Monday, October 31, 2005

The Community Guide to Helping America's Youth

Last week, First Lady Laura Bush convened the White House Conference on Helping America's Youth at Howard University in Washington , DC. (Rudy Carrasco wrote about the conference here.) Among other things, the conference introduced a Web-based guide on youth development research and model programs. To learn more about the conference and the tool kit, visit

He's fired up

Will Samson has a powerful post about the current Republican scandals and the evangelical silence in response to them:

... Many in power within the Republican world stand accused of treasonous acts or other significant felonies. (As an aside, all of the current mention of indictments involve men) Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney may have knowingly revealed the name of a secret intelligence officer. This sounds like something the bad guys would have done in an old James Bond film. But it goes on from there. Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, Jack Abramoff, arguably the most powerful lobbyist in Washington until his indictment and the source of many funds for GOP political operations, and Tom Delay, one of the architects of the Republican takeover who was until his indictment the Majority Leader in the House, all three of these men stand accused of different acts of money laundering. This is the kind of stuff that mobsters go to jail for. Bill Frist, the Senate Majority Leader, committed the same crime that lead to the downfall of Martha Stewart. And none of these crimes even begin to consider issues like the Downing Street Memo, a memo that appears to show early intent to deceive the American people in a march to war with Iraq. In light of all this I am longing for some sense of moral outrage from the outspoken religious voices of the right. When will Chuck Colson, a man who had a lot to say about the power abuses of the political administration he worked for, speak against these crimes? When will James Dobson, a man who has much to say about the importance of moral examples for our children, say that money laundering and treason are bad? When will Pat Robertson, a man who was willing to place a death sentence on the head of a foreign leader for their political activity, say that corrupted political power is wrong wherever it appears. And when will Jerry Falwell speak from the standpoint of morality rooted in scripture and the church, and not from the perspective of what advances the Republican agenda? ... Here is what's at stake: Like it or not, these are the people to whom many turn to for an interpretation of Jesus. So, let's say that you had no idea who this Jesus was. What would you learn about Jesus by looking at the public voices of the religious right? It seems to me that the current message from them is this: Jesus gets really mad when you lie about oral sex, but he is alright with treason, money laundering and insider stock trading.
The full post is worth reading.

This time last year

October 31, 2004, was the drop dead date our purported landlord gave us to move both Abounding Grace and Generation Xcel out of the building we occupy on 9 East 7th Street. They had served the 30-day Notice-of-Eviction on September 30, 2004, and demanded that we completely vacate the premises on or before Halloween. Meanwhile, New York's annual Halloween Parade ends with tens of thousands of revelers spilling into the neighborhood, making the date a special outreach day for us each year. The alleged landlord, a church from across the river in New Jersey, didn't care. (See Daily News article for summary.) After seeking an alternative, any alternative, including meeting with their board, requesting denominational mediation, and exploring other out-of-court mediation possibilities, we had no choice but to fight the unjust eviction in court.

A year later, we're still there. The wheels of Justice move slowly, but things have gone as well as possible fo us. First the judge ruled Generation Xcel could continue to operate Xpress out of the building's fourth floor. Then she agreed that the building's ownership is suspect -- we claim that the NJ church bought the building illegally -- and needs to be resolved before she could decide the merits of their eviction claim, because if they do not properly own it, they cannot evict us. And that's where we are, still litigating the ownership issue 12 months later.

Please continue to pray for us, and the number of significant dates remaining between now and the end of the year. We remain confident that God's will will be done in this situation.


[Click image for larger pic.]


Seth and Judah, last night, at Di's birthday party:

Happy Birthday, Principesa Diana

Family and friends gathered at our home last night to celebrate Diana's @*th birthday. Boom2 made a traditional Italian feast of ziti, meatballs, sweet sausages, stuffed artichokes, and salad; Aunt Teresa brought the fresh mozzarella and Italian bread; and loads of chips, dips, cheese, crackers, candy, and three cakes, highlighted by Veniero's Fruit Supreme, completed Di's favorite menu. What fun!

Voodoo's demise?

"He fears that Katrina... may take another casualty: New Orleans' status as the country's voodoo capital. "'As of today I would say it's pretty dead,' Glossop said. 'Even the tourist shops are in jeopardy. There is a chance for a huge loss here.'" Article.

My brother didn't recognize him either

Earlier this month, Boy George was arrested for drug possession and making a false police report in Manhattan. But the cops making the arrest had no idea who he was until hours later, when someone from the day tour recognized him without his trademark make-up. I found out last night that my brother's partner made the arrest, and my brother actually sat with the perp as he was being processed. Life in the NYPD.

[The night of his arrest] [With pal Rosie at a Broadway premiere]

Thanks to Matt, Katy, and all who participated

... in the Chain Reaction Summit. Tony offers a good summary of the Summit here. It was the first opportunity for the leaders of the various CR cities to gather since this summer's accident, and provided an opportunity for reflection and refreshing as they shared testimonies and context for the good that occurred despite the tragedy. Matt and Katy confessed that they've had good days and bad days as they and their family continue to grieve their loss. Please continue to keep the family in prayer, especially as we enter the holiday season.

It ain't so no longer

[This is dated, but since I was traveling, here are my two cents on this year's Fall Classic.]

