Thursday, June 18, 2009

Introducing Joya Scholars

Along with a great group of passionate and talented people, I've had the privilege of helping to start a new non-profit birthed out of a collaboration with Solidarity. Joya Scholars is a program with the mission of inspiring and preparing students of families from low- income neighborhoods in Fullerton toward higher education. We are focusing our efforts on the Garnet Neighborhood where there have been no college graduates to emerge in the last decade. Without a vision or real access to college education, the future for most of these kids is bleak: dropping out of high school, life in gangs, teen pregnancy, or low-paying jobs await them. We're hoping to change that.

If you'd like to find out more about JOYA or join us as a volunteer or donor, please let us know:

Joya Scholars
Bianca Pena, Program Director
PO Box 1457
Fullerton CA 92836
(714) 322-JOYA

Join us breaking the cycle of poverty one student at a time!

Monday, June 15, 2009


I finally saw UP with my family. Loved it! The five-minute or so recap of Carl and Ellie's life at the beginning of the movie to set up the film's premise has got to be one of the most endearing, heartbreaking, and treasured things you may ever see on screen. As I've reflected upon it today, it's a story about adventure to be sure, but mostly about loss: A widower and his wife, the couple and their house, and a son and his absent father. The adventure part of UP exists and emerges precisely at the intersection of Carl's and Russell's particular emptiness and the search to fill it, or in this case, fulfill it. As is the nature of adventure, not is always as it seems, and there are plenty of lessons to be gleaned and kicked around along the way, this film is no exception:

- You always take a bit of home with you wherever you go.
- Sometimes an adventure necessitates leaving the unnecessary behind.
- And the boring stuff is the stuff you remember most.

I've thought about the first as it relates to healing; that our experience of home growing up always stays with us, no matter what, no matter how old, offering a mixture both wonderful and painful. I've realized that with all the healing I have sought and been graciously given as an adult, there is still much of my youth that remains at the core, some now as nostalgia, but much as melancholy over what could have been.

I've reflected on the second over the last many years, of course, as it relates to Jesus. His call for us to lay down our lives, pick up our cross, and follow him is the stuff of divine adventure. But inherent in that call is to leave what may be treasured but unnecessary behind. I am regularly haunted by all the stuff I deem important wondering how much of it has kept me tethered to the ground, instead of up and exploring life in the kingdom. What is the unnecessary I must unload so I am free to pursue what is truly necessary? That's a holy journey.

And I've reminisced quite a bit about my own growing up, having shared that what I recall most fondly as a kid are indeed the mundane things - going to the hardware store with my dad, listening to Vin Scully on the radio as we cleaned out the garage, shooting hoop with my mom on the driveway. For this reason, I've told parents not to be surprised if it turns out that the times we were least conscious of our "parenting", end up being the moments that most shape our children. Somehow, it is the most boring, everyday, mundane things we remember most. Not because, I think, the moment was so important necessarily, but that we felt important in that moment. I don't ever recall what was said in those activities with my mom and dad, all I remember is that they shared that moment with me.

Having seen UP today on the heels of watching Benjamin Button for the first time last night, I am struck that what aches at our hearts is the loss of time, how we wish at some level things could stay the same and never change. I often think about my children in this way. But more than that, it's the loss of relationship that is allowed to pass as a reality and function of time: a spouse, a house, a father, a dream. Some people, some things, can never be replaced. And time does not stand still. But what UP does teaches us is that we can learn to enjoy new relationships, on new adventures, creating new memories, while never forgetting, or leaving far behind, what gave our memories, and losses, so much meaning to our lives in the first place.

Friday, June 12, 2009

El Capitan State Beach Vacation

We've been avid campers over the years, an inexpensive and wonderful way to enjoy beauty up close - and surefire way to be grateful for a hot shower. But we camped almost exclusively at the great national parks. I think it was an experience at Pismo Beach as a college student (basically camping in a sand storm!) that made me shy away from the state beaches. But because of a short week, we headed to El Capitan just north of Santa Barbara. I couldn't have been more surprised...and happier. For some reason I thought the campsites just couldn't compare to the national parks, but I was wrong. The sites were terrific and the facilities were great. Of course a different part of nature to enjoy, but completely relaxing - and with a 2-hour drive home instead of seven or eight, I actually felt rested when we got back. There is something to be said about the pace of camping, where things are deliberate and inefficient and slow. You notice the stars in the sky, the thousands of rocks on the beach, and your own silly family sitting around a smokey campfire. In short, you feel more connected to the earth, in all its earthiness.

Thinking Inside the Box

A significant takeaway I got from Lynda Resnick's enjoyable Rubies in the Orchard was her adamant bias toward thinking inside the box, a bit surprising given her tremendous success as marketer. But she poses the obvious question, "How many successful people have you met in your entire life who can really, truly 'think outside the box'? When was the last time you encountered someone who is able to conceptualize and create something that is truly new - something unlike anything that has come before?" Einstein, maybe Steve Jobs, certainly God himself. The rest of us 'nongeniuses' (and Resnick includes herself here) are apt to achieve something that unhinges from reality when we are convinced that the answers reside outside our organization. Instead, Resnick has designed all her companies to facilitate and encourage thinking inside the box, to allow for deeper and deeper unearthing of value within. The result is that she prefers in-house work over outside consultants, homegrown talent over outside ringers. The implications seem ripe for the church: What is the hidden gem(s) in our organization or church community? What is the value that already resides there and how can we enhance it? As I've longed surmised, what we need are not more presumptive conferences sponsored by people who don't know us, but more and better time of our own thinking, dreaming, and addressing our threats and opportunities - searching for and valuing the unique beauty that God has already posited in our midst. Maybe the answers that elude us most stare us in the face each week.

A Beautiful Parenting Moment

A few weeks back, Tea, Pastor Erin's daughter, was trying to keep herself occupied in the church office after finishing a day at preschool. She was writing on our ginormous white board with a dry erase marker when she suddenly stopped and remarked, "I don't know where the cap is? I can't seem to find it." She resigned, "I didn't do it, it must have fallen off somehow." Then Erin, in a bit of stellar parenting very gently said to Tea, "It's OK if it's your fault. We're allowed to make mistakes." Sitting at my desk and observing the interchange was a touching thing to witness. I immediately wondered, "How many adults wished their dads had said that to them, even once?" Grace assumes mistakes.