Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Since the end of June I haven't had a regular, full-time job. I've been doing temporary work for half what I was making at Soul Survivor and Wendy has been teaching at Spirit Academy twice a week, but still we're far short of my previous take-home pay.

How have we made it this long? Simply by the Grace of God. I wish I had been keeping a record of every gift from a friend, or check from a family member, or random check we've received throughout this time frame. It's truly astounding to me how God has been our provider all this time.

I was thinking about how good God is. We kind of lucked out on that one, as a created race of people. The Supreme Ruler of the Universe could very easily have been harsh and demanding, or even evil and sadistic, yet He is Good. He is kind. He is faithful. He is loving. He is forgiving. He is willing to sacrifice his own position and even His life to save us.

God is Good...and aren't we blessed?


Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Daily Faith by Keith Giles

I'm learning a very valuable lesson these days.

Jesus seems to spend a lot of his teaching ministry trying to get his followers to take things one day at a time.

He talks about praying for "daily bread", he tells his disciples that they cannot follow him unless they die to themselves and "take up their cross, daily", and he urges them not to worry about tomorrow but to trust God for all you need each day.

As for me, I'd prefer to have God provide me with "Weekly Bread", or better yet, "Yearly Bread". You know, where He would provide everything I need all at once so I could rest in comfort and avoid the anxieties of wondering where the next day's bread is coming from.

Of course, if this were the case I'd also have no need for faith. I wouldn't really need to trust God for anything because I'd already have it.

Chances are, in time, I'd also begin to forget just where my bread was coming from. Maybe I'd start to think that it was I who had actually provided all this bread. Maybe then God would become my buddy and my pal, not my Lord whom I desperately cling to for dear life.

Maybe that's why the Scriptures tell us that God's mercies are new every morning? So that we'll know that we can face each day in His strength, and not our own.

Jesus is always trying to get us to live in the here and now, not in the security of our life or the "what if?" of tomorrow.

As you may have heard before, God's name is "I Am" and He wants us to wake up each day and walk with Him, one day at a time. With our faith firmly placed in Him and our minds focused on today, not on yesterday, and not on tomorrow.

Today is all we have.

Seize the faith.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My New Column

So, after my six-part series (The Gospel: For Here Or To Go?) concludes over at "Ginkworld.net" my new column will replace it in the same spot at the upper left of the main page.

I think we're calling it "Subversive" (kinda catchy, eh?) and it will be yet another place you can read my rambling articles on issues of social justice, spiritual formation, and the Kingdom of God.

I've also been extended administrative privleges over at "SeedStories.com" too. That means I can help edit other submitted articles and, of course, publish my own at will.

So, other than here and my weekly [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND] newsletter, you can now read articles at Ginkworld.net and SeedStories on a regular basis.

I will probably continue to submit articles to places like TheOoze.com and at Next-Wave Magazine, and anywhere else that will publish my stuff, but these are good places to start.

I've still got about a half dozen good articles in my head that I have yet to find time to sit down and write. Our lives our a bit crazy these days, with me temping and my wife teaching First Grade.

Now I need to start thinking about my first article to launch the column at Ginkworld. Hmm....what shall it be?

At least I've got a few weeks before I need to loose sleep over it.

More later...


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

de la soul

“de la Soul” by Keith Giles

Wedged between the high-end cars that surround your car at a stoplight on Newport Boulevard, a drive through "the O.C." might seem like something out of a popular television show. With the beach only a mile away, the sunny sky of Southern California above, and the sunlight bending to kiss the horizon just right, it's almost like you’re living in a dream world.

For many in Orange County, California, life really is a dream. Bills are always paid, cupboards are always full of food, and it seems that the only real danger might be the possibility of a bad sunburn. But for a growing number of people in this part of Southern California, this dream is only that; a dream. A quick turn onto 18th street does well to remind us that there are others who are living in a different reality, yet not in a different city.

Not further than a few side streets from beautiful Newport Boulevard is the neighborhood of Shalimar, a close-knit series of streets blocked off by the Costa Mesa Police Department a few years ago in an effort to crack down on the growing criminal activity there. Today, only one street is open into Shalimar by automobile. All other streets have been sealed shut by concrete dividers, preventing drug dealers and gang-bangers from escaping should police cruisers need to roll in on them. Now a single police car can block the only exit and entrance to Shalimar all by itself, making drug busts easier, and escape impossible.