  • The White Sox reversed the curse of Shoeless Joe (of "Say it ain't so," notoriety) and finally won a World Series, their first since the Black Sox scandal of 1917. Does anyone else find it odd that the Red Sox, who hadn't won since 1918, won last year, and the White Sox, who hadn't won since the year before that, won a year later?
  • Ozzie Guillen is a great coach.
  • Great starting pitching beats great starting pitching when normally good relief pitchers forget how to pitch.
  • It's gonna take Cubs fans along time to recover.
  • The Rocket backfired.

Friday, October 28, 2005

I was thinking of my wife today

"Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens. ... "My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. ... "Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely. ... "All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you. ... "You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. ... "How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume than any spice!" Song of Solomon, c. 1-4.

Not his finest hour

This week has been brutal to President Bush.

1. Another hurricane. 2. More FEMA delays. 3. The 2,000th casualty in Iraq. 4. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers withdraws. 5. Senior aide indicted for 5 crimes, including perjury, obstruction of justice, and false reports.
Here's to hoping for a better week next week.

Leadership, according to US News and World Report

"Leadership, as the public tells the pollsters, is in disappointingly short supply. So the 25 people profiled in the following pages are a heartening exception to the rule." Article.

My (quick) two-cents (I haven't actually read the articles yet):

  • Rick Warren is the only religious figure on the list. Is his inclusion more about book sales or leadership?
  • Techies abound, with Google, Apple, Ebay, and Microsoft represented. More evidence of revolution?
  • Media moguls include Oprah, Fox News, and C-Span (!). What am I missing by not watching C-Span?
  • Public officials are all minorities and/or women, except for the lone, active military figure. Political correctness or coincidence?
  • I really need to meet Geoffrey Canada. Anyone know him?

Bono's Pentecostal roots

On the impact Pentecostalism had on him:

There was also my friend Guggi. His parents were not just Protestant, they were some obscure cult of Protestant. In America, it would be Pentecostal. His father was like a creature from the Old Testament. He spoke constantly of the Scriptures and had the sense that the end was nigh -- and to prepare for it. ...

I'd go to church with them too. Though myself and Guggi are laughing at the absurdity of some of this, the rhetoric is getting through to us. We don't realize it, but we're being immersed in the Holy Scriptures. That's what we took away from this: this rich language, these ancient tracts of wisdom.

On "music that turns me on":

The music that really turns me on is either running toward God or away from God. Both recognize the pivot, that God is at the center of the jaunt. So the blues, on one hand -- running away; gospel, the Mighty Clouds of Joy -- running towards. And later you came to analyze it and figure it out.

On songs as prayers:

It gets back to the songs I was listening to; to me, they were prayers. "How many roads must a man walk down?" That wasn't a rhetorical question to me. It was addressed to God. It's a question I wanted to know the answer to, and I'm wondering, who do I ask that to? I'm not gonna ask a schoolteacher. When John Lennon sings, "Oh, my love/For the first time in my life/My eyes are wide open" -- these songs have an intimacy for me that's not just between people, I realize now, not just sexual intimacy. A spiritual intimacy.

On the spirituality of rock and roll:

Here's the strange bit: Most of the people that you grew up with in black music had a similar baptism of the spirit, right? The difference is that most of these performers felt they could not express their sexuality before God. They had to turn away. So rock & roll became backsliders' music. They were running away from God. But I never believed that. I never saw it as being a choice, an either/or thing.

From this month's Rolling Stone cover story.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Travel schedule heats up

Thursday, I drive to Baltimore to connect with Matt Stevens, then Friday we're off to York, PA, for the Chain Reaction Summit.

Next Wednesday morning, I fly back to Cali for the second time this year. Wednesday night, Brian Meza and Bono and I hang out with 20,000 U2 fans at Staples Center. Thursday, we'll connect with Rudy Carrasco (and friends?) at Harambee. Friday, I drive to San Diego with Larry Acosta for the UYWI Reload on Saturday. Then Sunday, back with Brian to preach at Living Hope Community Church.
Later in November, I'll attend my first CCDA conference in Indianapolis (second if you count one workshop and networking at CCDA New York in 2000), and participate in a panel discussion with Rudy and an emerging leaders conversation with Noel Castellanos.
November ends with Youth Explosion: The Conference the weekend of Thanksgiving. If you're in New York, pre-register online and make every effort to attend. The cost is free! Email me if you'll be in or around around any of the cities so we can meet.

She had a dream, and wasn't afraid to take the bus to get there

Rosa Parks, Civil rights pioneer and hero for all, passed away last night. Rest in peace. Read an account of Park's history-making decision.

