He Saw and Believed

Dear Cameron Joshua and Erin Marie,

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Today there is a crisis in our nation and the country is in a Stay In Place order due to a virus called Corona virus, which means we aren’t able to meet together for what for us is the most blessed celebration of our faith, Easter Sunday.  I have been missing you both so profoundly as you, Erin, turn 6 weeks old, and you, Cameron, turn 3 in a few weeks. I am missing more of your life than I ever thought I would but today Hope resurfaced.

Today my beautiful grandchildren, today, your Papa got up and made coffee for us, then he showered and put on a suit and tie. I followed his lead and dressed for church as if it was any other normal Sunday. We got in our car and drove off to the church.

John 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.

Today your Papa went into an empty church, and said to the essential staff that it takes to preach an online message to and said, “The church may be empty this morning but so was the tomb and we are going to proclaim the WORD to more people than we would have reached normally.”

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Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

Your Papa met Jesus when he was not much older than you are and he has proclaimed him since. He wasn’t going to stay home and not reach anyone on this day, THE DAY,  our faith is built on. He was going to go to his pulpit and shout it out to the world. This isn’t any ordinary day and this isn’t a day to be taken casually. Is any day really?

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If you’ve ever preached to an empty room it isn’t easy. You get feedback and body language from those who are present and came to hear. It helps you move forward but your Papa has been doing this a long time. And he pushed through knowing he was called by God to give Hope and an invitation.

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So today he was a Pastor to a world who is scared that they will get a virus. He preached for you both, that you always know that Jesus is the center of our life. He preached to the ones who still don’t know about Jesus and he reminded me and himself that Jesus is the center of it all. While God has sat us all down, Papa is still doing what he has called to do.

I wrote all of this out in my bible today but just in case it is lost, technology will live on. One thing you will have forever is that Nana and Papa love you with their whole heart and you have a strong legacy of prayer and service to the Church and Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! He is Risen. We have hope and God’s Promises.

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Aiming Faithfully

Garett Kelli

The disciples were asked to watch and pray while their Shepherd soon to be Savior went off to pray. Distracted, not sensing the importance of the training and the hour they found themselves in, they quietly fell asleep. How alone Jesus must have felt. Yet in just a short while he would endure the cross and let God be famous.

Pastors feel this way sometimes too. Lonely. Yet their faithfulness to their calling keeps them steadfast knowing they are truly never alone and that Jesus is nearby. Never wavering to the allure of slumber or limelight although both sometimes seem appealing they keep moving forward. Big boisterous voices wagging fingers in condemnation or watered down gospels get applause and a sensation of grandeur for a moment while the pastors in the trenches of community work year after year to train those at the sound of their voice to listen for the voice of Jesus. Let God be famous.

Beth Moore said, “Cynicism is just arrogance pretending to be smart.” We can criticize the church and/or their leaders, tell you how we would do it, tell you that she is irrelevant but we would be exalting ourselves and not the one who reigns supreme. Let God be famous .

No, it would do us best to serve and love faithfully. When my husband was a young pastor a pastor and mentor told him, “Doug, if you want to make a difference in your community, plant deeps roots in the city, buy a pick up truck, and serve the people.” In other words, don’t quit. Make a difference where you are planted. Serve God faithfully, do what you can do for people and let God be famous.

I Wonder If She Knows…

I watch Cameron intently as he plays. He is serious, studious, loving, funny in a sarcastic way, and I can’t help but see my son in him. His profile, the way he assesses the environment before he either engages or not. The way he moves closer to us as a stranger walks into the room. His total refusal to call my mom Nana because as he pointed out, “No, you my Nana.” It points to his loyalty. The way he sees himself as protector.

I point all of this out to my daughter-in-love and while she smiles and laughs with me I recognize she has no point of reference to her husband as a toddler. Nor should she.

I wonder if she knows that as she mothers him the time flies quickly by? I wonder if she knows that the reason why he will pick a great wife is that she will raise a great man and have faith in herself that she can? I wonder if she knows the love she feels for her son will multiply a thousand times when she looks at his child?

No, she doesn’t know yet because none of us do before it happens. Instead good moms stress kindness, love, manners, respect, honor, humility, and education all while juggling a huge to-do list and worrying that we aren’t doing enough or that we are doing too much. In the meantime our children wrap themselves around our heart and we know that we will never be the same and we don’t want to be. No, no one can prepare you for those feelings that will come until they do.

