Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Rocket "changed the view" for his son

"Roger Clemens' son took dad deep on the Rocket's first pitch of spring training, crushing a trademark fastball over the left-field fence Monday. ... The next time his oldest son came to the plate, Roger buzzed him high and tight with another fastball. "He was like, 'Sorry about that pitch inside. I was trying to change the view of the ball for you a little bit."' Link.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Myspace Cheat Sheet for Parents

Should I be worried that my teenage girl is linked to so many male "friends?" HT: Tony

God was his co-pilot

For those who ever wonder what cliches meant before they became cliche, consider the World War II flying ace who authored "God is My Co-Pilot."

New York MSM finds the Gosepl irresistable

  • Can a rural Virginia pastor really be "Manhattan's leading evangelist"? (New York Times, 2/26/06)
  • Regarding Phil and E's book, The Hip-Hop Church: "They are going back to a religion that costs them something. In many ways they are going back to first-century Christianity." (Wall Street Journal, 2/24/06)

For those of us who can't quite figure out why so few comments actually get posted here

Check out the discussion board at Youth Ministry Exchange wrestling with the Cries in the Wilderness article. Impassioned commentary on both sides.

Stevens rock

Thanks, Matt and Katy and Da Boys, for a great weekend.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Coco visited Israel at the start of the year. He posted these two pictures (the Wailing Wall and the Sea of Galilee) today at his Myspace.

Away with Jesus

Diana's in Florida for the weekend at an Encounter retreat with Word of Christ International Church. It's her first extended time away from Judah (four days) ... an overdue and well deserved time of refreshing.

Networking with the pros

Judah held court this afternoon at Grand Central's food court with networking pros Doug Clark of National Network of Youth Ministries, Mark Orr of Northeast Youth Ministry Network, and Joel Sanabria of Youth Outcry. Thanks for embracing Judah as one of the guys!

"It was as touching as any moment I have ever had in sports," AND it got primetime coverage on ESPN

"The 17-year-old senior, who is autistic and usually sits on the bench in a white shirt and black tie, proceeded to hit six 3-point shots, finished with 20 points and was carried off the court on his teammates' shoulders." Article.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Caleb's Promise

Tuesday, Feburary 21st would have been Caleb Steven's eleventh birthday. In tribute, teens from York, PA created a website called Caleb's Promise.

"Caleb's promise lives on 2 levels... one is scriptural in that Caleb was told that he would recieve an inheritance of land.. all Caleb wanted was the land where Yahweh spoke. He recieved that land as it was given to him by Joshua. Two is that Caleb Stevens lived a life with promise that when that life was over a transformation would continue to take place in the lives that he touched... that promise would be the Passion for God....Compassion for man..." Link
Related: Read mom Katy's reflections here.

"Every church we close increases our job security"

So said a high ranking mainline denominational type to Brian McLaren. He was talking about all the urban congregations that fade away and urban properties they sell to private developers for cash that increases the endowment that pays their salary increases. Audio here, appx. 2/3 through (McLaren at Princeton, 2005).

Blustering Boss Brags:

The Yankees win! The Yankees win!

I guess I'm "it"

Fernando tagged me.

Four jobs I’ve had Construction, gardener, consumer complaint mediator, attorney

Four movies I can watch over and over Braveheart, Remember the Titans, Good Will Hunting, Gladiator

Four TV shows I love to watch Law and Order, Iron Chef America, Sportscenter, American Chopper

Four places I’ve been on vacation Greece, Italy, Spain, Puerto Rico

Four favorite dishes Puerto Rican Rice and Beans, Lobster, Porterhouse, Dim Sum

Four Web sites I visit daily CNN, CNNSI, UrbanOnramps, ESPN

Four places I’d rather be Playing with Judah on the beach, in the snow, at a national park, in the City

Four blogs I’d like to see do this quiz A Bob's Life, I Think Therefore I Blog, TS / Mobilizing Student Missions, Cracked Pots

Fun Times with NorCalUrban

John Liotti's in town on a recruting trip for Bayshore Christian Ministries. We hung out Tuesday night for dinner in Chinatown and dessert at Ferrara's. Met his son Sam and one of his intern alums. Thanks for having an ear to hear! BTW, Bayshore is offering 18 paid summer internships (plus expenses) for outstanding Latino, African American, and Pacific Islander students. Apply here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Drop out of school for that minimum wage job today...

Pay for that decision for the rest of your life.

