Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Yes - I Have Insecurities!

We had an all girls’ leadership gathering yesterday afternoon.  It was a rather amazing time of listening, directing and reflecting. My hope was to talk about how someone figures out the ‘wise’ path to follow in life instead of going down the foolish path. Our conversation revolved around the story of one of the older teens that had gotten screamed at by an adult with rather foul language. The point of the story was that my older teen didn’t respond in kind and tried to defuse the situation. She kept her cool but the mom got more upset as my teen explained how foolish it was for her to be using the F-bomb in the conversation.

We talked over an hour about why anyone would choose to do foolish things in life. It came back to understanding how we face our insecurities in life and that too often we do crazy things to fit in, find a friend or have a feeling of significance. The reality is that going down the wrong path always ends in drama, someone getting hurt and then the ultimate path is resolving conflict which few want to face. So why would a mom with little kids, that I love big time, be screaming at anyone using the F-bomb?

We also talked about how we protect ourselves from being drawn to the dark side? This is a tough question because everyone needs friends; wants to be loved and sometimes we cast caution to the wind. So I asked another teen, which is one of our straight A types, what she does in her life when it comes to taking risks with potential new friends. She, different from the older teen, was open to taking risks with some to give them an opportunity to be exposed to right thinking and seeing that leads to doing what’s right. My other teen was really clear that she didn’t want to let someone else pull her down. So she wasn’t too interested in hanging out with someone that didn’t finish school and wasn’t working.

This was a great dialogue for the other teens to hear that didn’t necessarily fit these two outspoken gal’s perspectives. It was one of these other teens that talked about facing their insecurities in life. My straight A teen talked about not allowing people to derail her. This was an awesome conversation because it gave a great background for understanding the difference between what is real wisdom and it’s opposite being foolish. Obviously these teenage girls live in and around too many who have made foolish choices in life. They personally have experienced the impact of a parent, aunt or uncle who have been drawn into doing something totally foolish and now suffer the consequences of being in prison, living on the edge, having no job or being an outcast.

It is easy for someone older, like myself, to hide from my insecurities in life by acting like I have it all together. I too struggle with being accepted by others and succeeding in the context of my life passion. It is oh so easy to be jealous of others and too often allow the world’s system define what is success. So I am learning to pray Jesus’ prayer for his disciples. I know that Jesus didn’t say Lord please provide a warehouse of food for the entire year but give me this DAY our bread. I struggle with being content with a today’s type of focus. I want everything figured out for the year or next 5-10 years.

My wife has spent the last two mornings helping one of our families whose van continues to have problems. I’m blessed to have vehicles that are reliable and don’t die too often and if one does I still have another three that step up to help. I know that too often insecurities in life revolve around money, looks and possessions or things. It is too easy to assume that because someone has ‘things’ that they don’t have any insecurities. Yet, I know that this is so far from the truth. I don’t want any of my own kids, who are adults or my teens, think that money solves life crisis. Ultimately, both the rich and the poor will die. Only placing my faith and trust in God will help me overcome my anxieties about tomorrow’s circumstances. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The gift of imagination

I have been blessed with an incredible best friend, partner in ministry and wife. She has one of the most incredible imaginations. Sometimes I have to stop and reflect on what she has said. I’m always amazed at how she can see something far off in the present tense. Everyday we walk our dogs in the early morning and come across a variety of people. She will always have something to say or think out loud about a person, a building, an animal or…..

We have watched a larger house that would be perfect for working with older ‘homeless’ teens, over the last 6 years. It has gone from being abandoned to being totally trashed. Anne has nicked named the house, Pregnant Minor House. It is on a few acres of land and comes with a sizeable casita in the backyard. Unfortunately the house has been totally stripped of everything in the last year or so. Anne is so passionate about this house that she actually took a couple of her friends for a prayer walk around it. Last time we walked by it was obvious that someone was actually working on the little casitas.

We attempt to walk on our canal trail each day when no one else is around for obvious reasons. (Our dog herd has a tendency to go ‘rabid’ when they see strangers especially in the dark.) Yet, on occasion we will run into a variety of people that we have befriended over the years. Some of them, such as Inaz, Gilbert and a few we know their actual names, the others Anne comes up with nicknames. There is an older British Lady who drives a Jaguar and has Shepherds. She is always dressed in a long dress with a fancy coat. So you can imagine some of the interesting names Anne has used for our older friend who is very faithful in walking her dogs.

