Happy New Years!

Happy New Year!

Happy new year, all! I hope you had good and safe fun during last night’s festivities!

Engine #6I was on the road at 12:10am last night. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you probably saw a tweet about this. I was leaving the Liberty right after midnight and was on Elizabeth Ave crossing Broad Street towards the courthouse. I saw, out of the left corner of my eye, two engines pull out of the Broad St firehouse, lights ablazin’ and sirens blaring. They came toward my direction with great acceleration as I pulled over and let them pass. I remembered then that, while walking to my car, I heard the distant crackling of a large amount of fireworks, mostly illegal I supposed. I would assume that someone rang in the new year by setting their home afire within 10 minutes of the ball dropping. Nice! I couldn’t help but chuckle a little while still feeling a little sad for the situation.

From the stageAnyway, I went to my church’s New Year’s gathering last night before the fire incident. I wasn’t aware I was supposed to be running sound for the night, so I planned on showing up “fashionably late.” Alas, I received a call about 15 minutes before the start asking if I was coming becuase they needed a tech there. So I geared up with haste and made my way to the Liberty Center. I walked in the door as they were starting to play the first song. There was a guy there who I’ve been training that got the stuff turned on and running, but quickly passed it to me when I arrived. It was a night of prayer and worship. Pretty good. A lot of people showed up… a lot more than I expected to. I think we had about 300 or so. I added a few photos from the night here, on Flickr.

I don’t have much scheduled for today. I’m trying to find something to do. I don’t think any stores will be open, and I’m having a hard time find people with which to do something. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just go shower and then head out and see what becomes of things.

Anyway, I hope you all have a great New Year’s holiday! Peace be with you.


Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. A day to celebrate eating too much and preparations to spend way too much money the following day…. wait, that can’t be it.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you probably have at least some familiarity with the “Thanksgiving story…” how the Pilgrims came to a foreign land, not really knowing what they would find then they got there. They left all the comforts of home in pursuit of an elusive dream that we all long for… freedom. Theirs was a freedom to worship as they saw fit. Maybe the freedom you seek take another form, but there it is. And then, late in the year they gathered with family and friends of old as well as new friends met in a “New World” to thank God for the blessings they had received and for the freedom they had found to live and love and worship as they desired.

And so we continue the tradition on the fourth Thursday of every November. Thanksgiving is a day we stop the busyness of life and the hectic schedules to remember how blessed we truly are and how much we have to be thankful for. And there is much to be thankful for.

The mere fact that I live in America, by default, shows how blessed I am. I have heard it said that if you live in the United States, have a roof over your head, and have a car, you are within the top 3% of the wealthiest people on planet Earth. Well, that’s me. A few years ago I took this fact for granted. Today I am more educated. I realize how blessed I really am. And I think differently about these things now as well. Even today, at Thanksgiving dinner, my father prayed over the meal before we began and he thanked God for the blessings we have and asked to bless us more in the upcoming year. It seems it is a cadence and ritual thing to say on Thanksgiving. But I think now that I am already so blessed, I don’t need any more. I really don’t. No, instead I think the time has come to take that blessing given to me and give it away to those who need it more.

And so I count my blessings

– I am thankful that all of my family is in relatively good health. There has been no major catastrophe within our midst, really ever. That is rare, and I am incredibly fortunate for it.

– I have some of the most amaing friends. I realized, especially in recent weeks, how good my friends, especially a select group of them, really are, and I come to the conclusion that I don’t really deserve them but they are mine anyway. It’s hard to believe that I get to belong to a community so close that cares about each other, or that I get to spend so much of my time sharing life with them.

– Along the same lines I am grateful for the community I am a part of in regards to my church. Even more so I am thankful that I get to be a part of group chosen to lead them. When I step back and think about it I can’t understand how it all happened or how I got where I am. I don’t understand how I deserve the honor of serving the community as a whole in the position I have been given. I don’t understand why I get to do the things I do, but I do. I am excited about what the future holds.

