Sunday, April 29, 2007

vacation and more

We're on Vacation now in south central New Mexico in a little town called Las Cruces at the foot of the Organ Mountains in the photo. The ads say that there are 350 sunny days a year here. A menu at a local restaurant said "Annual Rainfall? Yeah right..." Well of the 4 days we have been here, we've had three with rain including last evening that looked like a light show with over 300 lightning strikes in the area. Other than that, it has been a restful trip. It is beautiful as only the desert can be and the chilis are HOT!

One of our issues was to look for some proerty to purchase. Things are booming here with an incredible number of housing starts at what seem to our California sensibilities as extremely reasonable prices. We saw a number of houses we'd love to live in. Too bad they are not in Santa Barbara at these prices. We're not clear wheter purchasing here makes sense but it is something to think about.

Being on vacation has kept me from any comments on the Democratic debate. I did hear some of the snipes against Obama for not being forceful enough and the descriptions of Gravel being too far to the left when he said that the military folk who have died in Iraq have died in vain and that the only thing worse than having one soldier die in vain was to have another do so. All I can say is that Gravel was right.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

what is beautiful?

The other day I had coffee with Billy Calderwood and Chris Henson from the Coastal Housing Partnershipto talk about strategies for involvement of faith leaders in advocacy for affordable ad workforce housing Santa Barbara. It was a wide ranging conversation with laughter and cynicism, ideas and excitement. They're both great guys who are also bright and insightful so it was a good time.

In the course of the discussion Billy brought up an idea that struck me as important enough to steal and put on my blog. We talked about the contrast between the breathtaking physical beauty of the area and the ugly underside of selfishness and exclusion that is seen in some sections of the community. Billy then shared that people often think of Montecito - the most ritzy area where many celebrities live (Oprah has a $50 million + house there) - as being a "clean" place of great beauty. Many of the homes there are hidden behind huge fences or tall hedges and massive gates. Many are not even visible from the streets. Neighbors are isolated from one another. Class and social barriers are strictly followed. This neighborhood was compared with Isla Vista, the student ghetto near the university which also has a significant population of mostly poor Latinos. IV is densely populated. The apartment buildings are right on top of one another. There are too many cars and thousands of bicycles on the streets. It is noisy. You cannot live there without rubbing shoulders with others. People are on the street interacting. Weekends can be wild and wooly. When there are social issues, the students take to the streets in solidarity with the poor, calling for justice for those who are oppressed, working for care of the environment or ending of unnecessary wars.

So here is the question... which locale is more beautiful?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pachabel rant

this is Rob Paravonian ranting about Pachabel's Canon in D... enjoy!

more crazy ideas

I've heard another crazy idea and assignment of blame... if only the men in Norris Hall hadn't been such wussies. Then, they would have attacked and subdued Cho. And the variation on this - all US young people should have two years of compulsory military service and every household should have at least one person trained in the use of firearms. Then, some well trained macho guys could have stopped this. Dr. Laura went so far as to volunteer that her paratrooper son - presumably without a gun on campus - would have attacked and subdued Cho, using his military training.

Well, maybe... but I've seen enough episodes of Alias to know that it takes only a second or two to change a clip in a semi automatic pistol and that long before Dr. Laura's son would have tackled the gunman, he would have been dead.

And as for compulsory military service... what about those of us who have religious objections to the military. As the Anabaptist bumper sticker says - "Loving your enemies probably begins with not killing them." What does it say about a society when we mark adulthood for our young men by training them to kill? What do we expect young people to do when the model they see in our leaders is that we pre-emptively strike the we see as threats and when the threats turn out to be imaginary, continue the course of violence?

Over the last day we have learned that this was a very troubled young man who had been flagged a number of times and evidently was even declared by a court to be an imminent danger to himself and others. That is where we must begin. The mental health system failed him and the rest of the community. The law failed when a young man who had been declared dangerous by the court and at least twice had been reported to the police by young women for menacing actions can go out and legally purchase guns and ammunition. Our leaders failed him and us when the president followed his condolences with a reminder that actions like this won't effect our rights to bear arms and virtually none are calling for even the most measured of gun control laws.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

what now?

