Wednesday, March 30, 2011


It has been an amazing journey living in South Phoenix and discovering God’s links to helping individuals and the family become self-sustaining. I enjoy meeting new people and being able to connect the dots with doing community development work. Over the last six month one of my kid’s mom’s has been trying to do community service hours. She had done something that because of not following through became serious. So as usual I get some people who act like they want to get involved and play ‘tag’ with me. So after attempting to help my kid’s mom a few times I had given up on her actually following through.

The challenge with some of this type of work is that the lack of following through impacts not only the individual who has messed up, but also their whole family. This young mom has 8 kids, which half her grandma is raising. So I had already asked the court on two different occasions to grant this mom an extension on doing her hours. Each time before the deadline I would get a frantic plea from this mom to lie about doing her hours. Each time I said NO you got to do the actual work to get credit for the time. This last time I did this she was given a week to follow through or pay a huge fine and go to jail. Now the stakes were higher and she was ready to listen and actually do something. I did something radical and asked her to help her grandma who had been raising her little kids. So she actually gave grandma a break for a week and spent real time with her kids.

Last night when I saw the grandma, a close friend, I got a hug and a nudge for helping facilitate some real action on the young mom’s part. I think back to a few years ago whether I would have ever met Grandma Sarah if I hadn’t painted Mrs. Jefferson’s house and did an outdoor VBS to meet my kids now, Paul aka Bookie.

I had breakfast with a new friend, Pastor Miles. He has been a pastor in South Phoenix for over 30 years. His congregation owns a little church building that isn’t too far from our target/service area. Another Pastor, Pablo, who has become a good friend, is being allowed to use part of this church for his Hispanic Congregation. Pastor Miles has an incredible laugh and heart for serving God and preaching the truth. I had gotten a text from Pastor Pablo that Pastor Miles wanted to meet me. So I waited a few days and after no contact had Pablo get me Pastor Miles cell. I eventually call up and arrange to do a breakfast. We make plans and decide on IHOP.

The Monday morning rolls around and as I pull up I see a couple of older African American gentlemen sitting outside. So I look them in the eye and say, “Pastor Miles?” and get a warm smile and handshake. We all get up and go into side IHOP. It is obvious that theses brothers eat rather often at IHOP. I initially just sit and listen to these brothers banter back and forth or really just jab at each other with light-hearted humor. I am enjoying the laid back side to the conversation and the fact that I sense that I fit right in with these guys.

Eventually they start asking me what I am doing and the logistics. It is obvious that they know a few of the grandmas that I have adopted or I should say have adopted me. I hear Pastor Miles talk about his work a decade ago when he had more youth and numbers in his church to actually do work with teens and families. Now he described his group as aging and now longer able or interested in doing Sunday School or a bus ministry. I rattle off a few of the grandmas and he obviously knows one of them whose grandson is involved but is definitely on the wild side. Jalil is parentless and grandma has been providing a roof over his head for the last 5 years. The unfortunate reality is that this young man doesn’t have anyone really helping him grown up and understand the basics. We continue to joke around a little and I get a sense from these brothers that there have been others before me who have offered to help and acted as if they had all of the answers.

I get a sense from them that they are interested in helping but don’t have the energy to do much. I then take a chance at asking if they know another family who had helped out at the beginning of New City and come to discover that this one mom/grandma/wife turns out to be his sister. I know can see a little bit of her or him in the other. We continue to talk and discover some of the differences between them. They both are very passionate and opinionated individuals that have great gifts but aren’t the easiest to help out with their biases becoming part of the ‘fray’. We do a little bit of Bible tag so he can test me and see that I do know the Word and am not totally arrogant because of my schooling or assumption that by being white I have something on him. I get a dose of reality that he is more interested in my commitment to Christ than whether I’m White, Back, Brown or Red.