– I’m a tech geek, and so this may sound incredible stupid and geeky, but I am thankful for the Internet. Yes, the Internet. And for this reason: I have been connected to so many people across the globe that there is no way I would have met otherwise. There are a few new friendships I have made this past year solely via the Web. Some are only a few states away. Some are on the other side of the country. Others are literally on the other side of the world. It blows my mind how small Earth has gotten and how easy and quickly two people one, three, or a dozen time zones apart can be connected and talk and share life just as if they were in the same room.

– Finally, I am grateful that I get to live where I do and that I am blessed the way I am. I am grateful that I am able to help others, whether through the little girl I sponsor in Central America, through world relief funds, or through programs we are starting up in 2008 to bring hope and life to dying communities (more to come on that in 2008). 🙂 I am convinced now that the American consumerist mindset of “more more more” is a fallacy and actually sucks the life out of you instead of adding to it. I find that I feel most alive when I am doing things for people, and the more “sacrifice” it is to me, the more alive I feel. Jesus’ teachings about giving and sacrifice and finding life when you give your own away resounds in my mind and heart, and I think I finally understand what it means to live.

Looking back, I see a similarity, that all the things I am thankful for are related to relationships to people. “Community” is a topic that has been close to me the past several months. I understand what Acts 2 was talking about:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NIV)

Group shotCommunity. It’s what our souls long for. To be wanted and loved. To belong. To fit in. Can you think of anything more terrifying than being alone. Alone by yourself, or even worse, alone while surrounded by others? Community is what dives is and motivates us. When we belong we are free to live and to love and to share and to experience life to the fullest. And so, this year, I am thankful for the community of people I am surrounded with and for the things we are able to do to bring peace and hope to this world when we work together.

What are you thankful for?

I want the truth!

Why is it that people like to talk and talk and talk before they know the full details of a situation? I’ve been thinking about the topic of “rumors” and “gossip” the past few days as they have been quite prevelant in my life.

It started last Friday. I got a text about midday from my brother, who works in the Elizabeth school system, that there was some major police activity in the high school. He wasn’t sure why, but there they were. It turns out that there were some threats of the potential of gang violence for that day and they were there to investigate. As a precaution, they evacuated all of the school (I think it was all of them). From there the rumor mill went into full swing. Later on in the day I received a text that 10 students were shot in school. I also heard that they cops found an AK-47 in the high school. Later on I heard that there was going to be a massive Bloods vs. Crips war happening that night. Next I heard that there was gang initiation that night and 60 people were supposed to be killed. From all the rumors it sounded like Elizabeth was entering into an Apocalypse with little cause for hope of salvation. At The Bridge that night we opened the night with a simple question: “What have you heard?” The room erupted with stories of chaos and anarchy and mass destruction. It came from all angles. Everyone had a different variant of the story which they held to be Gospel. And each were genuinely scared. Fear seemed to rule the city that night.

Today I received a call from Carlos that the Liberty Center (our church’s home) had caught fire. No one knew the full extent of the damage as the Elizabeth Fire Department would not allow people into the building until they were sure it was safe and fully inspected. Later on I hear rumors from other my parents that the entire building was engulfed in flame and the auditorium and stage was destroyed. This they heard from a friend of theirs.

What is it in us that likes to take stories and pass them along, with usual slight embellishment. Have you ever played the “phone game” in which you form a line, a code or phrase is shared with the first person and is passed via whisper until it reaches the last. The phrase is never the same as it was when it was started. The same is true of our stories, our rumors, our gossip. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t find anything wrong with the passing on of stories and of knowledge. But I prefer to have the solid truth before I share things. I don’t want to make things seem more, or even less, than what it is. I don’t want to implicate people or groups who have nothing to do with the story.

It is funny how what we hear can be so distant from the truth.

Yes, there was some recent gang activity in Elizabeth. Last Monday a twelve (12) and a thirteen (13) year old pair of boys were shot on Fulton St in Elizabeth. Yes, one died while the other survived. It just so happened that the funeral for Elisha Henderson, the boy who died, was on that Friday of rumor. And yes, it was true that the shooting was gang related. It is also true that that very same Monday, also on Fulton St, a house was sprayed and a man was shot in the neck. Yes, this was gang related too, though completely unrelated to the shooting of the boys. And yes, it is true that a gang OG was recently killed in the previous weeks… also unrelated. And all of these events were unrelated to the happenings of Friday. It is true that on Friday the police received a threat of violence at the school, hence the security. And yes, they found a gun…. a plastic toy gun, which they confiscated. And that was the extent of it. No gang initiation. No war. No Apocalypse. Just a toy gun.

