Sunday, December 23, 2018

Do the right thing! Forget, finder’s keepers and loser’s weepers.

Richard Taverna, a New York subway rider, found a blue Chanel bag Thursday morning in the station at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. He did the incredible, he actually intentionally looked in the purse, not to steal anything but to help the individual who had accidentally left it behind. He found a note in Russian and unfortunately there wasn’t any subway agent. He took the fancy Chanel bag home. There he discovered an envelope with 100 $100 bills in it. The temptation clearly was what could I do for Christmas with $10K? 

Instead, Richard defied the finder’s keeper’s rule and actually went into the 20thPrecinct in Manhattan. The lady who had lost her purse had already been at the Precinct to report her bag had been lost on the subway. She was on her way to Russia when the unfortunate mishap occurred!

I know that one would hope that most people would do the right thing and take the fancy bag to the Police Department without any second thoughts. Yet, it’s possible that someone in grave need could see it as a divine gift that was placed on their lap to make Christmas special for their family. The amazing story is that Richard would view himself as a normal guy not some super hero. Yet, in today’s crazy world doing what’s right isn’t always at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts. 

I know that as I have the good fortune to have grandkids, yes, I’m a grandpa, that I want all of them to know automatically that doing what’s right, honoring their parents and ultimately God is the only way to live. I know that it’s so easy for kids and even adults to be in a rush and not pay much attention to the grandma who is struggling to get through the door to a restaurant or needs help as we encountered getting their food tray to their table at a buffet. I would truly hope and pray that kindness would be on the minds of all especially during the Christmas season as we are reminded about the ONE who left behind his glory to become the baby in the stable not the fancy high end hotel. 

Giving, self-sacrifice and seeing someone else’s need and doing something proactive instead of pretending to ignore is the ‘Spirit’ of Christmas. My hope is that more would start paying it forward and teach their kids and their grandkids that practicing kindness will transform their lives and the lives of those around them. 

Here’s the opportunity, not just for the next week or so but the whole year, is to have your eyes open to see the circumstances of those around you. Be the neighborhood hero that picks up the trash instead of walking past it thinking that’s not my mess. 

Merry Christmas 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Loneliness is something all of us face!

 I just read a recent article about how loneliness hits at different ages. I’m fortunate in that I’m far from 20, have passed 50 but still have the 80’s phase to wait out. The bigger picture is that I’m around both young and really old and it is clear that loneliness, depression and being alone is part of life that we must learn to face in a healthier fashion. 

I know that holiday time, regardless of whether it’s Christmas, Thanksgiving and especially birthdays are tough. I lost my mom to cancer over 11 years ago. We share the same birthday so it’s always hard and on occasion even though I’m around family and lots of friends I still hurt and feel lonely on the inside and clearly miss my mom! 

The decay of the family unit means that there are way too many struggling with working through a divorce or breakup where kids, pets and family are separated. Yes, it’s different cooking for one then for a family of 5!  I recently listened to a friend who had recently gone through a divorce. I’m so proud of this friend in how they faced their circumstances and that of their spouse or now ex. The reality is that my friend will be healthier as they put their life together and let go of past hurt, confusion and heartache. I’m not one to promote divorce having just celebrated our 45thanniversary. 

I know that it’s so easy to disappear and choose purposely to become a recluse or a hermit. I know that in today’s move to become more minimalistic that living in mini-houses makes it tough to from a spouse, friend or roommate. Yet, the stark reality is that we can be around a large group at a Christmas party but be and feel totally ALONE. 

The last thing someone who is struggling with depression and being lonely want is someone telling them to jump into the fray. I know that it’s so easy to have a personal pity party and have that sad frown look happening. So, what happens as we enter into the most celebrated time of the year? Avoidance is one tack to take? Maybe going on a trip by yourself and playing tourist. The bigger challenge is actually choosing to do something, anything to make life better. 

My friend who recently went through a divorce talked about joining a support group. I know the difficulty with facing a strange or new group is the obvious questions that come at you about what, why and how are you going to cope better. Make a choice to do little baby steps to see your emotional imbalance improve and take a risk in talking to a friend or even someone at the local coffee shop. 

The bigger picture is that having a personal relationship with the Lord, means that regardless of what’s around you, people, place or circumstances will give you a sense of having a home and not being alone! I so much appreciate the image of Jesus being a shepherd that goes out of his way to look out for us, guide us and even discipline us at times is comforting. 

Yes, all of us will struggle with who we are, regardless of age, where we are headed, whether we’re gainfully employed or retired and the choice to include others in our life, including God, so we never have to be alone. 

Please don’t let your loneliness push you to the edge! Make a friend and give to someone that’s hurting. Life will get better! 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Is it possible to turn a bad day into a better day?

I know that everyone, myself included, have genuine bad days! Yes, where everything seems to go south regardless of what you choose to do. Last night we went to an incredible light display with a group of kids and teens. Sadly, one of my interns initially had car troubles and then worst of things she has a mishap and hits the curb and gets a flat tire. Thank God for AAA and their emergency service!

So, what can you do when a bad hair morning turns into a spiraling ready to jump off a cliff day? Holiday season is the worst time for those of us that struggle with depression, the loss of a loved one and the difficult reality that you’re alone for Christmas or thanksgiving. I was having a chat with a young friend who unfortunately has found himself in a ‘funk’. Regardless of what he does he has little if any motivation to do anything. It’s so easy to make an excuse when you’re out of it and soon you notice your life has gone from being in the ‘stall’ mode to be in the descending reverse mode. Oops, no one has to live this way, yet, without being able to acknowledge you’re in a perpetual bad day syndrome life isn’t going to get better. 

I have another friend who does struggle with SMI and continues to face his life circumstances both good and actually horrible. The difficulty, which my friend would admit, is that it takes a few great friends to walk with you in life to overcome the bad, bad, bad type of days. He had something horrible happen that was a combination of first time doing something and the ineptness of a clerk creating a nightmare situation. The good news, which does make your day or week rock, is that friends can help big time. The path to turning a bad day into a better day requires an openness to include someone in your impossible seeming situation. 

I have another friend who’s in a tough situation where he’s unemployed and it would seem that the odds are against him in making his life turn around. Regardless of how hard he tries, he’s learning after being incarcerated, stuff happens. Yes, the car breaks down, cell phone dies, you do ‘stupid stuff’ and you can be embarrassed to ask for help. I know that it’s so easy to say what matters most in life isn’t how many times you fall but how often you get back up and face the stuff that stinks in life? 

