Freeways, destroyed our society…

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I have began learning a lot about the American transportation infrastructure over the last year, and I have to say, I’m not such a fan of the automobile as I use to be. The cost to Americans just to move around from point A to point B is staggering, unhealthy (both physically and economically), and destroys the fabric of our society yes, probably more so than gays and lesbians, abortion, and bad TV. I honestly believe this, and the following is why. This post is in no way conclusive, all encompassing, nor the “end all’ – it’s just part of an adventure I’m on in seeing our world differently, it’s not designed to be political, it’s hopefully a nod to a different way of life which we have found more simple, less taxing on the overall system (in many ways) and provides us opportunity to interact with more people.

The cost is horribly high for what we “get” – most freeways spend a lot of time underutilized, they are built to attempt to work at “peak” load, making them monstrosities which eat up valuable land, create moats around communities, and in reality with every lane addition and expansion more cars hit the roads. You can see examples of this on a recent article I read here. Additionally, by making access to the hinterlands cheaper, more people moved away from the cores of our cities, creating a dependency on cars to get us around, leaving us less healthy, disconnected from community, and paying for car insurance, fuel, and fuel taxes. Some people may even begin to think of our funding system as almost socialist, since everyone is forced to pay for it in some way or another… people would scream if there was a “highway” fare (aka tolling) – like on Transit systems. The cost to build and maintain these “freeways” is very high, and becoming more expensive each year, many times construction lobbyists push for highway construction  as a “jobs creator” – and we pay for it, through over budget projects, which are then passed down through state taxing systems making everyone pay, many times at the cost of other more-human scale programs and projects.

Why do I say freeways destroy the fabric of our society? Well, because it has caused many Americans to live in suburbs, and other places where getting around by car is necessary because everything is spread out. This spreading out effect took away the idea of neighbors, sure we have “neighbors” but because our houses needed to be large enough to have garages we started parking in them and never seeing our neighbors, and the land was cheap so we planted acres of  lawn and built fences as well. We isolated, disconnected, and bought big TVs for our big houses, and stayed inside. We now have to drive to get even the smallest item, our children (in most cases) can’t even go bubble gum without needing a car ride, and many times it’s not even safe to walk to school because of lack of sidewalks.

Visit anywhere in “old downtown America” such as New York, Boston, Chicago, even parts of Seattle and you’ll find community, culture, and human scale life. Sure I understand big cities are not everyone’s favorite, I have nothing against small town America, my issue is with suburb America, it’s artificial, stale, and forced. Are there drawbacks to living in a large city, in high-rise apartments, yes – of course. But a well planned city, with parks, green space, and transportation for all, is a place where many different people of all backgrounds can come together and live; suburban America has a hard time allowing all kinds of people to live there because, well, you need to own a car – and not everyone can or will.

How living a low-car or car-less lifestyle can be amazing:

  • Low transportation costs, more money for family/friends and enjoying our communities
  • Interaction with a greater variety of people, walking, talking, sharing transit, etc. Which leads to greater understanding of the world around us (through interaction that we’ll never have with a car-dependent lifestyle).
  • A society which connects and interacts, is a society that can take care of each other.
  • And much more (sustainability, livability, etc).

One last though, for my fellow Christians, we are called to be people who can effect our communities and neighbors, living in places where we don’t need to drive allows us so many amazing interactions with people.  Might we begin thinking of living in such places? Many times we are focused on “safe” neighborhoods, which is fine in itself to have some selectivity, but we serve a God who we know will protect us, use the brain He gave us, and trust the savior as well to protect us – and make your living location decision based on the people’s needs, and maybe even think about throwing yourself among the community, go car-less or low-car-use for a while and you might make a few friends along the way!

Alexis and I made the decision to live in a “mid-rise” apartment building in Gresham (Gresham’s only and highest) about a year and a half ago, we absolutely love it. It’s right next to a TriMet MAX station (Civic Drive) and I can walk from our top floor (fifth) unit on the far side of our building, to the platform when there’s less than four minutes to the next train. We currently have one car, since outside of our direct neighborhood, which is wonderful but has no grocery store, we need the car to get around Gresham (there’s decent transit but only on a few core streets and definitely not to where our friends live). We know that our next move will be closer to a downtown core, definitely have a grocery store within walking distance, and be someplace where anyone can get to us easily by transit.

