Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

I’m changing my name!!!

Posted: November 19, 2011 in diversity, inspiration, personal
Yes I am changing my name. From now on I will be known as Mustafa “Space Cowboy”Mandelbaum! No. I will just be one word Ramon (you know like Madonna or Prince). Maybe I will just be a letter. The “R”. Just kidding. No I’m not changing my legal name but I am changing my blog name and url.
Why the change? Well I am personally going thru a time of change and reinvention. This is the time to change if there ever was one but really it boils down to having mixed emotions about this blog and needing to focus as I am now out of full time ministry and concentrating on other aspects of life.
What I love about this blog. I have been the most consistent at this blog. I have connected with some great people. I have had the most success with interacting with folks on this blog. I have begun to see an emerging focus and discover what I can write passionately about.
What I hate about this blog. It does not have a focus. It is called Mayo’s megaphone but has negative connotations when it comes to connection, listening, and dialogue. It also is connected to a certain season in my life which I am in the process of moving on from.
So here is what I am about to do: In an effort to keep up with my ever evolving self I will now be posting at Also there will be no posts concerning race, culture, or ethnicity as the main subject matter. Yes I said it. I am fasting from diversity 🙂 Why? Well eventually I want to have my own website dedicated to those issues but for now I am focusing on three things: 1) Improving my writing 2) Finding my authentic voice and 3) Creating more content focused on personal development and spirituality. That’s where I am right now and although it is not a legal name change it definitely is a slightly different direction.

Pitt bridge

So it’s week three in the Burgh. I am currently working at Trader Joe’s and living among boxes as my beautiful wife Yvette sets up shop at our new place. One of the unusual things about our new place is that the street it’s on is Linden which is the same street I grew up on. Maybe God is making me grow up all over again. Hmmm…

This week was full of laughs and I will give my top 3 funniest moment:

The marijuana notice. One day while Yvette was unpacking boxes and cleaning some things in the apartment she noticed there was smoke outside the front door. She did not know what kind of smoke it was-it was just smoke. This really bothered us both as we don’t like smoke and don’t want our children to be inhaling secondhand smoke. At the same time I shrugged it off as just one of the downsides of living with/near a large amount of people in an apartment building. Then less than a week later we get a letter in the mail which read:

Yvette and Ramon

It has come to our attention that someone has been smoking marijuana in the building.

Perpetrators will be evicted immediately!

I immediately bust out into laughter because 1) How would you find the perpetrators? and 2) They used the word perpetrators

It may not be funny to you but it had me in tears as we were driving down 376. Note to self: Do not be a perpetrator. You could lose your apartment 🙂

Intense ashiness. Now some of you may or may not know that when black people have dry skin it really shows. They call this being “ashy”. Especially on the hands, elbows, and knees. It has provoked the timeless jokes/insults such”Your knees are so ashy you look like you been breakdancin in flour” and a host of others. Well I got home one day from work and it looked like I did more than breakdance in flour. It looked like I was wading in it!!!! Note to self: Lotion! Lotion! Lotion!

Atomic Wings. So me and the fam met up with Steven Hamilton at the infamous Quaker Steak and Lube which has recently been made famous by Man vs. Food for their Triple Atomic Wing Challenge. These wings are hot! I mean they are super hot with 150,000 Scoville Heat Units to scorch your tongue! I figured I don’t want to overextend myself. Let me use sober judgment. I will go with just plain old Atomic and not Triple Atomic. I had five atomic wings and it hurt. It hurt bad! I had to drink water every two minutes and it felt like my lips were swollen. I finally finished them off by drenching them in ranch dressing but they were still hot. Well that’s only the beginning…later on that night I was getting ready for bed and rubbed my eye. Guess what was on my finger??? Atomic sauce. I keep rubbing it not realizing I have it on my finger and my eye is getting smothered in Scovilles. I finally rinse it out in the bathroom sink and get to bed. But that is not the end. When I usually eat something hot I estimate that my tongue will burn, maybe my mouth and my lips but there were other parts burning as well and I had some serious bathroom issues (I will not go into details so you will not be totally grossed out) for the next couple of days. So that’s sober judgment. I have to laugh at myself for that. Note to self: Atomic is atomic. The word itself has deadly connotations.

So that’s week three. Stay tuned for more Life in the Pitt adventures.

