Tuesday, January 31, 2006

On leadership

If you had the opportunity to ask (name your favorite) leadership guru X one question, what would it be?

On Mentorship: The Joshua Generation?

"Joshua is a paradoxical figure. For as much benefit as he received from his mentor, Joshua failed to reproduce the investment. He got along great with his peers. Men like Caleb and the other community elders served with Joshua as a great team, and even provided leadership for the people after his death. But Joshua's spiritual legacy did not survive a single generation." Article.

New York City Youth Stats and Reference Information


  • 1,956,934 children under 18 live in NYC (25% of overall population of 8 million)
  • 470,164 between 15-19 years old
  • Approximately 5 million live in Greater New York (overall population of 21 million)


  • Population of NYC public schools: 1.1 million students (By itself, the tenth largest city in U.S.; larger than eight U.S. states and all but nine U.S. cities, including: Detroit, Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C., and Las Vegas.)
  • Annual Budget of the NYC Department of Education: Total: $12,200,000,000 ($12.2 billion) / Average: $11,220 per student
  • As of June 2002, 18% of teachers had failed licensing exams.
  • 60.7% of the City's elementary students do not meet state and city reading standards.
  • 64.7% do not grasp math standards.
  • 26.5% of students in Grades 4-12 exhibit symptoms of at least one diagnosable psychiatric disorder requiring intervention.
  • 5.1% of high school students abuse alcohol so severely as to impair daily functioning.
  • Less than half of all high school students (49.5%) graduate in four years, compared to 68.4% nationally.
  • 21.8% of the class of 2002 dropped out of high school


  • Three out of ten children (28.8%) live below poverty, compared to 17.6% nationally
  • Over half of babies born in NYC (55.5%) are born into poor families
  • 72% of Latino and 61% of African American children live in poor families
  • 37% of young children 0-4 years (202,000) receive WIC (food assistance)


This Saturday

On the road again

I received a last-minute invitation to participate in a planning meeting this week for the upcoming Willowcreek Leadership Summit, and will be flying to Orlando tonight through Friday. Not sure what exactly they expect me to offer, but it should be fun! Pray for wisdom, and if you're in the area, give me a shout-out. Not sure how much blogging I'll be able to do.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Urban (Prayer) Agenda

So what exactly went down at the 15th annual Pastors' Prayer Summit?
First of all, COPGNY saw a record turn-out from youth leaders, with approximately 30 attending this year. This represents a 500-600% increase over past years! Then on Monday night, Dimas and I facilitated a one-hour prayer focus for young people and those who serve them. Our first segment introduced the scope of the potential harvest:
  • 2 million young people 18 and under in New York City, or 25% of the population.
  • Jesus says they're most ripe for harvest. Who's more "like a child" (Christ's prerequisite for entering the kingdom of heaven) than a child?
  • Having been an at-risk youth, Jesus identifies with their needs. Can we begin to get his heart for them by praying specifically for three at-risk kids in our communities? The incorrigible one; the nondescript one who blends into the background; and the weak one who's always the target of bullies.
Helping to put a face to the mission was a photo slideshow featuring 300 pictures of urban children and youth, and a devotional from Psalm 27:4-5 that encouraged us to "gaze upon the beauty of the Lord." The next three segments prayed for personal struggles, including sexuality and HIV/AIDS; community struggles such as family disintegration and gangs; and systemic struggles such as a failed public education (60% of elementaary school students don't read at grade level, yet we spend $12 billion educating them) system and economic injustices (nearly 30% of NYC children live below poverty line). The last two segments focused on redefining and commissioning laborers into the harvestfield, including "professional" youth ministers, as well as those who influence young people such as teachers, paraprofessionals, business managers, health professionals, and, most importantly, students themselves. The evening ended when COPGNY asked members of The Coalition to receive Communion.
So many were moved that the aptly titled, Tuesday afternoon "Intergenerational conversation about strategically engaging youth and youth culture for Christ" was packed. A standing room only crowd overflowed into the hallway, as 50 or so gathered to ask hard questions and begin a dialogue about:
  • What God is saying concerning emerging generations
  • Challenges in reaching them
  • The importance of trusting relationships and meeting felt needs
  • What it means to be like Christ within a public education context
  • Cultural shifts and role of internet and media in shaping values and encouraging kids to find their voice
Those in attendance left with an apparent resolve to continue the conversation in their local contexts and incarnate Christ within the culture. Both the Monday night prayer time and the Tuesday afternoon conversation were in themselves major answers to years of prayer. Praying in concert with 300 pastors for these issues and then engaging them in dialogue about the very same issues represent significant steps for our city and region. We have a long way to go, but the hearts of the fathers are returning back to the children and the children to the fathers! (Malachi 4:6)

The Homosexual Question

"I hesitate in answering 'the homosexual question' not because I'm a cowardly flip-flopper who wants to tickle ears, but because I am a pastor, and pastors have learned from Jesus that there is more to answering a question than being right or even honest: we must also be . . . pastoral. That means understanding the question beneath the question, the need or fear or hope or assumption that motivates the question."

