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photo from http://www.rvforsaleguide.com/san-antonio-texas.htmI was engaged in a conversation today. It was about being the kind of friend you want others to be to you. But, what if a person can’t be the kind of person they want to be. Maybe past hurts have damaged their ability to engage with others in a healthy way? What if they’ve identified their issues and are working tirelessly to overcome but they aren’t quite there yet?

Or perhaps they’ve made every effort to establish a healthy, active social network (not the digital kind…the one that happens when you do things like, you know, go out to dinner) but their efforts have at best gone unrequited or at worst rebuffed entirely. What’s to be done with that?

This makes me think of the oft-quoted words of author, philosopher and transcendentalist Henry Thoreau:

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”

That statement is as true today as it was when it was written 160 years ago, but why? In an age where we can talk with anyone in the world immediately for little to no cost, in a  time when we live in closer proximity than ever before, in a day when we can get anywhere in the world in a day or less, why are there still so many lonely people desperate to live in community with someone…anyone?

Author, speaker and pastor John Ortberg wrote a book some years back, “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them.” The title pretty much says it all, but here’s an excerpt:

“Normal? Who’s normal? Not you, that’s for sure! No one you’ve ever met, either…the closer we get to each other, the plainer that is. Yet for all our quirks, sins, and jagged edges, we need each other. Community is more than just a word—it is one of our most fundamental requirements. So how do flawed, abnormal people such as ourselves master the forces that can drive us apart and come together in the life-changing relationships God designed us for?”

How can we turn away someone because we deem them odd or awkward or not normal when all of us are all of those things ourselves? We aren’t meant to live in isolation in the midst of our crowded streets and neighborhoods. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

As I survey the landscape around me I see lonely, desperate people who want the simplest thing of all: a friend.

 

In 1994 I experienced a moment of clarity. For the previous couple of years I had been volunteering with a student outreach program at my church. I had never worked with teenagers before. The students were pretty diverse, but I found myself drawn to the ones who didn’t typify what you might expect from church kids. They were the products of the difficult stories in which they found themselves. They covered their pain and anger with humor, drugs, alcohol…anything to ease the pain.

One in particular, Celeste, was the catalyst for my decision to pursue youth work on a full time basis. She came from a broken home. The story of her family, as it is with any divorce, was heartbreaking and the course she had traveled clearly affected every aspect of her life. In working with students like Celeste I knew what I needed to do with my life. I left my job and went back to school to train for my new vocation. In the pursuit of this calling on my life, I would mostly lose contact with Celeste, but I would never forget her.

Fast forward 20 years…

I don’t know what I expected this journey would be like, but what I did not expect was how hard it would be. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The best way to describe how I often feel is like the Denzel Washington character in The Book of Eli, a weathered and weary nomad on a mission. The road has been hard for a number of reasons. But, there is nothing else I would rather do.

With the advent of social media I was able to reconnect with Celeste on Facebook not too many years ago and she turned out great. She didn’t get there easily, which may make where she is now that much sweeter.

One of my recent posts led to a conversation among my Facebook friends that peaked with a comment Celeste left. It had nothing to do with the original post, but it made my day and reminded me why I do what I do:

You are crazy!
Maybe that’s why I understood you, way back when….
No one else spoke my language from that era in my life. 
Neither mother or father could see past their own understanding of the circumstances which landed each member of our broken family in a messy, lonely, and confusing place. 
The ripple effect of events having taken place before I was yet two years old still cause waves in all of our lives today. 
We are all products of the past, and I know we all found our way through the mess with The Father’s love, and unfathomable grace. 
I have special relationships with each, despite the broken path my life walk has been. 
And this too, is a gift from God. 
But, in that moment in my life, you were the only person who got through to me, and showed me a different picture of who Christ was.
I’ll be forever grateful that you are a little crazy. 
Crazy enough to reach into the lives of me and my friends, and speak the language that we spoke. 
I see God in both of my parents now, but I saw Him in you first.
Thanks for being kinda insane… 

Looking back I must have been crazy to take that leap from a predictable corporate life to what I do now. But, I’ll never regret it.

 

Rey Lo:

Great thoughts here. Give ‘em a read.

