbelief, they just received it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Case Study in Innovation

From "How Apple Does It", Time (10/24/05):

"Ask Apple CEO Steve Jobs about [cool stuff], and he'll tell you an instructive little story. Call it the Parable of the Concept Car. 'Here's what you find at a lot of companies,' he says, kicking back in a conference room at Apple's gleaming white Silicon Valley headquarters, which looks something like a cross between an Ivy League university and an iPod. 'You know how you see a show car, and it's really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory! "'What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea. Then they take it to the engineers, and the engineers go, 'Nah, we can't do that. That's impossible.' And so it gets a lot worse. Then they take it to the manufacturing people, and they go, 'We can't build that!' And it gets a lot worse.' "When Jobs took up his present position at Apple in 1997, that's the situation he found. He and Jonathan Ive, head of design, came up with the original iMac, a candy-colored computer merged with a cathode-ray tube that, at the time, looked like nothing anybody had seen outside of a Jetsons cartoon. 'Sure enough,' Jobs recalls, 'when we took it to the engineers, they said, 'Oh.' And they came up with 38 reasons. And I said, 'No, no, we're doing this.' And they said, 'Well, why?' And I said, 'Because I'm the CEO, and I think it can be done.' And so they kind of begrudgingly did it. But then it was a big hit.' "There are two lessons to be drawn from that story: one about collaboration, one about control. Apple employees talk incessantly about what they call 'deep collaboration' or 'cross-pollination' or 'concurrent engineering.' Essentially it means that products don't pass from team to team. There aren't discrete, sequential development stages. Instead, it's simultaneous and organic. Products get worked on in parallel by all departments at once--design, hardware, software--in endless rounds of interdisciplinary design reviews. Managers elsewhere boast about how little time they waste in meetings; Apple is big on them and proud of it. 'The historical way of developing products just doesn't work when you're as ambitious as we are,' says Ive, an affable, bearlike Brit. 'When the challenges are that complex, you have to develop a product in a more collaborative, integrated way.' ... "The second lesson of Jobs' parable is about control, and to that extent, it's a lesson about Jobs himself. He is one of the technology world's great innovators but not because he's an engineer or a programmer. He doesn't have an M.B.A. either. He doesn't even have a college degree. (He dropped out of Reed College after one semester.) Jobs has a great native sense of design and a knack for hiring geniuses, but above all, what he has is a willingness to be a pain in the neck about what matters most to him. "Sure, Jobs is perfectly pleasant to be around. And he pays attention to what you're saying, but if he disagrees with it--if, hypothetically, you're maybe airing a pet peeve about the fact that iMacs have all their ports in the back, where they're hard to get at--he'll come storming back and hammer at you until you change your mind or at least shut up. When he generously introduces you to the guy who runs Apple's iTunes development team, Jobs makes it clear that you're welcome to meet him but you can't print his name. Jobs doesn't want competitors poaching his talent. 'You can mention his first name but not his last name,' Jobs says. 'How's that?' It'll have to do. The guy's name, by the way, is Jeff. "In other words, Jobs is into control. In itself, that is of no real importance, except that in a lot of ways, Apple is an expression of Jobs' personal ethos. One reason Apple makes its own hardware and software is that when Jobs goes to the trouble of creating a piece of software, he doesn't want it running on hardware built by a bunch of dudes he doesn't know and can't fire. He wants it on hardware he makes himself. How else can he be sure that every little thing integrates together the way he says--nay, insists--it should?"

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Igniting a social justice revolution

That was the title of my workshop at UYWI Reload. There's so much to blog on the subject, but not enough time now. The conference was held at Horizon Park Central Church right in downtown San Diego.
The UYWI crew: (l. to r.) UYWI volunteer Chris Melban, UYWI office manager Julie Herrick; Reload Producer Bobby Duran; me; UYWI volunteer Kenny Melban; UYWI founder and president Larry Acosta; Tommy Carrington of Urban Training Network. "Who do men say that you are?" 126 attended the general session. 22 attended the workshop. More pics here.