There was no mass inferno in the Liberty today. A small fire broke out under the main stage – still under construction. The fire was contained in the storage room beneath the stage. The other auditorium and stage, located on the second floor, suffered no fire damage. In fact, none of the rest of the building suffered fire damage. The was much smoke, and we have to see how much damage that caused, but that was the extent of it. Of course, this will delay our occupation of the building, but there was no major catastrophe or destruction. All rumor.

I really try to steer clear of rumor-mongering and gossip. For the most part I feel I am successful. For the most part. And I think I will become even more resolute in my efforts after the events of this week. It was crazy to see what false rumors can do to people, and I want nothing to do with that. God calls us to live lives of truth. I want to live truth. I want to speak the truth. I think people crave truth. They want to hear it. They hear too many lies throughout their lives – on TV, in the news, from family and friends. Truth is a breath of fresh air, a straightening in a crooked and bent world. It’s what our souls crave and long for. And that is the goal for who and what I want to be.

A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful. (Proverbs 14:25 NIV)

Awoken humanity

I am, as you might already be aware, a leader in a youth program in Elizabeth, NJ. We have an interesting setup to our program, as it is not one group in one location, but one group with several locations all throughout the city, and now even the state.

Well, in the group I work with, we want to always be sensitive to the needs of our city. We want to get involved with serving and the helping of the oppressed and needy and downtrodden, no matter if that need is a physical one, emotional, spiritual, or any other kind. We want to be there for those who need us most. As we fully move into the Liberty Center we will be able to do more and more as well as start up new programs and endeavors to attack the roots of the problems… not to just provide for the needy, but to attack the very roots of poverty. Not to just help those who are oppressed, but to assault injustice itself. A big task, yes, but it is what we are called to do.

We are starting small. As I said, we are still in the process of fully moving into our new home and so we are not at our full ability to do what we want, but we can begin the process.

Can driveThis Thanksgiving, as we live in such a blessed society and sit comfortably amidst the top 5% of the wealthiest people on the planet, we want to stress to the youth the importance of giving. Giving of their time, money, talents, and abilities for the betterment of society and those around them. Sacrificial giving.

And so we have teamed up for the upcoming holiday season with the homeless services at St Joseph’s in Elizabeth in order to provide food for the poor in the city so that they might have a decent Thanksgiving. We are going around door to door in our area, collecting non-perishable food items with which we will in turn submit for the feeding of the hungry. It will be glorious.

We began the collection of foods on Saturday. It was a chilly day. We gathered a small group of teenagers from our little community and set out to the streets. We spit into two groups as to cover more ground with more rapid pace. This week we invaded the Jefferson Park areas of Magnolia Ave, Madison Ave, Catherine St, and other surrounding neighborhoods. Next week we shall set out for the Peterstown area, so be ready.

I must admit that the first half of the collection was slightly disheartening. There was not much luck in people answering their doors, or if they did answer to help us. The second half yielded much better results. We ended up collecting three semi-large boxes of canned goods, pastas, cereals, and other such products. We also have a small number of appointments to return this upcoming Saturday for collection as well as individuals who have said they will bring “boxes” of goods to the Liberty throughout the week to donate. This, coupled with our second outing on November 17, I hope, will provide much aide and relief for the overlooked of our society.

