Thursday, December 18, 2008

book writing & the dueling book covers

I'm hanging out at my favorite writing location - the Georgetown public library. It's got a cafe, comfy booths, wifi and quiet. Got 3 more responses written for the book my dad and I are writing. I finally committed to getting my part done by the end of the year, so I better get going - I think I've still got 5 chapters to respond to.

While taking a break from the words, I doodled around with a cover. The publisher has asked my dad for a pass at what he'd like to see on the cover and this is definitely an area where our modern and postmodern points of view collide. His pass is mostly words - I say we need more images. Here's my pass - what do you think?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

heretic, phreak & sufferer?

It all started on the way home from church this past Sunday. I was listening to This American Life. "Heretics: The story of Reverend Carlton Pearson, a renowned evangelical pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who cast aside the idea of Hell, and with it everything he'd worked for over his entire life." Pearson was steeped in the Pentecostal tradition where it seems a great deal of emphasis is placed on saving souls. I've always had a problem with this, but it was interesting to hear how someone who bought into this worldview had his world turned upside down. It seemed to start out innocently enough. He's watching a TV program about starving refugees from Rwanda and thinking to himself that these folks haven't been "saved". What does hell mean to them, because aren't they are already in a living hell. And how can he or 100 pastors or 1000 pastors or all the pastors or all the Christians in the world really go about "saving" everyone in the world. He finally realized that he can't and they can't and that God's probably not looking for that kind of help. So he did lots of studying and praying and decided that God was not the inventor of hell, "we do that to each other and we do it to ourselves." This got Pearson labeled a heretic in his faith tradition and radically altered his life. He's now pastor of New Dimensions whose tag line is the friendliest, trendiest, most radically inclusive worship experience! Sounds like a place I'd like.

Sunday afternoon the hubby and I went to a one-man play at The Gravity Lounge called Jesus Phreak: The Story of a Very Unlikley Disciple. This unlikely disciple turns out to be a "mixer", he wears mixed fabrics, which is prohibited somewhere in Leviticus. He grew up going to church, so he knows that "mixers" aren't welcome there. Even so, he seems to be relentlessly pursued by God. Every time he tries to move farther away, he gets nudged back. Reading the gospels, he discovers that Jesus has come for the outcasts and therefore for him.

One thing that really spoke to me personally in this show was the portrayal of a disciple being relentlessly pursued by God, even in the face of the disciple's doubt and skepticism and derision. That so feels like my journey, as I kick and scream all along the way.

There was also a discussion panel after the show and the topics that came up and the people who spoke gave me a sobering reminder about how the Church and my church have been so careless toward the well-being of LGBT people. I think our fear is really just masquerading as a cautious approach toward welcoming and inclusivity, as if addressing this issue would open pandora's box and all hell would break loose (see heretic). The closing words of this discussion were - what are you willing to suffer for the gospel?

On the way home from our date, we listened to a program called etown. A singer/songwriter named Steve Earle was one of the guests (hubby is quite distressed that I don't seem to know this guy). Anyway, something he said on the show stuck with me and luckily, it was reproduced on the website.
"I've been pretty heartbroken about the way things have gone politically in this country the last few years and I seriously considered moving someplace else…then I figured out that I didn't have to leave the country. All I had to do was come to New York. I needed really badly at this point in my life to see a mixed-race, same sex couple holding hands in my own neighborhood. It makes me feel safer."

I get that I'd be considered a heretic in some Christian settings. I'm cool with that. I reluctantly agree that I've become a Jesus phreak. Left to my own devices, I do not think it is the path I would choose to follow, but it's the path I find myself on. I'm not so sure about this suffering thing, but I guess whether I choose act or not, there will be suffering. If I don't act, I will suffer heartbreak at the way things are going for many churches and the people that get or feel excluded. If I act, I will probably suffer obstacles, injustices, frustration and humiliation.

So, what am I willing to suffer? I'm still trying to figure that one out.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

public vs. private

One of the sessions from my time at the community organizing workshop that really got me thinking was on public & private relationships. The idea that they were trying to communicate is being able to recognize the difference between the two and act appropriately in the public arena especially as it relates to your community organizing activities. Here's how they laid things out:

How do we act? cordial, relaxed, open
What do we expect? give & take, honesty, laughter
What holds the relationship together? common interests, trust, love
How long does relationship last? extended period of time

How do we act? formal, guarded, agenda-driven
What do we expect? results, respect
What holds the relationship together? agreement, mutual interest
How long does relationship last? as long as needed

That does seem pretty straightforward until I think about it relative to online activities where these lines seem to get blurred. It's one of the things I struggle with - to be part of a public online community yet maintain some privacy. Part of it is my personality. I've always been a modest person - not in a humble way, but more in a prudish way. I think I've certainly relaxed as I've aged, but I'm still not comfortable sharing intimate details, especially about my family. If you've read my blog, you probably know I'm married and you might have picked up that I have a son. I have so much I could share about these amazing people in my life, but I've decided to draw a line - that sharing their details online is for them to decide.

