The Animals and the Bridge

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Jungle BridgeFive animals were trying to cross a bridge, a cat, a dog, a cow, a pig, and a goat. The cat went first. Just then, a strong gust of wind came and knocked the cat off the bridge into the water below. The cat swam to shore then called to the other animals, “It’s the wind’s fault that I can’t cross the bridge. I am giving up.” The dog went next. Just then, a bird swooped down from the sky and pecked at the dog’s head. The dog panicked and ran back past the other animals. As he ran, he proclaimed, “It’s the bird’s fault that I can’t cross the bridge. I am giving up.” Next went the cow. As the cow stepped onto the bridge, the sun came out from behind a cloud and shown directly into the cow’s eyes. Unable to see, the cow stopped in it’s tracks, backed up, then walked into the trees to hide his eyes from the sun. From the trees, the cow called to the pig and the goat, “It’s the sun’s fault that I can’t cross the bridge. I am giving up.” The pig and the goat looked at each other and then the pig squinted his eye’s, looked down, and started making his way across the bridge. As the pig looked down, he noticed just how far above the ground the bridge was. His pudgy legs began to quiver in fear. He squealed, turned around, and ran past the goat, shouting “I’m afraid of heights! It’s the height’s fault that I can’t cross the bridge. I am giving up.” The goat stood there for a moment and considered his options. Finally, he cautiously stepped out onto the bridge. Just then, a gust of wind blew, but the goat caught himself and stayed on the bridge. Then a bird swooped down and pecked at the goat’s head, but the goat nipped back at the bird and it flew away. Next, the sun returned from behind the cloud and blinded the goat. The goat, squinted his eyes, looked down, and continued walking across the bridge. As he walked, like the pig, he noticed the great height of the bridge. His legs began to tremble a bit, but then he got a hold of his senses, kept walking forward, and eventually made it across the bridge to the other side. From there, he shouted to the other animals, “Hey guys. I made it!” The four animals just looked at each other, shook their heads, and marveled. “Wow.” they said, “Some animals have all the luck. I wish it had been that easy for us.” Then the cat, dog, cow, and pig all went away, never to cross the bridge.

“If it’s never our fault, we can’t take responsibility for it. If we can’t take responsibility for it, we’ll always be its victim.” ~Richard Bach

“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – you can blame anyone but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it is always your fault, because if you wanted to change, you’re the one who has got to change. It’s as simple as that…” ~Katharine Hepburn

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Commitment Costs

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment

I’d like to talk a bit about relationships, love, and commitment. But first, I wanna be a bit geeky…

Several years back, I got a phone call from an older relative. He knew that I was good with computers and he hoped that I could help him resolve a problem with his computer over the phone. Apparently, someone else allegedly had downloaded something naughty and/or malicious and it was causing problems. I couldn’t see what he was looking at, and, due to his technical ignorance, he wasn’t able to articulate to me what he was seeing, let alone the actual problem. After several minutes of frustration on both ends of the phone, I was able to walk him through shutting down the computer and then starting it back up. He had no clue what he was doing but I could hear the computer making the shutdown and startup sounds so I know he was pressing the right buttons even if he didn’t. Once the computer was started up again, I knew that there were no other programs running so I had a better idea of what he was looking at. I paused, took a deep breath, and asked again “What do you need me to help you do, exactly?” To this he said – clearly for the first time – “I just need help turning the computer off.” I laughed out loud and then walked him through the first half of the procedure we had just walked through. He informed me that the screen was blank and that the box wasn’t making any more noises, but he wasn’t sure if it was actually off or not. I assured him that it was. He was very grateful for my help.

I share this story just to say that we all have different levels of aptitude and experience when it comes to computers. Some people use computers only when absolutely necessary. Others have developed a sort of relationship with their computers. Countless nerds, myself included, actually name our computers.
Read more…

Not My Place [*]

November 13, 2010 Leave a comment

“Didn’t his mama teach him anything?” “Doesn’t he know he shouldn’t be doing that?” “Who are they to tell me what to do?” “You do your thing and I’ll do my thing.” “I know I’m going to the good place when I die. I’m a good person. …Most of the time.” “Hey. You. Those two guys you were just talking to. They’re gay.” All these statements have at least two things in common. The obvious commonality is that they are statements about right and wrong and about impressing one’s sense of right and wrong on another person. More than that though, I heard all of these statements at the same place from the same group of people during the course of the past few weeks. Take a moment to think about where I might have heard this stuff… In a church perhaps. At the state capital building. At a dance studio. In a bar. Downtown. A pool hall. The gym. One of these answers is correct but probably not in the way you think. I heard all these statements at a church, during their weekly homeless outreach event. All these statements were made by homeless people about themselves and their peers. Read more…

Dance as a House – A Metaphor for Life

November 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Silhouette of DancersEver watched a really good dancer and thought to yourself “I could never do that.”? Or have you ever looked at an exquisite piece of architecture (or a piece of furniture from IKEA) and thought “I could never build that.”?

When I was in the fourth grade my family of five moved in with my grandma, into a two-bedroom house. Naturally, there wasn’t much room for all six of us so plans were made for us to add more rooms onto the house. Due to money constraints the project took nearly two full years to complete. It was a very slow and painful process to say the least. First, our backyard was transformed from a small green orchid to a brownish trash heap. Then one side of our house became like a slice of Swiss cheese. For a long time several walls of our home were made of large thick sheets of clear plastic. We lived in a windy desert, which means extreme temperatures and lots of dirt. Imagine trying to sleep in a 90 or 50 degree room! Also imagine the frustration of perpetual dusting and vacuuming. Not fun. The bright side was that I got to see many of the oft-forgotten elements of a house being put into place. I saw the plumbing, the wiring, the air ducts, and the placement of things like heaters and bathtubs. Our house was not so much a home as much as it was a construction site. It wasn’t until the painting and flooring were complete that it finally began to look and feel like home again. Before that, I and others in my family had numerous moments of “F%$# all this! I’m so done with this stupid house! I don’t even want the extra rooms anymore!”