I noticed something while walking house to house with the youth in my group. During the first hour spirits were somewhat low as our efforts seemed to be in vain. With each passing rejection or unanswered door, the paced seemed to slow. But at the first donation all that was changed. It was as if a spark was set and ignited a new passion in the teens we were with. And then the second donation came. And the third. Soon they were excitedly running house to house, boldly speaking to the residents where there was once shyness. Waiting with excited anticipation as the home-owners said, “Let me go see what I have in the kitchen.” The second half of our journey sped by with haste whereas the first seemed to drag. And so I began to think:

There’s something about service, about giving of yourself to something bigger, about the simple act of helping others that awakens something within us. Something about service that awakens the fullest extent of our humanity, and I think somehow, as we give ourselves away, we are connected more deeply with those around us and with God himself. It’s as if there is some deeply latent area of our being within that is only roused when we give sacrificially and unselfishly for the betterment of others. It’s as if we were meant for more than just living for ourselves. Perhaps there is something deeply divine about denying yourself and lifting the needs of our fellow human beings above our own. Maybe there’s a truth in the idea that we were made to help bring peace and restoration and hope and justice to a broken and fractured world. Maybe it’s true that, as the Scriptures say, when we give our lives away, we will find true life, that when we help others we will really be living life to it’s fullest potential. We will be experiencing life as it was meant to be lived.


But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it… Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:6-7, 17-19 NIV)

PS: If you want to help out and live in the Elizabeth area, (non monetary) donations can be brought to the Liberty Center (1121 Elizabeth Ave, Elizabeth, NJ 07201) during business hours or on Friday night between 7pm and 9:30pm. Or you can contact Pastor Harold Boyd at 908-289-6322. If you would like to help out but do not live in the Elizabeth area, contact me via email at whartz at bridgyouth dot com.

Peace be with you.

The evening star

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, who referenced a tweet I sent last night as I was preparing to go to sleep, and went off on a tangent describing in more detail what the tweet was talking about. I liked how it came out so much that I thought I’d share it here.

First, the tweet in question:

Trying to sleep but the moonis absolutely breathtaking tonight & I can’t stop looking. Mycamera tries but cannot capture its magnificence.

And now the conversation that ensued:

Aiko: i see. i quiet like your tweet about the moon last night

Me: The moon was spectacular. It was in perfect angle in the sky to shine right through my bedroom window and cast a light upon my pillow. I noticed it after I had already taken my glasses off.

But I could already tell it was no normal full moon. So I put my glasses back on and just sat there for about 10 minutes looking at it. And then I went to get my camera and tried to get a photograph of it, but it just wouldn’t come out properly.

It was unusually bright, and the details of the various craters and “seas” on it were quite prominent. The sky was even a lighter shade of dark blue, if there is such a thing. The roofing on my neighbor’s house was illuminated, and my own bed was almost glowing in the moonlight. It was amazing.

Aiko: sounds really beautiful

Me: So I turned my air conditioner off and opened the window to better let the light in and the breeze cool me. Even the birds seemed more active than usual in the night. It was quite surreal.

I’m not sure if it was due to the fact that there was a lunar eclipse this morning, or because Jupiter was supposedly supposed to appear closer in the night sky around 3am. Perhaps the sun’s light was reflecting differently. But it was a sight to see nonetheless.

Aiko: wish i could have seen that too

I have to admit that I love the night and the peacefulness and tranquility and calm silence that comes with it. There’s nothing like the stillness of a clear night. It’s evenings like that that almost make you want to live in the countryside to fully take in the magnitude of it all. The city and the tall buildings and the lights make it hard to appreciate it in all its fullness.

For some reason it seems to be easier to sense the closeness and reality of God in situations like that, when all the distraction is silenced and you are there alone with all the Creation in quiet reverence of the One who sustains it. There is a sacredness and a holiness to it, in the silence and peacefulness and awe of it all. It is in the quiet stillness that our souls find the peace and restoration it seeks from the One that both terrifies and comforts in the same breath.

And these were the things floating through my mind last night as I lay in my bed, staring at this satellite, orbiting our home 250,000 miles away.

Peace be with you.

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Use e-billing

So this is somewhat old news, but it seems it has spread beyond the Geek Community and hit mainstream media. Justine of TastyBlogSnack.com is an iPhone user and got a little surprise when she received her first AT&T bill in the mail.

I do take credit for a good 700 of those texts. Twitter rules!

So, save the earth. Use e-billing.

