loren Eric Swanson: July 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Birthday dinner at Efrain's

Nothing like a birthday dinner at Efrain's--undisputably the best Mexican restaurant on the planet with only possible contenders being from other planets or galexies! And of course, it's just not a birthday dinner without the Lambs and Wilcoxes.

We had dinner in the library where we've brought our treasures and souvenirs over the years--including one of three bound copies of my doctoral dissertation--where the odds drastically increase that someone will read it. I think we're safe on that one since over a year ago I put a crisp $20 bill within, and after checking tonight...yep it is still there!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Reek Sunday

Today in Ireland there are around 25,000 pilgrims that are climbing Reek Mountain--to commemorate Patrick's time when God told him to climb to the top of this mountain and survey all that the gospel did for Ireland. This is a day when I want to think about the same thing: What have I done to advance the kingdom this past year?

As I was looking for a few facts, I came across Bill Petro's blog. Bill's a good friend from college, and a quite-good historian. Link here to see what he's written about this day. http://www.billpetro.com/2007/07/24/history-of-reek-sunday-part-1-tradition/


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Leadership Network Team Retreat

Liz and I are in Stevenson, Washington at Skamania Lodge at a Leadership Network Retreat. LN has some great folks and it is always a kick to hang out with them. Today, during our free time some people played golf (you are never to say "golfed"....golf is something you play), some went to the spa while I and 4 others went on a two hour white water rafting trip--tons of fun.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Liz and I have been in Stockton the past couple of days--working in the mornings but hanging out with Mom and Dad in the late afternoons and evenings. This morning we went to Chuck's for breakfast. The breakfast below was eggs and cornbeef hash and hashbrown (note giant size) along w/ pancake (in place of toast). It was challenging even for me...but the type of challenge I enjoy. Chuck's is classic--it's been in the same place on Pacific Avenue since 1960--no being run by the 3rd generation.

My friend Mark

Yesterday I drove down to Berkeley to have lunch with my best buddy when I was in Junior High School--Mark Tanouye (http://ecnr.berkeley.edu/facPage/dispFP.php?I=640). Mark and I played football and wrestled together at Mango Junior H.S. in Sunnyvale and for one semester at Fremont H.S. in Sunnyvale before my family moved to Stockton. Last year Mark tracked me down via Cal's alumni association and I'm so glad he did. After High School, Mark graduated from Stanford, got his Ph.D. from Yale, taught at Cal Tech before accepting a teaching job at Cal. He is currently a prof in the Biology Department along with being the assistant chair of the department. Mark has received several awards for his research and teaching and is the type of guy one just enjoys hanging out with. Here he is explaining that my genome sequence and that of the fruitfly have a 70% match--barely above 2nd cousins once removed!

Because I wanted to learn more of what Mark did, he showed me around his lab and let me in on a bit of the work he is engaged in. It was facinating. Mark and his team are currently working on chemical combinations that raise the threshold of seizure, which is fundamental for breakthroughs with people who suffer from epilepsy. In this film clip one of Mark's graduate assistants is applying an electric shock to a fruitfly in order to trigger a seizure. Oops looks like THAT drug didn't work. Mark loves his work--the work of discovery--to figure out how God has structured life.

In past times Christians were at the forefront of science, believing they were discovering, through their research, the very manner, mind and methods of God. We would do well to heed the words of Saint Augustine set in fourth century:
"If it happens that the authority of Sacred Scripture is set in opposition to clear and certain reasoning, this must mean that the person who interprets Scripture does not understand it correctly. It is not the meaning of Scripture which is opposed to the truth but the meaning he wanted to give to it."[1]

More recently the great Presbyterian theologian of the 19th century, Benjamin B. Warfield wrote:
"We must not, then, as Christians, assume an attitude of antagonism toward the truths of reason, or the truths of philosophy, or the truths of science…. None should be more quick to discern truth in every field, more hospitable to receive it, more loyal to follow it, whithersoever it leads."[2]

[1] Meachum, Jon. “The God Debate” Newsweek, April 9, 2007 p. 57
[2] Collins, Francis S. The Language of God. Free Press. New York (2006) p. 179

In 1987 Mark and his wife Ellen began a spiritual journey with Jesus Christ and a couple of years ago attended a church-planter training and helped with a church plant in Lodi. (http://www.stpaullodi.org/mod/church-staff/about.php?staff_id=100005)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Do you want to change the world?

Reecently, as I've been speaking at externally focused events, I have asked those in attendance, "How many of you want to change the world?" Invariably, every hand goes up. And here's where the nickle drops; everyone wants to change the world but very few people are giving the opportunity to do so. The job of leaders...spiritual, visionary leaders, is to give everyone in their Bailiwick the opportunity to regularly engage in changing the world.