I just recently finished a book on how to face anxiety in life. It has a rather foul title, F…. Anxiety, yet, the author, a PhD, wants to connect with real people who are dealing with the s….. in life. I know that as a pastor and someone that does believe in super natural help that there isn’t a 1, 2, 3 solution to any problem and that depression and thoughts of harming yourself are sadly more part of our cultural than any want to face. 

I have a good friend who works with families that struggle with real life circumstances. She connected me with one of her friends who is a social worker. My new friend and her husband had chosen to help a teen who they had known for a long time. He had aged out of the ‘system’ and needed a place to live that is more than a group home. It was so exciting to meet someone who had intentionally chosen to be a positive influence and help to someone that could ultimately be out on the street. Yet, the tragic reality is that there are too many that need this type of positive attention NOW. 

I’m learning to listen more, ask for help more and not be afraid to speak up when I see someone isolated and hurting. The more important element for me is to have other resources that I can point a friend to pursue to have a better day. 

Yes, it’s time to realize that having a bad hair day is rather foolish to let ruin your day. The choice all of us make each day is whether we are serious about being in LIFE and can text a friend, make a call to a hotline or more importantly dial 911. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Lights Cheer Up Your Life!

This last weekend we had a quick getaway to Prescott. We didn’t realize it was the special Holiday Friday for all of the Whiskey Row Stores to have a variety of vocalists, musicians and even belly dancers entrain the locals and thousands of visitors like us in their stores. The downtown plaza area and courthouse was turned into an incredible light display that would captivate the attention of both young and old!

I have to admit that I’m still a kid at heart regardless of being a senior! I’m always transformed into a little kid when we put up all of our lights and incredible assortment of nativity scenes throughout the house. We usually have a holiday discussion or at times argument about whether putting everything up and out just after Thanksgiving is too soon. Yet, my experience would be that we should celebrate all year round the one who is the LIGHT of the world. I know that at times some people make fun or point out too quickly the few who leave their lights up longer than the norm and even a few that never take them down. 

I lived as a preteen and teen in Montana where the long winter day-nights could be depressing because of the lack of sun light. So, why would anyone choose to be a dweller of darkness intentionally? I have lived a good portion of my life in the Valley of the Sun where the energy and power of light definitely motivates you to be up and about! The reality is that light both destroys the darkness and is what gives you the pep and energy to make your day incredible!

I know that bright lights tend to detour would be thieves from breaking into your house along with your big dog or little dog that has that loud abrasive bark. It’s so true that whatever we do in the light, broad daylight, is seen by all and that the true test of character is what we do in the darkness or behind closed doors. A good friend at Starbucks bemoaned the fact that someone had broken into his giant truck and used the remote to open his garage. Fortunately, the delinquent didn’t steal anything in the truck even though my friend had accidently left his work bonus in the back. The reality is that my friend had recently installed a few cameras that caught the thief on video. 

I know that street lights, stop lights and warning lights help detour accidents from happening or better put the light promotes and protects life! It’s always an eerie feeling to drive through an unlit neighborhood and dodge parked cars on the street. One of my young teens made the comment about watching a YouTube clip about creatures that live at the bottom of the sea. The amazing eye-catching fact is that these deep-sea creatures have a phosphorescent shine that makes it possible for them to actually see in the depths of the darkness. 

Our little get-away to Prescott required us on Friday night to park almost a mile away from the downtown because everyone wanted to see the lights and be transformed back to a little kid who is mesmerized by the assortment of lights displays and the vast variety of colors. So, why not have colored light displays at your house and purposely choose to celebrate the ONE who created LIGHT with a purpose of revealing the beauty of the truth about LIFE! 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Kindness will change a life!

I know the world watched the funeral, memorial and life celebration of President H.W. Bush #41 were struck by this man’s intentional kindness to everyone! I heard from President Bush’s tailor of 30 years via a radio station how this man was made to feel so important. Whenever he would measure the President for a suit or slacks, Mr. Bush would make sure they were alone! I was brought to tears of a picture of President Bush’s service team where one of the agent’s son had Leukemia. The picture showed the little boy, head shaved, standing next to President Bush, also head shaved, sitting on his wheel chair with the service team behind also with bald heads. 

What has happened to our society that might, not kindness is viewed as the pathway to changing the world? How is it possible to truly believe that winning at all costs is the path to pursue in life? What happens when you lose, which we will a good portion of the time, that most view this unfortunately as the ultimate embarrassment? I know that being a gracious loser is not the easiest thing to do. Yet, what about being a gracious winner who doesn’t demean the other team or individual but instead shares part of ‘glory’ with them? 

Imagine what would happen if most people practiced random acts of kindness? I know that opening a door for someone at Starbucks who has a drink carrier and a pastry is viewed as going above and beyond. Yet, I know that the cry today is that there seems to be a lack of civility not only in the political arena but also in the community, church world and in school. Everyone seems to be obsessed with personal rights to the exclusion of the needs of those around them. 

What would happen if I intentionally chose to be a servant leader who actually noticed the needs of those around me?  The ultimate test, that does have real life dividends, is when I actually have to sacrifice something for another, especially someone who I don’t know and the person I don’t like or purposely avoid. I know you’ve had the experience, like myself, where you will see someone at the store that you avoid at all costs because you are at odds with them. 

I know that it’s easy to believe that paying it forward is all about paying for the person behind you at the drive through fast food place. Yet, the true need is to sacrifice your time and resources to help someone who is going through a life trauma. Imagine what it is like to have your house and neighborhood burn to the ground? Choosing to take a work or rescue vacation and helping someone in a hurricane or fire tragedy is truly a way to make kindness a way of life! 

What stood out at President Bush’s funeral was that we’re sadly losing the great generation that did believe that practicing kindness was more important than your social status and winning at all costs. Hearing the story of James Baker, close friend to President Bush, actually rubbing his dear friend’s feet as he was close to death was very moving. I know that Bob Doyle’s choice to be at the viewing and have a care giver help him stand up, walk to the casket and salute President Bush was a true sign of kindness and recognition of the greatness of his friend. 

One of the more difficult Biblical principles to understand and follow is that it’s easy to love those or show kindness to those who have been caring and nice to you. It’s another story to show that kindness and graciousness to someone you can’t stand or is very different from you. Last night I was at the community center for our normal weekly tutoring time. I noticed as we walked through the entryway an older gentleman who clearly was homeless. I know that my caring wife actually attempted to talk with him and see if we could help. Sadly, an important part of showing grace is the willingness of the potential recipient to accept it. The homeless man was stubborn and didn’t want help. 

I know that it’s my choice to purposely open my eyes to see the people and circumstances around me. This morning a friend ran out of gas and needed help. I was in the process of leaving and easily could have just expressed concern without taking steps to help. Instead, I remembered that I had my gallon gas container and it was full. So, I decided to share what I had. Otherwise, it would have taken my friend probably an hour to get back on the road.

My hope is that those who do live by showing random acts of kindness will influence those around them to be slower to judge and quicker to help regardless of circumstances!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Names Matter!

I know that when someone calls you, ‘Hey You’ or ‘What’s Your Face’ that hurts! Why don’t you remember my name or at least introduce yourself?? I’m old,  love Seinfeld and remember the one episode where Jerry is dating this gal who he doesn’t remember her name. He does everything with the help of his friends to find out her name with no success. Eventually he gets caught looking in her purse and she ‘nails’ him. She ultimately dumps him and screams at him, ‘You don’t know my name’!

I admit that I have a rather normal, bland name along with my wife and kids. Yet, living in a rather diverse community the names of most of my friends both young and old are unusual. One of my new grandma’s name is Geneva and she is so friendly and outgoing! I confess to the fact that a lot of the kids and teens I’ve been walking with over the last decade plus have names that can be very difficult to pronounce and forget attempting to spell them. So, there are many nicknames like, Fatboy, Wu Wu, K-Girl, Ary or T or P or Lil. 

What impressed me and touched my heart is a new friend who has been volunteering for the last 6 months. He showed me a list of names on his iPhone. It was like WOW! You actually care enough to ask how to spell and listen enough to be able to say it and connect. The ultimate compliment for my friend is when a group of kids and teens do selfies with him. We recently did a painting blitz where helped out with one of the houses and the awesome evidence was seeing a series of pictures with all of the kids and teens who helped hanging out with him!

I know that most today choose a name based upon the sound, it’s ranking with the top ten for today’s setting or some famous celeb or athlete. It wasn’t too long ago that a name represented a legacy or provided a platform for a life to follow and reflect integrity, character and real life. So, yes, a name does matter. It’s always impressive when I’m at Starbucks and someone who I’ve talked to a few times actually knows my name. I’m then somewhat embarrassed when I honestly don’t know the person’s name and then face the dilemma of whether I’m bold enough to ask the obvious. 

I understand the importance of establishing genuine relationships with new friends. I see the importance of listening, understanding a person’s history and then passions! So, knowing their name is such an integral part of getting to know them and include them intentionally in your circle. 

I also admit that as we age, remembering a name isn’t always easy nor automatic. So, I think it’s ok to ask for help when you’re stumped. My mom was always funny when it came to whether my name is Dave or David. She would go out of her way to remind me that I’m DAVID!

It’s so important to catch the importance of introducing yourself, having great eye contact and then remembering a few things about your new friend that are special to them. 

Yes, name tags do help out! It also helps out to repeat a person’s name at least three times to have it cemented into your brain! 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Why we rescue dogs… because we’ve been rescued!

I was taken back recently by an article online that attempted to make the point that dogs might be man’s best friend but aren’t very smart. What’s amazing in my life is that our assortment of dogs, who are our family, have touched and transformed our lives! Yes, Anne and I have a soft heart, propensity for rescuing strays that have been abandoned or escaped and are lost. My first experience with rescues was in the midst of our first dog, Penny, an Australian Shepherd pure breed, who was almost 19 and not long for the world. Much to my wife’s displeasure, I found Graham, a pound puppy, at our local shelter who was an Aussie and Chocolate Lab mix. 

We had never imagined that we would ever become a two-dog family, yet that is what Graham did to us. During the last months of our dear Penny’s life our new dog Graham helped Penny have a little extra jump in her step before she went to doggie heaven. The rest of our rescues were ones we have found on the canal and parks around where we live. I have to be honest I have never viewed dogs as being dumb animals and was personally insulted by this article. 

As I remember the impact of seeing poor little Gus, who has a punk rocker type of hair style, sitting on the edge of steps on our canal my heart broke. My Anne, who is truly the queen of rescuing our pups, was quick to go help him. He had been attacked by Coyotes and most likely wouldn’t have lasted another day on the step. We took him home, he was very receptive to being helped so we bathed him and cleaned up his wounds. After about a week his cuts were healing and after a few weeks he looked great. 

One of the questions we get asked often both about why we do At Risk Work in a tough neighborhood and why in the world is my little Anne a Chaplain at an all-Male Prison in addition to taking in our strays turned family dogs? The simple fact is because we have been rescued, rebirthed, renewed and loved unconditionally by God we respond in similar fashion to those around us. 

So, the morning we saw a little puppy, mixed pit, on the canal road with a large school bus looming over it my heart jumped. The Lady Bus Driver had stopped and screeched at us to get the dog from underneath the bus. I was trained from youth to jump to attention and respond. So, after grabbing this little puppy dog, my life was touched and transformed. Much like Graham had helped our aging Penny do better her last days, so our Freckles became our Graham’s special friend. 

Peanut, who is pictured with our Freckles, was a byproduct of our rescuing a rather oil and tar stained little Chihuahua mix, who we named Rosy. Little did we know or fathom that our new find who give birth to 4 of the cutest little puppies in a couple of weeks. So, we end up keeping 2 of these pups; Peanut, who has always been our little ‘wild child’ along with Carly who had been the runt but now has a rather large girth. Can’t imagine life with these 2 little sisters. 

Our last adoption and rescue is little Wiggles who weighs maybe 2 ½ pounds. We were at the park with a group of kids and teens for a few hours and this tiny little guy was around and seemed to be on his own. I did the fatherly thing and called my Anne and asked her to go by the park and get this little guy if he was still around. Fortunately, the little guy came right up to Anne and jumped into her little car. Now, little Wiggles, is the one who can leap up onto the bed and walked on his hind legs. 