I look at my grandson and my heart swells with joy. When we sing together or when he says, “Nana I will sing you a song” and breaks out in a toddler version of Amazing Grace it is as if angels are singing. Yes, yes, off key and pitch but nevertheless beautiful and a sound you wouldn’t trade for the world.

In those moments we do not have the profound revelation that all that we have lived through, all the hurts, pains, dysfunction that we all face will be worth it for the results that await us in the near future.

My daughter-in-love is beautiful. She is real, honest, loving, filled with integrity and character and the most amazing mom on the planet. She along with her husband are teaching Cameron the value of family, creating a strong and stable home where violence and love are opposed to one another. I heard Anthony say to Cameron in the middle of a toddler tantrum, “No, I don’t hit you and you don’t hit me. You can be angry but you can’t hit.” Above all their home is Christ-centered and they are laying solid foundation in our faith as Christians.

I am grateful she continues to humor me as I tell her stories of my son as a toddler, listens to recordings of his bath time, and has taken time to read through every single piece of art he made in pre-school. She is preparing Cameron to be a good big brother, a worthwhile friend, a man of character who will one day lead his family well. And although she doesn’t know it yet, she is preparing her heart to guide a daughter-in-love, to love her well, and to laugh and hold her grand babies one day.

I wonder if she knows that I hold her close in my heart because of who she is all by herself? My son’s wife, my grandson’s mom is all secondary to who she is. Her name is Frances Martinez and you are blessed if you know her.

Tribalism Continued

While sorting through my feelings of tribalism and it’s non-ending cycle of inclusion and exclusion I found Joaquin Phoenix and his acceptance speech something to be thought out. Take a listen:

Words like championing causes vs commonality of passion towards any issue doesn’t necessarily include or exclude unless we have no room for opinion. He talked of an egocentric world view and while his point was a natural world view, it wasn’t lost on me that even in discussion of causes we leave no room for difference. As he so eloquently put it we are best when we support each other instead of canceling each other out. There was another layer laid on my heart as I continue to work out my thought process on this issue.

The Shadow Of Tribalism

When we began to speak of our tribes several years ago, I embraced the concept wholeheartedly. Growing up third generation American my ancestors told stories of why we needed to stick together against racism and for survivalism in a country that didn’t always embrace its diversity. Tribalism embraces a poverty mindset that says we must preserve ourselves in the midst of those who would take away who we are.

Growing up in California I was privileged to have grown up with a wide variety of culture yet even then there was tribalism. When we go to eat Chinese Food in China Town we know there aren’t going to be stores where we can buy tortillas.

So the concept of “streams” and “tribes” didn’t signal any alarms until I began to examine how we use them. We use them to keep people rounded up and to keep others out. We hang onto to a sense of who is in, who is allowed to visit, and who is definitely out.

Jesus came to dispel tribalism or at least redefine it. He brought about the discussion and complexity of community while he mingled with many. When Jesus is among the people his mother and brothers show up to talk to him.

Matthew 12:46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

In fact his detractors questioned his choice of dinner companions.

Matthew 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Ultimately the inclusivity of whosoever is what brought him down. The tribe could not fathom sharing their lives with those who did not belong and that is the shadow which we walk in today because tribalism is still our thing. When we determine who is in and who is out not based on qualification but based on standing within the tribe we are acting out of the lack instead of embracing the abundance Jesus tried to bring. When we decide we can’t live in community within the confines of a tribe not because of evil but because of our perceived notions of where we stand within that tribe it shows we have yet to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

As I struggle to dispel the concept of tribalism and embrace inclusive community I doubt this will be the last post on the topic but it begins the process of discovering my role in it all.

Accusations Abound

A friend called to ask advice over an incident that occurred. I listened carefully, then I laughed because what do you do other than laugh? The story went like this. My friend has three dogs. As with most pet owners they are indoor/outdoor dogs and at any given moment they can be inside or outside.

The neighbor children took to daring each other to climb over the fence into my friend’s yard to see what the dogs would do. My friend’s dog’s are trained and friendly but they are dogs and therefore can react differently than anticipated if they feel threatened. My friend happened to be home to see the children climb over into her yard and her dogs, fortunately reacted accordingly without barking or acting aggressively.

