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Category Archives: Thoughts on Community

My friend Don Busby has a foundation supporting the fight against ALS here in central Texas and Austin. They have an upcoming event Flavors of the Town 2009

flavorsofthetown-org Picture 1THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17

Help raise awareness & funds to support the fight against ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease

My friend Shelton is organizing a pub crawl this Saturday to raise awareness around human trafficking issues here in Austin. Here’s a snippet from the site:


Show up and help distribute coasters that tell the story of modern day slavery into bars, coffee shops and cafes in Austin.

This will be the first a several events in Austin and across the state.  Please join us at BookPeople, 3rd Floor, on Saturday, August 8. At 4:00pm.  Here’s the plan, we want you and your friends to come and enjoy an evening out, stopping at several different places over a few hours.  Well…with one small difference, you will be asking establishments owners or managers to “host” the coaster campaign.  “Host” just means the bar, coffee shop or café will take the coasters and put them out for patrons to use and read.  We will have sign up sheets for you to take down the information of establishments you visit.  On August 8th we will gather up at 4:00pm on the 3rd floor at BookPeople (6th & Lamar) get instructions on which establishments in which parts of town to hit and be sent out.

If you”d like to find out more, here is more info at What’s Your Response?

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The longer I live and the more encounters I have with other people, the more I realize I don’t know squat. And, the fact that I don’t know much allows me room to ask lots of questions and to make many, many mistakes because I know the graciousness of (most) people prevent them from saying to me, “What are you stupid? Do I have to explain this again you friggin’ idiot?” I have grown up in Austin and have been immersed in this culture of embracing the other, even if he/she is a weirdo from south of the river, or a yuppy from Westlake, or (insert subgroup here)…I knew from a relatively young age this city is different, or at least it used to be more so than it is now. Of course, each subdivision of the culture in Austin has always thought they know what is best for Austin, but in the past we at least were willing to accept the stupidity of our rivals as part of the deal that came with being an Austinite. Sometimes now, I’m not so sure…we seem to have lost our ability to accept the imperfections of others and ourselves and I think the city is in need of addressing this. When I say the city, I mean each of us in our daily relations with each other at home, at work, at Zilker, etc., etc. We seem to be congregating in our little cocooon’s afraid to engage the larger culture of the city in any meaningful way.

I don’t have any answers…just asking questions. It’s not what’s being said that I’m interested in, I’m more interested in what we are saying to each other.

Our little group has been talking a lot lately about how our values are expressed in our practices, and if we’re not careful our practices become so much more important than our values that we forget why we practiced these things in the first place. We all do it, we just don’t know we do it. So, sometimes we’ve gotta step back and listen to the poets and the artists to allow them to help us see another world is possible, another world is at work if we are willing to listen.

Scott Ginsberg is a business man, but he’s more than that…he’s a poet (in a linear kind of business like way). Scott is one of those ‘virtual friends’ I’ve come to know through this internetty thing. He wears a nametag everyday, has for the last 3,179 days and has learned many valuable lessons about people, about himself. I love this guy, and every once it a while he shares a moment of genius that applies to all of us, whether we are business people or not (i am not). He writes for the business market, but I read for the nuggets of wisdom that transcend genre…

Are you feeling a little high on the hog? Do you need a little attitude adjustment? Read the teaser below from Scott’s latest blog post and then the rest of the article and let me know what you think…

About once a month, I get an email from a reader who kindly points out a typo in one of my books.

This, in my opinion, is a victory. Because at least I know somebody’s reading. Other than my mother.

And part of me wishes I’d thought to include those typos intentionally, just for the purpose of measuring readership. But I didn’t. The typos are there (not because I’m savvy), but because I’m imperfect.

Even after writing nine books. Somehow, one or two always manage to squeeze by in each one. Dang it.

But I’m cool with that. Perfection is overrated anyway.

THEREFORE: Exerting your imperfect humanity is a hallmark of approachability.

In the words of U.S. Anderson, author of The Magic in Your Mind:

“When imperfectness enters a man’s soul, he is able to show that he does not live alone in the world, but with millions of others, in whose hearts exists the same animating spirit.”

What about you?
Are you willing to be an Imperfectionist?

If so, consider these practices for implementing a little imperfection into your daily life…

How to Be An Imperfectionist

“Stop trying to convince everyone you encounter that you’re invincible, unbreakable and infallible. Approachable means bustable. Approachable means crackable. Approachable means surrendering to your imperfections.” —Scott Ginsberg (The NameTag Guy)

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Today our tribe celebrates its 5th anniversary as a faith family committed to each other and to the city of Austin. We are a group of misfits, of real people fighting addictions, trying to welcome the stranger, seeking to believe when we sometimes do not, and working to find ourselves within the context of the larger narrative. We are not like most of the churches in America, but we are a foretaste of the church that is to come…

journey flyer 1

journey flyer 2

We are not afraid to challenge each other, challenge the powers that be…to ask God some really hard questions. We are not cynical, we only seek to grow daily for the sake of ourselves, our families, our city, and the world at large.

