Monday, October 23, 2017

Fragile – handle with care, especially ME.

We live in a crazy time where a person’s self-worth, value or purpose in life can be tied to ‘things’ that ultimately don’t matter. Is my true purpose in life to accumulate fancy cars, an apple watch, latest tablet or a $1,000 smart phone I can’t afford? The #metoo has gone viral across social media affirming how women have been compromised and put in positions where they have been left wounded and alone where few will listen, believe or show concern.

I know that sadly any who show any sign of weakness are viewed as being suspect, weird or not with it. The pandemic of bullying that is taking place both in the classroom and in the workplace, is horrific! Why do so many truly believe that by demeaning another person that you have increased your worth or position in the world??

What’s so hard to comprehend is that too often the attention or focus in the media isn’t on the victim but on the perpetrator. Tragic that because of an individual’s means they can pay off or dodge the consequences of sexual assault, rape or defaming a person. It’s too easy to shame someone who hasn’t been able to ask for help and vocalize what happened to them.

Our culture’s obsession with perfection and success make it very difficult for the average person, who is you and me, to ever feel great about ourselves. We tragically allow the celeb world to define beauty and the meaning of life. The downside to this lifestyle of the rich and famous is that they are more ‘screwed up’ than the average person. Yet, we are pressured to confirm to a life that doesn’t work for anyone. So, no wonder there is an ongoing struggle in our society with self-worth and value.

What genuinely gives meaning, purpose and worth to life? I so much appreciate the Apostle Paul’s statement in the Bible that we are earthen vessels that are cracked so that the inner essence can shine forth. That personhood that is real and has flesh, heart and soul also is God’s gift to mankind, Jesus Christ. It’s through the powerful presence of God’s Spirit in me and you that we better come to understand the essence of life and why we were created to be incredible human beings with a place and purpose!

Respect, unfortunately has become an alien notion that everyone is more obsessed with personal achievement than having an interest in each other’s personal circumstances. I believe what becomes the common denominator in life isn’t our achievements but our fragileness. I know that when I become transparent and venerable that a friend is more likely to open up about the ‘real stuff’!

Yes, I’m fragile and appreciate being handled with care and concern!

Awkward! Think before you open your mouth!

I will be the first to admit that I’ve experienced that moment when I’ve almost died after saying something or messaging something that was totally off and inappropriate. I know that my mouth works 10X faster than my brain. The challenge is that it’s so easy to speak your mind when your mind hasn’t considered the implications or the aftermath of your verbiage! The real issue isn’t my ongoing likelihood of putting my foot in my mouth but the impact on others because of my thoughtlessness! Awkward!

I know as a pastor that it’s so easy in a traumatic situation to say something to fill the quiet truly believing that will help the pain. The reality is that I will end up doing more harm and hurt than if I just stood next to someone and allowed them to express their grief. I know that recently the media, our President and many others have talked a lot about comforting Gold Star Families. What I have gleaned mostly through not being sensitive is that the less said the better and what’s needed most is just a hug or a simple word of condolence. So, stop before you go too far and regret what you’ve let slip out. Don’t be Awkward!

I will always remember talking to one of my dad’s group home owners (my dad suffered with Dementia) that the room my dad was about to occupy was built by her husband. The difficulty was that her husband was killed when doing the electrical for the room addition. What this new friend expressed was how insensitive so many of her friends were in the middle of her heartache. Too many said that God must have needed her husband in heaven to help with the expansion of the pearly gate community. This widow with Jr. High aged kids was in tears as she told her story. Awkward!

I know that one of the most important things in life if you are going to attempt to walk with someone who is hurting from a tragedy is to make sure you know the names of all of those involved. One of the most demeaning moments is when you go to say something of substance and realize you are clueless about everyone’s name. I know that the conversation between a widow from the Niger incident has taken front stage recently. The unfortunate fact is the verbiage that has gone back and forth between our President, a Congresswoman and the media has only heightened the loss of this Gold Star Family.

I know that it’s so easy to talk about being gracious to someone that miss speaks until that individual makes it a habit to spew forth. The present mess in the media can miss the more important point to choose to let go of the limelight and honor the individual who gave their life for their country. The other opportunity for those who misspeak is to be more willing to admit to their unfortunate choice of words and more importantly learn from their awkward moment and speak less in the future. It wouldn’t hurt to ask for advice from a friend instead of repeating that awkward moment from the past.

I will end with an admonition from James that states, “Be slow to speak and quick to listen….!”

Be a good neighbor and change the world!

One of the more annoying things my mom would do as we moved every few years is the ritual of taking my brother and me to meet our neighbors as we adjusted to life on the next Air Force Base! As I remember and celebrate the lives of my mom and dad (who have been gone 10 & 4 years) what sticks out was how neighborly my parents were intentionally. Hospitality was a natural part of my DNA thanks to my parents. I can remember having my dad grill on the BBQ a variety of foods from ribs, steaks, hot dogs to pork chops to share with our new set of neighbors and friends.

Unfortunately, with the advent of gated neighborhoods, 6 foot walls, garage door openers and no front porches we have removed the likelihood of knowing a neighbor. We moved recently into a new neighborhood where I can honestly say only 2 neighbors have reached out and have been friendly to us over the last year. I have received a few notes on my car window if I happen to park on the street too close to my adjacent neighbor. How do you be a good neighbor when it seems we live in a world of block walls, garage door entrances to our homes and no front porches?

Last night one of my ASU Interns, a mom in her 40’s, welcomed a group of 15 girls into her home to do Karaoke and enjoy an incredible lamb and special rice dinner. My good friend is of a very different cultural, racial and religious background then most of my Barrio kids and teens. Yet, the excitement of the group was exponential as we drove 30 minutes to her house. Imagine what would happen in our different neighborhoods if we were willing to take in the annoying neighborhood kids and love on them?

One of the incredible acts of being a good neighbor for me over the last decade has been to paint the houses of low income seniors in my larger neighborhood. It has become an awesome gift to me to have a group of key leaders, who are seniors, help me find more houses to paint. Last week we painted the house of grandma Thelma. As she watched a group of 40 including little kids I saw tears rolling down her cheek. We had been a good neighbor to our Abuela Thelma.

I know that most of you will remember the jingle of a certain insurance company, ‘Like a Good Neighbor…..’ Dream for a minute what would happen in your city, larger neighborhood or street if you didn’t wait for someone to show hospitality but you knocked on your annoying neighbor’s door and showed kindness?

Be a good neighbor then you will have great neighbors and an amazing neighborhood and our world will be a better place!