Saturday, June 30, 2007

IPhone Day, Spoiled Kids, and a Yawn

Yesterday shall forever go down in history as IPhone roll out day. Although I am somewhat of a techno-geek, please pardon me while I don't wet my pants in hysteric anticipation.

My office is in Old Town Pasadena, and some 15 year old kid from La Canada has been waiting in line to get his phone for two days now. Fifteen? Where did he get the $500 from? Oh, wait, Mom is in line with him. Can you spell "indulged child"? But then again, perhaps this child will avoid therapy later life because his Mom shared his interests in life with him when he was young.

However, I am encouraged that Jesus still outranks the IPhone, over the long haul. Click the image to enlarge.

This video sums up all the hysteria.....with great humor. HT to Julie

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Teens, Text Messages, Connecting

I have a confession. I get bored in church meetings. And waiting for planes. Standing in line at Starbucks.

Another confession. I love my wife and daughters more than I ever thought possible. And so, when I get bored in church meetings, or when I am waiting at a stop light, or when I am waiting for a flight at the airport, I text message my girls.

My friend Julie has some interesting insight into this phenomenon that I think bears a look see.

My take is that anything that keeps me connected to my family, that keeps some form of communication open between us, is worthy of consideration. I shall continue texting....and keep the lines of communication open.


I have two daugthers. I am going to get me one of these babies.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Transpac and the Morning Light Project

<< Click to enlarge.

July 9th is the annual start again of the
Transpacific Yacht Race, and this year Roy Disney will be creating a motion picture of the experiences of one crew. This is reality film-making as it was meant to be.

From Los Angeles to Honolulu, 2,225 miles. The open Pacific. Annoyingly calm waters, and 20 foot downwind swells.

The Transpac race has a bit of place in my life, as two of my cousins crewed on boats in the race during the 1970's. I will be watching this film project, and the race with great interest.

For more, go to The Morning Light Project, click on "The Transpac Race", and then click on "Movie Clip".
The Transpac. Now that is life abundant!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Can I Be Young At Heart, When I Grow Up?

Today is my 49th birthday....

I ditched work early, came home, and hung out by the pool. This song came on the radio; I remember hearing it as a's true:

Frank Sinatra - Young At Heart Lyrics
(G.Leigh, J. Richards)
[Recorded April 29, 1963, Los Angeles]

Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you
If you're young at heart
For it's hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind
If you're young at heart

You can go to extremes with impossible schemes
You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams
And life gets more exciting with each passing day
And love is either in your heart or on its way

Don't you know that its worth every treasure on earth
To be young at heart
For as rich as you are its much better by far
To be young at heart

And if you should survive to 105
Look at all you'll derive out of being alive
Then here is the best part
You have a head start
If you are among the very young at heart

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Father's Day and Speaking in Portuguese

Sunday was Father's Day. We barbecued, and my oldest girl made the most amazing onion rings on the planet, I swear.

Being a father ranges the entire spectrum of emotions; from near vessel-bursting anger to teary-eyed sentimentality. Pain and joy, all rolled together. In my case, it seems like I experience both of these emotions on an almost daily basis.

Recently, I have been learning new things about my role as a Dad that I did not understand before. I was having a great conversation with a wise friend about parenting recently. I was musing about how sometimes I feel like I cannot have a decent conversation with my daughters, and how sometimes, it feels we are not connecting at all. They are 13 and 16, mind you, so this is tough work.

As most Dad of teenagers know, my name became a two-syllable word when my girls turned about 11 years old....from Dad - to Da - aad! Oh, that, and my IQ dropped about 100 points. I am now Frankenstein.

So, I learned something. I speak English, and much of the time it feels as if my daughters are speaking, well, Portuguese. When I was a kid, they called it "The Generation Gap". But I think it is not a phrase, or a phase, or a problem. I think it is a disconnect. And one that is largely of my doing.
More soon.....

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ruth Bell Graham 1920-2007

Ruth Graham passed away today. I feel a sense of loss.

My first thought was that Ruth spent much of her life alone. Alone raising babies as Billy traveled the world. Alone with teenagers, while Billy met with dignitaries. Alone. With five kids, alone with her thoughts. And then, after the kids were raised, again, alone. Billy kept on travelling. Alone. And yet, with Jesus there.

And now, Jesus is with her in a way she could only imagine before.

Ruth Graham lived an abundant life, indeed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Model Homes, Difficult People, and Staying Put

I like to tour model homes. I have been recently reflecting on why this is so.