“…redemptive skepticism is  religious commitment to avoid being swept up by bad ideas, especially ones that wear a godly guise and demand absolute, unquestioning allegiance. Sometimes you have to lose your religion to find it.”
David Dark from The Sacredness of Questioning Everything

If you’re feeling adventurous, come see us today or any Sunday @ 10:45ish. Our friend Sarah Hickman is playing for us to help celebrate.


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Swimming at Barton Springs, originally uploaded by carlmc.

The trees are out to get us!!!!

Austin must remove part of the canopy surrounding Zilker Park and Barton Springs Pool according to the consulting firm hired to assess such matters.

Officials made the decision to remove the trees after they got the results of an assessment done by the Davey Resource Group, an Ohio-based tree care and consulting company, in the fall. The city paid $250,000 for the work, which includes the assessment, the treatment of damaged trees and the replacement of dangerous trees, Passmore said. –American Statesman

Here’s a question, and it’s really just a question. Would the consulting firm hired by a city find a need to replace some trees if it helps the bottom line? I mean, would they be more likely to find it necessary to remove and replace trees if that’s what they get paid to do? OK, a few questions… A firm from Ohio to tell us about our Texas trees? Don’t we have any good urban foresters who live and work in Texas? I know SFA has a forestry program, we gotta have some grads from there who started consulting firms!

Fear is a powerful force that is gripping us as a culture. We don’t have an evil empire to fight (unless we count ourselves as such), we don’t have any real needs (at least those of us who live in suburban comfort, and yes I count me in that bunch). We are searching for something worth living for!

So, we have to find things to frighten us, to give us something to rally against. It’s the Swine Flu that forces us to use sterilized, pre-packaged communion elements and cancel all UIL athletic events. Or, it’s the Republicans or the Democrats! Or, you get the idea…

The cycle must continue unabated, lest we be able to think about someone else really in need. Like people who lost their homes in a fire, or children without shoes, or (insert your own viable cause here).

The trees are next in this endless cycle and next month it will be something else.

Because we can buy almost anything our heart desires, we find ourselves searching for that which elevates us above the transaction. We’ve grown tired of buying, we need to find something else to sustain us…

“Being frightened is an experience you can’t buy.”
—- Anthony Price – Sion Crossing (1984)

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Bailey Brings It Home, originally uploaded by carlmc.

OK, so he’s not the fastest cat in 4th grade. The picture is a little misleading. Notice lanes 1 and 2 are not pictured here. That’s because they are hauling ass down the track about 5-10 yards in front. Bailey came in a very respectable 3rd place.

Sprinting is not his gift, he’s plenty fast alright. Third fastest in your age group ain’t bad, but it isn’t what Bailey is really about. But, it’s still fun to see him having fun, pushing himself, trying hard, and learning the joy of competition. Notice the look on the little boy to Bailey’s left, nothing but pure joy on his face. He’s losing, but he’s really not losing.

Bailey you may not totally comprehend right now how proud I am of you, but someday when you have kids you will. I am proud not because you are pretty fast; instead I’m proud that you gave your best, and lived the moment.

“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms….” Henry David Thoreau

P.S. Notice the kids cheering in the background. They probably didn’t even know who was running and if they did they didn’t really care who won. They were rooting and cheering because that’s what kids do.

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Waves by David Sifry

Waves by David Sifry

The post-Christian world has been proclaimed in Europe and is certainly making serious inroads in North America. I hope the prognosticators are correct, I am hopeful that “Christianity” as we’ve defined it in the west for the last 500 years is dead (or dying) so that it may be reborn, resurrected, redeemed for God’s purpose instead of ours. I have to keep reminding myself that the church is not the creation of man, that we are only here to participate in what God is already doing. We are here to provide witness to the beauty of the church and to seek justice…to practice love of God and each other.

Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of what it means to be the church in ways that don’t disrupt my sensibilities (I was not brought up in the church and I still get the creepy, heeby jeebies when church is being done as a proposition to be bought).  This week in Austin, I was fortunate to see the church being what I believe the church should be. A group of people who cared not for themselves, but instead cared only for others who needed them.

Tragedy struck an apartment complex in a consuming fire that left many families homeless. During times like these it is often the burden of family and friends and the Red Cross that provide most, if not all the help available to victims. This time was different.

I was checking my twitter feed that evening after work and noticed a lot of chatter about this fire from some local church leaders, Brandon Hatmaker from Austin New Church , Michael Stewart from Austin Stone, as well as  Justin Lopez.

From what little I know, Austin Stone ,who is moving into this St Johns neighborhood in northeast Austin, teamed with Ebenezer Family Church (Iglesia Centro Familiar Ebenezer) and stepped up to the plate to take care of these neighbors in a time of deep vulnerability. This is to be commended, but this is to be expected of neighbors.  But, what’s really cool is Austin New Church and my tribe Journey Imperfect Faith Community, and probably many other churches I’m not even aware of joined in this effort with volunteers and basic necessities. (If you are part of one of those churches or know of them, please leave a comment to let me know.)

I am not speaking as a church leader, and I’m not speaking for others and I can’t speak to how this help mobilized in other faith communities, but for us it was a couple of emails and a commitment by the group to provide clothing from our stash at the church and an agreement to go shopping for other needs. Wham! Just like that, less than 24 hours later our small community of people delivered on our promise to help. The power of people with the willingness to ask how can we help is I believe the unstoppable power of love. Like waves crashing the beach in succession the very earth is transformed!

And you came upon me wave on wave,
You’re the reason I’m still here.
Am I the one you were sent to save,
when you came upon me wave on wave.
The clouds broke and the angels cried,
You ain’t gotta walk alone,
That’s why he put me in your way,
And you came upon me wave on wave. –Pat Green

“I’ve never seen Austin churches partner in such a unified effort.It’s been amazing to see” -Red Cross Volunteer

But, I know this is the exception, not the rule. Otherwise, why would the Red Cross Volunteer be so amazed at the effort? I think we’re like the lost robot in this video; we need the kindness of strangers to help us get back on track, to help us find our way back into the journey we’ve been called to by our maker.

Once again, I’m speaking as just a guy who has not bought into any leadership or church model to redeem the world. I’ll leave the details to God. But, I will continue to ask questions of those who will listen. I’ll talk about that in my next post.

In the meantime, thank you to all my new friends and may we continue to bless those who need blessing. The seasons will change, but the needs will continue; so, may we commit to watch over each other, to listen, to love without condition.

sam and steven @ sxsw 2009

Last night went to SXSW Student Film Contest Screening and saw the future of filmmaking. Besides the obsession with death and violence (it’s a teen thing) there were some amazing skills on display. Everything from stop motion animation, to mockumentary, to Cloverfield like narratives, to arthouse films.

Two of my students Sam and Steven had their movie “The Transcendence of Gabriel” screen. Sam has “it”, the eye for storytelling via film that you can’t learn. Steven is an amazing actor who can emote a tremendous range of emotions without saying a word.

I can’t wait to see what all these kids produce 10-15 years from now.

Here is a link to some pics from last night.

Texas Capitol Building

From today’s Austin American Statesman, “Report: Homeless kids fare worst in Texas

Texas is the worst place in the nation for homeless children, and the faltering economy will push even more families with little ones into the streets, according to a new report. A study released Tuesday by the National Center on Family Homelessness placed Texas 50th—last of all states—in how homeless children fare….the child poverty level in Texas is 23 percent.

Think about that number, 23 PERCENT, that’s almost 1 in 4!

In comparison, last night the Texas Senate spent last night wringing it’s hands over what to do about the non-crisis of voter fraud. As the Dallas Morning Stated

“Chalk up the Texas Senate’s nearly 24-hour wrangle over voter IDs as crass politics trumping thoughtful public policy.

Proponents of the so-called voter ID bill wanted to make a point to the political base back home: We won’t let liars and cheats steal elections in Texas.”

They really don’t give a damn about where these kids sleep, they would rather spend our money and their valuable time on matters that really do not matter, chasing what does not exist in the name of political expediency…

Here is a contact list for these idiots opportunists/politicians/public servants, give them a call/email/piece of your mind on priorities.

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This picture is taken from a site established by the State Department who commissioned one of their photographers to find these stories and document. I want to capture these stories, but I also want to use celebrities and business leaders to help bring awareness to the general public, to the victims, and to the corporations and governments that we the people will not stand for this, will not buy their products, will not support their leadership unless they do the right thing.  Please help me with this idea by voting for my project at


A 9-year-old girl toils under the hot sun, making bricks from morning to night, seven days a week. She was trafficked with her entire family from Bihar, one of the poorest and most underdeveloped states in India, and sold to the owner of a brick-making factory. With no means of escape, and unable to speak the local language, the family is isolated and lives in terrible conditions.

Photo and text courtesy of Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department.

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