Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

WHO AM I??!!... Johnny the Tackling Alzheimer's Patient!

WHO AM I?!  Haha, oh man!  I have to admit, I love Scrubs!  It's like a less serious version of House.  But, if you've never watched it, Johnny the Tackling Alzheimer's Patient was a somewhat recurring patient.  I don't think that they ever actually discussed his case in any episode.  But he would randomly show up tackling people as he yelled "Who am I?".   Johnny wasn't my favorite recurring character (My favorite was Hooch [Hooch is crazy!]), but I always laughed a bit when he showed up.  

I wonder though, have you ever felt like that?  I sure have.  While I didn't go around tackling people, I certainly spent a lot of time running around asking the same question.  Who am I?  Of all of the things I have learned over the past few years, this is one of the greatest.  Believe it or not, I used to be much more shy.  I was not the guy to get up in front of crowds.  I was much happier blending into the background.  In freshmen year of high school, I was convinced to run for a chapter officer position in an organization I had joined (FCCLA).  There were only two of us running.  Me and my best friend Jim.  Jim won.  He won because I was too afraid to make a speech so on the day we were having elections I dropped out.  By the next year, I started to overcome this.  I went on to become our chapter's Vice President for two years.  In college, I was hired by the National Organization to be a part of their STOP the Violence team (STOP was amazing!  It's one thing I love talking about if you want to hear more!).  I was one of about 20 or so people that would present conferences at different state meetings.  There could be up to a couple hundred students attending.  I loved it!  I got addicted to this kind of thing.  In a few short years I went from this quiet, sit in the back kind of kid to someone who is far more comfortable speaking in front of a large crowd than having a one-on-one conversation.  I joined a few activities in college.  But I had this problem.  I couldn't join something and not be a part of the leadership.  I started to live and breath what I thought "leadership" was.  My identity became what I was involved in and what leadership roles I had.  And it didn't stop there.  My identity then became who I knew.  It became who I was seen hanging out with (you know, it sounds a lot more shallow now that I write it).  Basically, my identity began to be wrapped up in anything but me.  Looking back, I think that some of it was an effort to hide who I was.  because if people really knew, they may not like me.  Part of it was just not being comfortable with who I was.  Still, another part was not even knowing who I really was. 

When I left West Chester University, many of the activities that I defined myself by weren't there anymore.  Many of the friendships were also either not there or they had changed.  But I started to understand that I don't need to define myself by anyone or anything else.  I know who I am.  I know who I am in God's eyes.  I am His child (John 1:12).  I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).  I am no longer a stranger or a foreigner.  I am a citizen and member of His house (Ephesians 2:19).  I am no longer a slave, but a friend of the Most High (John 15:15).  I know that I am not perfect, but a good work was begun in me and will one day be completed (Philippians 1:6).  

I'm not just a figure head.  I'm not just some leadership role.  I'm not just an employee.  There is more.  I'm very fortunate to have had so many awesome opportunities.  I'm so richly blessed to be involved in some great ministries.  I'm so blessed for my awesome family and friends.  But beneath all of it, there is more.  There is a story.  There is a passion.  A vision.  There is a heart beating to share these things.  My involvements are just that.  They're involvements.  They change.  And that's okay.  Life is fluid and moving.  It's supposed to be that way.  What doesn't change is what's underneath.  What's making the heart tick.  

So, I know who I am.  Do you?  I mean, who are you?  Are you still running through life like Johnny?  Are you begging the world to tell you who you are?  Or will you step out and tell the world who you are?  


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Just one more second

We've all been there.  Many times, I'm sure.  You're driving calmly down the street and all of a sudden some JERK cuts you off!  And guess what...he didn't even use a turn signal to do it!  Those in West Chester can probably relate to this:  Driving down Pottstown Pike coming back into WC off of 100.  You're at the light at Boot road. We ALL know that the right lane ends after the intersection.  So, into the left lane we sit.  Green light.  Drive through the intersection.  You look in your rear view mirror and here comes this car flying up behind you, through the intersection and cuts in front of you just as his lane ends!  How about the highway.  You're driving just as peaceful as you can.  You're in the left lane smoothly passing the cars in the "slow lane".  All of a sudden, the car in front of you needlessly swerves a bit.  Or they slow down to just under the speed limit.  Maybe leave a turn signal on.  You jump into the right lane and as you illegally pass them, you note that the driver is on the phone. You probably say something like"hang up the phone and drive!" in your head as you give them a dirty look.  Anyway, you get the point.  Road rage.  I'm sure most of us have been there.  I know I have.

A couple of weeks ago I read an article about road rage.  Do you know how much time it adds to your commute when someone merges in front of you?  Or has the audacity to cut you off?  On average, it adds one second per car.  Just one more second.  Yet, that one extra seconds can so easily ruin a commute.  The urge to flick the high beams races through our minds.  All of a sudden the nice, relaxing Sounds of the Ocean CD is taken out and replaced with some loud Nickelback.  Our blood pressure rises to near boiling.  Anger of biblical proportions flows through our veins.  All of this for one lousy second.

So many times lately I am reminded of the times I've done these things.  I travel to a lot of different areas for work.  Many of which I've never been to before.  I can't tell you how many times I've gotten into a lane that I had no idea was going to end after an intersection.  Or how many times I've had to jet across 4 lanes of traffic to make my exit that I didn't realize was coming up.  So many times of complaining about someone driving and talking on the phone I'm reminded of the fact that I do it all of the time.  A few weeks ago my car was rear ended just past an intersection.  The first thing that I noticed was that the driver was on her cell phone.  My first thought was that had she been driving, not talking, maybe she wouldn't have hit me.  True?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I know that as I looked at myself in the mirror I had also spent that hour drive to that point catching up with my old friend.  've been in a rush to get somewhere as I weaved a bit more than usual.  I've had the music on, windows and sunroof open and not realized that my turn signal was still on.  I've forgotten to turn my high beams off at night.  I know that I've cut people off before.  Not necessarily intentionally, but I've done it.  Without doubt, I have been "that guy" so many times.  Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He said "Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?...Hypocrite!  First remove the plank from your own eye..." (Matthew 7:3-5).

So, my new challenge to myself is that when I find myself frustrated at another driver, to just remind myself that it's just one more second.  When that car is trying to merge onto the highway, if I let him in, it's just one more second.  I'm not perfect at it; far from it, actually.  But I'm trying.  I'm making an effort. This article went on to explain why we feel angry.  It's kind of an interesting reason.  We don't see the body language of the other driver.  We get cut off while walking all the time.  Yet a person's body language often shows apologetic signs.  Maybe a little shuffle of the feet.  Maybe quick head nod.  Maybe even a verbal sign of "excuse me".  These signs very often exist in cars as well.  We just can't see them through the cars.

I will leave you to reflect on this passage from James:
Of the tongue "...With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God.  Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so." (James 3:9-10)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Life in the North East US of A!

I love spring and summer.  Let me just say that.  I really love spring - summer!  I love being warm.  I love driving with my sun roof open and windows down.  I love wearing flip flops - which usually means being barefoot.  Seriously, most of the summer my flip flops stay on the drivers' side floor of my car until I go into work or a store.  I love putting on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and walking around.  I love walking through a park on a warm day.  I love laying a blanket down in an open field and laying out listening to some music and getting a tan.  Speaking of, I love getting a tan!  I love tossing a frisbee around.  The warm weather is just so much fun!

Still, I wonder though.  Would I enjoy these things as much without the winter months?  Without winter making me pasty white, I wouldn't have the joy of that first spring tan (which came on Friday, by the way!).  I really think that in the North East USA we have some truly awesome seasons.  We feel a big difference in all 4 seasons.  It's such a true blessing.  When the cold winter turns to warm flip flop weather, it is a nice change.  Then, when spring turns to blistering hot, humid summer days, we know.  It's a nice, slow easing into those kind of days.  Those hot and humid summer days are so awesome when we get a nice thunderstorm.  It cools the day a little and takes away some humidity.  And it's great to grab a frisbee and play some ultimate frisbee in a downpour!  Then, as summer fades away autumn starts.  A few chilly days creep into the forecast.  Mornings and evenings tend to be a little chilly while the day is still warm.  I have to admit, I really love those days.  Cool enough in the morning to wear a hoodie with shorts.  By mid morning beautiful and warm.  Then, slowly the days seem to get shorter as daylight fades.  The cool air of the mornings starts to stay throughout the day as winter approaches.  Winter brings such beauty with it too. A fresh snow falls and is just so awesome!  Winter sports can often be fun.  Snow ball fights, snowmen, skiing and snowboarding take the place of sun bathing and swimming.  Sipping hot chocolate by a fireplace takes the place of a frozen beverage next to the pool.  Then, slowly the process repeats as spring nears.  