Image of Christ and the Church in today’s culture?


So a while back I started seeing some interesting ads around, the “I’m a Mormon” ads, you know the ones featuring “normal everyday” people, NFL stars, doctors, lawyers, etc. This made me think… what on earth would a “I’m a Christian” ad even begin to look like? I wont’ even try.  But then I read an article on one of my favorite online magazines, Out of Ur, called Mormons, Mormons Everywhere and I started to think, does it matter what the world thinks?

It’s a hard subject to approach, but one that I think we (the Church) fail at quite miserably. There’s are part of me that simply thought “just let them think what they want” – but I don’t think that truly reflects the attitude or value we want. We should care what “they” think, but we don’t want to just come up with marketing schemes to make it happen. In the end it’s true transformation of our lives, our friends, and the community around us that will be our “ad” to the world.

But I still think, maybe the Mormon ads do at least (for those of us who at least try to be open minded) get people to rethink their preconceived ideas of Mormons. As I said, I have no idea how the Church in its current state would ever come together to agree on an image to encourage America (and the world) to rethink their ideas… But maybe the Mormons have something going on?

Share your car, share your faith


Sharing your car with complete strangers?

In our car-loving, freeway, go fast obsessed American culture, the idea of sharing our personal cars with others (like a version of Zipcar) sounds crazy to many. I guess the idea of sharing our cars with complete strangers is a bit of a stretch, not to mention possibly not having immediate access to your car (oh my gosh!). But think about it, how many hours out of a day does your car just sit there? With certain protections in place (such as technology to track the cars, and insurance, which in most states would require revising the law), a paradigm shift for some people, and a common goal of utilizing our resources more efficiently – private car  sharing can allow those that only need a car from time to time to get around less expensively, at odd hours when transit doesn’t operate, and bring in a little extra cash for car owners.

This concept is something that I think, for those that are willing (for those that can let go, and let God), would make a great ministry for the Church. What a great way to share, show people that our “stuff” really isn’t ours, and share and give a little – not to forget make some money on the side – out of that money pit. Nuts? Maybe! Do our cars really belong to us though? For those whose car sit for 8+ hours a day though, might be worth it!

Talk about Acts 2:42-47 [NIRV]:

42 The believers studied what the apostles taught. They shared life together. They broke bread and ate together. And they prayed. 43 Everyone felt that God was near. The apostles did many wonders and miraculous signs. 44 All the believers were together. They shared everything they had. 45 They sold what they owned. They gave each other everything they needed.46 Every day they met together in the temple courtyard. In their homes they broke bread and ate together. Their hearts were glad and honest and true. 47 They praised God. They were respected by all the people. Every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.

Being conscience about food on TV


Food, a basic need, yet for most Christian Americans, it’s around us in far too much abundance, both in the way we consume and the way we throw out. Thanks to Google Reader I came upon this article on The Ooze, one of my favorite online magazines/blogs, an open letter to Food Network and the Travel Channel, and I have to say – I’m in agreement. When I paused to think about what the letter was about, I was convicted by the facts – not only is “food competition” and other extreme uses of food an insult to many parts of the world, it can’t help promote healthy ideas about food, nor the reality that food is in extremely short supply for many people.

While it may not be “our fault” that these food shortages exist, while it is a complicated and often hard to imagine circumstance, maybe we could use our resources in a more creative manner, humble ourselves and use our profits to educate and create sustainable ways of making a difference in other people’s lives. Maybe the Food Network and others like them could have these competitions and the prize is winning trips and documenting these places where Food (and other resources) are not as abundant and teaching others how to change those circumstances, maybe one family or village at a time? Just a quick thought…

What heck is sin?


