Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Published: November 29, 2011
Bible study not prohibited after all
Facing lawsuit, San Juan Capistrano drops action against couple over weekly meetings at their home

The City of San Juan Capistrano has lifted fines imposed on the owners of a private home used for weekly Bible study and agreed to review its policies after the case ended up in court.

Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm had been fined $300 and threatened with additional fines of $500 per meeting if they did not stop holding Bible study sessions at their home each Sunday morning without a conditional use permit. When the city initially rejected their appeal, the Pacific Justice Institute stepped in and filed suit on behalf of the couple in Orange County Superior Court.

San Juan Capistrano was founded as a mission in the late 1700s and is home to California’s oldest building still in use -- a chapel where Father Junipero Serra celebrated Mass.

“The city recently dropped its action against the couple and refunded the fines they had paid,” Pacific Justice Institute said in a Nov. 22 press release. “However, the city has not yet changed its laws that led to the controversy.”

“In a letter to the couple, Karen P. Brust, San Juan Capistrano City Manager, who had been working with the Fromms, also stated, ‘City staff will commence the discussion with the Planning Commission… about the issue of the need to clarify the Land Use Code with respect to places of public assembly and gatherings at single family residences,’” said the PJI press release.

In a Nov. 18 press release, the city of San Juan Capistrano presented the issue a little differently. “Chuck and Stephanie Fromm and San Juan Capistrano City Manager Karen Brust announced Wednesday morning that the case against the City in OC Superior Court, appealing an administrative citation issued to the Fromms, has been dismissed,” said the news release. “The action arose out of a neighbor’s complaint about parking and traffic impacts from Bible studies held at Mr. and Mrs. Fromm’s home, and the City’s subsequent fines and requirement that the couple apply for a Conditional Use Permit. The Fromms stepped back from their appeal as the city has initiated discussions to review their permit policies for home meetings of all types. The original fines have been reversed and repaid to the Fromms.”

The city, said Brust, “does not prohibit does not prohibit Bible studies and believes in the right of all its residents to exercise First Amendment freedoms,” said the news release. "Protecting the rights of the City's residents is paramount," said Brust.

Pacific Justice Institute said in its release that it would keep an eye on the situation. “While that case has now been favorably resolved, PJI will continue to press city officials for a resolution of the underlying problems, which include unfettered discretion on the part of code enforcement officers,” said the release.

“From the landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock, through the founding of San Juan Capistrano as a mission, the freedom to worship God has been a bedrock American principle,” said PJI president Brad Dacus. “This victory is an important reminder of that principle.”

“We will continue fighting to ensure that SJC and other cities put freedom first -- especially when it comes to informal gatherings in private homes,” said Michael Peffer, who heads PJI’s Southern California office and handled the case.

Monday, November 28, 2011


I worship Ganesa, brother, god of worldly wisdom, patron of shopkeepers. He is in the shape of a little fat man with an elephant's head; he is made of soapstone and has two small rubies for eyes. What shape do you worship?

I worship a Rolls-Royce sports model, brother. All my days I give it offerings of oil and polish. Hours of my time are devoted to its ritual; and it brings me luck in all my undertakings; and it establishes me among my fellows as a success in life. What model is your car, brother?

I worship my house beautiful, sister. Long and loving meditation have I spent on it; the chairs contrast with the rug, the curtains harmonize with woodwork, all of it is perfect and holy. The ash trays are in exactly the right place, and should some blasphemer drop ashes on the floor, I nearly die of shock. I live only for the service of my house, and it rewards me with the envy of my sisters, who must rise up and call me blessed. Lest my children profane the holiness of my house with dirt and noise, I drive them out of doors. What shape is your idol, sister? Is it your house, or your clothes, or perhaps even your worth-while and cultural club?

I worship the pictures I paint, brother.... I worship my job; I'm the best darn publicity expert this side of Hollywood.... I worship my golf game, my bridge game. . . . I worship my comfort; after all, isn't enjoyment the goal of life? ... I worship my church; I want to tell you, the work we've done in missions beats all other denominations in this city, and next year we can afford that new organ, and you won't find a better choir anywhere.... I worship myself....