A Date with Destiny @ The Meeting

The Meeting Friday & Saturday 11-12 November 7:30 pm Nicky Cruz and Tony Evans Lehman College (Map) Special Entertainment & Music by Cross Movement The StoryTellas Youth Explosion Choir Tickets are $20.00 for both nights. $15 at the door.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Kruse on incarnational living

After describing a college missions trip experience, Matt Kruse continues:

"Jesus took a mission trip similar to mine. Only it wasn’t from a plush college campus to a poverty-stricken Mexican orphanage. It was from the right hand of God in the heavens to this poverty-stricken earth. And He didn’t walk in someone else’s shoes for 10 days, but for 33 years. And He didn’t do little more for us than hang out here for a little while before buckling up for the van ride home, but through His life, death, and resurrection He accomplished redemption so that the curse we live under would be broken and our destinies would be radically altered. He did for us what I did not do for those kids in Mexico. "I was a sinner who identified with some less fortunate sinners for a brief time and left them in their condition. Jesus Christ was the Holy One of Heaven who not only identified with us sinners but became sin, took all of our sin on his shoulders on a cross, and redeemed our condition. "I hung out with those orphans for a few days and left them as orphans. Jesus Christ hung on a cross for 3 hours and made us sons of God." Article.
I'm loving this. Matt and I were on the same page Sunday. I'll be posting audio of Sunday's message, "Who do men say that you are?" as soon as Brian sends it. (Hint, hint!)

Not sure whether to feel guilty

I'm a big proponent of exercising our right (and responsibility) as American citizens to vote. I wrote an article on the subject last year, and urge friends and associates to vote even in off years for largely unknown candidates. Today is Election Day, and I forgot to vote. Actually, I didn't forget, just procrastinated until I forgot before it was too late. It wasn't a trivial election, either, as among others, the mayor was up for re-election. (He won handily, by the way.) How'd the hypocrisy happen? This morning, I decided on the way to work to wait until after work to vote. Then after work, I decided to take my son on a daddy-son date for soupy dumplings in Chinatown (he was at grandma's since a lingering cough kept him home from school). We drove home as the polls were closing, and I realized the error of my ways. I felt guilty for a minute, then remembered the fun my son and I had together and didn't care as much. So I apologized for him for being a bad example, and then thanked him for a wonderful night.

Friends ("Lefties") from LA

With Edgar Esqueda at Fuller Seminary.
Edgar and I met last year at the Billy Graham Institute for Emerging Evangelists, and this summer he co-led a team of nine interns from L.A. that worked at Xcel for six weeks. It was great to hang with him on his turf! First he joined Brian and me (and three of Brian's friends) at the U2 concert, then he hosted me on Thursday at Fuller and toured the neighborhoods where he grew up (Pecoima and San Fernando) and ministers now (Compton). We shared struggles and encouraged each other in faith, and he inspired me with more of his testimony, including: hard working immigrant parents; summer vacations in the mountains of Mexico; gang banging as a teen with Pecoima's Pierce Street Boys; and being introduced to Jesus by his roommate and a campus minister as a college athlete.
With blog compatriots Abner Ramos (l.) and Scott McLane (r.)

Abner and Scott are friends of mine through the magic of cyberspace and the shared experiences of InterVarsity in college and Rudy Carrasco's graduate school of networking. They're also IVCF staff colleagues of Edgar's, as the three of them wrestle with the challenges of campus ministry on largely urban, commuter schools. Thanks for taking the time to grab some coffee and hang for an hour or two!

Not pictured: Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs. We parked ourselves in Pasadena at Fuller on Thursday to crash a morning meeting Prof. Bolger conducted with students to preview his upcoming book (co-authored with Prof. Gibbs) called Emerging Chuches. Then Brian, Edgar and I hung out with Profs. Bolger and Gibbs for over an hour and a half exploring ways to connect the various conversations (some "emerging" some not, many coexisting side-by-side and not even knowing of the other) about how to transform the church in the next century. Thanks to Scott for the pictures. More pics to come.

Does your church do this?

"I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning." Tony Campolo, as quoted by Tony S, here. (Find it, and its context, somewhere in the middle of a long string of great quotes.)

Judah's at it again

Last night, during dinner, Judah wanted to know how he could help mommy and daddy around the house. He kept pushing the issue, so Di said maybe he's ready to have some official chores. "Hooray," he shouted. "My very own chores!" He gave us "triple thanks" ("Thank you, thank you, thank you!") and "quadruple thanks" ("Thank you!" x4) and then wanted to get to work right away helping me with the recycling and trash. Afterwards, Di told him that if he's going to have chores, than we have to give him an allowance. After explaining what that meant, he offered more hoorays, and this time a few, "Can I clean my room now and get more quarters?" He negotiated a $.50 allowance (we'll throw in a few raises pretty quickly). Then we used the opportunity to teach him about tithing. It took a few tries to explain it in a way he understood (4 year olds don't typically talk in percentages), so he wanted a visual demonstration. He took me in his room and dumped the contents of his piggy bank on the floor. I gathered a handful of pennies, and showed him what 10% looks like. "One penny for God, nine for you; one more for God, nine more for you; and so on." After God was up to four pennies and Judah nearly forty, he interupted me. "That's not good enough," he said. "How 'bout we do it my way? We'll give God 78% and I'll keep 79." "Do you you mean you want to give God half?" He said yes. "That's means 50% for you and 50% for God," I replied. He said that's exactly what he meant, so he collected all his money into one big pile before splitting it in two. When the piles were roughly even, he grabbed an extra handful from his pile and said he wanted to give God an extra big gift so that he could get more to give even more later. We put his back in the piggy bank and collected God's in a zip lock bag for Sunday School this weekend. Faith like a child ...

