Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top Ten Albums 2010

10.Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
9. Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner
8. John Mark McMillan - The Medicine
7. Ra Ra Riot - The Orchard
6. Hammock - Chasing After Shadows ... Living With The Ghosts
5. The National - High Violet
4. The Choir - Burning Like The Midnight Sun
3. Tokyo Police Club - Champ
2. The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever
1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

I feel like I might be getting old and predictable. The only real surprise on my list, to me at least, is Gold Panda, a nod to the indie/dance/club music that kids like my hipper-than-gold-chains friend Stephen Di Trolio. And I mean that with all respect. This year with Micah on the road from 1 year old to 2, I didn't see too many shows but two of my favorites were mewithoutyou and sleepy sun with Stephen. The best two though were David Bazan with full band at The Cellar Door and Justin Jones at The 9:30 Club.

I guess it's appropriate that one of my favorite songs of 2010 and my favorite album are both called "The Suburbs" since I've been living in the suburbs for a while and am now becoming a home owner in the suburbs. Still, this has been a great year and I can't accuse myself of not trying new things. From riding fixed-gear (uncomfortable at times but fun) to wearing raw selvedge denim (uncomfortable), I enjoy things like Sufjan Steven's The Age of Adz that require some commitment. Ultimately though the best thing about that album is the live performance of "Too Much" on late night TV.

When you turn 30, sometimes the familiar voices of favorite bands start to sound like old friends. See the selections of The Hold Steady, The National, Hammock and The Choir. Maybe it's more important to be a friend than to be cool. And maybe moving to the suburbs requires more commitment to making and maintaining old friendships than living in some great American city.

I'm cool with that.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

World Aids Day

Two weeks ago was World AIDS Day. While I think it's important to fight HIV/AIDS year around, it is a great opportunity to highlight the struggle of 33.4 million people currently living with the disease and remember those who have lost their lives. I am blessed to part of a church who cares about the struggle. See the ONE blog post about our Northpark Church event on Dec. 1. I am also thankful that our local media covers the important issues surrounding the global pandemic. See the Letter to the editor that the Fresno Bee published.

This year I have spent a considerable time thinking about why the fight against extreme poverty and infectious disease is so important to me. Most of the time, people around me are supportive of the efforts in general terms. But there are people who are critical at times and it's even more discouraging when others seem to ignore or minimize the issues. I fight against HIV/AIDS not because it's popular or trendy or I have a hero complex or because I love causes. I fight it because my faith demands it.

Several years ago I attended a Citizen’s Advocacy Training in San Francisco that was hosted by the ONE Campaign. During a group brainstorming session on how to involve more people in the fight against HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty, someone suggested partnering with local churches. Without blinking an eye, someone immediately blurted out “Churches don’t care about people who are living with AIDS.” People chimed in agreement “Churches are judgemental!” “Churches don’t want to work with us, they only care about their own programs!”

At that point, I raised my hand and said somewhat apprehensively, “Well, I am a youth pastor and I believe that fighting against extreme poverty and AIDS is exactly what the church should be about.”

Many of the people responsible for leading the fight on AIDS are by their own description not people of faith. That doesn’t bother me, I believe in working with anyone who shares our goal: An AIDS free generation of people. What bothers me is that the church, God’s own instrument of compassion, justice, mercy, salvation has been so slow to respond.

At the end of the day, I still believe in the church as an instrument of hope for the world. And I believe that Jesus Christ is still the answer for the world. To turn a blind eye to the suffering of millions of people is antithetical to that faith. To refuse to fight for justice for the poor, the marginalized, the voiceless, is showing no faith at all. In choosing to do something as an act of faith, I choose action and reject apathy. I choose hope over despair. I choose love over cynicism.

Friday, October 15, 2010


When I was a kid, we lived in several cities in Indonesia where we had to either boil or filter our water in order to make it safe to drink.

Once, on an adventure with a friend, I tried to jump across an polluted stream/open sewer and failed, falling in face first. When I got back to the states, turns out I had some parasitic worms from the water I swallowed.

Crazier still, that polluted stream was a water source for many people, who would boil the same water that they bathed in, washed clothes in and used occasionally as a toilet.

As much as Indonesia lacked infrastructure in the late 1980s, as a country, the southeast Asian nation was far ahead of many others for running water and irrigation.

Today, one of the biggest crisis facing the world is the lack of access to water for many in the world and the lack of conservation of water for the rest of us. Let's do something about it!