As we finish up the breakfast at IHOP I’m pleasantly surprised that he picks up the check and messes with the server to get her to talk about open up. I sense I have made a new friend and want to continue to reach back to learn from him and maybe reconnect with his sister.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Plague

It is unusual for me to pull the plug on activities because I am sick. Yet, after Terrance passed along the plague to both and Anne and I, that’s what happened. I don’t really like being sick but I can see the advantage of having some down time. Yeah, God actually sees the need for a nap on occasion. It does occur to me to look at how the Almighty functions and see that he choose to take a day to rest or reflect on his awesome creation. The challenge over the centuries is that man usually has worked 7 days a week non-stop.

It has only been in the last 100 years that the notion of a weekend and actually taking time away from working has become more part of our culture. It is true that even when the Israelites were in captivity they were allowed to worship on the Sabbath but had to maintain their level of production regardless of what they did. Our culture especially has shifted from working to live to now living for the weekends. The notion of real rest and getting away is a foreign concept. We are just as crazed about the weekend as we are about getting ahead at work or in our academic settings.

So when I get a chance to be lazy by necessity it is ok. I have actually read a couple of books that I needed to hear the message of the authors. I don’t like having a headache, croaky voice or sore throat. I have babied myself by taking vitamins and drugs. So I am slowly recovering from the plague. I hope I don’t pass it on but it happens. I think sometimes God uses our sickness to force us to take time to experience life in the slow zone.

So back to my bed to read a little and nap a little! Thanks Terrance!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Friends 2

Last night we did our usual Tuesday dinner and discussion. We now have some new volunteers that help us split our large group of teens into two groups – guys and girls. It is amazing to see the difference a few extra helping hands/minds can have on a group. I know that what we are doing with kids/teens in the South Phoenix neighborhoods is on the edge at times.

We were talking about friendship, what it is, why we need friends and the power of having good friendships instead of the power of destructive relationships. I can now think back a month ago or so when I went to the Social Security Office to work on my dad’s Social Security. An older guy, who was also, retired military that quickly lighted up as I talked about what we did and our need for more volunteers was helping me. It wasn’t too long after we talked that I got an e-mail from his wife and the interesting fact that she grew up in Fresno next to a really good friend of mine.

Now look a couple of months after this initial meeting. We have a discussion group on friendship and understanding life and now my new friend shares his story. He grew up in the Bronxs without a father in a neighborhood that was definitely worse then our hood in South Phoenix. It was amazing to hear him share about the need to never quit and to look for positive role models. I can remember my new friend telling how he didn’t believe in God the way he use to because of going to a mega church that seemed too perfect. Yet, here he was saying that basis for a friendship that will last was God. Yeah, he affirmed the existence of God and our need to have a relationship/friendship with Him.

I am jazzed that God continues to bring me into new people that can share the talents and gifts they have with our group. I know that I am not superman and after going to the Skillet Concert at Cityfest and listening to their song, Hero, I know that I need a real hero who can step up and help when I am crashing and burning which does happen all of the time. So thanks God for being my hero in Jesus and now continuing to bring me friends who can help impact the life of a marginalized teen.

What I need real help with is impacting the lives of the parents and guardians of my kids. I get rather frustrated with the ongoing drama of single moms that are living on the wild side. I am thankful that they are there don’t get me wrong, the dads are absent and wacked out, yet these kids need real ongoing love, support and examples of how to live. All of a sudden the talk we had last night makes real sense that a friendship is based upon unconditional love. Yet, the sad reality is that I don’t see much of this. It is more important to hang out with friends and party then get your teen re-enrolled in school.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Could Scream!

I have this saying I tell my kids and group all of the time. Don’t lose your temper but use your temper to do something good. This is so easy to let roll off my lips but not actually easy to do. Over the last couple of years I have struggled with ‘deadbeat’ guardians or parents who totally abdicated their role as parent. I have a few teens in my group who float from school because they either have been suspended for temper issues or they are homeless.

