Monday, October 31, 2011

Who AM I?

I have had the good fortune to be around a large varied group of people over the years. Yes, I’ve been around red necks, extreme right-wingers, liberals and many from the GLBT community. I have lived between the white-collar world and blue-collar world. I think I have had the best of many different worlds also in terms of culture or people groups also.

The greatest challenge in today’s society is understanding what defines my identity? Is it based upon my feelings, the feelings of those around me, my family, my church or who?? We live in a culture that is obsessed with sexuality that intersects the lives of even the pre-teen community. The waves of discontent within the more normal community makes it even easier today to throw out your parents and especially your grandparent’s norms or morals for the alternatives that are have now become accepted and popular.

I have lived around the San Francisco area for over 14 years of my life. I have many friends who are awesome people that don’t fit very well if at all in the church community that surrounds me. I get frustrated with how quickly people judge each other and make assumptions that mean they can’t relate back to many or any because they are perceived to be outside the normal box.

Last night after our evening church we went to McDonalds, as usual, to enjoy our $2 meal and then just hang out to be together. One of my teens reflected on what I talked about in church; the ability to ask for help when your life isn’t working. He quickly said that he didn’t like his life. WOOOO. This is what I want to hear but was I really prepared to hear about his personal life crisis? Do I really have the words of hope and peace in the face of a church and different cultural groups that would quickly label this guy as being gay and therefore must be evil? Yet, I know deep down inside he is searching for acceptance and God.

I had met this guy 5 years ago at a different community non-profit. I was totally shocked when he went out of his way to reconnect with me. His mom seemed pleased for him to be involved with us. Yet, I know the discussions we will have won’t be easy because he lives between a couple of different of worlds where he isn’t going to fit very well, if at all. I truly believe that the Gospel will impact his life and give him hope. Yet I know what he doesn’t want to hear is that he is totally off base when it comes to his perception of who he is and where he should fit.

My wife and I have had over 30 years of being around the ‘gay’ community. We have many good friends who live between the church world and the GLBT community. I have pastor friends who are much more genuine and able to minister that are part of this community, then many within my own circle. So what do I do? The standard evangelical line is one something that this young man won’t receive. I have been rejected by people for various reasons so I know that the one who you think is going to help you turns out to totally reject you makes it very difficult to want to keep going. I asked the question about what was the major cause of teenage death and everyone knew that is was suicide. I didn’t ask the real question which was what causes a teen to take their own life. The next path would be to talk about sexual identification and the inability to fit in your own peer group. This is right where my young friend is living. He so much wants to fit and be part of our group, yet it would be so easy for him to be hurt and rejected.

I pray for wisdom and gentleness in helping my young friend on his journey to discover who he is by God’s design.

Friday, October 28, 2011


I know that it isn’t always easy to make choices or decisions that impact those around you. I have a painting project coming up and I need to select another house. We already are doing Pastor Pablo who truly is a worthy recipient of getting his house painted. I know that in the past we have painted a few houses where the friends of the family sat and watched as we painted. The tension that arises is the purpose of doing the house? I believe it is to bring the gospel in a hands on way that intersects the life of both those who are doers and those who are couch potatoes that don’t deserve help.

The reality for everyone, including myself, is that I don’t deserve God’s love and care, yet he gives it to me everyday. I know that the work ethic thing isn’t a common part of everyone’s DNA. I know that our teens we have living with us may think that we are mean or just want everyone to sweat and work like the rest of us, yet the real issue is learning to stand up for yourself and not assume that someone else will always foot the bill or clean up your mess.

I have had over 10 people respond to the house painting applications we passed out. I know that all have great needs that have applied and some are older and not capable and others are capable but still need assistance. So how do I choose? Do I flip a coin in the air; go with the oldest that will get the hearts of those helping? I think I will pray and go back to the ones who contacted me first.

I know that it isn’t always easy to know who to help or not help. Yesterday, I had a couple of competing individuals who wanted helped. I had already committed to taking Molly to get her ID so we can go after the fraudulent individual who stole $6000 out of her account. There was also a young guy, Andrew that wanted to go to his teacher’s funeral. I had spaced and thought it was next week. I was taken back with a text about 30 minutes before we had to leave. I quickly texted back and offered to drop off but couldn’t pick up because of needing to take my dad out. He had been traumatized by being moved to a different room for a couple of days.

I ended up pursuing what was already happening and texted back to Andrew that I couldn’t help because of not getting a response. So I can’t be in two places at once. I had already gotten someone to help with taking Molly to the MVD to get her ID. I didn’t have time at the last minute to get help from someone to play taxi. So it broke my heart to not take Andrew because I wanted to be with him. Yet the more important priority was my dad – Grandpa. So we ended up doing his favorite – Chinese Buffett.

