Monday, April 29, 2013


I was blessed to be allowed to bring my youth to a Korean Basketball Tournament. I had done a presentation and preached at this church a few weeks ago and discovered the upcoming tournament. I have plenty of experience with doing sports and even some playoffs. I understand how competitive the male ego happens to be and the reality that even pastors can get technical fouls called on them and be ejected from a game.

What I didn’t necessarily understand would be how a group of rag tag teens from the hood would do against a group of 20-30 something guys that are high achievers who wouldn’t be push overs nor consider cutting my group any slack. I was excited to have one of my key leaders be the coach. He did a phenomenal job and went the extra mile with providing T-Shirts that were incredible because we stood out. This I think made it a little easier for our group which had never played together before to become a team.

I know that one of the latent fears of most younger guys is to be involved in forced sports at school where a coach will purposefully pick teams. When you end up being the last to be placed you know that no one really wants you to play and that most likely you will be warming the bench the whole time. You wonder to yourself what is the point and why be embarrassed. I knew that this would happen with a few of our younger kids who weren’t that great and were a couple feet shorter than some of the others that seemed like giants. I know that Number 5 on one of the other teams had to be over 6 foot 8inch. I talked to the organizers, who are good friends and asked if the giant, I didn’t know that Koreans produced 7 footers, was a ringer that had been bribed to play or whether he was legitimate.

I understand that no one, especially older males, like to lose and especially with a group of hoods. I knew that we might clash with at least one of the teams. I had hoped that our first game would be too rough and that we wouldn’t lose by much. We decided to let the little guys play a little which meant that after a good first period that we would be trailing and then lose by 10 or so. Yet, all in all we did ok for our first time playing as a team. Our next game went much better and we lead most of the time and finished with a 10 point win!!!

The following game we had our A team playing and they literally took off and put the moves on the Pink Team. They didn’t really like us and there were a few collisions. We ended up winning by 20 plus points. Now we were into the playoff with the brackets. The challenge was that 2 of our big guys that had helped win the games had to go to another game. Now we were playing a bigger team, like one of the guys must of weighed close to 275 and our point guards, who are awesome were like 130 pounds. So we initially took the lead but it wasn’t took long before they were pushing us around and we were behind by 10 then 15. Our superstars showed up with about 4 minutes left.

I knew that we were going to lose whether our not or older guys played or not. So the real question for our group and really any male with sports testosterone is if there is a tomorrow when you loose? I pride myself on saying that winning is easy but being a gracious looser is what makes you a better person. It is so easy to walk away and blame the other team for being foul and abusive or the refs didn’t call the game. 

It's ok to sleep in on occasion!

I will be the first to admit that I believe I’m capable of going 24-7 without much rest. As I age my past life style choices do catch up with me. I do get tired and actually collapse from exhaustion after a marathon painting blitz or like this week a basketball tournament that saw me getting up at 5am and then getting home around 6:30pm. I love what I do but see in God’s providence our need to have consistent rest and times to get away from the action.

I kidnapped my Anne for the night and we are at a fancy resort because of a very discounted price on Kayak. It’s my Anne who is the superstar that did an all night shift at Good Sam doing spiritual care non-stop from 8pm to 8am. Then she arrives home and I give her about an hour to get rest and then off to our Korean Church for doing worship together. I knew that she might end up nodding off during the service but didn’t. (I know that I would have been doing the hand jerk thing where you put your head on your hand and occasionally you doze off and your hand and arm collapse.)

After arriving for our staycation I let my Anne take a real nap for a couple of hours to recharge her battery. We had a pleasant evening getting dinner, nothing fancy only burgers at the Habit and then watching some rather esoteric PBS T.V. show that reminded me of Downton Abby. I persevered and then we actually went to bed instead of staying up until midnight with the awareness that our herd of dogs would wake us at dawn for a walk.

As I write this my Anne is actually sleeping in and hopefully won’t feel guilty or have a hangover. We find it difficult to sleep beyond 6am and have this sense of horrible guilt if we are still in bed around 8am. It is difficult for us to stay in bed past daylight because our dog herd will be licking us and attempting to get us out of bed. I know that sleep is rather an amazing creation by God that forces us to literally stop everything and be still. I can’t fathom what it would be like to actually keep going 24-7 and never stop for sleep.