The larger story in our lives is that 30 years ago the Lord brought us our daughter and son through a similar process. We had our Heather when she was 26 weeks old and spent a year in a Neonatal ICU in an older hospital in San Francisco. We didn’t necessarily understand that we had high risk pregnancy issues but ultimately Anne’s sister, a kindergarten teacher, had our Julie in her class. It didn’t take too long before we heard about Julie’s history. The journey of adopting her and her brother took over 2 years and much battle with social services departments both in San Diego County and Contra Costa County. 

The amazing gift, which we have experienced, is because we have been rescued and redeemed, we are so incredibly blessed to have been given an incredible family by God’s design. I would never compare our kid’s journey of becoming our family to rescuing dogs, yet, what’s amazing is that our kids also have rescued dogs too! (So, yes, we love our grand dogs too but especially love our grandkids, Hudson, Bryce, Jacob and soon to come a little Julie or Chris!) 

Yes, Christmas is a time to understand the real meaning and message of the baby in the manger who has come to rescue lost sheep who clearly in need of a savior and shepherd!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Build a bridge or a wall?

One of the more amazing aspects of my youth was living in areas where there weren’t any walls. I’ve heard many say that building walls in housing community makes for better neighbors. My younger brother, who has a passion for understanding the immigration issue, was part of a project that saw a bigger than life size little guy have a presence on the T.J. border close to San Diego. The purpose is to have people consider the life of a little kid on the border. The end celebration of this project was to build a giant-sized table that was on both sides of the border and have a feast to celebrate the life of this little NiƱo. 

I know that I’ve had neighbors in the past who didn’t appreciate my pets, loud parrot or groups hanging out that a block wall made it much more tolerable. Yet, I know in a perfect world where people did respect each other’s property, privacy but also valued friendship that a table is such a better pathway for the world around us! Imagine, what would happen if those we disagreed with heatedly over a real-life issue were able to sit down with me or you and have a thoughtful neutral third-party help resolve our issues how much better life would be. 

I know that one of the more difficult aspects of life is be able to communicate so both parties understand the issue or conflict. The unfortunate reality is that I’m not great at listening and process another person’s feelings, views or passions. It’s so easy to always make it about me, me, me and not give a ________ about another person’s circumstances. 

So, I agree that when there isn’t the possibility to have peace made between individuals that a wall will help conflict from rising to a point where harm might happen. Yet, the hope would be that we could come to a place where we can listen more, talk less, learn a lot and then purposely choose to sacrifice to see tables and meals become the pathway for building friendships that will make a community go from being torn apart to becoming safer and healthier. 

The challenge, which I try to concede about and be honest, is that I’m arrogant and believe that my way is the better pathway. Those that don’t see eye to eye with me are the ones that clearly have the problem. Until I’m ready and you’re ready to see our issue with pride and unwillingness to be humble a little, then our neighborhoods will continue to have clashes over who parks on the street, the noise level past 9pm or whether my display of holiday lights is offensive. 

I know that one of the key issues in life is whether I’m able to admit to my faults, mess-ups and hurtful actions and seek forgiveness not much is going to change! Forgiveness does become a way for walls to be torn down and replaced with tables or bridges. I personally tire of all the drama that fills the lives of too many where I’m more concerned about being right and getting my way. 

Christmas is all about the One who was ultimately offended, killed and mocked show true love by laying down His life display an amazing love that is all about forgiveness, mercy and grace. 

Let’s build bigger tables and at least see walls as not a solution to our personal problem of sin and rebellion! 

Monday, November 26, 2018

The greatest gift you can give to a friend is yourself?

Yesterday I was truly fortunate to have a huge group of friends, close to 70, purposely choose to sacrifice their Saturday to bless Grandma Bea and Geneva! It’s incredible to watch the influence of close friends who have shared their passion of helping and giving with their company, Stormwind. I was so amazed to see a group of young families with their kids help paint Grandma Bea and Grandma Geneva’s houses. (It was great to see a playpen set up in the driveway of Bea’s house!) 

One of my favorite passages from the Bible shares this incredible principle, Greater love has no man than this, but to lay down his life for a friend! (John 15:13) Imagine what the world would be like if more people choose to be intentional about how they treat those around them, especially those who are of a different race, cultural background, religious persuasion or socio-economic setting? 

I know that we live in a time where intimacy, authenticity and finding your passion and purpose in life sadly too often is missing in most people’s lives. I’m an aging baby boomer so the song looking for love in all the wrong places is so true. What would happen if you choose to be purposeful about helping and laying down your life for a friend, neighbor or even a new acquaintance. Today I reconnected with a young friend who I hadn’t seen in 5 years. Unfortunately, life hasn’t gone well for my friend. He had been kicked out of his adopted mom’s house and also his bio mom’s place. He has been homeless over the last two years and choose to hitchhike from Dallas to Phoenix. I was able to take him and his brother to get some food, listen to their story, connect with a friend who could help and get them some bus passes and cash. 

Tonight, I was blessed by some newer friends who manage a new Apple Store in a fancy mall in Scottsdale. They have chosen to partner with us in helping our kids and teens have an opportunity to better understand high tech, creativity and team work. It has been through the commitment of a few of the Apple Creative Team that my group has learned so much about the beauty of life and its’ expression through art. 

One of the more important life lessons to grasp is that in giving, sacrificing and laying down your life you will receive more than you can imagine. The challenge is that too many of us are more interested about what’s in it for me? What if more were to choose to take a different approach to life and instead of being obsessed with themselves actually see those around them who were hurting, left out and in real need? 

I’m so fortunate to have a few older friends who are so generous with their time, recourses and commitment to walk with troubled kids, teens and me. My life wouldn’t be what it is today without the willingness of many to step up, help out and ultimately sacrifice much so others can have a better life!

What’s the greatest gift you can give? 

Creativity brings inspiration into your life!

I will be the first to admit that I really suck at drawing! Yet, since the advent of the iPhone I have become a budding photographer who lives to capture life moments. One of the great opportunities in life is to discover your passion and have the freedom to explore it without constraints. Last night, during an amazing Phoenix Sun’s win, I had a rather insightful discussion with a young friend. I know it can be rather difficult to discover your niche in life when you’re surrounded by genius type siblings or parents and you’re an average guy. Yet, as I listened and prodded, I discovered a passion for learning in a rather different fashion. I know that most today in education would question the rationale behind teaching Greek or Latin and classical thought when the real need is more STEM students who can fill those high paying jobs. 

