Category Archives: Reviews

13th

Watch Now Seriously

 

The beautiful Hannah and I just watched a documentary together….WHAT?  I know it doesn’t happen often but she actually sat down and learned WITH me. But that’s not my point.

My point is that this nation has a history that sucks.  We have institutionally accepted horrible things happening to our own citizens since the beginning of the country and allowed institutionalized slavery to continue to present day.  And since there is an election coming up don’t think I am speaking as if one side started or stopped this.  They are all guilty as #$@#@ and need to be held accountable. Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush Jr., Obama…all have allowed slavery to continue in newer forms. Don’t believe me? Watch The 13th on Netflix.

Are you back? Or never left?

Here’s what I learneded, there is a line in the 13th amendment, which ended slavery in its previous form, that allows men (people) to be free as long as they are not being a punished for crime.  Which sounds great until people are falsely arrested, forced into a plea bargain and then have a felony on their records FOR LIFE.  This causes them to not be able to vote in many states, not be able to receive government assistance, not rent, not be employed, and even not receive life insurance.  After the US Civil War, prisoners were used to help rebuild a lot of cities and infrastructure destroyed in former slave owning areas.  It was a good deal.  If you needed more “workers” simply round up former slaves for loitering or trespassing, since they no longer had jobs or places to live.  This started what we see today with over 2 million people in the prison industrial complex.  That is people that are under house arrest, on long probation or physically in a facility.   Bogus loitering charges still exist, but often drugs or theft is involved.  We all have heard stories of police planting evidence, (Google has about 1,280,000 results in 0.49 seconds) and of quotas.  It’s like they HAVE to arrest people to keep their jobs, right?

The movie delves deeper into the money side of it. How laws are passed to arrest more people and politicians use code words to scare the public into behaving or make us feel safer when we feel attacked.  We like when we hear people will have to serve 85% of sentences and Mandatory Minimums and 3 Strikes.  But then we start hearing what is actually happening to people who are arrested.  How they are coerced into plea deals, and not allowed to leave because of high bails.  Even 10% of 10k is often still too much for working people or single mothers created by their husband, boyfriend or baby daddy serving life for a third strike, 2/3rd of which might have been false.

I believe police have hard jobs and attempt to do good the majority of the time.  I also think they are trained to identify people of color as guilty and Caucasians as victims.   This has more to do with what I have heard from experienced people than from any article on the interwebs.  People of color being stopped and ticketed for small offences (5 over, broken taillight, out of state tags too long) while I was let go with a warning many times.  Or larger offenses like possession of drugs not being reported for white friends, while people of color were illegally searched to find them.  Therefore I truly believe that lives of crimes and drugs come from circumstances.  To gain power and money to get out of the “rough life”, but then get a felony and keep the cycle going in your family tree.  If you don’t have privilege or opportunity you fight more for it and bend the rules to get there.   I have met too many people on the streets with felonies from 19 or 20 years of age that limit them when 50.  Lesser jobs, lesser apartments, lesser insurances, lesser lives and so falling back into the escape of drugs and then the need to crime.  Yes, crime as a verb.

Instead of helping people break the cycle though it seems like the government is enabling the profiting off of poor, uneducated and disproportionately people of color specifically in the prison complex.  Instead of setting up a safety net that would help most, the system mandates felons can’t live in subsidized housing, penalizes family unity by limiting food and job benefits per address, and caps the limited benefits people can legally get in a tight timeline.  So people numb themselves with illegal drugs and resort to crime to buy food and keep the cycle going.

The major problem that The 13th exposes though is that prisons in this country are for profit, privately run institutions.  Therefore they need “raw materials” to make profits.  Unfortunately this leads to arresting people that can’t defend themselves in court.  Those who have been raised to fear the authority of police and all law enforcement.  Those whose fathers were arrested and served time for the same or similar crimes they will fall into.  If they were public run, I am not saying this wouldn’t happen it.  But I am saying that if they were charitably non-profit they would attempt to be run out of business.

I have more in my head that I’m not sure I have the words to say and realize I am just rambling so will leave you to ponder this quote from the film.

