Social Action

Why I’m Going to Cambodia

540965_10151174595217478_769490549_nHello again! I’m back to share more about Cambodia. But first, a HUGE thank you to those who sponsored a mile yesterday. I’m grateful for your support. Just over $800 has been raised and there are still opportunities available. Miles 1-5 are looking a little lonely…

Social Action

The Steps of Justice Blog Takeover

photo-5Good morning! Let’s start this day off with a little blog takeover, shall we? I hope Adam doesn’t mind…

I’ve just come back from a brisk early morning run. I’m not normally comfortable being the center of attention, but while I’m still running high on endorphins, I’ve got a favor to ask.

You see, I’ve got two significant events coming up in the next six months. The first is that I’m running a half-marathon in April. This will be my third half-marathon, after taking three years “off”. The second is that I’m going to Cambodia with Steps of Justice in August. I need to raise $795 plus airfare. (About $2000 total) So far, I’ve raised just over $500 by selling household clutter on Amazon and Craigslist.

Social Action

First World Problems

Well played, Water is Life. Well played indeed.

Social Action Travel

10 Things I’m Looking Forward to about My Trip to Zimbabwe

Entering Zimbabwe

In just two days I leave on a 10-day trip to Zimbabwe with World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine and a grip of youth workers. As you can imagine I’m a wild mix of preparation, wrapping up projects, enjoying the final day of the kids Christmas break, and a variety of lists. (Yes. This post was on my list.)

Here are 10 things I’m looking forward to about the Zimbabwe Trip

Social Action

Context and Perspective on the Current Conflict in the Gaza Strip: An Interview with Jon Huckins

Like many, I’m struggling to understand what’s going on with the current fighting between Israel & Palestine. More to the point, I hear rumors that American Christians and American tourism might actually be making matters more complicated for those involved.

With that in mind I asked my good friend, Jon Huckins, to help me understand it a bit better. Jon is the author of two books, Teaching Through the Art of Storytelling and Thin Places. Jon is also my co-author for Good News in the Neighborhood. He’s a part of NieuCommunities, an organization that trains missional leaders, as well as the co-founder of a new ministry start-up called the Global Immersion Project which helps inform and Christians in the peace-making efforts in Israel and Palestine. They offer a four month learning experience that integrates historical, theological and social realities which culminates in two weeks on the ground in Israel and Palestine. Their hope is to cultivate a generation of peacemakers who better live, love and lead like Jesus both in the Middle East and in their neighborhood.

Enough with the bio… here’s my interview with Jon.

Church Leadership Social Action

3 Mini-Rants for a Wednesday

Mmmm... nothing like hormone-induced gigantic turkey for your families pre-Black Friday festivities.
Mmmm… nothing like hormone-induced gigantic turkey for your families pre-Black Friday festivities.
  1. Don’t shop on Thanksgiving! – This year, in a sign of pure greed, many retailers will open up their stores for pre-Black Friday sales. Target stores nationwide will open at 9:00 PM on Thanksgiving, basically destroying the holiday for their employees. Their employees started a petition to keep Black Friday on Friday. Last week I got several emails inviting me to “secret sales” where I could get Black Friday deals right now. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Making low-level employees work on a holiday so you can make extra money is wrong.
  2. We all pay taxes! It is true that lots and lots of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes directly. But I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with people saying that most people don’t pay taxes. We all pay taxes, lots and lots of them. And while most of the readers of this blog won’t write a check for federal income taxes we pay taxes in lots of seen and unseen places that our more affluent neighbors don’t. We all pay sales tax, property tax, payroll tax, state income tax, tariffs we don’t see, taxes added into the goods we buy like gasoline. Then there are the taxes we pay not in money, but in situations beyond our control. Can someone in the working poor pay to send their kids to an elite school? Nope… so that’s a tax on them. Can the working poor afford the best access to healthcare? Nope… so that’s a tax on them. What about the best nutrition? Or social access to powerful people. On and on and on. My point is simply that we all pay taxes!
  3. There’s more to church leadership than preaching! No, really. The more I get to know folks in a lot of contexts the more I realize that what you do off the platform is what makes you a leader in the church. And if you look away from the org chart and walk around seeing who is actually leading, almost all leadership (People leading others where they wouldn’t go by themselves) is happening outside of the preaching person and outside of the paid staff. I’m not talking about redefining what leadership is in the church… I’m talking about recognizing who are the leaders in your church. How can you go to a church, see all that goes on, and say… “Oh, this is ____’s church.” Gimme a break.