I do know that some of our teens and young adults have attempted to stay up for a few days in a row doing video games. I know that the latest version of Black Opps whatever tempted many to play until their eyelids had to be glued open. I can remember in my college days doing a few all nighters to be ready for tests. It was my architect roommate who always had projects that required extended hours. I’m thankful that I don’t have to work or live this way unless I choose on a rare occasion to stay up way too late.

I’m thankful for being able to allow my Anne an opportunity to sleep in and not feel guilty and be refreshed. She deserves a break and a chance to get recharged!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Why the disparity?

This last week I had the privilege of helping one of my guys who is a senior in High School get a tux for his prom. This was totally last minute because his teacher persuaded him and another friend that they should go together. I know that this teen doesn’t view himself as being a lady’s man or someone to dress for success. Yet, I was so thrilled to listen to him and his friend, who yes is a girl, talk after the prom as I picked them up for a late dinner after the prom was over.

After we dropped off his date he made the comment that the prom was fun but wasn’t worth the amount it cost. If everything was totaled between the prom ticket, tux, nice dress, flowers, limo, food and hair cut it was close to $500. I know that this teen isn’t afraid of work but his family is barely able to do normal things let alone pay for a couple of hours of questionable partying.

I was having a rather in-depth conversation with a new friend who is an English teacher, writer and poet at a new church we were visiting. We were talking about the disparity of those who have versus those who don’t have. This conversation was so much broader then just monetary but focused on how our backgrounds, which we have little control over, so often determine whether we are part of the working class or part of the elite 1% who have everything. Typically the reality is that those that have much are usually a byproduct of inherited wealth, which they did little to receive.

I know that some of the teens I had in a few of my churches in Walnut Creek grew up in and around affluence so they seldom ever went without. I know that having worked with lower income families over the last decade has taught me that anyone is able to save, plan and accomplish great things. One of my Hispanic families saved up enough over 5 years to pay cash for a house. I don’t have many ‘White’ friends who can make this claim and I know that they make 3-4 times more income. Yet, they live usually hand to mouth because of always wanting any and everything now.

What is amazing to me is that the teen in this family, where mom saved up enough over 5 years to get their house for cash, has the same dream. He wants to buy his house with cash he has saved up. I tried to explain to him how long that would take depending upon how much he earned and then how much he saved on a monthly basis. It would take five years to save up to $20k if you saved $500 a month. I attempted to explain to my teen that he would have to get a full time job and actually save the majority of his income.

As we were driving this afternoon for a stayvacation we heard a heated discussion on whether Congress should require the minimum wage to be raised to $11 an hour. My heart breaks for those who have limited job skills and don’t have the means for training, more education or an opportunity to intern for a company to acquire experience. The reality is that those who have typically can’t relate back to those who are living hand to mouth and view them in a rather disdainful way at times. It is easy even for me to think that the person on the street without a job, residence, food or clothing is a total low life that could do something to see his situation improve. Yet, it takes time to learn from listening to someone what got them into their present circumstances and what would be required to see them rise above their surroundings.

I got into a social justice discussion with my one friend at church with the point that I do have a moral and spiritual responsibility to do something to help those that are struggling and just not point the finger and do blame casting. I know that after being around and helping the homeless over the last 35 years that their plight is still pretty much the same. It seems like the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. We pondered whether those with much should feel guilty and persuaded to do something with their resources?

I know that it is easy at times to resent those who have more and aren’t as quick to share, yet, I’m not much different when it comes to how I choose to live in an age of instant gratification. I also know that the raising of the minimum wage isn’t going to change economic plight of those in lower income bracket unless they choose to do something different that requires more training, education or risk taking. I know that those that already have much will end up having more just because of circumstances, which they may have little to do with or may have created.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

R & R Time!

Yesterday we did something outside the box – we took a break from the action! We slept in a little till 6:30ish instead of rising at 5am. We took our dogs for a quick walk and then got our Starbucks coffee after I gave the manager a picture of his birthday party. I gassed up the little van and checked the oil and Anne chopped up some apples and got some oranges ready.  We took some of the seats out of the van so the dogs could enjoy spreading out while we drive for a couple hours. The weather was picture perfect.

We invited our daughter to join us for our little trek to the North Country for the day. We detoured via the donut shop to indulge a little with some old fashion goodies. We enjoyed our sugar fix as we drove up the newly redesigned freeway to Payson and then onto the other Rim, not the Grand Canyon. The dogs were a little restless as we drove the 2 hours but eventually settled into a look out the window mindset to see the incredible sights as we drove from real desert to see real green.