“We (African-Americans) thought, I mean they called the end of slavery “Jubilee”, we thought we were done then.  And then you had a 100 years of Jim Crow, terror and lynching.  Dr. King, these guys come on the scene, Ella Jo Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, we get the bills passed to vote then they break out the handcuffs, label you felon, you can’t vote or get a job. So we don’t know what the net iteration of this will be, but it will be.  It will be. And we will have to be vigilant.”  Van Jones

Stay woke y’all, especially those in the racial voting majority like me.

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Filed under Adulthood, Junior, Overthinking, Reviews, The Jesus Way

Create vs. Copy

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I am in a weird spot lately.  I have random stress and anxiety when I pass Postal Service trucks or see old coworkers in public.  I chauffeur, cook for and chase a two year old dictator around what feels like all the time while I wonder how I got here.

Sounds like a perfect time to be reading a book on business and leadership, right?

Ken Wytsma’s new book, Create vs Copy is small and a quick read like a lot of leadership books I have seen and/ or read in the past.  Within the first hour of reading I didn’t feel like I was the target audience, because… well I don’t want to change.  And it seemed like he called my life out a couple times in his description “parent of a diapered child” as someone who wasn’t prepared to take the steps needed.  Add that to the stress of complicated taxes pausing my life and lack of work I agreed that I didn’t have time to create right now.  Then he expounds and says that when you feel the worst or least ready you are at the best place to be creative.  And if you are overwhelmed and that thought scares you, Wytsma points out that creativity will actually create space for rest.

Come on!  Seriously, I fell asleep reading it 4 nights in a row because I didn’t know how to not be tired while seated.  If creativity is a muscle that grows while being worked or atrophies when not, I figured it would be any use trying to build it up with the limited time I had to sit and create.

kenw_4But then, I got past the introduction and into the theology and practicality of creating and it started to make me desire more.  Ken shows the theology of creating through God’s own process.

“Just as God has saved us, is saving us, and will ultimately perfect our salvation, He has created the world, is still actively creating it through and with us, and will ultimately perfect His creation in eternity.”

We are created by a creator that is still through us.

For us to further the kingdom and dare I say create a fulfilling life we need to think outside the box.  We need some divergent thinking.  We need to use imagination— and if struggling to— to put down the wifi device and watch cartoons with our kids and their imaginary friends.  This leads to innovation which leads to the change we are often desiring.  If we don’t we will never change.

Creation isn’t about just art or technology, either.  It is about solving problems we have or the world has.

Practically for me, I need to be creative while starting our little urban farm.  We don’t have a budget for it so I am using a lot of reclaimed items that are not necessarily made for holding compost or water or plants.  There has been a lot of failure, which is part of creating.  I have built and deconstructed a fenced enclosure 5 times now.  But I needed to innovate and attempt what I imagined would work.

On a larger scale, Create vs Copy made me think of the homeless issues in Portland.  How my city isn’t like Salt Lake City or Hawaii or even Seattle.  We have less resources than some others and more opportunities to change than others.  It is going to take a new approach specifically built for Portland.  Divergent thinking is required to figure out how to house and care for some of the 5000 people that are sleeping in a temporary space tonight.  I will write more on that later and some of my imaginative ideas that just might work.

In the meantime I think I will read over Create vs. Copy again and see if I can learn a little more about leadership while I have the time.  And actually look at some of the group questions and further reading at Kenwystma.com. And maybe figure out how to transition better.

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Filed under Freewrite, Junior, Reviews

I am Overrated

BookCover-2DI read a book recently that has convicted, encouraged and reminded me.

Convicted because he openly talks about the struggles he has had and how he overcame them. I have struggles…that I dwell on a lot and wonder if I should just overcome them.

Encouraged because his stories show hope and ways of resolving problems.

Reminded because he quotes and brings up a lot of points about justice I forgot, or have stopped applying.

Eugene Cho, in his first book Overrated, confesses his struggles with the current justice movement. He shares personal stories of seeing the need for justice around him, and recounts how he has been attacked for being pro-justice. Unlike a lot of other books, he gives small goals. Instead of saying you are going to change the world, he reminds us to change ourselves and go from there. Instead of trying to put shoes on everyone in the world, or give them all a well, he reminds us that solutions need to be local and applicable. Instead of trying to get others to donate $100 million to “end something”, he talks about One Day’s Wages (an organization he started) that receives 0.4% of a person’s annual income to give small grants to a lot of agencies to assist their local communities. Everyone gives a little for a lot of work to be done. Seems simple but at the same time it is a new thought.