The "spokesperson for all urban ministries in America" says:

Read this article before conducting another short-term missions trip. HT: Rudy.

Jabez reminds us how not to "enlarge our territory"

With much fanfare, Prayer of Jabez author Bruce Wilkinson went to Africa in 2002 to help in the protracted fight against AIDS and poverty. This past fall, less than tree years later, he announced an early retirement from active ministry. Christianity Today poignantly examines why.

"As Christ's frail followers enter the arena, we must humbly study the culture, persist in spite of painful setbacks, and heed others' hard-earned ministry lessons. Those who seek to serve as missionaries—whether in the 1st century or the 21st—invariably must take up their crosses. There are no shortcuts." Article.
I join Rudy in urging prayer for Mr. Wilkinson and introspection for ourselves.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


This blog post proposes a city-wide experiment.

What would happen if...

  • The 7,100 churches in New York City prayed every week for the city's 1,200 public schools?
  • Volunteers from those churches served the schools as hall monitors, classroom assistants, tutors, event organizers, PTA delegates, or coaches?
  • Students from those churches were empowered to be salt and light on the campuses?
  • God-fearing staff members from those churches, whether teachers, aids, principals, or agency administrators, recognized their profession as a calling?

Dare we expect that test scores might improve and the $12 billion currently spent on the school system be managed better? The idea is doable. There are 7,100 evangelical, charismatic, and Pentecostal churches in the five boroughs. In contrast, New York's 1.1 million public school students are scattered across 1,200 public schools. That’s nearly a 7:1 ratio of churches to schools. Including the 1,000 private and/or parochial schools, there are still more than three churches for every school.

The challenge to discovering whether the experiment works is to monitor and coordinate it effectively. Any thoughts how?


Random sports thoughts

An Intergenerational Stirring: Why Christian Churches Should Adopt Public Schools

[March Tri-State Voice, syndicated in Christian Post, Next Wave, Youth Ministry Exchange, Porpoise-Diving Life, NetMag.]

“… In love, he predestined us to be adopted…” – Ephesians 1:4-5 (NIV)

Last month’s Pastors Prayer Summit made history. Not just because more pastors and ministry leaders attended the three-day retreat (293) than in any prior year, or because the 35 participating youth workers represented a 600-700% increase.

Most significantly, this fifteenth summit, sponsored annually by Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, was the first time in memory that so many local evangelical leaders prayed intentionally – with one voice and for more than a few minutes – for New York City’s two million young people. Rather than generic, “Bless them, Lord” prayers, they focused instead on specific concerns:

  • At-risk youth within particular churches, including the incorrigible ones, the nondescript ones who blends into the background, and the weak ones whom bullies target;
  • Personal and community struggles, such as sexuality, HIV/AIDS, family disintegration, and gangs;
  • Systemic injustices such as a public education system where 60% of elementary school students don't read at grade level, yet we spend $12 billion educating them, and generational poverty that traps nearly 30% of NYC children below the poverty line, with 72% of Latino and 61% of African American children in poor families; and
  • The commissioning of ministers, both church-based and marketplace workers such as teachers, paraprofessionals, business managers, health professionals, and students themselves, to love youth without judgment.

This intentionality extended into a break-out session where approximately 75-100 leaders conducted an “intergenerational conversation” around how to enagage the region’s youth and youth culture with the gospel more effectively. With the assigned room packed beyond capacity, the floor and hallway provided overflow space.

Why the zealous response? Consider that Jesus described children, who represent 25% of the city’s overall population, as the most ripe for a spiritual “harvest.” Who's more "like a child" – Christ's prerequisite for entering the kingdom of heaven – than a child? Moreover, having been an at-risk youth (the subject of a future column), city kids are especially dear to Jesus’ heart.

To make the conversation more manageable – engaging all of the city’s two million kids 18 and under (by themselves, the fifth largest city in America) is a daunting proposition – the discussion centered on the 1.1 million students in New York’s public schools (only the tenth largest city).

Why public schools? To borrow another of Jesus’ metaphors, effective “fishing” requires going where fish gather, namely (cheesy pun alert) within schools. Factor in the reality that public school students come disproportionately from our city’s most vulnerable communities and compassion compels Christ followers to be transformational agents in the mix.

How then should believers and churches engage within the context of a nonreligious public school system? For starters, by viewing the system not as an enemy with which to wage some misguided holy war, but as an ally for equipping kids to live the lives God has called for them.