I have struck out usually when it comes to getting the parent or Auntie or Uncle to actually do something. There is always this set of excuses that all sound good but don’t help the teen at all. We had a situation where one of our families who we would love to partner with in a real way continue to have a floating mom. About a month ago she came over to get us to help her with her 17 year-old daughter. She didn’t want her to living with her boyfriend. Yet after a month of helping this woman’s son I can now see that the mom is totally a druggie who is more into partying then doing anything.

Last night I told this one teen that he had to go back to school after spring break and that he couldn’t fake it any more. I have tried to express to him that his mom has chosen to drop out and that he can’t follow her example. The amazing thing is that this students teacher actually ‘fished’ around to find my cell and called during spring break. So this teen does have a few people who are loving on him. The challenge is that there is little motivation for him to follow through with school.

I told this teen last night to be up and ready and I would take him to school. I talked to his brother via text last night and got him in theory to commit to getting him up. I called him an hour before school without any answer. Fortunately, he answered a few minutes ago. Now I will conclude this blog and take him to school, talk to his teacher and then connect with his mom and tell like it is. God help me really connect with the mom’s heart.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Anne!

Yesterday was my Anne’s birthday celebration. It was a great day that started off with us going to my favorite place for breakfast early in the morning. I am always one that wants everything to be just right. I know that I am an idealist at times. So I was totally jazzed because our Julie made the perfect birthday dinner celebration. It was perfect from the ordure’s to the little bags with chocolate, perfectly cooked steak and chicken to the amazing eggplant casserole. I was already on over load but the cake was just as spectacular.

The family was together and we had a great evening together. Listening to each other’s stories and enjoying being with each other. I know that it isn’t easy to get your kids whether they are teens or adult to rise to the occasion but they did. I loved all of the different gifts and thoughtfulness that went into all of it.

We will be going out to the movies on them and to see Fiddler on the Roof. I am blessed to be the dad of such amazing kids! I truly hope that they can see the gift that they have in their mom. She is an amazing example of servant leadership!

Happy Birthday!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My History

It is amazing how much ‘junk’ we keep. Since my mom’s death I have had the privilege of clearing out a couple of storage units that were full of boxes that hadn’t been touched in 10 years. The ultimate test of my inner strength was going through my parent’s house of 15 years. My mom had cancer over a decade and my dad cared for her out of their home for her last year, which wasn’t great because my dad became isolated and drawn into his own little world. I will always remember the multitude of boxes and garbage bags we used to go through their small house. How do you define a person’s life and contribution to society and to a family?

I knew at some point I needed to go back to San Diego and empty out the last part of the Bennett legacy, the extra garage that my dad had been renting for over 15 years. My brother’s Mark had most of his stuff stored there. We had put about 20 boxes from the house into the garage. Yet, the majority of ‘stuff’ was split between my dad’s books and Mark’s junk. I was rather naive in thinking that I would be able to haul away the hundred boxes in the back of my truck to the dump. I am learning that it is better to seek help quick instead of deliberating. So I went on Craigslist and within minutes had our great new friend, Salamon, bring his large truck with 6 feet side panels to attack the pile.

I have moved every 2-3 years most of my life both as a kid and an adult. I know that it isn't a pretty scene but as my mom would say get it done! Amazing what consistent work and some determination can conquer. Our first challenge was finding the right key to unlock the master lock on the large garage door. My brother had the key to the regular door. So we go through all of the keys and have no success. So I’m off to Home Depot to get a saw to attack the lock. As I am driving I get a text from my brother that we had been trying to open the wrong door so we actually did have the correct key. So I reverse immediately and we are ready to dive into the dust, spider webs and history of mom, dad and my brother. I send Scott and Heather off to the store to get gloves and some cleaning devices.