Monday, October 24, 2005

On living in Egypt

Children's Bible story books speak to me. Not always. Sometimes they're nauseatingly sanitized and redundant and filled with cheesy artwork. But sometimes reading them to Judah feels like God speaking to me. (Or maybe it's just me amusing myself with my own thoughts; who knows?) Two such thoughts occurred to me tonight reading the stories of Joseph and baby Moses. 1. Could it be that part of the story of Israel's slavery in Egypt is a warning against mistaking the miraculous for the ordinary? Joseph saved his family miraculously from starvation, after enduring betrayal, slavery, and unjust imprisonment and rising to prominence in Egypt; and the family moved to Egypt to survive the famine. But then they settled in Goshen, and what was temporary, providential provision replaced their permament, "Promised" home in Canaan. As a result, they overstayed their welcome, and 400 years later, they're slaves in a foreign land, brutalized by a pharoah who's murdering baby boys as a means of population control. 2. Could it be that Moses' salvation was as a much the result of brilliant cunning as divine intervention? That his mother knew exactly where Pharoh's daughter bathed everyday, and hid her baby among the bushes there intentionally? That she posted her daughter as lookout with instructions to intervene when the princess found the basket and volunteer her mother to nurse the baby? Pastor Joseph Henry Cortese says the anointing works in cooperation with people as we exercise our gifts. Perhaps this is more a story of a savy mother protecting her baby than about a random meeting between a princess and a basket floating haphazardly down the river. 2b. Last week, Pastor Ken Bobe mentioned something else intriguing about the Moses story. Apparently, in ancient Egypt and Israel it was customary for children to be nursed until age 3-5. Although he was raised in Pharoah's court, Moses nursed at his Jewish mother's breast well into his early years of understanding. Proverbs tells us: "Train up a child in the way he should go and and when he is old, he will not turn from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

New profile picture

On the right. It's me on a jumbotron at Flushing Meadows Park -- more interesting, I think, than a posed picture from five or six years ago. What do you think?

The intersection of faith and politics

In a New York Post editorial entitled "Miers' Christian Problem," NYU Professor Jonathan Zimmerman examines how Harriet Miers' faith has impacted her nomination to the Supreme Court. In it, he outlines the good, bad, and ugly role evangelical Christianity has played in American politics for the last 200 years:

"In fact, evangelical views aren't timeless at all. Before the Civil War, most Southern evangelicals (and a good fraction of Northern ones, too) said that the Bible sanctioned slavery. In the 20th century, evangelical ministers supported eugenics, racial segregation and a host of other evils. But evangelicals stood at the forefront of progressive change, as well — in fact, evangelical Christianity powered every great liberal social reform in American history. "Evangelicals have always disagreed about the political implications of their faith. To the abolitionist firebrand William Lloyd Garrison, for example, slavery insulted 'the majesty of Heaven.' Evangelical ministers who endorsed or tolerated slavery were 'blackhearted clergy,' the 'implacable foes of God and man.' "A few decades later, Social Gospel ministers preached on behalf of labor unions, women's suffrage and the income tax. 'God's laws of right and wrong are ever the same and cannot be changed,' wrote one Baptist minister, in a plea for workers' rights. 'God shall save the children of the needy, and shall break into pieces the oppressor.' "After World War Two, this same evangelical impulse — messianic, absolute and uncompromising — powered the civil-rights movement. 'If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong!' Martin Luther King, Jr. thundered in 1955. 'If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to Earth.' "Garrison and King believed in the divine inspiration of the Bible, the mission to convert others, and the need for salvation in Christ. But they tethered this faith to progressive reform, seeking to make society more just, fair, and impartial. "Today, by contrast, evangelicals are more likely to embrace conservative politics." Article.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Another weekend on the road

The family's off to the Poconos for the weekend, staying with my parents at a timeshare in Shawnee Village. Hasta lunes, amigos.

Virtual Xcel

Back in 1999, we at Generation Xcel had a brainstorm that I believed would revolutionize youth outreach and cultural engagement. What if we took "By Youth For Youth" online? Could we translate the Xcel model for cyberspace and create a virtual community that would empower kids to be who they are and find their voice and connect with friends in a meaningful way on the internet? We called the idea Virtual Xcel [the link is a brief summary originally written six years ago]. In the fall of 2000, a major evangelical ministry invited me to participate in a think tank on how they could relevantly engage young people, and I proposed the idea to them as well. Six months later, they called back and commissioned me to draft a creative brief that would be presented to their board for possible investment. The proposal made it through the various stages of management review and was scheduled to go before the full board on September 21, 2001, but ten days earlier, 9/11 happened. The brief got shelved and subsequent management changes kept it buried. The idea has resurfaced periodically, and with great intensity in the last year and a half. First was an opportunity to meet Clarence Jones (MLK's attorney during the Civil Rights movement), who reminded a group of urban youth workers of the centrality of the internet in youth culture. Then was the role email and internet buzz played in promoting the groundbreaking Billy Graham Square One breakfast and Refl3ctions event this past spring; reading Joe Trippi's book, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (buy it here) this summer; discussions at The Coalition about how to achieve similar discourse among urban youth ministers; and my own personal experience blogging since December -- the new friends, conversations engaged, and fun sharing pictures and personal stories. So last month I was talking to Peter Ong about the idea, since he's done an amazing job connecting with his kids via his blog. Then yesterday, CoCo asked me to cover for him as he was up against a deadline for a midterm project for school. So I hung out at Xpress for three hours and decided to raise the issue directly with the teens. Then something amazing happened. For the first hour and a half, each student wanted to go online. Not to listen to music or play games, but to interact with their friends. Via email, instant message, and blogs. What was this? Every teen at Xpress had their own blog. They had discovered Myspace and Sconex and Xanga on their own, and were creating online space for themselves. Generation Xcel had gone virtual. Organically. By Youth. For Youth. Without any financial investment or programming push from the staff. They were doing it, being teenagers, making friends, acting silly, building community. Online. Some of the stuff they're doing:

  • Loreal is a senior in high school. Her junior high friends set up a myspace account to organize a reunion for over 300 classmates before everyone graduates high school.
  • Ciara is still in junior high, but her cousin helped set up the account and identified her as 19.
  • Chris uses his to compare notes and test results with classmates.
  • Eden has a personal journal on her site that is closed to the public, but a handful of friends have access.
  • And as a group they had even set up an Xpress blog so they could spread the word about Xpress to their friends.

