Friday, February 8, 2019

Be a father to the fatherless!

Had an insightful conversation with a good friend who helps out with our tutoring program. He had recently gotten a new contract job to create online math programs for At Risk Youth. As we chatted his excellent point was that the real needs with these kids and teens is to have real life interaction with adults. His broader assessment was that the lack of dads in the lives of these youth was a clear reason for their struggles in understanding life and being capable of reading and doing math. 

What made this conversation so insightful was the fact that my good friend had spent an hour playing chess with one of our kids who struggles in life, doesn’t have a dad and is the kid that is always bullied in school. He does have an incredible mom who is trying so hard to be all to him. The amazing picture was seeing this little guy play chess for an hour with utmost determination. My friend also echoed this fact as we considered what has to happen for our little friend to make it in life. 

As I reflected on our tutoring with around 30 kids and teens it touched me that there were three older gentlemen who chose to take an evening to hang out with our kids and teens. I had one friend, who is a PHD in Physics, sit with a group of young kids being creative on an iPad. He was excited to have one of our gals, Bunny, show him the mechanics of using Procreate. 

Another, friend, Dan was having a blast lining up a large number of little blocks that ultimately would become a long chain reaction with a group of kids. I know that one of the younger little brothers was being annoying because of his tendency to prematurely knock over the blocks. I was energized by the team work of this group as they sought to line everything up for the grand finale. 

I loved watching a young gal who is a recent college grad sit with a group of teens and interact in such an incredible fashion. It was if Morgan was the bigger sister with all of these gals. The bigger picture, even as I met with a friend who is a new mom, college student and seeking support was that the impact of investing an hour of your time is priceless. 

What made me who I’m today is having an incredible mom and dad, who walked with me through the normal ups and downs in life. Can’t fathom life without them, yet, a majority of the kids, teens and single moms I’m around are less fortunate. 

Please consider being like a mom and dad to kids and teens in difficult life circumstances. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Is it possible for a backup to be a winner?

It’s amazing how life too often is always about being number 1 and talking about coming in second or losing is seldom a thought. I think it’s rather fascinating to realize that some of the more amazing quarterbacks in NFL history were backups that had their opportunity and took advantage and made history. 

I know that Arizona fans will always brag about a rather humble man, Kurt Warner, who didn’t have a great beginning. I know that even attempting to get one of my teens to bag groceries at Fry’s or Food City is most likely a BIG NO. Yet, as you study the real-life story of the Warmers, you see a couple that are passionate about life, committed Christians who made the best of any situation. The Rams took a chance with this unknown QB, who led the team to a 13-3 season and to a 23-16 win against the Titans in the Big Game. 

I know that having the Patriots back in the Super Bowl is difficult for lots of ‘haters’ that can’t stand Tom Brady or Coach Belichick. Yet, the demise of Drew Bledsoe meant that an unknown, Tom Brady, was given an opportunity to step up with a 11-3 record and a 20-17 win against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. 

As I read through the gospels and see the backup role of John the Baptist, it should be a surprise that here is a man who was willing to be number 2 all the way. Here’s an incredible story of someone whose life was to point to another and ultimately be in the background. John was a rather humble man who spoke the truth about the downside of being a narcissist, religious elitist or domineering ruler. John gave his life for Jesus and his followers to show that life is more than being perceived as number 1. The reality for John is that he understood the importance of preparing the way for the ONE who is the Way, the Truth and the Life!

What happens when your dream of being number 1 isn’t ever going to take place? Is it possible to see that being number 2 or even last and doing your best is what makes life special? 

Regardless of who wins the big game on Sunday there will be an opportunity for an unknown player to step up and show that the world is totally full of backups that can be winners! Or more importantly, there are even more backups that are never given the opportunity to play and have to choose to make their life count even in the shadow of a Brady or Warner. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Respect and trust do matter!

I know that at times I get annoyed with friends that ask if they can borrow money only to know ultimately that I’ve given them a gift. What’s even more upsetting is when this individual totally gets upset when they are asked to pay it back. The bigger picture in life is that to make a difference in the life of a friend, neighbor or even a stranger I have to be willing to give and not expect anything in return!

