Saturday, November 30, 2013

Is commitment a thing of the past?

My Anne and I celebrate 40 years together tomorrow! I know that most in today’s disposable society can’t comprehend how anyone could stay together for more than a few years. The celebs seem to last only months in their relationships. What is happening that has changed the concept of commitment and being willing to sacrifice a portion of your selfishness so another can ultimately experience a better life and you can learn more about the essence of true friendship?

I know that one of the key ingredients in making a relationship work is a willingness to listen and communicate. It isn’t necessarily always easy to choose to engage someone when you aren’t in the greatest of moods. It takes real effort to grow together and not apart! The real difficulty is that there isn’t anything really sexy about laying aside your wants in order to get to know another person and appreciate their passion and interests in life. It is so easy to allow my desires to cloud my relationship that I end up growing away from my partner. It’s not that it is evil to have different interests or desires but you have to work at growing together instead of growing apart.

My Anne is a chaplain at a local hospital and is always shocked when she hears about someone working on their third or fourth marriage. The individual is usually blown away when Anne shares that she has been happily married for more than 40 years. The question usually comes up as to what is it that you do that keeps you together when it seems like everything is always pulling us apart? The answer isn’t mind-boggling but rather basic – we choose each day to love the other person regardless of what happens. It’s not that the outcome of circumstances don’t matter but your perspective is focused more on caring about your partner and getting to know them better and seeing each day as an adventure and gift!

I admit that it isn’t easy to take an interest in something that is outside your personal pursuits. Yet, as we bend and flex on both ends I believe you learn to appreciate another person’s interests and passions that influences you to become a better person that does care about the little things that makes life ROCK! The sad reality is that too often we are totally selfish about things that don’t matter which means we never get to the bigger things in life because we have destroyed a relationship over something that we won’t remember in a week.

It does take patience and effort on your part to better understand what is actually taking place. My struggle is that I want my way and that at times we hit heads and must make a decision based upon sound judgment and not selfish whims. I must also admit that I don’t know everything and need help at times seeing the bigger picture in life or discovering what is right in front of my face! I love to be with my Anne because she is someone that is always ALIVE and willing to take risks to see God work in her and through her!

Yes, I’m so grateful to God for allowing our paths to cross that June at a Bible Camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Little did I understand that this missionary teen in the hand sewn dress would captivate my attention to the extent that in a few months I would drive to San Diego and attempt to persuade her to marry me at a very young age.  Yes, I was the longhaired Jesus Freak that did get her attention and as some would say the rest is history!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Meet my angel or army of one - Jenessa!

I know that it isn’t politically correct to talk about armies and serving God or impacting a neighborhood in today’s culture. Yet, the blessing for me is that I have an amazing gift from God who is like an angel and an army of one in Jenessa our incredible intern. I have been blessed over the last 3 years to have college interns from Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University. It has made a huge difference in the impact we can have with our kids, teens and grandmas. It has been a great experience for Anne and I as we get to work with shaping the lives of these college students as they get a better sense about their future, as they become incredible servants.  

Jenessa reminds me very much of myself and Anne when we were her age, except for the fact that we got married.  Jenessa is someone that lives out her passion for Christ in a 150% fashion! What attracted me to my Anne was her love for God and willingness to take risks to see the gospel impact the world around her. Our Jenessa is someone who has chosen to take risks and dive into the lives of at risk youth that live in South Phoenix. What is incredible is that she hasn’t let race, background, education or emotions get in the way of literally adopting kids in our neighborhood and becoming big sister or really mom.

I have had over 20 interns over the last 3 years and few have the energy, passion, commitment and patience like Jenessa.  She has chosen to enter into the world of our youth, which includes a lot of heartache, brokenness, bitterness and confusion. Jenessa has brought a stabilizing presence to these youth who don’t have dads and have single moms who usually are too busy to be with their kids and teens. Jenessa has taken these kids and teens into her dorm and her parent’s home. She has provided them with a sense of real love and compassion that will impact them for a lifetime.