Originally posted on The Barefoot Pastor:

thinking-man

MAYBE IT’S TIME TO GET A LITTLE UNCOMFORTABLE…

One of the greatest tragedies, (in my opinion), is people blindly following what society tells us is right, or popular, or trendy, or Ke$ha! Interestingly, the people that we admire are the few who say, “who cares what is popular?? I’m doing ______”. Of course, then we idolize that person, blindly follow their new trend, and wait for the next genius to tell us what to do, (I use genius lightly, let’s remember that two decades ago we were all frosting our tips…).

Growing up, the churches I was in referred to societies desire to follow trends as “IF IT FEELS GOOD, DO IT!”… We were assured that this line of thinking had one destination and (spoiler alert!) it ended with ‘double hockey-sticks’. Now the reality is, some things that feel good, we should do! Working up a great sweat in a hard workout feels…

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Greg Nelson/SI

Greg Nelson/SI

Being a native San Antonian, I’m pretty excited to see our San Antonio Spurs win their fifth NBA title in fifteen years. Among the multiple accolades and records broken by the core members of this team – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and coach Gregg Popovich – what impresses me most has less to do with their skill and more to do the longevity of their relationship. For his entire career as a head coach, Popovich has not led any other team. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have spent their entire NBA careers with one team. There’s something to be said for pursuing something significant over a long period of time in the context of a tight community.

I know a group of friends who, for the last twenty years or so, have had the opportunity to create something pretty significant. They will tell you that they have had the rare privilege of getting up every morning to do what they love to do. As infrequent as that may be, we do hear people talk of loving their work and most people envy them from a distance. But there is something else they will tell you; a second component to how they have spent the last two decades that is often overlooked.

They’ll tell you that they not only got to do the work they love, they also got to do it with people they like. If the former is rare, the latter is rarer still. It reveals a gap in my own life that I will never be able to fill.

These friends have known each other since they were in their 20’s. They shared a common dream of creating something that did not previously exist. The vision they shared was in the context of their friendship. Some of them met when they were in their adolescence. Others came along a bit later. But, they clearly spent time with one another, challenging one another’s dreams, inspiring each other to reach farther than they imagined their abilities allowed.

It occurs to me that there is not one friendship I enjoy currently that began when I was young. No one that I knew in my younger days remains in my life as an active friend today. What would life be like today had those of us who knew each other back then remained connected to one another’s life today?

I wonder what the trajectory of my life would look like had I remained connected to Randy or Matt or Doug or Ken. Would we have banded together to pursue our dreams together and today, some 20-plus years later, be reflecting on what had been accomplished?

It will always be a rare thing to say you wake up every morning to the work you love. But, it will always be rarer still to say you get to do that with lifelong friends.

Imagine

June 7, 2014 — Leave a comment

10454324_479470588854366_2191286510859853129_nOver the last year since my kids started their band I’ve had the opportunity to rub shoulders with a ton of people in the local music community. Bands, managers, promoters, bartenders, venue owners…and they’re all pretty amazing people. Each of them is pursuing a dream at one level or another. Some are artists looking to make a living in music while others are doing their best to provide those artists a platform from which to execute their craft. There is a thriving artistic community in this city I love.

From Don at Imagine Books and Records to Renee at Jack’s Patio Bar to the fine people working hard to run venues like Fitzgerald’s, the Korova and the 1011 and countless others, there are people doing their dead level best to build something in our city. They are the supporters, the purveyors, the champions of artists new and old in San Antonio. But, let’s not forget who it is they are supporting.

The list is far too long to name them all, but I think of artists like Hydra Melody, Tera Ferna, the Black Market Club, the Heroine, Deer Vibes, Last Nighters, Chris Taylor, the Rosedale Highs, Maeta, Optic Arrest and yes, my favorite, Octahedron (bias noted). That list barely scratches the surface of a host of artists who have given themselves to a passion that consumes them. They give everything they have each time they take the stage because they believe that creative expression, especially through music, inspires people in a unique way.

Many people will say they support our local artistic community, but few will actually take the time to actually see what’s going on out there. I have and every time a show I’ve attended ends I find myself wondering when the next one will be.

Next time you hear of a show going on, go check it out and bring a friend or two. There’s a great community of artisans doing some pretty cool stuff. Go show them some love. There’s no reason the San Antonio music community couldn’t be something really special.

Imagine…

 

These Days

June 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

5110_119381608676_7815385_nOn December 6, 1991, Jennifer and I met with our friends Marshall, Kathy and Tina to catch the opening night of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Each of us being Trekkies, we couldn’t wait for the latest installment of the saga. While I don’t remember many details of the film I do remember who we were with and the fun we had sharing the experience.

