loren Eric Swanson: September 2007

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cal gets REALLY lucky...Beats Oregon 31-24

Cal really got lucky today...due to a couple of timely interceptions and a fumble on the Cal 3" line with 16 seconds to go in the game. Wow! The Bears are now 5-0 against a very, very good Oregon team. First win at Oregon since 1987!

Now w/ #3 Oklahoma losing to CU (Go Buffs), its been a great day.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Great Evening

The weather in Colorado was beautiful tonight. I met Liz, son and family, Jeff, Ashlie and Gentry, along with good buddy George at Pasta Jays to celebrate Ashlie's 24th Birthday. While waiting for a table, I struck up with Arlo Stott--WWII Marine Corp veteran who pointed to his ring and said, "I saw them raise the flag." And then in answer to my probing retold the battle of Iwo Jima and taking Surabachi. Found out some amazing things. Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers only 8 survived to surrender. A marine was killed or wouned every 45 seconds of the first two days of the battle. Jeff, who served a year as a gunner in Iraq also had the chance to talk with him. I think I read that 1200 WW II vets are dying every day so this was quite an experience.

Afterwards we walked down the mall to see the CU football team and band parade down the Pearl Street Mall--just a great, warm evening.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Wonderful News!!!!! (for now....)

Yesterday, while sitting in a meeting in Colorado Springs I took a phone call from my son Jeff, who as a US Army National Guard soldier, was scheduled to be deployed for another year of duty in Iraq beginning October 15th. He's been in the process of getting things in order to leave Ashlie and two-year old Gentry. We've been working on a going away send off and have been feeling sad at his imminent departure. Jeff is one of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers, the brave and courageous men and women who willfully put life and limb on the line as the physical guardians--the soldiers for our country. Jeff was / is ready to do his duty. I, as a father, admire his willful courage--courage being more than a value, but actually doing what is right. Since he returned from Baghdad, 18 months ago, it has been our continual prayer that he would not have to go back. As a Guard member, he's already spent two and a half years in active duty.

Jeff called and asked me one question: "What's the best news I could possibly have?" Of course, with anticipation I said, "That you don't have to go to Iraq!" And when he told me I was right, tears of joy and gratitude welled up in my eyes. "Thankyou God!"

I drove up to Longmont (Liz is in Dallas leading her Leadership Community for churches with strong Recovery Ministries), and walked into see Jeff reading a story to Gentry before prayers and tucking him into bed. It's where he needs to be as a 24-year-old father and husband.

I sent a quick email to family and friends and was barraged by jubilous replys. My mom wrote back, "I can’t remember when I’ve felt so happy. I had been so sad thinking about Jeff going back there again. The first time, well, I remember you saying things like “Oh Jeff isn’t so bad off…he shares a room with another guy, etc., etc., but somehow, it’s different now, with a two-year old son, and a wonderful wife and home life that he’s gotten used to."

Jeff re-enrolled at the University of Colorado and, if he is not deployed by March (the date when he will have completed his six years of duty), he will graduate in May. So that is our prayer. The story's not over yet.

Sometimes grace trickles down from heaven. Sometimes it comes in waves. Yesterday it came in torrents. We are so grateful.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bishop McLaughlin / Potter's House Opens Mall

In 2001 I met Bishop Vaughn McLaughlin at the Potter's House (http://www.potters-house.org/) in Jacksonville Florida--an incredible leader whom I wrote about in The Externally Focused Church. This is what I wrote:

If Your Church Left Town, Would Anybody Notice?

In 1988 Vaughn and Narlene McLaughlin moved into a depressed area of Jacksonville, Florida, to begin a church designed to meet the needs of the whole person. Vaughn didn’t grow up going to church, so he was unconstrained by traditional ideas of what a church could be. Vaughn and Narlene soon discovered that beginning an innovative church isn’t easy. As Vaughn expressed interest in purchasing an empty building, he was met with racial hatred, but he courageously pushed forward. Praise God he did. Today the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship is a vibrant church of over three thousand people.
Vaughn had dreams, but he wanted to help others realize their dreams too. Recognizing that most new businesses fail because they are undercapitalized, the Potter’s House does what it can to help potential businesses during the critical incubation period. Today their converted Southern Bell building, called the Multiplex, houses nearly twenty for-profit businesses begun by budding entrepreneurs from the church. The Multiplex is the home of the Potter’s House Café, a credit union, a beauty salon, a graphic-design studio, a shoe-repair store, a travel agency, a Greyhound Bus terminal, and several other business, all started by church members who lacked capital but had a dream. Recently they purchased and are in the process of restoring and rebuilding the Normandy Mall, Jacksonville’s first indoor shopping mall. In addition to a large auditorium, the new facility will house social services, incubating businesses, and retail stores. In 1999, because of his proficiency in economic development, Bishop McLaughlin was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Florida State University.