I recently joined Facebook and I admit that I'm a little bit addicted, but there too I struggle with personal vs. public relationships. I've got a backlog of friend requests from strangers - what am I supposed to do with them? On the one hand, I'd love to add them and increase my friend count. On the other hand, if I add them, will I have to more careful about what I share? I've also accepted friend requests from people that I would consider more as acquaintances. In some cases my online intereraction has actually strengthened those relationships and in other cases I wonder what was I thinking (or what they are thinking about me).

As social networking sites like Facebook redefine the term friend while they add yet another path to friendship, I also struggle with how to communicate cautious enthusiasm for these new relationship building tools with my students. How will they determine the difference between personal vs. public relationships online? How do you?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

the perfect date

at least according to my hubby ...

Friday, November 14, 2008

community organizing for justice - part I

I've been in FL attending a DART National Leaders Workshop (sounds pretty impressive, hmmm?). It's all been a bit overwhelming as I feel like I've been drinking from the fire hose of community organizer training with a faith-based twist. On the upside, I met a group of amazingly committed people to solving justice issues from a wide variety of backgrounds. I've never been involved in a more diverse group. On the downside, I worry about translating this info into some real action at Peace and in Charlottesville. I'm still processing the info, but here are some highlights:

what God intended for the community
religious values-shaping system - should bring us closer to God
political system - should ensure justice
economic system - should ensure a fair distribution of God's bounty

what went wrong?
- religious control
- political oppression
- economic exploitation

why is pursuing justice so hard for individuals and churches?
It requires power - the ability to give or take away something that someone or some organization wants or needs. Individuals and individual congregations don't usually possess this kind of power. Power comes from organized money and organized people. Power has risks, but the use of power is required to negotiate with our relationships of necessity (banks, gov't, retail, energy, healthcare, education, etc.). Instead of doing justice and loving mercy, we tend to love justice and do mercy.

how do you build power?
In order to live out our values, like doing justice, we need to organize people by engaging them, being in relationship with them, identifying their self-interests and finding common ground. Self-interest is not selfishness, it is your interests in relationship to others interests. I need to identify my own self-interests, so I recognize common interests with others and I can make clear my values and vision to others.


City of God, City of Satan - Robert Linthicum
Engaging the Powers - Walter Wink

if you're reading this AV, I know why you wanted me to go now and I can guess why you left it to my timing - thanks

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Children are Changing: R We?

I attended my first education conference yesterday. In many ways, it was a familiar experience as I've attended my fair share of conferences in the field of technology and more recently the church-related conference. I was very interested in the theme of this conference, not only as a tech teacher, but also as the parent of a digital kid.

I attended 4 sessions:
the power of mindsets: nurturing resilience in our students and ourselves in challenging times
- reaffirmed the mindset at MCS and what an amazing job the guides & staff do of nurturing resilience in our students

using online collaborative tools effectively in the classroom
- I am so ready to blog, wiki, diigo, yammer and voice thread in the classroom; creating positive online experiences

1-to-1 computer initiative
- speaker described a laptop program for 7th years with good ideas on leasing, remote desktop admin and promoting life-long ethical use - now if we could just find some money to pay for it

our children are not the students our schools were designed for: understanding digital kids
- obnoxious speaker + thought-provoking message = lots of squirming and unfortunately many unasked questions

nurturing resilience in our students

my notes from Dr. Robert Brooks presentation at the VAIS annual conference

Important questions to ask yourself as a teacher and of your school:
- how do we identify islands of competence in students?
- if a teaching strategy is not working out, am I willing to ask myself what I can do differently?
- what is the mindset of my school?
- do I believe in the capacity of students to overcome adversity and become hopeful and resilient?
- am I a person whom children can gain strength from? (Dr. Julius Segal describes this as a "charismatic adult")
- do I focus more on what they are getting "in here" than about what they aren't getting "out there"?
- do I use discipline to promote self-discipline and self-control?
- am I empathetic and able to see the world through the eyes of my students?
- what words would I like students to use to describe me versus what words would they actually use today?

are our students resilient? in school, do they:
- believe that there are people who can help and support them
- believe they can solve problems and make decisions
- define their own areas of competence without denying problematic areas
- believe that they can contribute to and make a difference in the world
- possess self-discipline and the ability to think before they act
- believe that mistakes are experiences from which to learn rather than feel defeated

understanding digital kids

my notes from Ian Jukes presentation at the VAIS annual conference

This guy is obviously passionate about his topic and he must feel he's been pounding his head against the wall in pursuit of educating us digital immigrants about the exponential changes our kids are facing, but he's definitely a little bit nuts too. Here are the highlights I got out of his talk, unfortunately he's left the next steps in our inept hands.

he identified 3 areas of focus for digital fluency:
technological - focus on the task, not the tool
media - understand how our thinking is being shaped by media
information - ability to process readily available, sometimes inaccurate information:
- awareness of the problems with available info
- asking good questions
- accessing info
- assessing info (analyze & authenticate)
- applying info appropriately

Our kids are digital natives - digital has become their language of choice. We are digital immigrants - with all the language barriers that implies. One of the differences between digital natives & digital immigrants is that digital natives are able to parallel process information while digital immigrants process info sequentially.

He gave lots of references to the science that kids brains are actually changing because of their exposure to digital media so that they learn differently than we do, but he didn't give any concrete ideas for what that means to teaching in the classroom except to avoid TTWWADI (that's the way we've always done it):
- iBrain
- brain mapping
- the brain that changes itself
- everything bad is good for you
- brain rules

So Ian left me hoping that I'll be a good enough translator until and when the digital natives take over.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

tracking salvations?

Today I received the following from my subscription to which provides lots of free resources for churches to use. Pretty cool most of the time, but I did a double-take with this one.

"Today we’re launching a brand new tool to track trends at your church: Built by our Digerati team, this free web app helps you keep tabs on attendance, giving, salvations, and baptisms through easy-to-understand charts and reports."

Wow - did you see that, a handy-dandy online tool to track salvations. Now I'm not familiar with the practice of salvation calls and I don't want to belittle the experience for those who have participated in and been moved by them. But do we really need to be tracking salvations? Can a person, let alone a piece of software really know what is in the heart of another?

Another issue this tool brings up for me is how churches often lose sight of their mission to transform lives in exchange for tracking their programming success. My dream tool for church is one that provides a mechanism for those in need to hook up with those ready to share. This is probably too much to hope for in a piece of software, but I'm certainly amazed by what I see going on online. The possibilities seem endless... (just please, don't track my salvation or lack thereof, I think God's got that one covered)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Christianity, poverty & contradictions

Last night I went to see Religulous and one of the things Bill Maher kept bringing up with many of the Christians he talked to is why the opulent cathedrals, the personal prosperity and the bling - was that the message of Jesus?

Today in my inbox there was a reminder that it's blog action day plus the following daily reflection:

"Contradictions have always existed in the soul of humanity. But it is only when we prefer analysis to silence that they become a constant and insoluble problem. We are not meant to resolve all contradictions but to live with them and rise above them and see them in the light of exterior and objective values which make them trivial by comparison." by Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

I'm afraid I am having a hard time with Merton's idea of silence in the face of contradiction (certainly Bill Maher is fed up with the silence). For me, this is especially true when thinking about the Christian response to poverty or more specifically the white, middle-class, mainline Christian church response to poverty. This response often seems full of contradictions. In so many places and so many ways, Jesus directs his disciples to give up everything to follow him. And yet our church institutions don't seem to model this kind of sacrificial giving. Priority is given to the building, infrastructure, salaries and internal programs with resources for the work of mercy and justice given a much lower priority.

One of the fallback positions in this community that drives me crazy is Jesus' statement about the poor in Mark 14:7.

You will always have the poor with you. And whenever you want to, you can give to them. But you won't always have me here with you. (CEV)

It feels like this statement is used as a 'get out of jail free' card. Don't really know what issues are facing the poor in your community - that's okay, they will always be there. Not really sure you have the time or resources to help right now - that's okay, you can give to them whenever you want.

I see Jesus' statement as more of a direct correlation to how I choose to live. Instead of stepping on my holier-than-thou soapbox, pointing out where everyone else is failing the system, I feel convicted to look at my own behavior. If I am honest with myself, there is poverty because of me. I need to stop thinking of poverty as a problem out there, it is a by-product that I cause by my consumption and waste patterns. Until I change, I will always have the poor with me.

Maybe that is why Merton prefers silence to analysis in the face of contradiction. In the analysis, we can get caught up in fear, inertia, weariness, depression, pride and priorities. In the silence we can see where we live in the contradiction and we can choose to change.

Monday, September 29, 2008

mercy, justice & preaching

Every once in a while (with long whiles in between) I get this crazy idea in my head that I could preach the message for a certain topic (we plan worship around themes, not the lectionary - more about that later). To make matters worse, I've got this crazy pastor who actually lets me. So that's how I found myself preaching this past weekend.

Practicing the Faith: Taking the First Step
Micah 6:1-8
Matthew 12:15-21
Philippians 4:8-9

Litany of problems.

[these are places we have relationships with globally and where we live locally]
The current orphan population in India is equal to the inhabitants of the state of Texas. (the miracle foundation)

Nearly half the population in Togo, West Africa is less than 15 years old and child trafficking is a big problem there. (PlanTogo)

50% of Hondurans live in poverty and 25% of people in Honduras live in extreme poverty. (povertynet)

The death toll in Haiti from Hurricane Ike is over 600 with over 1 million people made homeless.

20% of Albemarle County citizens live below the "self-sufficiency" standard.

320 children became homeless in Albemarle county in 2006/2007.

70 students at Hollymead could not afford basic school supplies this year.

Our response - the fear factor.
Some of you have tuned me out - really you are no longer listening, maybe you are working on your to do list or possibly napping. HELLO - you can listen now; I've stopped with the scary list. Others of you are feeling kind of anxious. You may feel tense, worried and overwhelmed. This is MY group. My mind overloads and I attempt to shut it down, unable to get beyond a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. I get so wrapped up in feeling that the problems of this world are just too overwhelming to deal with on my own, that it paralyzes me. Finally the rest of you want to get out and do something, NOW! You may be angry and frustrated. You want to find a solution and you don't understand why everybody isn't on board with reckless abandon to put an end to the problems.

