Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Real Scare at AM PM

Last night I was doing a good deed by dropping off one of my teen’s belongings at her granny’s. I decide to take my dogs for a ride and we successfully navigate the freeways with the help of Google. After she gets her huge, I mean huge suitcase she asks if I’ll take her to the store. I say sure…. not knowing what might happen.

I pull up to this AM PM store and let her out. I notice a couple of guys screaming at each other. I didn’t know whether this was a real fight or just guys messing around. As I watched it struck me as to why I let this teen go inside. As I watched I decided to move my truck and get a better view. I see the employee with a baseball bat and then decide it is time to call 911. I had second thoughts about whether I should get out of the truck and take my pit bull Freckles with me to get the guy’s attention.

The 911 operator is quick to access what is happening and quickly has an officer make his way to the AM PM. Now this is a crowd of ‘rubber neckers’ that are watching the two bad guys attempt to beat up the employee with the bat. Obviously something had happened that pushed these guy’s button and the employee was tired of the rift raft stealing stuff from his store.

As my teen makes her way out of the AM PM I breath a sigh of relief that she is ok and I don’t have to play Rambo or Super cop. I’m not sure whether Freckles or Graham would be attack-dogs in this type of situation. We had joked earlier about this being a rough area in town not realizing we were being prophetic. As we leave the hype of the moment, it strikes me that one of us could have very easily been hurt seriously by these thugs.

I know that I may joke about living in the hood or barrio but life is scary at times. I’m at my Starbucks when Joseph, the manager, comes up and tells me about a couple of robberies that just took place in local banks and small business. Ahhhhh it could happen anywhere. So how do I prepare myself when a circumstance like this arises? I guess I could bring a baseball bat in my truck or always bring my big dogs with me and teach them to bark loudly and show their fangs. I get a sense that this wouldn’t work and the more important thing is to be quick to call for help and get out of the way. Also it should be common sense not to be out late at night especially at a Circle K or AM PM.

Monday, November 28, 2011


I have been raised with a bent towards seeing the glass as always being half-full and not half-empty. My mom was an amazing individual who could always see some good in all people. I have been so blessed to have a wife who is even more of a person who rises above the moment to be positive and an amazing worker who doesn’t complain and finishes the clean up after our herd of teens leave after a church event. (Picture 40 teens in your house with adults and little kids enjoying smores that you have cooked on the backyard fire.)

I truly want to be better at being an encouragement and help to those around me that struggle in life. It is easy for me because I have my dreams in life coming true before me. How can I understand what its like to be a mom without any means that lives day to day and has kids now who are teens that complain all of the time? It is so easy to assume that poverty and the ability to be thankful is total dependent upon having financial means. Yet, I know that the statistics would show forth that even in yuppy-ville life isn’t perfect. The more you have doesn’t mean that you are happier and a better person!

So how do I seek to maintain a balance between being someone that puts on a cheery face without losing touch with my own pain and especially the hurt and heart ache of others? Did Jesus always walk around with a smile and a quick good morning? I had roommates in college that were night owls and resented the fact that I was a morning person that was too quick to say Praise the Lord at 6AM. Is it wrong to bug the ‘hell’ out of someone to bring heaven into him or her? I know that forcing my teens and adults to get up early to help with a painting project is always a good thing. I see my teens rise at 5:30 and actually text or call me and usually are ready to rock and roll.

Anne and I usually get up at 4:30 and take the dogs for a walk and then get ready to face our day. Yes, it would be so easy to roll over and sleep until 5:15 but we have four creatures that attack us that enable us to be early rises. It’s true that I say the same platitudes to my group, i.e. the early bird does catch the worm and if you snooze you loose and I’m sure you could come up with more. So there is some evidence that Jesus was an early riser who got up and got out before others could be a distraction. I want to say this had a lot to do with his ability to be positive and thankful even in the face of his own death.

My wife has a tradition every thanksgiving that before the big meal we go around our table and express what we are thankful about. Each year the response is the same, I’m thankful for my family……. Yes I’m thankful for my family and a God that is incredible!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Jesus and Stuff

As we rose early on Thanksgiving to get all of the turkey stuff rolling I visited my Starbucks to the cheers of the gals and the manager. I could tell something was up when one of the baristas starting talking about Jesus and Stuff. What’s funny is this one gal is Russian and has a funny accent. The topic of conversation shifted to someone having an open container in his or her vehicle and was in trouble. I do remember about making a sarcastic comment about how one of these Starbucks workers obviously is driving a BMW while I am driving my Toyota Truck.

As I looked at the gals I knew that it couldn’t be one of my Latina gals, cause she’s a great student and a Christian but whatever things do happen. So as I go to check out it is clear that it’s the Russian gal who really wanted to talk about doing community service before the middle of December. So I asked what’s with the Jesus and stuff comment. I explained that in the bigger scheme of things that Jesus was way more than stuff. Actually he is the ultimate person who is both the creator of the universe and the baby in the manager that totally changed the face of the earth.