We took a pit stop and got something cold to drink and fries for the last part of our drive to our trailhead destination on the Highline Trail. I was a total vegetable and made my Anne drive who talked nonstop to our Heather. We eventually found our turn off and made it to a small parking lot with only one other car parked. We slowly got all of our ‘stuff’ together and got out of the van and decided to keep the dogs on their leashes for the start up of the hike, recognizing that there was a sign that said dogs must be on leashes.

It was great being in Pine Trees with lots of interesting vegetation along the trail. We were hiking on a great path that was adjacent to a mountain trail that was a few miles above it on switch back trails. Our dogs so much enjoyed all of the unusual smells and sights. I love being out in the open with no distractions from the city. The sky was an awesome blue color without any clouds at all. What was a total surprise was seeing some evidence of snow run off on the trail. Our dogs loved being able to drink from fresh water.

We eventually made it to our usual spot for having a snack or eating lunch. There is an area that has many different rock formations that make great little pools for the dogs to enjoy and some trees that have fallen over in the last few years. So we find some great shade for our break and chance to munch on some apples and watch the dogs roam around. It was a treat not to have anyone on the trail at all.

As the dogs get their last bite of apple or drink from the spring water it is time to pack up and head back to the van. The dogs so much enjoy being out in the open with all of the different sights and sounds. I took the lead with Freckles, our Pit/Dalmatian mix puppy and then our little Peanut, the wild child Chihuahua, was just a few steps behind. Anne, Heather, Graham and Carly stayed in the background. It took us about an hour to return to our vehicle. Our quietness was about to be undone as another car pulled into the parking lot with a dog in the backseat.
I let out a little alert so we put all of the dogs back on their leashes and got ready to return to the reality of city life. It was great to have a day away from e-mails, texts or calls. I admit that it isn’t easy for me to totally turn off my phone and tune out in order to tune into having some R & R. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

"White Guys Can't Dance?'

I know that there are many stereotypes in today’s society that can be totally true and others, which are a reflection of real bias or prejudice. I know that it’s taken me a long time to have any ability to have rhythm or feel the beat. Yes, my African American brothers can dance circles around me! I laughed when the movie came out that blasted white males for not being great at basketball. Much as another movie just came out highlighting the first African American Baseball Player to literally break into the sport but it wasn’t without lots of antagonism and true racism.

Last night I attended a dance performance at one the high schools where lots of my teens attend. It was great to see a few of my gals in the performance. I love dance because it provides opportunity for anyone to participate and learn so much about self-expression and working as a team. It was a 1.5-hour performance that really rocked because they had such great costumes; music and the moves were out of this world. They even had one dance that had the sounds of Frank Sinatra blaring out.

I had a conversation with a close friend who had recently transitioned to the east coast and was living in a primarily ‘White’ neighborhood whose surrounding area was the total opposite. He had made the decision when he first moved there to start casting a vision for the church to embrace and understand the real culture around them and not try to impose their standards as if they truly represent Christ and the Church. He had met one of my African American Pastor friends, Stanley, who was enlightening him about the real existence of racism and the difficult time everyone has understanding the life of those that are different. It is a long road to see someone come to a point where they are willing to look at the world through someone else’s paradigm.

I know last night we were joking around as a group. Some of my teens were asking if I liked watermelon and fried chicken. I laughed and said YES, I love eating melon and chicken. The assumption was that because I was white I wouldn’t like melon or their version of fried chicken. Just as another group of teens would assume that I would never like eating any type of chilies or sopas whereas I love eating chili verde or pezole.

I married into a tea drinking family whereas I came from a coffee drinking family. I enjoy having a cup of cafĂ© in the morning but seldom drink at night unless we are doing a dinner out. I had to adjust to my in-laws extreme addiction to tea, which saw them drinking it at every meal and even before bedtime. This really isn’t a big deal unless you want to make it into a big deal. Yet, I know that as Anne was fixing some curry last night our Hispanic friend who was helping in the kitchen had never sampled this exotic Indian dish before. It would be easy to say that our kitchen smelled and some might even say badly. She was quick to admit that she wasn’t too quick to try different things.

One of one the great benefits of living in a diverse community is that there are practical ways of being stretched to understand the tastes, likes and dislikes of others. I know that it’s very unlikely that I will ever become a great dancer or someone who is going rock at playing basketball. Yet, I have a few of my teens who could become amazing dancers and a few guys who will become fantastic cooks or chiefs.