31 December 2006

Now is the time...

It is time to get applications for summer staff in. I begin interviews January 3rd.

30 December 2006

B.B. King and Oakland...

As I said, Simon took me, December 28, to The Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California to see B.B. King. Seven rows from the stage, Simon and I got there a little early to get the rhythm of the place. Many were dressed to the nines with fedora hat and gloves, top coats, expensive shoes, not a lot of bling but there was a lot of class. This was not just a concert, this was B.B. King, who is 81 years old, coming by the house. These were his people who have been following him for many years.

Simon asked the woman sitting next to, wearing red - hat, gloves, shoes, and coat, if she had ever seen B.B. before. She quietly said, "Why yes, I saw him back forty years ago at the Oakland gymnasium and we were sitting on the floor." Then he asked her if she had seen many concerts, and she said quietly, "I saw Sammie (Davis, jr), Nat (King Cole)..." and then she got so quiet Simon could barely hear the rest. She then said, "I saw Rev. King when he was doing revivals in Oakland."

Mavis Staples, one of the Staple Singers, started off the concert. She did a bunch of the family songs as well as some songs of faith. She put on a great show. Wonderful sense of humor and a great stage presence. When she sang, The Weight, I'll Take You There, and Respect Yourself, then house was very thankful.

B.B. played some great songs, Don't Answer the Door, Blues Man, Ain't That Just Like a Woman, When Love Comes to Town and a bunch of others. He talked a lot which was alright with me. His band was phenomenal, great musician in their own rights, they played a couple of numbers without B.B. in the beginning. Great blues and jazz. He is still going strong even if he did sit the entire time. He ended the show with "The Thrill is Gone" and shook some hands and left the stage (10 minutes later). What a show.

It was a great day with Simon as we drove together to Emeryville, Berkeley, and Oakland. Then home to Napa. Great conversations, great food. In the morning he put me on the train in Martinez and I rode it to Fresno. He is a smart man.

I am blessed...

27 December 2006

Christmas with sleeping grandkids...

Ben and Jack on Christmas. I think I know who is who now. I am really enjoying having them around.

We had many days of Christmas this year. We celebrated it three times. December 17 with my parents and sisters, December 25 with Christel and Hillary, and then tonight, December 27 with Simon and Natasha, Taylor, David, Ben, and Jack, and Hillary. We have eaten a lot of great food. Christmas Eve we had a French Onion Soup that I made. And tonight, Christel made a London Broil with Cranberries and Port which was simply incredible. Simon brought a delightful Cabernet from Napa. Creme Brulee for dessert.

Simon and I are going to Oakland tomorrow to see B.B. King in concert at the Paramount. This was my Christmas gift from him.


25 December 2006

A disciple of Jesus...

I was at the Christmas Eve service last night at Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, which is the church where I belong. My membership is there, we tithe there, I am an elder there, my children went through youth group there, Christel and I led singing (worship?) for 8 years there, some of my best friendship were developed there. But that is not the reason I am a disciple of Jesus.

I sat last night and listened to The Story again. I love that story. I have been thinking about that story all of December. I spoke for Front Porch Ministries in San Luis Obispo the first week of December and began considering it on the first. The Story changed my life. It is simple. Not in Greek language but in a common language a shepherd could understand. Uneducateds can easily get the drift.

"Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people (including you shepherds); for today in the city of David there has been born for you (shepherds) a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

I am a shepherd. I have no business being where I am, except through The Revelation. I was a loser... uneducated, unmotivated, ADD, couldn't read or spell well, a love 'em and leave 'em kind of guy... a loser. A shepherd. (I am not casting any aspersions on my Basque friends!) This is more than grace, it is revolutionary. Ché Guevara type stuff (only non-violent). Ché wrote, "the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love..." It was an act of revolutionary love.

In the 70's I was thinking that the way to real change was through politics and getting involved in changing government. I worked for George McGovern and his campaign for president. I saw some things that disillusioned me with him and others in the organization.

