What Not To Wear...To Prison

The friend that I have been visiting in jail was moved to state prison recently and I have not driven the three hours to see him yet.  I decided that today was going to be the day.  I read the state prison website several times this week being sure that I knew what I could and could not bring in, when to arrive, where to go etc.  I called the special hotline to make sure that no one was on lockdown and I wouldn’t be turned away after making the drive.

When I got to the dress code in the visitor information I paid special attention.  The rules are very specific.  No blue clothing, including jeans because that’s what the prisoners wear.  No khaki pants or green tops because that’s what the guards wear.  No orange.  Right when I started thinking I’d be safe with a long dress, I read No Mumus- apparently some women prisoners wear mumus.  Dresses can’t be shorter than 2 inches above the knee.  No revealing clothing.  Seems reasonable.  Oh, and don’t forget that it is going to be 80 degrees and creeping upward when you get there.  My clothing options narrowed as I read.

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Church & State: How Separate? (Part 3)

In the two previous blogs I approached to the Constitution’s address of where religion fits into the civil society, as it was one the topics broached at the previous Republican Presidential Primary debate held in New Hampshire a few weeks ago. The final question of this series on the nature of the Constitution’s First Amendment is what good has been brought to the civil society when religion has been removed from the public sphere of life? 

There are many today in our society, through all levels of society, who believe or promote the notion that the Constitution’s First Amendment teaches the separation of church and state.  This opinion has lead to a modern day isolationist mentality where one’s faith should be kept private from the public arena.  However, a clause which declares “the separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution.  The First Amendment does say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” but “establishment” and “separation” are two completely different definitions. 

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Ideas and Elections

“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.”

The preceding sentence was said by the late President John F. Kennedy and in many respects it’s the theme of this blog. My desire is to explore the power of ideas as well as the expression of those ideas. Why? Well, because I believe I am a work in progress (and maybe I am not alone) and that I live in a world that is trying to make progress. Undergirding all of this progressive optimism are ideas.

Many Christians call the systematic formulation of these ideas a ‘worldview’ and that’s not a bad phrase. But, some ideas, if we’re honest, aren’t always that clear in our head and so it’s difficult to organize them neatly and label them effectively.

Church & State: How Separate (part 2)

In my previous blog I wrote in response to the understanding of the U.S. Constitution’s establishment of the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause.  The motivation for writing this came from CNN’s broadcast of the Republican Presidential Primary debate held in New Hampshire a couple of weeks ago.  John King, the moderator of the broadcast, asked Congressman Ron Paul, “Does faith have a role in these public issues, the public square, or is it a personal issue at your home and in your church?”  This brings me to the second part of this topic by addressing whether or not it is possible that any person’s core beliefs can be separated from other parts of their life?

 In the book of James there is a great passage which wrestles with this question.  It has to do with a person’s faith, which would embody a person’s core beliefs.  James 2:14 says, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?”  If there is no action behind what we claim to believe, is our faith a true faith? 

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Everyone Wants a Piece of Me (and my Mercy). Do I Have Enough to Go Around?

I won’t pile on another boo-hoo essay about how the average American is suffocating under the avalanche of information that gets dumped on him every day. (That would be ironic since my blog would likely be just another pebble that lands with a rattle and a puff of dust near your SOS signal.)

But I will offer a different angle, more like an aha moment than an oh crap moment. It goes like this: the same technology that brings me useless status updates and viral cat footage also exposes me to an enormous amount of human suffering in the world. When both types of information travel the same information highway, it blunts my compassion reflexes over time. 

Does simply knowing about a cause make me noble? If so, then sign me up for sainthood. The ubiquity of lower-case causes is making it worse for upper-case Causes. I grew up during a time when causes were laid out one at a time. It was the era of Jerry Lewis Telethons, Amnesty International concerts, and Live Aid. Everybody knew about them, and everyone’s mercy was highly concentrated. It is different today when our mercy reservoir is taxed by relentless daily information, a constant digital draw on our spiritual compassion. 

