Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Get Out!

I know that for most in today’s high tech world it is too easy to stay glued in front of your laptop, video game or TV and miss the amazing expose of God’s creative powers. Yesterday, we went hiking with a group from our New City – Barrio Nuevo. We do this often and it is a surprise how many of our kids and adults will get up early to do something different.

South Mountain is directly behind where we live and is always a great place to go hiking, biking or for a drive to see the valley or the sun rising or setting. I decided to do something different, easier than usual, we would drive to the top of the summit and then hike down instead of hiking up and back down. (This is a tough hike especially for little kids.) As we drive the winding road to the top it is crystal clear and as we get closer it becomes obvious that we are actually the first to be on top this morning. We joked about how we thought there would be more people on top because of the holiday week. We walked around and then did a group picture in the rock house. We had a good size group including my puppy, Freckles, aka Kong. As the group began their descent I got back in the van. Roger followed me back down the Mountain, I know that most don’t consider something 2600 feet a mountain but for flatlanders it is.

We raced down the hill and came across a few bikers and joggers making the trek up. This is a tough climb go over 1500 feet up and towards the bottom there was some crazy mom with her kids and dogs walking on the road. I know that Roger behind me cried out to himself, “What are you doing!” We made it to the bottom and Roger followed me to the ending of the trail that wasn’t too far away. As we pull up in this area there are a couple of cars that are parked. So we began to walk along the trail that goes around a large water container and circle up a paved road only to see Sammy, Matt and little Bookie flying down the trail.

Wow – I was pleasantly surprised that the leaders of the pack had made it down so incredibly fast. Ah – the rest should be down in a few minutes after them. Well, this turned more into at least 30-40 minutes. I knew that Joe with his little kids wouldn’t be down quickly. So last but not least is Terrance with a few of the kids along with my puppy – Freckles. While the slow hikers were making their way down a few of the more adventurous climbed up the mountain close to us and made it to the top. I know that not everyone is crazy or willing to do this. So I got a few pics, which I promptly posted on Facebook. We welcomed the last few back down and made our way back to the vehicles.

What a great morning to be out hiking and enjoying the awesome view of the Phoenix valley. We decided to visit one of the favorite places for youth of all ages – McDonalds. It is amazing what you can get off of their dollar menu. So each of us splurged and got $2 worth of breakfast or snack. A great way to start a vacation day!

God’s creative ‘footprint’ is so wonderfully amazing. I know that as my wife would say it is too easy to walk by something and really not SEE what is there. So today I opened my eyes to really see.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Extended Family

We had a great Christmas treat with having one of our close friend’s daughters come and have dinner with us with her husband and family. I can think back and remember when Kath was just a little kid, like six or seven years old. Now she is married with kids almost that age. This is one of those neat stories of seeing someone who you have watched grow up and become an amazing mom, wife and lady.

It was great watching her two little guys play in our house, jump on the couch, scream at our bird, be afraid of the dogs and eat us out of chips and salsa. I know that Kath’s parents are so proud of her. She had graduated with her math degree and pursued grad school and was teaching when she got married. Kath is rather short, like my Anne and is married to this buff guy who is a cop – sheriff in a small town setting. He has a rather interesting partner – a German Shepherd. It was a joy getting to know him and hear his stories about his work, where he grew up and their love of CO.

We enjoyed hearing stories about her brothers and sister. The bitter sweet of this story was that her parents, best friends in the 80’s are now divorced. The dad remarried and the mom is waiting. This is one of the truly tragic stories in my life that as I step back am partially to blame for not being more pro-active in talking, confronting and being a better friend at a distance. It is true that people change and either grow closer or grow a part. I have a difficult time understanding how someone can profess to really know God in an intellectual way and then walk. I understand totally how Christians can push someone away from the church and not want to be involved. What I don’t understand is how you can emotionally let go of God and pretend that your past is over and doesn’t really matter.

What do you do in a circumstance like this? I pray, text once in a while and hopefully have a visit with his kids on occasion. This is a tragic story that doesn’t have a happy ending at present.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Friends

One of my desires since moving to South Phoenix has been to have a Hispanic Pastor and African American Pastor partner with me in doing our mercy work in our neighborhoods. I have many friends young and old who are part of these communities. Yet, up until recently I didn’t have a real friend that I could actual work with, learn from and see God’s hand in the larger context of building relationships in our community. I was thrilled to meet Pablo a couple of times over the last few months. We have done a few larger events at the South Ranch Habitat Community Park. It was during these events that Pablo attended and eventually I think got the courage to talk and share his heart.