As I share this story about twins that are ten years old it’s a heart-warming example of how respect and trust do matter. I was asked by one of the twins if I would help them get new school ID’s that cost $10. I only had a twenty on me, so I gave it to them. Usually, when I help in this manner, I do expect the remainder to be returned, even though often it’s not. So, I was presently surprised that one of the twins told me that they had the other $10 to return. It was over the weekend that this happened. So, I was expecting them to maybe spend the money on junk food. Yet, this didn’t happen, so I said it was ok for them to split $5 and then give the other $5 to any of the homeless that usually are outside the new large Circle K in our neighborhood. 

I was so jazzed that these twins understood that for me to trust them again with money that they needed to respect my wishes with the money. I know that trust is something that takes time to actually earn from a new friend or re-establish with an older friend. I’m so fortunate to have so many volunteers or interns that walk with our kids and teens. One of my newer friends who volunteers, Gelila, is an incredible young woman who shares her passion about real life with our group. She recently shared about how important it is to stand up to stereo types and not allow prejudice or racism to push you to act in an inappropriate fashion, where you live as others expect. 

What’s incredible, is because she has hung out with our kids and teens, she has gained their trust and now they respect her voice! Sadly, too often people assume because of their stature or age that others ought to listen to their opinions or voice. Yet, until I have gotten to know someone and see whether they are trust worthy this determines my ability to have a transparent relationship with them. 

I know that after grad school in my young 30’s I would often get frustrated with older men who were leaders that wouldn’t respect or give my opinion a real consideration. As I have aged, I’ve come to see that part of the dynamic of trust and respect is that it works both ways. I can see how as a young leader, looking back, I was a little arrogant or too self-assured which did push away my older friends and their ability to hear me. 

I know that respecting a person’s privacy, space, possessions and views is so important. It’s too easy to slam someone too quickly because of my personal biases being on the opposite end of the spectrum. If I desire to befriend someone who does have a different life expression, I must be willing to listen and learn from them to gain their respect and trust. This isn’t going to happen if my purpose in listening is just to have a quick come back to put them down. 

I was so appreciative of these twins’ expression of gratitude when it comes to their response to help. I was humbled when the one texted me and said a big thanks and complimented me for caring. 

WOW – respect and trust work! 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

How can you love your neighbor if you don’t know them?

Society has changed so much over the last generation, where the average person moves so often, that there isn’t any rationale behind getting to know you neighbor. I admit that as a kid with a dad in the Air Force I moved 22 times in my 17 years of living at home. As an adult I have lived in San Luis Obispo, San Diego twice, San Francisco area twice and now Phoenix for almost 25 years. The big picture even being a long-term Phoenix resident is that we have lived in 5 different neighborhoods during this time. 

Sadly, I have to admit that even though I consider myself a neighborhood or community worker/activist type, who has a passion to see our community improve and make a difference, that it’s very difficult to know your neighbor when they aren’t interested in talking. My only contact with one of our neighbors is when they complain about someone parking on the street close to their house. My other neighbor, who is an older Hispanic couple, are incredible and have become friends. 

One of the simple factors in seeing our society change, improve and impact the world is when we become intentional about getting to know those who are around you. Yet, because we have become so transitory in nature, few view getting to know your neighbor as a priority because you will clearly move in the next year or so. I know that a few of our neighbors are shocked that as a renter we have invested in our house with the look of WHY would you do that? It would appear from the outside that we are home owners who do care about our home and our neighborhood. 

I know that God’s heart for mankind is for all of us, that includes both you and me, that we take the time to meet and get to know our neighbors and those around us at Fry’s, Starbucks, McDonalds or the laundromat. I’m always impressed with what transpires when I take the time to listen, learn a person’s name and then hear their story. I intentionally sit at my Starbucks a few times a week to write but also to connect with my friends. I was startled this week when Rick, a friend from my larger Starbucks neighborhood, actually honked at me. He got my attention and I sadly discovered that his mom had recently passed. 

I know that I always enjoy listening to Stephanie, a young mom with 3 daughters and a baby girl, who sits in the same spot if I’m later in the morning at Starbucks. She knows all about my family and involvement in the neighborhood. I discovered recently that the house being built that’s on our way to our canal to walk the dogs is her mansion. It’s a huge house on a couple of acres. 