Everything's new, and frankly, still very raw. But these guys are getting it on their own. Here's a sample:

Be forewarned, some of what you'll see is not suitable for adults. Apparently, good, bad, and ugly goes on in Myspace. Maybe online is not so virtual afterall?

May the best ex-Yankees win

I'm torn about who to root for in this year's World Series. Ex-Yankees abound on both-sides of the field, headlined by Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens for the Astros and Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez for the White Sox. Plus the teams have rooting interests independent of pinstripe alums, as Houston goes for its first ever championship (on the heals of Kat-Rita relief) and Chicago looks to reverse 88 years of futility. All else being equal, I'm going to have to pull for my boy Pettite, a Yankee through-and-through, developed as a youth on the farm and empowered in the Bronx to achieve postseason greatness. It's time for the Astros to blastoff.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Evangelistic Brilliance

The people next to me must have thought I was crazy. Don Miller's side-splitting humor had me in hysterical fits on the subway last night. In Blue Like Jazz, he writes of one of the most brilliant evangelistic efforts I've ever heard. When I read the passage to Diana, she loved the story but didn't quite get why I found it so funny, but again I was cracking up. Here's an excerpt:

Each year at Reed [College] they have a festival called Ren Fayre. They shut down the campus so students can party. Security keeps the authorities away, and everybody gets pretty drunk and high, and some people get naked. ... Some of the Christians in our little group decided this was a pretty good place to come out of the closet, letting everybody know there were a few Christians on campus. ... I said we should build a confession booth in the middle of the campus and paint a sign on it that said, "Confess your sins." I said this because I knew a lot of people would be sinning and Christian spirituality begins by confessing our sins and repenting. I also said it as a joke. But Tony thought it was brilliant. ...

"We are not going to do this," I told him. ...

"Here's the catch." [Tony] leaned in a little and collected his thoughts. "We are not actually going to accept confessions. ... We are going to confess to them. We are going to confess that, as followers of Jesus, we have not been very loving; we have been bitter, and for that we are sorry. We will apologize for the Crusades, we will apologize for the televangelists, we will apologize for neglecting the poor and the lonely, we will ask them to forgive us, and we will tell them that in our selfishness, we have misrepresented Jesus on this campus. We will tell people who come into the booth that Jesus loves them." ...

For so much of my life I had been defending Christianity because I thought that to admit that we had done any wrong was to discredit the religious system as a whole, but it isn't a religious system, it is people following Christ; and the important thing to do, the right thing to do, was to apologize for getting in the way of Jesus. ...

[After they built the booth and the party was in full swing,] We lit tiki torches and mounted them in the ground just outside the booth. ... [W]e had our first customer [Jake]. ...

"So, what's this? I'm supposed to tell you all of the juicy gossip I did at Ren Fayre, right?" Jake asked.


"Okay, then what? What's the game?" he asked.

"Not really a game. More of a confession thing." ... "We are confessing to you." ...

"What are you confessing?" he asked. ...

"There's a lot. ... Jesus said to feed the hungry and heal the sick. I have never done very much about that. Jesus said to love those who persecute me. I tend to lash out, especially if I feel threatened, you know, if my ego gets threatened. Jesus did not mis his spirituality with politics. I grew up doing that. It got in the way of the central message of Christ. I know that was wrong, and I know that a lot of people will not listen to the words of Christ because people like me, who know him, carry our own agendas into the conversation rather than just relaying the message Christ wanted to get across. There's a lot more, you know."

"It's alright, man," Jake said, very tenderly. His eyes were starting to water. ...

"I forgive you," Jake said. And he meant it. ... It's really cool what you guys are doing," he said. "A lot of people need to hear this." ...

I felt very strongly that Jesus was relevant in this place. I felt very strongly that if Jesus was not relevant here than He was not relevant anywhere. I felt very peaceful in that place and very sober. I felt very connected to God because I had confessed so much to so many people and had gotten so much off my chest and I had been forgiven by the people I had wronged with my indifference and judgmentalism. ... I was out of the closet now. A Christian. So many years before I had made amends to God, but now I had made amends to the world. I was somebody who was willing to share my faith. (pp. 116-127)

For the sake of space, most of the funny stuff has been omitted. Buy the book here.

What Would Jesus Blog?

That's the subtitle accompanying this FOX news report.

A funny

From my cousin Steven: With hurricanes, earthquakes, fires out of control, mud slides, tornados, flooding and severe t-storms tearing up the country from one end to another; with the threat of bird flu and terrorists attacks; the quote of the month is:

Jay Leno: "Are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?"