It didn't take more than a few hours before the blaming began. In the best cases, it quickly turned to serious analysis - what could have been done differently or how do we keep it from happening again.

In what strikes me as the most bizarre line of reasoning, I have heard and read a couple of folk argue that it was restrictive gun laws that caused this. If every student at Virginia Tech had been carrying a handgun, no crazy could get away with killing 32 people.

While that may be true, the number of deaths both purposeful and accidental would be much, much higher. Think of the places in the world where virtually everyone has a gun (Iraq for one). Does that make people safer? Remember the Wild Wild West where people carried guns and became laws unto themselves. Imagine the next weekend frat blow out only this time, put guns in the hands of all of the guys, drunk way past good judgment and filled with testosterone.

Yes, people kill people, but it is a lot easier with a Glock 9 than with one's bare hands. And once the trigger is pulled, there is no turning back.

But what about the law? The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gives Virginia a C- for its gun laws (ahead of 32 states that get D's or F's). Cho showed a state driver's license and a checkbook with the same address on it along with an immigration card. The gun shops did an instant background check were the police verified that he was not convicted of a felony, involved in a domestic restraining order, convicted of a domestic misdemeanor, or had a dishonorable discharge from the military. When he passed these criteria, he purchased one handgun in a 30 day period and ammo and walked out. He was not checked for mental illness, other serious misdemeanors which may even have involved use of a gun, or even if he was on a terrorist watch list. The guns he purchased were semi-automatic with clips between 10 & 15 bullets. So he could shoot at least 20 times, as fast as he could move his finger, reload in a second or two and begin again. The guns themselves are not designed for hunting deer or rabbits but are good only for shooting at targets... or people.

The second amendment says,
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed

It is an interesting amendment. It is conditional. The reason that people have the right to bear arms is to form a "well regulated militia." What does owning a semi-automatic handgun have to do with a well regulated militia?

I have no problems with hunters or even target shooters. In either case, the guns involved are very different from those used solely against people. Assault rifles, automatic pistols, and semi-automatic pistols should be outlawed. They are not used in hunting and they are not necessary for target shooting. Waiting periods should be put in place for all purchases. Ammunition should be regulated. The size of clips should be regulated. We must end this love affair with weapons whose only real purpose is to kill people.

Monday, April 16, 2007

what might the church be?

I came across this article by Keith Drury, an adjunct professor at Indiana Wesleyan University and writer via Jason Clark's blog... and it is worth posting the whole thing here.
My students

The Coming Wave in the church

A get to spend my day to day life with the next generation coming along in the church. I see every day hints at what the church might become in the future. I have my ideas about what they’ll do in and to the church, but I’m not sharing that here. Instead I’ll just list 25 prominent characteristics of my students here and let you connect the dots. I’m interested in what you’ll say. If these characteristics hold true for them after college, how do you think this “Coming Wave” will affect the church? (See disclaimers below)