I have been pushed out of my comfort zone with having the opportunity to do an iPad class on almost a weekly basis with a group of kids and teens. What has amazed me is that I have been allowed to be at the center of pushing the envelope for designing projects that are surrounded by Apple Creative Genius types. What shouldn’t have surprised me was that one of my shyer students came to life after being given an opportunity to use her creativity. I was taken back, honestly shocked at her admission that she perceived herself as being an outgoing person. I watched her step up and use a creative app with her iPad that brought out her personality. 

Isn’t it possible to see each day as an opportunity to use what is around you as your own canvass to create beauty in life? I was taken back by a recent discussion with a PhD friend who made the statement that the pursuit of scientific truth always brought out the real essence of beauty in life. How is it possible for my super nerdish friend to talk about beauty as is if he is some type of impressionist artist. Yet, as I pondered what he heartfully shared, he’s totally ‘spot on’!

One of the more creative projects we did in our iPad class was to do video of everyone in a different setting actually break out their moves and DANCE. Our inspiring Creative Genius, Bella, then put together this incredible video clip of our group’s interactive dance. Then the next move was for our group to create their own music, via Garage Band, to add to this already inspirational clip. As I had the opportunity to listen to 20 of our student’s music it struck me that you didn’t have to be a famous musician or vocalist to create great sounds to take this dance clip to the next level. 

Living in Arizona, one of the more amazing creative times is watching the incredible sunsets with all the vast array of colors and shapes of clouds. The one who designed the universe and the life that surrounds everyone is the ULTIMATE artist who has literally created something out of nothing. The rising or setting of the sun ought to inspire us all to see the gift, beauty and inspiration in life!

How do you handle/face the bad stuff?

 A person’s self-worth and value ought not be based upon how they live during the good times when enjoying success in life. Rather, a person’s real worth and value is seen when they face the bad stuff in life and have to deal with the ‘crap’! Most have heard the old adage that when life gets tough the tough get going. So, how is it possible when you’re facing an anxiety attack, significant change in life or the ultimate, death to not quit and throw in the proverbial ‘towel’? 

This last week I have been alerted to the fact that a good friend from the 80’s, who is much younger is facing cancer and the requisite treatment, chemo and has a positive outlook. Another friend is in Phoenix because her son has Leukemia and required treatment that might require her to relocate for a season. I have another friend, who has been homeless and struggles with anxiety and depression be blessed with a new job. The challenge is that his world has been turned upside down. He no longer will have state benefits, has to wait for three months and will soon have to find a different apartment. 

Our grandma Mary, who is 94 and struggling with a variety of illnesses was back in the hospital again with both pulmonary and cardiac issues. It’s our natural response to panic and believe we have to drop everything and go see her. She’s very private and would rather not have us drop everything and make the trip, yet, we’re truly family and care. So how do you handle and face the tough times in your life? The point or purpose of writing isn’t to give a few simple steps to be better at facing anxiety or panic attacks but see the clear need to include others in your life journey. 

I know at times it can seem as if God is punishing me or you for some horrible sin we committed in our youth or if you’re not into God maybe the cosmos has your number. The life lesson I’m learning is that I don’t have to be in the mess or anxiety attack all alone. I texted my one friend, who has a habit of posting all of his ills on social media. He responded quickly and asked the obvious, what’s really got you? I directed him to a book that has stories of real-life people who struggle with the same anxiety. It unfolds the truth that too often we can be alone and have to face difficult times by ourselves, unless we intentionally reach out to a friend. 

All of these friends have an active faith in God that gives them a foundational basis for how they live, both in good times and clearly in the bad times. I have to be honest as I faced a challenge this week between people fighting in a way that didn’t have resolve. I caught myself being restless which means I go into hyper busy mode. I attempted a few times to be still, read and mediate, but the reality was that I couldn’t be still. I was fortunate to have something that helped be stay busy for a few days to help me regain my center and focus in life, God and my incredible wife. 

The mess, which was sad and unfortunate, didn’t get resolved but I was able to come to peace with other people’s choices, which isn’t mine and the impact of the bad stuff. I was pleased to be able to listen to a new friend at my Starbucks who has struggled with PTSD over the last decade. He had brought some artwork with him that stood out. I engaged in a conversation with him and heard his story unfold. He in turn asked me to share my story. It didn’t take too long before a new friendship appears to emerge and the hope that we can learn from each other about handling the crap in life. As I shared my faith journey, he attempted to not offend me but shared how he was a Buddhist. I was quick to mention that I had a variety of friends in the faith, secular setting and even Eastern Religion settings. 

What was incredible was that the mess I had experienced a week ago was still there, but I was able to get perspective on the bigger issues in life. As I listened to someone whose life had been through so much more, I considered myself blessed, fortunate to have an awesome wife, great family, many friends and a living relationship with God. 

I don’t have any simple 1,2,3 solutions nor pat answers and know that trying to answer the WHY question doesn’t help either. Yet, the spark of life that I see in my friends who are struggling is that there is hope, tomorrow can be better and that when the mess is overwhelming find a friend or make a friend! 

Whatever happened to please and thank you?

 I know that too many today live in an age of entitlement where everything is expected to happen in life without much effort or at the expense of another for free. I have memories of friends in high school who got their first car as they turned 16. I don’t have any memories of my parents making any such promises to me or my brothers. One of the most valuable lessons in life is to actually earn through your own work efforts that first car or fancy iPhone. (Notice that the present-day cost of an iPhone almost equals what I paid for my first new car.)

One of the more amazing aspects of my life is being someone who often becomes a conduit of someone else’s generosity. Over the Thanksgiving long-weekend I had many phone calls and text messages of many who were blessed to receive a Thanksgiving meal basket from one of my partner churches. What does surprise me is why I didn’t get a quick text from everyone saying thanks. I can remember one of Jesus’ days, when he chooses to heal 10 lepers whose lives had been marginal at best. Yet, only one of the healed lepers turned around to thank him. How is that possible? 

