Friday, July 25, 2014

God & Science?

I quickly admit to being a philosophy and science junkie, which equates to reading books by types like Stephen Hawkings or various atheists and apologists that could be world-renowned scientists or theologians. I just finished a book by John Lennox that was a critique of Hawkings’ book, Grand Design. It is well written with an approach that used real logic to consider some of the tough questions about life and its origins. I know that after reading a few reviews on Amazon that your bias would definitely color your view of whether this book was a fair overview of Hawkings’ work. It is rather difficult to understand most scientists regardless of their worldview.

I know that over the last century or so most that are outside of the faith community have viewed science as having erased the need for God. Most would look back and say that god was used as an explanation for the unexplainable. Thus, God became the gap god. As science advanced the need for god became less and less apparently. The challenge is that the presumptions of the science community still don’t answer the real questions of why is there something instead of nothing? How did it all begin? Is it really possible to have something come out of nothing? It is easy to read a book like Hawkings’, Brief History of Time? Yet, most today don’t get the notion of Einstein relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory or the M-theory proposed by Hawkings and what it all has to do with me in 2014!

I can remember reading a book in college that addressed the challenge for both the science and faith community when it comes to being honest about the difference between factual evidence versus presuppositions that aren’t provable but could be probable. The reality is that no one regardless of their worldview is too quick to admit to their bias and be honest that their dearly held beliefs are just that beliefs that might be based upon great learning tools but are still presuppositions. The book, Theories of Scientific Revolution, sought to help the scientific community to be more able to let go of past paradigms that didn’t work or could actually be viewed as false. Much in the same sense that there are certain views in the faith community that weren’t based upon sound logic or Biblical study that also need to be let go. (It is difficult to fathom that many were put to death for saying that the world wasn’t flat but round.)

What’s interesting for me is that I work with youth and adults who for the most part don’t have a real appreciation for science or philosophy. Most are more concerned about whether there is food in the frig, does the car work and is there going to be enough money on the empower box so the air conditioning works tonight so I can get some sleep. I also work around a lot of millennials who are educated but don’t see much need to get excited about the big questions until their life is rocked. It’s when someone faces a tragedy or life awaking, that questions of why I’m here matters and more so what happens when I die?

It is rather fascinating that there has been a series of Christian movies that address these issues that have actually been box hits. It’s rather funny that what is perceived as a B class movie, that costs nothing to make, has made over 75 million dollars. This is true of the following movies; the Jesus Movie, God is Not Dead, Heaven is for Real and Unconditional.  Sometimes a story form of explanation is much easier to get than some heavy metaphysical or scientific explanation. I know that with God is Not Dead it’s the textbook classroom setting with pagan philosophy prof and zealous freshman student. Yet, the bottom line still comes back to our individual stories. The college prof is still hurting and resentful against God for the death of his mom and the freshman is hurt because his girlfriend and family harp on him for being a fanatic.

I know that often I’m viewed as the odd duck because I have both a science and a philosophy and theology background. How is it possible to have both these disciplines going on in your brain? I truly believe that both or not just compatible but really work together. There are many things that science isn’t designed to explain that theology gives a worldview that helps. Much as theology isn’t designed to explain principles or details about the how instead of the why.

So please don’t be too quick to buy into the god of the gaps view of many scientists and also don’t bail on science because its’ not your cup of tea!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Time is on your side!

There is a definite advantage to being a people person that builds relationships! Yesterday I was helping one of my teens connect with a new high school to get signed up and figure out how to get back on track. I called the school up and get someone different on the other end, yet, the receptionist quickly says is this Dave? I’m totally shocked and say YES! I then ask if I can talk to the person I assumed would have answered the phone only to discover that she has been promoted!

I was a little nervous with taking this teen and her mom to the school. I never know how someone will do when put on the ‘hot seat’. I have been partnering with this High School for the last 5 years and privileged to have a great relationship with the principal and some of the staff. It was clear that for this teen to get into the school she would need connections because she had missed most of the last year of school. The great news is that because of my relationship with the head admin person and the principal it gives her a foot in the door. Now, the rest is up to her to rock at school and not allow circumstances around her to hold her back.

As I was driving this teen and her mom back home a song from the 60’s started going through my mind, ‘Time is on my side….’. This was a Rolling Stone’s song that focused on a boy friend girl friend situation where the point was that the girl would eventually come back to the guy. It reminded me that when I have good relationships with someone that ultimately that person will come back to me regardless of circumstances in time. I have just finished a summer program where I had a few teens and adults come back after taking a detour in life.

I had a friend helping me do a mailing with putting stamps, address labels on envelopes and then stuffing with flyers. As she was finishing this she asked a rather interesting question, why do you do community work? She had been asked by a friend, what it was that we did. She had a difficult time totally wrapping herself around an explanation that would make sense. I gave one of my ‘pat answers but ultimately said we are about life transformation or helping someone get it by our getting it. I went on to explain the background of doing non-profit work in under resourced communities and what it meant to build partnerships that influenced everyone to use their talents and learn about leadership.