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »


Water is everywhere, right? Actually, for such a plentiful resource, clean water is surprisingly scarce. Less than 1% of all fresh water is readily accessible for direct human use, representing only 0.007% of all water on earth. Bet you didn’t know that. Check out five more clean water facts and find out what else you didn’t know:

1. Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Unclean drinking water can incubate some pretty scary diseases, like E. coli, salmonella, cholera and hepatitis A. Given that bouquet of bacteria, it’s no surprise that water, or rather lack thereof, causes 42,000 deaths each week.

2. More people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets. This means that sewage spills into rivers and streams, contaminating drinking water and causing disease.

3. Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water. They do this while carrying cisterns weighing around 40 pounds when filled in order to gather water that, in many cases, is still polluted. Aside from putting a great deal of strain on their bodies, walking such long distances keeps children out of school and women away from other endeavors that can help improve the quality of life in their communities.

4. It takes 6.3 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. That 6.3 gallons covers everything from watering the wheat for the bun and providing water for the cow to cooking the patty and baking the bun. And that’s just one meal! It would take over 1.8 billion gallons of water to make just one hamburger for every person in the United States.

5. The average American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world. From showering and washing our hands to watering our lawns and washing our cars, Americans use a lot of water. To put things into perspective, the average five-minute shower will use about 10 gallons of water. Now imagine using just 10 gallons to bathe, wash your clothes, cook your meals and quench your thirst.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blog Action Day

This year I'll be participating in Blog Action Day. The theme this year is WATER.

There is no way that extreme poverty and preventable diseases can be overcome
in places that don't have access to clean water,
please consider participating yourself...
also by signing the petition at http://blogactionday.change.org/

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Great Awakening?

It seems that the last several years have seen an increasing number of Christian leaders calling for a new spiritual awakening to come to our nation. Leaders ranging from Jim Wallis (see the title of his latest book) to Lou Engle (The Call) have called people to come to a new realization, to see new fervor in following the principles of Jesus and most of all to repent and experience transformation through the Holy Spirit. This kind of thinking resonates with me in a powerful way. It is clear that things are not as they should be. As we live in the tension between what is and what could be, we have to faithfully believe that Jesus is the answer. Repentance and transformation can only come as we seek God and realign with his priorities.

A major obstacle is that we cannot seem to agree on what the priorities of God might include. Our messages may be broad but our disagreements run deep. With many disparate movements, the message that I infer is that being a Christian, following Jesus, means aligning with a specific ideology, Right or Left. For instance, the Millennium Development Goals are no substitute for the good news of the Gospel, but many people calling for "God in America Again" advocate leaving the rest of the world to die while focusing on our own economic and social problems. That is a stance that seems peculiarly out of sync with the teachings of Jesus himself.

Though I find a lot to admire in the growing post evangelical movement, I also find a real unwillingness to acknowledge that a truly humble posture of surrender would be less critical and reactionary and more about living the good news found in the bible. Being sure that you are right about different issues is still called fundamentalism last time I checked.

I'm reminded today that as we approach midterm elections, believers are more divided than ever. Perhaps this is a good enough reason for me to quit facebook. For many (perhaps even myself) the phrase Great Awakening seems connected to a legislative agenda and a worldly concept of win/lose. Jesus, himself though, confounded expectations about what it meant to be a servant, to lead, to win and to lose. It seems that a true Great Awakening will shatter ideology and partisan politics, will elevate the least of these to a position of leadership (when was the last time this happened in any church!?) and will result in millions of people experiencing personal salvation and realigned priorities. Any Gospel that is not Good News For The Poor cannot be called Revival. Likewise, any Awakening that can be accomplished without Jesus cannot possibly be genuine.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

World Malaria Day and ONE Sunday at Northpark

Today is World Malaria Day! Every day 2,000 people die unnecessarily from a disease we cured in 1951. Over 5 billion dollars has been pledged over the next five years to see Malaria eradicated by 2015 but so far funding levels are far below what's been pledged! Advocate today through a variety of organizations, including ONE partner World Vision at ENDMALARIA.org.

Tonight following our 5 PM Gathering at Northpark, we will be showing the film "When The Night Comes" by Invisible Children filmmaker Bobby Bailey and made in cooperation with the United Nations, World Vision, One Campaign and more! We will also have an opportunity to purchase a life saving bed net to be sent to children in need for only $6.

Hope to see you tonight 6:30 pm at Northpark Community Church, 2297 E. Shepherd Ave. Fresno, 93720

Let's make a difference for the world's poorest people!


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hospital Music

A little over a year ago, my daughter got very sick with the stomach flu and had to be hospitalized. She could not stop throwing up and developed a condition called Acidosis. On the verge of unconsciousness, she continued vomiting through a sick child visit to the doctor and then the waiting room outside the ER. Her symptoms were such that the ER doctor began talking about the possibility of "metabolic disorders." Of course we googled it immediately, which was appropriately shocking.

