Monday, November 30, 2015

Life Is "Bute"-iful

Sometimes the generosity that you observe in the real world is even better than the stuff you see in the movies.  Move over "Local Hero" (Burt Lancaster) here is a real life story of generosity and fraternal love that is better than anything Hollywood has written in years.

This week, on a small, rural, remote Scottish island named Bute, around 80 refugees from war-torn Syria will make their new home among the grey stone houses, and "Fish & Chip" shops that flank the icy Atlantic ocean in the capitol city of Rothesay.  Fleeing the evil dictatorship of Bashar Al Asad in Syria, while at the same time running the gauntlet of guns and bombs being shot and dropped from ISIS militiamen, around 80 refugees, almost 50 children among them, will find a home in several apartment complexes in the downtown area.

Aidan Canavan, owner of the local Bute Brewery, has probably done the more to welcome the new Syrian refugees than any one else in Rothesay.  His company has rented out a local cinema and is planning on showing the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" on Dec. 13.  The Bute Brewery will also provide free mulled wine and food for the entire group of refugees.  Canavan, a former teacher is extremely excited to welcome the refugee.  In his own words; "When I was a teacher, I visited Rwanda with some of my pupils.  It took me weeks to recover from the experience.  Not a single person we met was unaffected by the genocide.  What these families, and many others like them, have endured is beyond our comprehension, and it will be an honor to give them respite and shelter.  I am so proud that this island has stepped up to the mark to help."

The island of Bute, once a vacation destination of middle class workers in Glasgow, has more recently become a rundown haven of pensioners, and retired people.  The "beach side" resorts and hotels, that once were filled with happy folk-singing and pub-chatter, now have mostly empty rooms, and dreary dining halls.  With up to 400 potential Syrian refugees eventually coming to Bute, and with an entire island population of 6,300, the percentage of Syrians will be roughly 6%.  With this change, the entire ethos of the island culture stands to become more Middle Eastern than "Tartan and Bow and Bagpipe".

Of course, there are others in the city of Rothesay, and the island of Bute that are less excited about the arrival of the refugees.  The local newspaper, The Buteman, has recently had several comments from local residents about the need to, "look after our own poor first."  However, these kinds of negative sentiments have quickly been derided by louder and more powerful local voices.  The paper's editor, Craig Borland recently wrote; "Mostly, these are just not-very-thinly-veiled ways of people saying, 'I don't want them in my back yard'.  Well, I do.  I want Bute to be a place where people who come here with little more than the clothes they are standing in can feel safe and at home."

What has also been striking, in this season of political terrorism in Paris and other places, is the reticence of many countries to take in these refugees.  Germany, France and Great Britain, at one time leading the way in the acceptance of refugees has decided to put such decisions "under review" until later consideration.  In the United States, with the lead up to the November 2016 Presidential election, the question of accepting refugees from Syria has become a greatly contested political fight.

My own opinion is that we, in the entire world, and especially the United States, should take up the example of the small island of Bute.  We should all take up and take in these fleeing refugees.  Why?  Because they are our neighbors.  Once Jesus was asked, "Who is my neighbor?"  Jesus then told a story about a man, a foreigner, who was beat up and bleeding and in need of help.  Several other people, all of religious background, passed the foreigner by.  Surely, above all, the religious people were afraid for their own safety and survival.  "What if the foreigner is a terrorist or a criminal," the passersby told themselves.  Only one man stopped - a Samaritan - he helped the man, gave him food, and lodging, and even extra money.

This Christmas season, let us allow our higher instincts rule over our baser fears - and in the words of the character George Bailey, who was played by James Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life" (the film that the refugees will see on Dec. 13 in Bute, Scotland), "Each man's life touches so many other lives.  When he isn't around he leaves and awful hole, doesn't he..."

May our own lives leave a hole when we leave this world...

Life is "Bute"iful!