J-Lou and Heartbreaker Baker Get Loud online

UYWI legend John Lewis -- along with 80,000 others -- started a blog yesterday. So did Paul Baker. Welcome, guys!

I think Judah has a crush

It's only his 372nd. But this time it's on a character from a book, Lucy from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We started reading it over the weekend and are already up to Chapter 10. He's loving it! (And her?!) Have I mentioned yet that Judah's already reading on his own? Full sentences from the Level D Kindergarten reader, plus sounding out big words, like "Completron" (his vitamin). I stand in awe ...

300 pastors and ministry leaders prayed for our kids

I'll file a more detailed report later, but for now, read the Christian Post's account here.

Cries in the Wilderness: On what it means to be "Emerging"

[Below is my February column published in Tri-State Voice syndicated in Charisma, Christian Post, Next Wave, Youth Ministry Exchange.]

"Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! I'm making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands." - Isaiah 43:19, The Message
A generation of prophets cries out. They are, in appearance, humble; in sustenance, meager; in approach, gruff. Do you hear them? Americanized evangelicals – those for whom Christianity has as much to do with attaining the "blessed life" (more commonly known as the "American Dream") as it does following Christ – don't know what to make of them. Clearly they have something to offer. But we approach with caution, skepticism, and, at times, outright fear or resentment. Some call them "emerging" or "next" or "future." Others say "Emergent" or "new" or "Spirit-led." Critics describe them as know-nothing idealists or do-nothing demagogues. Often they are relegated to subculture ghettoes (an unfortunate redundancy) of ministry "departments" or labeled paternalistically as "urban" or "Gen X" or "millennial" or "postmodern" or "youth" and/or "young adult." Like The Baptist of old, their cry resonates and convicts: "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near." Do you hear them? The kingdom they proclaim defies evangelical niceties. They trade tailored suits for weather-worn camel skins, upscale cuisine for locusts and honey, gated communities for wilderness cave dwellings, and luxury rides for calloused and blistered feet. Their cause is justice for the vulnerable, love for the lonely, healing for the weak, mercy for the powerful, grace for the lowly, holiness without judgment, and righteousness in both pulpit and pew. The keys to this Kingdom unlock the gates of Hell itself. The sin they expose resides as much within the "white washed tombs" of our houses of worship and "broods of vipers" with ecclesiastical titles as it does the heart of everyman. They do not, in themselves, offer salvation. But they herald the One who does. They wrestle with complexity and embrace uncertainty and yet trust completely He whose shoes they are unfit to untie. Do you hear them? They speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. If Christians are those who've been "born again," they are prenatal caregivers who nurture the pre-born and minimize high-risk birth conditions. When complications arise, they do neo-natal intensive care real well. Their message meets a mixed reception because their eternal Kingdom disrupts and threatens that which is temporary. "If you have two coats," they say, "give one away. Don't collect more taxes than are required. Don't extort money or accuse people falsely. Be content with your pay, and respect what doesn't belong to you." (Luke 3:10-14, 19-20 paraphrased.) Some hear and repent. Many remain indifferent, and others, infuriated. But the One who matters most meets them in the water. "Baptize me," He requests as fulfillment of that which was foretold. Do you hear what He hears? The resistance at times causes the prophets to doubt. Rejection, persecution, and imprisonment demoralize and frustrate. Still, the King of kings reassures them. They glimpse the fulfillment of the truth they proclaim as the Kingdom invades their space and invites transcendence. Those who pay the supreme price do so at the hands of disgruntled listeners who fail to hear the message. But their sacrifice represents the highest honor in this Kingdom. Though the King of kings meets us on our terms, they live life on His. Let those who have ears, hear. (Matthew 11:15, paraphrased.) - Jeremy Del Rio, Esq. directs Generation Xcel and was named one of "30 Emerging Voices under 40" by Charisma magazine in 2005. He's still trying to decipher what that means. Decipher with him at his web log.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

"Seek His Face" with Us

On Monday morning we're off to the Concerts of Prayer Pastors Prayer Summit until Wednesday. Monday evening, Dimas Salaberrios and I will facilitate a 1 hour prayer time specifically for the needs of at-risk youth and the people who serve them, and on Tuesday afternoon, The Coalition will be hosting "An Inter-Generational Conversation: Engaging Youth and Youth Culture with Christ." Please pray with us that God shows up and the 300 pastors who attend hear His voice for 2006.