What shape is your idol?

from Joy Davidman’s book, Smoke on the Mountain 1954

Sunday, November 27, 2011



SoNo Holiday Festival

North Park Community Association
is a proud sponsor of the
Family fun that everyone will enjoy. Chili in hand-spun ceramic bowls, great holiday gifts and crafts from local artisans, live music, a kids' activity zone, a craft beer and wine garden, and more. Proceeds from the event will benefit McKinley art and music programs. All donations are tax deductible. Put this fun event on your calendar!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Psalm 100
"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Urban Corps Graffiti Removal

Urban Corps Graffiti Removal
For graffiti removal, contact Arlene Concepcion:
or 619.525.8522 (City of San Diego hotline)
Address(es) where graffiti is (physical address or two *cross* streets)
Exact location where the graffiti is located (eg., wall, sidewalk, fence, bench)
Urban Corps will email you when the graffiti removal is complete
or notify you if there is some reason why removal could not be completed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011



AFRICAN CHRISTIANITY RISING: Stories from Ghana--Opening. © 2010, James Ault Productions from james ault on Vimeo.

The opening from a soon-to-be-released film in a two-part series on Christianity's explosive growth in Africa and its meaning for the world community and the world church. (The other is "Stories from Zimbabwe".) From footage shot in 1998 in Ghana and 2006 in Ghana and the USA. Principal camera, Tom Hurwitz. Additional camera, William Sefa and Jim Ault. Sound, Francis Kwakye. Principal editor, Kate Purdie. Initial editing, Jean Boucicaut. (roughcut/ 75:22) © 2010, James Ault Productions.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Truth about Deception

How manipulation sabotages marriage
Sherry Van Zante
My best high school friend had two sisters. Along with their mother, these three girls developed elaborate plots to get their father to go along with their plans. They plotted to make his favorite foods, improve his mood, and best approach the subject at hand. Then they worked together to manipulate him. Afterward, they celebrated their success. They used these tactics often to get new dresses, go to dances, go on trips, and even miss school. He never knew they worked him.
One evening at my friend's house I got to witness how they'd "snow over" her dad. We were going out that evening for some fun. I wore blue eye shadow back then—the style in the seventies—and my friend Ella (not her real name) wanted to wear blue eye shadow too. So before we left her house, Ella applied some of my blue to her lids. After one last look in the mirror, we strolled out of her bedroom to say goodbye to her parents.
Her dad raised his brows, and red crept up his neck until his face glowed. "You two look like a couple of peacocks. Go wipe that blue off your eyes."
We ran wide-eyed to her bedroom. But before we could say a word, Ella's mom was in the room.
"Wait a few minutes until I get Dad outside, and then go on," she told us.
Ella hugged her mom and winked at me. We paused at the threshold until we heard the back door squeak open and rattle closed. Then we scurried out the front door. Ella's dad had no idea we went out that night looking like peacocks. Ella's dad had no idea about many things.

It's All about Me?