Bob Sitze, ELCA Director for Hunger Education, says that often when we try and educate about serious problems facing our world, we face the FEAR FACTOR - our brain's natural defense mechanism. What our brain tries to do is to tag this unpleasant information as fearsome or dangerous and then our natural instinct of flight, fight or freeze automatically kicks in. Not exactly the kind of response presenters of this type of information are going for.

Feet of a servant.
So, how do we get beyond the statistics and the fear factor? As followers of Christ, we understand that pursuing mercy & justice is our God-given call. We know that there are serious problems locally and globally. We NOW know that just talking about the problems - hoping to motivate some action is not the best way to go about solving problems. How then do we best respond?

I like how Paul puts it in his letter to the Philippians. "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you." I think we need an attitude adjustment. First, we need to look and find where there is good, honourable, just, pure, pleasing, and excellent work being done in the world and think about that. Next, we need to do the things that we have learned, received, heard and seen from people doing this work. I think our feet of a servant discipleship mark points to a great way to start.

Here's what worked for me - start with one step and do it with others. At Peace, we are blessed to have many opportunities to serve with and for others. My first step started with PACEM where we've welcomed local homeless men and women into this "house" as honored guests. With PACEM there are so many different ways to serve and so many other people to serve with. Serving definitely took me out of my comfort zone, but knowing I didn't have to do it alone helped me through the fear. At PACEM, I learned from one of the guests about the serious lack of affordable housing in the area. I started to feel passionate about this issue. A few months later Pastor John hooked me up with the coordinator of IMPACT (interfaith movement promoting action by congregations together) and before I knew it, I had taken another step. I attended the very first IMPACT meeting with 25 other people from Peace where we voted on what issues to address that year and affordable housing became one of the first issues. Since then I've taken a few more steps, some with confidence and others on legs of jelly, but always in the company of others, who help push away my fears and provide the example I need to take the next step.

There are many of other examples of people at Peace using their servant feet and they all started by taking a first step. Here are a few more stories.

[I put a video together where 3 other people from Peace talk about their first step, a handy way to shorten my talk time and it worked out really well.]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

take back the _____ (fill in the blank)

Seems like everybody wants to take something back these days and not in the "I'm sorry I said or did that, I wish I could take it back" way, but in the "we need to take back control of the _____" way. One way or another we want to take back the country, the presidency, the congress, the banks, the schools, the streets, the neighborhood...

I just heard Snow Patrol's new single, Take Back the City, last night on my way to The Heart of Christianity book study. Maybe I was just in that "churchy" mode, but I started replacing "the city" with "the church" - not as catchy, but it really resonated with me. Here you try:

It's a mess
It's a start
It's a flowing work of art
Your city, your call
Every crack, every wall
Can't decide, pick a fight
but get your epitaph right
You can sing till you drop
Cause the fun just never stops

I love this city tonight
I love this city always
It bares its teeth like a light
And spits me out after days
But we're all gluttons for it
We know it's wrong and it's right
For every time it's been hit
Take back the city tonight
- Take Back the City by Snow Patrol

A part of me so wants to take back the church. I want to take it back from the literalists, the dogmatists and those who want me to believe six impossible things before breakfast. But then what would I do with it? One of the reasons I love Borg's book is that it does such a great job of reminding me that I am not alone in my views (emerging paradigm) and that my views are not alone (earlier paradigm).
"The issue isn't that one of these visions of Christianity is right and the other wrong. Rather, the issue is functionality, whether a paradigm works or gets in the way. For millions, the earlier paradigm still works. And if it works for you - if it hasn't become an obstacle and if it genuinely nourishes your life with God and produces growth in compassion with you - there's no reason for you to change. Being Christian isn't about getting our beliefs (or our paradigms) right." The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg, pg. 18

So I guess the issue isn't about taking back the church, the issue is about everyone being included. What a wonderful mess that would be!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

all you do to me is talk, talk

Talk talk talk talk. Sometimes I think that's all the emerging crowd does. Talk about theology, talk about words, talk about talking, talk about inviting others to talk.

I too can get caught in this mode, so I was ambivalent about starting a book study to talk about The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg. What's the point? Where's all this talking going to lead?

The thing is, this book has already had a profound impact on my life. Every chapter I've read has blown my mind and I literally have to take a break to let the words sink into my bones. Like this gem:

"I don't think that Jesus literally died for our sins. I don't think he thought of his life and purpose that way; I don't think he thought of that as his divinely given vocation. But I do have faith in the cross as a trustworthy disclosure of the evil of domination systems, as the exposure of the defeat of the powers, as the revelation of the way or path of transformation... as the proclamation of radical grace." - pg. 96

Borg seems to be taking head on many issues I have with the creeds and the modern baggage they carry as well as dismantling the facade of American Christianity, exposing a center I long to embrace.

