Thursday, June 26, 2014

How do you find your Passion & Purpose in life?

I was shocked yesterday when one of the kids who I have been around for 6 years asked me a great question. ‘Dave, why do you do what you do?’  I responded by asking why do you think I do what I do? Then he continued to ask questions, ‘Is this really your job? Do you get paid for it?’ Then I proceeded to explain the why aspect of what pushed me to dive into doing community work. I have others that do the eye blink thing when it comes to the question of how I can been around kids, teens or adults who sometimes don’t act the best and why I would choose to be around them.

This young guy that was asking the question has been one of my favorite kids that God has placed in my life over the last 8 years. He comes out of a really unfortunate situation. His dad has been in prison most of his life. His mom struggles with being there in a real way for him but he is blessed to have a grandma, actually great grandma, that has helped raised him from the beginning. He is someone that has not allowed his circumstances to stop him from dreaming and working hard. He loves school even though those around him would make fun of him for caring and working hard.

My little friend’s question is key to understanding what makes one person love their life and another person hate their life. My wife was around someone yesterday that had a great job and family, yet, this person decided to take their own life. The impact of this action will cripple the lives of their kids and spouse. So how does someone discover their passion or love of life? I know that dreaming and volunteering to discover one’s calling in life isn’t very popular. My hope is to help others learn to dream and discover their God given talents in life. I have a niece who is a straight A student and loves design and photography. She also is doing tennis in high school. I don’t expect to see her at Wimbledon but do expect to see her pictures in many galleries. She is a passionate photographer, which isn’t any surprise because her dad is amazing!

Often our passion in life is a by-product of our family, culture, and circumstances around special people that have intersected our lives. My passion was developed over a lifetime with a wife and parents on both sides that showed the great example of caring in hands on ways for all people. It was my experience of working in a downtown church in my youth that I was inspired by a mentor youth worker. She was hands on and always on the move. I was taught that each kid, teen or young adult had value and gifts that just needed to be found with some creativity and persistence.

I was fortunate to have some older friends in one of my churches that dragged me into being involved with Habitat for Humanity. It was through this Habitat journey that I was able to understand doing community work from many different angles. I was blessed to be president of the board for many years, helping with all phases of the operation from fund raising, board development, actually overseeing many builds and most important of all getting to know our Habitat Families. I came to understand the importance of having a home, building a community and then seeing the practical importance of living and teaching sustainability.

It has been my mom’s love of people that has probably taught me the most when it comes to seeing a diamond in the ruff. I get criticized at times if I’m too honest about the nature of our work and how difficult life is growing up in generational poverty. My mom was the one that was always out going and quick to speak up and make a new friend or ask what was going on that a person would have a frown on their face. I have been taught by so many of my friends that everyone has value and the ability to make a difference in the world around them. Yet, our cultural and society too often sends the message that if you don’t exactly fit into today’s achievement or success mode that you aren’t going to make it. My hope is to create a new paradigm that isn’t based upon where you live, what college or grad school you attended, your skin color or religious preference but upon what you do with your life.

It’s true that to find your passion in life also means that you have to be honest as you self-reflect to see what you don’t do well and stay away from it by allowing others around you to bring their passion. My wife and I are clean freaks that love to pick up and take messes and transform them into clean places. This summer we have a couple of interns and five little kids living with us that typically are great at activities but not great at cleaning. My wife has this eye for spotting messes and then making them disappear. So I know that I’m not going to put the kids or my interns over cleaning the house.

I’m so glad that my little friend was bold enough to ask the why question. So don’t be afraid to ask a friend the why question of what they do and then discover your passion and love in life. It won’t be long before someone asks you the why question!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Stuff Happens!

I’m fortunate to be someone who loves meeting new people and making friends. It is amazing to see how God brings different people across my path on a daily basis. I had recently experienced a little bit of stress and tension over waiting for the results of my Anne’s biopsy. I have experienced both amazing miracles in life but also heart breaking tragedy as I watched my mom die over a period of years from cancer ravaging her body. I knew intellectually that God is part of both the good and bad that happens in life. Clearly it is so much easier to face life when the good is happening. The challenge is whether I would be thankful to God if the results had come back positive for my Anne to have cancer.

I was talking with a social worker that had just finished a behavioral session with our 3 guys who we are helping. I had mentioned to her the week before some of the challenges we faced between the kids and also my wife’s biopsy. She proceeded to share about something she had heard in church the following week. I appreciated her heart in caring and sharing. Yet, I reacted a little to what she said because she gave the impression that if we prayed for an hour a day that God would heal. If we didn’t pray than clearly God wouldn’t heal.