Nothing like an old-fashioned biblical showdown behind bars

"As if Megiddo, the biblical city of Armageddon - scene of three millennia of battles, the last cavalry charge of the first world war and the final showdown between good and evil - did not have enough on its plate. Archaeologists now claim to have unearthed the remains of the oldest Christian church discovered in the Holy Land. "Unfortunately for Israel's beleaguered tourism industry, the find was made behind the walls of one of the country's maximum security prisons." Article.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Michael the Great

Michael and Linda Mowery are generous supporters of Generation Xcel. He's a word class New York photographer, she's the Abounding Grace office manager, and together they're a wonderful team and faithful friends. Mike frequently volunteers to photograph events for Generation Xcel, and last year he taught a 10-week photography class as well. Most recently, he conducted a photoshoot at Xpress two weeks ago. The pics are online:

Gallery 1 Gallery 2 Gallery 3
Additional photos by Mike for Xcel include:
  • Voice of Silence (production 2/05): 1, 2
  • Life in Translation (production, 12/04): 1, 2
  • Celebration of Xcellence (banquet, 06/04): 1, 2, 3
  • interSECTIONS (production, 05/04): 1, 2
  • Xpress Photoshoot (2004): 1, 2, 3
  • Holiday eXpressions (production, 12/02): Gallery
Visit Michael Mowery Photography, and book him for your next event!

I guess I tried to be too cute

... with last week's "Question of the Week." Either no one has an opinion, or the opinions are too flimsy to offer them publicly, or the question is too silly (or not silly enough) to provoke comments in cyberspace. Not sure why the lack of comments. Should I even post Freakonomics' theory, or just email it to Bob and Deanna?

What a great trip

I have too much to say about last week's trip to post it all now. Stay tuned for details (and pictures). In the meantime, much love and respect to Brian Meza, Pastor Sam and Janelle Meza, Armando and Judy Mellone, Larry Acosta, Bobby Duran, Julie Herrick, Edgar Esqueda, Doug Slaybaugh, Ryan Bolger, Eddie Gibbs, Abner Ramos, Scott McLane, Big Chris, Ignacio Sobers, Pastor Pete, Pastor Joshua, Pastor Rudy, Kenny, Brandon, Andrea, Jordan; my beloved brothers and sister Carlos, Laura and Joey Rodriguez; and the rest of the Living Hope Community Church and UYWI crews for hosting such a wonderful trip.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Question of the week

In lieu of regular postings from me while traveling the next few days, here's a question for readers to comment on while I'm away (this means both occassional commentators and those who pop in and out and never stop to say hello).

  • "If drug dealers make so much money, why do they live with their mothers?" (I'll be reading Freakonomics on the plane tomorrow, so please don't give away the book's answer. I'll post that one when I return.)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What does the Lord require of you?

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

I'm using Firefox

Explorer keeps crashing on my home PC, so I downloaded Firefox the other day. So far, so good. It appears to be much more stable.

He left a mark

Pastor Kyle Lake of University Baptist Church in Waco, TX, tragically died performing baptisms at his church on Sunday. While I never knew him, some of my blog friends did. We join our prayers with them for his wife, kids, and church family.

Word of the week

Jared Dupert, a youth pastor from York, PA, who participated in the Chain Reaction Summit, offers random "Words of the Week" at his blog. I like the idea, so here's my first, in honor of him (a fitting word choice, maybe?):

I thought of this because of the ongoing Middle East conflicts and the hysteria over Bush's latest Supreme Court nominee here at home. There's a fine line between the verbal assaults and character attacks that we Americans call political "debate" and the fraternal bloodfued that is Palestine, where descendants of Abraham's sons Ishmael and Isaac continue to terrorize each other. Here's to hoping for some toned down rhetoric in the months ahead (a pipedream, perhaps, but one worth pursuing).

The accidental blogger

I can relate to some of this article (especially the part about addiction), but not their traffic numbers. Great insights for people considering starting a new blog.

California speaking venues

  • Saturday, 11/5: UYWI Reload @ 590 Fir Street, San Diego, CA 92101. Map and Directions.
  • Sunday, 11/6: Living Hope Community Church @ Hillcrest Christian School, 17531 Rinaldi Street, Granada Hills, CA 91344. Map and Directions.