The Multiplex also began and houses a Christian academy attended by five hundred students. The campus includes a dozen state-of-the-art basketball courts that attract young people from all over West Jacksonville for midnight basketball. In addition to economic empowerment and education, they support a prison and jail ministry, a nursing homes ministry, a youth ministry, Big and Little Brothers, and free car-repair services. They also have a team of 250 volunteers who “look after things in the city,” even if that means simply sweeping the streets of Jacksonville.

Bishop Vaughn McLaughlin is an outstanding preacher, but he believes that ministry is always what happens outside the church. In his words, “If you are not making an impact outside of your four walls, then you are not making an impact at all.” He challenges those he mentors by asking them, “If you picked up and left, how would the city feel? Would your city weep? Would anybody even notice? Would anybody care?”

Bishop was one of our keynote speakers at the Externally Focused Church Conference in May and will also be speaking at two regional EFC events in San Diego and Baltimore in November (www.externallyfocusedconference.com). Below is the article in the Jacksonville Newspaper:

The Mall God Built
The Potter's House Christian Fellowship will take profits from the center to pay for missionary projects

The mall has always been a temple for dedicated shoppers, but a new Jacksonville shopping center is taking that concept and making shopping a tangibly religious experience.
The Kingdom Plaza at the Normandy Mall is part shopping mecca and part Christian mission. The freshly refurbished mall is owned by the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational mega church on the Westside. The for-profit mall is geared toward religious fundraising: any profits left over after paying mall expenses will be rolled over into the church’s missionary projects.
Spinning off nonprofit entities linked with for-profit businesses is increasingly common, according to industry analysts, but the scope of this venture is a rarity.
The mall’s stores are a mix of local and national tenants, but the place has an overwhelmingly Christian vibe, including a Rite 2 Life nutrition shop (slated to open in October) and the Kingdom Kuts barber shop.
The church itself owns three of the biggest tenants: a bowling alley, the mall’s sole eatery and a gym, complete with inspirational scripture painted on the walls above the treadmills.
The marriage between religion and retail is nothing new. Churches and religious charities have been raising money with thrift shops and bake sales for years. But the Kingdom Plaza is augmenting that concept into a full-scale, for-profit venture.
Kingdom Plaza is nestled in the former Normandy Mall, a shopping center that was vacant for several years until Potter’s House purchased the property in 2003 for $4 million and commenced $7.5 million worth of renovations.
Inside, the mall’s interior looks like any other indoor shopping center. There’s a fountain babbling in the center, the smell of food wafting through the walkways and diamonds glittering on cushions in one shop window. But then there are the tinges of religion: The mention of a “King” in shop logos, the pictures of the cross in a jewelry store.
Plus, the mall is literally within steps of the Potter’s House church, a building so large, its main sanctuary fits more than 4,000, and the children’s church seats 600.
The next-door mall was the brainchild of the local leader of Potter’s House, Bishop Vaughn McLaughlin. He has a dual vision of the mall, conceptualizing it as an extension of the ministry where people can have a “clean and decent” time and troubled folks can find employment.
To him, “keeping busy” and doing commerce is what God intended parishioners to do while they are waiting for judgment day.
“We are creating synergy between the mission and business,” he said. “They shouldn’t be separate. Business is human nature; it’s what we do.”
McLaughlin sees the mall as a potentially profitable enterprise, one that can compete with local malls and bankroll future ministry-related projects - while perhaps enticing potential new church members. He often plugs the mall during his sermons.
Kingdom Plaza is taxed
While it’s common for religious entities to expand into enterprise, this project seems uniquely aggressive, according to Dan Busby, vice president of Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, an organization aimed at guiding Christian organizations toward sound and ethic financial standards.
“I haven’t heard of anything exactly like that,” he said. “It’s fairly common for large churches to have bookstores or other enterprises in town that might generate some funds. But by leasing space to a lot of businesses, this sounds like an expansion beyond what many mega churches would have.”
