What I’ve been reading lately…

Having dabbled with book reviews on this blog in the past (and having decided to leave that task to others) I figured instead I would from time to time list the books I've been reading with a quick word about each.  This recent collection is overwhelmingly faith-based – especially relating to my interest in re-imagining expressions of Christian community in Phoenix.

The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West …Again – a great read about how the Celtic saints reaching the barbarian peoples in Ireland, Scotland, and England.  The author draws parallels to the time the church finds itself today in the Western world and offers some insight we can learn from these ancient Celtic movements to bring a freshness to our efforts today.  


unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity….and Why it Matters – a book centered around some recent research done by the Barna group that identifies the perspective that young people in America have of Christianity. It's an interesting read, but like most of the Barna books that are driven by numerical results to surveys, gets a bit dry by the end.


They Like Jesus But Not The Church: Insights from Emerging Generations – I like Dan Kimball.  I get the impression he writes the say way he would speak if you were having a face-to-face-conversation with him.  Or maybe it's that I had a conversation with him while he was writing this book which I found myself remembering as I read the book.  Either way – I am really glad Dan wrote this book.  In it, he's honest about his own failures of isolation as a church leader.  His stories of getting out of the church walls to be among those outside the church reveal with great insight the barriers keeping many from exploring the Christina faith.  Dan does offer hope from his stories though, many of those he mentions are deeply interested and respectful of the person and teachings of Jesus. This is a simple, but insightful book.  It's a relatively quick read and I found myself engaged throughout it.


The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of leaderless Organizations – I normally don't like business books.  I hate models, formulas, and how-to-success books.  So that made me hesitant when I approached this book.  I was pleasantly surprised as I jumped in that this book reads much more like a sociology book than a business one. It's premise is to expose the beauty and successes of non-heirarchial (even leaderless) organizationsas opposed to the typical corporate structureed organization. This books highlights some amazing success stories of movements that have changed modern life in radical ways and yet are without typical forms of organization.  The case studies range from Burning Man to the internet itself and highlight a number of web 2.0 & oopen-source phenomenons. Very interesting stuff.


Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God is a Broken World –  Just finished this one.  I find myself reading more than few books these days that speak of solidarity with the poor as a way to learn and to seek a balance in life.  This book is a simple book filled with stories of the authors experiences working among the poor around the world. It's an easy read with plenty of challenging aspects.  I am a fan of this book.



Hopefully this helps expose some good reads to someone out there who wouldn't have otherwise come across them.

UPDATE: I left out a great book from the list – Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Developmen. I highly recommend this interesting and insightful book about how faith develops within us.

Also…keep track of the books I have read, am reading, and have next in the queue via my shelfari page

Rising Gas Prices and the Future of Phoenix


[image from a documentary entitled, "The End of Suburbia"]

Recently I've been thinking a lot about the rise of oil/gas prices here in the US and wondering what affect it will have on us long-term.  I (like many others) are convinced that high gas prices aren't going away anytime soon. Our economy is not so good at going backwards when it comes to pricing.  We will inevitably (and it is scary that this is so) adjust to the cost of $4/gallon gas and forget that we once complained that gas was $2/gallon or then $3/gallon.  

While this may be the case, high gas prices will certainly affect the future of the United States of America.  We are already adjusting and beginning to imagine life beyond the automobile, or least to life with less automobile. We are driving less, using public transportation more, and inventing new words like "staycation.  I personally am excited about the renewed value many are putting on riding a bike and focusing more on local consumption. But despite these new and creative ways we are getting by as Americans, we are still doing it with a sense of hostility toward high gas prices.  In other words, our negative postures toward these news ways of life imply that if and when gas prices roll back we'll return to our gas-guzzling car-loving ways. The implication is that we'll sell our new Prius for that SUV, allow our bicycles to grow cobwebs and dust once again, and return to our excessive carbon-footprint ways.

I want to suggest we take a different view to all of this.  Sure the pain of $70 tanks of gas leave us wondering how we'll stretch our paychecks to survive and we get less product for more money all the way around (high oil prices affect everything from food costs to electricity costs).  But maybe this is the best thing that could happen to our future as a people.  Maybe this pain we currently feel will finally force us to reimagine what it means to be an American. Possibly we will finally have the creative courage to look at other ways of living – one that are more responsible, other-focused,and ecologically-friendly.  I sure hope it will.

As I have been imaging the affects that this gas crisis might have on the US, I can't help but begin by imaging what a new Phoenix might look like as a result of raising gas prices.  Here are some initial thoughts:

– might residential development in Phoenix look more urban as opposed to the typical Phoenix suburbs.  Will this finally force us to value high density residential living and to see it's value as sustainable development in contrast to suburban development?

– will we finally take public transportation seriously? I am wondering how many of the numerous people who've told me that, "the Phoenix light rail project is the biggest wste of money" might be rethinking that perspective.

– might we move from automobile-driven development (high parking space per capita) to community-driven or sustainability-driven development.?

– we will finally take our existing urban spaces seriously and attempt to make up for the decades and decades we've neglected them?  Might new urban spaces emerge throughout the valley?

– will this all lead to the rise of an "ethos of the other" for those who call Phoenix home?  In other words, will we discover what it means to deeply share life and city with those our live on our streets?  Will we remember how to be neighborly?

– will we through all of this discover a new commonality as Phoenicians that bind us together into a city not of buildings, infastructure, and municipalities, but a city of people sharing a common identity of place, story, and common dreams.


I for one, sure hope so.


 BTW: I wonder how the crash of the housing market will play into all of this as well


Some Links:
"Downtown Phoenix sees benefits from the economic slump" from ABC15
"Is America's suburban dream collapsing into a nightmare?" from cnn.com

Laundry Love Project is coming to PHX


Some of us are launching a new Laundry Love Project next week in Downtown Phoenix.  Laundry Love Projects are where a group of us armed with quarters and lots of detergent invade a local laundromat to be a blessing to the working poor and those living on the streets in our city.  For most of us, having clean clothes is something we take for granted, but for many, clean clothes is a luxury that isn't always possible.  In launching this LLP, we hope to 1.) send a message that we value the people we meet, 2.) be a blessing to them, and 3.) to learn from their experience, their story, and the relationships that develop.

If you're interested in coming to the laundromat, popping quarters in machines, and loving and listening to those involved, email me to join us. 

ALSO: if you can't make it, but would be willing to give to the cost of putting this on monthly (quarters for machines and lots of laundry detergent), we'd love the help! 

 For more info about LLP and the non-profit behind it, visit www.just4one.org.

Filling the Margin of Life

About a month ago, I posted about the absence of margin in my life at the time.  I was simply filling the hours of every day with tasks and to-do's.  There was little time in my life to laugh, enjoy my family, appreciate hobbies, or to nurture my spirituality.  For me (as I suspect it would be for most), the fix has been an intentional one.  By saying "no" to things, slowing down, and being more realistic about what a balanced and "whole" life looks like, I've found some much needed extra space in my life. Here's what I've found myself filling my margins with:

The Garden –

Brewing my own Beer and Baking my own Bread –  
Bikes and biking as my primary mode of transportation –  
Making more time for the family –


Taco Day Tres Update

tacodaysmall.jpgWhile you can anticipate a full update the Taco Day Tres site by tomorrow AM, I figured for those of you anxious biting your nails for an update on how things went this past Saturday, I figured I'd post the photos, the time lapse video, and the totals we have so far.  Tis Taco day was by far the best documented, most well received, and most talk about taco Day yet.  Thanks for all of you who played a role in helping make it such a success!

And I am happy to announce that German Mike repeated as this year's Taco Day Tres eating 24 tacos (and living to tell about it!)

 Taco day Tres Totals:

Total People: 120+
Total Tacos Eaten: 493 
Total $$ Raised for JustOne: $1186 

Taco Day Tres Media:
Photos via Flickr
Kitchen Time Lapse
Front Porch Time Lapse 
Dining Room Time Lapse 
All 3 Camera Time Lapse

JUST ADDED: Official Taco Day Tres Video 

The absence of margin

This morning while forcing some silence/refelection into my schedule, I realized my inability recently to create margin in my life for the things I most need (which happen to be intimately associated with the things most important to me).  I am finding little time for solitude, for spiritual practices, for reflection, and for creativity.  I am reminded when faced with this uncomfortable reality that those things which demand the most from us in the economy of our lives will get the most of us.  We have demands upon us, from others, from family, from those we work for and with, for those we wish to help, from those who we share life with.  These are good and normal demands.  But with much quieter screams, the person inside us beckons for life, for health, and for balance.  To nurture myself is vital to the ability to offer myself to others.  

I must change the economy of my life.


This week I had one of the most moving experiences of my life.  I am indebted to the power of art to evoke emotion, to remind, to tell story, to confront, and to recapture my imagination from the prison of the mundane.  I am convinced I need art to help me to see the beauty of the world again, to regain confidence in all of humanity as created in the image of God, and to appreciate the love I have for my wife, the gift of my kids, and the sharing of life with good friends.  Words can't begin to do justice to the experience and my words become jumbled, cheap, and useless when trying to share the experience with others.

What the art was that invoked this in me isn't as important as the acknowledgment of the power of art to speak into my life and to give clarity to the confusion.   I am convinced it is a primary way God speaks to our world.

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