Wisdom from Ed Silvoso

I heard Ed Silvoso preach three times this weekend, first at the Mission New York event on Friday morning, then at the Youth R.O.C.K. launch Friday night, and today at New Hope. Plus we enjoyed lunch Friday afternoon with Pastor Roger McPhail and Dave Thompson. He preaches a powerful message for the 21st century Church, and when I have more time, I'll unpack some of the ideas more fully. For now, four nuggets: 1. The enemy of faith is memory (not unbelief!). 2. The keys to the Kingdom of God unlock the gates of hell. (Matthew 16:17-19) 3. The Great Commission is a mandate to disciple NATIONS, not just people. (Matthew 28:19) 4. Jesus came to redeem "that which is lost" (not just people!) (Luke 19:10) including: (a) personal relationships with individuals; (b) inter-personal relationships; and (c) the marketplace. There's lots more where that came from, but that's for another day. In the meantime, I've added his book, Anointed for Business (about marketplace ministry) to my reading list for 2006.

Jesus on Trial ... Again ... for Real!

A Catholic priest in Italy is being sued by an atheist for asserting that Jesus actually existed, and the Italian courts have so far refused to dismiss the case! His ultimate goal is to persuade the European Court of Human Rights to find the church guilty of "religious racism." Huh?

"Cascioli says that for 2,000 years the Roman Catholic Church has been deceiving people by furthering the fable that Christ existed, and says the church has been gaining financially by 'impersonating' as Christ someone by the name of John of Gamala, the son of Judas from Gamala.

"Judge Gaetano Mautone set a hearing for next Friday in Viterbo, north of Rome, to discuss preliminary motions in Cascioli's bid to have the court appoint technical experts to review the historical data and determine if Jesus really did exist. ... "Cascioli says he fully recognizes that his case has a slim chance of succeeding in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, but not because his argument is lacking. ... Cascioli says he is merely going through the necessary legal steps in Italy so he can ultimately take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights, where he intends to pursue the case against the church for 'religious racism'." Article.
Bitterness makes people do really stupid things.

See it

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bible Thumpers

My office is right across the street from the Village Voice. I rarely pick up the print version because of its explicit advertising and occassionally pornographic content, but sometimes its investigative reports and social critiques are worth reading (see below for two examples from this week's issue). This, I'm not so sure about. It's a special "In Focus" section highlighted on the website's homepage called "Bible Thumpers" that basically blasts all things evangelical with overbroad, stereotypical judgements. Or maybe it is worth reading, to understand how the world views us, why they view us that way, and how we can dialogue with them more constructively.

Crack as metaphor

This week's Village Voice tells a disturbing tale: "an odd renewal of interest in all things crack-related."

"[In 20 years] Crack morphed into an adjective (most notably Kanye West's "Crack Music") and it became interchangeable with the enthusiast (Santana's "I Am Crack"); the tone moved from survival to sport. Everything felt bad morally and good aesthetically. Hustling went mainstream, with reality television star Damon Dash and the perma-suit-and-tied Jay-Z. And one wonders what Parent X said when Child Y asked why 50 Cent's autobiography was titled From Pieces to Weight. A few aisles over, one of the year's most talked-about books—Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's Freakonomics (William Morrow)—featured a chapter examining the inner workings of a crack gang that concluded with a simple question: "So if crack dealing is the most dangerous job in America, and if the salary is only $3.30 an hour, why on earth would anyone take such a job?"... We find ourselves at an interesting turn: That violent sliver of New York history known as the 'crack wars' has become a discrete historical moment, free for all kinds of post facto analysis and nostalgia. Twentysomething rappers have their uses for history; it's the 1980s again in the streets, all me-first, get-rich-quick flash. Upstairs, veterans of the war are returning home after 15- and 20- year stints behind bars; survivors survey what has become of the city, listen to the music that was made in their name, and decide there is room for their stories as well." Article.

We still have work to do

Today's New York Post brought three poignant reminders why youth workers do what we do:

  • "Tears flowed like the driving rain yesterday as [7 year old] Nixzmary Brown was laid to rest after a short and brutal life that ended when she was tortured, and finally beaten to death — allegedly by her parents." Article. Her funeral was around the corner from where my parents live in the Lower East Side.
  • "A Queens teen yesterday told a jury how he and two pals fatally beat and stabbed an unsuspecting boy as part of a brutal gang initiation." Article.
  • "'How do you want to die? Painfully or not?'

    "Those were among the last words spoken to 21-year-old Hunter College student Ramona Moore as she lay, burned, beaten, raped and chained on the floor of a filthy, condom-strewn Brooklyn apartment — the helpless sex captive to two reputed Bloods gang members, prosecutors said yesterday." Article.

Whatever happened to [corporate] Welfare Reform?

Republicans have a credibility problem. The party that for decades championed the virtues of small government, private enterprise, and personal responsibility in its crusade for Welfare Reform has systematically created a corporate welfare state since assuming control of the Congress. Worse, they did so under what increasingly appears to have been less than savory circumstances.