For the past few weeks I have been taking dance classes. Before moving from California to Texas I had virtually no interest in structured dancing. My second week in town, though, some new friends invited me to go country dancing. I had no clue how to country dance but had nothing better to do so I accepted. I danced exactly one dance and was horrible. That night I mostly just stood and watched as guy after guy walked up to a seemingly random lady, asked her to dance, danced to one song, said thanks, and then repeated the process with a different lady. As I stood on the edge of the dance floor (on the outside looking in, so to speak), I thought to myself “I have to learn how to do that”. Read more…

Categories: Snapshots of Me Tags: , , ,

Going to Church [*]

July 16, 2010 Leave a comment

I grew up in a family of five: three boys, a mom, and a dad. I don’t know what’s typical in other homes, but getting dressed, fed, and out the door each morning was a bit of chore for us. We had two cars and two drivers. During the week we usually had three or four destinations and arrival times. There was a lot of running around the house to get ready. Amazingly, during these week days, we were almost never late. On Saturdays, we often stayed at home but still had things to get done. Similar to our weekday schedule, we seldom were late to whatever tasks or destinations we had those days.

Sunday mornings were a whole other story. Every Sunday we all had one place to be at 11 AM. We needed one car and one driver and we had plenty of time to get ready. Yet, somehow, at least one person was always lagging. Most of the time, it was my mom. I have countless memories of us three boys and my dad sitting in a car with the engine running in the driveway impatiently waiting for my mom. We’d all shout stuff like “Come on, mom!! Hurry up!!” with a nasty impatient tone, even though there was no way she could hear us. My dad would honk the horn a few times and us boys would eventually resort to punching each other to pass the time and to vent our frustrations. Eventually, my mom would rush out the door, still trying to apply that last bit of make-up or attaching that critical piece of jewelry. My dad would pop the clutch into gear just as she shut the car door and she’d have to buckle her seat belt while also fighting the inertia of the accelerating car. Needless to say, by the time we were all in the car and on our way to church, we were in anything but a good mood. Read more…

Living Above the Garage

June 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Apple iPadI like money. I use it to buy stuff. Mostly, I buy food and gasoline. If I had more money I might buy an Apple iPad.

My son is an outfielder for a local Little League baseball team. Twice this year, we had a team party at the house of one of the coaches. I’d like to think that I am not materialistic, but as I surveyed the driveway, garage, living room, and backyard, I found myself being a little envious. A lot actually. Jacuzzi, pool, R.V., flat screen TV, ATVs, pool table, hybrid SUV. Yup, they had all that.

I kept telling myself that I didn’t really want any of it, that it would be fun for a while but that the fun wouldn’t last. I am sure this is true and I am sure that once the fun ran out I would just want to go and buy more stuff. Still, though, I wanted at least some of it. A taste, anyway. A better car, perhaps, would be nice. As my grandma used to put it, “Just a smidgen.” Read more…

Shut Up and Listen [*]

June 4, 2010 Leave a comment

7-11 SidewalkFor those that don’t already know, I had to experience another one of those really rough patches of life these past two weeks. It was one of those “If it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger” kinds of experiences. So, during that time, I took a two-week break from serving with the Broken Hearts Ministry team to focus on my “rough patch”, focus on God, and rest.

My “rough patch” came to a formal close, at least for now, last Wednesday. Since then, I have been processing my feelings and considering my options for life moving forward. My feelings have mostly been a mix of sadness, frustration, anger, and joy. My options have focused around my kids and ministry. Even as I write this, I have many things pending a resolution. It was a little bit of a surprise then that I received an email yesterday morning from Antquan Washington, the leader of Broken Hearts, encouraging me to deliver the sermon that night on the streets of Hollywood. He specifically suggested that I share something about what I have been experiencing these past few weeks. It wasn’t long before God and I had worked out a rough outline including scriptural references for the sermon I would give.

The title for the sermon we came up with was “The Voice of God: Shut Up and Listen”. One key verse came from the book of Psalms:

“Be still, and know that I am God;” (Psalm 46:10a NIV)

I was the first member of our team to arrive at the intersection of Santa Monica and Highland last night and was joined a few minutes later by Antquan. Apparently, the remaining members of the team were either not coming or were running late so Antquan and I prayed briefly and then headed across the street to the Donut Shop to mingle. I didn’t recognize many people and most people we met were stoned and/or drunk. I wasn’t sure how to initiate a conversation or with whom (yup! even after all these years, I still lose my tongue sometimes), so I prayed, repeatedly, “God help me. What should I say? Who should I talk to?”

While praying, I observed the comings and goings around me. Among other things, I watched one man sell $5 worth of “medicinal” marijuana to another fellow who immediately stepped outside to smoke it. At one point, I took a break from praying to ask no one in particular how the Lakers game had went. I got several replies but that also instigated a minor scuffle between two Celtics fans and everyone else. Right in the middle of it all, one man pulled out his pocket knife, waived it around, and said something like “We’ll see who’s really boss around here.” At that, I went back to praying. Read more…