So, what has stopped many from taking the time to invest in getting to know their neighbors or greet those they see almost on a daily basis? Fear of the unknown, cultural differences or being safe and taking a risk someone might stalk you and break into your house? I was surprised this weekend to be in a local park with our grandson to see twin 7-year-old girls on this large playground area all alone. They were quick to play with our Hudson and quickly share their stories, listen to us and then answer questions. 

I’m always impressed by how quickly kids make friends and include you in their lives. Why is it the case that adults can be so standoffish and at times almost rude if you’re perceived to be too forward in attempting to make a friend? 

My mom was the one who rather forced me to see strangers not as potential enemies but friends. I have memories as a kid being dragged around our new neighborhood being introduced. Clearly, my mom understood that everyone would live for a couple of years max so the sooner we connected the better we all would be. 

The amazing story behind understanding the practical way to love God has always been to see how His love is both horizontal and vertical. It’s rather easy to say I love God but yet the proof of my love of God is seen in how I treat my neighbor and intentionally choose to get to know them so I’m able to love them. 

So, think about loving God through loving your neighbor and then being able to love yourself! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

New Life even when you’re old?

One of the more amazing aspects of life as you age is the fact that you choose how you live! There isn’t anyone telling you how to act, what type of mindset to have or how to dress. I’m always energized when I’m around kids and teens. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about adults. How is it possible for someone who is still relatively young to act as if they are old and ready to check out of life? I have a few grandmas who put me to shame by how they are able to make their lives special and meaningful at 87. Go grandma Bernice, Doris and even Hattie! 

I get it that making New Year’s resolutions is a great way to begin change. Yes, talking about dieting, saving, spending less and doing something that counts is so important. Yet, isn’t it possible to live this way 24/7 and 365? Do we have to wait till December 31 to make significant changes part of our DNA? I’m always taken back as to why end of the year giving is such a big push? Isn’t it possible for those who are committed to give all year round to see the day to day needs of an organization or an individual who has real needs? 

We have some dear friends who stayed with us over the Christmas break that have two kids. I think our friends were rather suspicious as to whether their two would be bored out of their minds staying with Anne and Dave. The jury is no longer out both kids can’t wait to come back to see our herd of dogs, parrot and fish. The bigger pic was that I got them hooked on playing with my little robot, Sphero with their dad or mom’s iPhone. Yes, it’s possible for the old to live like they are young and even for the young to realize that their grandparents can actually be COOL!

 One of our more recent holiday traditions is now going to the Zoo over Christmas break with our grandson, Hudson. Soon it will be with a larger group of grandsons that will number four! What was so much fun was to race around the zoo with my little friend screaming out grandpa, grandpa, come grandpa. I’m so thankful to be young at heart and be capable of chasing or running around doing crazy stuff with my grandson!

What was even crazier was our choice on New Year’s Day to visit Odysea Aquarium. The crowd was incredible. It was such a delight to see all of the different families watching the various fish, penguins, Otters, Cockatoos and even the Sloth. I’m so grateful to have a wife who is adventurous and willing to get up, get out and do something special! Can’t fathom what life would be like sitting on the sidelines. 

The more important picture in life is the realization that spiritual renewal can happen on a daily basis. Yes, I can experience new life, even at 65, as I acknowledge that I’m a new creation in Christ and my life has meaning, significance and purpose that is incredible. My hope and optimism in life isn’t based upon the stock market, political parties but upon a God who created a fascinating universe. The amazing truth is that God created me in His image where I can grasp that life has meaning because of the purposeful life, coming and ultimate sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ. Yes, it’s possible to be born again, even in your old age with your rebellious nature. 

I know that not all little kids are fearless and that at times I too have to admit that I’m a little cautious when it comes to pushing it to the edge. Yet, being able to breath in the fresh air after a rain or today it was actually scrapping off the ice on my Anne’s little car was transformative. So, yes make your New Year’s resolutions but also discover that real gift and blessing of living each day to it’s fullest. 

Celebrate the New Year and each day as a gift from the incredible God who created life! 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Do the right thing! Forget, finder’s keepers and loser’s weepers.

Richard Taverna, a New York subway rider, found a blue Chanel bag Thursday morning in the station at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. He did the incredible, he actually intentionally looked in the purse, not to steal anything but to help the individual who had accidentally left it behind. He found a note in Russian and unfortunately there wasn’t any subway agent. He took the fancy Chanel bag home. There he discovered an envelope with 100 $100 bills in it. The temptation clearly was what could I do for Christmas with $10K? 