I’m always taken back by the few adults who don’t understand the importance of showing thanks and asking with gratitude instead of almost demanding. I had one mom who asked for help at Thanksgiving in a way that touched my heart. I had another mom that seemed to demand that I owed her a Thanksgiving Basket. The difficulty for me is that I don’t have unlimited resources, so I do have to say no to many. I know that life isn’t fair and that at times those who are less deserving receive help that someone else should have received. Yet, often the deciding factor in helping someone does come back to their ability to say PLEASE and THANK YOU. 

I do understand that expressing thanks is a by-product of how you were raised and the examples of those around you. So, if you are born into a family, like I was, my mom taught me from the cradle that saying thank you was a necessary response to everything that I received. I was shown by example that having an attitude of gratitude would go a long way, especially when I messed up and didn’t always remember. The downside to my mom’s life philosophy was when I or others forgot to say thanks there would be consequences. I have memories of my mom being quick to chide some of my kids when they didn’t express thanks. 

I know that having a mindset that everything in life is a gift from God is so essential to having an attitude of gratitude. Yet, too many have this contrary mindset that everything they have in life is theirs because they earned it. So, why should I have to show thankfulness when I’m the one who did everything? I will always remember the gift of a special friend to a teen who was graduating from High School. She went out of her way to have a friend do incredible pictures for the graduation. When I asked the recent grad if she had thanked our mutual friend the following came out of her mouth, ‘Why should I have to say thanks because I didn’t ask her to do this for me?’ As you can imagine I was horrified with this response and couldn’t believe I actually heard this. 

As we approach Christmas and other religious holidays that are all about receiving from the One who is the ultimate gift giver, my hope would be that please and thank you would make a ‘come back’! The opportunity that each of us have each day is to not allow the ‘Grinch’ types to steal our joy when it comes to giving without any sense of who is worthy to receive. 

I know that I most likely would be one of the 9 lepers that would have chosen purposely not to have thanked Jesus. I could have mentally made the assessment that this Jesus wouldn’t have had any clue about what life would have been like as someone that was hated, despised and ostracized. I deserved to be made whole and the bigger picture I would have thought was that God was the one who had cursed me with this deadly disease. 

Please take the time and effort to say please, thank you and show an attitude of gratitude today and touch another person’s life as you change the world! 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

How do I become resilient?

Definition of resilience - the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress 2: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. (Merriam-Webster)

How do you face misfortune or change in life without having a meltdown or just throwing in the towel? Last night I had the privilege of listening to a few of my interns share about their lives that included lots of tough times, too much change and little motivation to keep moving. So, what is it that makes the difference between an individual who bounces back and the person that quits or throws a tantrum? 

I listed to a new friend share her story of being an immigrant who is Peruvian and Italian. She initially didn’t speak English very well and didn’t fit in her schools in Detroit. Yet, her passion for learning, discovering more about her heart’s dream of doing music and her family gave her the reason to never quit but to keep learning. She’s now become someone who inspires others to choose to not allow their perceived limitations to stop them from pursuing their dreams in life. 

Another friend, who I’ve watched grow up over 12 years, shared her story of how she became passionate about learning, loving the arts and having an ongoing interest in always being a helper. She didn’t grow up in the best circumstances with having all step siblings. Yet, she became a person who didn’t make excuses, like most, but chose to always keep trying and making goals that always went way above the status quo. 

I know that it’s too easy for those that struggle with being resilient to say that these types of people are just abnormally different and have that extra energy and ability to rock the world, regardless of their circumstances. The opportunity to become more resilient is for everyone who is willing to open their eyes, ask for help and find that special friend to walk with them. 

I have another friend who has taught be so much about facing life threatening circumstances and how to endure failure by not quitting or blaming past life tragedies. He’s struggled with drug addiction, ongoing mental challenges and not necessarily the best support from family. I admit that not everyone is willing to walk with someone that is different. What amazes me is that as my new friend has dealt with his past issues he has become a vibrant person who ‘bleeds’ for strangers who are being abused. 

The reality today is that too many assume someone else is always going to do everything for them. Hard work is clearly a fact of life and discovering that you don’t start at the top and having an attitude that understands nothing is ever beneath you is so key to becoming resiliient. 

I admit that my passion to learn new words means I must google often and then must write out a definition. Yet, the journey of resiliency is an exciting life adventure. Everyday does bring new opportunities to learn, step up and help others! 

Why remember? It will determine your future!

I was listening to a local talk show yesterday as they commemorated 9-11 and reflected on how this had changed their lives. What stood out, sadly, is that the generation growing up weren’t around when this tragedy happened. So, the hosts mentioned how there is a growing sentiment that the remembering of this tragedy might lessen and disappear over the years. Classrooms are slow to talk about what happened because of its’ graphic nature.

Is it possible to learn from yesterday’s mess-ups, so tomorrow can be a better day? Does it require that I’m humble enough to recognize my own short comings to be receptive to figuring out what’s next? I’ve always fell back on the quotes by Edmund Burke and these others to highlight the significance of how the past does matter. Yet, I’m so slow and reticent to admit that yesterday wasn’t the best. 

“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.” 
Edmund Burke

“Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it” 
Sara Shepard, Wanted

“We're doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That's what it is to be alive. It's pretty dense kids who haven't figured that out by the time they're ten.... Most kids can't afford to go to Harvard and be misinformed.” 
Kurt Vonnegut, Bluebeard

I appreciate Kurt Vonnegut’s down to earth realism of how this must become one of the basic life lessons that everyone learns by the age of ten. Regardless of what academic institution you attend or ‘god forbid’ you don’t go to college, it’s still possible for everyone to learn how to open their eyes, ask for help and make tomorrow a better day. 

Unfortunately, it’s so easy for everyone to automatically do the blame game and pick a villain to point their fingers at for the reason their lives are a mess. Yet, one of the signs of maturity, that has little to do with age, is your ability to own up to the mess in front of you! I can’t fathom that anyone wouldn’t want to have a better life! Why is it the case that we have allowed circumstances to consume us to such an extent that stress sadly seems to be a daily life experience. Why purposely choose to live with stress and hypertension as if it’s suppose to be a normal part of life? 

I would hope that the past would teach us that we are fragile and do need a support group, friends and family to make life enriching! Time to remember and learn from the past so our tomorrows can rock the world. 

Shut up, zip it and LISTEN!