A lot of the content in Overrated is not new but it is presented in a way that made me have new eyes for it. Many of the quotes were from books I have read in the last few years of learning about justice and the church, but it was great to be reminded of them. It was also good to hear some more of Eugene’s story. His stories of his upbringing as an immigrant in San Francisco and confessions of being rejected by Taco Bell as overqualified after they heard about his Princeton degree gave credence to his call for others to sacrifice and change their behaviors.

Perhaps these stories were edited for length but my only critique of this book would be that it was too short. A lot of points seemed clipped before completion and stories seemed rushed like some light jazz and dimming lights were signaling time was up. I would like the Overrated Director’s cut at some point because this copy was a fast read that ended too soon.

Most surprisingly, in this book about justice full of calls to be and do instead of acting, advocating and “raising awareness” about a justice issue, I was convicted most by the following quote.

“We need to be honest with ourselves. Sometimes the words ‘too busy’ are substitutes for ‘too lazy’. At least that’s true for me. What about you?” –Eugene Cho #OverratedBook

As I read this my bus pulled up to the stop and I headed into work. I logged into my computer and noticed the windows that popped up on the internet browser.   A couple work sites, then a couple email windows, a local news site, some sites that pay me a dime a day to click on things and a couple social media sites. On the blue themed one, I noticed a list of apps on the side. It was a good sized list, and as I realized I felt too busy the last couple weeks I clicked on them and noted the levels I had won. Level 242 on Farm Heroes Saga, 140 on Papa Pear Saga, Candy Crush Saga-313, Diamond Diggers Saga-56, Pepper Panic Saga-79… there was still Bubble Witch Saga, Bubble Epic, all the Angry Birds, Jewel Epic.

As a public service announcement, I must remind my fbook friends that if you click the X next to the game notification, you can turn them all off. And as a defense this was over a long period of time…at least a year.

But still, I realized I have the online life of a 15 year old loser who spends more time blowing up candy and vegetables than learning, exercising or talking to friends.

Then it hit me why I feel busy. I spend more lunch hours and alone time home reading blogs that I already agree with or playing silly games that are specially engineered to be addictive than working on getting the needed things done.

It has been 8 months since my last update to the larger community that helps me run a houseless meal each week. I have read 3 of the 12 books I have started this summer. There is a massive list in my phone of things that need to be done on the house, most of which would take 5-10 minutes.

But as Eugene Cho in Overrated says, “I didn’t want to leave my comfort for the sake of my commitments.” My comfort as of late has been turning off my brain and vegetating on line. I like to do timewasters when I should instead be managing my time.

Thanks to this book- After realizing this a couple weeks ago, I have no longer played any games, or wasted even a minute of my time. I only read books to learn in my free time. I only do chores when I get home from another stressful day of work. And I have personally called each of the 456 people that I haven’t emailed an update to apologize and let them know they are important to the ministry.

Actually, I haven’t done those things. But I have downloaded a couple music only podcasts so that I can read on the one hour bus rides to and from work. I have studied a list of quotes I took from Overrated so that I can remember that justice is important and is bigger than just me. I have been intentionally about praying for my family, finances and future while I walk during lunch. And I have started smiling back at the panhandlers and those asking for money from me on my short walks downtown. Which when you are the head of a local homeless agency is something that should come natural. I haven’t changed the world so far this year, but I have made a couple steps forward in improving myself and hopefully those around me.

I will end this post with one more quote that I think should be remembered by all attempting to do good.

“God has a long and proven history of using foolish and broken people for his glory.” –Eugene Cho #OverratedBook

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Editor’s Note: I was privileged to receive an advanced copy in exchange for a review and some publicity.  You can pre-order the book until September 1st by going to your local bookstore or going to www.areyouroverated.com 

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Filed under Global Community, One Day's Wages, Reviews, The Jesus Way, Three O Clock People, Transparency

Epic Grace

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I live in Portland where we judge everything by a high standard.  Sometimes we have the right to; other times we are allowing the hipster culture to overwhelm us.  That doesn’t mean we are always right. It doesn’t mean the only biscuit with gravy I would eat is from Pine State or the Library café in Arleta. Sometimes the best, most filling one is from Diane’s, the classic diner up the road.  I am learning the same is occasionally true with things like books.  Just because they aren’t the newest and hottest topic around, they are still good, and good for me.