"The key to their arrangement is a gimmick called the 'earmark,' by which the chair of the Appropriations Committee can attach small favors to spending bills without telling anyone. [The admittedly corrupt lobbyist] Abramoff called the Appropriations Committee under [Rep. Jerry] Lewis [R-CA] a 'favor factory.' And indeed, earmarks have taken off under Lewis. In 1998, Congress OK'd 2,000 earmarks, worth $10.6 billion. By 2004 earmarks had jumped to 15,584, worth $32.7 billion." Article.
Rudy, what are our friends at Acton saying about this?

More Nagin Bafoonery

[This is old news, but I haven't had time to comment until now ...] After lousy leadership in Katrina's wake, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin exploited Martin Luther King's birthday to call for the revival of New Orleans as a "chocolate" city, meaning "a majority African-American city," because:

"It's the way God wants it to be," Nagin said. "You can't have it no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."
Aside from bizarre theology and how it reflects a generally wacky perception of the world, the major problem I have with the statement is associating the goal of a segregated city with a hero who dreamed that his black children would play with a neighbor's white children without worrying about being judged on the basis of skin color. Nagin apologized yesterday [to the extent "I'm really sorry that some people took that they way they did," qualifies as an apology], but his chronic foot-in-mouth disease has already betrayed him.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rock the Sound presents

Jeremy Camp in concert, February 4, at Salvation Army's Centennial Hall on 14th Street.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

"Honest, officer, I didn't mean for the knife to actually cut him"

But it did, and perhaps also cut the Indianapolis Colts out of the AFC championship game. So says Ben.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Martin Luther King, the struggler

One of my favorite King quotes reminds us why he called the Civil Rights movement a "struggle."

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands at moments of comfort or convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and adversity."

With friends like these

Ralph Reed -- who once graced the cover of Time magazine under the headline "The Right Hand of God" because of his leadership mobilizing the so-called "Religious Right" -- has been implicated in the Abrahamoff corruption scandal. Say it ain't so! The Washington Post reports:

Abramoff and Reed -- the former executive director of the Christian Coalition -- have been friends for 25 years, and until recently it had been a mutually profitable association. Now it is proving highly inconvenient for Reed, and threatens to stall a career that has been emblematic of the modern GOP. ... [T]he first major dent in Reed's carefully cultivated image came with the disclosure in the summer of 2004 that his public relations and lobbying companies had received at least $4.2 million from Abramoff to mobilize Christian voters to fight Indian casinos competing with Abramoff's casino clients.

Similarly damaging has been a torrent of e-mails revealed during the investigation that shows a side of Reed that some former supporters say cannot be reconciled with his professed Christian values.

'After reading the e-mail, it became pretty obvious he was putting money before God,' said Phil Dacosta, a Georgia Christian Coalition member who had initially backed Reed. 'We are righteously casting him out.'

For the Georgia chapter of the Christian Coalition to expel native son and former Coalition executive director Reed from membership is incredible! They're either appallingly disloyal people or the evidence against Reed is damning. As a Christian brother, I pray he's innocent, but if he's not ... HT again to Jose.

Creflo Do$$ar reaps where he has not sown

Creflo Dollar, prosperity preacher and television personality from Atlanta, planted a church in New York last year. According to church officials, they've harvested 5,000 members already. But that's not all they're reaping. The New York Times reports:

"The New York church collects an average of $345,000 a month, which works out to more than $4 million annually. ... "About $800,000 of it goes toward renting the theater in Madison Square Garden; an additional $84,000 pays for the church's rented office space nearby; only about $120,000 is spent on the salaries of three people who are on staff. The bulk of the rest, according to church officials, is designated for the church's building fund. The church hopes to raise $200 million for a complex in the city." Article.
HT: Jose.

1,000 words

From Britannica's entry on Dr. King

A recent history of Civil Rights

From Newsweek's recent feature on Dr. King:

"The 40 years since have been a time in the desert for the movement, bereft of strong leadership and the clarity of the fight against Jim Crow segregation. As the country saw in Katrina's wake, Washington long ago moved on from a serious engagement with the problems of poverty. 'There has been a hurricane of neglect for the poor in this country for decades,' says Richard Townsell, executive director of the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation. Meanwhile, the consequences of family disintegration, which King well understood, have been, if anything, more severe than Daniel Patrick Moynihan and others in the 1960s predicted."
(Note the quote from CCDA's Richard Townsell.)