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I went to a U2 concert (and other reflections on missional living)

I went to see U2 at the Staples Center on November 2, in Los Angeles. Regrettably, it's my first U2 concert. In 1993, I had an opportunity to see U2 in Madrid with a bunch of college buddies, but that was at a time in my life when I viewed the world through fundamentalist Christian lenses (I actually wrote a paper my freshman year naively claiming pride in fundamentalism), and perceived that my testimony would somehow become "defiled" if I hung out at bars and rock concerts. (Check out Matt's post on viral sin for more on this misguided view.) It was a contradiction embedded in a zealous, (dare I say it?) Pharisaical faith. While I knew intellectually that the New Testament Jesus sought out the company of "sinners," turned nonalcoholic beverages into fine wine, identified with "the least of these," and did so many things that fundamentalist American Christians conveniently avoid, it never occurred to me to question why fundies were so disengaged until ... May 1994. I had just completed my junior year and this time time we were on the Greek island of Santorini. Jason arrived a day or two after the rest of us, and we were catching up on a busy semester while enjoying another spectacular Aegean sunset with friends. When the sun dipped beyond the horizon, the group headed off to a bar and Jason invited me to go. For the first time in three years, something in me compelled me to say yes.
[Click images for larger view. These pictures are of the actual sunset in the story.]

We sat at the bar mostly small talking, him with his beer and me religiously sipping a Ginger Ale with lime. About an hour later, ten or twelve students decided to return to the hotel pool. The poolside conversation wandered back and forth from Greece and summer plans to music and movies. Someone even mentioned Star Trek, making me wonder what I was doing there.

Then Debbie, always good for a provocative question or incendiary comment, turned to me and asked, loudly enough for all to hear, something like: "So Jeremy, what is it with Christians and martyrdom?" The rest of the conversation seemed to screetch to a halt as I stammered about in search of an answer, saying something about having an eternal perspective and finding meaning in life in what endures rather than that which is temporal. Truthfully, I don't remember exactly what I said, but what happened next I'll never forget. It became a defining moment of my college career and helped transform my thinking on how to engage unbelievers in questions of faith.

At first glance, Debbie's question may have seemed cynical, but it betrayed a sincere curiosity about Christianity in general and, more specifically, how Christians relate to the real world. It also struck a nerve with the rest of the group, because the ensuing dialogue lasted hours, until 3 or 4 am, and the size of the group grew steadily as students dragged in from late night parties and found their way into our circle. When enough people got chilly, we even moved indoors to the floor of one of the hotel rooms. I felt like the sacrificial lamb forced to endure rapid fire questions, the focused attention of skeptical college students, and the vulnerability of laying bare everything I believed. But at the same time I knew that I was experiencing an answer to years of prayers that God might somehow use me to reveal Himself to my friends.

The next day on the beach, Al approached privately to talk about the night before. He had been at the pool, quietly observing the conversation, and something stirred inside him. He said the experience reminded him of the stories he had heard in Catholic school of how Jesus dialogued with pharisees and sinners. He confessed that his was a nominal, cultural faith, and that the prior night challenged him to dig deeper. What should he read that summer, he asked.

I recommended the Gospel of John, as any good fundamentalist would, and to my surprise he actually read it. The following semester he signed up for a Bible study on John in my dorm room. One night, he was the only student who attended, but together we revisited the first chapter -- the one on the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, the incarnational stuff that we had experienced together three months before in Santorini.

Al accepted Christ's invitation to follow Jesus that evening, one of only two students I prayed with in this way in seven years at NYU. The second, Gene, made a similar decision as Al two years later, when he "dwelt among" Al and me as our roommate.

I had started my university career thinking I was sent to be Billy Graham on campus. I believed that if I would preach, "they" would come and receive Jesus. I was wrong. In hindsite, I can't help but wonder that if I had spent less time trying to "evangelize" in the fundamentalist sense of the word and more time "living among" my peers -- socializing after hours, attending U2 concerts, being involved in their lives -- then maybe I would have been a more effective "witness" in the incarnational sense of the word. Whenever I was most effective, it seems I was doing the small things, like sipping coffee in the dorm's courtyard, working on a group project, or chatting around a pool after hanging out in a bar.

[Jason (l.) and Al (r.), in Greece. Al graduated Harvard Law in 2002 and now works at a DC law firm after clerking for a DC Circuit Court judge. Jason graduated Columbia Law, works at a NY firm and represents Generation Xcel and Abounding Grace in their ongoing eviction battle.]

Stark raving mad

His vanity license plate identifies him as "Pastor." He was credentialed over the objections of local ministers by a reputable denomination, and leads a small congregation of mostly single adults in Brooklyn. He has a reputation in the neighborhood as a boozing skirt chaser. We ate at a local restaurant that he frequents on Sunday after church, and one of the owners politely asked if she could ask Pastors Roger and Teresa a question. She wanted to know whether they know Pastor. They do. All too well. She asked if they had heard any of the stories, and commented that whenever she sees him she feels better about herself because obviously other people need to be "saved" more than she does. Pastor had been at the restaurant the night before. Apparently, while downing his fourth bottle of Merlot he blurted some highly offensive things to the owner. She wouldn't repeat his comments, but said that it wasn't the first time she had to remind him that he's a Christian. They've had to escort him out of the restaurant, and unseemly scenes with women play themselves out frequently. But he's what she called a "good" customer because he comes so often and spends so much on liquor. Please join me in praying for Pastor, and the people whose impressions of Christ have been affected by Pastor's behavior. The Bible promises a stiff price for believers who cause others to sin.