A while back I ran across an article on regarding some protesters who were demonstrating against Mars Hill Church’s latest Church plant in southeast Portland.  These kinds of demonstrations (from both sides of the fence, read: Westboro Baptist Church and similar groups) seem to only further the divide, certainly these demonstrations don’t encourage a sensible discussion for each side to understand and see the other’s viewpoint (not necessarily agree, but at least get the full picture) and allow for real relationship. It seems most of the time we see “Christians” doing this kind of activity, but it goes to show that every group out there has their extremists.

The world has a hard time understanding how we can call something “sin”, such as homosexuality, because of the long list of connotations “sin” has as a word; and it has become nearly impossible to use the word and not provoke some kind of negative reaction. My definition of sin is simply this: The act of not obeying the Lord either in character as He has asked us through Biblical means, or by direct personal request. It’s also important to note that the Lord sees all sin exactly the same, each one is only one step away, and all He wants is for us to be right near Him – not one step away.

This is why it’s possible for me to see something as “sin” and not have it affect the love, basic human respect, and desire to enter into meaningful friendship with anyone who is willing. We (members of the Church) have to understand and accept the fact that people “outside” can’t possibly understand, and this is why the Good News/Gospel needs to be delivered (evangelism: to deliver the Good News), only the Lord can convict someone of their sin and cause true repentance (change). Our “job” is to live, breathe, speak the Good News as best we can; including recognizing and admitting when we turn away (sin) from God, so we can adjust and move closer to God again, not only as a witness for others, but out of a true relationship with God – as we would for our significant others and friends.

Probably the most important piece to understand is that the process of conviction, forgiveness, and restoration is not dependent on the people in Church telling those outside they are “sinners” – it’s dependent on each individual to accept what they hear from the Lord and be convicted of their position with God (being purposely away by their own choices), ask for forgiveness, and then seeking restoration with Him.

Where we people in the Church tend to mess things up, and it’s a horrible mistake, is taking what’s OK in the Church (holding our brothers and sisters accountable – in a graceful/concerning way, which is another blog post) and applying it to everyone outside of the Church as well.  Nearly every scripture about confronting another person is about brother/sister to brother/sister (meaning another member of the Church) not much is said about confronting people outside the Church, except spreading and proclaiming the Good News (the news of Jesus as our Lord, and free grace to all, change your ways and live a full, never-ending life).

There’s a whole lot more I could attempt to write, but this entry would end up being 20+ pages in size 10 text… let’s just say insert a lot of stuff about Love, changing our ways (repentance), and the reality of human nature (sin), and the big picture that gets painted is that God is far more than the box we put Him in.

I spike… easily.


I started writing this post back in November, ’11 – yeah I’m that far behind… if there really is a way to “fall behind” with blog posts… At one point I had 57 “draft” entries. 2011 was a year which might be summed up as simply “thick”, no matter where I turned something was changing, just changed, or proposing a change and with it I had my own things to deal with and balance with a family in tow. It seemed hardships of all kinds were around me and us, although we didn’t have any direct hits this year, we’ve been licking our wounds for a while and have some relational business to continue working on, otherwise though, circumstantially we’re good.

However, through all of this I would have fairly dramatic spouts of frustration and anger, usually over environmental things, like cleanliness, organization, scheduling, etc. and boy did I show my wife how I can spike off the charts when I’m running on empty. Thank God we have some tools in our tool belt to handle it, and for me to cool down in a much more healthy way than years past. Still though I would often find myself stuck, unable to push past…

But it was just that, “pushing past” which was causing me to get stuck, rather than stepping back and analyzing the cause, I just wanted to get “to the other side” and move on… yeah, I know, it doesn’t work real well… but in the moment it’s hard to think like that. On one particular enlightening evening, as we were talking with our pastors Alexis had to bring something up from weeks before which I thought we “pushed past” – well I had, she hadn’t and I hadn’t let her safely express that.

The ability to stop, step back, and recognize what’s going on, who/what the real issue is (remember, our fight is not against flesh and blood) and see from another perspective is a huge asset, nonetheless I still find it hard to enter in to that mindset at the right time. Thankfully Alexis is a wonderfully patient bride, who cares deeply about our marriage and me.  So I write this entry months and months after the fact, realizing my silly spikes are not really all that silly, just an indicator of something beyond me.