Kingdom Plaza is taxed like any other business, unlike its parent, the Potter’s House. The spinoff enterprises are usually created as for-profit corporations in order to control taxation, Busby said.
“The aim is to clearly pay taxes on what should be taxed, and not have any issues from the business income that would negatively impact the church corporation,” he said.
As money for nonprofits become increasingly difficult to obtain, many are opting to start outside businesses (an activity dubbed social enterprise), according to Rena Coughlin, chief executive officer of the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida.
“More and more tax-exempt organizations seek to diverse their revenue streams by developing enterprises, most of which are loosely linked to their mission,” she said. “With tougher and tougher budget cuts, I think that everyone is looking at diversification. It’s dangerous when you are over-dependent on a revenue stream, particularly on the whim of political decision makers.”
Grand opening in October
The center will be at full capacity when it has its grand opening in October. A real estate agency, luxe spa, and a trendy shoe shop are all slated to open. (Not welcome: lingerie shops or stores retailing golden “grill” teeth.) It’s also attracted at least one national tenant, cell phone retailer Clear Talk Communications.
The connection with a religious organization wasn’t controversial for the brand, according to store manager Juan Queeley. He does admit that church administrators have asked him “many, many” times to become a member of the church.
The mall could be a shrewd move for national retailers.
For one, there seems to be a built-in audience. The church has several weekly services, and McLaughlin hopes parishioners flood the mall afterward.
He also plans to juice the profit by placing related businesses near each other. For example, the bowling alley is near a party supply store for bowling party supplies, and if church members are getting married in the nearby sanctuary, they can rent or buy formal wear in the mall’s bridal shop.
When shopping at Rich Carmichael’s custom-printed T-shirt shop, you may get a side of spirituality with your order. He often whips out his Bible to minister to customers who stop at Glorious Tee’s and Totes for custom heat-pressed religious shirts. He says the mall was the perfect home for his business because the rent is reasonable - and he can proselytize to his heart’s content.
“I can read the Bible when I take a break, and then get back to work,” he said. “And nobody here will tell me I can’t.”
Linking the message with the merchandise is the best way to ensure such a project’s success, nonprofit expert Coughlin said.
“The toughest time in terms in sustaining themselves and having meaningful income are the ones that go outside their mission statement,” she said.
“God created the business model,” said Narlene McLaughlin, the bishop’s wife and an administrator with the church. “Some people say religion and business should be segmented and separate, but that’s just not true.”

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Celtic Trail

Just got this from Danut--one of our fellow travelers to Ireland and Scotland. He does a great job of capturing the spirit of the trip.

A Celtic Trail
Following on the Footsteps of Patrick, Columba and Aidan[1]
by Danut Manastireanu, PhD

Whatever our deeply held religious beliefs or worldviews, there are different ways to communicate it to others. How we believe is equally important as what we believe. Recently I had the extraordinary opportunity of a study trip on Celtic spirituality. Sharing cherished convictions and practices in a way that honors the others is the true test of our faith and character.

The trail began in Downpatrick in Northern Ireland the origination point of the magnificent story of St. Patrick. In the fifth century, Irish raiders abducted the boy Patrick and made him a slave in Celtic territory. There he had a personal encounter with God that changed his life. After a miraculous escape, Patrick returned to Britain, became a priest, and felt God's call to return to Ireland and become an apostle and prophet among the Celts.

Missions and missionaries do not always have a good name these days. Patrick, however, was a different kind of missionary. He did not have a faith to sell, but a story to tell. And his incredible personal life gave authority to the story. He did not try to uproot the druidic traditions of the Celts, but reconstituted them and incorporated them into a creative, courageous Christian faith. At the end of his life, one chronicler observes, Celtic lands knew a long-lasting peace unprecedented in the history of this most temperamental nation.