Each day we are faced with decisions that do impact our lives and those around us. I know that by saying yes to someone or something that I will be saying no to someone else.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Looking Back

I know that there are some ancient sages that have said, “This too shall pass!”. I am emotionally drained but invigorated by my daughter’s wedding this last weekend. I know that there is no such thing as a picture book event but this really came close to that. I have been around many weddings, funerals and other large events in my life. I know that ultimately what is important isn’t the size or the expense of an event but what happens from the heart. I know that all who were present will have incredible memories of an outdoor wedding that saw the sunset as the ceremony finished.

As I age the importance of family and friends takes more and more of a forefront in my life. So what was a real treat for everyone at the wedding was having an opportunity for a family reunion. It struck me as we watched the wedding week happen that seldom does the family come together except for weddings and funerals. It was obviously better to have the wedding as the reason for all of us coming together and not a funeral. (Even though I realize that this could be the next reason we come together.)

I know that my Anne was excited and nervous to have the larger family come to our house for a dinner on Saturday night before the big event. It was great to just be able to share a meal together and listen to what everyone is doing. We took an hour or so as a large group to share our personal stories. As we made our way through the circle of family members it was exciting to see the cousins and how they have all grown. All of us have different stories that reflect both the exciting part of life and then also the struggles and defeats that make life truly unique for everyone.

Anne and I had struggled with whether we should stay at the wedding hotel and be with the larger group of family and friends. I am so glad that we were able to do this because it gave us opportunities to be with Anne’s brothers and sisters and their kids. I was also very thankful for Joyce’s willingness to host a Saturday brunch before the wedding rehearsal. It was fun to meet Chris’ entire network of family and friends and then to see little Max and Sadie who would become the little stars of the wedding party.

I have to mention that my Jon and his girl friend Jodi looked incredible. I am not always one who thinks that heavy makeup or fancy hairdos necessarily transforms the soul of a woman. Yet, after seeing my Anne and Heather come out of their beauty makeover it was well worth it. I did laugh at Anne’s slowness to want her nails done or allow someone to actually touch her little toes. After all of the work done by the nail lady and the salon stylist it was incredible to see the end result – a gorgeous, knock you out 50 something gal, that really looked like a 30something and then a daughter who usually looks like she is barely 21 look out of this world. I know that both would confess that it took almost as long to undo the hair and makeup but it was truly worth it!

I know as the father of the bride who had the honor and privilege of walking the bride down the isle that it was a very emotional experience. I can’t fathom what was going through my Julie’s mind as she had dreamed about this day for years and now it was happening. I am glad that I saw tears streaming down her cheeks knowing that my perfect daughter is actually human. I knew I would be in tears because of the day and remembering my mom who has been gone four years. I did feel as if I was walking on clouds as we stepped onto the grass making our way to the front of the audience.

My father in-law chose to include us in the wedding so both Anne and I were able to share a little about our life focus – understanding and experiencing the real love of God. I tried to get Julie to calm down and Chris to crack a smile. I was taken back by one of Chris’ friends, who obviously didn’t know me, come up after the ceremony and proceed to tell me his credentials for being a gifted speaker and affirm my communication skills. I laughed inside and didn’t say anything about being a pastor and director of a non-profit where I speak in groups all of the time.

I am thankful for having a brother and sister in-law who are gifted photographers so I didn’t use my Nikon D-40 at all during the ceremony or dinner afterwards. It was a long wedding night with having to take grandpa back home and also our college helper, Katlyn, who both live about 30 minutes away. It was great being able to go back to the hotel room and collapse. I know that neither Anne nor I really wanted to transition back to normal life but we did over a few days.

I think the theme of the wedding of travel and destinations was excellent. My hope is that both Julie and Chris can see that life is a journey that starts off without any of our doing but than unfolds as we live out our dreams and desires that are truly a byproduct of family, circumstances, God and a lot of hard work. I was excited to hear that Chris had been offered his first job with a commercial-airlines. Life will be different as both of them dive into their chosen career paths soon.

As I sit at my Starbucks typing this I now wonder when my Jon will be taking the big step. Hopefully he will let us catch our breath before popping the big question. Life is incredible and exciting!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Morning After the Wedding

I just recently rose from the grave or I mean slumber after an amazing day of having my daughter get married. There is so much anticipation with weddings and family events that some times it is a let down when everything actually happens. Yesterday was truly a dream come true. I know that as I age that beauty or being handsome isn’t something that one necessarily believes pertains to them. Yet, I was totally taken back by how beautiful my Anne, Heather and our bride Julie truly were gorgeous in a picture book fashion.