Joking aside, which isn’t easy, I do care about this gal who is a college student and at times more on the wild side. I know she is stressed between working too much, doing school and having pressure by the parents to finish sooner than later. I gave her the parental lecture of why in the world would you drive with any container in your car, especially a BMWer. Yes the wages of sin is death or more specifically to drive with an open container will cost you a fine and hours of community service. Yet, look on the bright side you can volunteer with Dave and do some really ‘cool’ stuff – ahhh. (My wife would rebuff me for using stuff!)

My hope is that she will actually come out and help with our Christmas Party in a few weeks and discover the better side of life through giving of yourself and seeing the one who is way more than stuff – JESUS! Amazing how you can get to know people through just doing the same thing day in and day out. So don’t be upset if I am a little ticked if you put Jesus and stuff in the same sentence.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Real Scare

I know that I am supposed to live like the birds in the air that neither fret about a place to stay or food to eat. This morning I had a heart attack as I received a notice from my Wells Fargo Accounts of an overdraft happening. My initial reaction was how could this happen I have money in all of the accounts or maybe a few of the checks I had deposited were bogus?

I have been in the process of helping out one of our seniors whose granddaughter had her deposit and cash a bogus check. So grandma is now in the hole for $6000 and without outside help is in real trouble. All of a sudden my sense of being independent and on top of the world because of a special gift for our mercy work left me in fear. What if I deposited a bogus check that turns out to be bad and I have just spent funds I don’t really have

I work and live around people who do live day to day for everything. I have been spoiled my whole life to have the means to usually do what I want when I want. I received this txt message while we were walking the dogs at 4:30AM today. So I was a little anxious to get back to my house and double check my accounts. I envisioned having to go back to this donor and ask what happened and then have to ask someone else to help cover expenses for this potential mess.

So I have to admit I was relieved when I discovered it was over someone hacking into our non-profit account and spending money, which flagged the system. My fears of going to jail or debtor’s prison subsided now that I knew the truth. I was now upset with the hackers out there who are able to get account info without all of the real info and still get into our accounts.

As I reflect on my lack of trust of God I realize that I am no different than my friend living on welfare or social security that doesn’t have anything and has something happen that means their financial holdings equal zero. I’ve never been in a situation when I didn’t have some money. So when I get a call or message from someone who has $2 in his or her account I can’t relate until this am. What if all of my accounts were hacked and the bank didn’t help me? What would I do? How would I survive?

I think it is too easy to trust and place my hope in the green stuff and not God. The Bible really does warn about the disaster of misplaced trust. How can I not be concerned about income and the economy? How can I be like that bird outside or my herd of creatures in my house who truly believe that there will always be food, a house and place to sleep at night, i.e. our king size bed?

I hear lots of talk about living on less and purposely setting oneself to be content. We have recently downsized a little. So living without cable or a landline isn’t the end of the world. We actually get HD stations using ‘rabbit ears’ and don’t miss the home phone. It is different but very possible to step back and choose to be go out less and even do Starbucks without getting the $4 latte and get just coffee. The reality is that I do need funds in order to make a difference in my neighborhood. So there is a tension between giving that is based upon others giving to me and my decision to live on less that enables me to be able to give more.

My hope is to look around and learn from the birds in the air who know that their heavenly Father is more than capable of providing for them each and everyday. The challenge us humans face is that we want so much more than the simple life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Blessed to Be a Blessing!

One of the coolest things I get to do on occasion is to give gifts to people. It’s not that I’m rich, as I tell everyone but my father in heaven owns the cattle on a thousand hills and also all of the money in the world. It is a joy to help others when I am able to give. It is even more of a blessing when those who receive are quick to say thanks and give some out of what they have to others in need.

New City – Barrio was blessed with a gift from some friends that enabled me to give out some Thanksgiving Turkeys. So I dragged along Terrance, my son and personal attendant at times, to go shopping for turkeys. The challenge is that they are frozen and weigh about 20 pounds. So as we are checking out at Safeway and the cashier lady is able to help us because of the special discounts and then spend $100 and get a turkey free. So we slowly fill up two carts with frozen birds.

As we are standing in line getting Terrance a bus card one of his older friends from school, looks like a grandma, jokingly asks if she can have one. Then to her surprise I tell Terrance to give her one. Her eyes light up as her arm drops to the ground because of the weight of the bird.

As we drive around for the next hour giving out birds it is exciting to see the look on the faces of everyone. No one had expected anything like this so I’m thrilled to surprise everyone. I am thankful that I can go shopping again tomorrow in the morning and hand out more turkeys. It will be fun to see the look at the faces of mom’s or grandmas.

Then I get a text from a great friend and key worker who had his car vandalized with a cd player being taken. Unfortunately his insurance isn’t going to cover this L So I quickly text back and explain that we would like to help with some of the cost. He is quick to say no but I’m quicker to say Merry Christmas and let God love you.

I too love to receive in an unexpected way! This happens often with the work that we do with New City-Barrio Nuevo. I have to admit that I am spoiled by my father and in turn love to spoil others who hopefully continue the pattern for a lifetime.