For many of the children growing up in Shalimar, those concrete dividers do suggest an impossible escape from the harsh realities of this community. But Shalimar is also the central location for MIKA’s youth development program, run by Crissy Brooks and Lindsy Pike. This non-profit community development ministry provides holistic youth programs for the children who find themselves living within those invisible walls.

A few years ago, Soul Survivor’s congregation partnered with MIKA to co-host a youth group which has since become known as “de la Soul”. An extension of MIKA's youth development program, “de la Soul” serves as a youth group for the teenagers of Shalimar and other similar Costa Mesa neighborhoods.

Jarred Rowland works a full week at Soul Survivor Ministries as their Youth Pastor liaison, but every Tuesday night he’s leading thirty Jr. High and High Schools kids at “de la Soul” in a Bible Study.

Many of the teens in “de la Soul” have come to regard Rowland as more than just a youth leader or volunteer. To many he’s become a mentor, and a friend. “My job,” says Rowland, “Is to let my kids know they have a friend in Jesus who loves them, who’s concerned about them, and who will always be there for them. I am also here to show these kids some good, clean, crazy fun.”

Rowland often calls up some of the teenage boys in his youth group to see how they’re doing, or just to hang out with them during the week. Although getting the kids to trust him took some time. “I had volunteered within the community for about a year before starting ‘de la Soul’,” explains Rowland. “So when we started the youth group, I wasn’t just some random guy. So often these kids have been victims of the ‘One-week White Evangelists’, you know, the one’s who come to the street just to save souls, and then leave after they have saved enough kids to merit their next Christian badge,” he says. “These kids have been accustomed to people like that and they recognize who is legit or who is not. Therefore it took some time for me to gain the trust of the community.”

When Rowland initially began volunteering he stuck out like a sore thumb, being that he is very white, six foot four inches tall, with blond hair, and blue eyes. “On occasion I even had racial slurs spewed at me. But now when I roll up to the neighborhood, people recognize me and there is a shared feeling of respect between myself and the community,” says Rowland, “And people know I am not there to exploit them, but to learn and to share with them about the love of Christ.”

Since the beginning of this year, Rowland has begun to recruit small group leaders and incorporate a stronger relationship within the community. “It is the example and the fervency of my small group leaders that have affected these kids the most", says Rowland. "This is the first year to incorporate small groups. We want to do our best to disciple these kids, and within the small group format, our kids have a chance to tell us what they really think about the issues."

Rowland has seen some great progress over the last two years. “When I was the same age as these kids, my parents made me go to church, there wasn’t a choice,” he says. “These parents don’t make them come, and yet the kids still choose to come week after week, and that is a direct result of my small group leaders’ influence.”

Rowland isn’t alone in his passion and dedication to the kids in Shalimar. Just over a year ago, Crissy Brooks and Lindsy Pike decided to move into the neighborhood itself, rather than just commute to and from their duties at MIKA. “Ever since I started working at the learning center I had wanted to move into that community,” says Pike. “Crissy and I had been working in the neighborhood at the Shalimar learning center together for a couple of years. We had both had previous experience in community development and we had both expressed a desire to go deeper into the community at Shalimar.”

After about two years working at the learning center, Pike and Brooks began praying together about how they could make a deeper connection to the families in Shalimar. “That was in the summer of 2003,” says Pike. “By January of 2004, we had rented a house on the corner of Wallace and Shalimar streets which is dead in the center of the neighborhood.”

Renting a prominent house on the corner, these two single Caucasian women became more than just volunteers, they became friends, neighbors, even family to those in Shalimar. “It's been great,” says Pike, “I’ve gained a whole new understanding of the community and the culture, things I never would’ve learned, even by working there for 50 hours a week. We’ve become more accepted by the community and they respect us more and they see us differently. They know we're there to stay and that makes what we do that much more powerful.”

Of course, living in the heart of Shalimar has also provided the two girls with a measure of challenge, as well as reward. “Sometimes,” says Pike, “I just need to get away from the community. Finding alone time and privacy has been a challenge. Plus, it's not like living by the beach, it is a sacrifice,” she says, “but I'm very glad about our decision”.

“Their problems have become our problems, we experience it all along with them. If we come home and there are police cars blocking the street, we know about it on the spot, we don’t have to find out about it on Monday morning,” says Pike. “The kids know they can always drop by our house and they know they can find us whenever they need us.”

The structure of MIKA is geared toward transforming communities from the inside out. Instead of bringing foreign programs into communities, volunteers take the time to better understand the needs of the people. “MIKA exists to help families move from a relief mentality to a mindset of personal and community responsibility,” explains Pike. “Meaning, we don't come in and give them five programs that are going to change their life. We allow them to tell us what their problems are, and then we help them to solve those problems on their own”.