Beyond that, the summit explored the idea of churches “adopting” particular schools within their neighborhoods. Adoption is hardly a novel idea. The Fund for Public Schools has launched a campaign for local businesses to adopt schools for a cash or in-kind contribution, event sponsorship, and volunteer hours. Their ubiquitous PSAs run daily on radio stations throughout the region.

Nationally, the Campus Alliance network of campus ministries urges churches to adopt schools through its http://www.everyschool.com/ website. While their agenda seems limited to evangelistic aims, rather than also including systemic reforms, their call to pray for schools, equip students to live faith on campus, encourage volunteerism, and value schools as allies is significant. A review of the EverySchool database suggests that churches and ministries have adopted just 33 city schools through this resource to date.

As a citywide strategy, the best part about adopting schools is it’s doable. Numerically, the 1.1 million students are spread across 1,200 public schools. By contrast, sociologist Tony Carnes of Columbia University has found 7,100 active evangelical, charismatic, and Pentecostal churches within the five boroughs. That’s nearly a 7:1 ratio of churches to schools. Including the 1,000 private and/or parochial schools, there are still more than three churches for every school.

Imagine if every congregation committed to pray regularly for at least one elementary, middle, or high school in the boroughs. Now imagine if individual congregants became answers to those prayers by volunteering within the schools as hallway monitors, classroom assistants, tutors, event organizers, PTA delegates, or coaches. Even better, imagine if the students themselves were empowered to be salt and light on the campuses; and if God-fearing staff members, whether teachers, aids, principals, or agency administrators, recognized their profession as a calling. Dare we expect that test scores might even improve and resources be managed better?

What might happen if the Body of Christ within those 7,100 churches actually functioned as such and incarnated Christ within the walls of our schools? Kids might actually be loved unconditionally, families served selflessly, and schools transformed in ways we all long to see.

Rather than wage a quixotic battle to reinstate a meaningless nondenominational thirty-second prayer in schools, why not resolve collectively to actually pray; repent of neglecting to labor where the fields are white unto harvest; and commit to loving our schools through adoption?

- Jeremy Del Rio, Esq. serves public school students through Generation Xcel. To adopt a city school, visit www.GenXcel.blogspot.com.

Book Signing - Flavor of our Faith

My friends at Latino Leadership Circle are hosting a book signing next Tuesday for Karen Valentin featuring her book, Flavor of Our Faith: Reflections on Hispanic Life and Christian Faith (Doubleday). Details here.

NARAL's worst nightmare

The Supreme Court, headlined by Bush appointees Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, wasted no time jumping back into the abortion fray.

"The Planned Parenthood Federation of America was quick to denounce the court's decision to hear the case, calling it 'a dangerous act of hostility aimed squarely at women's health and safety.'"

Monday, February 20, 2006

This album better be good

You don't mess with an icon if you can't deliver the goods. Gospel hip-hop artist T-Bone's lastest album cover plays with the iconic imagery of revolutionary Che Guevera. Has anyone heard the CD? Reviews?

The World Next Door

I ventured into that world yesterday at Cornerstone Church in Wycoff, New Jersey, as the opening speaker for their week-long Missions Fest (download bulletin). They posted audio from the first service here. Thank you Pastor Fred and Rob and Sue and all of our gracious and loving friends at Cornerstone for welcoming me and making me feel at home. It was a joy to worship with you and experience first-hand your heart for cross-cultural missions. I look forward to many more visits and shared experiences for the kingdom!

Love that hair!

My nephew Seth, climbing out of his toybox. More pictures of him here.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Home Alone

"ARGH!" That's me, today, with Di and Judah visiting Lil' Wil and Ambrosia (er, Amber) and Tara and Willie in Massachusetts. I miss them terribly, but today was magical doing nearly nothing since this time last night. Got home around 10, had a late dinner, fell asleep watching The Great Raid, woke up around 9:30, finished The Great Raid, did devos, bounced between Food Network and ESPN, went to the bank, bought a sandwich and wonton soup for lunch and a skirt steak for dinner, took a nap after lunch, watched some nature shows on PBS, cooked dinner, soaked in a hot bath, watched NBA All-Star programming until a Mario Batali special grabbed my attention back on Food Network. Now this. Going to bed soon. An unapologetically restful day. Wow! Needed one of these. Tomorrow I'm back at Cornerstone after last week's snow, preaching three services in the morning and making a presentation at night, with Brandon's 8th birthday party in between.

Ralph can add "prophet" to his resume

Not to mention adviser to William Safire. Go Ralph!