I am so thankful for family and friends who took the effort and expense to come to the wedding. I know that my Julie is given to details and the layout of the wedding itself was truly incredible. I am grateful that we had plenty of helpful hands to setup everything up. The theme, which hopefully will depict Chris and Julie, was traveling all over the world! So it was exciting to lift off from the guest book table with your little airplane and then land at your destination of Egypt, Yosemite, Guatemala, etc… Yes, every little detail was perfect and it was clear that everyone present loved the surroundings, the great food, drinks and even the slide show of Julie and Chris as little kids. I especially thought the DJ or should I say Taffiny did an excellent job between MC’ing and guiding the celebration.

This was a very joyous occasion for Anne and I but I have to admit to speak during the ceremony was a challenge. My mom died four years ago and there is sides of me that so much wanted her to see all of my kids get married. So as I shared my heart of love for my Julie, stopping a few times to control my tears. I almost laughed when someone, that didn’t know me, complimented me for being such an excellent speaker and I eventually told him, after he shared that he had numerous degrees on speech and communication, that I too made my living off of speaking.

My prayer was that people that had meant so much to my Julie’s growing up would be there to remind her of the legacy she has which is truly a gift of God. So I was excited to have Grandma Mary and her nephew Conn and his wife Catherine attend. I know that my dad, Grandpa, enjoyed listening to the crowd and loud music during the dance period of the celebration. It was sad to say good-bye to Ian and his family and my brother and his family before the celebration finished.

I was truly impressed with my son, Jon and his willingness to do the tux thing and really be part of his sister’s wedding without any incident. I chuckled when he changed from his shinny black fake shoes into his tennis shoes. I wish I had been astute enough to have brought my sandals and would have loved changing out of my fake shoes.

As I drove my dad, grandpa, back home I was so jazzed that he had been able to share in Julie’s special day! I was impressed that he could have sat for hours, ingested a gallon of coke and then totally ‘scarfed’ up all of his dinner including some incredible cake. He did comment that he was shocked at not having to use the rest room the whole night.

I know that a few times all of us commented how it was so great for all of the family on both sides to be together. We even had Eric, who is in Kabul, Skype us during our family reunion dinner on Saturday. We had everyone over to our house on Saturday evening to just ‘hang out’ and enjoy one another. It was a treat to listen to each one’s journey and the realization that we wouldn’t be together again until either a wedding or funeral.

I know that there isn’t such a thing as a picture book wedding or life but last night came fairly close. My true hope for my Julie and recently new addition to the family, Chris, is that they can see the importance and value of family.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


This is a glorious week with the wedding of my daughter soon to happen. As I have now been around a couple of people in real crisis I am ready to scream at how seniors so often get the ‘raw end’ of the deal. I have one of painting grandmas whose financial setting is now totally messed up. She had one of her grandkids deposit and then cashes a check for a friend that turned out to be bogus. So for the last month everything going into her account has either bounced or is taken to go towards a rather large debt.

I went into her bank to see what I have to do to help her. It turns out that I need a power of attorney, she’s needs recent ID and I also need a notary. These will take some time but not impossible. It is sad to see what has happened to her and without someone standing up on her behalf the bank would take all of her funds and she would lose her house over the next 6 months.

I am blessed to have some amazing friends who are going to help her get through this crisis. She will get back on her feet in the next couple of months. The challenge is that this is enough to send her into a tailspin and be totally depressed.

I have another friend who works at a local grocery store who also is having a tough time. She has been terminated because of allowing customers to use her card to make purchases where they get the discount. I thought that customer service was the key in all businesses but not in this one L She has been without work for the last 3 weeks and is afraid of what can happen. I am ready to confront her manager and ask why he is systematically firing all of his older workers.

I have another friend who has a newer job at a factory. He is fearful of loosing his job because he has been unemployed on and off the last year or so. Yesterday half of the workers left because of how bad it has been. The boss asked him why and he told him the truth. Now, he is afraid that he will be next or that one of the former workers will go after him. It is also clear that the management takes advantage of their workers because of their ethnicity.

So what are you supposed to do? Stand by and watch a group of people be abused because they can’t defend themselves? I can see Jesus going through the market place outside the temple turning over tables and using a scourge to get his point across. Unfortunately this won’t work for me. I can still get help from a varied group of friends that can be advocates for all of my friends. The sad reality is that seniors, Hispanics or African Americans or often discriminated against.