Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Why is there continued violence in the world?

Just as the world was catching it’s breath after the last terrorist attack there is an Easter Day massacre of innocent little kids, moms and grandparents at a park in Lahore, Pakistan. WHY? What does the ongoing violence accomplish? Is there some point to the killing and display of lack of respect for all life?

I was listening to a talk radio show where the host made an interesting point about why the incident in Pakistan hadn’t received as much media attention as the attacks in Paris or Brussels recently. His point, which is truly tragic, is that as Americans we can relate rather well to our European allies but when it comes to people and places that are different from us we are less likely to mourn or be as upset.

A week ago there was a primary election in our state that saw the unfortunate miscalculation of the State Recorder when it came to how many polling options would be available. The news last Tuesday was that some waited as long as five hours to vote. Yes, many were distraught and upset with the why question as to how we could only have 60 polling places open for the 5th largest city in the US. There has been picketing and a real vocal protest as to the why of what happened.  I seriously hope no one is going to get violent over this situation!

A few months ago a drug deal had gone ‘south’ and saw a cousin of a good friend end up in the morgue. Clearly the message should be don’t deal drugs nor use them, yet, the real message is when you carry a weapon with the intent to use it something could happen to you! I seriously doubt this cousin thought he would be the one that would be robbed and then shot and killed that night!

I know that the ongoing rants in the presidential race come back to how violence can so easily be provoked in such a fashion that the candidates seem to always cast blame on someone else. Why would anyone ‘sucker punch’ a stranger just because they happen to have differing views on a specific candidate or position? Yet, the reality is that it doesn’t take much for a ‘mob’ mentality to take over and someone who would have never thought that free speech also meant one could end up with a broken nose?

As I was looking for an image to use for this post I came across a graphic that had the message that prevention came back to awareness of the problem, education that then leads to prevention. I so much would hope that it would be this easy to deal with violence in today’s world. Ultimately, it comes back to the issue being a matter of your heart! How you view life and whether all lives have equal value? Yes, sadly many of us don’t value all life equally whether that is an unborn life, a handicapped person, someone from a different racial or cultural background to someone who is close to the end of their life that is living in a nursing home.

What is the heart in a man, woman, child, teen or senior? What causes someone to grow an appreciation for all live as opposed to someone who has a real hatred for a specific group of people whether that’s based upon race, religion, education or just the simple fact that someone doesn’t like the way you look? Is it possible for all people regardless of race, religion or lack of religion to share similar values about life? How is it possible for the aging Fidel Castro to blast President Obama about life matters when it’s clear that Cubans have lived under oppression for decades?

The reality is that I have a heart that is broken because of my choices in life when it comes to being someone that should value all life and have integrity as the foundation for my life. I admit that I’m selfish and at times truly believe that I’m better than others have clearly better intellect and attempt to excel at doing community service! My clear need is for my heart to experience God’s redeeming love when I understand my own personal dilemma that involves my own alienation from God and need for being forgiven and restored as someone that lives out grace and mercy. Yet, I’m so quick to judge someone else for their selfishness or narcissism instead of gazing into the mirror of my own heart.

I appreciate so much the following verse from the book of Proverbs that shows the conscious choice we must make daily to guard our hearts! Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Does integrity really matter anymore?

I will be the first to confess that it’s so easy to make promises and talk big but what matters isn’t what I say but what I do! I tire of people making excuses instead of doing something constructive to make a difference in the brokenness that surrounds too many people. The political banter that is filling up social media is a total waste. Just because I say I’m going to make America great doesn’t mean ‘jack’. It’s understanding another person’s life setting and acting accordingly is what potentially will make a real difference in the world around me and in my community!

I get that often in the rush to get something done and be productive many of us miss the world of the normal people around us. Honesty and truth no longer seem to matter in contrast to our position and power in life. I’m fearful that the present mindset amongst many is focused on a venom that reflects a lack of moral compass where generalizations that clearly are racist and sexist become the cultural norm. Sadly I fear for many of my Hispanic, Muslim and African American friends because of the present political banter that will illicit questionable behavior seen in someone punching a protestor to making threats on someone’s life that can ultimately see a mob mentality spread resulting in a person being murdered.

What’s really most important in life is getting 1,000’s of wows now on FB or having your latest video clip go viral on YouTube or posting a naked selfie? I clearly believe that the average person loves their family, works, cleans their house every week, attends church, pays taxes and does cares about having a moral compass and being a person of integrity. The difficulty is that the people getting the spotlight and attention are so far removed from normal life and unfortunately become the supposed norm in our great country.

My mom, who was a phenomenal person, didn’t have a college degree or a vast array of professional experience in the workplace.  She clearly raised her sons to understand that what we do in life counts and before integrity became a buzzword talked about living to the best of our ability, being honest and transparent. My mom was the real deal that would too often be frank and at times too honest but taught me that following through and being a person that keeps their word is a very important life quality! 