OK, I got those off my chest. Time for a second cup of coffee.

Social Action

Why is there a sex shop in my neighborhood?

(Romantix, an adult bookstore, is the purple marker. The red markers are nearby schools) 

Why is there a sex shop in my neighborhood?

I don’t about your neighborhood. But in my neighborhood we have enough problems to deal without having an adult bookstore just a few blocks from 4 schools and within a mile of 8 schools.

That’s the case with Romantix, an adult bookstore located right smack dab in the middle of City Heights on the corner of 48th & El Cajon.

I’m not talking about Romantix being buried in a shady shopping center. It’s on El Cajon Boulevard, where hundreds of students have to walk each day to and from school. And tens of thousands of cars stream… often stopped in front of the shop because of traffic lights. For example, it’s caddy corner to a Jack in the Box and across the street from a corner market. There’s a bus stop on this block, etc. This store is public and visible in every way.

Worse yet, the store advertises like this:

I’m asking you to join me in changing how Romantix advertises their business.

  • Help draw attention to their sexually suggestive advertising in a residential neighborhood.
  • Contact local media. A little bit of media attention could go a long way.
  • Call the shop to ask them to take it down. (619) 582-1997
  • Contact San Diego City Council to ask them to enforce appropriate ordinances.
  • Use these edited images to draw attention to this injustice.

Would you want this in your neighborhood? Would this be allowed where you live? I doubt it. The simple reality is that this form of overt sexually suggestive advertising wouldn’t be allowed in any neighborhood ones like City Heights. I guarantee you that this wouldn’t fly in La Jolla, Point Loma, etc. 

Why is an adult bookstore in a residential neighborhood?

According to San Diego Municipal code 141.0601 an adult entertainment business cannot operate within 1,000 feet of a residential area, a school, or a church. Um, it’s within 100 feet of a residential area! 

Quoting the ordinance… section 3.

(3) The public health, safety, and welfare shall be preserved and protected by applying the provisions of this section in the following descending order of importance:

(A) Proximity to other adult entertainment businesses;
(B) Proximity to schools;
(C) Proximity to churches;
(D) Proximity to public parks;
(E) Proximity to residential zones; and
(F) Proximity to social service institutions.

So is it against the ordinance for Romanix to even be there? I actually don’t know the answer to that question. This neighborhood has been there for many years. But the ordinance says that it can be exempt if they don’t changed owners or expand/improve their property. I find it hard to believe that Romantix has been there, not changed owners, and not made any improvements in 20, 30, or even 40 years!

We all know why this is happening. It’s because the people who live in my community are often the working poor, powerless, and voiceless. It’s there because the people who live there don’t know that it’s not supposed to be there. And even if they don’t like it, they don’t know that there is anything they could do about it.

In truth, I doubt we could get them to close their doors. But I am fairly confident we could get them to cease using sexually suggestive advertising on the exterior of their building.

So while I wish Romantix weren’t allowed to do business in that location at all, I recognize that they likely do have every right to be in business at this location. To be clear, I’m not saying they should close– just advertise in such a way which is responsible and respectful of their location.

Together we can demand that the owner’s advertise in ways which are less degrading to women and less sexually suggestive.

My Note to the Owners/Operators of Romantix

Romantix, your business may be on a main artery in City Heights. But it is also in a neighborhood where hundreds of children pass by daily. Likewise, tens of thousands of motorists stream by and are even stopped in front of your shop while waiting for the traffic light to change.

As a concerned member of the community I am asking you to refrain from sexually suggestive, lewd, and degrading advertising on the outside of your business. Your clientele knows exactly what you are, where you are, and why they shop there. There’s simply no reason to advertise in this way when your establishment is in an area where thousands of people are forced to go by your shop. There is a difference between “within the law” and “what is right.” I am asking you to do what is right and best for the community.