There had been a homeless gentleman who lived amongst an older tree that literally covered a huge area that was close to the canal trail and close to two major streets. We would see him walking back from the store with either a large water bottle or a cart with various food items inside it. This gigantic tree met it’s match with someone in the city who decided it was either too large and could fall onto a major street or knew that it hided a couple of homeless families. A few weeks ago it was gone, literally vaporized. I can’t fathom how shocked our homeless friend, Anne calls him Richard, must have felt. His home had been totally destroyed and now he is really homeless.

We walk by a Service Dog Home that is huge. We had a close friend who had worked there for a few years and oversaw the operations. Our dogs can usually hear these young dogs barking in the early mornings so they will continue the conversation. Anne has some choice words for the individual who oversees this operation but lives outside the area. This non-profit has been in serious trouble over the last 10 years and our one friend attempted to make things right but without any success. Anne dreams often of rescuing this phenomenal place and using it for rescuing local dogs that are homeless and roam the street. It has a large house, swimming pool, adjacent apartments for families adopting dogs to stay while training and then room for probably 30 dogs with kennels.

We enjoy looking at some of the homes that are up are the hills or little mountains around this area where we walk. There are a couple of really large homes that are  beautiful that have been landscaped so they are like museums. This particular one has bronze statues that are incredible. The outside of the house is decorated in a Southwest motif. We both have lusted after this house and another further up on the hill. They would make great homes for older teens that don’t have families.

I know that Anne will at times ‘ball’ me out for not looking up and around instead of looking at the trail or God forbid looking at a text or e-mail while we are walking. We are blessed to have some incredible sunsets and sunrises. We typically walk our dogs just before the sun appears and at times will walk at twilight. I am reminded that the greatest imagination belongs to our God who is the creative one that has designed life so that it is beyond comprehension. I believe our gift is to enjoy this creation and learn how to be creative and imaginative like our Heavenly Father.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Old Guys Rock!

I had volunteered to do some concrete work for a new friend, Natividad. He is doing a basketball court in his backyard. I had talked to him about the mechanics of doing the court so it would turn out great and didn’t end up becoming a volunteer disaster. So this meant that I jumped in and helped organize a couple of groups to help dig out and set up the court. This translated into me showing up early on a Saturday morning and setting up the forms for the court. I showed up early and got the forms up and was thinking that maybe Natividad didn’t have any volunteers coming.

Just as I’m finishing with the last board and starting to string a line for grade a group of 20 somethings appear and they start shoveling and wheeling ABC to fill up the court so it would be ready for pouring. This was actually a lot of fun to watch some guys and girls work together to help get the pad ready. My new friend, Natividad, I’m trying to explain it’s one thing to have some muscle power in wheeling sand to grade the pad but it’s the not the same when it comes to wheeling concrete and actually finishing the court. He says he’s got this older guy, George, who can help out and that will be enough. I try to tactfully tell Navi that it takes guys with some real muscle power and ability to do 12 yards of concrete.

I talk to George who is an older guy who had been a concrete contractor most of his life. It was a pleasure to connect and figure out that it would be best to have my concrete friends help out and not make this a volunteer nightmare. So George goes on another Saturday to lay out the wire mesh and also pour the base for the basketball pole. I’m impressed when I go by and see the wire placed just right and the pole embedded in concrete.

I get into a little disagreement with Navi about why we have to do this on Friday and not a Saturday when there could be a bunch of people to help. I attempt to enlighten Navi about the need for real concrete workers and the reality that George confessed to the fact that he was 70 plus and couldn’t finish this without a few other guys besides me that know what they are doing. So we hit a compromise and we decide on a Friday at noon so I can have my concrete friends help so we get the best result in the end.

I show up an hour early and am pleasantly surprised to see George and two other grandpa types ready to help with doing the pour. I don’t say anything to these guys initially until the concrete truck shows up 20 minutes early and it is obvious that this is the crew for wheeling 12 yards of concrete. I give the evil stare to Navi to ask where are his young buff helpers to do the wheeling. These guys can help with getting it down but shouldn’t be wheeling. I’m a little concerned but the concrete is here and we have the wheelbarrows and now these old bodies so let’s do it. We start and I laugh at the fact that Navi gets a ½ wheelbarrow along with the old guys. Fortunately my other concrete friend can do full wheelbarrows along with me.