I quickly empty out the biggies in front of the garage that enables us to start attacking each box one at a time. As I am stacking ancient tools, gym equipment and rusted birdcage our new friend with the large truck pulls up. This is truly my salvation because I realized that it would take a couple of days with my truck to ‘kill’ the pile. So Salamon starts dumping boxes into the back of his large flat bed. I was warned to not dump anything without really looking into the box. I truly wanted to abide by this mandate but had a great temptation to just pitch everything, especially Mark’s rotting boxes. My other brother tempered my enthusiasm and we actually opened up all of the boxes and actually found some amazing treasures from all of our pasts. I am thankful that I was able to salvage some great photos and relics from our family history.

I am glad that I was able to bring my Heather along on the trip. I hadn’t realized that this was going to be an emotionally draining experience. I have to be better at guarding and protecting my Heather. We both seemed to tear up at times as we went through boxes which I thought were full of junk that turned out to be golden treasures. Heather was great at helping temper my ‘rush’ to get it done mindset. We actually did make incredible time because our new friend Salamon showed up around 2PM and he was back to reload a half truck and left at 5:30.

I am thrilled to have some amazing treasures to take to dad’s apartment and bring back a part of his history that is special between his flying career and my mom’s life. I know that I want to always come across as a rock that is seldom moved but that is a total lie. I am crying even now as I write this short overview of a day going through the cobwebs and mildew boxes. I am truly blessed to have had some incredible parents who loved me in all the right ways to teach me about life and death. I know that my middle brother is still hurting and feeling left out. I can’t do much to change this because of his living outside our area.

The legacy which I have been given and so much want to hand down to my family and my second family is that life is truly a gift. Don’t waste it or accidently throw it away. As my Anne would always remind me don’t ever settle for second best regardless of how good that looks. My mom was someone who was a stickler for following through and making a great impression on anyone. She was always quick to reach out and make new friends and never allow us to sit still. I have definitely inherited her “go getter” attitude. I know that my dad’s military side will continue to help me be respectful and interested in following through and always do my best.

Growing up even at the age of 50 is hard. I wish at times that I could be back to my youth in Montana playing baseball with Little League or going on another Scout trip. I do miss my mom’s cooking and way of creating a family atmosphere. I also remember the times of excitement when my dad would return from a long time away from his duty in Vietnam. My mom was very careful to guard us from her fears but she truly believed that everything is in God’s hands both our life and death. So I don’t think I was ever really afraid that my dad wouldn’t come back. Yet, I do remember a good friend whose dad was a helicopter pilot. He was shot down a few months after going to Vietnam. Captain Lilly was a POW for 7 years before he was released.

Yes, the garage and the mess, junk and cobwebs are gone. Yet, as a friend reminded me, the memories are still there. It is up to me to be better at keeping them alive. So yeah I’ll always remember the Little League game played in Opine where I hit three home runs in a row and also saved the game when I was the relief pitcher in the end. I do think that this story isn’t totally fabricated. (I did hit the home runs.) I guess I have to be better at letting the people around me love on me when I am down or sad. I do miss my mom but know that my life will go on and be ok. I want to make mom proud. I do have her strong side to persevere. I can’t fathom how she was able to face the ongoing pain of her disease over such a long time. I am blessed to have not had the pain side of life a whole lot. Life continues as I listen to the Fray as I finish typing. We meet God in different contexts such as in the dust and musky smell of a garage that had been left behind in time. Today is a new day to visit an old friend who has a little baby girl that will remind me of the real meaning of life.

Monday, March 7, 2011


After living in South Phoenix for over 4 years I have had the gamut of experiences with drama happening between both teens and adults. I have to admit that I had not experienced the extremeness of how important reconciliation is for the hope of seeing a neighborhood restored or revitalized. I understand how difficult it is for anyone to admit to the fact that they are wrong or did something that was purposefully intended to harm someone. I have been in the middle of teens and adults screaming at each other over crazy things and the result is brokenness that causes families to give the ‘eye’ to each other.