Friday, February 17, 2006

From Crosswalk.com

From, Ministry Leaders Urge Church to Support Urban Youth:

"Two million people in New York City, or 25 percent of the population there, are under age 18, yet they are unnoticed and trapped in education and economic systems that have failed. According to a story in the Christian Post, urban youth ministry leader Jeremy Del Rio led pastors to pray for these urban youth at the recent Pastors’ Prayer Summit. Sponsored by Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, the Jan. 23-25 conference, held in Mt. Bethel, PA, was the region’s largest annual gathering of pastors. 'I represent a generation of leaders who are desperate that the hearts of the fathers would turn back to their sons and their sons to their fathers,' said Del Rio, who serves with New York-based Generation Xcel. The prayer meeting’s topics included: lack of relationships, sexual identity crisis, HIV/AIDS, broken homes and gangs, and the suppression of younger congregants' desire to minister. 60 percent of elementary schools kids in NYC can’t read at grade level, and almost 65 percent can't perform math at grade level. 'They're graduating ill-equipped to live, and that's an injustice when 12 billion dollars are spent educating them,' said Del Rio, who believes the Church should not just criticize and take Christians out of the school system, but empower the youth to engage and restore the structure from within. Jesus lived and worked in the ghettos, Del Rio noted, and was able to identify with at-risk kids." HT: Katie Sweeting.

Too much, too soon

"Lindsey Jacobellis had the Olympic women's snowboardcross won, and then -- incredibly, inexcusably -- she made one last move on the next-to-last jump and fell." Article .

Something's happening here

"There are now 7,100 evangelical, charismatic, and Pentecostal churches in New York City."

Wikipedia's report on New York's schools

"The New York City public school system, the New York City Department of Education, is the largest in the United States. More than one million students are taught in 1,200 separate schools. Because of its immense size -- there are more students in the system than residents in eight US states -- the New York City public school system is the most influential in the United States. New experiments in education, text book revisions, and new teaching methods must work in New York to be viable in the rest of the country. "Dedication to the sciences starts early for many New Yorkers, who have the chance to attend such selective specialized high schools as Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School, CUNY-run Hunter College High School (the public school which sends the highest percentage of its graduates to Ivy League schools in the United States), Bronx High School of Science (which boasts the largest number of graduates who are Nobel Laureates of any high school in the world), Brooklyn Technical High School, and Staten Island Technical High School. The Brooklyn High School of the Arts is the only high school in the United States with a curriculum in Historic Preservation. The controversial Harvey Milk High School, named for a gay San Francisco city supervisor assassinated in 1978, is the only public high school in the United States for gay, lesbian, and transgendered students. "There are about 1,000 additional privately-run secular and religious schools in New York. These include some of the most prestigious private schools in the United States, such as The Dalton School, The Brearley School, and Horace Mann School."

About New York's youth population

  • By themselves, New York City's 2 million people 18 and under would constitute the fifth largest city in America
  • Its 1.1 million public school students would be the 10th largest city
  • Its 563,000 children who live below the poverty line would be the 25th largest city
  • Its 470,000 15-19 year olds would be the 35th largest city

We have work to do! (More stats here.)

Compare: Top 50 Largest Cities in the U.S.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

8-14 year olds send 14.4 text messages and make 8.8 cell phones calls daily

This and other relevant factoids in, "Can MTV Stay Cool?" HT: Tony.

  • MTV Networks is a $7 billion-a-year operation that raises our kids. Its empire includes kid- and teen-favorite channels Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1, and Comedy Central and reaches 169 countries in 28 languages.
  • MTV tried desperately to purchase Myspace this summer because: "The exploding social networking community of 54 million registered young people would have been a perfect fit with MTV. Instead, for $580 million, it went to Murdoch, a steely competitor but hardly an arbiter of hip. The Murdoch deal was no mere acquisition; it was a red flag. In a rare stern message to her senior staff, according to one executive present, (CEO) McGrath warned that MTV could no longer afford to miss opportunities like myspace. Not when old business models were blowing up and every week brought a new outlet for doing what MTV had done so well for years -- capturing the niche."
  • MTV has made its reputation as a trendsetter by:
"creating a space where people feel safe and unafraid to fail: 'Falling flat on your face is a great motivator. So is accident.' [McGrath's] mantra: 'The smartest thing we can do when confronted by something truly creative is to get out of the way.' That's pretty much what happened when two young producers came to McGrath in the early 1990s with a new idea for a dramatic series that didn't require hiring actors or writers. McGrath was intrigued. The idea was to film seven people living in a New York City loft over several months, following the soap opera of their daily lives and dropping a soundtrack of new tunes behind it. MTV's The Real World debuted in 1992, and reality TV was born. Its 17th season is shooting now in Key West."