It usually would take about 30 minutes to get down 6 yards of concrete with a few guys wheeling that know what they were doing. I figure we will get it down. Yet, as we get going, one of the grandpas trips and falls after dumping his wheelbarrow.  Next, Navi proceeds to let the driver wheel and he oversees the filling up the wheelbarrow but mixes up a couple of different of toggle switches and ends up overfilling 2 wheelbarrows and makes a huge mess.

Now I have to quit wheeling and start tamping and bull floating. So just as my concrete bud is ready to scream because of it taking too long to wheel the concrete a few re-enforcements show up. Again I should have told Navi that he needed to have 20 somethings not 60-70 somethings doing the hard work. Yet, as we finish the first truck the guys seem to get a burst of energy and we get the second truck emptied out rather quickly. I’m now tamping out the last part of the court and my concrete bud finishes bull floating.

I’m taken back by how my old guys jumped in and do clean up like pros and do the little things, like clean my tamp and sweep off the sidewalks which had been messed up by wheeling. All of a sudden I’m thankful for the old guys who truly care about what they are doing. I tell my concrete bud he can split because George, the old guy, can help me finish out with doing the edges. I know that my concrete partner would say any good concrete guy can finish 10 yards by himself if there aren’t any joints.

I’m impressed with George who has a smile on his face as he is on his knees troweling the edges making them look awesome. The other grandpas had finished cleaning everything up and stacked and organized everything else. Navi has long sense died and disappeared into the house to recover from having a stroke or dying from heat stroke or something. He had met his match with these old guys who totally rocked when it comes to helping with a job. They showed up early and stayed late. All of the young guys didn’t show up. Also I had tried to explain to Navi that you always tell your help to come an hour early so even if they are late they arrive on time.

As I finished up brooming the court and George finishes the edges, I knew I had a new friend. Concrete guys bond while they are in the wet cement and also when they are on their hands and knees making the concrete look old as we say. I want to repent for thinking that these old guys couldn’t cut it. The one grandpa that tripped jumped back into the action and wheeled the rest of the load. I can’t say the same thing for Navi. I know that God doesn’t believe in retirement or disappearing from the action. Yet, we live in a society where most people right off anyone over 50 and a 70 or 80 year old is consider a fossil. I hope I can get down on my knees like George when I’m in my 70’s. Yes – old guys rock!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Big Picture - or I can't find my keys again

I know that it is important to see life from the micro perspective of observing little things happen day to day. I also know it is important to see the macro perspective where goals and plans over years go from ground zero to completion. It is exciting to see the pieces to the puzzle of community development continue to happen. I don’t think there will ever be any short cut to seeing a person go from brokenness to wholeness. I’m privileged and blessed to be in the middle of many people’s lives. I get to work with wacky teens, wild little guys, college interns that range from 30 somethings with lots of life experience to ‘green’ newbies and then my army of volunteers that help impact our community.

I was ticked off a couple of days ago when one of my future painting grandmas decided to back out from getting her house painted. She had called last week and said there was another group that was talking to her. She was confused and clearly forgot that she had signed up with another organization to get help with her house. I did my best plea to get her to stick with us for obvious reasons. We will partner with you in the coming future but this group will paint and then be gone and never reconnect. I’m still waiting for her call back to see her decision. This then got me to ‘shaking’ the bushes for another house but will end up doing Marina’s house in Guadalupe instead.

I know there will be days where I will get frustrated with others and myself. It is always important to see the flow of life. I obviously have favorite people and kids that I’m around. I too often take something personal when something happens. Last night one of my key older teens throws a little tantrum when I ask him to let a little kid use the iPad. He was looking for cleats for his soccer pursuit. He walked out in a huff and probably said something that he will regret later. I do remember how this one teen in the past had a real bad temper and has slowly become more capable of controlling it. Last night was a slip back into his past.

I am not surprised when little kids leave their ‘stuff’ behind after tutoring or other events. It’s when my older college student types, I’m thinking of one specifically, leaves their keys, wallet, phone and charger at my house or in the truck all of the time. I’m ready to get a chain that I can permanently attach to his neck so his keys and wallet won’t be MIA all of the time. This becomes a comical setting where we joke about this all of the time. Yet, when you truly think you have lost your license, bankcard and keys you panic. You quickly get a duplicate of the license and pray that the card hasn’t been used.