The reason why I am writing this is to rejoice in a small victory for God, not me. I have been around a couple of families too much over the last 3 years. It is at times easy to take someone for granted and to be taken for granted. So there is always some type of jealousy that arises when I spend too much time with someone, especially if these are teens or adults with different racial backgrounds. I can end up in a situation where helping one person means that I don’t help someone else and thus drama erupts. I have gone the range of being a bleeding heart to someone who expects everyone to step up and do it right. It is easy to say all of this, but not easy to actually live this mindset out.

I am seeing that it is easy to be someone who does give always all of the time with no strings attached. There is definitely a sense in which the gospel and God’s love for me in Christ is totally that. Yet, once I receive this incredible gift I have no choice but to be a servant how wants to give my all for others to see and understand the gospel. So the journey is empowering our teens and adults to step up with our partnership to do it different so they can go from brokenness to wholeness in their community. It is too easy at times to push my middle class way of living, i.e. education, doing it my way, being on time, being driven, etc.…. The reality is that most of who we are partnering don’t have the same life experience so there is obviously a disconnect and a sense of paternalism.

The journey is to walk, talk and listen to one another. Our goal is to see the community step up for itself and see real neighborhood revitalization take place that see brokenness turning into wholeness in an individual’s life and their families.

Friday, March 4, 2011

New Friends

Yesterday was an awesome day because I met a younger couple that were visiting Phoenix on vacation. It was a joy meeting with them at Matt’s Big Breakfast and talking about doing community development work that enables an established church to think outside the box. They are part of a church that will probably bring a group out in the summer to partner with New City – Barrio.

It is always interesting to talk with someone on the phone and communicate via e-mail. The shocker is when you meet this person face to face. I was expecting someone a little older, not that this couple were kids but they looked the part. It was exciting to hear them talk about wanting to help transition their church to be in a position to better understand the Biblical rationale to care for their neighbors. It was exciting to hear that this couple lived in the neighborhood around their church. We had a great time talking about doing neighborhood mercy work.

I took them on a tour of our neighborhood. We stopped and sat in the park at South Ranch. I gave my Habitat overview and then explained how we started and the unfolding process of connecting with a variety of people. They both had done some work with Habitat back in their hometown. I shared a little about YPO helping a couple of times with New City – Bariro. It was time to now drive to our painting neighborhood and meet a few people.

We drove up to Mrs. Jefferson’s house. I was thrilled to see her car in the driveway. I got out of my truck and would signal them if she were able to come out talk. As I approached the door I saw two guys get into it and start calling each other names. I realized I wasn’t going to step in and stop them so I stepped back and waited a few minutes. As their voices escalated I was ready to leave but out comes Mrs. Jefferson. We sit and talk a few minutes. She is taken back thinking I have brought the ‘camera crew’ to do our video which we have been talking about. I reassure her that this young couple is just visiting from Kansas on vacation. Amazingly Mrs. Jefferson walks over and now ignores what had just happened with her grandsons. We have a nice chat and then move on.

Next stop is Art’s house and his herd of dogs and cats. As we pull up Art is actually outside sitting and enjoying the nice morning. We all get out of the cars and start talking and Art quickly moves me to take his 10 bags of who knows what that had filled his storage room the last year. It is rather smelly because of the cats living inside it. The couple very politely helps take the plastic bags, which are filled mostly with stuffed animals. It was fun watching this couple talk with Art and attempt to pet Quincy, the big dog who is supposed to bite strangers not welcome them.

The last stop before they go back to their hotel has to be Ranch Market. It has been almost a year since Ranch Market had a fire, which closed the entire store. Everyone in South Phoenix has been awaiting the grand opening of this awesome store. So as we pull into the parking lot it is totally full and we have to drive around to find a space. As we walk to the entrance there are numerous groups welcoming you with loud Hispanic Music blaring in the background. As we walk in you are transported to a foreign land. It was so much fun to watch their faces as we got fruit drinks and were able to sample of a variety of free food. This was definitely best way to ‘top off’ a visit to Phoenix and our work in the Barrio. As we said our goodbyes I realized I was going to have to take off instantly to my lunch appointment.

