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!