Monday, August 30, 2010

Back to Work

I know that my wife and some friends really believe that I never slow down. A recent post on FB about taking a nap during a vacation brought questionable comments. Yet, I do enjoying being lazy at times and see the total benefit with both snoozing when needed and also working hard when needed.

I chuckle at my wife, as we are lying in bed after coming back home asks me if I missed not seeing our kids and group while being gone. I missed my puppies, my bed, my house and especially my pillow. As I return to a busy end of August and beginning of September I know that life doesn’t slow down. I just had a close friend buried last week. I have to take my dad to his 2-month checkup for his hip surgery. Life doesn’t stop.

Yeah, I love to work hard and see the fruit of God’s grace and mercy both in my life and those around me. I don’t cherish the bumps in the road. Over the last month or so there have been a few ipods/phones that have been lost or stolen. Obviously I would rather think that they have been misplaced that lifted. Ultimately it has forced me to communicate in a different way with both adults and youth.

Just as I get almost settled into a normal routine I will be off to a CCDA conference in Chicago. I know many in New City/Barrio will think that all I do is travel but it really isn’t. I had thought about missing the CCDA Conference but know that I need the input, stimulation and fellowship. I look forward to connecting with a few of my PCA friends, local friends and college friends.

What would happen if the word were out that I actually always take a couple hour nap on Sundays before we do church that evening. I have come to appreciate that Jesus was actually fast asleep on the little fishing boat as the disciples/fishermen tried to get him to the other side. It took a storm and the frantic voice of his guys to get him to wake up. I am not as good at sleeping in them midst of a storm but am learning.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Merits of a Good Vacation

We had an amazing opportunity to get away, really away to the North West and enjoy the San Juan Islands this week. We have taken vacations of different kinds over the years, you know family vacations with the kids, long road trips, (longest was 2 weeks and 5000 miles), visits with family which aren’t really vacations and then those special ones like our 25th anniversary trip to India for 3 weeks. So because of planning and some help from some friends we have been recharged by getting away to an area that is so totally different from home for us, i.e. the desert and Phoenix.

There is a side of me that truly feels guilty being spoiled. Its not that I am against vacations, I have truly enjoyed this get away, it is more the economics of working with people who have very little and I have lots which often I waste. I have this conviction that God truly is the one who provides and wants all of his children to experience his rich blessings and bounty. The challenge is that those who typically have continue to receive more because of circumstances that at times has little to with them and those who have little always seem to have less and be in situations that they can’t change.

I know that Jesus very often would go out early in the morning to be alone, pray and just enjoy being out. I also know at times that Jesus actually avoided the crowds, the noise and busyness of normal life. I tell myself often that I need little times of siesta or reflection every day. I also tell myself that I need to kidnap my wife at least once a month for something special so we can get away from cell phones, e-mail, ical and the rush of life.

As we pack up to continue our vacation in a totally different spot it reminds me that it takes planning and forethought to make things happen. There is a side of my that does like spontaneous things but I know that any significant trip or event takes planning that involves expenses and interacting with others to secure something out of the extra ordinary. We will drive tonight after an amazing dinner to see relatives in Portland for a few days before driving back to Seattle to fly home in a few days.

I have been reminded of the importance of friendships, letting my better half talk, doing nothing on purpose and being able to nap, sleep in till at least 6:30 and also allowing others to plan and control what happens. I know that I have been on the ‘giving side’ of doing mercy work for the last three years and do need at times to let others give to me and teach me how to receive in a gracious fashion. It isn’t a weakness to need a vacation it is only human. God seems to have given the better example of resting in the creation process.

I am thankful and blessed to have great friends who care enough to make a great get away happen. The ocean, wind and fresh air have been amazingly refreshing and fun. Jesus now I better understand how you could nap on a boat while your disciples frantically tried to get you to the other side. I have enjoyed allowing a few friends to do the ‘paddling’ while I have feasted and been refreshed.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Friend Al Sanchez!