Cyber Darkness: Internet Predators

Dateline's been doing the world a public service by shaming sexual predators in a series of reports entitled, "To Catch a Predator." Together with a group calling itself Perverted Justice, they troll the internet posing as pubescent children (12-13 year old boys and/or girls) and arrange for "dates" with would-be child molesters and rapists. The third installment, which aired on February 3, resulted in 50 arrests in three days in one southern California neighborhood. This is another example of the darkside of Myspace and internet blogging. Predators lurk where children are, and as more tech savy youth share more of themselves online, salivating, slimy sadists will seek to seduce them. Parents must be vigilant, and the news media must continue to do good by exposing the filth. What are practical suggestions and thoughts for how to safeguard our kids, especially in youth development contexts that embrace technology?

What a tall, skinny Kiwi would say ...

... in response to the criticisms of the North American "emerging church" movement. HT: Bob. This caught my eye in part because of a recent question a friend asked about emerging church types and "truth." I'm new to this conversation, still trying to figure it out, but enjoying its nonjudgmental quest for how to "do church" more effectively and "be" Christ-like in contemporary cultures.

"My advice is to go back to the Scriptures, again and again, and back to the way of Jesus. It will get you in trouble, as it did Jesus, and you will be called a heretic, as he was. But you will be confident of His approval, if you imitate Him, for as the Father sent the Son, so He sends us. And you will also find the kind of success that the Father desires. " Article.

Domestic Violence resource

If you've never watched Xcel's music video for Pink's song "Family Portrait," you're missing something special. Honor CoCo (who produced and directed it along with Spot Creative) by sharing it with survivors of domestic violence and broken homes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A tradition 1,736 years in the making?

Valentine's Day.

Xcel After School Update

The following thank you went out to Xcel's donors this afternoon.

Thank you! The Xcel family, from our staff and board members to our youth leaders, volunteers, and students, appreciate so much your kindness following our 2005 year-end financial crisis. Thanks to our teens who volunteered to keep Xcel After School open in 2006, and to you who generously stepped up to support their efforts, we still are! To date, your collective response has generated $10,000 in gifts and pledges. For those of you who have not yet replied or who have not yet fulfilled your pledge, now would be a great time. (Read the January 2nd appeal here). Tax deductible donations can be made online here or by mail to:
Generation Xcel 9 East 7th Street New York, NY 10003

Overdue appreciation

Many of you know my personal friend and colleague Louis "CoCo" Carlo (rt. at top, with Jonathan and Xpress teens this fall) from his innumerable contributions to Generation Xcel the last three years. 2006 sees him embarking on a new phase of ministry as he leaves the Xcel staff to finish his degree and record his first worship album. (He remains worship minister at Abounding Grace.) Every moment CoCo spent with Xcel was treasured time, both for his unique contributions to our organization and also as a season for him to discover his own prophetic voice as a psalmist. He joined the staff as a full-time youth outreach worker in the fall of 2002; helped launch Xcel's film program in spring 2003 with the "Family Portrait" music video; facilitated ten teenagers who co-founded Xpress in September 2003; directed Xpress for two and a half years; produced and directed numerous events including three Celebrations of Xcellence, carnivals, outreaches, and five Xpress productions; assisted with the XL Service Corps and Chain Reaction (NY); and conducted a community assessment this past summer. CoCo leaves big footprints behind as his vision and compassion impacted hundreds of youth, most notably those who served so closely with him at Xpress. We rejoice with him at what his future holds.

MySpace Invaders; New Online Star Streaking Past Google

Returning to a recent favorite subject of this blog (see, for example, this post):

"... [MySpace] now ranks 13th among all sites, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. ComScore Media Metrix places it fourth by total page views, two notches above Google. ...

"But success also draws a spotlight on MySpace's darker side.

"In Middletown, Conn., police suspect as many as seven teenage girls recently were fondled or had consensual sex with men they met on MySpace who turned out to be older than they claimed.

"In schools across the country, students have been suspended for threatening classmates on MySpace and, in a case outside Pittsburgh attracting the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union, for creating a phony profile under the principal's name and photo.

"Parry Aftab, who runs the Internet safety group WiredSafety, said most MySpace teens behave, but a good number are creating online alter egos with which they brag about nonexistent drinking and sexual conquests in a bid to appear cool.