Last week, while in Phoenix, I needed to look at some model homes, as a part of my real estate consulting
work. I spent the better part of two hours touring model tract homes, in part to understand things like product placement, new home absorption, and market behavior. This is some of the stuff I do at work.

As I went through my day, I found myself thinking that I really like to do this model home touring thing. Maybe I am partly voyeuristic, in an odd way. Partly I am amused by how perfect everything is presented to be. In model homes there are never any scuff marks on the baseboards or walls, no magazine fashion pictures taped to bedroom doors, like at my house of teenage girls. All the appliances are shiny and clean. No stains in the kitchen sink, or crumpled tortilla chips on the floor, fresh from the last kid attack of the snack cabinet. The perfect collection of farm tshatshke or modern Spanish decor to match the tiles and flooring. Nothing is out of place.

And then there are the upstairs. The bedrooms and bathrooms. The ideal collection of seaside trinkets happily arranged around the bathrooms. Kids toothbrushes all neatly aligned. A whimsical nautical theme. In the master bedroom, lovely photos on the bedside tables of the well tanned bleach blonde Handsome Family, taken last summer at "the shore" somewhere. Another mystical carefree vacation; not the kind we real world people have, where the teenage kids yell at each other and sulk for hours on end. These Model Home people are so handsome, so happy, so, well, serene and well adjusted.

Its all really made up though, isn't it? None of these homes are inhabited by real people. Well, if they are real people they suffer from a pretty mean case of obsessive compulsive clean-up disorder. Way too neat for reality.

After touring these homes I found myself thinking about the make-believe people whose pictures are scattered about the models. They appear, or look like, or represent the way our funny American evangelical church culture sometimes makes us think we are supposed to be.

There are the Buffingtons, for example, who live in the model aptly named "Nantucket Harbor". Three kids, all skilled at snow skiing; one in college, and the two younger siblings in honors classes at Marlborough Academy for the Privileged. Phil Buffington is an investment banker, and his wife Jill is a neurosurgeon. And then, next door, residing in the model "Seaside Slumber" are the Farnsworthys - Jack, Susan, and the kids, Audrey and Trey. This family loves to vacation in Newport Cove, where they spend their summer hours sailing on the grandparents sailboat. No one in their family ever got cancer or had a divorce. The kids are in nothing but honors classes.

Oh, and if we listen to some parts of our church culture, we would believe that the model home people are also Perfect Christians, too. They never fight in their model homes. The parents have read all the Victorious Parenting books, and their children are so well behaved. Lovely, isn't it? Why can't we be like them?

And then, there are the rest of us. Ordinary people. Messy lives, unfulfilled dreams, unfinished business. Unkempt hair, cavities. Oh, and our churches look like that too! Messy, unkempt, unlovely.

As I drove back to the Phoenix airport, I reflected on my non-model home life. I thought about the disordered, confusing, sometimes unpleasant ways things happen in my world. I thought about church committees I have been on, sometimes with people that make me nutty, talking for hours about things that don't really seem to be that important. I remembered the difficult people.

And then, as I swerved to avoid a speeding tow truck on the freeway, took a deep breath, and gave silent thanks to God for my life, I thought again. I like my life, and I am thankful for my sometimes disheveled, bewildering, non-model home faith. And church.

I am not moving to the model homes. I am staying put.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Still Looking

I Haven't Found What I Am Looking For

We Christian folk often like to boast that, through our clean and shiny faith, we have found the final answers to all of lifes stress and problems.

We have happy, smiling lives, free from pain, free from struggle. We are victorious. We even make more money than most, because we subtly belive that God is blessing us. And if we do have "challenges", they are short lived and have a happy ending.

To this I say, baloney.

If my almost 49 years have taught me much of anything, it is that the struggle, the striving, the searching, in many ways, never stops. Its unavoidable. Its life. And guess what else? Following Jesus often makes the journey harder in some ways. A friend of mine wisely says that the Christian life is "living life on purpose, not just letting it happen to you". She is right. We have a dear friend who lost her battle with cancer several years ago. Her death was brutal, unpleasant, and not like a happy ending to a movie. She knew Jesus better than just about anyone I know, and she did not go peacefully. It was very messy.

We likely won't even find the perfect setting in which our faith can grow and be nurtured, with all the dials adjusted perfectly to our own wants and needs. In this regard, I often feel like a Presbyterian Catholic Baptist Emergent Post Evangelical Nondenominational Episcopalian, or something similar. I often feel confused, like I am a couple blocks from home in a dream, and can't quite make that last turn around the corner that gets me back.