One of my passions is to help youth and adults get it and see that you don’t wait for life to happen but you dive in and make life incredible. It is too easy to make excuses about life circumstances. Most of our youth don’t have good homes, stable lives or consistency with your typical life experiences. Yet, I know that making excuses and blaming someone for your circumstances doesn’t fix anything but only creates a monster that is very difficult to be tamed. It is so easy to have an attitude that assumes everyone is out to get you and that the world owes you everything. Jenessa is someone who is facing this monster and overcoming it with the gospel of grace and mercy!

I have prayed over the last 5 years for key leaders to move into my neighborhood. Jenessa will be our first full time leader to actually live in South Phoenix. We have had interns that have stayed with us the last 2 summers to help with our program. I know that the only way to impact a kid, teen or adult’s life is to be around them all of the time. This is impossible to do when you have to commute! God is the primary example of how important it is to relocate or move into the neighborhood. This is exactly what Christ did on our behalf. He left the glory of his heavenly home to come to our neighborhood to show the real meaning of life! (John 1:14)

Yes, I believe in angels and also one man or I should say one woman army. It isn’t any surprise that God can use a few to impact many. This last weekend we did a painting blitz with 200 plus volunteers that painted 9 homes in a few hours. I am always amazed at how easy it is to accomplish much when many are willing to step up. The only reason that many step up to help is because there are a few, like Jenessa, who choose to dive in all of the way and be the living example of God’s love and grace in a tangible fashion.

Anne and I are very blessed and fortunate to have our servant leader Jenessa be part of our New City Barrio Nuevo family! We love you Jenessa J

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Commitment & Stepping Up!

It is too easy to allow the past to be your present life experience. I have run 7 marathons in my life. This is an easy way to brag on yourself. The real challenge is that this was 7 years ago since I ran my last marathon. It was actually a Country Western Marathon in Nashville. I love to run but have allowed life circumstances to stop me from committing again to running in a consistent way that gets me ready to run 26.2. I know that there are many life events that require ongoing effort that many are not willing to make. We talk about doing great things all of the time but the proof is always in our actions and the end result.

I know that too often any life changes, i.e. stop smoking, losing weight or exercising, require a daily commitment. So how does someone rethink their approach to making a big life change? I know that as start to run again after being a walker isn’t easy. We are very disciplined to get up early, like 5am and walk our dogs everyday. We are also very proactive to go for canal walks also at night before going to bed. These are a delight and great opportunity to reflect on the day and give our canines a chance to run wild. Yet, these aren’t going to prepare me for a 26.2 adventure.

So I confess to the fact that at times I will use high tech toys to motivate me to do my running. So yes I have a Nike+ fuelband that monitors my daily activity and also a gps watch that keeps track of my runs. I know that in my past running there weren’t the fancy apps or websites that show your progress and actually map out your course. It shouldn’t surprise me that my run to the top of South Mountain Summit is a gain of 865 feet in 2 miles. (Ouch there are lots of steep inclines during this workout.) I’m not out to break any records and the sad reality for me is that it is real work to get back into running and see my time go from 11/10 minute miles back to my previous goal of 8-9 minutes for long distances.  Yes, I’m old and out of shape.

My hope is to always be someone that is both adventurous and a risk taker that can influence others to do something they don’t believe they are capable of doing.  The daily grind of being a long distance runner is that you just have to do it regardless of how you feel or what excuse you have that could easily distract you from accomplishing your goal. So I am discovering that hard work is just a fact of life and that any short cut mentality will only end in not reaching your goals.

We live during a time when instant gratification is the norm. I will admit that I’m use to getting what I want instantly. I love the fact that I can use my Amazon one click on my iPhone and get whatever item the following day. Yet, the reality for most is that delayed gratification is the typical experience of life. I know that I won’t be able to cross a finish line for a race in January unless I run everyday. There are no short cuts or pills I can pop that will take the place of just doing it. So it’s a run at lunchtime regardless of the temperature! I’m thankful that I have the health and will power to still do it!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Looking Good or Doing Good?