I remember many friend-filled nights through the years: Sunday night conversations with Bill and Molly that always bled into the early hours of Monday morning, must-see TV nights and murder mystery dinners with Stacy, Jill, Lee Ann, David, Ricky and Holly during our years in Dallas, talking Beatles trivia with Harry, and Russell and Ginger hanging a six-pack on the front door of our house in Florida as a joke while I served as the youth pastor at a “don’t drink and don’t dance” kind of church and they wanted to let me know they weren’t hung up on things like that.

There was a time when we hung out with friends several nights a week laughing, talking, eating, drinking and living. It occurs to me that life isn’t much like that anymore.

These days we spend most evenings alone, watching television, falling asleep in our chairs. I’m not sure exactly when that happened or why. But as I approach 50 this September I can’t help but wonder what the next decades of life will be like. I used to say that I didn’t want to be one of two people alone in the world as I got older and I still hope that won’t be the case. Who knows?

There was an organic nature to our friendships back then. We naturally gravitated toward one another. It wasn’t planned and we certainly did not see one another as a “strategic” relationship.  That would have been much too clinical.

We were people who shared life and in doing so made life a richer experience. It never occurred to us not to spend time together. We found one another and we instinctively knew life was meant to be shared.

I love watching John Hughes’ films and one of my favorites is “The Breakfast Club”. Five high school students who could not be more different from one another and whose lives rarely intersect are thrown together in Saturday morning detention for various reasons. As the story is told they discover that while they began the day seeing themselves only as “a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal,” they realize they aren’t that different from one another after all. They find out that what kept them from wanting to know each other before were nothing more than external affectations taken on to deal with the struggles of life.

None of us has chosen to be here. We have learned how to work, play, talk and live as a result of our experiences. But instead of allowing our differences to keep us from getting to know one another we can spend time together. We can work, talk, play and maybe realize that what separates us externally is not nearly as pronounced as what makes us alike internally.

When my son Ruben was born we were living in Dallas. Jennifer was in labor for something close to eighteen hours. For nearly that entire time someone from among our friends was at the hospital waiting for our son to enter the world. No one asked them to come. No one needed to. They just showed up.

I miss those days.

 

 

 

 

Alone in a CrowdI’ve heard it said that if an organization’s ethos is strong enough it will discard whomever does not fit within it. It isn’t something done deliberately or with intentionality. The idea is that the culture is so strong it rejects what does not support the social structure of the organization. It just happens and it should. The stronger an organization’s culture is, the more focused it is, the greater its longevity. I get that. But, I’ve observed something that, while appearing to be a function of an organization pruning itself, is in reality something else that eventually weakens the culture.

There are times when it’s not the culture that is eliminating whomever does not fit. It’s people deciding they just don’t care for someone. It’s people determining that someone shouldn’t be here. It’s the corporate equivalent of Regina’s Burn Book, for you “Mean Girls” fans out there. There’s a subtle but important difference.

An organization’s culture is made up, in part, of its values. When there is someone that does not embrace whatever those values may be and doesn’t seem to be on a path to “getting it”, then its time to have a hard conversation.

That’s a different thing entirely than simply not liking someone because they like Chevy over Ford or are a vegetarian or like Pepsi instead of Coke. Maybe they don’t organize the day the way you do or don’t attack a project in the same manner you would. Those are all preferences that, while possibly an annoyance, are hardly matters of value. That isn’t to say that there aren’t issues related to chemistry, another important factor to consider, but even then I suspect that’s more often a cop out than reality.

The fact is we’re not going to get along with everyone in our organization but that doesn’t make them less valuable or less necessary to getting things done. It just means that we probably won’t be grabbing a beer with them after work. But what if we did? What if each of us made an effort to gravitate not toward those we naturally feel good about but toward those we have, for whatever reason, determined to have little value in our lives?

Whatever you believe or don’t believe about Jesus, he had some really great stuff to say about how we treat one another. One day he was having a chat with some people and challenged them with these words:

“If you only love those who love you, what reward is there for that? If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?”

One account of this event has Jesus wrapping up his words by saying, “In a word, what I’m saying is ‘GROW UP!'”