The revolution cannot come from just changing players, it takes a different system, values, ways,... heart. Shortly after that I started asking questions to friends and "the air" and didn't get many answers. Until one day... I heard The Voice. It clear, "Do not be afraid, I bring you good news..." "What must I do?" I asked. "Follow me." Quiet, confident. No sales pitch, no convincing. Truth.

I started reading the scriptures. I was thirsty and it quenched the long road of questions and gave me new questions. Deeper question. He starting showing me His way, His truth, and His life for me. I was not alone, His spirit was my comforter and counselor. But His ways were not my ways. I had to change my way to His.

I traded in some of His ways when I became an elder to be accepted in the meetings. I think I traded in some more of His ways last couple of years because I was depressed and frustrated. Many of my conservative views I thought were His ways but were not as I relooked at scriptures and saw what He said about the poor and loving my enemy. My ways were not lining up with His. It was more than being against a war but am I behaving like Christ behaved. Disciples should put away swords, pick up the cross, go the extra mile, give the coat as well as the shirt, turn the other cheek...

If I am going to be His disciple, I have better start following Him again...

24 December 2006

Christmas time is here again...

This morning I spent the time going through iTunes and listening to Christmas music by people other than the usual guys that sing the usual songs, i.e. Bing Crosby and White Christmas, Johnny Mathis and I'll Be Home for Christmas.

I liked some of the following:
Otis Redding and White Christmas
B.B. King and I'll Be Home for Christmas
José Feliciano and The First Noel
Tracy Chapman and O Holy Night
tobyMac and O Come All Ye Faithful
Ray Charles With the Voices of Jubilation Choir and Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
Joan Osborne and Angels We Have Heard on High

Do you have any to add?

18 December 2006

Thanks Bill...

In one of my earlier post, I had a dream... Bill commented, "Steven's confidence appears to be in that Church invisible, whereas Tony's skepticism appears to be of the visible one. " I thought he articulated this wonderfully.

I spend more time watching the food channel than any other network on TV. I love it. I have my favorites, just as everyone else does. I like the Iron Chef America, Everyday Italian, Nigella Bites, Good Eats, UnWrapped, and a new guy Michael Chiarello. I use to not like Bobby Flay, but I am starting to appreciate his cockiness. Christel and I sit and watch these guys cooking with some incredible ingredients. Basic cooking with some panache is my favorite.

Anyway, you are probably asking if I quit taking my ADD medicine. There is a point to tying the two thoughts together. Watching the show but never cooking the meal is for self entertainment value only and doesn't do anything to fill the belly of others.

The church visible (CV) tends to get an education on how to keep the church visible in control and not allow the church invisible (CI) much place. Authority is rarely transfered from the learned to the fishermen much these days. Apologetics has replaced humility and discernment. Church structures are built for impressing man instead of honoring God. The pastor seeking committee in searching for the best pastor usually listens for the work on his sermons and rarely looks for the work in her parish. Preaching the Word is important but does it drive the listener to do the heart of Christ or to sit entertained on the butt of man. We want cantatas not soup kitchens.

Clichés that sound nice but don't speak the truth of the situation only puts us in make believe that the CV is the CI. There are wonderful churches who struggle with listening for the Truth to lead them but there are far too many who filter out anything which will cause non-uniformity.

Pastor, what training did you get? Who did you read? What intention did you develop? Preaching or reaching? Are you ordained to serve or lead? What is the bottom line in which you measure your success? When you leave your position is it for something up the ladder? Has the neighborhood, not only the congregation, benefited from your servantship?

A couple of years ago, I was on a hike with a pastor friend of mine and we started talking about the emergent wave. He said, "what they want, I wasn't trained to accomplish. This is new territory." My concern is that are we training up people to move with the way of the Spirit or by the parameters of the education. And too often we are limited by the institutional limitations because we get those who know how to work within the institution and have been successful (good grades) in the confines of academia but cannot hear The Voice.