My Students

- From larger churches, yet value smaller ones. The last study we did showed our [ministry] students came larger churches—the median home church was 700. Yet they really value smaller churches. We’ll see if they value them enough to actually work in one. Or what they means about how they’ll approach their work in larger ones
- Model of a minister is a youth pastor. They are products of youth pastors. Senior pastors and solo pastors seem like District Superintendents to them—something they might some day do but not on their radar at all yet.
- Prophetic rhetoric—they are unsatisfied. They think there is something wrong with the church—something really wrong that needs fixed.
- Expect lots of structure. They “never went out to play” on their own. They were taken on play dates, to organized sports, to dance lessons, to clubs after school. They expect directions and instructions and supervision and help. When they are told “there is no syllabus or assignments in the church” it terrifies them. They don’t seek a job “where the pastor leaves me alone” but want plenty of structure and mentoring.
- Denominations are good. While they don’t like denominationalism they like denominations and are far more “loyal” than earlier generations. They like the general church even more than districts. If headquarters leaders can hold on for another decade they’ll be in the sweet!
- Suspicious of all-the-answers approach. They despise cocky know-it-all answers and believe people who have all the answers are faking it or have not thought through things deeply enough. They are open to “other answers” besides the ones that are recited by everyone today.
- Value orthopraxy—especially right attitudes. A right answer given with a wrong attitude is suspicious to them. Attitudes and treatment of others is more important than right answers. They would have hated the Pharisees of Jesus day—people generally correct in their doctrine but wrong in their attitudes. To them, “Heresy is an attitude.”
- Holistic—everything is spiritual. Integration is their lifestyle. They pray about everything: baseball, sex, kissing, and light bulbs. A U2 concert can be worship to them as easy as prayer meeting.
- Assume evangelical church is the mainline. They have never known a time when evangelicals were the minority. They assume we are the mainline church.
- “Journey conversion.” They were raised in youth groups that expected them to be saved but offered them dozens of times for commitments and recommitments and they assume that conversion is a journey more than an event. Their approach to evangelism is thus helping others on that journey step by step.
- Value social action—worldwide. They value green, helping the poor, supplying food for the hungry, caring for those with AIDS, acting on behalf of sexual slavery and whatever else Bono says are the acts that a “real Christian” should be doing.
- “Organic.” They like simple things, authentic stuff, being real and they expect everyone to confess their sins even publicly on their blog. To hide a sin is a bigger sin than the sin itself. And they don’t like fancy—many complain about super-super video streams running behind the choruses and call for a simple white screen—they think lots of boomer worship is fake and almost all bands are too showy. Some even argue that the band should be in the back of the church.
- Self-centered entitlement. They have always gotten what they wanted and seldom paid for it. They use parental money or borrowed money for life. They have parent-supplied cell phones and cars and swipe their cards for $3.00 coffees at the coffee shop daily. They expect stuff to come to them out of life and are thus slow to express gratefulness. If a boomer shells out $40 for pizzas to treat them they will wander over to the pizzas, glance over the selection then ask, “None with sausage?”
- Assume a staff ministry. They not only expect to serve with a church staff they expect to have a staff. In my sophomore class when I assign them to develop a church program to promote one-to-one mentoring, they often assume they’ll have a staff to do the work! Really!
- Minor concern for evangelism. They have a tiny bit of concern for the lost. Mostly their “evangelistic” concern is a pre-evangelism concern for how the world views loud Christians who noisily scold the world for things. They’re embarrassed by the past scolding activism of the church and think the church has more confessing to do to the world than visa versa.
- Kindness is a central virtue. Thus being unkind is a cardinal sin.
- IMHO approach. The shorthand web language represents their approach to propositionalism— “In My Humble Opinion.” They consider other approaches to be arrogant.
- Hard workers—especially in groups. I have never seen more hard workers than this crop of students, especially when they are doing a project in a group. They will work all night if they are working with each other to produce a collaborative project.
- Leisurely approach to getting started in life. Most expect to get settled in life and ease into life by age 30. My denomination’s ordination system (college plus two years of service then ordination) is designed for my generation not theirs. They feel rushed by such a system and many want to settle their calling by age 30 or so.
- Despise self-promotion or bragging. The single best way to make them dismiss you is to say anything that appears to be bragging or self-promoting. You can’t even mention your “books in the lobby” or they will totally reject you as a self-promoter clown. Humility is not a virtue—it is the required minimum.
- Tolerant. The Boomer’s attempts to fight their tendency to toleration failed. It is a central characteristic of their generation.
- Tremendous idealism and naivety. They really believe they can make the world a better place and can remake the church into what Christ wanted it to be. They are shocked to discover that people in the church can sometimes be critical, argumentative and divisive. “It isn’t right—why is this?” They expect a time of prayer will solve most all problems and if people are right with God they wouldn’t act this way.
- See the church “doing life together.” Their idea church is a collection of people who like each other and “do life together” something on the pattern of F*R*I*E*N*D*S.
- Woefully trained in “life skills.” Many have never learned how to balance a checkbook or file their income taxes or make a budget. When they get their first apartment off campus they are shocked to discover that they have to pay for water. “Water??? Why would I have to pay for water?
- Not afraid of holiness. While many of their parents have hidden the term under the bushel they are keenly interested in the call to holiness and many really think it is possible to become a “fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.”