Upon further thought, she walked over to the neighbor’s home and politely told the mother about the incident telling her that her dogs were trained but that dogs react differently under pressure and she didn’t want anyone to get hurt. The mother became angry and said that these dogs “better not” bite her children. Rather than apologizing for her trespassing children she went into accusation mode. My friend shouldn’t have dogs if they are going to hurt children. Needless to say the conversation didn’t go well. The mother told my friend she would call the police because her dogs were dangerous.

What do you do when there is no foundation for an accusation? I remember a similar incident when we had our cat Joy who passed away of old age a few years ago. A neighbor came to my door and said that my cat was getting the other cats pregnant on our block and I needed to do something about it. She knew this because the kittens looked like my cat she explained. I assured her that it was not my cat as my cat was female and spayed. She shouted, “Are you sure because these kittens sure look like your cat?” Believe me I am sure.

One of the 10 Commandments is that you should not lie about your neighbor. I know these sets of basic human decency boundaries are considered outdated but they still hold true today for a civilized society. How do we hold to tenants that no longer apply? For those of us in Christ the bearing of false witness is a real thing. In a world where the media reports and then fact checks later it can get confusing as to what is right and what is wrong. Friends, don’t be deceived. We will give an account to God for every word that proceeds from our mouth. In a culture where truth isn’t valued it will be important to keep yourself clean of these types of infractions. Instead keep your peace. The accusations being thrown about are truly not your concern and don’t add a minute to your day.

My advice to my friend? Guard your pearls. Matthew 7:6

Leadership Lessons From Lulu The Wonder Dog

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When Baron arrived as a puppy to our home he happily bounded throughout the house. We began the daunting task of training him to sit, to stay, to walk on a leash, to use the doggy door and not the floor, to chew on his toys and not on the furniture.

Lulu The Wonder Dog was 10 years old at the time and she began the task of training him to be her assistant in the house. She corrected him when he came near her bowl. She corrected him when he pounced on her when she was taking a nap. She corrected him when he crawled on her bed without her permission. He learned quickly the boundaries of what would be acceptable and what wouldn’t.

The difference in these two breeds was noticeable. Lulu is a Cattle Dog, she herds for a living. She likes her humans in the same room, she walks ahead of us, then circles back behind us to make sure we are rounded up and sticking together. I am the alpha of the herd so she follows me and knows exactly where I am at all times. She is serious about her job and if you want to play fetch she won’t stop you, she just insists you go and get the object.

Baron is a Golden Retriever. He fetches things, socks, underwear, water bottles, doves, ducks, and tennis balls. He isn’t as sophisticated as Lulu so he chases cats. He isn’t concerned with herding, instead he looks for puddles, pools, lakes, mud, all while carrying two to four balls in his mouth at once. He hunts, he runs, and he is happy go lucky. If Lulu is the administrator, Baron is the frat boy.

Day two of his being home he was herded into the bathroom where I was getting ready. Not his scene he decided to turn around and proceed out of the bedroom. Lulu ran ahead of him, stopped him at the bedroom door and once again she herded him into the bathroom. She then laid across the bathroom entrance so that Baron could see what the mission was. She followed this pattern for days as if to let him know that their job was to guard me.

John 7:16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.

She wasn’t concerned whether his breed herds or not. She had a mission and it was his job to help her complete that mission. She wasn’t concerned that his breed is smarter than hers, there was a mission and a way to complete that mission. She wasn’t concerned that he was younger and bigger than she was. You see, she understood delegation and empowering leaders.

She knew the mission was to empower leaders to implement the vision that she had been given for her family.

Baron would much rather do his own thing. He brings me a ball as I get out of the shower. I toss the ball but if it goes past the bathroom door, he stops and waits for me to leave the bathroom. Where is Lulu? Lulu who is now 12 years old, lays on her bed, inspecting what she expects, keeping on eye on her charge.

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Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

I think of Lulu often when I’m at work. I don’t always like doing the jobs I have been tasked with but I have been empowered to implement the mission and I do so to the best of my ability, faithfully, no complaints, well some complaints, because it was what I was given to do.

How do you empower leaders in your line of work? How do you use your skills and talents to implement the vision of what you are putting your hands to do? I hope it’s with character and integrity.