Liz and I have a son who lives in another country. When he shares his faith he tells college students, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life and part of that plan is to help change the world." Then he tells them about the compassionate good news of Jesus and his kingdom. "What do you suppose our campus would be like if every student was a follower of Jesus?
"Our campus would be an awesome place."
"And what if everyone in our city was a follower of Jesus?"
"Well, there would be no street children...no hungry people, no homelessness...there would be jobs and people would love each other, even those who are hard to love...and our city would be awesome...and everyone in our country would want to move to our city"

What if...
...we gave people the regular opportunity to do nothing less than change the world?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Coyote Motors--buying my car around my mechanic

In 1999 I bought a 1996 Mazda 626 that had 60,000 miles on it. Soon after buying it I heard some squeeking in the brakes and took it to a good mechanic friend of mine. His shop didn't work on Mazda's but he knew someone who did--Wolfgang Reitz, owner of Coyote Motors in North Boulder (303.443.3011). Shock of all $hocks, he put on new brakes for under $100....I think it was around $80. I hadn't walked out of any car repair place for under a hundred dollars in years. Since then Wolf has been my mechanic and has always done a great job and an incredibly fair price--never selling me something I didn't need. It's just the way he does business. In January when my '96 Mazda was finally getting old enough, with 173K miles on it, I started looking for another car...well, another Mazda. Sounds a bit nutty I suppose but I thought, "I've got my mechanic...I just need another car, so I'll buy my car around what is already consistently great in my life." And I found another Mazda...on Craig's List: a 1999 626 with 27,000 original miles, "driven by our grandmother to the market and back." After buying the car I aske how long it had been on Craig's List. "I pressed the enter button and you called." Liz and I donated the '96 Mazda to Good Neighbor Gargage. GNG is run by Jim Reiner of Belay Enterprises (see photos of 96 and 99 side by side). Jim is a social / spiritual entrepreneur and I need to write about him some time. GNG fixes cars and then gives them to single moms for transportation for work and life.

This past week my 99 Mazda started overheating. This was my first occasion to take it to Coyote Motors and sure enough Wolf squeezed me in, diagnosed a leaky coolant reservoir and had it repaired for cost of the part and 1/2 hour of labor! Can't beat that. Wolf reads a lot about cars and engines and is a true craftsman in what he does. He is an expert at his craft, charges a fair price, and gives you exactly (no more, no less) what one needs.

In someways our experience with mechanics is like our experience with doctors. We trust them because our lives our in their hands...well, sort of. So when a mechanic says, "Boy, I sure wouldn't drive out of the city without (fill in the blank here "getting a radiator flush," "replacing all hoses and belts," etc) what do we do. Unlike doctors, mechanics take no Hypocratic oath to first "do no harm."

After doing my taxes I blogged about Bob, my tax guy. A few days ago I blogged about Ayo--the paella guy. Taxes, cooking, fixing cars. The common theme is they love what they do and are great at doing it. So that's why I bought my car around my mechanic.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ayo's Paella

One of our favorite places to eat in the world--at least the countries we've been to is "Chiringuito de Ayo" (Ayo's Snackbar--picture grapvines for your ceiling and beach sand for the floor) on Burriana Beach in Nerja Spain. Liz and I have been to Spain on four different occassions and we always find ourselves at Ayo's. Ayo is now 70 years old and every day for nine months of the year (he spends the months of October, February and May vacationing in Cuba) he prepares 5-15 giant pans of paella, each of which contain 70-80 portions of paella.

Every day in Nerja our routine included walking down the beach, at around 2pm, to Ayo's for paella cooked over an open fire. Ayo has it down to a science, filling the pan first with a couple of bottles of olive oil, then adding the chicken, then the long-grain rice, red and green peppers, onions, garlic, whole peeled tomatoes, chicken stock, safron, spices and then finally the shrimp, clams and a few mussels. It's quite a site to behold. Ayo dishes up a huge plate of paella for 6 euros and the best thing is you can bring your plate up as many times as you want for seconds (or thirds).

The last day we were in Nerja, Liz and I packed our suitcases, checked out and walked one last time down to Ayo's. It was early for a Spanish lunch (noon) so after a couple of plates of paella we talked to Ayo about his life. He sent someone for his photo album and for the next 20 minutes walked us through some highlights of his life. He was a track star as a young man and when he was 19 he was one of the first to enter into the caves of nerja (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caves_of_Nerja) after a buddy of his discovered the small opening to the cave. These caves are incredible--occupied by humans as early as 25,000 BC and are home to some of the earliest cave paintings. Ayo and a handful of his mates guided the first archeologists into the caves and since that time have hosted kings and queens as well as world celebrities.

Why do we like Ayo's so much? I think that any time you meet a person who loves what he or she does and is so good at what they do, it merits one's attention. For the past forty years, seven days a week, Ayo has been putting on his white shirt, apron, shorts and binding rice boxes around his shins (like greaves), under futbol stockings, to protect him from the heat of the open fire and does what he does best--delighting his customers with food that they love. Take a look at the videos. I think you'll understand a bit more of what I'm writing about.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Back from Spain

Our holiday in Spain was great! We rented a condo overlooking the Med on VRBO.com (Vacation Rental by Owner) from a wonderful and dear woman from who lives in LA. I'll attach a video of the view from our balcony. We couldn't think of a more spectacular and beautiful place to be.

Every day was Liz and I took a nice long walk through town, sometimes stopping for breakfast at a little cafe overlooking the Med. Then we'd go down to the beach, and go for a swim (it's amazing how boyant one is in salt water, so swiming a third of a mile was pretty easy), and then plop ourselves on beach chairs under a couple of umbrellas and read. Liz picked up some trashy Christian romance novels (e.g. "the heaving bosom of Abraham") from Church and read the usual stuff I read. Around 2pm we'd walk down to Ayo's for paella for a long lunch then back to more doing of nothing. It was great! At night we'd walk to town for dinner and just walking around. In many countries of the world, the homes are modest but the public places are spectacular, so folks dress up and meet others in town. Benches and sitting places are plentiful and people gather and talk.

One of the highlights of being in Spain was being part of the crowd that watched Spain defeat both Russia and Germany to win the Eurocup--for the first time in 44 years! The Eurocup is played every 4 years so it alternates every two years with the World Cup, which is also on a 4 year rotation. It was quite a celebration!