To the degree that these observations are accurate, they say a great deal about the shape of the Church in coming years. Of course, the sample of students are limited to those who would attend that particular school... What do you all think?

a day of horror

My son is home from school today because of illness and turned on the television at about 1:30 pacific time only to get the news of the horror at Virginia Tech. As I watched the news conference, more than once my eyes filled with tears as I thought of the student's families, some of whom are wondering what has happened and whether their loved ones are safe, others have gotten word and are relieved, and some have gotten the worst news possible. The potential of each of those young people is forever gone...

At this point we don't know exactly what happened or what led a young man to such unspeakable violence. What we do know is that it is not uncommon... 33 killed at random is a typical day in Iraq. 33 dead for no reason is a good day in Darfur. Children traumatized by violence around them is normal in many areas of our world (today's USA Today reports a study that shows 70% of Iraqi school children suffer from traumatic stress).

I pray for comfort for the families of the victims, for healing for those injured and those who will never be able to erase the memories of the day. I pray for a culture, a world where violence is the easy answer to problems. I pray for peace.

Friday, April 13, 2007

break the spell of the typical

That fun video by Mute Math was recorded backwards and then played forwards... what a fun metaphor for breaking out of the typical and finding another level to life.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Habitat for Humanity

Today I am thrilled about two things.

The first is that this etry has nothing to do with Travis Armstrong. nuff said.

The second is that this morning was the dedication for the first completed Habitat project in Santa Barbara - three homes on Via Lucero. It was a wonderful ceremony as we celebrated the work of hundreds of volunteers, businesses, government agencies, family members who have now become homeowners, and the Habitat board and staff. It is only three homes but they are a symbol that we can make a difference. Of course, they are much more than symbols to the three families whose lives are forever changed because they now are owners of a piece of this community.

Soon a second project will begin that will have at least four homes. May this be just the start of many many projects providing houses for deserving folk and a permanent place in the community for these families.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It's a Miracle!!!

Now, I am a Christian and I believe in the power of God. I believe in the possibility of miracles. And more than that, I am a Baptist so I believe in the possibility of conversion, of radical changes in direction for people... of redemption. I believe in hope that overcomes cynicism and grace that transcends evil.
I was soooo excited this morning when a quick glance at Travis Armstrong's editorial in the News Press included these words, "what should disturb everyone in our county, is the reliance on alarmist rhetoric and disinformation..." I was a fraction of a second away from singing "Halleluia!" when I read the rest of the commentary. It wasn't a confession. It was a condemnation of those with whom he disagrees regarding the Chumash.

Now I have no position on the controversy surrounding the Chumash. I'm not even sure what it is. I'm sure it is important for the Chumash and for some who live in the Santa Ynez valley but I've got other issues that I'm worried about... wouldn't it be wonderful if we discussed them all with an absence of alarmist rhetoric and disinformation? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could sit together across ideological lines and talk about what needs to be done to address housing needs, poverty, homelessness, gang violence, environmental stresses, even the controversy around Chumash expansion plans or the lack thereof, and a hundred other issues that shape the lives of the members of our community? Wouldn't it be wonderful if the News Press helped set the tone for those discussions by using facts, a civil tone, and allowing fair hearing for all sides of the issues?

That would be a miracle! And I believe in miracles!

Teena's letter

On Monday, I responded to Travis Armstrong's attack in the News Press against the clergy but specifically against Teena Grant. Craig Smith has published the e-mail here for you to make your own judgements as to whether the e-mail is snarky.

Thank's Craig.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Yet again Travis?

Yesterday Travis Armstrong continued his attacks on some of the local clergy, this time singling out Teena Grant, the president of the Santa Barbara Clergy Association.