And so, I have not yet found the perfect church setting. I am attracted to many things across the Christian spectrum, from the ancient liturgy of the Catholics, to the focus on the Eucharist of the Episcopalians, to the get-you-all-wet-because-you-really-mean-it dunking of the Baptists. I often find myself repelled by the Committee-centric mindset of my own dear Presbyterians, and yet I love the open way that people from my own tradition love others, regardless of where they have come from.

I am tired sometimes of the only "getting you saved" mentality of many evangelicals, but many of my best friends and most admired role models come from there. It seems to me that Jesus had much more in mind for his Kingdom than "getting people in". He wanted to come and live with them, everyday. How intrusive!

And so, you see, I still haven't found what I am looking for. Its ok, though. I am on the way there. I just wanted to take a minute and be honest. My life is no less messy than yours. Just providing full disclosure.
Next, why I am staying where I have been put, and why need to love the messy people God has placed me with....

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Still Haven't Found What We're Looking For

U2 wrote a song:

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colours will bleed into one
Bleed into one.
But yes, I'm still running.

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it.

But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.

Here is what I am thinking these days.

These words are both antithetical to just about everything that I have become and am becoming, and at the same time, describes me quite well. If you like your life neatly defined, do not read on. I have found life to be very messy, so get ready to have me define some of my mess for you, and for myself.

I HAVE found What I Am Looking For
In my senior year at UCLA, my life seemed without reason. For 21 years, there had been a voice in my head which wondered what the heck was the point of life? Why was I here? What was my purpose on this planet? What was I to become? Why did relationships with women never work out? What was my carer to be? What would life after college look like?

In the midst of this wondering, and over the course of a year or so, in a story that is a bit long to repeat here, the words and life of Jesus became real to me in a way that was tangible, healing, transforming, and filled to overflowing with meaning. My journey in this Way has changed in many ways over years, but my focus on the beauty, meaning, and mystery of who Christ is has grown deeper in ways I would not have expected. In this way, I have found what I am looking for.

Soon, "I Have NOT Found What I Am Looking For"......

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Remembering a Very Good Neighbor

WWFD - What Would Fred Do?

My daughters both loved Mr. Rogers. During their younger years, I often found myself late for work in the morning, because I wanted to linger just a moment or two on the couch and watch Mr. Rogers with my little girls. It was calming, heartwarming, and the most emotionally healthy stuff on TV.

The other night I had the time to watch the DVD of
"Fred Rogers: America's Favorite Neighbor". It had been recommended to me by a friend. This is one of the more memorable films I have seen in some time. This is a film that stays with you. It sticks. In your soul.

I will tell you why. Watching Fred Rogers makes me feel just a bit uneasy. Maybe it was because he wasn't assertive or macho enough for our world. But really, I think it is because he was such a completely genuine and kind man, with very little guile. He really did not seem to understand or tolerate sarcasm, the way all of us "modern" people do. Rather, he really believed in everyone he met, and felt that they were each a special miracle, never to be repeated.

He seemed to be emotionally way ahead of his time. He thought about and cared for children in a way that, even today, is quite remarkable. He was altogether kind, gentle, perceptive, and loving.

As I watched more of the program, I started to figure out both why I felt slightly uneasy, and also so very fascinated by this man. There was something else motivating him. Rogers attended both the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Child Development. He graduated from the Seminary and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1963 with a charge to continue his work with children and families through the mass media. He was ordained to care. To sit on the floor and listen to little kids; to respond and communicate to them love and understanding, sometimes with puppets.

I felt strangely moved because Fred Rogers was motivated by the Gospel, but in a different way that our culture is used to. He did not shout, or color his hair, or write a book about six magic ways to success, or start a big shiny church with his name on the marquee. He did not parade his faith about town, carrying a bullhorn. As I listened to him speak, and the words of the many songs he had written for his television show, I sensed that virtually everything he did and said was motivated by genuine care. A care that is not anything like what our culture is used to. Fred was very counter-cultural. Emergent and missional, if you will.

I would have loved to have known Fred Rogers. I think it would have been a bit like knowing Jesus. Slightly troubling and wonderful, together at the same time.

For the past couple of days, as I recall this great biography I watched, I have been thinking to myself, "I wonder what Fred would do?"
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