I will be the first to admit that too often I’m more interested in making sure my pearls of wisdom drown out the person who is speaking. Sadly, most are more concerned about their point being heard that actually hearing the story of a friend, office worker or a new acquaintance. We live during an era where most everyone is more consumed with themselves than the needs or life stories of those around them. 

I know that my better half will chastise me for using the word ‘shut up’ which is forbade in our house but the reality is that at times you must scream to get the attention of the person who is only interested in making their point heard. The sign of maturity is the individual who is willing to slow down, listen and then only respond when it adds to the conversation. Typically, my quick response is to usually justify my position over the point of view of the person I’m attempting to push to my side. 

The blame for our self-centered life style is a combination of the simple fact that few if any actually sit around a table when they eat dinner and instead allow the mega-screen T.V. to be the center stage. Otherwise it’s the almighty smart phone that is center stage when we go out to eat. Conversation is no longer something that grandparents or parents teach their kids. We are at the mercy of social media or now restaurants that ban cell phones at their tables. (Yes, there are business owners who promote real communication at the chance that they could lose business.)

I had the privilege and fun of meeting a few people yesterday who have become new friends. It was incredible to hear their stories and realize that I didn’t have to add anything to the conversation. The opportunity for everyone is to intentionally learn how to zip it and just listen to someone else’s history. I was humbled as I listened to a single mom share her story of a son who had experienced a series of poor choices and had his life put on hold when he was shot in the head which lead to the amazing testimony of this mom and how God has saved her son from dying or being a vegetable. I had the joy of meeting her son and seeing how he towered over me. 

Why is it the case that too many, including our president, truly believe that their lives must be center stage in everything? I tire, or maybe I’m jealous of the person who is seeking city council seat or the senate and has a video done about them where they seem to be super heroes that can leap tall buildings or take multiple shots without being fazed. Why do we have such a fascination with the celeb icons of our society? It’s the normal, average person who makes the world go round. Clearly, it is this group that pays taxes, volunteers at school or church and is the one willing to stop and help another person in trouble. 

Listening skills clearly are taught by normal people but sadly the mass populous aren’t interested in hearing. You must be a Nike superstar to be heard. There are too many real heroes who have put their lives on the line for others whose stories will never be heard. These are the people that we need to hear and learn the real meaning of how life isn’t about me but about laying my life down for others regardless of whether I get anything out of it. 
I know that the message of sacrifice for a family member or a friend can be heard but the Biblical message of laying your life down for a stranger or ‘God forbid’ your enemy has never been popular. 

So, please consider actually sitting down and allowing a new friend to share their story and don’t even start to share your story to ‘top’ their story. 


I can’t fathom that a group of older women would honestly make the excuse for men that it’s perfectly ok to make a goal of doing 100 kegs during my senior year in high school and that groping a girl is normal behavior! Looking back at my high school time I’m regretful that I didn’t stand with a friend. This friend, she wouldn’t have won popularity or beauty contests, was raped by a high school guy. I remember that the response from her family was tragic and it seemed that it was all her fault. I’m ashamed at the fact that I didn’t do more as a friend to reach out to her and walk with her. 

I know that forty-seven years later it would be almost impossible to find my friend. I don’t remember her last name and only that we attended High School outside of the Sacramento area. It’s remorseful to consider how her life turned out because of the one who committed this sexual abuse and unfortunately the way her family and friends treated her was horrible. 

It shouldn’t be any surprise that those who have been sexually abused seldom report it. The more serious the incident it would seem the less likely they would report it. It’s life destroying to be hurt in this fashion but then to have to replay, be questioned and too often be considered the villain is out of this world. The reality of what has been in the media the last week is that most that committed such heinous crimes are 99% sure of not being convicted of any crime. 

I know firsthand that the impact of this type of abuse leaves a life-long scar that too often will never go away. Is it any wonder that the #whyididn’treport is blowing up twitter? How is it possible that this has become a political game? How is it possible to put the life of anyone ‘out there’ who has suffered this type of abuse? The real conundrum is that those that are fighting against abuse victims too often are the ones who have been perpetrators?
I have witnessed first-hand the silence of family who have watched an uncle or grandpa molest a young girl or guy. How could this be possible? It’s very complicated and few are willing to take the time to listen, help, SCREAM and get help. The ultimate end result is that the one who has caused the irreparable damage has been enabled and protected. The question that continues to hit me is WHY? WHY? WHY? 

The present news cycle will pass as other supposedly more important threads come across our twitter feeds. Yet, the hurt, damage and crimes will continue until everyone stops pretending that it’s none of their business. 

Time to be a friend that listens, doesn’t make judgements and finds help for that friend regardless of whether they are 10 years old or close to being a senior. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Finder’s keepers? Never!

This last week while ordering my normal round of coffee from my Starbucks I saw some cash on the floor. A question which I’m sure some of the Baristas might of thought was whether I would have pocketed the $45. No one saw Jose’s cash that had clearly fallen out of his pocket. Yet, I would never be comfortable with taking the cash. So, I gave it to the lead Barista who figured who might have lost it. A few days later I asked the manager, a good friend, about the lost funds. She, first thanked me for turning it in and then said strangely that Jose hadn’t come to claim it. 

I know that there would be a debate amongst even adults as to whether this was some type of divine blessing I should use for one of my needy single moms. So, what pushes a person to choose not to be a keeper but instead weep with the person who has lost the cash, wallet or keys? I will never forget an episode of my wife’s where her phone accidently fell out of her possession when she was doing a gate code to see our daughter. It took her a little while to figure out her phone had vaporized. What shocked me after putting a message on the phone to text me was an actual call from a Good Samaritan who had it and was willing to deliver it. 

I would hope in today’s crazy world where morals seem to be rather absent that all would have a sense of wanting to be a helper instead of someone who is too quick to take what isn’t theirs. I’m always taken back by someone who will argue about their latest find as being their trophy. The Biblical story of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25ff, should help remind us of the call to love, help and care for our neighbor even when they’re a stranger. Imagine what the world would be like if more were quicker to understand the bigger impact of what happens when we choose not to practice finder’s keepers as the ‘law of the land’.  I know that the past generation of leaving cars unlocked or doors open today seems rather short sided and foolish. 

I hope that Jose does come back soon to retrieve his cash that fell out of his pocket. Unfortunately, he might have assumed that someone would have taken the cash and not sought to return it. I also hope that my Barista Friends would see their need to promote giving back regardless of the context. 