Case in point, I just read Epic Grace*.

One sentence review- It didn’t blow me away or make me scream “Amen!” like some of the other books I have written about and that is a good thing.

Epic Grace is a book about one man’s encounters with a gracious God in midst of struggles, failure and temptations.  Kurt Bubna allows the reader to see who he really is and how through him, God’s grace has affected and blessed those around him.

If I am honest, I sometimes felt like I was reading a book my dad wrote or would have told me to read.  I could hear his voice laughing at some of the jokes,”…on a southern California parking lot, I mean highway.”  While I rolled my eyes and hear a rim shot.  It seemed like my father understood the references to Cher, Homer Simpson, and James Earl Jones.   He also would have preferred the use of the phrases like “Hogwash!”, “Big Kahuna” and “derrière” instead of the words they bring to my sinful mind.

He would have disagreed with me about many of the chapters using cliché and overused verses from John, Jeremiah and Job, as their back bone instead of some of deeper cuts that not every church member has read.   We would probably both notice that the title is shoe horned into paragraphs occasionally, and there are big jumps like when temptations are listed as, “sex, drugs, pornography, gambling, too much chocolate…”

It pains me for people to laugh about too much chocolate being as serious a temptation as drugs.

As I was reading and judging along this vein, there was one sentence from Chapter 7 that jumped out to me and made me turn my frown upside down.

“Maybe it’s time for the church to stop majoring on the minors and to stop judging others so ruthlessly.”

And that one quote made me realize that I actually liked how Kurt Bubna was humble and open about his life…the wins and fails.  I also appreciated how he used some of the most tested scriptures to show that grace is very important in life and the greatest gift from God.  ‘

The book can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s, and your local.

*I was graciously given a free copy of the book by the author and publisher for review.  I also once upon a time hung out weekly with the author’s son and his family and others talking about church.

 

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Filed under Reviews, The Jesus Way

Disagreements

 

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A few months ago, I stopped reading and then slowly writing.  I was tired of reading all sides of the same story that was actually the same side from different perspective. So I have started reading things that I don’t agree with. Don’t worry I still can’t read Fox News or TMZ but I did start trying to give another chance to those whom I dismissed previously.

I have grabbed some books off my shelves that have been hard to take and restarted them.

Radical is one.  I never read it because I listened to the author’s preaching first.  I didn’t agree with a lot of what he said.  Specifically hell and how many people were going. I am not sure I agree with a literal hell…but I am not sure I disagree with a hell either, or need to know if it is real for me to love my neighbor as myself.

But I picked it up and hoped to read through it before I made judgments. In the first 6 pages I think I read every Christianese phrase that has made my skin crawl in the last few years.

I agreed with his stories, just the filter it was presented through and the inappropriate emphasis made me put it down…4 times. Then I start skimming in the second chapter and into the third. By the 4th I dropped it again and left it in the car for another week.

Last Saturday I went to get some tires on the car and needless to say it took a while. I grabbed the book and started reading. And started watching the infomercial about a new exercise program. Then read some. Then watched another special presentation on an infrared cooker.  Then read a little before I was skimming 10 pages a minute and glancing at headings.  And well I finished the book before I judged.

But I barely read it.

As I wondered if I was messed up and why I just couldn’t read a book.  Was I really that stuck in my ways that I refused to even listen to a counterpoint.

Then, I realized I wasn’t the target audience.  The book wasn’t radical to me.  I lived his stories and experienced the craziness of going back to the US church and telling them there are more important things than what color the vestments are….like the starving people we passed on the way in.

I’ve been living it for 10 years now. Giving time and money away. Giving up cars (twice), places (4x) and friends and family (12x).  I have been rejected and called crazy to my face and maybe that is what he wanted.  So maybe this book impacted people that chose the career, spouse or money over the call or sacrifice.

But when I say that it is for others and not me, I am writing in the same style that annoyed me in Radical. The style of the “I am better at this life thing than you”, which I guess why the genre is called self-help…I am sorry “Christian Living”.

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Filed under Adulthood, Freewrite, Heathen Healers, Reviews, The Jesus Way