"And as parents discover their kids' profiles, Aftab said, they start to worry and tell other parents, who in turn spread the alarm. Parents, in some cases, try to ban their children from MySpace or the Internet completely." Article. HT: Jamie Puente

For thoughts on an appropriate adult response, go here and here.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Meet my brothers

Video here. Their testimonies are just over halfway into the video. They're sharing about the Encounter retreat they experienced with Word of Christ International Church. If you live in Florida and need a time of refreshing, check them out.

Coach Daddy

Cousin Rob went and did it. Rob Parker, associate pastor of Cornerstone Christian Church and my friend and cousin, wanted to write a book in honor of his father, so he made the time and finished the dang thing. It's both a loving tribute from a boy to his hero and the reflections of a man grappling with how best to pass along the his father's inheritance to his own children. It's an encouraging read, written by a young dad for young dads.

Low postage, premium delivery

My postage rates have declined recently in part due to a hectic travel schedule, but also because my wife's been monopolizing the home computer. She's launching an image consulting business called JAIA Inc. ("Just As I Am") and has been educating herself on the ins and outs of website development and graphic design. She has an early website up describing her first services: premium hair extensions. Show some love.

Snowed in

Yesterday, Cornerstone Christian Church's MissionFest, where I was scheduled to preach three morning services and conduct a ministry presentation last night, was postponed a week due to record setting snow-fall. The resulting day spent with the Parkers -- Rob and Sue and their clan (Brandon, Becky, Ben, and Luke), Uncle Rodger and Aunt Gail, Scott and Candice, and Chris -- was a blast. After spending the morning digging out of the snow, we reminisced and laughed and shared and prayed together. I even enjoyed Rob's lasagna (he has no idea how huge that is). After the Coalition meeting this morning -- where Dimas and I introduced Marcus Smalls, Walter Sotelo, and Kevin Young as the incoming co-chairs -- Judah and I spent the afternoon sledding. We've had so little snow this year, we couldn't miss the opportunity. Unfortunately I forgot my camera.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Pray for Boom2

Diana's mom (affectionately referred to as Boom Boom or Boom2 -- long story) survived a hit-and-run accident yesterday that totalled her car. She was stopped at a red light when a truck rear-ended her. The driver kept going, but left his front fender behind, with the license plate still attached! Six hours of x-rays and tests at the hospital and she was cleared to go home, with the caveat that she's going to be sore for a while. Pray for a speedy recovery.

Jesus walks with him, but the road ahead might get bumpy

Kanye West followed up his "it's all about me" speech following his Grammy for Jesus Walks last year with an even more self-absorbed appearance last night. The brother is amazingly talented and (at times) almost prophetic in his insights, but his look-at-me-I'm-so-great act is nauseating, not to mention dangerous. The same Jesus who walks among the downtrodden and oppressed warns the proud and haughty.

Let me take some of the punches

"You don't have to put up a fight You don't have to always be right Let me take some of the punches For you tonight "Listen to me now I need to let you know You don't have to go it alone"
From 2006 Grammy Song of the Year: "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" (U2)

With friends like these...

"If someone asks him, 'What are these wounds on your body?' he will answer, 'The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.'" - Zechariah 13:6

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Gay actor in missionary movie infuriates some evangelicals, delights others

Christianity Today has been following the story closely. Today's online issue offers opposing viewpoints: Pro:

"Christians are willing to go to tribal people, and seek to understand their culture. At the same time, our general approach to homosexuals is to avoid them at all costs. When we do interact, it's to tell them how wrong they are, rather than trying to understand what has brought them to the place they are in this life. Instead of building relationships and sharing the gospel, we shout rude slogans, and tell them they are all going to hell because they are gay. Instead of realizing we are in a war for men's souls, we say we are in a culture war, and treat homosexuals like the enemy." Article.
Con (by the son-in-law of slain missionary Roger Youderian):
"I'm sure Chad [Allen, the actor cast in the lead role] is a nice guy, but he wasn't the man for this role. Making the 'story the star' and using the best secular means to tell it, sounds like 'the end justifies the means.' Would the Christian community be ok with doing the 'Billy Graham Story' with an atheist pedophile because he had the best audition? Would Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Falwell and the rest, sit silent and just say that it's the story that's important? And why not have secular professionals perform your church music if it enhances the worship of God? If we cannot respond to this firmly, but in love, this is a sad day for the Christian church in the US. This film and it's making have become a parable for the weakness of the American church. How dare we wonder why our divorce and 'lives adrift' counts look just like the secular world. We talk one thing, and live something else." Article.
The film's producers explain why they kept Chad in the role after learning of his orientation in another article. Steve Saint, son of slain missionary Nate Saint (Chad portrays both Nate and grown-up Steve, who was only five when his father was killed) attributes his decision to an inspired dream:

"In the dream, Saint says he was 'being chased by a mob of Christians who were angry with me for having desecrated 'their story.' The answer to their hostility was easy: Just ask Chad to remove himself. But as quickly as this thought came to me, I found myself standing before God. His look was not as compassionate as I had expected. God said, 'Steve, you of all people should know that I love all of my children. With regard to Chad Allen, I went to great lengths to orchestrate an opportunity for him to see what it would be like for him to walk the trail that I marked for him. Why did you mess with my plans for him?'

"'I was fully awake by the end of this sleepy mind play. I knew that there would be a price to pay for any position I would take on this issue, regardless of the fact that I had not wanted to be involved. I knew one thing for sure: I would rather face the anger and even hatred of people who feel I have let them down, than to take any chance of having to stand before my Savior and have to answer for messing up his plans for Chad.'"

Executive Producer Mart Green offers:

"To be honest," Green said, "I would not have hired Chad had I known everything about him. But God had to work around me to get Chad on this project. He wanted Chad on this project. I wish I were able to articulate all the things that led me to understand that. It is very hard to share the ways the Lord leads, especially when you can't fully grasp why he is doing things that don't make sense to the natural man.

"It is hard to see people have to defend a decision that I was responsible for, for people to have ugly things said about them because of a decision I made. But I have total peace about the decision, and that Chad Allen was the man God intended to act in the movie. I will be held accountable for this decision, and I feel I have made the right decision."

CT readers overwhelmingly affirm the casting. I'm with them. The irony that a gay man would play the lead role in a story about love and forgiveness and cross-cultural evangelism that has inspired evangelicals for 50 years is divine comedy.

Most inspirational Super Bowl ad

Clydsedale American Dream (Budweiser). Other Super Bowl commercials here. HT: Jordon.

"Parents get blog tutorials"

Teens busted for underaged drinking after boasting about it online.

The ultimate (basketball) compliment

For an NBA superstar, nothing's better than this. Jordan on Kobe:

"If I had to pick the best player in the game, he certainly is up there right now," Jordan said. "It seems as though he's got the edge over anybody in that position, if not in the league right now."

"Do you really do this at a funeral?"

Former Presidents Carter and Clinton exploited the occassion of Coretta Scott King's funeral to take political jabs at current President Bush regarding the war in Iraq and domestic counter-terrorism wiretapping. CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield, former speechwriter for Robert Kennedy (a civil rights hero who nonetheless authorized wiretapping of Martin Luther King, Jr.) asks:

"Do you really do this at a funeral? "... I think on appropriateness grounds, you probably would be a lot more subtle. I mean, this -- the idea of civil rights in America has become now a consensus. There is nobody arguing that Martin Luther King was on the wrong side of history. And probably if you want to make your political points about the president, there are other venues to do it." Article.

Out of the Ashes

As if the Gulf Coast hasn't already been ravaged enough in the last six months, now an arsonist(s) is torching churches throughout Alabama. Nine have been burned in the last four days alone. To the affected congregations, be encouraged by the one whose mission you serve:

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me ... to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." Isaiah 61:1, 3

Bono on Message

Following his outstanding Prayer Breakfast speech last week, Bono went on the record about more intimate details of his own spiritual journey. PBS reports:

"[Bono] said in the last 10 years he's really engaged with Scripture. He told us he reads THE MESSAGE, a translation of the Bible popular with evangelicals that was compiled by an American mainline pastor, Eugene Peterson, whom Bono called 'a gifted scholar and poet.' Bono said lately he's been struck by Isaiah 58, and particularly verse 8, which in several translations says if you help the poor, the Lord will be 'your rearguard.' Bono told us, 'God will watch your back. I love the street aspect of that.' Then he quietly added, 'And it's really been true in my own life.'" Article.
Christianity Today weighs in as well.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