He wrote...

Regarding this criticism, I was taken aback a bit by the somewhat snarky e-mail the Rev. Teena Grant, president of the Greater Santa Barbara Clergy Association, sent to me from her Cottage Hospital work e-mail address. I guess I just expect the clergy to be a cut above the rest of us in how they respond and act. (Note to Cottage officials: In light of this, will the hospital's "spiritual care services" be open and welcome to me or my family if needed?)

First off, do you have any idea what "snarky" means? I assume it is bad from the context, but I sure don't know. And expect more than what? We have no idea what Teena said in the e-mail, but then if he had quoted her, I would bet there would be no way to condemn her as Teena is a woman of grace and integrity and I expect that would be evident in the e-mail.

As to his implications that Teena would use her job to hurt someone with whom she differs, let me quote wikipedia on psychological projection...
In psychology, psychological projection (or projection bias) is a defense mechanism in which one attributes ("projects") to others, one’s own unacceptable or unwanted thoughts or/and emotions. Projection reduces anxiety by allowing the expression of the unwanted subconscious impulses/desires without letting the ego recognize them.

Every day Teena puts her heart on the line as she cares for our community in times of trauma and dis-ease. More than once she has provided pastoral care to families of victims of gang violence and has offered a calm and supportive presence while they waited for word regarding a loved one. More than once, she has allowed her own heart to break at the pain of others.

Mr Armstrong consistently uses his position to bully others without allowing them fair opportunity to respond. As far as I know, he has never spoken to any of the members of the clergy association. I am fairly sure that he has been invited to attend our meetings. He uses hot button words to smear people when he cannot rebut their argument ("liberal-leaning," "funded by developers"). And he consistently either misunderstands or misrepresents the views of those with whom he disagrees. More than once he has complained about these "liberal-leaning" clergy trying to meddle in News Press "private" matters. Surely he realizes that the clergy have no interest in the private business matters of the News Press but we do have interest and a stake in fair reporting, a newspaper that is more than a hobby for some wealthy interests, and even intelligent and informed opinions (whether we agree with them or not). A newspaper has significant influence in a community. We are only concerned that influence is used responsibly.

And again, he questions the priorities of the clergy... but how can he know what those priorities are? Has he interviewed any clergy? Has he looked at the budgets or programs of any local congregations? I'd be glad to sit and have coffee with him and talk about what is happening. I'm sure other clergy would as well. Yes, he covers his behind by saying that "some have done little to work directly with parents and children" but the implication is clear.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


yeah... it's probably sick and it definitely is addicting...
Flight of the Hamsters
see how many feet you can launch a hamster...
I have to admit I'm not very good yet. My highest total is only 277 but I'm practicing.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


A few months ago I blogged about one of the joys of being a musician... I get to meet some wonderful, talented folk, and sometimes get to perform with them. It is a mystical experience when it works.

Last night I met with a wonderful singer/songwriter named Jamie Green who has recently moved to Santa Barbara and is looking for a guitar player. (Thanks Mike for connecting us!) So I'm going to learn some of her tunes and we'll see whether it works. Hopefully, I'll be performing with her sometime soon. I'm excited about the possibilities... and at the very least, I will have made a new friend.

In the meantime, do go and listen to some of her songs and then purchase a CD or two. Wonderful music!

Monday, April 02, 2007

You've Won!

As Americans we all like to win from a "dollar and a dream" to "you never know." Occasionally some kind of competition takes place where the spectators are the ones who really win.

In 2009 a car race will take place sponsored by Automotive XPrize. This race will involve cars that are commercially producible and will get 100 miles to the gallon of gas or its equivalent. The winning team will get a multi-million dollar prize (probably not enough to recover their development costs) but they will also have the honor and the publicity of producing a technology that could free us from the stranglehold of the oil industry, save our environment, and potentially change the direction of the future. And then the free market will take over. And if anyone gets anywhere near the goal, we'll all be winners! Cool!

Sunday, April 01, 2007