We drove off with the loud music blaring in the background but were satisfied between my platano drink and the quesadilla from Ranch.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

God Loves Thugs

I get in trouble at times for wanting to be inclusive in our approach to reaching out to our neighborhood folk. I love having my two older African American ladies, Wanda and Diane help with doing our BBQ’s all of the time. They aren’t your typical conformist church types. They enjoy helping but at times there can be some drama. Their mom, Mrs. Jefferson, is my spiritual advisor who I love and so much appreciate. She has been raising her grand and great grandkids over the last 20 years.

There are two more young teen guys who have been involved on the edge. Jalil is being raised by his grandma and I just discovered that his mom died when he was six years old. He isn’t exactly your scholastic type and definitely isn’t interested in much outside of playing a PS3 or messing around. He is always quick to forget most of everything. He doesn’t respond well to any type of pressure or push to conform. He would rather walk around the park then usual participate in much of anything. He has a neighbor who definitely looks like a ‘gang banger’ type. The challenge is that both of them have been left behind from the school system and socially are still back at elementary level or Jr. High context.

I know that I have blogged and shared about Shapelle, one of my first kids to love and learn from in the last 4 years. All of these ‘guys’ are similar in that they don’t have fathers and usually their moms are on drugs and can’t raise them. They usually are being raised or at least ‘housed’ by their grandmas. The difficulty is that most of their grandmas or uncles are clueless about life in the ‘hood’. This equates to them being able to get away with almost anything. There isn’t any easy way to intersect their lives besides just stepping in front of them and get hit like a moving train.

Usually most teens in this type of situation do their best not to fit in the typically church or youth group context. They want to act tough and look as if they are ready to take on the whole world. The reality is that they really are ‘cream puffs’ that so much desire to be loved and included but would die if anyone actually knew this. The journey is how to create circumstances where they can come and interact with adults that can love on them in a consistent fashion. I wouldn’t know Jalil or Eli if we hadn’t painted grandma’s house. I will never forget attempting to push Jalil to help paint his grandma’s house. It was like pulling teeth. He worked for about five minutes and then wanted to disappear or quit.

I am so appreciative for those who have decided to step up and get involved in a real way. It is making a difference and will impact these young men’s lives both today and in the years to come.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pointless to Priceless

Last night we had our usual group of teens over for our dinner and discussion. We had great burritos or soft tacos depending upon your taste. Our discussion was a continuation from our Sunday night lesson on being brain-dead. How is it possible for someone who is able to see be blind? How is it also possible for someone who is blind actual be able to see better than a person with sight?

It was an interesting discussion as we talked about ways that someone could be blind to the truth around them. We also did some role-playing and asked what it would be like to be literally blind. How would this impact the way you live and do things? Obviously you can’t see and would need help getting around. We discussed how certain other senses would improve and compensate for your blindness. We talked about the sensation to all of a sudden be able to see. Wow! We also talked about what it would be like to be deaf. How would you know when the phone rang or the doorbell rang? Clearly there are ways to compensate for any of these difficulties.

So the real question was why would Jesus say that he came into the world to make those who see blind and those who are blind able to see? We dialogued about how it is possible to see but not really be able to see. We talked about how some people truly think they know everything and don’t need anyone or God. We also talked about what life is like without God – you are blind and as one of our teens said, “Life is pointless!” Yet, the other experience in life is that when you can see, truly see, then life is priceless! Imagine what it would be like to have never seen a sunrise and see an awesome Arizona Sunset. You have been to the beach before and could feel the breeze and smell the ocean but all of a sudden that smell turns into a visual image of sand, seaweed, greenish blue water and the sight of a fin sticking up in the water.