I am thankful for my friends who are pastors, my stones are not to knock you down but to prod you to listen. Now I am showing my arrogance...

What a week...

This last week was quite the week.
New life, passing of family, ceremonies, new food, seeing a friend from high school, small fire at our house, remembering, disappointment, hoping, planning for summer, watching my mother get old too fast, strain, reconciliation, shopping, roses, snow, fog, family...

17 December 2006

Latest Ben and Jack photo...

Ben and Jack after a couple of days.

Pay no attention to the man behind the children...

14 December 2006

A day with Simon...

Today was an incredible day. I will remember it for the rest of my life. At times I would stop and take a few steps back to try to etch in my mind the language, smells, faces, and events in which I was graced to participate. I spent the day with my son, Simon, as he fulfilled some incredible acts of love for his wife, Natasha, and her family.

As I wrote before, his father-in-law, Masoud, past away suddenly on Tuesday morning. He was Persian (Iranian), but was not too involved in the persian community in and around Fresno. Masoud's family, some in Iran and Fresno, asked that he be given a proper burial, according to Persian customs. This would be according to Islamic law and religious practice.

I met Simon at the Clovis Funeral Chapel, where Masoud would be ceremonially washed for burial. Simon participated with two Islamic men washing and anointing Masoud for burial. He was then wrapped in white linens laid in a coffin and transported to the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno for prayers before his burial at the Madera Islamic Cemetery.

Simon was invited to join them to pray by Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, the director of the center, at the noon prayers at the Center, I didn't know that I was also invited so I stayed back and watched from the hallway with the other Persian men. We then all traveled way out to the cemetery. Prayers were given and Masoud's body was then removed from the coffin and placed before us as his face was revealed and we could pray for him and find some closure. Then his face was again wrapped and his body lowered into the grave. We then were asked to shovel the dirt into the grave. Simon along with some of the other men, grabbed shovels and began covering the body and filling in the grave. Even after some of us older men quit, Simon continued to shovel and fill the hole with the same two men who prepared Masoud for burial. It seemed Simon became one of the men.

I watched as Simon shared a few stories of his last time with his father-in-law to the other men who gathered tightly around to listen. The elder and religious leader, Masour, listened with deep respect to Simon as he shared of Masoud's last meal. When we broke to leave, Masour, turned to me, grabbed my hand and told me how impressed he was with my son for the day that he gave his father-in-law the proper honor and respect. He looked me in the eyes and said to me in a very thick accent, "You must be a very proud papa." All I could do was nod.

Please excuse me if I misspelled any of these fine men's name.

Wreaths at the Arlington Cemetery

Each year for the past 15 years a group, Wreaths across America, has decorated each grave with a wreath. What a beautiful but sad picture...

12 December 2006

Masoud Moshrefi...

I am saddened to hear of the death of Masoud Moshrefi, my daughter-in-law, Natasha's, father.

The last time I was visiting him in the hospital we had a delightful conversation of Israel and Iran, the Psalms, his immigration, and his love for his daughter and my son.

He died of cancer.

The best memory is that which forgets nothing but injuries. Write kindness in marble and write injuries in the dust.

A Persian Saying

I had a dream...

Last night, I dreamt of babies, a son and daughters, people I know and love, and much concern for future. Babies remind us of the potential for new things to come. Ideas that will bring life to areas that were void. Who are these two new babies? Ben and Jack. Are these the ones who will discover that which was undetected before that will bring about a new world for others? Will these care for those who no one has cared for before because of their color, behavior, history, hair style? Will they do more than fill the shelves at Target with stuff that look like everything else? Will they be caught up in trivia that doesn't do anything for anyone? Will they be ones who criticize those trying to do good things or will they encourage and help fund innovation through their prayers, dollars, and words?

What will these babies do that will not just make a name for themselves for fifteen minutes but will give another day of life for someone who is dying. Will they know the Voice that will guide them or will they play their music so loud to drown it and the cries of the poor and oppressed out? Will they be bold to be who the Creator has created them to be and do the things planned out before there was the zygote expression of love or will they wear the gray of conformity and march lockstep into mediocrity? Which field will they plant their fruit of existence?

Will they become missionaries with the good news of the Kingdom or conquistadors for the Institution? Will they make sure the wineskins are supple for the new wine or keep the vinegar in stainless steel vats? Will they be the ones repainting lines in the parking lot or will they lead worship and celebration in the sanctuary?

In the words of Butch Cassidy, "Who are those guys?"

11 December 2006

Ben and Jack...

Benjamin Fey (7lb 1oz) and Jackson Anthony (5lb 12oz) were born this afternoon to Taylor and David. Taylor delivered the boys without need of a Caesarean section. Not that there is anything wrong with Caesarean, all of our kids were born Caesarean. I was born Italian.

More Pictures to come. (the one of the twins together didn't come out)

Did I tell you that I am a grandfather now? They call me Popi...

We got the call...

We are heading to the hospital to become grandparents...

06 December 2006

On the road...

Tonight, I am speaking at the Front Porch Ministry in San Luis Obispo. Looking forward to seeing some old friends and hopefully make some new ones as well.

05 December 2006

To the counter...

Update: I am not trying to provoke anyone. I am not trying to defend my actions. I am simply encouraging people to be in true conversation that edifies each other and the Body of Christ. It is in that spirit that this is written. I encourage you to email me if something I am saying causes you any hurt or if I am misunderstanding. To God be the glory (and I will take the blame.)

I was inform the other day of a blog site that was started after last summer by a small group of people who decided to put down what happens at Calvin Crest and the leadership. I know that anytime people who creates subgroups that tweak the nose of the establishment usually are those who really want to be a part of the establishment but do not think they are good enough or think they are view as lesser thans. To those who think that, I want to say that I am sorry if I gave the impression that I think you are lesser thans. I do not. You just didn't have my attention. I know to some, it doesn't mean much what I think, but if they are spending time thinking up clever things to say against us, I was just thinking this time could be spent thinking up meaningful things to change us.

Tweaking the nose, if you will, doesn't change things. It only reenforces your lack of influence over the system, and keeps you at a distance from the heart. Good dialogue, well thought out discussion on how we can serve people better and broaden the Kingdom's influence will get one deeply involved in making important changes that are needed.

I say these things because there are times I am a nose tweaker. I can easily make fun of people in power. But it never accomplishes what I think I really want. Influence. It keeps me out of the clubhouse and away from the people with whom I want relationship. I thought the radical thing was to be against the system and boycott it or laugh at it. Then I started realizing that I was spending a lot of time thinking and talking about it and not being a part of it to make the changes that were needed. No one knew I existed. I was just another one of those on the outside who had no influence or credibility to make system better.

I watched people who have valuable influence in the lives of people. They usually have done things that have bring deep sacrifice to their lives and the lives of their family. Not the fifteen minuters. Those people get their name recognized today but are forgotten in mere moments later. They are the "Pet Rocks" in society. If you don't know what Pet Rocks are that should tell you something. Notoriety and influence are two different things. Notoriety is like vapor, gone in moments. Influence stains and becomes part of the fabric. A few summers back, Michael had influence because we had conversations and he brought solutions to the problems he saw and convinced me these things needed to change.

I am looking forward to seeing the movie, "Bobby" (about Robert Kennedy). He was such a role model for me. The first presidential candidate that I got behind. I was in eighth grade and my history teacher, Mr. Stone, told us to research and support a candidate, so I did and RFK was my man. My father took me to the Fresno Airport to watch him land and give a speech, just days before his assassination. He was different. He was for the farm laborer, when no one else was except Caesar Chavez who was a farm worker. He was against the war that his brother John F. Kennedy started our involvement in and LBJ escalated. He went against the seated leader of his party by becoming deeply involved in the system to change it. This was after the system help assassinate his brother and deeply embroil the nation in war and strife. The country changed with the death of Bobby, I changed.

I am not trying to be anyone's mentor and I really could care less about a website that is mocking me or what we do at a small camp in the middle of a forest, but they are wasting their time which could be spent doing something to improve life for someone else who could use their creative thoughts, kind words, and precious companionship at this critical hour.

03 December 2006

A bending of the knee...

I have found my expectations for what my future should be is causing much grief. Because of what I have done and given, I think there should be something there for me from others. "I deserve..." is in between the lines of most of my thinking today. And I feel God is wanting me to grow up. I am watching the immaturity of some people and realizing that I am still immature in many of my thoughts. What I do deserve, is condemnation for thoughts, imaginations, words, and deeds. I don't have a place that I carved out that gives me rights, I have an opportunity given for a season to do that which God would speak, direct, and resource.

My fear of friends leaving in the future is overshadowing the joy of living for the moment and doing the things God is calling me to do NOW. To be mindful that a season begins and ends with a blowing of the wind instead of rights and demands caused by my actions. I am privileged to be here today doing what I get to do with the people that God has resourced. The rest will have to take care of itself. If people leave, I have seen great people take great people's place. I have more room for more friends who will never take the love I have for others but will enjoy the season that will open up because they are now influencing my life.

02 December 2006


I am sitting in a Best Western Motel in Turlock, California, reading emails from friends like Lara and Ginger and commenting on friend's blog, catching cat naps, and eating delivery pizza. Today I helped deliver my friends, Lyndsay and Cory Piña to their new home in Ripon, California just about 10 minutes north of Modesto. They left Calvin Crest for a new adventure, a great house, maybe some kids, a place for Kitty ∏, and more. I already miss them.

This has been an incredible couple of weeks and this week tied it all together. Calvin Crest is selecting a new executive director and we chose one. I won't tell you his name until he tells his company that he is no longer working for them. Maybe next week. What's in a name. We gotta a guy.

Wednesday night we had a dinner and interview for him with people from the Committee on Ministry (a committee of the San Joaquin Presbytery), the CC Board, and the supervisors of the camp. We sat around, ate some of Marc Neff's great braised short ribs, garlic mash potatoes, and other great stuff, and interview the man. We prayed and discussed the future of Calvin Crest for about an hour after the interview. It was great to be sitting with these three groups and pray for the ministry. First time in a long time.

Relationships are reforming. Some people cannot understand why we are trying to rebuild relationship. Which has been the problem in the past. I could feel a fresh breeze blowing in over the camp and heard The Voice tell me to first, "Loosen my grip." Then, "Let go. It is not your camp. It is Mine." Instead of bringing fear, I felt peace for the first time in many years. I don't know what tomorrow brings, except a Mission Faire at First Presbyterian Church of Turlock, but I am at peace...

Someone is yelling profanity in the parking lot outside my window...

01 December 2006

A gift...

Yesterday, I got a wonderful surprise in the mail. A bottle of Sicilian Wine from my friend Spinner, who is serving in the US Navy and stationed in Sicily, keeping us safe on many fronts. A delightful letter that took away a migraine and some major blues. Thank you, my friend, for the spirits and the kind words. We will drink your gift with some braciole and pasta soon.

I am humbled by the sacrifice of Spinner and Ginger, as well as the others who leave family, send husband, wife, father, mother, sister, son, brother, or friend off to serve the welfare and defend the security of this country with little pay and similar gratitude. We will drink this slow and remember the laughter and conversations in the past around your table, say a prayer, and read a book on marriage (with pictures) in your honor and feel the privilege of your friendship.

Thank you, Spinner, for the gift of your friendship.

Alla tua salute!