Most churches in urban inner cities are small, under resourced and the pastors are bi-vocational. (They have to work outside their church to support their families) As I sat in the Starbucks in a local Safeway I was overjoyed to talk with Pablo. I could sense that he was a little discouraged with his work. He has a small group of 15-20 after 12 years of literally laying his life down. I was impressed that Pablo had immigrated, gotten his citizenship and actually gone to college and received his master’s certificate in theological studies.

We talked, sipped our coffee and sensed that we might be able to work together. I wanted to have a bi-lingual pastor to help and I knew that Pablo wanted youth to be around his older group to help them catch a vision to get outside their box, Pablo’s own words. I could tell that Pablo was both spiritually and emotionally tired. He didn’t have the energy or resources to do much besides church on a weekly basis. I know he most of thought I was crazy and on drugs to be able to maintain the pace of what we do at New City – Barrio.

Now I have a Sunday morning Hispanic Church to ‘invade’. I know that bringing many of my group will push these older Hispanics to the edge. Yet, how else am I going to being able to relate back to my Maria, Judy, Elvia and others? I am just as equally thrilled to have met Emma, Maria and Juanita, who now become my female Hispanic group that are bi-lingual that form the basis for Anne’s group!

As I set in my Starbucks it hits me how import relationships are to continue to grow New City – Barrio. I can’t stay hidden in my office or hide behind cultural diversity. I know the New Year will bring many surprises, blessings and challenges. I have to continue to step outside of my box and intersect the lives of people like Anthony, Pablo, Emma, Maria and even the wildchilds like Ashley, Red Girl and the Terrances.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


It is amazing how I continue to meet people that are exactly what I need at the moment. I am starting to connect with the right individuals to help go to the next step of New City and Barrio. I have been around a blended family that has 5 kids. They are all involved with what we do. I have watched the step dad at a distance and came to the conclusion that he is an awesome guy. So I got brave and asked him what he was doing. I liked what he said and asked him if he was opening to getting together. He was, we did and now he is a new friend who will help me better understand lots of different questions I have to better understand the African American Community in our neighborhoods. He is someone who is able to juggle work, school and a family.

I have also deeply desired a way for Anne to get more involved with adults. God has now brought along a new friend, Emma, who is a Latina. She is divorced has grown kids and grandkids. She understands some of the dynamic of living between first and second generation, is bi-lingual and sees the church as being bigger than being Catholics or Pentecostals but Christ followers. She is someone who has worked her whole life and succeeded regardless of her circumstances. What’s also great is that she is a neighbor of one of my painting grandmas, Ramona, who isn’t doing very well health wise.

My greater excitement is hooking up with Pablo who is a resident of South Ranch and a pastor of a small church that is Spanish speaking only. He has come to a few of our picnic parties at South Ranch. He is very open and interested in partnering to help his group breaks out of their ‘shell’ and help me have more presence in the first generation community.

As the year closes and we start a new year it is exciting to see many things come to a climax where great things are starting to happen that will enable us to be more effective to impact the community and see lives and families turned around. I still recognize and always will that the great connection is God sending his son as the babe in the manger. The infinite almighty God chooses to leave his heavenly throne and come to earth as the God-Man. He is the one who makes it possible for different people groups to make real connections and work together to show that God’s ultimate heart is for all people to find their ‘oneness’ not in their race, socio-economic setting but in Christ.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Vision Casting

I have been part of many different churches and organizations where having a vision and mission statement can either totally define and drive that organization or be an act of futility. As I sit down to brainstorm and then meet with a friend I’ll be the first to say that it isn’t easy to describe what I am doing, our purpose, goals and DNA. Yet as I look at pictures, talk with people, see groups gather I am starting to get a better sense of what it means to be about restoring, reclaiming and reconnecting neighborhoods, families and individuals.

This morning we will take Pancho, not Poncho, a cat to the vet. Pita, the owner a teen, will clean our house in ‘trade’ for getting her orange cat helped. Pancho had been attacked and now has a swollen foot or paw. I love Pancho and actually helped name him Pancho Villa. Relationships are key to restoring and reclaiming a neighborhood. I could write books about my relationship with Pita. Who is slowly changing her outlook on life, direction and openness to talk about life, death, God and her family.

I was asked recently by someone in a meeting, why I do what I do. My answer, which could come across sarcastic, was so simple – I love what I do! I am all about building relationships that will help reclaim and restore neighborhoods and families. The opportunity is great and the responsibility is overwhelming. I do it motivate and train up leaders that will take this vision of reclaiming and restoring neighborhoods that have been taken over by violence and drugs?