"Cries in the Wilderness" echoing at Next-Wave

Impassioned discussion, here. One enraged poster compares my article with Brian McLaren, Bono, and Doug Pagitt, as if that's somehow insulting. While I'm largely unfamiliar with Doug Pagitt's writings and teachings, McLaren and Bono I respect immensely. Another calls it "the perfect example (in an ever-increasing repertoire) to show all who may inquire just how highly this movement thinks of itself." Curious. First, because the article doesn't aspire to represent a movement. Second, because it's a desperate cry of someone grasping to perceive and participate in the new thing God is doing in and through His kingdom.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about God (but were Afraid to Ask)

An added benefit to being at the Jeremy Camp concert -- meeting and laughing with emcee Eric Metaxas, noted humorist and author previously known to me only as the brilliance behind such Veggie Tales classics as Even Fish Slappers Deserve a Second-Chance and God Made You Special! My son Judah's been a fan for at least 2 years, wooing me in no small part because Metaxas' humor made me laugh as much as Judah. His latest book is on my list for 2006.

Jeremy Camp concert goers invest in City youth

Rock the Sound invited The Coalition of Urban Youth Workers to receive an offering at Saturday's Jeremy Camp concert. Even though it was a ticketed event and was not marketed as a benefit, attendees still contributed $1,600+ towards the ongoing efforts by the Coalition to mobilize and facilitate collaborative youth ministry in the City. Thanks Joel and Don and the Rock the Sound team for your generosity!

Feedback from the Prayer Summit

"After hearing today’s discussion, in the sixties we would have said 'Right on.' Then and now, there need to be those who can bring diverse perspectives together and create opportunities for partnership." - Ron Mitchell, Coordinator, Hope Africa Project, New York
"80% of the people giving their lives to the Lord are 18 and younger. The church is spending 80% of its finances on people 18 and older. Resources need to be redirected to reach the next generation." - Phil Maxwell, Senior Pastor, Gateway Baptist Church, Bridgewater, NJ "God has always used young people to start radical movements. We need to equip young people and take them seriously. If we don’t, the world will." - Zola Allen, Youth Pastor, New Life Church, Elmhurst, NY
Sonya collected more feedback from the Prayer Summit and posted it here.

Orlando Round-up

Last week's Orlando trip was an unexpected blessing on many levels. First was the opportunity to get out of the city for three days and even enjoy a Disney hammock swaying between two palm trees one afternoon. Second was hearing firsthand about the upcoming Willow Creek Leadership Summit, including the announcement of the speaker lineup. Third was hanging out with friends like Roger McPhail and Mac Pier and Adam Durso and Joseph and Melissa Cortese and Terry Smith and Fred Provencher and Mark Gregori and Tim Mercaldo and Andy Puleo and the Concerts of Prayer team and so many others. Fourth was meeting brothers and sisters from the Willow Creek Association like Jim Mellado, Steve and Valerie Bell, and Paul Braoudakis. Fifth was spending Friday afternoon at the offices of Strang Communications and Relevant Media Group meeting writers and editors including Maureen Eha (features editor, Charisma), who made for a wonderfully engaging and gracious host; Adrienne Gaines (news editor, Charisma); Eric Tiansay (editor, New Man); Allen Quain (manager, Creation House); and Tyler Clark (managing editor, Relevant). Thanks to all for making the trip memorable.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Will your God tolerate injustice?

So asked Bono at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. A phenomenal speach; video here (21:41 min):

"Stop asking God to bless what you are doing. Get involved in what God is doing because it's already blessed."
He challenged the federal government to "tithe" the federal budget to international aid.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Embracing the mess

That's how Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox describes Generation Xcel in a recent article. In a second article, "Inner-city New York ministry impacts, helps teens overcome loss of parents," the Toolbox features the testimonies of Xcel co-founder Mei-Ling Garcia and Xpress co-founder Kevin Cedeno.

"'What else was there to do?' asks Garcia, at 26 one of the ministry's success stories. 'There were no other alternatives. That's exactly what I hoped Xcel would be when I became a co-founder – an alternative to the streets.' ..."
"'I was hanging on the ropes,' Cedeno said of his status in October of 2002. 'With their help and love and showing me there was hope, I felt motivated. I felt there was a future.' ..."

Rudy's at it again

He's stirring up the waters in his latest Christianity Today article, "Habits of Highly Effective Justice Workers":

"I worry that we are perilously weak at walking alongside the poor, at investing directly into the lives of individuals to give them what they truly need—not what we believe they need or what our policy statements tell us they need. I've found that it's relatively easy to raise a voice in protest, but unfathomably hard to invest in a life." Article.

A blur

My life, the past few weeks. Hence the sporadic posting recently. Please stick with me, an update's coming soon!