I struggle at times with understanding how I’m supposed to understand life when the bad stuff happens. I have some friends who would be quick to say that clearly bad stuff happens as a byproduct of my poor choices or out right sins. Yet, the opposite thought that good stuff happens because I’m good, faithful and obedient is just as implausible. Reality check for me, I’m never good or faithful to the extent that God would reward me.  So is it possible to see the benefit of both the good and bad in life?

There are more life stories around me and in the Bible about how people deal with the bad stuff than the good stuff. My focus over the last week was my wife and nothing else. I had a difficult time being in the center of activities but not having my heart be present as much as I would like. I understand that waiting is actually good and learning to be patient and persevere is a key life experience. I’m thankful that the results came quickly and that the waiting game stopped. Yet, I have so many friends who live day to day not knowing the future. This week has helped me see how I need to be more understanding and patient with those around me who don’t have the skills to deal with the bad stuff.

I have a good friend who just found out that he is going to need a hip replacement. He’s looking at the grave possibility of going on disability knowing that won’t meet the needs of his family. He has faced too many tough situations in life and now waits to see if he can work at all or whether he just waits for surgery and then does rehab over many months before the possibility of being able work. My life is a piece of cake in comparison to his situation.

Last night as we finished our guy group we went to the Habitat Community Park to play football or basketball. I had an experience that looking back was rather funny but during the initial encounter was rather terse. A resident of the community came up to me while I was sitting in my van getting ready to take one of the kids to the bathroom at Sammy’s house. She asked me what I was doing at the park and gave the impression that I had no business being there without community residents having invited us. I explained that we did have community residents in our group that they were the reason why we came to hang out at the park.

Our initial conversation was rather heated, this would be the bad stuff, but after talking it through I was able to share my involvement with Habitat and her community over the last decade plus. After listening to her story it turns out that we will now partner together to do some great things in her community with many of my friends helping. Looking back it would have been so easy to have just driven off and got all of the guys and say that it wasn’t worth the hassle or fight. Yet, I didn’t let her initial foray do that to me. So I am so appreciate of her becoming a new friend that shares a passion for at risk youth.

I know that each day I will see amazing things happen that if taken out of context can be misunderstood. So I get it that at times the bad stuff builds character in me and too much of the good stuff ruins me so I become too complacent. So again I like the quote I saw recently about the discussion moving away from the cup being half full or half empty but just enjoy the ½ cup of water or whatever!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Step Along the Way

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church's mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

Bishop Oscar Romero

Fear - Friend or Foe?

I know that as I face getting the results from my Anne’s biopsy it is so easy to want to run and hide truly believing that I can freeze time and not have to deal with the potential of a positive result. I can remember over 15 years ago getting a call from my parents that they were coming to see us with some news. My mom wasn’t clear at all about the real purpose of the trip. It wasn’t until we were sitting in our back patio eating breakfast together that my mom laid out the results of her biopsy. She had breast cancer and would soon have surgery that the Doctor guaranteed would eradicate the problem.

I know looking back over the last decade of my life I’m learning that fear isn’t necessarily something evil or life-threatening depending upon how I choose to respond. My mom’s situation wasn’t something that hit me all at once because her choice to have surgery delayed the cancer’s impact on my life. It wasn’t until 6 years later that the cancer came back in full force. I became a fighter and advocate for my mom that saw me driving to San Diego once a month to talk with her doctor. I wasn’t necessarily a fan of chemo treatment if it didn’t produce any tangible results. This began a dialogue with my dad and the doctor that saw my mom’s treatment eventually stop.

I have a close friend who is in the hospital waiting for her daughter to deliver her grandson. They have been in the hospital for three days and the wait is almost over. Initially the situation wasn’t good because her daughter had high blood pressure, which would endanger her life and the life of her baby. I’ve texted my friend every few hours and have gotten a sense of how tiring it is to wait. Yet, progress is being made and the little guy will be home soon. The wait will have been worth it and the memory of the initial panic will be gone.

There is a great short quote on LinkedIn that addresses the issue of how we face our fears. Fear – forget everything and run or face everything and rise! I know that it is so much easier to just run and allow our fears in life to cripple us and make us almost useless. I also understand, from my mom’s life example, that it is much wiser to face everything in life and rise to the occasion. Yes, my mom was a fighter that wasn’t willing to allow her cancer to stop her from living or influencing my family and myself. I know that accompanying my mom to her oncologist every month wasn’t fun but became a necessity. It is so easy in the midst of a crisis to not see the bigger picture. I know intellectually that life is a gift that doesn’t come with any guarantees but emotionally I don’t always get that.

As I live through the next few days waiting the results I know that my love for my Anne is more real than ever. I’m at a loss of words to express to her how much I love her and truly need her whether I come across as totally self sufficient I’m not. We are presently caring for some little guys who at times can act totally independent. Yet, when there is a mishap they come running for help or a hug. I’m no different I need a hug and reassurance that life is ultimately good even as we face our own mortality.