Instead, Richard defied the finder’s keeper’s rule and actually went into the 20thPrecinct in Manhattan. The lady who had lost her purse had already been at the Precinct to report her bag had been lost on the subway. She was on her way to Russia when the unfortunate mishap occurred!

I know that one would hope that most people would do the right thing and take the fancy bag to the Police Department without any second thoughts. Yet, it’s possible that someone in grave need could see it as a divine gift that was placed on their lap to make Christmas special for their family. The amazing story is that Richard would view himself as a normal guy not some super hero. Yet, in today’s crazy world doing what’s right isn’t always at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts. 

I know that as I have the good fortune to have grandkids, yes, I’m a grandpa, that I want all of them to know automatically that doing what’s right, honoring their parents and ultimately God is the only way to live. I know that it’s so easy for kids and even adults to be in a rush and not pay much attention to the grandma who is struggling to get through the door to a restaurant or needs help as we encountered getting their food tray to their table at a buffet. I would truly hope and pray that kindness would be on the minds of all especially during the Christmas season as we are reminded about the ONE who left behind his glory to become the baby in the stable not the fancy high end hotel. 

Giving, self-sacrifice and seeing someone else’s need and doing something proactive instead of pretending to ignore is the ‘Spirit’ of Christmas. My hope is that more would start paying it forward and teach their kids and their grandkids that practicing kindness will transform their lives and the lives of those around them. 

Here’s the opportunity, not just for the next week or so but the whole year, is to have your eyes open to see the circumstances of those around you. Be the neighborhood hero that picks up the trash instead of walking past it thinking that’s not my mess. 

Merry Christmas 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Loneliness is something all of us face!

 I just read a recent article about how loneliness hits at different ages. I’m fortunate in that I’m far from 20, have passed 50 but still have the 80’s phase to wait out. The bigger picture is that I’m around both young and really old and it is clear that loneliness, depression and being alone is part of life that we must learn to face in a healthier fashion. 

I know that holiday time, regardless of whether it’s Christmas, Thanksgiving and especially birthdays are tough. I lost my mom to cancer over 11 years ago. We share the same birthday so it’s always hard and on occasion even though I’m around family and lots of friends I still hurt and feel lonely on the inside and clearly miss my mom! 

The decay of the family unit means that there are way too many struggling with working through a divorce or breakup where kids, pets and family are separated. Yes, it’s different cooking for one then for a family of 5!  I recently listened to a friend who had recently gone through a divorce. I’m so proud of this friend in how they faced their circumstances and that of their spouse or now ex. The reality is that my friend will be healthier as they put their life together and let go of past hurt, confusion and heartache. I’m not one to promote divorce having just celebrated our 45thanniversary. 

I know that it’s so easy to disappear and choose purposely to become a recluse or a hermit. I know that in today’s move to become more minimalistic that living in mini-houses makes it tough to from a spouse, friend or roommate. Yet, the stark reality is that we can be around a large group at a Christmas party but be and feel totally ALONE. 

The last thing someone who is struggling with depression and being lonely want is someone telling them to jump into the fray. I know that it’s so easy to have a personal pity party and have that sad frown look happening. So, what happens as we enter into the most celebrated time of the year? Avoidance is one tack to take? Maybe going on a trip by yourself and playing tourist. The bigger challenge is actually choosing to do something, anything to make life better. 

My friend who recently went through a divorce talked about joining a support group. I know the difficulty with facing a strange or new group is the obvious questions that come at you about what, why and how are you going to cope better. Make a choice to do little baby steps to see your emotional imbalance improve and take a risk in talking to a friend or even someone at the local coffee shop. 

The bigger picture is that having a personal relationship with the Lord, means that regardless of what’s around you, people, place or circumstances will give you a sense of having a home and not being alone! I so much appreciate the image of Jesus being a shepherd that goes out of his way to look out for us, guide us and even discipline us at times is comforting. 

Yes, all of us will struggle with who we are, regardless of age, where we are headed, whether we’re gainfully employed or retired and the choice to include others in our life, including God, so we never have to be alone. 

Please don’t let your loneliness push you to the edge! Make a friend and give to someone that’s hurting. Life will get better!