From Ireland, we moved to Iona, a tiny island south-west of Scotland, where Columba, a Celtic monk from Ireland landed in 563 AD with twelve of his disciples. Columba’s arrival changed the face of the island. He established a monastery, and taught the community to read and write. They were known as "people of the Book" and brought the Christian faith to the Hebrides and Britain, and to the feared Picts that inhabited Scotland at the time. Columba’s version of Christianity, inspired by the vision of Pelagius was: a rural community, close to nature, democratic, gender balanced, optimistic about the goodness of humanity, poetic and passionate. This community stood in striking contrast to the Roman version of the Christian faith rooted in the vision of Augustine: an urban community, imperial, hierarchical, institutional, pessimistic about the human nature, and somewhat impersonal.

The last leg of the Celtic trail took us to Lindisfarne, the "holy island" in the north of England, where Aidan, a monk from the Iona community, came at the request of Oswald the king of Northumbria and established a Christian mission to the population in that territory in 631 AD. Aidan served the poor and liberated slaves with the riches he received. He established schools, challenged the powerful about their abuses and preached the love of God in Christ to this troubled generation. Not long after Aidan, the Roman version of Christianity became prevalent, and Celtic Christianity faded into the background, surviving only as an undercurrent in a world dominated by Rome.

Who knows what the history of the world could have been if the faith of Patrick, Columba and Aidan had prevailed? Who knows what the future of the world can be if our religions would learn to follow the trails like this one?

Danut Manastireanu (www.perichoresis.ro) lives in Iasi, Romania. He is married to Mihaela and they have two grown up children and five grand children. He was trained as an economist and then as a theologian. He holds a PhD in theology from Brunel University, London and works as Director for Faith & Development for the Middle East & Eastern Europe region of World Vision International (http://meero.worldvision.org).

[1] Written in Sept 4, 2007, at the request of Samir Selmanovic for the website of Faith House Manhattan http://www.faithhousemanhattan.org/.

Rockies Win 6-5 in Bottom of 9th

Went to the Rockies / Giants game last night. The Colorado Rockies are coming on strong and posted at 6-5, ninth inning win. A beautiful Colorado evening with ten other friends including my son Jeff and grandson Gentry. Bob Swenson had the foresight to by Right Field seats a couple of months ago, with the hopes one of us would catch a Barry Bonds home run but the biggest hit he got was a center field double. Gentry was on the big screen Jumbotron while dancing on his dad's lap in the 8th inning. It was really cute!

Baseball is called "America's pastime" rather than "America's sport" and to those who attend games but are not diehard fans, baseball is a social game for the fans. Its a chance to be together and talk and joke and root for the home team and walk around the stadium, grab a hotdog, peanuts and Cracker Jacks, run into friends, etc.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ireland, by Frank Delaney

Just finished listening to Ireland, an historic novel Frank Delaney on my iPod (downloaded from http://www.audible.com/. I've recently read some great books about Ireland and the Celts and all but I did want to recommend this one. From the back cover:

In the winter of 1951, a storyteller arrives at the home of nine-year-old Ronan O’Mara in the Irish countryside. The last practitioner of an honored, centuries-old tradition, the Seanchai (bard) enthralls his assembled audience for three evenings running with narratives of foolish kings and fabled saints, of enduring accomplishments and selfless acts—until he is banished from the household for blasphemy and moves on. But these three incomparable nights have changed young Ronan forever, setting him on the course he will follow for years to come—as he pursues the elusive, itinerant storyteller…and the magical tales that are no less than the glorious saga of his tenacious, troubled, and extraordinary isle.

Thought I’d pass this on to you who have a wee bit of Ireland in your blood. Can’t recommend it enough.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Cal Beats Tennesee in Season Opener, 45-31

For Cal fans around the world, tonight's victory over Tennesee was sweet revenge for last season's opener where Tennesee trounced Cal. Cal looked strong in several categories--special teams, including an opening spectacular kickoff return by Deshawn Jackson--who returns 1 / 5 for touchdowns, defense, including a four-down goal-line stand in the third quarter, several great runs and just great football. Go Bears! Have a great season! Just a note: Cal has not been in the Rose Bowl since 1959. Although teams can derail during any game in the season (think of Appalachian State beating #5 Michigan today), but it is concievable, with Tedford calling the plays again (he really is an offensive genius), this could be Cal's best season since Pappy Waldorf was at the helm.