I am the first to say that the neighborhood and families, which I relate back to including myself, are broken. I have a neighbor who now has been attacked by someone not once but twice. This last time saw their truck tires slashed. This isn’t some small truck but one of these ‘jacked up’ ones with a fancy paint job and expensive tires. The mom, Fanny, has come over numerous times to ask the why question? The police said that there has to be someone in their past who has it out for them. Usually there isn’t this random act of violence that is repeated.

So how do you define a movement that is drawing people from all walks of life? I think about some of the different people I now relate back to as friends. I think of the Ramona’s, Mr. Sanchez types. I think of the Maria Vargas and Emma’s and even Anthony, the step-dad of some of my kids. How do you define something in a sentence that will drive and motivate people, an organization to raise up and make a difference? Why does Doris keep coming to our different events?

Monday, December 20, 2010


This last week has been tragic for our neighbor across the street. She came over frantic last week about someone ‘keying’ her car. It didn’t make any sense. There wasn’t anyone who they could fathom that was mad at them or had cut off on the freeway. My wife has this warped sense of justice so she was ready to go out and attack the culprit. Obviously the keyer isn’t going to walk up and identify himself or herself.

My experience with people who do crazy stuff is that they really don’t think much about the impact it has on the person they are hurting or the family that has to pay or fix their destructive action. I am beginning to see that way too many people have anger issues that come out in different ways, i.e. keying someone’s car or stealing something like my iphone. I am surprised at the people that God brings me around. I have a new friend who also hangs out at Starbucks who also works with at risk youth. He has to make reports on a daily basis. We talk a lot and I see so many parallels between what we are doing.

Yesterday afternoon the neighbor again banged on our front door, no doorbell but we do have the dogs, which always alert us to danger. So the neighbor lady had an even worse tragedy this time. The same group obviously had come back and this time decided to slash all of the tires on their truck and one of their cars. One of their sons was home but didn’t hear anything. The police were out taking information. Now they are putting their truck and car in their garage. I am so thankful that our cars haven’t had this happen to them yet. I know I would be outraged if this were to happen.

The real question is how do I respond to random acts not of kindness but violence? I live in a nice neighborhood that is surrounded by older neighborhoods. The reality is that violence isn’t exempt from our street. I know that it is easy to make platitudes about others circumstances until I am faced with someone that slashes the tires to my van. The sheer cost of replacing tires for any vehicle means that Christmas isn’t going to happen, at least for gifts under the tree.

I know that with my kids it is too easy to see the anger or temper based response to this would be to get revenge. Let’s go find these ___________ and teach them a lesson. So how do we teach someone a lesson or do we? I know that there is a side to me that calling the police is a step in the right direction. I also know that parking my car in the garage or putting my computer stuff up vs. leaving out is another step. I know that I live away from thinking that consequences are real at times. As we journey together in doing mercy work and community development in South Phoenix, it is so important to show the result of both being pro-active and reactive. The damage that comes out going after someone is huge. It is one thing to repair the damage done to a slashed tire. Yet, to see someone stabbed or shot is horrible and doesn’t have to happen. Yeah, I know the mindset of some is that I can always get stitched up or the doctor can sew me up.

Christmas is an amazing example of how God has dealt and is dealing with our temper and anger issues. Jesus comes to create a means for us to resolve the anger problem deep down inside. I know that most don’t understand that being reconciled to God is the first step to be restored to broken relationships. I know that it is really impossible to go back to someone who has stubbed you and forgive him or her. Yet, this is exactly what God has done for us through Jesus’ coming, living for us and dying for us. I have been around some people who are desperate and it isn’t necessarily their fault. How they choose to deal with their circumstances is their choice.

I know that violence only begets violence. So as I say to my kids/teens the first step is to not make a fist but reach out your hand to give a high five or shake as the beginning of a new relationship based upon grace and mercy not getting even.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


As I look back over the last year I am blessed – spoiled to see how many friends God has brought into my life. I know that as a pastor that often people will be part of your life and ministry for a season and it is always sad to see someone move, change churches, get less involved or drop out. This last week I had a couple of times where I ran into friends unannounced. I have sensed with this one new friend, John that we will do lots together and help each other significantly in the years to come. He is in the process of deciding to work for a non-profit that is doing work in Afghanistan. My wife grew up in Pakistan and her brother just left to work in Afghanistan.

As I think of the many people around me it is always sad to see so many who are friendless. I was fortunate to have had a mom that never gave me an option about making friends. I can remember the routine so well every time we would move. After about the third day she would take us door to door and introduce us and get to know the moms and their kids that lived on our block. I can think back to really not liking this at all. Yet, as I look at my present life setting it has made me a person that is quicker to talk to people and connect. Yeah, I still like being alone on times but I have to confess I love to be around people and bring people together to do great things.

What I am confounded by are a few friends that are really afraid of being around people. We have helped some single moms who obviously want help and do appreciate what we do for them and their kids. The difficulty is that they seem to hide and disappear when it comes to attending the various events we do. Why? I guess I am starting to see that some people are not into crowds, afraid of being ‘found out’ or there really is a ‘racial divide’. My hope in the coming year is to be better at going after people that are in the condition. I am making some new friends who I hope will give me the ability to break into the lives of these single moms or grandmas who are a little suspicious of making new friends.

I know that the basis of what I do in community revitalization is totally based upon building relationships. I know that we talk about networking but it just comes back to choosing to be friendly and always be about making new friends regardless of the circumstances. What I have always admired about Jesus was how great he was at walking, talking, watching and responding. How can I make new friends if I don’t go out to the market place to meet them? I have to be as zealous as the JW’s or Mormons but have a different approach. It is difficult to wait for people to respond and come to me after I have approached them. I think of a few people who I have recently met through our last painting blitz. I know that it will take a few months of door knocking and inviting before some of them respond.

The real blessing is that God has chosen to pursue me to be his friend. I don’t understand it because I am not a great friend. I am too busy at times to sit and just listen and too often I have my own agenda at the forefront of my relationship. I can always picture the image of Jesus being the shepherd who is out looking for the lost sheep. He hasn’t ignored the other 99 but understands the urgency of finding the one. I need to understand the mechanics of both looking for the 1 and caring for the 99 at the same time.

I know that I wouldn’t enjoy being stranded on a desert island by myself. Life is for sharing and experiencing the power of friendships.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I have grown accustomed to doing presentations and doing Q & A in different settings. I understand that I will not always have an audience that understands or is thrilled with being around people that are different from them. So for a few sentences I want to reflect on why do I live in the hood, hang out with wild kids and bug a bunch of grandmas.

I am fortunate in that I have a job, career, vocation and calling that is something that I love! I truly have a heart for wild teens that don’t have much of a home life; little kids, who want to play, hang out, talk about crazy things and then there are my grandmas that I enjoy spoiling. So why is it the case that I enjoy being in such a diverse situation?

I know growing up as a kid I had an amazing home life. I have a mom and a dad who were always there for me. I knew that if anything ever happened to me my mom would be at my side in minutes. I had this assurance that my home would always be nice, neat with food or goodies for my friends and me. I knew that even when I did something totally crazy my mom would scold me but there would be redemption. My dad, who was away often when I was a teen, was very affirming and always there for me. He was slow to criticize and obviously didn’t want to damage my psyche so I can count on one hand how often I was spanked. (My wife would say this is what has messed me up)

As I have experienced God’s love, mercy and grace I don’t see any other way to live. My mom was always quick to be one to jump in and help anyone regardless of circumstances. As I experienced Christ as a teen, college student and adult I grew to understand the practical ramifications for gospel living really comes down to how I treat my neighbor. I was fortunate to work in a downtown church that took seriously the Biblical notion of loving those that are different, i.e. Hispanic teens; homeless that lived around the church or the odd types that are left out.

What I am learning is that every person, regardless of age, has something special to teach us because of his or her God given uniqueness. So as I drive around to visit in my neighborhood all of the time I enjoy just watching, listening and doing things with Art, the ‘white guy’ who looks like an old Stephen Stills, Mrs. Jefferson who speaks very slowly because of a stroke, Bookie one of my kids is quick to ask can we go to McDonalds or one my teens that wants to go to Starbucks or the mom that needs special help. I can’t ignore any of them. Yeah, this is a different life then my past circumstances of living in the suburbs and doing church primarily in a middle class white context.

Yes, I admit that I love being around excitement and drama of different people groups that reflect a vast array of cultural experiences. I enjoy all different types of food, music and ages of people. I admit that I am weird but Jesus obviously in one breath welcomed the kids that were viewed as not being important, stopped to listen to a desperate dad and then interrupted by an older woman in terrible health. I actually enjoy the interruptions and craziness. The ultimate goal is that the gospel would intersect the people and circumstances that I live in and around. I have been given a heart for those that usually are overlooked, forgotten or laughed at too often. There are too many parables or stories about Jesus that show his heart for the lost sheep, son/brother who would be left on the wayside.

I am thankful that God has loved me in spite of my crazy sinful choices! I am learning and growing in understanding that loving God is done through loving my neighbor.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder what am I really doing with my life? I have all of the lingo down for doing community work but at times I am walking on the edge of at least three to four different worlds. I truly believe that God’s heart is to bring together people of diversity to be his ultimate family both on earth and in heaven. The reality before Christ comes back is that the church isn’t very interested in reaching across racial, socio-economic and theological boundaries. This last week I have had numerous experiences of seeing both the impact of sin on families, and the blessing of spiritual reconciliation.

I have talked about the youth that stole my wife’s iphone a little. I have become irritated with those ‘rip’ off others and take advantage of those who are smaller, have less resources or just see a quick an opportunity. This young man Joe just happened to truly believe that he could easily lift the phone and disappear without any consequences. I know that I have to admit that I am not much different. I can pretend that my actions or lack of actions don’t hurt myself or the ones I love, but they do. As I shared Joe didn’t show any real remorse for what he had done. I struggle with whether I should pursue anything with the police. I know that his mom is overwhelmed with her circumstances, yet she needs to take charge of her situation and not assume someone else will do it for her. So after many attempts to connect with the Police Department I am able to file a report. I really didn’t expect a call back from a detective but my cell rings and it is a Phoenix PD asking me to go over the report and decide to file a report. I agree and explain why I want to do this. The officer is very nice and agrees with me about the need to send a message to these youth and more so find the older teens and young men who had been threatening this youth.

Just as I think that I have see it all I have one of the newer moms in our group call up and ask for help. Little did I understand the real circumstances around her. She is going to loose her rental because of a foreclosure that she didn’t cause. She is offered money to out in two weeks. Yet, the reality is that she has nowhere to go and the money won’t solve anything. I see her on Saturday at our Christmas party and encourage her to stick around. She says something about needing to turn on her utility so I give her $10 to help.

The following morning, my day off, I get a couple of calls from her. I connect with her and now hear another desperate story. She relates how she has an extreme DUI that happened last April. We talked a little and it is obvious that she truly believed that all of this would disappear because she hadn’t heard anything back from the court. The surprise comes and she has a court appearance in a couple of days. She is afraid and wants to hire a lawyer and thinks that this will get her off. I explain that the law is clear in this situation and give her a couple of referrals that restate that she has an extreme DUI and she won’t get out of it. I pray for her and ask her to call my friends to hear first hand the consequences of these actions.

Next I end up having a great discussion with one of our present houseguests, a teenager whose mom is unemployed and presently homeless. He has been living with different friends and family over the last 6 months. I have known his family the longest out of anyone at New City. We talk about his mom and her circumstances with the goal of being better able to connect with her and not scare her away but also help her to see her responsibility with her teens. I texted her and then we end up talking on the phone and have a great conversation and agree to meet with her and her son after school finishes in a week. This call would have been impossible in the past. She truly felt judged by most Christians and doesn’t like being around groups.

I am learning that God’s heart for the poor isn’t about giving away freebees but actually dealing with circumstances that don’t have easy answers. The way that I love my God is seen how I treat and care for those around me. It is scary to understand that God wants me to be willing to lay down, give up or allow others to take what I have in order for them to have spiritual transformation.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cold Morning

I reflect on how some kids/people always look great from the outside but in reality are a mess but don’t show it very often. I have a few little kids that we do lots of things with and after being around them for 1-2 years they are definitely part of the family. I have a special heart for this one little guy. Let’s call him Steve. He comes out of a family that is hurting. He really hasn’t had a dad since he was very little. So life all of a sudden comes crashing in on him.

I can’t fathom what it would have been like to grow up without a dad. I know even more so that having a dad who promises to come and do things with you and then doesn’t show will have an impact on anyone regardless of age. I moved every couple of years as a kid because my dad was in the Air Force. I was blessed to have a mom who was proactive and didn’t give me a choice but to make new friends literally the first day we moved onto a new base. She never gave me an opportunity to be down or out of it.

So my little friend Steve has now changed schools to get away from the bullies and be in a better environment. Yet, his sister is now in middle school and he is left behind. He is having difficulty wanting to go to school, stay in school and has strange feelings. So how do you help someone in a broken family? I have asked a few older friends to hang out with him. I know that this won’t replace a dad, heal a broken family or help him face school everyday.

I am learning that I have to open my eyes to see the impact that sin has on everyone, including little boys with fathers. I was truly blessed to have, still have an awesome dad who gave a framework for life that I can’t imagine not having.

Pray for my little friend that he would see God as being his Father and that life isn’t going to be perfect but that he has a mom and grandma who love him dearly.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I thought I had seen the height of drama in my life with doing work in the ‘hood’ over the last three years but last night took the prize! I have to be careful with names, so please don’t assume that the names I am using in my blog are real, the stories are true though. We had a traumatic experience a few months ago when I was leaving to go to San Diego via Southwest Airlines. I am getting ready to take her to the airport and we can’t find her phone. I am ready to ‘kill’ Terrance because my assumption is that he had used it and didn’t put it back. The last thing I wanted to do was send Anne off on a major trip without her phone. I had a painting project that morning and didn’t want Anne not to have a phone.