In honor of MLK

Jordon links to a provocative article in England's Observer newspaper about the rebuilding of New Orleans. Some of its most salient passages relate to race and the economics of rebuilding, so it's an appropriate first post on Martin Luther King Day. His dream continues, unfinished. On the complications race brought to the evacuation:

Was it, therefore, simply a matter of white 'haves' abandoning black 'have-nots'? Not quite. In the decades since the civil-rights movement, America has enmeshed itself in a cocoon of self-delusion and double-talk where race is concerned, and many African-Americans, their own fortunes improving, have played along. The black middle-class has distanced itself from those left behind. Chris Rock, the black comedian, jokes that he loves black people - it's niggas he can't stand. For others, it isn't a joke. The people stranded at the Superdome and Convention Centre were pariahs, and the root of their exclusion, deeper even than race, is poverty. They are what's buried below. Everything that the American Dream is supposed to wipe away. They aren't supposed to exist, yet here they are. How, in God's name, to make them disappear?
On who's to blame:
In recent decades, the mayors and the majority of the city council have been African-Americans, which merely proves that black rip-off artists can be as voracious as white. Pre-Katrina, tourism generated $1 million a day but not a dime ever seemed to reach the streets. And this was deliberate. Tourists need service - menial labour to clean their tables and make their beds, hose away their vomit on Bourbon Street. To provide it, the city adopted a policy of malign neglect. The old black neighbourhoods, rich in history and culture, were allowed to sink into ruin and the school system to founder. Without education, there was no way out. Many who refused to submit to grunt work in the Quarter became criminals, most often drug dealers. The public-housing projects that ringed the city's centre became armed camps, where killing was seen as proof of manhood. By 2000, New Orleans was America's murder capital, eight times as deadly as New York.
On whose pockets the rebuilding will line:
Nagin, like most of the city's black mayors, is light-skinned; the majority of project dwellers are dark. In a city where the 'brown paper bag test' has held sway for 200 years as a guideline to social status, this is no petty distinction. The reshaping of New Orleans, he seems to feel, is not a matter for the mass of its people. Like most things in America, it will be determined by dollars, and dark-brown dollars aren't many.
On the possibility that displaced poor people will be allowed a meaningful role in rebuilding:
A few citizens have set to work on gutting and restoring their houses, but the city has made no move to help. Nagin makes bold speeches, telling people to come on home. The trick is, they have no homes to come to. FEMA has thousands of trailers on hand, which could serve as temporary dwellings, but no black area has electricity, and white areas, which have, don't want trailer camps. As a result, most blacks who've returned are hunkered across the Mississippi in Algiers or out by the airport in Kenner.... Before Katrina, the city had need of young black males; in the new blueprint, they're surplus to requirements, especially if, like B, they come from the streets. Law-abiding or not, they find themselves demonised. In the days after the hurricane, the level of looter-hysteria reached such heights that two groups of white uptowners, not content with arming themselves, rented Israeli commando units for protection. The widely reported snipers at Charity Hospital turned out to be imaginary. And when the losses to looting were totted up, some of the worst culprits turned out to be policemen.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Who'd a thunk it?

Alleged: Jesse Jackson used the civil rights movement to promote himself. Self-promotion, nah, not The Right Reverend Jesse. Could it be?

What's good for the goose...

Personal responsibility works both ways. Another high-ranking Republican Congressman is embroiled in corruption controversy.

Pastoral blogging

... by Pastor Marc Rivera, here.


At bedtime, in lieu of regular prayers, Judah abruptly sat up, knelt on the mattress, and proceeded to sing his prayer, with hand motions:

"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you, Hallelujah."
He then asked me to explain what the words mean.

Eviction Update

Regular readers of this blog know that Generation Xcel and Abounding Grace Ministries, the church my father pastors, have been contesting a wrongful eviction case for more than a year. This is a quick update and request that you keep praying as the litigation enters another phase. Your prayers are working! Last week, the case moved into the "deposition" phase of "discovery." Discovery is the process of gathering and sifting through facts, or "evidence," that the Court can use to make correct decisions about the legal issues. Discovery generally involves producing relevant documents; answering "interrogatories," or written questions, with written answers; and conducting "depositions" where potential witnesses answer questions under oath. The first deposition occurred last week, with more scheduled through mid-February. Because our legal adversary is a church, we have sought every possible means to resolve the legal issues out of court, but to date that has not been possible. Our hope remains that we can reconcile our conflicting views in a way that honors God and respects the law, trusting that, "In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). We take comfort in the words of Paul:

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good" (Romans 13:1-4).
We rejoice that the judge, whom Paul calls "God's servant to do good" in this matter, has a process available to help her discern the truth. Afterall, "The truth will set [us] free" (John 8:32). (Sorry if it's cliche to string together a bunch of encouraging verses, but Scripture remains "a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.")

Peyton needed to win this game

The true greats take do-overs like the one offered Peyton Manning and the Colts today and deliver. After giving the Steelers the ball on their own 2 yard line with less than two minutes left, Pittsburgh's future hall-of-famer Jerome Bettis fumbled the ball, and for a flittering moment it looked like Indy was up to the challenge. Then on 2-and-2 and 3-and-2, Peyton goes long instead of getting extra yardage for an easier field goal. Then the kicker, statistically the most reliable in NFL history, kicked the 46-yard field goal so far wide it wasn't even suspenseful. From what I saw (the last 20 minutes), it was a great game with an anticlimactic ending!