This is why a life filled with grace and mercy is so important, as God pours His love on us in so many ways, we are able to learn, and be an even greater light to our spouses, families, and friends. However, most of important of all, we find God in us, working through us, and can do nothing else but reciprocate Him to those around us.

Marriage, what does it mean?


So what is “marriage”? Actually the question I really am asking, is “is marriage something for the Church AND the rest of the world, OR is it something for just the Church?”  Basically my point (if you don’t want to read further) is that for people who are “outside” the Church (belonging to Jesus the Christ as their Lord) can not possibly be held to our values, we should treat them with the same basic values that any human deserves, love, respect, and equality among all. I know, this sounds almost heretical, but seriously, can we really even expect someone who does not call Jesus their Lord to understand the blessing? NO, of course not. Therefore instead of fighting over values which are almost impossible to understand, none the less live, when not belonging to Christ, we need to focus on evangelism, discipleship, and worship of our Lord – and then we’ll see people’s values dramatically change.  Now read the rest if you wish…

With the same-sex marriage issue hot underway, I have a harder and harder time with our institutionalized version of marriage. We’ve taken (one of many things) a biblical principal and turned it into a law for the land.  While this is most likely the most ancient of traditions, and therefore seeped in emotions and dogma, is it really necessary for the government to be involved?  Why must marriage be law?

To take this thought further, I wonder how much stronger the Church would be if marriage had remained only within the Church and the government simply provided the benefits of “marriage” (tax breaks) to registered households, since essentially this is what the marriage “benefit” essentially is (I’m in no way a tax expert, however). Forget legalized unions, marriages, etc… leave those titles up to us to decide.  Let us be married before our God.

There’s a lot of issues which could arise from this, one being the idea that “marriage” is only for Christians… and that’s not what this blog entry is about, and not sure how we would walk that out, I fear it would simply become another thing for Christians to demand that “marriage” be trademarked or some crazy idea like that.

All of this to say, if people who do not have Jesus as their Lord, want to be together and have a ceremony of some type, leave it to them to do, and leave both the state and Church out of it.  As Christians we ought not busy ourselves with “fighting” the culture, for our fight is not against flesh and blood, it’s spiritual – so let’s focus on winning souls and living as Jesus, who did not come to judge (as we do many times) but rather came to convict (point out, guide away, lead towards the light) us of sin.

In this way the Christian marriage would be unique, mean something more, and most of all, a truly different covenant defined by biblical standards, not governmental, cultural, or traditional definitions.  I understand this doesn’t “solve” all the “problems”, but it’s at least a direction which firstly allows “us” (Christians) to walk the high road in humility, Secondly, it’s a graceful step out of the argument and allow the Christian marriage to be what we believe it to be – a covenant between a man and a woman to love, cherish, and support one another for our rest of our lives; all other unions can remain whatever they want to define them as, and we can befriend, and show that love is stronger than human will.  God is much bigger than definitions of marriage, his love lives loud when we focus on walking with him instead of “proving” and “legalizing” “his” ways to the rest of the world.

As I’ve grown closer in my walk, I’ve come to realize “our” (I can hardly say I’m a part of “them” but can’t exactly divorce myself, since the body of Christ is ONE) methods need to change, and we have all heard it, if there is not love then there is no reason to claim Jesus as lord.  This means we live by the spirit, in love towards everyone, and turn the other cheek when others mock or take offense, but we don’t bite back, and we don’t argue back – we walk the high road, and allow people to make their choices, we can’t make it for them (forcing “our” laws and viewpoints) – we can pray, we can talk, and for those that want to hear and see we can be a witness to Christ’s glory.

The path of least resistence


Something I observe multiple times throughout my week is that people fall into two camps, either they are “go getters” or “resisters” and in most cases, people attempt to take the “path of least resistance”.  In nearly every job or role I’ve been placed in I’ve seen this phenomenon, and I’m guilty of it as well… “what’s the easiest,  fastest, and most ‘avoidant’ way of getting X done?” and man it irks me.  It seems to be an especially strong disease throughout my generation.