I gave up and assumed that we would find the phone after she left. The unfortunate thing was that she was going to be with her family for the next 6 days without a phone. So we had a great start off with our painting project. I quiz a few of the kids about the phone and soon discover that we knew who the culprit happened to be. We attempt to find Joe but have no success but talk to his mom and grandma. I am left with the choice do I call the police, file a report, get another phone or?? I decide to get another phone because I am leaving on Monday to eventually connect with my Anne and she needs the phone.

Flash forward to yesterday and Joe, who had taken the phone, shows up on our front porch with an apology. I explain to him that after trying to get a hold of him over the last 6 weeks that it was rather late to show up and just say SORRY. I explained the total shock of having him come into my house and take Anne’s Iphone off of her desk. Then basically, running away and then selling it to another kid, who made big bucks. I asked him if he understood how serious this whole thing really happened to be. He said had been going to church and then now he was different. He sounded genuine and a little repentant. So I said I wanted him to list out all of the things he had stolen, names of people and that we were going back to apologize to all of them. I said that saying sorry only made sense if he did something that showed he was truly sorry. I was busy with getting ready for our bbq so I left and let Anne finish the time with Joe.

I returned and assumed that God had done something really amazing in Joe’s heart to get him to ‘fess’ up and get on the right path. Little did I get the bigger picture that day that Joe’s life was going to crumble before us into a real mess. He hangs around for our Sunday night BBQ that usual has around 50-60 attending. Over half of these are usually teens. It is typically for the kids to get loud as they are talking and hanging out. I had already asked them to quiet down and stay in front of our house.

Just as we are getting ready to take a group home one of the visitors is being carried to our place and is saying that he was hit by a car. I quickly get the crowd away and try to check him to see how serious he is. As I check I don’t see any blood or sign of broken bones. I pick him up and take him in the living room and we double check. He seems ok but claims to have been hurt. I decide that we better be on the safe side and call 911 and have him checked out. I decide to take most of the youth home with Terrance helping out.

As I am driving home Anne calls and explains what happened and says he is at St. Joes and I should go get another one of our older teens that went with him. I now know that he was ‘faking’ it to get the attention of one of the girls. I am ready to scream at such a crazy unwarranted display of pure stupidity. I know that his mom will explode and also hope that the Police and Hospital Staff will get on his case.

As I pull up to the ER and go in I get my nametag and am directed to the back area where the ped unit is located. I eventually find his bed and see his mom there. He was sitting up on the bed. I quickly explain to him how I am ‘blown away’ by his actions and how he has put others in harms way. He is slow to look at me and admit to what he has done. I also ask him to confess to his mom his list of thefts. The nurse in his area also gives him the what for with his foolish actions tonight.

My hope as I had told him was to see him turn the corner and not do anything else like this. If he really had found God then why did he just do this crazy thing? I walk away sensing that Joe is still not there yet. Drama is always part of life’s’ process of transformation through the gospel. No one wants to let the old man die, myself included.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'm Sick

I have had the flu bug for over a few weeks now and am ready to get well. I don’t like being sick nor making an excuse that I can’t do something or be somewhere because of not feeling good. I don’t really like canceling events but sometimes you don’t have a choice. I figured with it being our anniversary and Anne was really sick that we would cancel our normal Tuesday night dinner and study. It’s not that we didn’t end up still doing something with a few of our kids.

I know that there is a huge tension in the church of today over whether God’s will is that no one should ever get sick, have diseases or _______. I know as I picked up one of our kids for tutoring last night I told their step dad that I had the flu bug but was getting better. He proceeded to tell me that he would rebuke the flu and it would be gone. I too believe that it is possible for God to intervene in any situation to restore me to wholeness. Yet, my comeback, I admit, was that Paul the super Apostle said that when he was the weakest he was more apt to trust God and actually be stronger.

I know as I listened the step-dad, talk about his faith walk I was slow to say something that would have been misunderstood. I don’t know him but it is clear that he has some type of physical impairment that he was born with that makes it difficult for him to walk and one of his arms is semi-crippled. If he really had a faith that was capable of moving mountains why hasn’t God healed him of this obvious malady? I know that so often there are many in today’s church that would almost give this man a guilt trip for not being restored to complete health and that it was obviously a lacking in his faith not the power of God that had caused his present circumstance.