So what determines whether our fears push us to run and attempt to forget what is before us or choose to face the obstacle in front of us and rise to the occasion to overcome the circumstance? I know that for me learning from my past is so instrumental to being able to face today’s circumstances. I get it that a little kid that is put in a totally dark room is most likely going to scream and not be able to sleep. Just as I’m an adult that needs other’s help to face tough circumstances. The difficulty is that I have to be honest and transparent enough for others to know that I’m struggling and need their friendship and support. Unfortunately the macho myth of total self-sufficiency is still very much alive. I know that even as a Christian it is too easy to believe that it isn’t spiritual to show weakness or vulnerability.

I took my Anne to see the movie, ‘A Fault in our Stars’, this last week. This was a rather crazy choice on my part understanding that the C word could easily become a part of our lives. I was in tears most of the movie, understanding the heart aches of a teen, which sees no purpose in existing. Yet, most of my tears were for me as I faced the loss of my mom and more recently my dad. I’m not up for another tragic ending to someone’s life that is close to me. I don’t want to have to face this type of fear; yet, I know that life doesn’t have any money back guarantee attached. I also know that my God is more than able to help me walk through both green pastures and also the valley of the shadow of death.

I hope to be better at facing the fears of life that can be crippling but rising up instead of running and hiding. Today is a new day to experience life at it’s best regardless of the outcome, knowing that I have family and friends that are there for me!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

No One Likes to Wait!

I know that the building of character is an awesome process. The challenge for me is that I know what I’m supposed to do but don’t like the waiting game. I want to know the outcome of a situation before it finishes. It is so easy to always be in a rush assuming that being busy equates with being productive and effective in all you do. Yet, the reality is that God gets our attention and puts our lives on hold so that I have no choice but to wait. The more I scream for instant information the more likely God will put me in the slow mode.

Today I’m waiting for my Anne to come out of surgery after having a simple procedure done. Actually, it’s a painful procedure for her but for me matter it is a matter of waiting an hour or so. The challenge is that we aren’t going to know the results of this procedure for a few days. I know that in the past I would stay busy so that the time would fly and the day would come with the news, whether that be good or bad news. Today as I sit outside a café at the hospital I want time to be still and allow my Anne to be able to walk away from all of the responsibilities she has and be able to catch her breath. Yet, I know the reality is that she will be doing homework and thinking in the back of her mind what will life be like in a few days?

I can remember over 17 years ago receiving a call from my parents about them coming out for a visit. Little did I know when I received that call I would hear the news that my mom had breast cancer. My parents were rather calm and capable of explaining what was going to happen to my mom. Yet, for me my personal world would unravel with the news that my mom most likely had a terminal disease that would take her life. My world for the most part as a kid and teen revolved around her. She was the one who taught me how to drive, allowed me to sneak out on my first date and the one who taught me most about facing life’s tough news.

It is too easy to always make everything about yourself in life. I know that I’m not the one having a needle injected into my body to do a biopsy on a potential life threatening disease. I know that after my mom’s initial surgery after the c word became a normal part of my vocabulary I watched someone I loved began a life that focused on too many doctor visits and the inevitable issue of always being sick because of chemo. I didn’t realize how this would prepare me to become an advocate for my dad and kids that come out of at risk homes.

I know that it takes a little bit or a lot of being a bulldog or in our neighborhood a pit bull to get people’s attention. I can remember a few weeks ago having to persuade someone that they were going to do intake on three kids and not just two and not make me come back for another three hours of interrogations. I initially asked nicely then said if this individual wouldn’t do it I needed to speak with their supervisor. Surprisingly I got this person’s attention and all three of my kids were doing intake together.

I know that the future isn’t in my hands regardless of how intelligent I happen to be or how truly organized I am because of my high tech tendencies. Yet, thinking over my life in the last 50 years I’m not sure I would want it any other way. It is true that we learn life both backwards and frontwards. I know that the past doesn’t have to determine my future; yet, if I don’t pay attention to yesterday’s journey I’m most likely going to repeat some foolish choice or make another dumb mistake. I know that trust is a big issue in today’s society. Few know if they can trust more than a few with life issues. I’m blessed to have lots of friends and family who I can trust and know that they would step up for my better interests and especially those of my Anne.

So as I wait in this outdoor café area at a big hospital I should recognize that the lack of Wi-Fi isn’t a big deal, yet, for my high tech nerves it was at first. What is most important is to make what’s really important be at the forefront of my heart and thoughts today. Yes, there are many distractions around me that make waiting a real pain, but today I’m going to put those aside and give my real attention to the one I love.

Yes, waiting isn’t always part of our schedule but at times it helps one to slow down and appreciate what is truly important in life and not allow stuff to get in the way!