This post is dedicated to two Steves: Steven Hamilton and Steve Schenk. You can check out Steven Hamilton on his blog Verve and Verse writing about theology, church, and his future plans to start a faith community in Pittsburgh and you can check out Steve Schenk writing on his blog Damascus 9 about his adventures as a church pastor in Buffalo here.

In recent years I have become aware of the issue of race more so as the pastor of a multiethnic church and through my studies at Fuller and this has caused me to explore not only the social issue of race but where I stand in regards to race and ethnicity. It has caused me to ask serious and honest questions about what I believe in regards to God’s perspective and viewpoint on race, culture, and ethnicity. Questions like

“Should there be a multiethnic church this side of heaven and is this a mandate for every church?”

“As an African American who has been robbed of culture should I place myself in a congregation where my culture is not dominant or at least valued?”

“Is there a place for a Christian black nationalist/separatist or is this going against God’s purpose for his church?”

“How can I be true to my culture and ethnicity while at the same time being a blessing to the different people around me?”

Many of these questions have been answered and many of them have not. The one thing that has emerged is that I do not want to be boxed in by race. Race is a social construct created to justify oppression. By being categorized in this way and operating within that construct I only give power to false notions of who I am as a person. To put it simply:  I am more than my skin color and physical features and these do not determine who I am. I am a human being who is capable of doing and achieving many things and experiencing the range and variety of human emotions and feelings.

With that being said.


I refuse to be boxed in. categorized. labeled. Stuck in what others have thought of me and planned for me. I refuse to be prejudged and placed in a fabricated construction of someone else’s reality. I am more than my skin color. nose size. hair texture. I am more than my history and my background. I am that but so much more. I refuse to be barred from anything life has to offer. I refuse to be excluded from all of the experience of humanity. I refuse to let my identity be dictated by others who do not know me. I refuse to grab at the small amount of options that society has opened for me.

Instead I choose to be different. unique. African. American. Loving myself. Loving my culture. I choose to be someone who lives and loves the thought that black is beautiful. I choose to contribute and give these gifts to the rest of the world. I choose to have an identity that embraces these things and goes beyond them. I choose to love others who are different. unique. European. Korean. Mexican. Chinese. Argentinian. Human. These are my people. They are me. For we are all human. I choose to speak life giving and affirming words that transcend language. transcend accents. transcend culture. transcend hatred. I choose to follow in the tradition of Martin and Malcolm. Mother Teresa and Cesar Chaves. Jesus and Buddha. I choose to speak the truth that transcends race. I choose to a be race transcending prophet.

This post is dedicated to Israel Robles and Matthew Bivens. Matthew has no blog but he really doesn’t need one. The dude is epic. Israel can be found all over the world as he runs among many other things a non profit called Tu Contacto Global and a movement called Terra Tour which has led him to lead road trips from Canada all the way to Brazil

So I decided to start posting tweets of meditations/quotes and call them verses from the Book of Ramon. A narcissistic obsession. Maybe? But the story behind them goes a little deeper.

Last year around September I took a trip to Juarez and went to visit Israel Robles who is doing some amazing things there and all over Latin America. I was impressed with not just the activity that was going on and the things that he was doing but the positive attitude that seemed to exude from him and his team members. At the same time I was bogged down in negative thinking about how our church was doing but also just depressed about my life in general. After seeing Israel in action I became inspired to live my life with the same passion and gusto. The only thing was I knew I couldn’t take Israel home in my pocket. That’s when I remembered 1 Samuel 30:6 where it says that “David encouraged (strengthened) himself in the Lord his God” and I thought I may just have to encourage myself to live the life that I want to live. So that’s where the Book of Ramon comes in.

No I am not trying to add another book of the Bible.

No I am not starting a cult.

No I am not saying that everything that I posted was inspired by the Holy Spirit

I just wanted to remember and keep a record of all the nuggets of inspiration and encouragement that was helping me and I realized that this could also be helpful to someone else out there in FB or Twitter land.

But here is the bad news: I am sad to say I am closing it. I realize that I am now no longer encouraging myself but I am only doing it for the sake of others which although that is a good purpose that was not my original intention. So I have several tweets left and it will be officially closed. The good news: I am going to take each post and write a couple pages on it and turn it into an ebook which I will be giving away in the near future.

So that is the book of Ramon explained. Nothing super amazing. Just a guy trying to get out of a pit of negative thinking and low quality living.

It is early Monday morning and we have just spent nine days in Western Pennsylvania

We arrived by plane on Thursday October 20th and have been staying at my Mother in law’s in New Castle, PA. The kids got to meet and play with their cousins on this side of the world and Kaydon is excited about moving to Pittsburgh. I do not think he realizes what he is saying but he likes the pictures he has seen of the bridges, hills, and the Duquesne and Monongahela inclines.