Tragic week

On Friday, Pastor Roger's mother passed away suddenly, just one week after being diagnosed with liver cancer. We conducted the funeral for Rollie's mother, and my Uncle Miky's childhood friend was told that she will not survive the weekend, after a prolonged battle with HIV/AIDS. Today, Pastor Joe officiated his fifth funeral in one week. Please join me in praying comfort, peace, and supernatural joy for the families.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A fitting end

Denver derailed dynasty; delighted Del Rio.

On disaster recovery and rebuilding shattered communities

Last month, the L.A. Times reported that the generous aid following the tsunami has produced unintended consequences: "'I think we're creating a begging culture,' said Palitha Abeykoon, a consultant with the World Health Organization. 'Everything is free, people come for breakfast, lunch, take a nap, all at the camps, then get a $5 handout. It's no good, like giving a hungry man a bottle of whisky.'" As the Feds rebuild New Orleans, what are the odds we avoid a reprisal? From what I've read, they're not so good, unless we find a way to involve the "victims" in the rebuilding efforts so they turn their tragedy into "victory." Just a thought, but how feasible would it be for unemployed evacuees who intend to return to New Orleans to come before the reconstruction ends as part of the rebuilding? Not just a wage laborers, but as stakeholders. Ultimately they're the ones who lost everything and they're the ones who will be replenishing what remains, so why not give them an opportunity to reclaim the ruins as their own. Instead of returning to rebuilt rental housing as tenants of the government or low-income slumlords, why not let them rebuild their dwellings as private residences? They would be paid less in up front cash outlays, but they'd reap the long-term economic rewards of sweat equity. Isn't this how the returning exiles rebuilt Jerusalem under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah? What have I been smokin? This has the proverbial snowball's chance in hell of actually happening in our current political climate. Or does it?

Just because

Birthday:Oct. 3
Birthplace:Staten Island
Current Location:Brooklyn
Eye Color:Green
Hair Color:Brown
Right Handed or Left Handed:Rightie
Your Heritage:50% Puerto Rican + 50% Norwegian = 100% New Yawka
The Shoes You Wore Today:None
Your Weakness:Homemade chocolate chip cookies and Oreo Double Stuff
Your Fears:A wasted life
Your Perfect Pizza:Mushrooms and extra cheese
Goal You Would Like To Achieve This Year:Write book and produce an album
Your Most Overused Phrase On an instant messenger:LOL
Thoughts First Waking Up:Where's the snooze button
Your Best Physical Feature:My feet (HAHAHA)
Your Bedtime:Way past yours
Your Most Missed Memory:Our first kiss
Pepsi or Coke:Pepsi
McDonalds or Burger King:McDs
Single or Group Dates:Single
Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea:Nestea
Chocolate or Vanilla:Chocolate
Cappuccino or Coffee:Cappuccino
Do you Smoke:No
Do you Swear:Rarely
Do you Sing:In my dreams
Do you Shower Daily:Fo shizzle, my drizzle (how cheesy is that?)
Have you Been in Love:Everyday
Do you want to go to College:Been there, done that
Do you want to get Married:I am
Do you belive in yourself:Yes, but for the grace of God
Do you get Motion Sickness:No
Do you think you are Attractive:Minus a few pounds
Are you a Health Freak:No
Do you get along with your Parents:Yes, very much
Do you like Thunderstorms:Only in the tropics
Do you play an Instrument:The (computer) keyboard
In the past month have you Drank Alcohol:No, but I cooked with wine last week
In the past month have you Smoked:No
In the past month have you been on Drugs:An antibiotic
In the past month have you gone on a Date:Yes
In the past month have you gone to a Mall:Thankfully, no
In the past month have you eaten a box of Oreos:Not a whole box
In the past month have you eaten Sushi:Yes
In the past month have you been on Stage:Yes
In the past month have you been Dumped:No
In the past month have you gone Skinny Dipping:Only in the shower
In the past month have you Stolen Anything:My wife's heart
Ever been Drunk:No
Ever been called a Tease:Yes
Ever been Beaten up:No
Ever Shoplifted:No
How do you want to Die:In my sleep
What do you want to be when you Grow Up:A postmodern hybrid of Billy Graham, Bono, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, and C.S. Lewis
What country would you most like to Visit:Tibet
In a Boy/Girl..
Favourite Eye Color:Hazel
Favourite Hair Color:Brown
Short or Long Hair:Long
Best Clothing Style:Urban chic
Number of Drugs I have taken:Nothing illegal
Number of CDs I own:Not enough
Number of Piercings:Three
Number of Tattoos:None yet
Number of things in my Past I Regret:Two

Thursday, January 12, 2006

This could have been one of our kids

My heart breaks, but my spirit rejoices that her future was spared and she's now in an infinitely better place.

"Bound, beaten, starved, killed: Stepdad & mom face murder rap in death of girl, 7"

It's all about the sound of their own voices

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito finished his requisite Senate confirmation hearings today. Following, Senator Joe Biden called the hearing system "a game" and suggested it should be abandoned altogether in favor of a straight debate and vote directly on the Senate floor (the method used before 1925) because:

"Nominees ... come before the United States Congress and resolve not to let the people know what they think about the important issues."

It's funny he should say that, when Biden appears to be one of the game's worst offenders. For example, during the first round of Alito questioning, Biden needed 3,739 words to formulate his questions, leaving Alito time for just 1,021 words to respond. With such pontificating by the questioners, it's no wonder that what exactly the nominee believes remains a mystery.

Among the other bloviaters:

New York's own Sen. Chuck Schumer, whose 3,471 words outnumbered Alito's 1,166 by more than 3 to 1, and

Old hound dog Sen. Ed Kennedy, who spoke 3,282 to Alito's 1,557. Article.

Bloomberg: an "honorary lesbian"

"He has become part of the group of people that I am part — the gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual community. And I make him an honorary lesbian today." - Former City Councilwoman (of the Lower East Side) Margarita Lopez on Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

What exactly must one do to earn such a distinction?

A victim of the Transit Strike

Riding his bicycle to work during December's transit strike, firefighter Matthew Long was struck by a chartered bus making an illegal turn. He suffered multiple fractures and a crushed pelvis, and has undergone six surgeries so far. I worked for his mother Eileen Long as a summer intern in Congresswoman Susan Molinari's office back in 1992. She was a sweet lady and great boss, and her impassioned plea to a judge deciding the fate of TWU boss Roger Toussaint reminded me to pray for her son and his family:
"Toussaint has [led] his members to break the law and he must be punished," Long wrote. "He not only broke the law, he caused the situation leading to my son's broken body and my broken heart." Article.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sometimes old news is good news and should be recycled

Students from low-income families (annual income below $40,000) attend Harvard for free. If you work with or know any reasonably qualified students, encourage them to apply today!

Pray for Rollie

My dear friend and Xcel co-founder Carl "Rollie" Barnes suffered a great personal loss when his mother passed away in the early morning hours of January 1. The viewing and funeral service are this Friday:

Vanella's Funeral Chapel Inc 29 Madison Street New York, New York 10038 212 267 4522
His mother did not have life insurance, and due to prolonged unemployment last year, Rollie's personal finances to pay for the funeral are scarce. If you'd like to help defray the costs, Abounding Grace is receiving tax deductible donations on the family's behalf. Please mail or call:
Abounding Grace Ministries 9 East 7th Street New York, NY 10003 212 614 0370
Read how a hot dog on a hot summer day introduced Rollie to Jesus.

All it takes is one

Apparently the Gov-enator is a lawbreaker. Gov. Arnold (Ahnald) Schwarzenegger vowed to update his license after police found that he was driving his Harley illegally when he was involved in a motorcycle accident over the weekend. The spotlight can be harsh.

Miss you

Sorry for such sporadic posts the last week. Traveling and work and family commitments since returning have kept me buried for a few days.

Monday, January 09, 2006

barmarche - "Best Late Night Dining"

The editors of AOL's CityGuide nominated barmarche -- a restaurant co-owned by Xcel board member Chris Eddy -- for "City's Best 2006." Vote for them here, in the "late-night dining" category.

God never ceases to amaze me

Last Monday, teens began a campaign to keep Generation Xcel open at least through the end of the school year. Many of you have responded generously. One donor who fell in my predetermined "least likely to give" category donated $2,000 through Paypal! We still have a long way to go towards our goal, so kindly consider making a tax-deductible gift online here or by mail to:

Generation Xcel 9 East 7th Street New York, NY 10003

Much to learn from USA Today (and Urban D)

I met Urban D (a/k/a Pastor Tommy Kylonnen) last week at the National Network of Youth Ministry's UrbNet Summit. Cool cat. He's a hip hop artist and senior pastor based in Tampa. USA Today recently profiled his ministry:

"Crossover does 21st-century church in first-century fashion, going into the world like the Apostle Paul in Athens, telling of salvation in the language of the streets. He meets people where they are and speaks them, sings them, dances them to God, even if it takes a break-dancer gyrating with the chorus."
Maybe USA Today is onto something.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bachelorhood, Munich and Hockey

I haven't been a bachelor in almost nine years, so I'm a bit rusty. But with Diana and Judah gone to Massachusetts for a few days to drive Willie and Amber back home, I treated myself to a movie last night (bad planning and a NorEaster meant I went alone -- how dull!), and my brother Jamie took me to a NHL Ranger game tonight. As much fun as bachelorhood may be, I prefer happily married any day. The movie was Munich, and it lived up to its provocative hype. I'm not a big fan of revisionist history, and what I've read about the film suggests some revisionism contributed to its "inspired by true events" disclaimer. So as a history lesson, it's apparently unreliable. But as a film intended to provoke thought, it succeeds in making one pause to consider whether Jesus' response to Pontius Pilate and the Sanhedrin, Martin Luther King's response to Jim Crow, and Ghandi's response to colonialism in India might have been a wiser response to Black September and the terror that ensnared the world more than 30 years ago. Provocations aside, this is not a film for teens as it includes two sex scenes - without explicit nudity - and two explicit nude scenes - without sex. As for the Rangers, they lost a nail bighter, 1-0 in overtime.


Ironically, I'm flying to Florida in the morning to participate in a summit hosted by the National Network of Youth Ministries to explore issues of economic sustainability for urban youth ministry. I may be out of the blog loop for a few days ...

There goes that relationship thing again

Rudy's first column for Outreach magazine reminds us that people, not projects, animate ministry. Congrats on the new gig!

Monday, January 02, 2006

On the brink, Xcel lives to see its 10th Anniversary

One of the themes of 2005 at this blog was perserverance. Both personally and professionally, last year was the most difficult year of my life, but I wouldn't change it for the world in that it allowed me to experience faith and hope in a way that I previously knew only intellectually. Below is a letter I sent today to Generation Xcel's donors written from a place of perserverance.

January 2, 2006 Dear Friends: Young people never cease to amaze me. When given opportunities to lead, they do! Case in point: Last month, just before Christmas, all the adults involved with Generation Xcel determined to close our doors at the start of 2006 (Xcel's 10th anniversary year) due to financial challenges that began when an anticipated $75,000 grant fell through in August. We've operated week-to-week ever since, and when we had to borrow money to meet Christmas payroll, the Board recommended a shut-down. Thankfully, Xcel is a "by youth for youth" agency, which means young people had to approve our "adult" decision. They said no way, and asked for an opportunity to keep the doors open by volunteering through the end of the after school year. Even our staff -- still young themselves as 21 and 18 year-old college students -- offered to work as volunteers through the end of January, an outcome I desperately want to avoid. As I write this, ten teens have given up their last day of Christmas vacation to make phone calls asking adults to match their volunteerism by pledging monthly financial support for 2006. Some of you may have already received one. Please hear their cry and respond generously. If 200 people, businesses, or churches contribute $75/month, Generation Xcel can operate all of its programs without any interruption of services. Would you commit to invest $50, $75, $100, or some other amount in monthly support? Or if possible, would you consider becoming an Xcel Angel by making a one-time gift of $2,500, $5,000, or $10,000? All contributions to Generation Xcel are tax deductible and can be made online via Paypal or by sending a check to:

Generation Xcel 9 East 7th Street New York, NY 10003.

Thank you for your prompt consideration. Kindly reply to this email indicating your giving preferences: online or by check; one-time gift or monthly suport; and amount. In Service, Jeremy

Virtual Introductions

This post was inspired by my Tacoma reader(s?) who frequent this blog but never stop to say hi. If you have read this blog more than once and never commented (or if this is your first time and you think you might visit again), please introduce yourself:

Name. Town/state/country. An interesting fact about you that you haven't published on your own blog or website. Why you visit this site.
You matter here! Thanks for taking the time. P.S. This post is going to stay at the top of the page until January 2. Scroll down to see other new items.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

"Away with Words" for 2006

In December 2005, this blog saw more than 2,000 visitors, roughly 500 more than any previous month, and culminated a growing trajectory of readers. Thanks again for making my first blog year such a fun experience. If you have any thoughts on how to improve in 2006, please offer suggestions here. If you value the conversation that takes place here, please spread the word. Email your friends and link here from your websites and/or blogs. Let me know about your sites as well, so I can link to them. My hope is that this space becomes a safe place for hard dialogue about authentic faith -- the kind where the Word still becomes flesh and blood and moves into our neighborhoods.

When posts collide

In the last week, two stories repeatedly caught the attention of this blog: Tony Dungy's call for male role models following his son's apparent suicide and the impact of the internet on the so-called MySpace Generation. Today's NY Daily News brought the two threads together in an article, "The final hours of James Dungy," that attempted to unravel the mystery of why an apparently well-adjusted, well-loved teen would kill himself. Among the signs of trouble, the reporter found:

"Despite his many friends, the apparent direction he received from his family and the ease he had around people, including adults, Dungy had a personal page on Myspace.com that was quite stark. It included sexual images, references to weapons and marijuana, an anti-police epithet ("F--- the police," an allusion to an illicit-lyric N.W.A. rap song) and a photo of Dungy with his face obscured by a black bandana. The page has since been taken down."
One way or another, our kids are clamoring for our attention. Increasingly, they're doing it online. It's time to pay attention.

Tiki lights the way

Congratulations to Tiki Barber and the New York Giants for winning their first NFC East division title since 2000. Tiki's season will go down as one of the greatest of all time, as he gained more yardage from scrimage (2,341) than any other offensive player in history except Marshall Faulk in 1999.

More birthday cake, and New Year festivities

The play-by-play: Judah The Ham
works the room, seals the deal, and reaps his reward
"Happy New Year!" to the neighbors