Saturday, August 25, 2007


This is something I created to evoke the suffering of the African people - Poverty, Hunger, Genocide, Child Slavery, Human Trafficking, AIDS, Torture, etc.

Created using coffee, nails, acrylic paint, and an Ethiopian coffee sack.

It took me over a month to put this together, and the final stages, on my knees in the hot sun weaving the sheet of canvas into the sack, threading the rusty nails into the weave, were cathartic as I imagined bare shoulders in the heat of the African sun, bare feet on a wet loading dock, black weathered hands loading heavy sacks full of coffee beans into the ships hold for travel to American warehouses...and I felt connected to their sufferings, like walking into a spider's web and discovering an invisible world, a hidden connection between us all...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nice Surprise

This is a nice surprise. My friend Scott Laumann just informed me yesterday that he found this article on, which originally appeared in Outreach Magazine. Apparently I am quoted in an article about Servant Evangelism, although, for the life of me, I don't think I was ever aware of this until yesterday.

Here's the link:

And the quote:
Keith Giles, outreach director for The River in Tustin, California, adds to Sjogren's insights: True compassion is something you cannot argue against," he says. "People who are resistant to the Gospel are open to works of service and compassion. This becomes a path for them to take Jesus seriously, outside the theoretical framework or intellectual argument."

This is at least two years old...and I never knew about it?!



Friday, August 03, 2007


I've got a few days to kill until I start my new job at Ingram Micro (August 13), so I'm reading a few books checked out of the new library here in Orange. First, "Pattern Recognition" by William Gibson, is a sci-fi set in 2003, which only underscores the fact that we are living in the future today. It's really not a sci-fi, although Gibson is immortalized for writing "Neuromancer" which predated the Internet and, if you read it today for the first time, you would think he ripped off "The Matrix"...until you looked at the publication date and realized that he wrote his book a good ten years before Keanu ever said "Whoa".

It's funny to me how a good book, in this case a great book, can influence your way of seeing the world and moving through space. The book's protaganist has a gift for sensing "Cool". She is hyper-sensitive to marketing and is psychologically offended by logos and advertising, which is why she can sense the "next big thing" before it crests the horizon. Her sensitivity to brands and iconographic advertising has made me more aware of how enslaved we all are to marketing. Branding is pervasive. You cannot stand anywhere without being marketed to. You cannot wear anything without being told, on the outside as well as on the tag, who made it and that it is "Cool" to have one.

The character in this book is so oversensitized to logos that she clips the tags and removes the logo from her clothing, her glasses, her watch, her shoes, her computer, etc. It almost made me want to do the same.

It approaches something called by Richard Foster, "The Discipline of Simplicity". I believe there is an inherent human desire for simplicity, and yet at the same time a hunger for something beyond ourselves. Marketers (and I am one) take advantage of the human desire for something beyond ourselves and twist that into a desire for a product that will fill that emptiness. This is why television commercials and glossy magazine ads suggest, or even overtly declare, that owning or using the product in question will make you popular, or fulfilled, or beautiful, or complete in some way that you are now aware you are not.

It's easy to say that one desire is of the flesh and one desire of the Spirit. I know I've talked that way in the past myself, but now I think this is wrong. I believe that the desire for simplicity is a desire of the soul, and the desire for something beyond ourselves is also a desire of the human soul. Both are "of the Spirit" or Spiritual desires because this is what makes all of us Human.

Marketing plays one of these desires against the other. We are told we can fill our empty places with stuff, and so we try to do that, while at the same time our desire for simplicity disappears beneath a mound of receipts and boxes of junk in our garage.

There is a point, and I believe it is early on, when the things we own begin to own us. Once this happens, we are hooked and we continuously create mental shopping lists of things that we want or need or desire. I do this. You do this.

What if we could silence the coarse whisper for "more"? What if we could close our eyes and strain to hear that faint echo for "Less" instead?

A friend of mine used to regularly "De-Accumulate" his life. He would come to work with a box of goodies he had decided he no longer needed and start passing them out as gifts for his co-workers. I have a lot of cool stuff in my garage that I inherited from him this way.

I think the concept of "De-Accumulation" is a good one, but maybe we could modify it a bit? Maybe we could find people who really need what we don't need? Maybe no one really needs our junk? Maybe we could stop buying and start sharing?

These thoughts have lingered on the fringes of my brain for years now. When we moved into this house about a year and a half ago, as I was moving box after box of my junk into a storage unit, I found myself apologizing for the obscene amount of garbage I had acquired. My friends all told me to stop apologizing. I remember taking a sweep of the orange and white storage farm we were in the middle of and realizing that, in our society, we all own so much junk we have to pay someone to keep it for us in the event that we ever need it. There is a multi-billion dollar industry built around the American acquisition sensibility. Do they have these things in India or Africa, I wondered? Probably a few, I thought, but I'm sure we Americans have more, as usual.

How has the shopping mall replaced the cathedral? How have we allowed the pursuit of happiness to become an endless hunt for more objects and gadgets and trinkets and adornment? Maybe it was when the Church started entertaining us? Maybe it was when we realized that people would buy products created just for Christians? I'm not sure of the timeline, but I do know that we are now living in a Pop Christian Consumerist Culture and I want off the merry-go-round.

Maybe I'm recognizing a pattern too? Maybe the character in Gibson's book is helping me to see something that's been there all along?

Either way, it's worth exploring.

Now, this is way too long. I had intended to talk about the other three books I'm reading, and update everyone on the first "House Church Leaders" meeting we had last month, and share a few thoughts on Marriage that came to me yesterday morning as I was awakening from an over-caffeinated slumber...but not now.

Time for my second cup of coffee.