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This is my home

The Ave

I’ve started a new photo gallery on Flickr called “This is my home” in which I will, on a continual basis, be posting photos and images from my home town of Elizabeth, NJ.  I love the city I live in and want to photo document all the different areas of the city.

In related news, I should be posting 2 or 3 other galleries of photos from the past few weeks sometime this weekend. Enjoy.

Click here to access “This is my home” on Fickr”

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Of audio, salad, dollars, prayer, and communication, or (today was a good day)

Woke up early and went to church to setup sound. It was just me and Mike for a great while, but everything was setup on time and worked well. Church was long as always. 3 gatherings over the course of 8 hours with setup and breakdown. Everyone seemed a bit fatigued all day. Or maybe it was just me and my brain processing everything slowly. Nevertheless, all worked well. Sound had no major issues. It was all smooth. We had a special guest performer, The Prisona, for Connexion and Sanctuary. He was pretty good.

After church I couldn’t find anyone to go to lunch with, so I went to Stop & Shop to purchase some grocery for my consumption. I wanted a salad with grilled chicken. So I purchased the ingredients for my concoction and made my way out. On my returning of the cart to the proper cart-holding receptacle, I was approached by a man with a limp. Yes, someone asking for money. If this were to happen several months back I would have simply said I had nothing and went about my business. But as of late I have been convicted within to reach out and help those in need, no matter what the need is. It’s not my concern what he will do with the money. It was obvious he was “down on his luck” and could possibly use the money. I would normally reach for the pocket that holds my loose change, but instead, for some reason, I reached for the other pocket where I keep dollar bills. I grabbed a bunch and handed them over. Honestly, I can spare 4 or 5 dollars… And he broke down and started crying. He told me of his struggles and that he was recently hit by a car not a hundred yards from where we were standing. Both of his legs, subsequently, were damaged and he can barely walk without the use of a cane. He spoke of how he hates having to beg for money, but he is no longer able to work because he can’t get around. He told me of how he used to work and earn his money, but now he has no idea where his next dollar or meal will come from. And he told me of how the State keeps telling him to hold on and delays the Government-aide. And he kept saying that he doesn’t understand how his life got into this situation so quickly. I offered to pray with him and he accepted and we prayed in the middle of the Stop & Shop parking lot. And I walked with him a little more as he told his story, and then he said he was going to get a slice of pizza with the few dollars I had to give him. He kept saying, “thank you,” and he hobbled away.

It’s amazing how something as small as a few dollars and a prayer can have such a profound impact on a life. It really was nothing on my end. But to him it was the world. And that is what we are really called to do. To love. Simply and purely. To show love. To displace the current living hell that our brothers and sisters of humanity are sufferng here and now and to bring forth the invasion of the Kingdom of God into that dark place. Putting it plain and simple, to bring heaven to earth, making the teachings of Jesus real and relevant to a world dying and in need right now. It is the decent thing to do, simply as human beings. It is the right thing to do. It is the godly thing to do. It’s like Morgan Freeman said in the recent Evan Almighty, “How do you change the world? One act of random kindness…” People always wonder how to accomplish God’s will in their life. How do you really advance his Kingdom? How do you live a life that Jesus said we should live? Maybe it’s a simple as giving a guy a dollar and praying for his knees.

In other news, I must say that I simply love the Internet. I met a new friend a few days ago, named Ai. She lives in Tokyo. Yes, the Tokyo. We have been conversing via Twitter, but today finally got to speak via IM. It’s amazing what the Internet allows us to do. The world is now so small that thousands upon thousands of miles of distance are completely eliminated through these fiber lines spanning the globe, connecting those who would never have met before into real-time conversation and communication via text, audio, and even video. So very cool.

And now it is 2am, and my day has come to a close. I sleep, for I must be at work at 7. I foresee me being quite tired in the AM.

Fare thee well, and may peace be with you.

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Street Art

I love well-done graffitti. Not that ugly scribble by those who think writing on the sides of buildings makes them cool or gives them a sense of control. I’m talking about the real urban artists who take their time and invests their skill and heart and soul into his or her work.

Klas Graffitti

Naomi Heart Graffitti

Able GraffittiGraffitti

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