Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Don't Judge too often!

I’ve had one of those days where the last thing you want is to get into a discussion or really an argument over something that you really don’t want to talk about. I am doing something I know that lots of people don’t understand. So I am use to answering questions but at times tire of either trying to defend what I am doing or make a distinction between doing church and living out mercy and grace.

I had gotten into a heated argument with one of the guardians of our teens. This is an unfortunate situation where the teen has really never lived with his mom because she is a drug addict. I know that the uncle in many ways is well intentioned in what he has done for his sister’s kids. Yet, as I look at what has taken place of the time I have known them I can’t see much improvement. I know that there is a fine line between showing compassion for someone and giving an impression that they are failing. I too have a tough time when someone puts me in this situation and I end up having to justify what I am doing or should have done.

I know that pastors at times can be their own worst enemy. It is easy for us, myself include, to truly believe that we have the hot line to heaven and that anyone else who questions or doesn’t understand what we are doing obviously has a problem. I definitely see the by product of not staying in touch with someone and discovering that the real issue is that we don’t know each other and either are afraid of expressing our true feelings or don’t like someone else’s practice or expression of the faith. I am learning that it isn’t my job or mission in life to change anyone. This is tough for me to accept and live out. Only God the Spirit is able to transform a heart and change a person’s mind towards someone else.

So as I am reaching back to a few fellow pastors to get permission to promote the ongoing mercy work we do and I get mixed signals. I have a few that are thrilled to have an opportunity to do something outside the box and see God work in some amazing ways. Then I get a few that seem to question the legitimacy of what I am doing. Which I deep down inside understand, but it still isn’t easy to swallow. Yeah, I preach every Sunday, we do church, do the normal pattern and we do all of these other ministries which I believe should be an integral part of the local church in impacting the neighborhood God has placed it.

I am learning the power of multiplying my gifts through training others to work with us. So I can’t obviously tutor or mentor 30-50 students. Much like I can’t paint a house all by myself in 2 hours. So I have had the privilege at times to stand back and watch God work through many hands where I get some of the credit or praise. Ultimately it is the Father who has raised up his people to do kingdom work that shows forth his truth, mercy and grace.

I know that there is a spiritual battle taking place in the neighborhood where I live. It isn’t any coincident that there have been many shootings in our larger neighborhood. It at times is easy to let circumstances to get you down and become too focused on the proverbial tree instead of seeing the larger forest. Much in the same sense you can allow one person to get you totally off track and miss the larger group that God has called you to love on, walk with and show grace minute by minute. I asked a couple of questions on Facebook the last couple of days dealing with why is it so hard to forgive and reconcile? Why is it the case that one person seems to be able to humble themselves and live out forgiveness whereas someone else is consumed with bitterness and the desire to always get revenge?

I don’t have any quick answers. I know that one of my favorite stories in the Bible is of Jesus going into the Pharisee’s home for dinner. He is reluctant to help Jesus clean his feet and is shocked when a prostitute comes over to love on Jesus. The judgment that day made by Jesus is that the woman loved because she had been forgiven much but the religious leader couldn't love much because he had never really acknowledged his sin. I now that one of the downsides to being a ‘white guy’ that is educated and part of a church that idolizes seminary and theological education, is that this doesn’t fit in my world, living in a diverse neighborhood . Few of the adults that I am around have finished grade school or Jr. High forget High School or college. This obviously doesn’t stop God from using these people in significant ways. So how do I walk the line between these very different expressions of following Christ? I can I relate back to my pagan friends who span the spectrum of rich – poor, highly educated to being street smart but at times I struggle with those who seem to have all the answers but don't want to partner with me in my community.

I marvel that Jesus was able to appeal to both the common man and the ruling class leaders. Jesus in many ways was very simple in his approach to how he used an outside lecture venue as his way of teaching the truth. I love his parable stories because they are simple and point out truth in a way that is so clear. Otherwise I struggle with the Paul’s way of always making everything so complicated. It’s not that I don’t like Paul, I do but I see how his language choices, sentence structure and hard nose approach to life didn’t mesh with many at all. Whereas Jesus walked and talked and went to people to show them that he was sent from the Father and would be soon the ultimate shepherd and perfect sacrifice to lay down his life, even though he questioned this at the end but was obedient to his Father.