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A Blind Man Learning to Dodge Waves

There is a story in the Bible about a blind man that Jesus comes across and his
disciples ask why was the guy like that? Was it because of his own sin or the sin of his parents?

Sometimes people ask me similar questions. So do you think the film didn't go as planned because you didn't make it explicitly about God? Some people may think its my fault or other people on the teams fault that we didn't raise the money we originally planned to raise, got in the crash, or have not gotten into any major festivals. We always wonder when someone doesn't succeed whose to blame, just like the disciples did. Jesus response to the disciples question about the blind man always blows me away:

"This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." - Jesus

Jesus cut through all the blame and focused on the moment and said, "He is like this because of this one moment in history and how his healing, him coming out of this struggle, will lead to my glory."

I'm convinced that Give A Damn?'s destiny was to not be a story of pure success, where everything seemed to go our way. The way we were to glorify God was through overcoming the struggle...

So here how the things have gone: We had a sharp business plan, cool website and fun videos hoping that an investor would jump on board and fund our trip. No go. Then we decided to grassroots fundraise, and after 36 fundraisers and nearly a year, we just barely had enough money to do the trip. By that time I am burnt out on everything and the first month of the journey is a chance to decompress from the last few years and have a tangible practical goal to accomplish.

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Church & State: How Separate? (Part 1)

Last night I tuned in to watch the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary debate.  It is not the goal of this writing to inform you of who to vote for, but to comment on the Constitution’s First Amendment of the separation of church and state, as this was a topic brought up at the debate.

The issue was brought to the candidates as a question from a member in the audience who asked of how the candidates understood the definition, and how it would affect their decision making.  In my opinion the second part of the question is rather negative as it implies one sphere of life cannot carry over into the other.  In other words, whatever your faith is, it should be kept in isolation, and kept separate from the affairs of government.  How else can this question be interpreted when CNN moderator John King asked Congressman Ron Paul, “Does faith have a role in these public issues, the public square, or is it a personal issue at your home and in your church?”

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God and the LAPD

Having never physically seen God I can't say whether or not he wears a uniform and carries a badge. However, I can say that God showed up in the LAPD chief of police's office today and changed some hearts.

Here's what happened this week:

Monday: the LAPD announced that due to budget cuts the Los Angeles Police Department Anti-Human Trafficking Unit was forced to disband. 

Tuesday: word spread among the anti-human trafficking activist in the southern California area and they rallied.

Wednesday: emails, facebook, and tweets blew up with the urgent request to countless individuals to email the LAPD chief of police directly urging him to reconsider the shut down of the unit and requests for online petitioners signatures went out.

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A Small Town Perspective on City Growth

May 2007 article from the Economist still seems like one of the better surveys of urban growth that I have read.
With that said, let me give a bit of a personal perspective and see if this resonates with anyone. Until I was 17 years old, I lived in a town of less than 5000 people in Northern Illinois. No one asked what school I went to, there was only one option. The only major fast food chain was Hardee's and Main Street was truly the main street. Over the years, I have seen the exodus of people my age and younger leave to head to Chicago, the nearest big city or to the four cornes of the earth. Why? First, two major factories shut down. The General Electric and Ethan Allen factories, which used to employ about a third of the town, each closed.
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Going on a Short-Term Mission Trip this Summer?

Don’t blink. Summer is a mere 3 weeks away officially although I’d venture to say many of you have already ushered in thoughts of summer vacation, warmer weather and more daylight in a day.

Summer is not only a great time for BBQ’s, beach volley ball and dozing off in the afternoon sun, it’s also the busiest time of the year for American churches to send out their teams of short-term missionaries on trips around the world.

Groups will be building homes, restoring others, teaching VBS lessons, playing soccer with children at orphanages and singing songs of praise in a number of dialects and languages unknown.

Recently I stumbled across a presentation I gave to a handful of short-term mission teams headed out to a number of different countries in the summer of 2005.

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