I mention this not to make excuses about my flu or cold. I need to fess up to the fact that I burn the candle at both ends too often, need more rest and be better at getting away. I’m improving in this area but the reality is that we get sick or I should say I get the flu or cold on occasion. My choice isn’t to pretend that I’m not sick but honestly to express the fact that I too am human and need God’s blessing. Too often I may be viewed by some as being different or above the cut, but I’m not.

So I need my shepherd’s gentle but firm hand at times to lead me back to my bed, office to be more strategic in how I order my day. I am thankful that I’ve had good health most of my life. I understand that Scripture commands me to count my days which is simple sense is to appreciate, value or make count the time God has given me. I’m not superman nor am I the savior, but just a fellow servant of Jesus, who wants to see lives transformed, family life improved, and a neighborhood in South Phoenix revitalized.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Anne

I can’t fathom that it has been 37 years since a cold rainy day in San Diego saw two almost 20 year olds get married. I know that this caused great concern on the part of my father in-law and it should have. We were too young, broke and not even close to being finished with school. I was impulsive and arrogant about my faith walk with Jesus. Yet, God worked through circumstances that saw Anne and I go to Cal-Poly, graduate, go to Grad School (Seminary) and actually not end up with a little one at 19, jobless and homeless.

I write this blog as a tribute to a wife that is incredible in ever manner of speaking. I have been too quick at times to take my Anne for granite, take advantage of her trusting me and willingness to do anything I sense God is calling us to pursue. She has been the one who stayed the course as we experienced the shock and awe of having a little girl literally pop out at 6 months and weigh only two pounds. Looking back I mainly remember that the horse we had been given was supposed to be for Anne but because of being pregnant it meant I had horse rights. The night that Heather decided to join us was rather commonplace with us watching Quincy on the TV and Anne acting like she was having contractions that weren’t suppose to be happening. The next phase of our lives was rather a whirlwind with moving from our beach paradise in Los Osos to the Bay Area where there was traffic and the joy of driving an hour to see our little Heather.

Anne was an amazing young mom who juggled the emotions of not knowing whether our Heather would live past 1 then 2 then 3 years of age. Our transition to San Diego was also an amazing dream come to true. We were going to Seminary to prepare for doing ministry. As to what that would be and where we would go I was clueless. I know that Anne was thrilled to be with her mom and dad. I was not as excited seeing that we would be living with them and I still had a difficult time understanding the traditional church and the fact that her father was totally that. I know that God ultimately knew that living with Ruth and Paul, attending First Pres and going to Westminster was exactly what we needed. Sure I reacted to the traditional services, robes and big choir but I learned how to do youth work, minister in the ‘hood’ and learn how to love on the homeless. God provided an opportunity for me to work at First Pres and for Anne to attend Westminster. This was truly a gift God provided for my Anne which I am so thankful. I know that at times she doesn’t believe that she has used her seminary education but she really has as I watch her interact with all types of people including our family and extended set of friends.

I know that living in San Diego for five years was truly a gift with having both of our families being there while we did seminary. Moving was something that my mom reminded me was eventually going to happen, which it did. I’ll never forget the day that we packed up the U-Haul and moved to Walnut Creek with kid, belongings and bird. It was a sad happy moment. Anne as usual always had a witting way of helping with the emotional roller coaster of really leaving our families. She obviously was closely tied to her parents so I know this was really tough. Yet, she came as the great mom and partner in ministry. Anne did an incredible job of transitioning into being a pastor’s wife, mom of Heather and jogging partner with me. The Walnut Creek area was easy to love with all of the variety of parks, hiking trails and closeness to SF.

It was fun to watch Anne always speak her mind and be at times off the wall with her unusual sense of humor. We transitioned from working with Christ Community that went through a significant change with Corty and Pat leaving, the church leaving the PCA and we essentially were homeless. Anne should have freaked but didn’t as I transitioned back to doing concrete work. God again was faithful to provide and give direction. It wasn’t too long before Oak Hills went from being a total off the wall pipe dream to becoming a core of loving families that wanted to do something like start a church.

It was during this transition time of starting Oak Hills and still doing concrete work for Hansen that we discovered Julie and Jon. Looking back I am still emotionally brain dead when it comes to our loosing numerous pregnancies. I know it wasn’t until we were old, like 47 and lost our last little one that the years of hurt finally hit me square in the head. I know that I should have been more supportive and communicative with Anne about the reality of loosing 5 little ones. So as we began the two year journey of adopting Julie and Jon I should have been with it to understand the perfect little family of Anne, Heather and me was going to change forever. I know that at times I am too quick to jump in to do something and getting Julie and Jon was one of those types of things that you talk about but have little understanding of the impact until after it happens. We really didn’t believe it was going to happen because of all of the delays and issues with social workers in San Diego and Walnut Creek.