"Street Art" photo essay

From Time magazine, "Art of the Street: How some artists are recreating the urban landscape."

Gala pictures and introduction

From last month's Concert of Prayer Gala, where my father and I received "Leaving a Legacy" awards.

With Dad With Hon. Adolpho Carrion, Jr. (L), Bronx Borough President, and Dr. Mac Pier (R), president of Concerts of Prayer Our table. L-R (back): Harold, Artie, Beautiful Bob, my brother Jamie, me. L-R (front): Jesus Jr., Pastor Jesus of Redemption Ministries, dad, mom, Lynda Greeting co-honorees Revs. Michael and Adam Durso The Ballroom Shaggy With co-honorees More pictures here. All pictures courtesy of the incomparable Michael Mowery.
The introduction presented by Andy Puleo of Navigators on behalf of Dr. A. R. Bernard of Christian Cultural Center:
Hi, I’m Andy Puleo. I bring you greetings on behalf of Dr. A.R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Center who was unable to be here this evening. It’s our pleasure to present this award to the Del Rios. There is nothing common about the Del Rios. God has called them to be extraordinary leaders. Abounding Grace Ministries and Abounding Grace Church, founded by Pastor Rick Del Rio, was built from the streets out of his passion for street evangelism. Wearing leather and riding a Harley Davidson, he reaches the common man, woman and child with the love of Christ. On that fateful day known as 9/11, Pastor Rick was one of the first clergy responders, arriving on the scene and ministering in prayer to both the living and the dead. His son Jeremy began his preaching career at the age of 13 and started a youth ministry at 19. Jeremy left a promising career as an attorney at a premier New York City law firm to join his Dad in leading the disaster relief activities of the Northeast Clergy Group. He now serves as Executive Director of Generation Xcel – reaching at-risk kids and empowering them with hope and viable alternatives to the streets. Uncommon men for uncommon times. Reverend Richard Del Rio and Jeremy Del Rio – tonight’s Leaving A Legacy honorees!

Intensity, frequency, and duration

The factors that distinguish ordinary angst from signs of trauma in children. This according to a Partners in Healing training I attended yesterday.

Interested in starting (or enhancing) a Blog?

A must read: Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes. Via.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Dr. Eddie Gibbs on "missional engagement"

"A missional engagement requires immersion in culture, to listen and ask questions. A missionary then proposes responses from the gospel, rather than attempting to impose a message."
This from his critique in Christianity Today of D.A. Carson's analysis of Brian McLaren and the emerging church movement.

Ten Facts About New York City's Children

1. One out of every 4 people in NYC is a child. 2. Every day 337 babies are born to NYC residents. 3. Every day 2 babies die before their first birthday. 4. Every day many babies are born at risk:

  • 174 babies are born into poor families.
  • 25 babies are born to teen parents.
  • 22 babies are born to mother with inadequate prenatal care.
  • 29 babies are born with low birthweight.
5. Every day 541,985 children live in poverty. 6. Every day 16,404 children are homeless. 7. Every 4 days a young person under 19 is murdered. 8. Every day 57% of all elementary and middle school students read below State & City standards. 9. Every week 15,168 children use mental health services. 10. Every day 144 children are reported abused or neglected. And for affect, my favorite: 11. 1.1 million public school students, making the New York City public school population, by itself, the tenth largest city in America! (Source: Keeping Track of New York's Children, Citizens Committee for Children)

Speaking of the good million dollar athletes could do

Imagine if the New York Yankees players, as a team, contributed 1% of their $210 million payroll to a common cause this year, which King George matched on behalf of the Empire. $4.2 million's nothing to sneeze at. Now imagine, hypothetically speaking, that Generation Xcel, was that cause. We could operate approximately 56 Xcel After School programs and serve 1,750-2,000 at-risk kids with quality after school care with that funding. Then again, imagine the Yankees tithed to the cause. $42 million would translate into 560 sites at 170,000-220,000 kids served, or roughly half the kids in New York City that live below the poverty line. And keep in mind that these numbers do not factor in cost savings and efficiencies that would be generated by achieving economies of scale in our operations. If every professional athlete from New York City's six professional sports franchises contributed to the cause, every child living in poverty could receive quality after school care.

One of the good guys retired

NBA all-star Allan Houston called it a career today, unable to recover from chronic knee injuries that forced him to miss most of the past two seasons. Houston is one of the good guys of sports, a class act and standout performer who, despite the pressures of a $100 million contract, still earned the respect of fans. Above all, Allan was a committed Christian who was never shy about his faith. I had the privilege of working with him twice for community events, in 2000 at Jammin' Against the Darkness and 2002 at the 9/11 Anniversary Tribute to Grace and Hope, where he was an effective spokesperson of Christ's love. Apparently this summer he was again sharing his faith with Jammin' in Ohio (view NBA slideshow). Retirement Video.