I have been spending time at Mcdonald’s and the New Castle library working on my thesis and beginning to learn a new skill which I will tell you about in an upcoming post. All the while I have noticed a few things:

It’s hunting season (you don’t see that in Southern California)

It’s football season (these fans are serious out here. Go Steelers!)

It’s not Pittsburgh (I have never seen roadkill that big. 3 deer on the highway. You don’t see that in Southern California either)

On the Monday after we arrived we began looking for an apartment and getting twisted and turned around on Pittsburgh streets. It is nothing like LA. There is no grid. Just rivers and bridges and hills and diagonal and curved streets. Very easy to get lost.

We drove around different neighborhoods including Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Garfield, Friendship, East Liberty, Bellevue, Brighton Heights, and the Southside. We started focusing on Bellevue and Brighton Heights and we thought we had a place but somebody beat us to it and placed a deposit on it 😦

By Wednesday we were definitely frustrated but something interesting happened. We were sitting outside the Brighton Cafe and a lady comes out and starts fixing the umbrellas for us. We both obviously assume she is the owner or manager. Yvette then asks whether she knows anyone who is renting a place. Turns out that this lady and her husband not only own the cafe but also two barber shops and five other properties.

Yvette goes on to look at two available properties and we decide on a two bedroom in Point Breeze right down the street from Trader Joe’s. And yesterday I just applied and got called in for an interview on Tuesday. I really hope I get the job as it is only two blocks from our new apartment.

So to sum up week one in our Pittsburgh adventure…I love this city!

Here are some things that I am noticing:

  • Hills. Lots of hills. Steep ones. Beautiful but also a challenge when the snow and ice comes.
  • Bridges. Love the bridges. Love the inland waterways. Never really liked the beach in California but rivers….I can do rivers!
  • Lots of black and gold. There is such hometown pride. We went to church yesterday and people wore their Steelers jerseys! Never seen anything like this.
  • Quirkyness. I never realized how much I was addicted to quirkyness. The curvy streets, the accents (yinz, elongated “o’s”, Steelers pronounced “Stillers”) the hills and bridges. Even our apartment (the outside is a bright reddish pink. our master bedroom looks like it used to be a living room) is on the quirky side.

So that’s week one. Now time for a move, an interview, and some winter clothes. First snow was this past Saturday 🙂

In Transition

Posted: October 26, 2011 in personal
Tags: , , , , ,

Hello citizens of the blogosphere,

A few more days and I will be back. It has been a very long couple of weeks and I am definitely suffering from writing withdrawal. We have been in Atlanta and enjoyed a wonderful nine day Pastor’s Sabbatical Retreat from the Vineyard. A wonderful gift for us as we enter this time of transition and change. Now we are an hour outside of Pittsburgh, PA in New Castle, PA and I am sitting in Mcdonald’s listening to people say things like “yinz want that” and speaking with elongated “O’s” when they say words like “Mom”. Wish I had it on tape. I am definitely not in Kansas anymore but if you know me at all…I am lovin the adventure. It is stressful not having a place of our own but I truly believe this is the way for us and I am glad that we are walking in it.

So stay tuned and I will have a few new things to write about that have been brewing for a while.


In a few days we will be leaving on a plane to Atlanta for a nine day retreat and then on to Pittsburgh,PA.  Yes it is official. .This means I will be out of the blogosphere for a while. That’s until we get settled. Once we touch down and get things in order then I will be back with new posts, contests, and new plans (can u guess them?) since I will be seeking to create a larger platform for the ideas in this blog.

In the meantime, here is a preview of upcoming blogposts. Pick your favorite and I will dedicate it to you. Just comment below and if you have a blog or twitter give me your url or twitter handle and you will get free publicity from yours truly. So here they are:

Racism: Pointing Out the Problem or Being a Solution

Life in the Pitt: Week One

The Book of Ramon Explained

Manifesto of a Race-Transcending Prophet

Black or African American: What’s the Difference?

The Case for Reparations

The Confessions of an Ex-Pastor: Ten things I learned as a pastor

So there u go. Think of it like dedications on the radio except no mushy love song. Just tell me which one is your favorite and if you have a website, blog, or twitter handle I will mention it in my post. If you don’t get into the top 7 don’t worry I will still mention you in later posts.