My learning lesson for myself was back to the Stone’s song that time can help when relating back to a neighborhood and your friends. Yes, being old can have its advantages. I don’t like having grey hair but I do appreciate long-term relationships that do help immensely when I’m helping someone. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

How Do We Change the World?

I admit that I’m getting old and one of the difficult aspects of this is remembering all of the tragedies or bad stuff of life. This last week has been another time for grieving and asking the ongoing WHY question as mankind continues to purposely kill each other. It is unthinkable that the Russians, especially their president, can act as if giving extremist types high end weapons that can shoot down commercial jets flying at 33,000 feet doesn’t make you responsible for this tragedy. Much like the US has done similar things over the years thinking it is going to help when in the end only more lives are lost.

There was a quote by Leo Tolstoy on LinkedIn that puts the onus for changing the world not on others that are perceived as the cause or bad guys but on the average person, like you or me. Is it possible that my choice to following the right path in life is going to actually influence a world outcome? It is so easier to always put the blame for the present setting in the world of today on something besides myself? So how do my life choices or commitments shape the world? Is it possible for the transformation of my life to really impact anyone?

It is fascinating to do a study on individuals who changed the world, whether that is for good or for evil. We can see how history shows us that one person can change the direction of the world. The challenge is that we only believe that is for the people that have the resources. It is interesting to see how many underdogs of the past rose to the top because of hard work, determination and their unwillingness to ever give up. Many of our world leaders, think of our presidents, have come out of rough circumstances with the passion and mission to make a real difference and not use their position of power and influence for self-gain.

I was watching a great movie on HBO, #42 that was about the life of Jackie Robson and how he impacted not just the world of sports but also the mindset of a country. As I’m watching this incredible movie a commercial comes on about a car company that wants to spread random acts of kindness. So they buy someone groceries or drive home a few that have clearly enjoyed themselves too much at the local sports bar. The media unfortunately focuses on the tragedy side of life more often then the amazing story of people going out of their way to change circumstances so others can have a better life.

The ripple effect happens all of the time. As I’m watching this movie about sports, the American Dream and racism it hits me that so much of what we believe and practice is a by-product of those around us. It isn’t easy to stand up against the fads of the day or what is perceived as being the more popular mindset. Yet, if the world is to be a better place with hope for all tomorrow I have to do something today that will continue a change in my life and the lives of those around me. My parents both grew up in a very racially tense city, yet, they choose to raise me as a kid that looked beyond the color of another person’s skin but to look at their character and attitude above all before I make any judgments.
Is it easy to see self-change happen? Clearly it has always been easier to point the finger at someone else. If I want to be in better physical shape I have to decide today, not tomorrow, to be better at exercising, watching purposely what I eat and choosing to have a more sane schedule where I don’t attempt to stay up 24-7 all of the time. I know that it is so easy to make excuses, which can actually be true and allow theses to stop me from ever accomplishing my goals. I can’t hide in my own bubble and expect the world to be any different tomorrow!

I believe it is possible to learn from the past and see how those that rise above the crowd had passion, commitment and perseverance that left its mark on the world. I have to be willing to see the world as my community, neighborhood or family. I have to start present tense being someone who isn’t afraid to look in the mirror and do my own self-assessment. It is even more difficult to actually choose to do something with your life that sees real change take place. I believe our journey in pursuing a healthier life style will change the attitudes and actions of those around us.

So maybe my choice to be less quick to judge someone I see will influence someone else to give an opportunity to someone that would have been forgotten. This person might become the individual that stands up to the bully in the neighborhood, at work or decides to run for local office.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Is it really possible for a soccer ball to become the substitute for a real friend? Most will still remember Tom Hanks in this survivor type of movie doing his best to live on a tropical island in total isolation. I get a sense that there are many who truly believe that they would do fine as long as they had enough food, great weather and some type of tamable wild animal that would make life happen. Yet, there are many who will wake up this morning feeling totally alone and will question whether their life is worth living. Yes, relationships are very important to having a balanced healthy life.

I remember a conversation with a younger friend who was quick to say that she only had a few real friends regardless of her various social media accounts. The truth of the matter is that too often I assume that many of my friends are close when we live in a busy world that takes them or me away. So it isn’t easy to maintain a close relationship with many because it requires real time. It isn’t possible to keep up friendships too well via e-mails, texts or posts. We can see what is happening around the world but the reality is that it requires real face time to know someone from their innermost.

Time is something that many of us think we can control and force more into a day or week because of our capacity to multi-task. The reality is that a day is still going to be 24 hours and that hour we have to finish work; a letter to a family member or a chance to just read is still going to be 60 minutes. Yes, at times it seems as if time stands still or seems to fly by in rapid fashion. The truth is that my day at 60 isn’t any different from when I was 50, 40 or even 15. Yet, my perception is totally different now when I’m able to look back at my life and be honest when I say that there truly are just a few in my life who stand the test of time. So when I send out an e-mail or post about serious family matters it isn’t a surprise that a friend from over 30 years ago is one of the first to respond.