So as you can imagine we ended up getting the kids just as we are in the middle of starting Oak Hills. I know what strikes me about my Anne is her ability to face change and difficult situations with screaming or complaining. The transition was really hard on Heather, which I knew but didn’t give her as much attention as I should have. Anne was stretched now with not 1 but 3 kids literally overnight. The journey with our adopted kids has been incredible but again something that has impacted and changed our lives. Anne through this all has been the one to show a real heart and motherly way of caring for everyone, whether that is correcting a paper that she literally rewrites or playing taxi or talking on the phone to our emotionally charged daughters.

Our move to AZ wasn’t something that we talked to our younger kids about we just did it. I know that this was a tough move for everyone. Heather tried to run away but Anne discovered the plot before it unfolded. Anne was an incredible mom to our kids during this time of growing up from grade school to college. We formed great friendships with our DPC families. I know that dropping Heather off at NAU for college was one of the most difficult things for Anne and I. I think what was difficult was knowing that Heather really wanted to go to a Christian College and was still rather young and immature to be left alone. Anne again in her incredible way loved on our Heather while she was gone. This was a tough time for us because Heather had a bad experience her first semester with the roommate from hell and we were too, or I was too brain dead to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Anne very faithfully loved on her Heather and she moved back home. The next step, which Anne has described as, Heather hooking up with Jeff the axe murderer also was rather traumatic. Little did we understand the dynamic of the Dannewitz clan but now after 11 years have grown to love Jeffrey most of the time and better appreciate what his mom did to raise him and save him.

Julie and Jon are truly part of our family because of Anne’s ability to draw us together in spite of all of the distractions in life. I know that my Anne values dinner conversation but has been given a bunch a baboons for family that would rather ‘wolf’ down our dinner and then do what’s next. Anne has been incredibly faithful in making dinner times special, especially now that we have numerous people living with us. I know that Julie’s journey gong to ASU wasn’t easy and there were many times she wanted to quit and walk away. I truly believe she would have gone to beauty school if her mom hadn’t been there to push, help and prod along the way. I know there were many nights with screaming and needing help with doing papers. Anne was the one who stayed next to her through the long haul.

I know that Jon’s journey with school has been a challenge for us. We decided to snatch Jon out of his beloved Dobson High School and send him to a small startup charter school, James Madison. This at first seemed like the best thing that ever happened to Jon. Unfortunately it turned into a nightmare that still plagues us. I think what has been amazing is seeing Jon go back to James Madison to coach football and consider teaching there after he finishes at ASU. I have too many blow up experiences with Jon that should have pushed me or Jon over the edge accept for the fact that Anne intervened to stop us from killing each other. Anne is rather fun to watch when she totally looses her temper, cool and wants to stop the police from coming. Jon has gone throw a couple of girlfriends, Jodi is awesome, a year long internship at KTAR and now coaching that has helped him become a model student and son. I laugh when I hear Jon give Terrance, our live in college student, the riot act for being sloppy, lazy, disorganized and whatever.

I know one of the most difficult times in my life next to my mom’s death, was leaving DPC. This has been one of the most difficult times for Anne. I was surrounded with special friends who helped me through a difficult transition in life but my Anne was almost left out in the cold. Looking back I know how my Anne has often been my advocate and defender at times when she might not even agree or understand my choices. So I am eternally grateful for her ability to be this for me but I have not been as good at being close to her on her terms, not mine through transition times in life. I know that having a number of friendships change from being best and very close to being distant is hard to understand and impossible to accept. Yet, Anne has weathered many storms in life and this one she has learned to keep going and still have a heart and interest in others.

Our transition to South Phoenix was probably one of the more difficult moves for our entire family. I know that moving is always a pain for most. I love what I am doing today but the journey to get there required sacrifice and a transition period that didn’t have any guarantee of anything. I know that Anne wasn’t convinced at first that New City/Barrio was something that she really wanted to do. Yet, as I watch her love on our kids, help Terrance with normal life stuff it is so clear that she is clearly gifted and passionate for making an impact on these crazy kids that do dumb stuff often.

My dear Anne my real promise to you in the coming years is to be there for you, listen to your warped sense of humor, walk more with you on the canal with our herd, let you into my life more and pay attention to your warnings instead of shinning them on. You truly are a beautiful person; yes you are sexy and alluring for a 50 something and have a very sharp mind that is still capable of expressing God’s wisdom in a way that anyone could understand. Thanks for accepting me for who I am, loving me and putting up with me while you push me to be a better person to serve our God, our family and our other family.

I love you and owe you big time – Dave