So I haven't even finished reading the book yet because once I knew I was doing the book study, I wanted to wait and share my thoughts with others. I guess that is ultimately why we talk - to share - to know and be known by others - to develop relationships. At the end of the conversation - when we're finally ready to ask "what do we do now?" - I just hope that all this talk eventually leads to action.

"Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view." - Ben in Return of the Jedi

Saturday, September 13, 2008

flickr meme

1. after eating olallieberry pie, 2. Pasta Flower, 3. Guadalupe High School, Seguin, Texas, 4. Purple Euphoria, 5. Dr Horrible, 6. Dr. Pepper & Friends, 7. 20050815-vs-0110, 8. Chocolate Chips, 9. Released to Public: Sinai Penninsula and Dead Sea from Space Shuttle Columbia, March 2002 (NASA), 10. Call of the Raven (formerly Nature's Special Effects), 11. splash!, 12. splurge

Found this meme at brother maynard's. I like messing around with flickr and the flickr toys at big huge labs, so I thought I'd try it out. If you want to play along, instructions are below.

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page of search results, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into mosaic maker.

The questions:

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name.

sources: subversive influence & ravine of light

Friday, September 12, 2008

quest for fame

I took my middle school students on a short trip down my memory lane. My purpose was to provide a glimpse into the time line of technology during my lifetime, to give a few examples of IT jobs and frankly, to show off my part in the Quest for Fame.

When I was in middle school, my glasses were way too big and I didn't have a computer to use at home or school or anywhere. I did get to lug around this big cello though.

In high school, I learned to type on a typewriter. I loved math. My dad bought a new fangled gadget called a microcomputer, the TRS-80, affectionately known as the "trash 80". It had a whooping 16K (16,384 bytes) of memory and a highly unreliable tape cassette drive for storing programs. Compare that with computers sold today that usually come with at least 1G of memory or 1,073,741,824 bytes and huge, reliable hard drives.

I went to a small liberal arts college and majored in math. Then I took my first computer class and changed my major. I still didn't have a personal computer and had to go to the computer lab to work on all my assignments - I was afraid of crashing the mainframe computer.

I was lucky enough to be at Texas Lutheran College (it's now called a university, but it's not any bigger) for the one and probably only year that IBM came recruiting for co-ops. I became a tester for the System 36 in Austin, TX.

After graduating college I worked for IBM for 12 years starting as a tester for OS/2 LAN Server. A tester is someone who tries to think like an actual user of the product and to make sure the software operates as expected on all supported platforms. If I found a problem, I would write up a bug report. Then the developer who wrote the code and should fix the problem, would try to convince me that a customer would never actually DO THAT! Yes, it was fun times - it's where I met my developer husband. We still argue like this.

Next I tried technical writing because the manager of that group was looking to mentor a new manager and that's how I got on the fast track to management. I became a manager of people (writers & GUI developers) and products. From there I mysteriously went to the dark side - ISV support for DCE. If you don't know the acronyms, that's okay, I was speaking about it in front of lots of developers and I didn't really understand it either.

The highlight of my IBM career came as the test manager for Interactive Media, a short-lived multimedia publishing studio complete with it's own high-strung Hollywood producer. I really enjoyed setting up the test lab and working with a great bunch of young people. We tested and published one of the first voice-recognition games with JungleBook, the world-class Worldbook, many sporting event websites and my personal favorite, Quest for Fame - the precursor to Guitar Hero (and a lot less bulkier).

Monday, September 08, 2008


Somebody who I thought knew me pretty well, actually asked me where I stood on the political spectrum. They knew I was originally from Texas and assumed that would automagically put me in a certain "camp". My emphatic response - NO - I'm a hardcore liberal, can't you tell?

I thought it would be obvious that I've decided. What about the undecided? I keep hearing that this election will be decided by the undecided. How does that work? Why would anyone be undecided? What is the undecided voter looking for? Is it fact, substance, personality, experience, values, positions? What for that matter am I looking for? Am I blindly following the democratic party out of habit? How do you get beyond the rhetoric?

It seems there should be a few interesting ways to pierce the rhetoric these days:

what are they actually saying?
you know with out all the glitz, hype and adrenaline

- The Words They Used, New York Times, September 4
- i love wordles

who's been to their party?
to me, this seems really telling
- the democrats actually collect their stats and this was their most diverse party yet (including slightly more women than men and 24.5% African-Americans)
- the republicans may collect their stats, but they don't release them, according to this npr report (the lowest number of African-Americans in 40 years, 1.5%, and a 2-to-1 ratio of men-to-women)

what's their agenda?
I thought this would be pretty easy to figure out, just look up a comparison of Republican and Democratic National Platforms, right? I didn't have much luck. There are lots of individual stories about differences, but I could not find a comprehensive comparison. What's up press? It was also tricky just finding the platforms themselves:
- I could only find drafts of the Democratic Platform and then it looks like the high points morphed into this site.
- I found the Republican Platform here. What's strange is that when I tried to find the high points on the gop site - I kept finding President Bush's agenda, not McCain's?