Social Action

When your civil resistance makes them think

Civil resistance alongside the term nonviolent resistance, is used to describe political action that relies on the use of non-violent methods by civil groups to challenge a particular power, force, policy or regime. Civil resistance operates through appeals to the adversary, pressure and coercion: it can involve systematic attempts to undermine the adversary’s sources of power. Forms of action have included demonstrations, vigils and petitions; strikes, go-slows, boycotts and emigration movements; and sit-ins, occupations, and the creation of parallel institutions of government.

Backstory, according to the YouTube page – I got this ticket in a town where the cops (and absurd redlight cameras) are pretty much a money trap and that’s it. I decided to pay in an appropriate manner – 137 origami pig $1 bills, put in a pair of dozen-donut dunkin donut boxes.

My thoughts – Half of me thinks he wimped out on his protest. He went to all of that trouble to fold all of those dollar bills and then let a clerk tell him to unfold them or he wouldn’t accept them. He caved really easily. The other half of me thinks that he had a greater impact on the clerk and the officer who understood the protest, weren’t made to look like jerks in the video, and no doubt told everyone they knew about the guy who paid his fine in origami pigs.

What do you think? Did he wuss out? Or did he make his point and carry on? 

Social Action

McLane Creative Celebrates its 25th Loan

At McLane Creative I make a simple promise: You invest in us and we invest in someone else. 

For every new client I take on I make a small loan to help a woman with her business around the world. This morning I made our 25th loan, helping a newly married woman in Mozambique buy more products to sell in her shop.

What’s Kiva?

Kiva is a non-profit organization which helps connect you to those in need of a microloan. They work with NGOs around the world, providing oversight and accountability, and help people like me make investments in small businesses all over the developing world.

In other words, they make high risk small business loans to people a traditional bank wouldn’t consider. These loans help participants grow their businesses and gain financial independence. They treat their clients with respect and help them avoid the pitfalls of loan sharks.

It’s a loan, not a donation. The NGO charges a competitive interest rate far below the rates of street loans or loan sharks, handle the day-to-day operations, and for their efforts they keep the interest while I’m repaid the principle of my loan according to a schedule. I’ve been making loans to Kiva since 2007 and have only had 1 loan default. It’s not that risky. And you can even withdraw your money after your loan has been repaid. 

Why Do I Only Invest in Women?

One take away from the book The Blue Sweater was that women in developing nations invest the profits of their business directly into their family at a higher rate than their male counterparts. So that means that when I help a woman with her business, she will in turn invest the profits of her business into her home, her children, their education and health care.

How can you get involved?

I can think of 3 ways you could get involved with Kiva today.

  1.  Make a small, monthly investment personally or as a family. This is how I got started. I picked 1 person to invest $25 in and then waited for updates. Once we saw that Kiva was for real I made more investments.
  2. Give Kiva as a gift. We’ve given Kiva loans to our kids as Christmas presents. It’s fun for them to pick out someone to invest in, print out their picture, and wait for repayment.
  3. Create a team for your business. When you create a team you can set team goals and stuff like that. Even though Team McLane Creative is really just one member of the team, I like keeping track of it separately from my other loans. (They are funded from my business accounts, too.)

Your Invitation

As I was writing this post I discovered that Kiva is doing a special deal right now. If you create an account, Kiva will credit your account $25 for your first loan. And if you use my invite link I’ll get $25, too. 

So for the low, low price of $0 we can invest $50 in a small business. Simple, right? 

Here’s the link to take advantage of that right now.

Social Action

Teenagers and the law

Yesterday’s ruling by the Supreme Court included some important nuances on the legal understanding of teenagers, their standing in our country, and how the courts view their decision-making abilities.

Whether you work with teenagers or have one at home– I’ve done my best to synthesize this nuance in both the argument and the opinion of the court. I’m highlighting in red negative words about teenagers abilities, highlighting in blue words which recognize teenage capabilities. That way you can see the dance the courts are making visually.