Yes! Integrity matters and the way this profound life message gets spread is when all of us normal people who make up our great country stop paying attention to loud mouth politicians, narcissistic celebs that have truly believe the world revolves around them! Time to discover that the way we treat the drive through cashier at our favorite fast food place actually matters. How I talk to my kids, my dog or cats will impact the world more than my last post on FB or whatever.  Thanks mom for showing me what matters most in life are family, friends, God, the workplace and an eye to help the stranger in need.

Hope – fact, fantasy or only for those that hustle?

Yesterday I was surfing through a few TED talks and happened to listen to Casey Gerald who talked about the gospel of doubt. He is clearly a gifted speaker and writer who walked through his life experience within the church and how his church family faced the Y2K hope of Jesus’ return. His view of God, the church and his own faith changed after the clock went past midnight and there wasn’t a rapture. He went from being someone that put all of his hope in the Bible, God and Jesus to someone that saw doubt as being real and let go of his childhood beliefs.

He transitioned from preaching a gospel about change through Jesus to self-transformation through being someone that took advantage of opportunities. Yet, our shared reality is that everyone doesn’t choose to be a hustler and those that wait discover that little ever happens in their favor. So what is the essence of hope and does it have any relevance to the believer, secularist or out right pagan any more?

I quickly discovered in college while doing a philosophy degree that faith or hope for the sake of belief didn’t necessarily give someone help or assurance that tomorrow would be better. The secularist, atheist or nonbeliever would ultimately see that tomorrow’s hope is a byproduct of their own effort, circumstances around them such as their family, friends and work associates and then just out right chance or for believers God’s providential care.

I have been around too many people that have placed their hope in the future in someone else’s hands that usually doesn’t share a passion for them and in the end little or nothing happens that brings a better tomorrow. I have personally experienced the positive impact when someone you trusts does follow through and walks with you through life’s tough times. The end result usually is that I have shared my load or burden with a friend that has helped me see the light at the end of a tunnel of discouragement.

So is hope just some mysterious cosmic force that gives us the extra ‘kick’ to do something that’s not in our skill set? Is it possible for someone who isn’t part of the faith community to share a hope for the future to be brighter and better? I do believe that hope transcends beliefs, race, socio-economic settings and educational backgrounds. I know that there is tangible evidence of the intangibles in life! It’s so easy to say that you love or care for someone. Yet, it’s the actions that one lives out that affirms that love or care. Hope in many ways is similar in that it’s a coalescence of one’s personal values, beliefs and choices. I can have a hope in God in my own context that is real regardless of what those around me would debate.

I know that looking back at the world wars or present setting with terrorist attacks that the tension between evildoers and the average person is clear. Mankind seems to stand up together to face and fight the evil around us. I appreciate Eugene Peterson’s Message translation of Hebrews 11:1 that is the classic definition of hope:
1-2The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

So is it possible in today’s eclectic world setting to live between faith, hope, doubt, belief and lack of belief? My life, no different from anyone else, is a byproduct of my faith in God, my ongoing doubts about my own abilities and those around me. Yet, in the bigger picture of reaching senior status I do see so much benefit from my faith journey even in the midst of life trials, almost losing our first born to being too premature to facing the battle of cancer with my mom to my dad’s decline and death because of dementia. I know that it’s possible to face the ‘bad stuff’ that is disappointing and faith challenging and see looking back in the rear view mirror of life that a belief in God is still a common thread in our society. I also see man’s sense of hope in humankind as a significant factor in choosing to not give up or quit in difficult circumstances.

Doubt doesn’t have to push anyone to being a ‘doomsday’ advocate but instead someone that sees faith, hope and doubt as a normal part of everyone’s life.  Yet, I was saddened to hear one of my 60 and 70’s rockers took his own life because he was no longer able to meet the expectations of his fans. Clearly discovering your own faith, belief and hope is essential for having a great life that is able to face both the storms and victories each day!

Does being a true leader require honesty and humility?

Think for a minute about the people that have truly had an impact on your life.  I believe that the people that have impacted my life and yours in a significant way typically are not your big mouth, arrogant, bombastic types! Contrast for a minute the Mother Teresa types and then our more recent presidential candidate who is more like what I mentioned above. Why does it seem to be the case that too often the assumption that to succeed in business or life you have to be a loud mouth and pushy type to get something done? Whereas the reality is that the real doers in the world are not out to get credit or attention but to serve in a very humble fashion more concerned about others then themselves.