Something else inspires me about the seasons though.  Autumn begins and the leaves start to change color (Oh, the beauty of driving through the mountains at this time!).  Eventually, these leaves give up as the die and fall off of trees.  The grass grows less and less green.  As winter rolls in, days get darker.  Mornings often consist of driving to work in the morning while it is dark.  Leaving work at the end of the day means driving back home in the dark many days.  Yet, when a fresh fallen snow arrives, we're reminded of the beauty in the darkness.  It is as if God is sending us a simple reminder that the darkness won't last forever.  There is still beauty in this world if we look for it.  For those of you who get snow, take a walk through a park after it snows.  It's so peaceful!  With the snow, another reminder seems to be sent.  One to slow down.  With snow and ice covering roads, we tend to drive a little slower.  We allow more time to get places.  I love driving around in West Chester and seeing how many will stop and help push other cars out of snowy ditches.  We tend to really hate having to shovel out our cars, scrape ice from our windshields and hope that we have enough traction to go anywhere.  But we also tend to be more understanding when others are late.  We don't always expect that everyone will conform to our schedule anymore.  The snowy weather brings a freedom to us.  A freedom to not be so uptight and fast paced as we in the North East tend to be.  For many, it's also a freedom to take a day off once in a while.  Like I said above, the winter fades.  Spring comes.  Life comes back.  We start by getting excited about a little groundhog un Punxsutawney, PA named Phil.  We anxiously await to see if he sees his shadow or not on Groundhog Day.  The legend is that if he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.  It's a crazy legend and he is rarely ever right.  But we all seem to love it.  Soon, Facebook posts begin to be more about the first sightings of Robins in the area instead of snowy forecasts.  Life comes back to the grass.  We start by seeing ugly, brown grass as the snow melts.  And we find joy in that ugly brown grass.  We see beauty because we know that soon it will be green and full of life again.  It's another gentle reminder to see the beauty in all things.  As we move forward, we have rainy days mixed into the weather.  We know that the rain will lead to more life in the trees and plants.  We soon see leaves growing and flowers blooming.  We see people out for walks. Dogs playing in the park, kids outside playing.  It's now like God has breathed new life over the earth.  And it is good!  Finally, schools let out, and pools open.  As the days get hotter, those very pools become crowded with families and friends.  The fireplace is traded in for a pool raft.  Then, summer draws nearer to the end.  Plants that are so full of life begin to become dehydrated as it is drier outside.  These very plants and trees seemingly begin to beg for a rest.  Cue Autumn...repeat...

I think that I will always be a warm weather kind of guy.  But I have to admit, I love life in the North East in regards to our weather.  We really get the best of all 4 seasons.  The biter cold makes us thankful for the warmth.  The days where just walking outside causes us to break into a sweat makes us thankful for the chillier days.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My thoughts on poverty: part 2

Some time ago I wrote part 1 of this blog.  Honestly, I had no intentions of a sequel to it.  Yet here I am.  You can find the original blog here:  Poverty part 1  (you should at least read the disclaimers in the beginning of this blog because they apply here as well).

The more I have been preparing myself for what adventures await at the end of this summer, the more I am drawn to the issue of poverty again.  A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with a local pastor, Steve.  He and his wife work in Coatesville and they are not afraid to tackle poverty head on.  I greatly admire both of them.  Through my few hour conversation with Steve I was challenged in a few ways.  In other ways words were put to thoughts that were in my head.

Before going any further, I want to ask you a question.  "what is poverty?"  Please... take 10 seconds and think about what poverty is.  What does that word make you think of.  I mean it.  Stop reading, take 10 seconds and answer that question.  What is poverty?  What does it look like?

Webster's dictionary defines poverty as:
a : the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessionsb : renunciation as a member of a religious order of the right as an individual to own property

Most of us would define poverty in a fairly similar way, I'm sure.  We tend to think of poverty as a lack of money and resources.  We think of the person in poverty as the one driving the beater car.  The one who may not have a nice home.  Maybe one who has a home but their electric and water has been shut off and they are in danger of facing eviction.  Maybe poverty is begging for money on the streets.  We tend to view poverty as a lack of resources.  No money, no food, no suitable shelter.

While those things may certainly be results of poverty, the impoverished person will very often not view those things as "poverty".  I was almost shocked when Steve asked me this question of poverty.  He then told me how those in poverty define "poverty".  For them poverty is not a lack of resources.  It is a lack of confidence.  It is a feeling of not belonging.  It's a feeling of worthlessness.  A feeling of hopelessness.  Poverty, to the impoverished, is defined by emotions and feelings rather than resources.  Poverty is a system that is so often designed to keep one in poverty.  That last bit may bring up some debate in some readers.  Steve then told me a story about Coatesville (but it existed all over the US).  Some years something called redlining was not only legal but it was widely practiced.  Redlining is a practice where banks and investors would draw red lines on maps, quite often based on the majority of racial and/or ethnic groups in areas.  Banks and investors would simply not invest in those that lived inside of these red lines.  This was made illegal sometime in the 1970's.  But let's be real...does it still happen?  I mean, unofficially, of course...

Let's talk about it this way...would you buy in a house in a community that is predominately inhabited by minorities?  How about open up a new business in such a community?

I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad.  I'm not trying to beat anyone up in any way.  But I want to make it clear that, and read closely here, lack of resources is NOT poverty!  It is the result of an impoverished mindset!  Did you get that?  I'll say it again...lack of resources is NOT poverty!  It is the result of an impoverished mindset!  Look, when I lived with my biological mother before my adoption we lived in poverty.  We spent nights on the streets.  What changed when I was adopted?  It was not just that I was given "things".  What changed was that people showed that they cared.  My MIND started to be renewed.  I began to feel that I mattered.  And here is the simple, point blank, cannot be clearer truth:  PEOPLE MATTER!

What would our country look like if people started believing that they mattered?  We cannot fight the battle on poverty without understanding that poverty starts in the mind.  So I do not challenge you to give money or anything.  If you feel led to do so, by all means, give.  But I challenge you to treat the people you may see on the streets as someone who matters.

Poverty starts in the mind - a way of thinking - and slowly begins to flow throughout the person.