My life does revolve around the relationships, which I have sought to build in my community over the last decade. I received a call from the ex-wife of a grandpa type in my neighborhood. We had painted his house 4 years ago and have done lots of work on his house to maintain a tie. Over the last few years his health has been horrible and his son and daughter in-law have moved into his falling apart type of house. I visit this friend a few times a year. He is unable to talk but has a big smile. I know that the call was his way of reminding me that he is still there.

It would be so easy to allow the busyness of life to stop me from visiting him. I know that it won’t take more than 10 minutes to pop in and shake his hand. I have memories of his last stroke that left him partially paralyzed and wanting to end his life. I can remember arguing via a pad of paper about why his life was still worth living. My opportunity is to continue to make him a real friend. He doesn’t text or do social media so I have to take the time to drive to his house and actually see him face to face.

I am blessed to have a few older friends who humble me by their commitment to caring and reaching back to me regardless of what I do. It is so easy to lose track of someone’s age. This one grandma type has been a widow most of the time that I have been around her since the middle 80’s. She isn’t rich but someone who lives frugally with a purpose. So when I get a check from her for $100 for our work I know that it is a real sacrifice. What impresses me about her is that she helps her son who is deaf and needs special help. She always writes me long letters talking about her life circumstances. This is such a special gift that again shows the power of relationships.

I know as a kid I struggled with the peer pressure to only have what would be perceived as cool friends. I had a couple of friends that were girls who didn’t fit the image of the beautiful girl profile in the 60’s or 70’s. Looking back I was horrible when it came to how I treated her. I was too quick to listen to bad advice thinking it was preferred than have a girl friend that had a great personality but wasn’t considered beautiful on someone else’s terms. I lost out totally because of my selfish mindset towards this specific girl.

I have friends of all ages and backgrounds, which does bring much joy and refreshment to my life. I know that it does require some thoughtful effort to stay in touch. I also know that I can’t possible assume that most of them are going to be close or able to stay in touch. It is rather easy to get my feelings hurt when someone isn’t as quick to respond, as I would like. So I go back to my mom’s simple life lesson that I would have as many friends as fingers when all was said and done. I know that as a kid growing up I didn’t always value my friendship with my mom or dad as much as I should. Now that they are gone I can see how important they were in my life then and now.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rest – how to avoid becoming an adrenaline junkie!

I could never fathom my wife becoming an adrenaline junkie. Yet, over the last two years of her life she has been working in a trauma setting where all of life is focused on saving a life or explaining to family members or friends what had just happened. I’ve always been someone that loved a fast paced life. I have always rebelled about sitting behind a desk in an office. I have avoided this type of life over the last 30 years and made either Starbucks or my office in my house my hideaway.

I attempt to reconcile my heart with my head when it comes to my need to slow down or should I say actually stop at times and literally do nothing. Is it possible to take a vacation and actually leave your iPhone at home or my Mac Air in my cool SF bag brief case? I admit that it isn’t easy to let go of the false notion that the world really needs me 24-7. Yet, if I don’t practice being still and taking some time off then I live the illusion that I’m really indispensible to God and the world.

So how do I face up to my ‘God’ complex where I believe that I’m needed by all 24-7? It is great being involved with many different types of people that run the gamut between different ages, socio-economics, religion and racial backgrounds. I can actually get high off of how many text messages or e-mails that I see on the face of my iPhone. Yet, most of this is self-generated and to be honest seldom is something that is life or death matters. So why is it so difficult to drink decaffeinated coffee or soda and choose to not get the getters or a head ache?

The false notion that being busy equates to being effective or important is a sad commentary on today’s society. I enjoy getting up early which means I’m able to get more done than those that struggle with seeing the sunrise each day. It is too easy to think that because I accomplish more than someone else that I’m better then them or should get paid more. The alternative, which I can’t handle, is being slackers who prides themselves on being late or last and leaves the mess for someone else to clean up.

I know that rest is different for everyone so I can’t be so quick to judge or say my way is always the best to get some R & R. I enjoy reading and just doing next to nothing. I admit that it has taken my wife of 40 years a considerable amount of time to train me to not have to attempt doing 10 things in a day instead of 1 or 2. I believe it is important to figure out in your own world how to detach yourself from the busyness of your work, family and friends on occasion. It should be rocket science that even God choose to have at least one day set aside to chill but with a purpose.

The opportunity we all face is to discover the power of taking a break with a purpose that gives us an opportunity to catch our breath and get recharged for tomorrow or next week. My struggle or tension, as some would say, is that I’m both a morning person and night owl at the same time. This means that eventually I crash and have to take a nap or actually go to bed early. So it isn’t strange in my household to have me sneak up to my bedroom and shut the door. I love to read my iPad and learn about the world today or continue to read on Kindle. So I confess that adrenaline is so much more fun than resting and being in neutral. Yet, as I get older I realize that I need some time away if I’m going to make a difference in the world around me and become a healthier person.

I know that the goal isn’t to totally avoid the adrenaline high or becoming a legalist about how often you rest, take vacations or breaks at work. The real goal is to find a balance where you can have a healthier or less toxic life that isn’t attached to a caffeine high or running on empty with adrenaline keeping you going.