What I think is fascinating is to listen to this one presidential candidate squirm when asked spot on whether he has ever messed up, asked for forgiveness and made an apology? The tragic news is that this individual seems to perceive himself as to being nearly perfect. Is it not the case that many have repeated the phrase often that to ‘err is human but to forgive is divine’? So sadly in today’s leadership paradigm for many what’s missing is honesty and humility! Most of us have had the misfortunate of working for a taskmaster type of person. I don’t consider them real leaders and the fall out in the work place is that morale and a passion for work and life is missing in the culture of these businesses.  

I have so much appreciated the work of many like Susan Cain and Adam Grant types that are making the case that true leaders can be the quiet, persistent, honest and humble people that consider others first before themselves! As my mom would always tell me that honesty was the best policy to have in life! She would also be quick to say in her own way that it was important to admit to your personal screw-ups in life.  (Simply put be humble and real!)  She would make the case that this was also best for your personal mental stability. Otherwise you had to always be watching your back because eventually your lack of humility and honesty would catch up with you.

I know that it’s still so easy to make false assumptions about people types and whether they would make great leaders. We forget that what’s more important in life and leadership is character, integrity or simply put being honest and humble. It’s time to stand up to the bullies in life not by shoving, pushing or kicking them out of the way but instead by your amazing example of being the true leader that doesn’t seek credit, fame or fortune but serves without expecting anything in return! This doesn’t mean that you aren’t communicating in the marketplace, neighborhood, church or even in a TED talk but that you choose to be yourself, not an imitator or clone of some celeb.

So the real question is what type of leader are you aspiring to become? I know that the people who have impacted my life the most more recently have been seniors that are involved with doing community work. They don’t necessarily say a lot nor are necessarily going to win awards for elocution but their choices, actions and involvement in the neighborhood has left a lasting impact. I was so jazzed when a new recreation center in Phoenix was named after one of my local heroes, Fay Grey!

Yes, true leadership is all about being humble and honest!

Tell me and I forget but involve me and I learn!

I must confess that I’m like most that get bored rather easily when it comes to the typical classroom type of learning scenario. Why is it the case that our educational system continues to use outdated methodology to train up the kids who will become the leaders of tomorrow? As I begin the grandpa journey of watching my grandson grow up I want him to love life and love to see learning as something for a lifetime. Yet, I know that the major responsibility of training a child isn’t in the typical classroom but out in the real world with mom, dad and clearly the GRANDPARENTS!

Take a minute and consider who has influenced you the most when it comes to loving your life and becoming a life long learner regardless of your age and educational background. I had already finished a science degree before I was influenced the most about real life learning! Don’t get me wrong the education I received at Cal-Poly SLO town was exceptional! Yet, it wasn’t until my religious studies and philosophy degree at San Jose State University that I was taught how to learn outside the box!

It was one of my religious studies profs, Richard Keading, who believed that learning was seldom accomplished in the classroom but out in the real world. I’m so grateful for this former priest turned PhD Theologian who invited us into his home for wine, cheese and a vibrant discussion about life, death and before blogging was popular how to journal via Alan Progoff. I had been accustomed to grueling tests in my Biochem studies that caused you to lose sleep. Whereas Dr. Keading created an environment where tests were actually a time of sharing in a group context what you had learned, what challenged you the most and what was your take away.

I remember laughing with a few fellow philosophy buds how much fun college had become with this one prof! Yes, we still wrote papers that ranged from a few pages to I think my longest was over 25! Remember this was the pre-fossil or dinosaur era before PC’s or the first Apple II was for sale. My take away from all of this is that the best and most effective way of teaching is always outside the classroom in the real world where the stars shine at night, the Grand Canyon or Half Dome take away your breath and inspire you to do something that before you considered impossible!

I know that writing was never my real passion in undergrad but it was after my philosophy degree that my Anne’s influence in my life helped me to learn how to see what others would miss! So I really applaud teachers and parents who challenge and direct their students and kids to pursue excellence but to never define what learning looks like for them. So it’s amazing to see an older adult who couldn’t read learn one page at a time how to decipher words and then in time express their hearts in a written form. Much like I long for the day when my grandson will both sit in my lap and read about lions or marine fish but will also walk with me at the zoo or the big aquarium that’s being build.

I confess to being a Mac guy that does believe that creativity can be real for everyone but you have be willing to dive into the arts and not worry about what others think or say. I applaud the life example of so many of my mentors and teachers in life who brought to life for me the stark reality that learning happens best by being involved in a hands on fashion where you actually do something instead of just talking about it.

This last Saturday I forced a couple of my teens to get up in the pre-dawn hours to help with doing a large concrete job. We poured a large room addition that required almost 30 yards of concrete. These two guys were initially clueless about how to shovel or wheel concrete but by the end of the day they were starting to figure it out! I had talked about what we were going to do but it made little sense to these youngsters. It wasn’t until Isaiah dumped his first wheelbarrow of concrete that he figured out the art of pushing a load and dumping it into the footing instead of on his foot!

So please quit lecturing and start involving me in what you want me to learn!