On Christ's love for us

"We dream of Christ's love for His bride reading like Romeo and Juliet; two equals united in liberal love. I think it is more like Lucentio's pursuit of Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew. That is, the groom endearing the belligerent bride with kindness, patience, and love. "Our 'behavior' will not be changed long with self-discipline, but fall in love and a human will accomplish what he never thought possible. The laziest of men will swim the English Channel to win his woman. ... [B]y accepting God's love for us, we fall in love with Him, and only then do we have the fuel we need to obey. "In exchange for our humility and willingness to accept the charity of God, we are given a kingdom. And a beggar's kingdom is better than a proud man's delusion." - Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz (p.86)

Random entertainment news

Blogger's making me angry!

Blogger again deleted a post I've been working on for over an hour. Any tips on how to prevent this from happening?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Yankee alums lead the way

Congratulations to Jose Contreras of the White Sox for pitching his team into its first World Series birth since 1959, and a chance at their first title since 1917. Similarly, Andy Pettite has an opportunity to get the Houston Astros to their first ever Fall Classic on Monday. Along with Roger Clemens and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, the four pitchers continue to demonstrate Yankee October greatness.

Pastor Roger has officially joined the journey

This morning at church, Pastor Roger McPhail preached a sermon on "Christ and Culture" and confessed that after 25 years of ministry, he's re-embarked on a journey to discover what the New Testament Jesus would look like in our 21st century neighborhoods. It was inspiring to hear a recognized apostolic leader in the city say that Christ would probably do church very differently than American evangelicals do it, and to commit publicly to exploring how to reincarnate Christ through the church within our Brooklyn community. Pastor Roger also went decidedly post-modern, referencing a text message he received this week, a blog article he read, and inviting a certain shaggy haired non-leader in his church to close the service in prayer. I'm told that last week he even quoted Donald Miller's "Searching for God Knows What" (another title on my Wish List). About a month or so ago he referenced Malcolm Gladwell. Something special is happening in Bay Ridge.

Storytellas at it again

Brian Meza and his friend Joshua flew in from California for the weekend. We hooked up yesterday for lunch at Vincent's in Little Italy and dinner at Crossroads Tabernacle in the Bronx, for the third and final showing of The Man. Hip Bop ("a fusion of hip-hop and bebop") flava, musical virtuosity, and theological depth combined for another rousing presentation by Storytellas. Next up on Storytellas calendar: The Meeting, with Nicky Cruz and Tony Evans, November 11 and 12 (7:30 pm) at Lehman College. Dimas is helping the Metropolitan Baptist Association of New York produce and promote the event.

He messed up my sermon

At NYU's InterVarsity (MEF) meeting last Thursday, a student named Gerard messed up my sermon. Just kidding. Actually, he enhanced it even though his testimony compelled me to change the scripture text minutes before speaking. Born and raised in the Philipines, Gerard moved to the U.S. as a teenager when his mother got a job at UNICEF. Her position earned him, a high school student who could care less about her job, "all the benefits of a diplomat." They had asked me to speak about the intersection of faith and vocation and social justice (quite a combination!) and I intended to preach out of Jeremiah 29, with references to Daniel, Esther, and Nehemiah. Instead, I preached 2 Corinthians 5 for 35 minutes and summarized the rest in 5. I love it when a plan comes together! PS. Gerard mentioned that he was 5 during the Gulf War. Five! I was a senior in high school. I think I had my first official senior moment.

GodBlogCon wrap up

DJ Chuang facilitated a breakout session on emerging church blogs at the GodBlogCon conference this weekend at Biola University, in between live blogging from the conference. He has various posts including the following excerpt from "GodBloggers Publish or Perish":

"Instead of having an answer to dispense and entice others to buy-in through persuasion, blogging is conducive for sharing thoughts and feelings and ideas, questions and doubts and notions that are not yet well-formed and well-defined. This tone fits some emerging church bloggers much better, at least for me. Takes a little more faith, that if we as followers of Christ, would just be, and share our humanity transparently and vulnerably, that normal people can see how Jesus makes a difference in the way we live and behave, without having to always dispense answers."
The AP reported on the conference here.

These kids should be in Xcel After School

Instead, they're child soldiers.

Feb. 10, 2003: Bunia, Congo. Dec. 9, 2003: Monrovia, Liberia Feb. 25, 2001: Malou, Sudan.
See the accompanying article, Children in Camo: Underage Warriors Become Growing Concern, which profiles the personal survival of Oscar Torres, screenwriter of Innocent Voices.
Thanks, Gene, for the tip!

"Something happened that shouldn't have happened."

"The Louisiana attorney general's office is investigating allegations that mercy killings occurred and has requested that autopsies be performed on all 45 bodies taken from the hospital after the storm. "Orleans Parish coroner Frank Minyard said investigators have told him they think euthanasia may have been committed. "'They thought someone was going around injecting people with some sort of lethal medication,' Minyard said." Article. Via.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Put the sock back!