Intro: My new friend It has almost been 2 years since we painted Mr. Sanchez’s home. I can still remember a call from one of his daughters to ask if we really painted houses of families in South Phoenix. She was adamant that her dad’s house needed painting. I explained that he needed to fill out an application and that I would meet with him. Little did I know that this phone conversation would begin a journey with me visiting Al almost every week to bring him a donut or burrito.

#1. Why of planting seeds Jesus has just told a story about a farmer or actually himself, where he goes out and casts seeds of the gospel everywhere he walks. Last week we talked about fruitful hearts, hard hearts, crowded hearts and shallow hearts. We talked about the soil that God’s seed is planted in and what we can do to best prepare our hearts to act on God’s truth.

My parable or story is about painting houses, not growing plants. We paint houses with the purpose of showing God’s love in a tangible fashion to a family, neighbors and the community. Each time we do this we give a Bible to the family we are helping. I will always remember the first couple of times I met with Al Sanchez. I had gotten him a Spanish/English Bible that was actually very nice. At first I thought maybe I shouldn’t spend $40 on a leather Bible. Yet, after the last couple of years I am glad I did. The first couple of times I visited with him I discovered that he was really a funny, crusty 80-year-old man who had recently lost his 2nd wife and had 5 daughters, a son and Dorthy’s family. I seriously doubted he would read his Bible. I will always remember some of the funny stories and ways that he related back to real life. We became good friends over the months that I would just drop in and talk. If I was gone for a couple of weeks he would always look me in the eyes and say, “Where the ‘Hell’ have you been?” Yes, he at times was foul mouthed but he showed his care and concern for me as a new gringo amigo or as he would say, “My preacher David”.

#2. The mystery of God’s love As you read the parable of the sower it becomes clear that Jesus is living this story out as he explains it. He was actually casting seed to his disciples, other followers and to the crowd. As I put myself into the center of Al Sanchez’s life I slowly got to meet and know his five daughters. At times I ended up taking him to Safeway to get meds or go shopping. As I did this I discovered that he was actually reading his Bible cover to cover. Each morning he would copy a cartoon from the newspaper onto this little pad. I could always tell how he felt by whether he had done this. Slowly I noticed that his bookmark in the Bible was moving forward. I asked him now what he had read. He would always give me a summary of what was happening. The mystery of how God’s seed/word worked was slowly starting to make sense and come alive in Mr. Sanchez’s life.

I have to admit that I never dreamt that Al would become like a second father to me. I knew he had real health problems that eventually would kill him. I would joke about his being a diabetic, his cooking skills and that eating fried foods wasn’t the best. I would ask each time I visited about his sugar levels. Yet, we both would consume a burro, donut or whatever he had just cooked. I am glad that life has a side to it that is a mystery. I am so glad that I don’t have to figure everything out in life. It became clear to me after about a year that Sanchez expected me to come over. We would invite him over to our house for our monthly barbecues or to church. He would come when he was up to it or if I picked him up. Fortunately he didn’t play bingo on Sundays otherwise he probably wouldn’t have come. I did forget to mention that he had won significant money playing bingo that helped him get his truck and do the block wall around his house.

#3. The beauty of Grace & Mercy I think one of the mysteries of this parable is that God’s seed can grow in the craziest places like in rock, around weeds or in a crusty 82-year-old man. I can remember Sanchez telling me some rather off colored jokes at times and also asking about whether it was ok for him to have a girl friend at 82. What stood out was that every time I would see him, especially when he was in the hospital, that he would have this gleam in his eye and way of either shaking my hand or doing a thumbs up that showed me that he got it when it came to grace and mercy. He was an honest man who didn’t have anything to hide. I was actually learning through his life the lessons about grace and mercy. The point of the parable is that it isn’t our seed that grows inside of us but God’s living Word. The mystery of God’s Kingdom is that it comes to the most unassuming people by God’s choice. I know that God’s heart is to love those who have been forgotten or viewed as being insignificant in the world’s eyes.

