Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday morning, coffee, donuts, death, rejection part 1

It's raining buckets on us today; though I've previously lived in Orange County for over four seems like I can count on one hand how many times I've actually had to walk around in the rain. That's either because (according to Albert Hammond) "It Never Rains in Southern California" or because (a song I should write) "You Never Have to Walk in Southern California."

Yesterday was a pretty phenomenal day at the conference, though I must take issue with the organization of the sessions which are structured something like one of those torture scenes in movies (or likely real life somewhere in Guantanamo) where they lock your eye lids open and force you to watch hours of information. The speaker list has included everyone from Senator Hillary Clinton (I was all prepared to live blog her speech yesterday and then couldn't take my computer into the session) to UN Undersecretary General Peter Piot to Her Excellency Mrs. Maureen Mwanawasa, First Lady of Zambia and Her Excellency Mrs. Jeanette Kagame, First Lady of Rwanda. Saddleback, though in their zeal to educate us, have neglected to put enough interactive elements in place in order to allow more conversation and input from the many church leaders who are here and are not famous for publishing books. In spite of this though, I believe this to be the most important conference I have ever been to.

Senator Clinton's speech yesterday detailed a comprehensive and ambitious plan to fund further AIDS research and treatment and to end Malaria permanently by the end of a possible second term in office. I continue to be impressed by Governor Huckabee, as he seems to be a genuinely compassionate conservative, both on immigration and AIDS. Certainly, this conference is impacting our national policy agenda this week at least and I think that is amazing.
I briefly met David Miller yesterday, who is one of the funniest, bluntest people I've ever heard speak. He is a board member of The AIDS Institute and is involved in some very radical activism and civil disobedience. Check out the AIDS Institute website.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Real OC?

It's more than a little surreal to be back in the familiar confines of Orange County, staying in the comfortable Marriott Courtyard, walking the plush walkways of the beautiful Saddleback church and talking so much about a chronic and often fatal disease that is without question, the greatest crisis in history. Today's snack spread in the courtyard between sessions probably would have put Martha Stewart to shame...the only thing truly missing being good coffee, but probably they have some kind of secret deal with Starbucks where the church agrees to serve substandard coffee in order to not threaten the corporate giant. This is Orange County after all, the capital of Big Business and conservative politics.

There was an article today in the OC Register about some of the controversy generated by Rick and Kay Warren's invitation of Obama last year to the summit and Senator Clinton at this year's. The piece mentioned that a new(er) generation of christian leaders may no longer be using abortion and gar rights issues as a litmus test for who is acceptable to work with. I say Amen to that, if it really is true. One thing I know to be true, as was mentioned by Steve Haas this morning...a lot of defrosting needs to take place in the hearts of our church communities so that we can begin to look beyond the stigma of AIDS and start to minister to people not statistics, regardless of how they got the disease. It's kind of amazing that the church has made such a big deal out of how people get sick with HIV/AIDS. In fact, I can almost bet you that a lifestyle of drug use and smoking could get you lung cancer and few, if any, people would ask you how you got it. If you've got AIDS, it has seemed to me, people care about whether you got it from sex, homosexual sex, or drug use. Which is kind of unfair considering the number one killer in America is heart disease and we know that disease is largely preventable if we'd eat better and exercise more.

what to do?

I am struggling with how to process all of this information and all of these stories into action. One day into the conference and it's clear that my battery and typing skills are ineffective with keeping the information stream constantly open. It's overwhelming ...

all these deaths,
all these preventable infections.

For the last few years, I do believe that Bekah and I have been taking action directly/indirectly on the AIDS pandemic, mostly through our work with poverty-eradication organizations. It began very marginally, with us getting involved in 2003 with World Vision's work in Zambia, to our work with Freedom From Hunger in Davis and working to educate teens through participating in WV's 30-hour famine for AIDS and poverty relief in Africa to our advocacy for the ONE campaign. However, none of this seems sufficient, none of this seems to be enough. I know, instinctively, that's it can never be enough. To stop AIDS and eliminate poverty, to care for the worlds 143 million orphans, it will take nearly everyone. But if the church is the hope if the world and I do agree with Bill Hybels on that one, than I need to figure out how to turn personal advocacy into church activism.

Steve Haas, Vice President of World Vision Church Relations, spoke in his address this morning about how he's become something of a pariah at dinner parties because of his conviction about the HIV/AIDS crisis. I'm sure there's a bit of hyperbole there but maybe those of us who care about this issue could stand with being a little more annoying at social gatherings for the sake of the dying poor.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

HIV --

Today, after lunch and an exhaustive pre-summit on Orphan Care that will take me awhile to digest, I decided to take the free HIV test that was being offered. Fortunately, my test was negative. I was almost 99.8% sure that there was no way I would test positive since I haven't used ID drugs and have only had one sexual partner. Still, it was a little nerve-racking none the less. I was surprised to learn that there is a test that can be done in only ten minutes and the avaiablity of this test means that everyone should be encouraged to get tested.

I forgot my power supply so this is the likely the last blog entry before tonight.


It's not a statistic that you hear much outside of non-profits and medical NGOs but there are 143,000,000 orphaned and abandoned children in the world today. Any discussion of AIDS cannot ignore that the largest factor in children being orphaned is HIV/AIDS.

There are many shocking statistics and the problem is much too overwhelming to be summed up with only stats. We are kind of statistically numb in America anyway. However, 143 million, to these ears, is a stat that represents an impossible challenge. One that, also from my perspective, is a crisis that can only be solved by people who will co-operate with a God who gives significance to every one of the 143,000,000.

Another set of un-ignorable stats courtesy of Angela Wakhweya, Senior Technical Officer in the Orphans and other Vulnerable Children Unit, Prevention and Mitigation Division, Family Health International...

90% of all orphans are Sub-Saharan Africa.

In America, 99% of children born to HIV mothers do not have the virus. In Africa, that number is reversed.

Global Summit on AIDS and the Church

This Wednesday through Friday, I'm attending the Global Summit on AIDS and the Church at Saddleback in Lake Forest, CA. We got into town yesterday afternoon and got to spend some time drinking coffee (herbal tea for Bekah and squash for Amelia) at the Gypsey Den before going over to our great friends John and Lindy Thomas place for dinner.

I'm extremely privileged to be attending this conference and will simulcast (simul-blog?) here and at the northparkchurch young adults blog to share what I'm learning with you if anyone's interested.

This morning's extra session is on Orphan care...more to come.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

instead of shopping on this marvelously horrible holiday that black friday has become, bekah and I are making stuff and making recordings...oh and hanging christmas decorations in between feeding Amelia carrots and cheerios. all of which has got to be more punk rock than waiting in line outside best buy at three in the morning.

so anyway though, i'm not trying to criticize you if you're surfing the web on your iphone right now whilst shopping at the mall, so definitely try and have a good time if that's what you are up to. just for me, i have the bad aftertaste of commercialism and materialism in my mouth and we're trying to wash it out with some creative endeavors like making wallets out of paint swatches. surely the disillusionment is partly my own fault for watching tv and looking at billboards. we should just move to siberia.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Happy Thanksgiving everyone, I read an article today that mentioned how families are cutting back on spending this year, some due to circumstances, others in order to make a kind of personal statement about rejecting at least some of the commercialism and materialism of the holidays. Jim Taylor, a market researcher, mentioned that he feels "There's a kind of emotional recession out there." "It's the war, the economy, the falling dollar and a kind of vague sense everything isn't quite right with the world." If you're anything like me, you might identify with this sense of uneasiness about the current state of things here and abroad.

However, as much trouble as there is in the world, I take great comfort in knowing that as bad as things may get, I have friends and I have family who are the closest thing to certain propositions (humanly speaking) that I have to hold onto this life. Meaning, it's likely that bad things will not not happen to me or us and it's likely that they will not happen. I don't really know which, likely, a lot of both. I can't say either with much degree of certainty. But I would more likely bet that my friends will not abandon me, no matter which of the former is more true than the alternate possibility. For that, I am abundantly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving...see you next week.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

budget graphic design

Today, while baking some pies at home for the Beacon Society I got inspired to hijack a piece of design for my own purposes and ended up coming up with this Obey-inspired flyer for an event we're hosting in December. In all honesty, making flyers, websites and videos (filming, not editing) is one of my favorite things to do. I rarely have time though and others are more skilled, plus it's a great way for creative people to get involved. Anyhow, when I get the chance, it's a rush to make promotional images and come up with the occasional marketing slogan. And hopefully Obey won't sue me...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

thursday; smog check; facebook; trees;

I remember when it was the thing to shave lines in your apparently, it's the thing to do again. Home sales and prices are plummeting and the leaves are falling off the trees. Somehow I added too many applications to my facebook account. But I'm thankful...that my car passed the smog test, that my daughter is healthy, that my family is intact and that I am blessed with so many amazing friends.

Thanksgiving is on the mind, I'm speaking about Suffering, Thanksgiving and Wonder on Sunday at Northpark and it will only be the second time ever that I'll do the same talk three times in a row. Tonight we'll have a pre-thanksgiving feast at our house, Saturday we'll be out at Serve Fresno Day helping elderly people with their yard work or cleaning up schools. Bekah had a cyst removed yesterday and is now recovering from the operation so Amelia is right beside me at work, playing with toys and generally awed by the world she's just discovering. It seems that she just learned how to throw things outside of the pack n' play much to her delight. She loves her remote control that doesn't match up with any electronics owned by the Townsend family. I'm sure that Suffering is not over for me, but for now I'm thankful that so much of it is in the rearview mirror and I'd like to learn to rediscover some of the wonder that I used to have.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

dusk comes on and I struggle to stop thinking of you

It's been a Superdrag kind of week...between John Davis' new solo album and the interest generated by a reunion "tour" (mostly weekend shows in the midwest and east coast). Now all we can do is hope and cross our pudgy power pop fingers in the hopes that they'll come out to California soon. I might even be persuaded to drive to Arizona or Nevada even. My only chance to ever see them live was during their final tour before the hiatus when my girlfriend (now wife) her brother and her brothers friend drove across Orange County to Anaheim but the show sold out last minute...well, we were late after all.

If you aren't familiar with the greatest (and least heralded) band of the 90s not named Radiohead or U2, check out this treasure trove of riches discovered during the work week.

Superdrag Daytrotter live session mp3s
Superdrag WOXY Lounge Act appearance
John Davis interview and mp3s from I am Fuel you are Friends blog