So, after this little research project, I'm starting to understand why someone might still be undecided. Why decide when real content is lacking and indecision gets you more attention anyway?

p.s. I'm still so decided - the democratic party is not perfect and I worry that we may be putting Obama on a high, thin pedestal, but the party and Obama best represent my hopes and dreams for the country and beyond.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

are you a Colbert Report fan?

I'm a Daily Show junkie, but lately I've been giving up on Colbert. I find I just can't hang with his self-styled cult of personality or as he puts it, his reconstruction of "the news". So, it was nice to hear Stephen's real voice in this interview.

thanks for the find jonathan brink

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

discovering the mommy blogs

It looks like I've been blogging for almost 4 years now - times flies! I've tried a few blog make-overs in that time, but now that my sister-in-law has gotten in on the blog action, I'm finding that my blog is pretty blah. From her site, I found myself exploring a new whole world of mommy blogs, all very hip and chic. I'm not so ready to go chic, but I did try to add a little hip. Here are a few of the mommy blogs I explored:

Mom Blogs

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

a vision of students today



I teach technology at a Montessori school, where they do a fabulous job of enabling and inspiring kids to create, analyze, evaluate and think for themselves, but not so with it in terms of digital learning with very few resources & time given to use of technology. These videos have me wondering - what is the right balance of technology use at school? With the limited resources & time available, what should be my priorities as a teacher of technology?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dr. Horrible sings about evil

Hubby says I'm on the slow train posting about this, but I LOVE THIS SHOW! If you are a Joss Whedon, Buffy and/or Firefly fan, you gotta watch it.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dr. Nick talks about divorce

Dr. Nick, aka my brother, has got some great podcasts. This series is about divorce.

divorce part 1
divorce part 2

Way to go bro!

Friday, July 11, 2008

God's Pottery

I am so bummed these guys got voted off Last Comic Standing. I don't know if they are "for real" or not, but it was hilarious watching them out-kind the other comics.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Talking the Bible - Part II

If you are not easily offended by humor directed at Christians or George Bush, then you might find this this clip from Lewis Black's Red, White & Screwed Special wickedly funny as he talks the Bible.

Talking the Bible - Part I

Our upcoming series at Peace. Image created with Wordle.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

walking the labyrinth

It's amazing how something kind of cheesy can also be kind of profound. Peace is borrowing an indoor labyrinth this week and I had my first chance to walk it today. I've heard about walking the labyrinth for several years now, especially amongst the emerging crowd, so I've been wanting the chance to try it.

As you walk into the labyrinth, you are supposed to release and let go of the details of your life. For a few minutes, I couldn't let go of the cheese factor, walking barefoot on a canvas palette painted with a purple maze. Next I found myself going through my mental to do lists. No, I reminded myself, I'm not supposed to do, I'm supposed to un do. Then I started noticing where I was walking. At times I would get close to the middle and then be led away again. That's interesting. I tried not to cheat and look ahead to what was coming next and before I knew it I was in the center.

Now I don't know what labyrinth protocol is on silence or not, but I decided to walk the labyrinth with background music. While I'm in the center, Alison Krause starts singing "take my life and let me be, a living prayer, my God to Thee" and that is totally how I'm feeling today. I think the labyrinth is a good metaphor for my faith journey. Sometimes I feel like I'm just moving in circles, as my faith ebbs and wanes, but is never fully formed. Then there is the rare occasion where my faith crystallizes into truth, purpose and understanding. However, as the seconds, minutes, hours and days pass, my faith tends to get muddled up as I circle back out of the labyrinth . I guess I just need to remember to return to the journey, especially when it seems kind of cheesy and hopeless.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

fun fountain reflections

The boy and I are in Texas visiting my family: mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew-in-progress. Today I get a whole day in the library for writing. It's awesome - why don't I do this at home? I've only got 9 more chapters to respond to, to wrap up my authoring duties for the book! (yeah, dad's been done with his 31 chapters and background essays for many, many months)

This visit has included many trips down memory lane. Road tripping to the town I grew up in, visiting my parents future, final resting place, eating at my favorite Tex-Mex and BBQ restaurants, enjoying a night out with my high-school tennis partner (hi Brenda, sorry we couldn't stay out later than the kids) and playing in the fun fountain. It's true that you can't go home and everything changes. Some of the changes are exciting and some are disappointing. Every time I make a trip to Texas, the past always returns whether through sight, sound, smell, touch or taste. Sometimes I can get stuck in the land that was and miss out on the here and now.

To paraphrase kathy escobar @ carnival in my head - how much do i miss, we miss, by living life in our heads, in the past or the future, instead of living life with our hearts now. With every trip back to Texas, I think I'm learning bit by bit to appreciate the fun in the now.

Friday, June 20, 2008

my word(s)

wordle of all my blog titles to date
source: emergent village

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Sabbath is...

my attempt to do something like this and that

Monday, June 02, 2008

to blog or not to blog

That is the question Julie over at the emerging women blog asked the current members. Here's my response:

Thank you so much for starting and maintaining the emerging women blog. I think I signed up pretty early on and had good intentions of being more involved, but then life continued to happen. I guess one of my frustrations with the emerging conversation is that it still seems to be dominated by men and their voices tend to be intellectual and often theoretical while I'm craving the intuitive and experiential. Where I hear the most women is on this blog and that's great, but it still feels kind of like a murmur in relation to the rest of the emerging conversation.