Conclusion – I miss my friend Al Sanchez I will never forget the look of Mr. Sanchez when I saw him at Chris Ridge’s Skilled Nursing area when he was having dinner. My dad was also on the same floor for a few weeks because of breaking his hip. He was staying to get extra help before being released to go home. I had memories of the previous year of being with him when he was in the ICU when he almost died. I know that life is fragile, is a gift and that God is the one who has our days numbered. I wasn’t totally shocked when I saw a post on Facebook about Al being taken to Hospice. I quickly went over to see him and help the sisters understand why Hospice is a great place for their dad and them.

I will miss seeing Al every week or so. I can still get a burrito or some donuts but I won’t see that smile, great handshake or cartoon that had just been copied. I will remember him eating the last day or so of his life some special made avacado and a protein shake. I am so thankful that my God put it upon one of his daughter’s heart to call me and that a group of friends helped paint his house. I cried as I am writing this but know that Mr. Sanchez is in heaven and that he will never again suffer and even more importantly he now sees and knows that his savior lives!! Good Bye my friend I miss you.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Friend Al Sanchez!

It will be two years since we painted Al’s house with a group of about 40 volunteers. He was our 5th house that we had painted. We are now up to 30 homes and will paint two more in a few weeks. If you had told me two years ago that Mr. Sanchez would become a significant part of my life I would have said I don’t think so. Yet, after taking him burritos and donuts on a weekly basis over this time we have become good friends.

I have also gotten to know his 5 daughters over this time too along with a boatload of grandkids, great grandkids, cousins and various other relatives. I have walked with him through many health issues where he has been in the hospital and on a few occasions the sisters truly believed he was going to leave us. The great thing about Mr. Sanchez’s story is that he in one sense is your typical 82 year old Hispanic guy who worked as a cook most of his life. Loved to draw, has a quick wit and wasn’t ever afraid to tell you exactly what he thought. He joked about his attractiveness to young women at 80.

Every time I would visit I would look at the latest cartoon he had drawn, asked about his blood sugar level, where he was at in reading his Bible. (New City/Barrio Nuevo always gives a Bible to the families whose home we paint. His is actually Spanish/English version.) What astounded me about Al was that he actually read his Bible cover to cover over the time we were meeting.

I know I will write more about Al but the main purpose of this blog is to honor him as a father, brother and friend. He is in Hospice of the Valley dying. I know that he wouldn’t pass most standard church membership exams for understanding doctrine but what is important is that he knows Jesus and has placed his life in his hands. As with any family there is always drama, especially with not 2 but 5 daughters. My hope is that I can be a faithful friend and pastor and I visit and am part of a welcoming party that sees Mr. Sanchez experience the glory of God as he enters into eternity.

Mr. Sanchez I will miss coming by and listening to your wild stories, eating your great avocado mixtures and looking at your drawings. This is a sad happy ending. I know that you will go to a better place but you will be missed big time!

I love you, your friend – Dave Bennett

Monday, August 16, 2010

Last Minute?

I have prided myself over the years as being someone who tries to plan ahead and be on time to events, especially the ones that I have planned. God has placed me in the center of a couple of different cultures that are totally different from my personal time zone awareness. I know that being punctual for some is right up there next to being almost like God. I also know that in some cultures being late or not the first one at a party or event is not a bad thing.

So here are a couple of lessons that are helping me enjoy life more, still be productive and see people connect. I am usual not one to cancel an event or change it. Yet, I see that at times it is better to be more concerned about an individual then being on time or doing an event. I also know that it is irritating when some wants a ride and really believes that your world should revolve around them. I have also had the experience of coming to someone’s rescue only to discover that they have already gotten help and just didn’t have a phone to call – oops.

I think the real issue is how I choose to view people who are always late, slow and forgetful. It is very easy to have this superior than thou type of attitude. I slip from living by grace and mercy to being a clock-watcher. Obviously those who are timely and follow through do at times receive blessings or advantages over those who choose to snooze. I usually tell everyone if you snooze you loose or the early bird does catch the worm. None of this is really that difficult to understand until it comes to the way others choose to live.