This is even stronger when it comes to relational dynamics, I see it so many times, people going to all kinds of lengths to avoid a possible “conflict” or “situation” – in my mind though, this kind of avoidance makes waters down our relationships, and actually breaks down the desire for strong friendships and family that we actually want.  It certainly takes guts to overcome our cultural boundaries, and most of the time takes courage since most of us have not been shown how to healthily confront awkward (or simply saying no) situations.

A lot of the time when I’m faced with the decision to resist or “go get it” I have to ask myself, what is the pro-relationship path I could take? What will build up the relationship? What decision might tear it down, or leave it flat? As a person who looks to Jesus for direction, I usually can’t choose to skim past a relation-building choice… (of course if it’s unhealthy and not safe, then that’s another ball-game which actually might be just as challenging to make the choice to step away from a relationship). Often times I find myself wanting to avoid talking to someone because it’s harder than just making my own choice to “skim on by with what’s acceptable” – however, I’m not so sure this is how Jesus goes about ministering to us, and I want to reflect this. I want to go above just the “satisfactory” and I want to be a servant, even when it’s not exactly pleasant for me.



I respect people, and I respect what people do, their choices, what they’ve accomplished, and what they’ve “earned” – all great.  However, that doesn’t, in my opinion, belong in the Church.  It’s fine outside, where it is useful to know the title of a person because it describes and defines what that person is responsible for.

But in the Kingdom, also known as the Church, I have a hard time with titles. Mostly because, unlike outside the Church, people attach so much “esteem” and “authority” to the people with titles. Most of these ideas behind the “titles” are completely void of biblical character, it’s simply a mimic of the rest of the world around us.  Even using “earned” titles in the Church, is a bit bothersome to me – like “Dr. Bob” – while, yes, you may be a doctor – does that title really mean anything, does it mean I should listen more? Should I take your words more seriously over my brother’s? Shouldn’t I test the doctor’s words w/ the spirit’s?  – YES.

Yes, the Bible describes certain roles, and we absolutely should understand as individuals what role we play in the Church – these are the gifts to the Church Paul describes in Ephesians (the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers). Each of these roles are servant roles, not positions to obtain and gain authority, but positions which are prescribed by God and confirmed through relationship. We’ve been so trained to be sheep and remain “just” sheep, rather than be sheep with a purpose and personal ministry.

Our culture puts far too much weight (in responsibility, in authority, and praise) on titles in and out of the Church. However, in the Church we should all be servants, regardless of title, if we can’t serve one another, how will we serve the world? Thankfully many churches have began to realize this, and have downgraded the old school titles into appropriate helping verbs or descriptions… and instead of introducing the pastor as “Hello my name is Pastor Joe” we’re hearing “Hi, my name is Joe, one of your lead pastors”.

Just like the rest of us, our titles are not who we are – we are children of God, not Pastors, Prophets, Teachers… we are all children – who have special callings.

I’ve got a travel bug!

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I have a huge travel bug right now, I really just want to go somewhere outside of the Pacific Northwest – if we had the money, we would be heading to Poland for a wedding on November 5th, but unfortunately we are shy of the $2,500 needed for airfare to get our family there – not to mention other travel expenses.  It makes us sad we can’t go… really sad.

I’ve had a couple of work-related trip opportunities but turned them down due to other scheduling issues, I’m hoping to have at least a few more before the end of the year – most so I can move up to the next mileage program status!  But also, because I have a huge itch to just go somewhere, explore something new, see and taste new things.  I love traveling, even when it gets all messed up.  Please God, send me somewhere… dare I saw “anywhere!”?

The picture above was from our visit to Poland just after our Honeymoon in 2006.  Wizzair is a no-frills budget airline that operates flights to/from Eastern Europe, this photo was taken as we were about to board our flight to Frankfurt after a couple of weeks in Poland.