The key we really talked about was how is it possible to experience any type of redemption or reconciliation in life when you are spiritually blind? What I thought was amazing was having an older couple help out with their grandson. The grandpa made an interesting insight into a conversation at work about making fun of an older lady whose hair was all ‘poofed up’. It is so easy to be part of something that leads you into spiritual darkness without even realizing it. The teens were quick to say that you can be ‘sucked’ into thinking and acting a certain way that you truly are brain-dead and clueless.

My hope is to challenge my group, whether it been teens or 50 something’s with an appeal to look at your life and see how you ‘tick’. It is so easy to always be making fun of someone else or be one to critically slice someone and not realize that you are just as much in the dark. It is clear from Jesus’ life story that after healing this one man who had been blind from birth that the religious experts who were threatened by Jesus’ work attacked the family and man. The obvious came back at them, ‘We don’t know who it is that healed our son but he was born blind and now he can see!’ I have to come back with a similar statement that those who all of a sudden have spiritual sight can see life in the fullest context whereas those who are spiritually blind think they know everything and can fix someone else, yet the reality is that their life is a mess and they don’t know it.

So back to my teen that was asked what was it like to live before knowing God – Pointless! Yes to be blind to the real beauty and purpose of life is to be pointless.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Slice and Dice?"

I was at a Southwest Church Planting Network meeting this last week. I was rather reluctant to attend because of the expense and ultimately didn’t think it would be of much benefit for the expense. I have to be honest and admit that it was worth every penny I spent to travel back and forth. I traveled with a couple of great friends on the plane both ways and also had opportunities to do lunch and dinner with these friends.

The main speaker for the Network meeting was a pastor – teacher type who now worked at a seminary and was overseeing a pastor’s summit. This summit was designed to help pastors figure out how to maintain their physical and spiritual health with their spouses. He has been involved with doing research with a grant from the Lily Foundation. He spoke to many of the myths and realities of doing church work. It is true that most pastors and church workers are under paid, over worked and not appreciated for their efforts. It was also true that most pastors are very competitive, struggle with depression, ego issues, fear of being venerable and have few real friends. The other genuine concern was pastor’s wives who are in similar situations and are often viewed as being ‘free labor’ where they are expected to do everything and be everywhere.

Bob, the facilitator did an amazing job of looking at the mechanics of helping make a pastor and wife have a better opportunity of having a healthy relationship, build the right type of friendships and be honest enough to hurt and find help. I know after leaving on Tuesday night after a full day of meetings I was refreshed and encouraged realizing that there is hope and a path to follow.

The real issue with this blog was the conversations we had at various stages of the trip. We always ended up talking about the tendency of most in our group to argue or slice and dice according to our differences. Whether this was over theological issues, worship practices or ministry models. The reality, which was admitted, was that most of us didn’t like larger group gathers because we end up on the defensive where either we are being attacked, trying to one up the other pastor or fearful of being exposed for our weaknesses in our personal life or ministry. We all came to the conclusion that most of us were competitive and didn’t want to ever ask for help.

I struggle with whether our larger group could ever really come together in a conciliatory manner to show real concern for even those who are different. It is too easy to allow our difference to become the focus instead of the obvious area of commonality. We joke about dotting i’s or crossing t’s, but this is the focus of many. I don’t consider myself sloppy but am more concerned about people and circumstances than conformity to someone else’s construct.

So what do we do? Avoid different people, meetings or books? Do I take up my ‘cross’ and pretend that this is my burden to carry? Or maybe a different tack, where I seek to out number my advisories? It is also easy to use a different source, i.e. Keller, and say go read his paper on the various groups within our larger group. I know that it is easy for me to say at times that I am open to other different views and practices as long as they don’t impose these on me and I don’t seek to impose my biases on them.

The real key is that we are all supposed to be about grace and mercy. Yet, the unfortunate reality is that most of us can give an excellent intellectual overview of grace but are clueless when it comes to living this out. How is it possible to know how to explain something but not experience it in a personal fashion?