Finders who keep never win but eventually are those who will weep when the same happens to them!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Baby steps make life happen!

I know as a teen and twenty-something I made the erroneous assumption that I was invincible and could do anything perfectly the first time. As I have aged I have come to embrace the fact that this isn’t real life. I laughed all the way through an old movie, “What About Bob”, because it promoted the simple fact that life happens best by taking ‘baby steps’. There isn’t any short cut to learning, understanding place of failure in life, trying a tenth time and then ‘God forbid’ I have to actually be humble enough to ask for help. 

I have had such a thrill in life watching younger kids, teens and young adults do something new for the first time. The big picture is that a few are good at lots of first time things but the majority, myself included, who are normal people require baby steps to figure out new things. Over the last couple of weeks, I have watched a few do indoor rock climbing for the first time. Most, struggled doing free climbing because it required both brain power and upper strength. Yet, by the end of the day most were able to make it to the top with the rope because they listened to their trainer. Yes, there were a few that only made it half way. Yet, the good news is that they were able to do more than when they arrived at this incredible indoor facility. 

Yesterday I took a group to Bartlett Lake where we went tubing on the lake. Yes, getting into boat for some is a rather scary life experience. Forget, jumping into a lake that is rather different than going swimming in the backyard pool. Once someone is bold and brave enough to get on the tube it’s not ‘rocket science’ to stay on. The difficulty is when either the driver, me, chooses to go too fast or make bizarre turns or the rider decides to do something wacky like either stand up or choose not to use hands to hold on. The clear life lesson is that most anything can be learned by taking little steps to master what’s before you!

It has been so rewarding being a grandparent who has watched our grandson go from just smiling to crawling, climbing up, kind of walking to now being able to run, do flips and be a little helper. I know that doing swim lessons will be more a challenge for me then for Hudson. Yet, the real message in life is that a new relationship, new job, new pet, new house or doing something totally different requires an adventurous spirit and willingness to learn through failing. 

I know that it’s not easy for adults especially to take a step back and be a little kid when it comes to facing new things in life or trying something that they have ‘bombed’ a second or third time. Time to start taking more baby steps to see your life go somewhere different and be adventurous!

A Giant Chooses to Adopt a Bug in a Bush!

 A giant, in the minds of many in the Valley, Nick Dugus, chooses not to smash a bug in a bush but instead adopt this little 12-year old. Yes, Mr. Dugus stands six feet six inches and noticed something rather strange as he was driving and noticed a child hiding in a bush. As he got out of his car and interacted with this young, lost child it was clear that this little guy was a run away and struggling. The child who had been taken into custody often was fearful of adults turning him back in and typically would run away. Yet, as the Giant talked to this little ‘bug’ he gave him his cell phone number and said call me when you need help. The story unfolds as the little guy within a minute calls Mr. Dugas. 

This story which was highlighted in the Arizona Republic this Sunday showed the impact that one person can have on the life of an at-risk youth. Clearly, this little bug could have been left to fend for himself in the bushes of the Valley. Mr. Dugus drives back and gets the youngster. He had to promise to not call the police. Initially, the Giant takes him into his home and helps the youngster take a shower and get new clothes. The sad fact was that Mr. Dugus found the evidence of this little one being beaten with 63 lash marks from the dad hitting him with an antenna from a car. 

The following two-year journey and battle to adopt this little bug came back to a revolving door of case workers, like a total of 11. The reality is that too often single men are viewed as an unviable option for adoption. The nickname ‘Bug’ came about as the Giant interacted with this little guy. He actually had the judge make ‘Bug’ his legal middle name. I applaud Karina Bland for making this her story and highlighting the journey of these two unlikely characters to become the heart felt story for the AZ Republic front page on a Sunday. 

The sad fact is that we live in a society where too many are complacent in life and not willing to ever consider the impact that becoming a foster parent or eventually an adoptive family can have on someone like ‘Bug’. I also understand the journey of adopting where we fought between different counties in California and the all too common revolving door of changing case workers. Now 30 years later I can’t fathom what my life would be like without my daughter and son! 

The lesson of the story is that the forgotten who are both fatherless and motherless need your help! Please stop and consider, regardless of your age and marital status in life, how you can help a child or teen who is lost in the system. I too am outraged by the babies, children and teens that have been separated from their parents at the border. It’s past time to speak up and do something that will make a difference. 

I know that as Bug grows up he will continue to brag about his new Dad that literally saved his life. Yes, the little bugs that hide in the bushes need our willingness to first notice them and then choose to do something and not wait for someone else to step up!

Trash pandemic – pick up your trash!

Headlines! After the Japanese Soccer team played in the World Cup their fans immediately brought out trash bags and gloves to clean up the stadium. Just as amazing the team actually cleaned up their locker room and left a THANK YOU note. (Realize they lost the game and were out of the World Cup!)  What an incredible example! have a crazy wife who has this thing for picking up garbage wherever we are regardless of what’s happening. A few days ago we’re on a hike with our dog herd and she found a large trash bag and proceeds to fill it. 

I admit that I get rather irate when I see someone toss a couch or large household item on the side of the road! What’s crazy is that there is a Goodwill less than a mile away. Bigger picture is that our oceans are filling up with garbage which is killing our Whales and other ocean life. I can’t fathom that a Whale recently died and washed up to shore with a stomach full of plastic bottles and plastic bags. How is it possible that we claim to be a civilized world but yet don’t think twice about leaving or tossing our left overs all over the place. 

What’s incredible is that our city has a monthly big trash pickup. So regardless of where you live it’s possible to deposit your old couch, fridge or stove on the sidewalk in front of your house. I’m always amazed to see the few who do this leave gigantic piles of tree trimming, old furniture or whatever out. The fact is that the city attempts to control the trash pandemic but too many are lazy and don’t care enough to toss their trash into a trash receptacle. 

The fact is that the average American throws away enough food and clothing to seriously help the world hunger crisis. I know that one person’s trash can become another person’s treasures. So why is it the case that few are teaching their kids and family to recycle, share what’s left over and clearly get away from tossing stuff on the roads or trails of our incredible country. 

It’s time to for everyone to carry with them a trash bag and gloves to help stop the ongoing trash crisis.