This last weekend I was amazingly blessed to have over 200 plus friends come into my neighborhood and do a large community service project. We painted 8 houses and did cleanup and worked at a community center. I have many friends who have partnered with me over the last 6 years so this type of turnout is typical for our big events. My purpose in doing this type of work is to bring together the community to see how many hands working together can make a huge impact on people’s lives and the neighborhood.

It would be so easy for me to stand back and really think that I’m a great organizing and really deserve the various accolades from different people and other organizations. The reality check for me is that none of this would happen except for my key volunteers inviting their church, school or business to come out last Saturday. I have some close friends who have been involved for 5 years that are both part of a church and own their own business. They brought out 60 last Saturday from their workplace and painted 2 houses. I had another friend who teaches at a charter school that brought 50 students and 20 friends to bless my neighborhood. I had another charter school where the seniors came out to make a difference and had 20 students help. I could continue but my point is that all it takes is one person who chooses to stand up and do something good to change the course of another person’s life.

 I started a men’s lunch Bible Study 15 years ago and these brothers have committed to help paint twice a year. They blessed one of my key leaders in my group and made a huge difference in her life and the life of her sisters and brother. I had a couple of other close friends, who hadn’t painted before, choose to step up and oversee a house being painted. I know that at first it was scary and a little overwhelming but in the end the house got painted and everyone got paint on themselves and could see the impact this had on the family.

This morning as I am picking up material one of my new grandmas shares with me that her grandson had a stroke yesterday at work and is in the hospital. I could tell that she was a little shocked by this so we prayed for her after we finished picking up the supplies from the painting project. My hope is that we will become more concerned about doing good than looking good. It is too easy to allow today’s mindset totally color who we are and what we do. Life is all about giving and helping others and in doing this discovering who we are before God.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Talk, Talk, Talk

I know that it is easy to say that talk is cheap and actions speak volumes. Yesterday, I spent most of the day in meetings being with good friends who have an interest in being part of making a difference in the lives of at risk youth. I definitely got in my 10,000 words that day, per John Grey who authored ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’. I loved interacting and thinking out side the box. The challenge too often is that too much is said without any real action taking place.

Today is a totally different day where I started off with having to collect supplies for our painting blitz and then had breakfast with a couple of older friends who are awesome volunteers for our painting projects. I didn’t get in my 10,000 words but instead we are doing something that will impact a neighborhood and bring together 100’s of volunteers this coming Saturday. My friends are busy power washing a historic house in downtown Phoenix that is a hang out place for the neighborhood.

I know that actions speak louder than words and that too often what is missing is choosing to take the initiative to stand up for someone who isn’t able to stand on their own. Clearly it is easier to wax eloquently for hours in a meeting but another thing to actually get down and get ‘dirty’ on someone else’s behalf. What has impacted my life is when my friends choose to walk with me through life’s ups and downs and not talk a whole lot. Yes, the last thing someone needs when they are hurting is a lecture. Yet, this is what typically happens to most in tough situations.

Yes, there is a part to our journey with becoming healthy that we need to think out loud about our life choices. This last weekend I was around a group of teens and 20 somethings that were in the middle of real tragedy. I can’t fathom the reaction of a parent that hears that their daughter has been shot at a house party and now is dead. Another friend, who has lived with us on and off for the last 5 years, has a near death experience. He’s walking from QT in his old neighborhood and is chased by some unknown guys and then threatened by a gun as someone drives alongside of them. My friend runs home in total disbelief with his world being shook.

My wife goes to work at the hospital this morning to discover most of the staff down because of a fellow nurse who just died from brain cancer. My Anne knows first hand that what her friends need is a hug, a card, flowers but not some trite statement about how all things work together for the good. I have too many friends who have lost spouses and kids who have been told that God needed them in heaven so he took them. Yes, words can actually be harmful at times.

Life can be tough at times and what makes it beautiful is when we choose to be a positive influence on those around us. Yes, this requires some work and thoughtfulness on our part. So I know that my Anne is great at writing little notes and getting amazing cards that show a friend’s care without a lot of words. I know that after the death of my dad I’m helped more by a hug or a warm look that shows more about concern and love then words that fall on empty ears.