My hope is not to be the answer man for everyone but a reflection of God’s amazing grace and truth that is more than capable of transforming anyone’s mess or disaster. Jesus help me even this moment as I type a reflection of what I hope is my heart. So quickly in summarizing I am not going to be able to dissuade those who don’t understand grace and mercy why I am doing my present work. Yet, to those who come with open hearts and minds I see God reveal his heart, which isn’t white, black, brown, red or yellow. The path I have been placed upon isn’t easy to follow, in fact it’s a very difficult one to follow. So Lord help me not to stop regardless of the obstacles, successes or failures. May your kingdom impact my world!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Life is???

I usually walked with my Anne in the mornings, unless I have a Matt’s Breakfast meeting. It always gives us a chance to be out in the open and enjoy our area’s beauty. Some times it is a quick walk with a few of our fellow walkers or joggers out. It can also be crazy when the horses are out being ridden and our dogs go wild. This morning it was a time of sharing and tears. I know that at times my adult kids may think that I am either only into my own things or might care but not know how to show it. I don’t think our walk; discussion, tears or prayer time solved any of the ills of the world. Yet, I think it help put perspective on the bigger picture of life.

This last week there were three different shootings in our larger neighborhood area that resulted in the loss of six lives. This always has a ripple effect on everyone because there is always someone who knows someone who I know. One of these families lives in our Habitat Community where we live, work and play all of the time. What happened to cause someone to actual take another person’s life? I know at times I get annoyed with my son or someone else around me. I have high expectations at times that are a by-product of me being raised by a dad who demanded respect and your attention. I am learning that God has a different timetable and plan. I too am seeing that not everyone has my passions or understanding of life. So what do you do when doesn’t like what you do, doesn’t understand what you do or is likely to clash with you most of the time?

I know that in the past I would just avoid someone like that or be confrontational with no resolve either. I am beginning to accept the reality that I can’t be best friends with everyone or even friends. I know that even members of my own immediate family or larger family I can be at odds with at times. I guess I am an idealist at times and also a pragmatist too. So how do we face broken or less than desirable relationships? I see that I have to be the first to recognize that I’m broken and lots of my relationships aren’t going to work because I can be a jerk and am selfish.

My real purpose in writing this is seeing that reconciliation is going to be an ongoing part of life. There is no way around this what so ever. It takes time, is messy and hurts when it comes to resolving issues from the past. I so much want to have great relationships with everyone around me and not feel tension. Yet, tension is going to be there because we are walking through a lifeline mine that does explode more often than one expects.

The good news, which I so much need to hear, is that God’s grace, mercy and love are more than capable of fixing my wicked heart and the hearts of those around me.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Looking back it would have seemed that Wednesday was a normal day. It was beautiful in the morning as I jogged before the sun rose. I had a great breakfast Matt’s with a good friend. We discussed the preceding day’s event at the Season of Service training session and made astute observations. I searched around for a wireless device to help with tutoring and potentially working with adults. I visited my dad and had a good visit and was able to fix his cable box, which was out because of the amazing storm the night before. Little did I know that the day would end with multiple tragedies that would change many people’s lives forever.

I was driving in the afternoon on my normal route and noticed how all of a sudden a major road was blocked off and traffic was diverted. I was complaining a little to myself about how long this detour was taking. If I had known that someone had just shot someone and that a four year old had also been hit I wouldn’t have been so quick to complain. I didn’t find this info out until later that night.

We did our normal tutoring session with about 30 students coming and 12 tutors. We had a great evening that ended with a few frantic phone calls from parents at our South Ranch Habitat Community saying you can’t come home. There has been multiple shootings and the entire neighborhood was blocked off. Ok, now what do I do with 30 kids who can hang out maybe another 30 minutes at the Community Center before it closes. We decide to caravan back to the community and attempt to drop off the kids.