"In what appears to be the latest consequence of broadcaster Pat Robertson's August call for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's assassination, Chavez announced plans to expel from the country New Tribes Mission, a church-planting and Bible-translating mission agency. ... "Since 1946, New Tribes has served Venezuela's indigenous communities through translation, church planting, literacy, humanitarian aid, and community development projects, almost entirely in the country's western-central Amazonas state, which borders Colombia. NTM works with twelve ethnic groups in Venezuela, nine with established churches, and has completed five Bible translations. Four other translations are in progress. Thirty of the 160 NTM missionaries in the country are Venezuelan nationals. Worldwide, 3,200 NTM missionaries minister to indigenous peoples in more than 18 countries in Latin America, West Africa, and Southeast Asia. ... "Robertson told CNN on Sunday that Chavez 'is negotiating with the Iranians to get nuclear material. And he also sent $1.2 million in cash to Osama bin Laden right after 9/11.' Robertson offered no evidence to support his accusation. "In response to Chavez's plan to expel NTM, another mission group wrote in a confidential prayer e-mail, 'While we believe that Chavez has been planning to expel foreign missionaries for some time, statements like those made by Robertson have provided him with an excuse to do so and might actually justify his actions in the eyes of many Venezuelans who otherwise would have been more ambivalent.'" From Christianity Today, 10/14/05. Article.

Tim Keller on Becoming "Missional"

"One of the reasons much of the American evangelical church has not experienced the same precipitous decline as the Protestant churches of Europe and Canada is because in the U.S. there is still a 'heartland' with the remnants of the old 'Christendom' society. ... In conservative regions, it is still possible to see people profess faith and the church grow without becoming 'missional.' Most traditional evangelical churches still can only win people to Christ who are temperamentally traditional and conservative. But, as Wolff notes, this is a 'shrinking market.' And eventually evangelical churches ensconced in the declining, remaining enclaves of 'Christendom' will have to learn how to become 'missional'. If it does not do that it will decline or die. We don't simply need evangelistic churches, but rather 'missional' churches." Article.

Al-Qaeda posts "Help Wanted" ads online

"Al-Qaida [sic] has put job advertisements on the internet asking for supporters to help put together its web statements and video montages, an Arabic newspaper reported." From Wired, 10/06/05. Article.
Sample English language video montage (produced by Al-Qaeda linked Global Islamic Media Front): Jihad Hidden Camera. Warning: video contains disturbing terror images combined with sadistic laugh tracks. Just another reminder why we're at war.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Introspection, from one Christian to another

"Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, the two political operatives in Congress with arguably the deepest support among Christian churches, both face serious allegations of financial trickery. Karl Rove, the Bush administration power broker who speaks almost daily with Christian leaders to coordinate political action, is under investigation for divulging classified information, then covering up his misdeed. ... "I grant that the aforementioned misdeeds are only allegations, so a measured response would be appropriate. DeLay, Frist, and Rove should receive due process. I do recall, however, that many Christian leaders and the religious media did not manifest any such restraint during the moral ineptitude of the Clinton era. ... "To be frank, I do not expect Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, or any other influential media network of religious conservatives to raise a red flag about political corruption in the Republican Party any time soon. The specter of political power seems too enticing, too close within reach, to be held back by traditional values such as honesty and integrity. Oh, woe to us, that we shall we gain the whole world, yet lose our own soul." - Full article from Sojourners (requires free registration).

Innocent Voices opens tomorrow

Go. See it. Previous posts here and here. Website here. Trailer.

P-O-R-N Sunday came and went ...

... this past Sunday, and I forgot about it, even after promoting it this summer. Oh well. Apparently the news media covered it, and it's not too late to get involved. See also for resources on how to talk the S-E-X talk in church and provide accountability for those struggling with the issue.


"Relevant churches are rarely even closely relevant. Most Christians don't even like them. They might be better than Mom and Dad's morning service, but they usually are quite irrelevant to the outsider. The church person cannot 'guess' what the seeker wants, undoubtedly getting it wrong. What Christians need to do is create meaningful worship through bringing their very own lives to God. Worship must reflect the culture of the community that is currently part of the church, not replicate current worship CDs, nor 1980s soft rock, nor 18th century hymns." - Full article. From the co-author of Emerging Churches: Creating Community in Post-Modern Cultures (which includes a profile of Kenny Mitchell's Tribe Church, and happens to be on my Amazon Wish List).

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What about Kevin?

The northeast has been waterlogged for a week now, with virtually nonstop rains since last Thursday. Last night the news reported that New Jersey has been especially hard hit with flooding. Judah's antena ears heard the report and immediately asked, "What about Kevin? Can we pray for him?" Kevin is my 17-year-old cousin who lives in south Jersey with his family. Judah hasn't seen Kevin since June's Billy Graham Crusade. But evidently, Kevin has made quite an impression because the thought of flooding in New Jersey meant we had to stop playing to pray for his safety (although not necessarily for the rest of the family -- sorry, Uncle Rich, Aunt Michele, and Erika!).


This may have been a hoax.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Ham

Judah's never been shy in front of the camera. It probably helped the fearless factor that he's had a camera in his face since he was minutes old, and there have been literally thousands of pictures taken of him in less than 5 years. Here are a few memorable shots from our Sunday pilgrimage to the MLB HOF shrine.

More HOF pictures here.

Not the greatest picture, but an irresistable subject

Look at those eyes, and that smile, and the charm that oozes from every pore!

Turnaround is fair play

Judah wanted to take a picture of me since I take so many of him.
Not bad. We'll work on framing the shot next time, but for now he's got centering down.

A light on Wall Street

[Click pictures for larger images]
Trinity Church, at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway.

City kids in the country ...

... like chickens without their heads (not really).
More pics here.