Actor Colin Hanks was asked once about how he was able to relate to a character he was cast to play:

“No matter where you are in your life, whatever set of people you’re with, it all still breaks down like high school does. You have your social cliques, you have the people you get along with, the people you don’t and the people you’re ambivalent about. All of the dynamics are still here.”

If we’re honest with ourselves we know that’s true and if we aren’t careful we have the same ability to exclude those who don’t fit into our clique just like we did in high school.  But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

In a post today by Donald Miller, he explains the three things that Oprah believes about everyone. I would suggest that applying them especially to those with whom we don’t naturally get along is a great first step to overcoming our natural tendency to be exclusive. They are:

1. People want to know whether you see them.
2. People want to know whether you hear them.
3. People want to know whether if what they say matters to you.

Either people really matter to you or they don’t. If you act like only a few people matter to you then it won’t be long before how you treat those that don’t matter to you will speak much more loudly about your life than how you treat those that do.

Rey Lo:

vulnerability is tough

Originally posted on pastormatt.tv:

MB Posts When Ellen and I were first married ministry was not our 20-year plan, the Navy was. We had it all planned out; we were to spend the next 20 years with me being gone for 15. The Navy explained to my sweet new bride how grueling it would be, that I would be gone often and that even when I was around my mind would be elsewhere. Knowing that my particular career path in the Navy would be a marriage destroyer I pursued a discharge for the pursuit of higher education. With the promise of a difficult future behind us we embarked upon an easier dream where everyone would love us and things would be calm: pastoral service.

Twenty plus years later I can tell you it has been a ride we never could have anticipated. So much so that only now do I feel equipped enough to share a…

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I’m very excited to introduce you to guest blogger Lynnwood King. He is the front man for the rock bands, The Heroine and The Revival. He’s a high energy, fully-charged vocalist with a heart for artists that is unmatched. 

I have had the privilege of working with some amazing talent from our city over the years. In my humble opinion anyone who steps out in faith to share their music and their heart through song is to be applauded.

Putting yourself out there in any capacity is sometimes a very difficult thing to do. You don’t know if you will receive praise or criticism. Most of the time you will get criticism. It will come from your friends, family, coworkers, and those you love most. It’s difficult to pursue a dream…any dream. That’s why I love musicians.

Musicians wear their hearts on their sleeves whether they want to or not. They share a song or a tune and leave themselves open to anyone who will listen. The harsh reality is until they develop a fan-base and their sound it can take many years to get past the critics.

I have been in this game a long time and thanks be to God I have had the privilege to continue pursuing my passion for music and touring long enough that even some critics moved on to other things. In some cases my critics, over the years, had a turn and have become some of my biggest fans and closest friends. That being said dare to dream.

Don’t stop – whatever your dream is. The dream for most musicians, contrary to popular belief, isn’t for riches or fame. It’s to share something they created with the world in the hope that it connects with someone, that it inspires, touches, encourages, and even changes someone’s life in some way. I have heard it said that greatness is in you. Well it is.

As my father-in-law, George Ramirez, would always say:

“The greatest songs are yet to be written, the greatest sermons are yet to be preached, the greatest books are yet to be written!”

Pursue the Dream. Trust God. Be patient.

534833_2945637857475_611862573_nI’d like you to meet my friend and today’s guest blogger, Jackie Williams. She lives in Toledo, Ohio, where she was born and raised. She is happily married with four great kids.

I LOVE science. Always have and always will. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an astronaut. Still do.

Bill Nye has a great scientific mind and I won’t “Jesus-juke” him by saying he is horrible, because he’s not. He makes very logical points. Some things can be explained and others can’t be. I am personally fascinated by the theory of evolution, and the scientific evidence that supports it. It is interesting stuff.

I believe that God created us to be inquisitive beings – to learn and discover. He gave us these gifts to draw closer to Him and reveal Himself; not to disprove that He exists or that His Word isn’t true. There is “room” for God in science and we shouldn’t be so close-minded to the point where we completely rule out anything that isn’t in the Bible.

But, at the same time our pursuit of the scientific answers to our questions should not rule out the One who gave us the drive to seek the answers. There’s nothing wrong with curiosity, experimentation, the pursuit of discovery, or science. This is how we grow as a human race. My only problem with Bill is that he wanted “proof” for something that largely requires faith.

One of my favorite quotes come from my favorite show, Star Trek DS9 which, of course, is a science fiction show:

“That’s the thing about faith. If you don’t have it, you can’t understand it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary.”