The argument made to the Supreme Court

To start with the first set of cases: Roper and Graham establish that children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing. Because juveniles have diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform, we explained, “they are less deserving of the most severe punishments.” Graham, 560 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 17). Those cases relied on three significant gaps between juveniles and adults. First, children have a “‘lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility,’” leading to recklessness, impulsivity, and heedless risk-taking. Roper, 543 U. S., at 569. Second, children “are more vulnerable . . . to negative influences and outside pressures,”including from their family and peers; they have limited“contro[l] over their own environment” and lack the ability to extricate themselves from horrific, crime-producing settings. Ibid. And third, a child’s character is not as “well formed” as an adult’s; his traits are “less fixed” and his actions less likely to be “evidence of irretrievable depravity.” Id., at 570. 

Our decisions rested not only on common sense—on what “any parent knows”—but on science and social science as well. Id., at 569. In Roper, we cited studies showing that “‘[o]nly a relatively small proportion of adolescents’” who engage in illegal activity “‘develop entrenched patterns of problem behavior.’” Id., at 570 (quoting Steinberg & Scott, Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence: Developmental Immaturity, Diminished Responsibility, and the Juvenile Death Penalty, 58 Am. Psychologist 1009, 1014 (2003)). And in Graham, we noted that “developments in psychology and brain science continue to show fundamental differences between juvenile and adult minds”—for example, in “parts of the brain involved in behavior control.” 560 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 17).5 We reasoned that those findings—of transient rashness, proclivity for risk, and inability to assess consequences—both lessened a child’s “moral culpability” and enhanced the prospect that, as the years go by and neurological development occurs, his “‘deficiencies will be reformed.’” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 18) (quoting Roper, 543 U. S., at 570). 

Roper and Graham emphasized that the distinctive at- tributes of youth diminish the penological justificationsfor imposing the harshest sentences on juvenile offenders, even when they commit terrible crimes. Because “‘[t]he heart of the retribution rationale’” relates to an offender’s blame worthiness, “‘the case for retribution is not as strong with a minor as with an adult.’” Graham, 560 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 20–21) (quoting Tison v. Arizona, 481 U. S. 137, 149 (1987); Roper, 543 U. S., at 571). Nor can deterrence do the work in this context, because “‘the same characteristics that render juveniles less culpable than adults’”—their immaturity, recklessness, and impetuosity—make them less likely to consider potential punishment. Graham, 560 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 21) (quoting Roper, 543 U. S., at 571). Similarly, incapacitation could not support the life-without-parole sentence in Graham: Deciding that a “juvenile offender forever will be a danger to society” would require “mak[ing] a judgment that [he] is incorrigible”—but “‘incorrigibility is inconsistent with youth.’” (pages 8-10)

The courts ruling

Although we do not foreclose a sentencer’s ability to make that judgment in homicide cases, we require it to take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime inprison. (page 17)


This is from the Supreme Courts ruling on Miller vs. Alabama, a challenge to mandatory life sentences to juvenile murderers. In other words, judges can now take into account the circumstances of the individuals background, their mental ability to understand the crime, their ability to discontinue involvement in the crime, and family life.

Obviously, I think this is good news for teenagers in general because the courts indicate that adults (and our laws) should not apply to teenagers in the same way, regardless of age.

Why this matters

  1. GOOD The Supreme Court’s ruling indicates that maturity and cognitive ability to grasp the seriousness of risk is not fixed by age. All 17 year olds are not the same, all 14 year olds are not the same.
  2. GOOD The Supreme Court removes state laws mandatory sentencing for juvenile offenders, even in states where minors are tried as adults for serious felonies. This doesn’t say they can’t get life sentences but it does say that the courts are allowed to to examine the maturity level and family circumstances of individual offenders.
  3. GOOD While nuanced, the language of the majority opinion affirms the capabilities of teenagers. Justice Kagan makes a distinction between a juvenile raised in a stable home with one raised in a chaotic home. She also affirms that the mental capacity to understand cause and effect varies widely between a 14 year old and 17 year old. Did they have the ability to walk away before a crime was committed? Or were they able to grasp the risk to themselves prior to committing a crime? Those are questions of capability.
  4. GOOD The Supreme Court affirms that since a juvenile cannot legally defend themselves in the same way, because of their constitutional definition as a child, that it’s unfair to use the same sentencing guidelines as an adult defendant. That acknowledges the justice gap as its unfair to give someone a life sentence when they can’t properly defend themselves.

What else do you see in the courts ruling yesterday that I’m missing?

Photo credit: Charles Pence via Flickr (Creative Commons)