Turns out, a basic dehydration IV and bicarbonate infusion was all it took to bring our nearly two year old back from the brink. I'll never forget the feeling of watching her, tubes and wires and drip-line, slowly return to her normal, overly active and gloriously spontaneous self. I could have done without spending the night throwing up myself from the same flu but the point is what? Medical care, her pediatrician and Children's Hospital, probably saved her life.

Only a few months later, my son Micah was born at Clovis Community, healthy and thriving, thanks to the medicine that my wife received to help her kickstart her labor. Shortly after, I had another traumatic Dad moment when I had to drive behind an ambulance with my wife and daughter inside after Amelia tipped over backwards, strapped tightly to her high chair and smashed her head and back on the tile. A CAT scan confirmed that she was OK.

I don't know what side you come down on this contentious Health Care debate. In fact, I'm not sure what side I'm on to be honest. But I will say this. I am offended by what some people express when they say they will make it their personal mission to defeat health care reform. Citing statistics about 85 percent being happy with their health insurance, they are leaving out millions of uninsured people from their population sample. I also find it troubling that certain pundits make it sound like having health insurance is somehow a privilege that one earns for being hard working and industrious as opposed to lazy and dependent on the government. I'm sure you and I both know plenty of lazy people with great insurance and plenty of people working 90 hours a week with three jobs who can't go to the doctor.

We would have likely kept Amelia home longer if we didn't have a pediatrician. If we didn't have a good doctor that had recommended we go to the hospital and called ahead, we might have waited outside among the many sick until she passed out.

Sitting here in the Grind typing this, I am actually struck by how many other hospital stories I could tell. By the grace of God, they are all minor compared with what many have experienced. I am blessed and thankful for the country I live in and the health insurance we have. And although I've paid tens of thousands of dollars to the health care system in the form of deductibles, copays and diagnostic test fees, I don't think reform is about me at all. I think it's about other people. Other people who have real Hospital Music stories as well. Please don't say that you or I deserve health care, we don't. Children around the world die every day from diarrhea, the flu and common colds. We GET to have health care in this country and it should be with a spirit of humility that we try to sort out this mess and find some solutions that will save lives.

Monday, January 11, 2010

30 songs for 2009

Jet Lag and Separation Anxiety (my nearly one-year-old son's, not mine) have been causing me to go to bed early during the last week and a half. Prime creative/blog hours have been lost. Top songs of the year have been delayed. But the silver lining is that I have been able to get up early and do some actual work. A lot of really exciting things are in store for 2010, new improved FIVE gathering, a big Community Food Bank benefit in Eaton Plaza for April, a Bekah Townsend album in the works, real life in the flesh overdubs shows, etc.

But what's the end of the year without looking back at some great, grand and computer speaker worthy songs to list? In no particular order this year ...

Superdrag "Aspartame" Industry Giants
Bruce Springsteen "The Wrestler" Working on A Dream
Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Hysteric" It's Blitz
Eels "Ordinary Man" Hombre Lobo
David Bazan "Hard to Be" Curse Your Branches
David Crowder Band "Oh, Happiness" Church Music
Grizzly Bear "Cheerleader" Veckatimest
We Were Promised Jetpacks "Quiet Little Voices" These Four Walls
Lily Allen feat. Mick Jones "Straight to Hell" War Child- Heroes Vol. 1
Matt and Kim "Daylight" Grand
Bon Iver and St. Vincent "Roslyn" The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Mos Def "Life in Marvelous Times" The Ecstatic
Julian Casablancas "11th Dimension" Phrazes for The Young
Pearl Jam "The Fixer" Backspacer
Imogen Heap "First Train Home" Ellipse
Third Eye Blind "Bonfire" Ursa Major
The Rural Alberta Advantage "The Ballad of The RAA" Hometowns
U2 "Moment of Surrender" No Line on The Horizon
Wilco "I'll Fight" Wilco (The Album)
Memory Cassette "Asleep At A Party" The Hiss We Missed Ep
Elbow "Running to Stand Still" War Child- Heroes Vol. 1
Karen O and The Kids "Hidaway" Where The Wild Things Are
Neko Case "This Tornado Loves You" Middle Cyclone
The Get Up Kids "Your Petty Pretty Things" Daytrotter Session
Phoenix "Liztomania" Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Taking Back Sunday "Capital M-E" New Again
Silversun Pickups "Growing Old is Getting Old" Swoon
Andrew Bird "Anonanimal" Noble Beast
Jars of Clay "Forgive Me" The Long Fall Back to Earth
Julien Plenti "Only If You Run" Julien Plenti Is ... Skyscraper