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!