Back then I felt what Ella, her mom, and her sisters did was cruel. Ella's dad seemed silly and powerless to me. Now years later, I understand this man's wife and daughters feared him but didn't respect him, so they pushed him out of the family's inner circle to get their way.
The Bible's Rebekah, who coached her son Jacob in manipulating his father, Isaac, was a lot like my friend's mom. When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he couldn't see, Rebekah prepared his favorite food and sent Jacob in with it to trick his father. She dressed Jacob in Esau's clothes and tied goatskins on his hands and neck, hoping he would feel hairy like Esau. Through deception and manipulation, Rebekah helped Jacob steal Esau's blessing. Isaac appeared clueless and innocent in this story, but he trembled violently when Esau revealed that he knew the truth.
Historically, women have been good at deceiving and manipulating men. We've called it "feminine wiles." Think of Delilah. Remember how gullible Sampson was because he loved her. Three times she asked what made him so strong and how he could be bound effectively. Three times she bound him to test what he'd told her. Still, after she continued to nag and pester him, he finally told her the truth and fell asleep with his head in her lap. She deceived him repeatedly, yet somehow he still trusted her. He paid for that trust with his eyes and his freedom.
Many times I've been tempted to use "feminine wiles." I've batted my eyelashes at my husband as I've tried to convince him of something. I've planned proper deliveries for certain truths to soften their landing. I've shaded a few facts to make me look better. I've lied outright to my husband, and I've felt shame over it. The shame comes from knowing lying is wrong.
When I lie, I show disrespect and arrogance. And when I deceive my husband, I sabotage my relationship with him. If I pretend with him, if I'm guarded or misleading, if I don't give him the chance to really know me, I refuse to really know him. He becomes a stranger when I hold him at arm's length and manipulate him to get what I want. If I'm not open with him, if I don't honor him as an equal, I rob him of his value and force him from my inner circle. If I don't trust him with the truth, I isolate him by building a wall between us.
In that last paragraph the word I repeats over and over because "I" is the focus when I lie. It's all about me. How I look. What I can get or what I can avoid. When I lie, I steal reality from the other person. I warp his perception of the actual.
Honesty means being the same with everyone, and being the same person on the outside as I am on the inside. It means being open and vulnerable, transparent. It means doing what I say I'll do, making promises and keeping them. Refusing to tell lies, choosing to be faithful, deciding to honor the other person and do what is right even when no one else is looking.
Deception and manipulation are valuable tools in getting our own way or avoiding confrontation. But deception and manipulation kill relationships because they are the opposite of respect and honor. Only honesty and openness build deep relationships.
When I lie to you, I treat you like a fool. When I manipulate you, I show myself that I'm smarter than you. When I'm honest with you, I honor you as an equal. When I'm open with you, I respect your intelligence. Rather than avoid confrontation through deception, I can stay away from conflict by valuing my husband's feelings and giving respect. I may not always get my way, but we will enjoy a real and meaningful relationship built on trust. Trust is built on truth, and truth requires honesty about everything—even sneaking out of a friend's house wearing blue eye shadow.
Sherry Van Zante married Loyd when she was 18. Thirty-four years later, marriage is the hardest, but also the best, thing she's ever done. She and Loyd live on the central coast of California.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

North Park Theatre Appoints New Chief

North Park Theatre Appoints New Chief

Posted: Monday, November 7, 2011 6:30 pm
After cancelling the remainder of Lyric Opera San Diego's season last week due to it ongoing bankruptcy, the musical theater company's board plans to announce Tuesday it has appointed a new executive director to oversee renting out and managing the theater venue.
The new chief, Joe Altbaum, has been working as a consultant for the theater for a few months. A former performer and administrative worker at both Lyric and across town at Starlight Musical Theatre, Altbaum said he wants to "change the face of what the Birch North Park Theatre was."
When Lyric was running the theater, it prioritized the space for its own uses, and renters had to work around the company's schedule. But now, the theater is freed up to find as many rent-paying guest companies and events as possible.
Altbaum said he's been around the theater for years, and feels fondly toward its former leaders, Leon Natker and Jack Montgomery. But now, while the courts decide what happens next for the musical theater company, the theater venue itself "needs to stop the bleeding," Altbaum said. "Our priority is simply to rent the venue."
Faced with inadequate donations, ticket sales and rentals, Lyric Opera filed for bankruptcy last month. The company had been trying to sell its theater all year to get out from under its $4 million mortgage.
Altbaum said he's working on securing a national touring production, and has talked with another tenant about booking dates in 2013. "Our goal is to make sure the Birch North Park Theatre goes nowhere, never closes its doors," he said.
The Birch North Park Theatre has historically paid union wages for its workers like stagehands and lighting and sound operators. That factor is frequently raised in the arts community as one possible reason the theater was difficult to rent out. Altbaum said he's had some conversations with the local chapter of the stagehands union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 122, about how he might be able to cut some costs for productions for groups that would rent the theater.
And Altbaum will have help. He said he'll be hiring Brian Wells to help coordinate the production logistics for groups coming in. You might recognize Wells from our story about the bankruptcy filing from another musical theater company, Starlight. Wells was Starlight's artistic director for about a dozen years.
Before he stepped in to help Starlight a few years ago, and Lyric a few months ago, Altbaum was a network security contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense, he said. He sees a "tremendous difference" between the plights of the two companies, Starlight and Lyric.
"The board here knows they have a significant asset, a full-scale theater with a roof on it," he said. "It has to be operated as a business."
But, he said, he hopes the Birch could be a part of a revitalized Starlight, after that company wraps up its bankruptcy restructuring.
"I still love Starlight," he said. "We're all in this together, in terms of nonprofits."
Watch my recent story about the theater's impact in the neighborhood's continuing revival: