Tag: compassion



gentrification.jpgHaving exited the suburbs into the urban core of Phoenix recently, I am discovering that being closer to recognizable need and exposed issues of city life is a really good thing.

One of the real issues in most US urban centers is gentrification. As I've mentioned this term in conversations with friends, more than a few have never heard the term and have been unsure of its meaning.  Here's a quick definition of gentrification (in my words):

"Gentrification is the process in which lower-income residents are pushed out of areas/neighborhoods due to rising housing costs, property valuation, and/or re-development"

for a fuller understanding of Gentrification – see wikipedia's article

So gentrification works like this (using downtown Phoenix as an example):

Lower income (usually minority) families who have lived in their downtown neighborhood for years (if not generations) rent a home, condo, or duplex.  These have become low-income and distressed areas of town because the middle and upper-class residents of phoenix long ago left the city center for the promise and luxury of the suburbs.  While not the pretty (and certainly not the sexiest parts of Phoenix) they have become home and a part of identity for many. Recently though, in Phoenix (and many other parts of the US) there has been a re-urbanization value among young people causing them to revalue the community, diversity, and cultural advantages to urban life.  Developers and city planners have long been trying to "revive" downtown Phoenix and it's finally working – people are moving back and it's once again being considered by many as a livable option in the Phoenix metropolitan area. ON a city development side – thing is great news.  Though from this type of development usually means dire circumstances for those who have lived in these areas for generations.  As developers enter into the scene with plans for profits, they often are willing to pay great amounts of money for plots of land not currently "maximized" in their housing value. In some cases, this means buying a few lots next to each other, demolishing the existing houses (often historic jewels of Phoenix) and building it their place modern, urban living spaces (condos, lofts, etc).  These developers, having built high numbers of beautiful units, can sell them each for a high price.  Happening at the same time, middle or even upper class homeowners begin to see these neighborhoods as developing and begin to buy, restore (or remodel), and either resell these homes at a high price or live in them now being valued much higher. As more and more of these types of projects happen, land and home values begin to rise, allowing landlords the option of either raising rents or selling these homes at a profit often pushing out the lower-income renter.

So with gentrification, there two things happening:

1.) low-income, often crime-ridden parts of a city are redeveloping, beutifying, and rebirthing

2.) low-income families and individuals are being pushed out of the neighborhoods they identify with, have grown up in, and have existing social structures within.

This creates a paradox for people like me who want to see his city develop, but to develop in a way that cares for and gives place for the low-income and working poor communities who call downtown home.

Without having a clear answer to this paradox, what is clear to me is that we need to advocate responsible (re)development of our urban cores.  Just as we give pause to development that causes irreparable harm to wildlife, we should too give pause to urban redevelopment that pushes out those who have found their identity and home within these neighborhoods.  Maybe it is idealistic to think that we can do both well – redevelopment with low-income housing as a part, but raising the white flag of defeat because we can't come up with creative possibilities doesn't sit right with me either.

My friend and Foundarts partner-in-crime, Jamie, sent me the following article a few months back.

Gentrification With Justice

This article offers creative approach and ideology to the issue of gentrifcation. As a person of faith, it's even suggests a theological lense with which to see this issue through. It is thought-provoking for sure and at the very least offers hope that we can indeed come up with creative and imaginative ways to view the real and deserate issues our cities face.

What do you think?


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.

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 


I haven't been up for blogging lately.  It's hard to struggle to do something you once found such joy and even healing in.  Blogging used to be a tool in which I could find myself in.  More recently it has become a tool for others to find myself in – a direction that has sapped my true voice and stolen my creativity.  I am sorry for this.

I feel as though I have been underground lately, jealously guarding time and energy for myself and my family that typically is spent on others and community.  It has been a time of rest and a time of rediscovery. The voice of God in my ear had become silenced by the much louder voice of others.  I have been relearning to hear God's voice and rediscover a sense of calling – that which I cannot do, which I cannot walk away from.  These (re)discoveries is what will occupy this space in coming days.  

Not for anyone else, but for me. Because I need to hear myself think and to see the crazy thoughts running through my mind on a screen.

Communitas Network reLaunch

logo.pngTomorrow night (Sept. 11) marks the relaunch of the Communitas Network. The Network is a collection of Phoenix-area leaders, dreamers, activists, artists, and cultural-creatives (this really means anybody who doesn't fit a previous label) centered around the future of the church, faith, mission, and justice. Tomorrow's event is shaping up to be a great one as many new voices from a wider mix of the Phoenix area are going to participate.  And it's taking place at one of the coolest spots in downtown PHX – the roosevelt. Communitas events are hosted conversations guided by some and shared in by others. This time around, the conversation's called – "The Gospel of Compassion: a conversation about the transformitive potential of compassionate response to the needs of the city." Long title, but good stuff.

If you are free and want to have a beer and change the world with us tomorrow night, find out more info at the links below:

Find out more about tomorrow night's event at the event page
More info about The Communitas Network

Be sure to register for the network to receive emails about future events. 

A Symbol Manifesto

This past weekend with the amazing people who make up Symbol, we explored our conviction as a community.  What we came up with smacks of a manifesto – something I am thrilled about.  Here's what we came up with:

Our expression of community must include:
the poor
the redemption of what it means to be “Christian”
a learning of Spanish
the care of the environmentas spiritual practice
a belief that the present reality is as important as the future reality
a kingdom theology/praxis
laughter/enjoyment of each other
being a people of action/not just talking
a multigenerational community (all ages)
sexually sensitivity towards the gay/lesbian community
the humble pursuit of truth
a community that becomes a voice for the voiceless

Our expression of community must avoid:
a callous/apathetic existence
a cynical nature
a self-focus

It will be interesting to see how this manifesto develops as we travel further down this road.  I'll keep you posted 

The Symbol Communities  


The 2007 US Soliton Sessions

In a couple of weeks, this year's Soliton Sessions will be taking place in Ventura, CA.  This event has been the highlight of my year for the past two years as it has become a gathering space for relationships and dialogue that have challenged and inspired deeply.  Those involved in Soliton represent a variety of voices (both from the US and from the UK), a variety of experiences, and a variety of perspectives that create a diverse and dimensional experience.  Not to mention that these people of Soliton are some of the most hospitable, generous, and radical people you'll meet. Look into headed to Ventura August 9-12 for this annual pilgrimage.  
I am sad to say that I am unable to make it this year, but was able to catch this year's earlier event in Northern Ireland.  For more information about the Sessions or about the Soliton network, visit their website at http://www.solitonnetwork.org.

The Dirt Confessional

At Symbol this weekend, we explored the concept of dirt and how we so easily label others as either clean or dirty and then erect boundaries between the dirty and the clean. It's clear that these boundaries existed in Jesus' day, but he always managed to erase the boundaries every chance he could. Our time together forced us each to recognize the dirt boundaries we allow to exist between us and those around us and to confess those boundaries. A cool thing we did was confessed via a great little free service called Wiffiti. Wiffiti allows you to create a screen that people can text to and the message get displayed live. It's a free service and it worked out great for us. Check out "The Dirt Confessional" here and add to it if you want.

The "Dirt Confessional"

link: Wiffiti Home Page

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