I recently listened to a podcast from Tony & Julie Jones, which I loved and I think helps illustrate my angst. What a fresh voice Julie offers, but she's busy living life while her husband is the professional theologian and a prominent "face" of the emerging church. Why do we only get to hear from Julie once a year? How can the emerging church be more intentional about bringing female perspectives into the forefront?

The other problems I have with blogging are my issues:
- Many emerging bloggers seem to have a whole lot more time to spend in the blogosphere than I can manage, so even when I try to interact, I feel like I'm left in the dust pretty quickly.
- As I grow in my faith, I am being shaped by the experiences of living life and many times I find it uncomfortable to share the depth of that experience. Specifically, I don't often bring my husband or son into the online conversation and because they are the priority in my life, sometimes I find I have very little else to say.

So, I while I may regret giving up being a member of emerging women, from where I sit now, it probably makes sense for me to become a friend.

connect the dots

I used to love doing connect-the-dots as a kid. It was great fun starting with a paper full of seemingly random dots and discovering the picture it made.

Here are some random points that showed up on my radar screen this past week - anybody else getting the picture?

Stephen Colbert interview w/Grover Norquest (Leave Us Alone)

Day in the Life of Joe Middle-Class Republican

Diane Rehm Show interview w/George Lakoff (The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st American Politics with an 18th Century Brain)
- progressives need to start using words that connect to the unconscious mind
- thinking is physical, if you change someone's mind, you have changed their brain
- we have a faulty implicit theory of mind based on enlightenment principles:
. people mostly think their thoughts are conscious, however 98% are unconscious
. we think reason is dispassionate, however reason requires emotion
. we believe thought is literal, but we think in conceptual terms and metaphors
- our moral systems are based on metaphors
- we need to stop trying to argue against other people's frames
- the current divide in politics is really a struggle between who's moral system will rule based on the ideal family: strict father family vs. nurturing parent family
- mutual inhibition, you can have contradictory systems about different areas, the activation of one inhibits the other
- a lot of reasoning is about caring about people, caring about your community, figuring out who you care about, empathy
- economics is based on self-interest and it's missing the way most people normally think because it does not include empathy

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Albemarle County Board NOT addressing the affordable housing crisis

Per this article, I gave my feedback to the BOS. Please send yours.

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors,
I am very disappointed that the Board of Supervisors did not budget $500K for affordable housing for those earning less than $20K. As the affordable housing crisis continues to worsen in the area as seen in the latest homeless census from TJACH and the worsening economy, the lack of solutions from Albemarle County to address the problem for it's most disadvantaged citizens is distressing.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Charles Marsh, at PACEM's volunteer recognition event last night reminded me why we struggle with these issues. I think we all want to be part of a healthy, reconciled, authentic community. This is something Martin Luther King named the beloved community, one with the type of spirit and type of love "that can transform opposers into friends".

Becoming and being a beloved community is challenging. It seems the closer we get, the harder the issues that can get in the way become. I think Thomas Merton's quote really nails it; "We do not have the answers to every social problem, and all conflicts have not been decided beforehand in favor of our side. Our job is to struggle along with everybody else and collaborate with them in the difficult, frustrating task of seeking a solution to common problems, which are entirely new and strange to us all."

So I want to continue the struggle to seek solutions to the affordable housing crisis with your help. My prayer is that you too want to collaborate on solutions to affordable housing, laying a strong foundation for our beloved Charlottesville/Albemarle community.

Peace be with you,
Kim Wilkens

note to readers:
I do want to point out that David Slutzky appears to the be lone voice advocating for affordable housing on the board and I truly appreciate his commitment to this issue.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I'm white & nerdy

Is it any coincidence that in a week peppered with race relations rhetoric, the boy comes home from school singing the chorus to Weird Al's I'm White and Nerdy. Well he is and I am, heck our whole family's white and nerdy. What's wrong with that? On the surface, nothing, but if we let the labels limit us and get us stuck then I think the possibility of problems are endless. So this week as I've viewed Jeremiah Wright's most controversial comments, I haven't felt offended, I've felt convicted. As I listened to Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech, I felt my support for him solidify.

Clearly I also claim the labels of liberal, anti-racist and activist, but I'm finding there's a problem with those labels as well. Here's the crux of it, if I am so liberal and anti-racist and feel strongly about pursuing social justice, how come I can only count on one hand my peer to peer interaction with non-white people in any given week. I heard Robert Jensen, author of The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege, talking about race on NPR and something he said really struck me.
"We are the most affluent country in the history of the world, we're the most powerful country in the history of the world, if we wanted to erase racialized gaps in wealth and well-being that exist, we could do it, but we simply choose not to. I think it's fair to call the United States a white supremacist society."