As we pull up there is a police SUV blocking the street entering. The officer says it is ok to drive in but that some of the area is blocked off. I was drop off a few kids we discover that the main street, where my van stays and my little car is presently parked is roped off. We talk to the officer, who is surrounded by numerous T.V. and radio vans and tells us that we can walk down to the house but can’t drive through. So we drop off the kids.

As I drive home it hits me that I am becoming numb or de-sensitized to the violence. Someone has been killed in my neighborhood and a few others have been killed closer to my home. I go home and surf the net only to discover that there isn’t any real mention of the South Ranch incident but the earlier one that caused traffic delays is mentioned. At home we talk about the racial tensions that exist among all of us. No one is exempt from being somewhat of a ‘racist’ or prejudiced against someone.

I get up and do my normal routine, i.e. go for a walk with Anne and the dogs and then have lunch with a couple of good friends who are very key in our work. As we eat and chat about what happened Marc makes the same comment about how even the kids in the community didn’t seem to be bothered by what had happened. They quickly go back to playing in the park as if nothing happened. I had a detailed text from one of the mom’s talking about a totally different situation the same night where two of her second cousins are beat up and arrested in a similar situation. Then we all think to ourselves when will this stop? We joke about whether any of our supporters who live in the burbs would even consider coming if they knew what really happened.

I go to the Apple Store to get one of my Imacs fixed and a used laptop setup. I end up meeting with a few kids for guitar lessons, take a few pics and post them on Facebook. The to my surprise one of the mom’s makes the comment about how beautiful it is to see the kids doing guitar and how that made it a great day instead of what happened only 24 hours prior with a shooting in the same spot.

I have a degree in philosophy and a Masters in theological studies that help me paint a picture of the dilemma with the problem of evil. How can there be evil if there is a God who is all-powerful and totally good and holy? The answer that many make is that either God is the cause of this evil, he really isn’t all-powerful and isn’t good. This makes me cringe knowing that the real answer than is that there isn’t any such a thing as good or evil that might makes right or that relativism has won out over any type of moral deism.

The Bible is clear that God isn’t the author of evil, that man is chosen the path of sin and rebellion, that man doesn’t totally live out this sin nature and that there is only one who can remedy this true mess – Jesus Christ. The transformation happens in bits and pieces in that the ultimate impact is that we are heaven bound and will be made new but in our temporal situation we struggle with the choice of whether to respond in this crisis with a get even attitude, take the law into our own hands or to say it is time to move to a better neighborhood. My conviction is that it is time to stand up against the evil, be an advocate for those who are being attacked and be a living example of grace, mercy and reconciliation.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


As we are driving to San Diego we get this call from an unknown number. I'm hesitant to answer because it is late and we are driving. Who is calling me at this late hour? I'm on a two-day get away. Now Anne's phone is ringing. I had better answer maybe something is wrong or who knows? Yeah, it turns out to be my adopted son, Terrance who is locked out of the house. I asked the obvious where are your keys... Oh I don't keep them unless I'm driving the car. Great now who is going to watch my puppies?

Ah, my real son shows up and Terrance can break in and watch our dogs. I get a little miffed when someone continues to forget basic things. I know I can't always have the same expectations for Terrance or Jon as I have for myself? Why not? Why make same lame excuse for someone who is capable but chooses to be brain dead?

I have locked my keys in the car in the past. I remember meeting with a Phoenix police officer for the first time only to admit to Officer Chris that I needed help breaking into my truck if I am going to go home! He gets a coat hanger and we actually did it unpainfully. Now I take precautions, whereas in the past I had never done this. I know Terrance tires of being picked on but the only saving grace is the school of hard knocks.

I just dislike seeing young minds not being exercised. So I truly hope no more lost keys especially when we are gone on a trip. Yet, if there are more mishaps I do have a hidden set of keys in my office.