I make it a part of my routine to drop in on lots of different people in my neighborhood on a weekly basis. It does happen that I get too busy or am gone for some reason. It is easy for some of my special friends to think that I have forgotten them. What always amazes me is the call I get from a few to say hey or how are you doing. It reminds me that others do see and care about how you choose to use your time.

It is difficult for someone who is always late to change a little much as it is difficult for me to purposely be late or slow to something. The good news is that God is never late and his timetable is always perfect!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I tend to pride myself on being prepared and always thinking both forward and backward. Yet, the reality for me is that life is often lived at the moment and not everyone uses their i-calendar like me. It requires a little bit more faith and trust of our Father in heaven. I tend at times to put more faith in myself then in God. Yes, I am admitting to this up front.

The exciting news is that God is faithful even when others are flakes and don’t return calls or e-mails. I am learning that it is important to plan, include others, promote and remind people all of the time. So yes that last minute phone call is important or the note that I left in someone’s door is actually read. The personal downside, which I know but don’t want to admit, is that everyone’s life doesn’t revolve around me.

I know that God ultimately will bring things together in a way that does show forth his purpose and does impact my neighborhood. It is difficult to trust others who you know might not follow through or would seldom take pride in what they do. The obvious lesson is that it is essential for others to learn even if it is through failing. The only way I can learn at times is to fall flat on my face and then have to pick myself back up. No one likes to be analyzed or critiqued by anyone yet; the reality is that this is how we grow the most.

So yes I live in a world that isn’t totally run by white color educated types that thrive on being timely. I know that one of the better approaches that will promote better health is to see that manana manana is sometimes the solution to being too tied to the clock or bottom line. People are more important than selfish results.

It is always fun to mix it up and be on time when you are always late or if you are a time fanatic then to choose to be late can be refreshing for someone who is always running behind.


I am slowly learning about building relationships with people that are different from my normal comfort zone. We love to do gatherings at our house with both youth and adults. So once a month we host a Sunday bbq to create a setting where people and youth can interact and potentially make new friends and learn from one another.

This last Sunday we had one of our bbq’s and had a great turnout. I had asked some different friends who did come so we had one of my painting grandmas, a single Hispanic dad with three little kids, his mom (Spanish speaking only), an African American dad whose daughter brought him, the normal group that helps and then a couple of neighbors in addition to about 25 of our youth. We were spread through out the house, back and front yard. We had a great meal that everyone brought something to share. It was great to watch one of my good friends and wife, who are grandparent types, interact with Mrs. Jefferson and Daniel my African American dad who definitely didn’t fit but came.

There was a side of me where I was thrilled to see such a varied group gathered at my house. Another side where I was a little ticked at some of my friends for not being as outgoing and friendly with new people. I know that it isn’t natural for someone to hang out with someone who is totally different. Then the reality of family battles also hit. One of our families that we are helping big time is at war with another key family in our group over a dog. So because of this the other family couldn’t stay. This was and is maddening to see one lady have a restraining order against another family. The dad of the other family has actually helped this other family with a group that did some cleanup.

Our ‘live in’ college student, Terrance, had invited over the kids of a single parent friend. He is a young guy and had actually agreed to watch all four of them. As is usual with little kids they got into in with each other, made a mess and were loud. Terrance was pushed to his limit.

After all of our gatherings there is always a mess to cleanup. Sometimes there is trash all over the place other times its not to tough to clean up. I was taking home a group of youth and just as we are finishing dropping everyone off a little boy gets into it with a girl over something really silly. Everyone is quiet as I pull over the van and get them to stop punching each other. No one is hurt but it just reinforces the reality that I live in a spiritual war zone where people of difference colors tend to want to fight and not give up unless they win.

I have been personally hurt by a few that all of a sudden decide that I am playing favorites with someone and they really believe that I have ignored them or not given them attention. There is one situation where a relative of someone, I didn’t know, accuses me of being disrespectful. I talk with the mom who has decided to ban her kids from all of our activities. She acts as if I have done nothing wrong to offend and it is just because of needing more rest and time to get ready for school.

The journey continues as I discover that God is color blind or has purposely made all of us different for a purpose not an accident. Sometimes I wish I were black or brown and not white.