MIKA focuses on community organization and youth development. “It's not about outsiders coming in with the solution, it's about the neighbors themselves understanding these things,” says Pike. “We work with partner churches to assist the community. We're not looking for churches to come in and do charity but to help the community meet the needs that they've identified, using the plan of action they’ve determined for themselves.”

Pike and Brooks are also working very closely with the youngest members of the Shalimar community. “We try to develop indigenous leadership from within the community, and that's done through our youth development programs. We get the kids enrolled in mentoring groups, such as “de la Soul” and the “ExpressYourself” Urban Arts Program,” she says, “And we also have various sports programs”.

“de la Soul” is already having a huge impact on the lives of the young people in Shalimar. Not long ago, Rowland had a chance to influence the life of Armando, an 8th grader who was facing some very challenging decisions. Having grown up in Shalimar, Armando has become accustomed to the reality of drive-by shootings, drug deals, and gangs. Armando is also a natural leader, which makes him the perfect target for gang recruitment.

About the time Armando began spending time with the gang leader in the neighborhood; Rowland began to teach Armando how to play the guitar and began spending more time with him. Rowland even went so far as to introduce himself to the gang leader just because he was becoming Armando’s friend too.

Armando began to share with Jarred about his interest in becoming a leader within the local gang, mostly for the status it could afford him to others within the community.

Several weeks later, Armando had a decision to make. He had been officially asked to join the gang. To Rowland’s delight, Armando denied the offer. Rowland’s years of investment in him began to pay off. Armando believed that he was the kind of leader that everyone had been telling him he was and he realized that if he joined the gang, so would his friends. He realized that he would not only destroy his own life, but also the lives of those around him.

Without the influence that Rowland and others within “de la Soul” were providing, Armando’s choices would have been severely limited. Now, because there were people like Rowland involved in his life in such a significant way, Armando realized he could choose a different path than the one being offered him by the local gang leader.

“I’m committed to being there for Armando,” says Rowland, “Through Junior High and into High School, and beyond. I really want to see him make it. My heart is to encourage my kids to dream, and to help them to see past their current situations.”

The lives of these students in “de la Soul” are quite different when compared to those of other students who live in better neighborhoods down the street. The kids in “de la Soul” come from homes where the living room couch might serve as a bed for the night, or where several families squeeze into a two bedroom apartment, and older siblings default to caretaking while the parents work their second, or third, job to make ends meet.

Because of initiatives like “de la Soul”, because of volunteers like Rowland, Pike and Brooks, a handful of students, like Armando, have expressed an interest in something beyond their ordinary life; a desire to go to church and to learn about God.

Today, as the kids in Shalimar ride their bikes or shoot basketball on these troubled streets, many of them now have eyes that are able to look beyond the invisible walls and to believe in a better tomorrow.

*previously published in "The Noise" magazine, 2005

Saturday, October 07, 2006

My Name Is Love...

My Name Is Love...by Keith Giles

Last night I was treated to a wonderful gift from my friend Jarred Rowland who invited me to join him and a friend as they went to see a live, solo performance by Rob Dickinson.

Rob Dickinson is the former lead vocalist for a band that should have been huge but never quite caught on here in America called "The Catherine Wheel". Rob has now put out a solo record called "Fresh Wine For The Horses" with a killer single called "My Name Is Love".

Anyway, on the ride out to Hollywood to see the show, Jarred and his friend Brett (also a huge Catherine Wheel fan), and I talked about culture, about the Church, about serving the homeless, about living the Gospel, etc. It was exhilerating. I always love talking with Jarred about this sort of stuff. He's got a brilliant mind for these things and a genuine heart for people that I wish I had when I was his age. (He's just 21, I'm nearly 40...next month..)

Jarred shared an idea with us that I won't mention in detail here (unless he gives me permission to later on), but it was one of those ideas that could make the network news if he can pull it off. Basically it would bring the conversation about what it means to be a follower of Jesus to the top of the network news broadcast and the topic of every water cooler conversation at your work. I would love to see it succeed, if just for the opportunity to bring this conversation between the Church, the media and political activists into being.

At any rate, after fighting traffic and getting turned around (twice) we finally found the Hotel Cafe off of Sunset blvd and walked into the tiny club, just about ten minutes before Rob hit the stage.

Jarred paid my way in, (the whole trip was his gift to me), and the three of us fumbled our way in the dark towards the bar, and the bathroom (which smelled like a nursing home).