Did part of my cultural upbringing contain subliminal racism training? What choices have I made and continue to make that shore up white supremacy instead of bridging the racial gap? Like Weird Al's parody, am I desperate for meaningful interaction with non-whites, but fail because I'm surrounded by my white stuff? What racial stereotypes am I still buying into?

"At 11am on Tuesday, a prominent politician spoke to Americans about race as though they were adults." - Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

White & Nerdy by Weird Al" Yankovic

Ridin' by Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone

Saturday, March 08, 2008

everything must change - part 2

Several factors conspired to keep me away from the everything must change tour, but I'm glad I made it - at least for today.
- the topics Brian covered, reinforced what I have thinking and feeling about Jesus & church
- the music & worship provided ideas for incorporating justice themes into liturgy
- I was challenged to think about ways we can become a green church
- I was encouraged to continue working with IMPACT, possibly with a little more joy ;)
- I was inspired by folks from The Church of The Saviour that are living the change through spiritual support groups: a new form of church.
They wanted "to explore new forms for church which would bring people together with their societal opposites - and embody the diversity and mutuality of the Kingdom. Out of this desire, the Spiritual Support Groups were born." Each group meets for an hour each week in an AA-like structure. They read a litany which admits addiction to culture, recognizes the need for a Saviour and a community of support, and commits to steps of recovery. A member of the group then provides a reflection on Scripture and poses a question related to recovery from dominant culture. The members that talked about the process were absolutely transformed and the 2 members I talked to during lunch were practically glowing. This has obviously been an amazing experience for them. It's not only providing a safe place to share their life experiences and connection to a diverse population, it's also encouraging groups to see the needs of group members as their own and one way they do this is through economic sharing.

The Church of The Saviour @
(excerpts from becoming the authentic church booklet available @
becoming the authentic church
the "givens" of being authentic church
- the authentic church is an outward expression of God, who is love
- the authentic church follows the authentic Jesus
- the authentic church is a place of extreme diversity
- the authentic church is serious about the work of reconciliation
- the authentic church shares its life with others outside its circle
- the authentic church seeks justice
what's stopping us?
- we are cultural addicts and we cannot break this addiction alone

everything must change - part 1

"Is it war we love or the rush we crave? The heroic action? The defining moment? The struggle that gives meaning? Something peace rarely provides." - Denise Levertov, Catastrophes from Oblique Prayers

we long for peace,
but it's the struggles that give meaning

we crave joy,
but it's pain that provokes life

we seek forgiveness,
but it's the mistakes that generate wisdom

we cling to hope,
but it's despair that reveals faith

we ache for love,
but it's hate that ignites passion

we are so human
as we are drawn to the divine

- me, from everything must change tour

Sunday, February 03, 2008

a candidate blind taste test

From Weekend America, see if you agree with your candidate in this blind taste test.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

a voice for affordable housing

Last night I lent my voice to IMPACT (Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together) to advocate to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to address the affordable housing crisis in the area. It was kind of a big deal to me (I like writing words, but not so much speaking them, especially to a room full of people), but putting it into perspective with those struggling with this crisis every day, I felt it was the least I could do.

Want to find out more about this crisis, I'm collecting resources @

My name is Kim Wilkens and I am also with IMPACT. In the past few months we have come to these meetings and shared some of the struggles of those directly affected by the affordable housing crisis in our area.

I want to give you another perspective. I am not directly affected by the affordable housing crisis. My family lives in what local realtors call a "prestigious community" on Pantops mountain. We don't worry about paying the mortgage each month or being able to go to the doctor when we need to or putting food on the table or sending our child college. You could say we are living the good life in Albemarle County, BUT at what cost. Through the research process at IMPACT, I am learning that the cost is high:
- From the poverty report published in November, we learned that about 20% of Albemarle County citizens live below the "self-sufficiency standard" and 27% of our children age 5 and under also live below this standard.
- From Albemarle County schools we have learned that 320 children became homeless in the 2006/2007 school year.
- From the TJPDC State of Housing report, we learned that there is a deficit of almost 4000 affordable housing units in the area for extremely low income households earning less than 30% AMI.

Bottom line, we've learned that there are citizens in Albemarle County struggling to meet their basic needs of food, health and shelter. We know that when those basic needs aren't met, the stress placed on the individual, the family and the community have repercussions that are costly. We know the affordable housing gap will only get worse, especially with the recent subprime mortgage crisis.

A recent Housing Study from Harvard University suggests that "living in decent, affordable housing may provide a platform upon which low-income families can get jobs, build their incomes, and achieve financial security" The report goes on to say that if the affordable housing crisis is not addressed, "other economic, social, welfare, educational, and environmental priorities will be undermined".

IMPACT strongly encourages the Board of Supervisors to take the lead in addressing the affordable housing crisis in our community. In this year’s budget cycle we would like to see monies from specific funding streams for affordable housing to address the crisis for families that earn under 30% AMI. We want to see you take proactive steps to show that solving this crisis is a priority for the County and consistent with your mission to "enhance the well-being and quality of life for all citizens through the provision of the highest level of public service consistent with the prudent use of public funds".