One of the most exciting parts of my life is watching my Anne grow in her spiritual and professional pursuits. I do think it is often unfair that the guys always get the opportunity to do things as pioneers or entrepreneurs. Anne has always chosen to be in the background to do her motherly duties without ever complaining, working at transcription and always being the servant leader who gives me the ability to look good when I don’t deserve it. I know that her years of ministry work and educational accomplishment would at some point ‘pay off’. She has decided after job hunting and wanting something different and more people driven to become a hospital or hospice Chaplin.  This actually requires a lot of education and on the job training. She will actually get another master’s degree and become a certified Chaplin that can work anywhere. I’m so proud of her work and now the possibility that it will produce something that she can ‘brag’ about! YES!

I know that over the next 6 months of training and classes that it will stretch both us. Yet, this is what often makes us grow and gives us the spiritual ‘zing’ that makes life awesome. I’m so happy for her to be able to use her natural gifts to impact the lives of those in real crisis situations and also influence other hospital staff. I can see looking back over the years that Anne has been given gifts of counseling, helps and humor for such a type of ministry. This will only enhance the work we already do.

So it is important at times to step back and both smell the coffee or roses depending upon your setting and see both the big picture and little picture of your life. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Respect - something from the past?

I grew up in a military home where my dad taught me the mindset of yes sir or no sir or yes mam or no mam. Why does it seem like we are birthing a generation where respect and a sense of honor is lost? I will be the first to confess that I grew up as someone that didn’t want to be a clone of my dad’s military or authoritarian life style. I was quick to say don’t trust anyone who is significantly older than you.

I live in a multi-cultural world where respect for anyone is a journey that takes not months but probably years for someone to gain your trust or where you can be trusted. I am starting to get the importance of taking the time to build relationships. It is through this journey of relationship building that trust and respect start to happen. The challenge is that it takes time and there are no short cuts.

As I drive around for a good portion of my day it is always upsetting to see people of all ages toss trash out of their car as they are driving. You can imagine that my Anne or I might go ballistic when one of our kids or teens tosses something out of one of our vehicles. I know that even Terrance, who helps a lot, gets bugged when he notices a paper wrapper being tossed. I have traveled to Asia and witnessed the same careless placement of trash. I can remember going on an expensive boat ride in Bangkok Thailand. I was taken back when a family that seemed middle class tossed all of their lunch left overs literally overboard into the river.

It’s not that I’m totally becoming ‘green’ but it’s more with how we treat older members of our own families, churches and neighbors that is bugging me. Yeah, I admit that I’m getting older and at times am surprised when one of my teens says yes sir or no sir. It is too easy to act like they must be from a different planet. So what determines whether someone growing up has an appreciation for the elderly or seeing an opportunity to help someone with a door that needs to be held open or someone that willfully picks up someone else’s’ trash.

Is thoughtfulness something that we naturally just do? I think it is learned through our parents, friends and larger family. I believe that random acts of kindness will change the world. The challenge is that most of us live with the mindset of waiting for someone else to act first before we purposely do anything. It would be so much nicer if we got into a contest to see who could do more with showing kindness than waiting for someone else to step up and make a difference.

Last night in our mentor group we were talking about respect and the impact of being disrespectful. It was clear that everyone understood the importance of being respectful but the reality that it is very difficult to respect those who aren’t worthy of your respect. One of our interns, a former Army Sargent, shared about the difficultly of respecting a senior officer who wasn’t deserving of respect, yet you have to respect the ‘office’ or ‘rank’.

The real discussion revolved around parents or guardians who tell their kids to do certain things and then they go ahead and break all of the rules. Obviously no one likes someone who is two faced and lives a double life. We talked about the fact that God wants us to honor or respect our parents as a way of respecting him. The challenge is that it is too easy to react at times to parents who are unreasonable. We also talked about the fact that it is also easy for teens or young adults to also live ‘hidden’ lives where we live a lie and pretend to be nice and kind and respectful when we are far from that.

I’m so appreciative of my dad’s way of teaching me respect. He didn’t bark out commands or scream at me when I did something stupid. He just lived it and as a little kid growing up I saw it being modeled. So think about holding the door open for someone with his or her hands full. Also think about how you talk and look at someone. It might make the difference for that person having a great day or a so so day.