After Jarred and Brett got a drink (I stayed clean and sober), we walked towards the tiny, intimate stage in time for the opening acts final song. In a moment, Rob Dickinson took the stage.

He was phenomenal. He wowed the audience with his clear, emotive vocals and an acoustic guitar. The gorgeous power of his voice is found in the tension between one note and the opening syllable of the next. His command of the audience, and the dynamic range of emotion within the chords, was mesmerizing and beautiful.

I was struck by the simple power of music. He played several new songs off his solo record (which I've never heard) but the assemblage of chords played on his guitar alone was music enough to evoke a pervasive, resonate, air of wistful abandon. It was truly a remarkable experience being in the same room with this artist, listening to his soul screaming out, whispering pain, soaring over the top of our heads and into the night.

He played "Crank" off of the CW Cd "Chrome" (my favorite), and a brand new song ("still newborn") about the end of the world that left the audience in appreciative awe.

The highlight of the evening was when Rob played his song, "My Name Is Love" which lyrically is one of the best things he's ever written.

After the show we drove home and talked about the power of music, about how great talent, fused with humility and confidence, can make any performance amazing. Whether you hit every note or not, the sincerity of true art is undeniable.

I came home at about 11:30pm. My family was sleeping quietly when I walked into the house but I wasn't sleepy. I poured myself a ginger ale and went into our den and sat down on the floor next to the fireplace. I pulled out my old guitar and started strumming it. I accidently found a few new chords and just sat silently strumming the chords, stringing them together and feeling more than thinking about the day, the evening, my friends, my family, how I'm so loved, and how blessed my life really is.

After playing a few worship songs, playing with a few songs I'm writing and going back to those first experimental chords, I put down the guitar and just sat quietly in my den for about twenty minutes. I had no words for my feelings. I still can't quite describe it. It was like peace, but peace feels heavy somehow and this was much lighter. It wasn't melancholy because there was no trace of sadness in the moment, only freedom, joy tempered with acceptance and contentment.

I thought about several issues in my life now which had earlier been causing me sadness and frustration. As I mentally cycled through the various problems and challenges in my life right now, I had no anxiety about any of them. I felt a simple contentment about my life in every way.

I felt like God had given me a gift, through music, through my friend Jarred, even through an admitted pagan like Rob Dickinson and his songs of yearning and hope.

"My name is love I can't be bound..no...no"


Monday, October 02, 2006

PATTERNS OF EVANGELISM (from part 5 of 6)

(from part 5 of "The Gospel: For Here Or To Go?", a six-part series running over at www.ginkworld.net)

One thing that’s also helpful to me is to realize that, contrary to popular opinion, there is not a formula to evangelism found in the New Testament. Several times in the Gospels we see various people who come to Jesus and ask point blank, “What must I do to be saved?” One of the most shocking things is that Jesus never gives the answer that all of us have been trained to give. Not once. Jesus never says, “Confess your sins, believe in me and repeat this prayer after me.”

What we see is that Jesus gave a different answer to this question every single time. He never gave the same answer twice. It’s as if Jesus goes out of his way to demonstrate to us that evangelism needs to be done in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, being sensitive to the specific heart of the one person we are speaking to, and not applying the cookie cutter approach to preaching the Gospel.

Let’s look briefly at the various answers Jesus gives to those who approached him asking about what must be done to inherit eternal life and see what we can learn from Him.

To Zaccheus Jesus simply acknowledges him in the crowd, invites himself to dinner and when Zaccheus repents of skimming from the taxes he’s collected, Jesus proclaims that salvation has come to his household. In the case of the Rich Young Ruler, Jesus commands him to sell everything he has, give it to the poor and become a disciple under Jesus. The man refuses and is allowed to walk away, seemingly unconverted. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, is told he must be born a second time. This confuses him and Jesus does little to explain what he means, leaving the teacher of the Law to work it out on his own time. The Woman at the Well is boldly confronted with the promiscuous lifestyle she’s been living and yet never feels offended or condemned by Jesus throughout the conversation. Finally, the Thief on the Cross is converted and welcomed into Paradise simply for realizing that Jesus was the promised Messiah. His only part in the process seems to be the amazing good fortune of being crucified for his crimes on the same day as the Son of God.

Many other examples of salvation in the New Testament reflect this same lack of pattern and tailor-made response to the Gospel message.

How does your personal conversion experience compare to these found in the New Testament? Do you see a common pattern in your own story?

When I look at this amazing variety of conversion experiences in Scripture it really puzzles me as to why we’ve made evangelism so predictable and uninteresting.