All For Now,


Monday, November 23, 2015

Take A....D3

This Thanksgiving week I am grateful for so many things.  Right at the top of my list of things to be thankful for are my two incredible daughters - Haley and Sheena.  In the picture above, you can see a dance that I attended last week with my oldest daughter Haley.  The dance was called a "Father-Daughter Dance".  Honestly, I was not that excited about going to the dance when I heard about it.  But then I saw how excited Haley was, as she put on her best dress, and seemed transformed in one evening from a second year old girl to a girl becoming a young woman.  And then there was the week afterward in which almost every day Haley told me, "Daddy, thank you for taking me to the Father Daughter Dance," "I so loved the Father Daughter Dance".  On the wall opposite from my desk, where I now write, is a letter that Haley wrote me, "Dear Daddy, you are a great pastor.  I LOVED THE FATHER DAUGHTER DANCE" (The second part all in CAPS).

Whenever I get a chance to have an entire day with one of my daughters, in our household we call it a


D3 stands for Daddy Daughter Day.

Actually my hope is that I might be able to start a national trend among fathers who have daughters, and encourage them to have a D3 at least once a month.

It goes without saying that girls having positive and healthy male roll models is a rare occurrence in American society today, and at the same time, so vital for the positive healthy sense of self that young girls so desperately need as they get older.  Here is a recent startling list of statistics regarding self-esteem and the adolescent development of girls (from

*  Among high school students, 44% of girls, compared to 15% of guys are attempting to lose weight.

*  70% of girls age 15-17 avoid normal daily activities, such as attending school when they feel bad about their looks (This is also why the recent spate of incidents of one girl ragging on another girl because of their "looks" on Facebook is so detrimental).

*  75% of girls with low self esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or eating disorders.

*  20% of teens (mostly girls) will experience situational depression before they reach adulthood.

*  Teen girls that have a negative view of themselves are 4 times more likely to take part in activities with boys that they've ended up regretting later.

*  The top wish among all teen age girls is for their parents to communicate better with them.  This includes frequent and more open conversations.

*  7-10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school, and relationships with friends and family

*  A girl's self esteem is more strongly related to have she views her own body shape and body weight, than how much she actually ways.

None of these statistics should be a surprise to anyone.  The signs of their veracity are sadly commonplace on every play ground and high school eating quad in America.  But here's the thing.  All of them are what are known as "Thinking Disorders".  Thinking Disorders are psychological maladies that are, hypothetically, treatable with a strong and healthy input of positive reinforcement and cognitive reprogramming.  The best treatment, however, is of course a strong foundation of confidence and a strong sense of self that is established by a child's family system.  Father's are a crucial part of a healthy family system.

So, if you have a daughter, take a...


Daddy Daughter Day

Do it sometime this week.   The rewards will be innumerable!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

All For Now,


Monday, November 16, 2015

For France The Bell Tolls

In April of 2005, as pink flower blossoms were budding on the cherry trees of the Tuileries gardens on the east side of the Seine river, Star and I were enjoying a morning croissant and a cappuccino in a road side diner in Paris.  There is no city like Paris!  We had decided to splurge and celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary in Paris.  Because we had no kids, or dogs, we had more disposable income and freedom to travel, and so were able to make the trip.   And - there is no city like Paris!  We also splurged by getting a hotel room only a stone's throw from Notre Dame Cathedral.  While we were there, an historical occurrence took place.  Pope John Paul II died.  With the announcement of the news came the deep and sonorous peeling of the bells of Notre Dame Cathedral.    The cathedral seemed, all at once, to come alive, after centuries of dusty sleep.  A steady, and resonant "bong" rung out from the old Gothic towers of "Our Lady's" church.  With the peeling of the bells also came the streaming of people, many of whom had long abandoned the Catholic faith, to the ancient church.  There was a tragic energy in Paris that evening, which is basically impossible to comprehend unless you are witnessing it first hand .  The entire city was moved by the loss.

This past Sunday, the bells of Notre Dame Cathedral rung out once again.  This time, not for an octogenarian pope who died of natural causes - but for 129 ordinary Parisians who were gunned down in the bloom of their youth.  They were gunned down while reading papers in cafes, listening to a concert, watching a soccer game, and strolling the be-cobbled streets of Paris.  One of the most shocking news facts which have emerged this Monday morning is that many (if most) of the people killed were under the age of 30 - students, artists, young business people, techies, and hipsters.

As an American, and a pastor, I am afraid I don't have any deep truths to offer my blog readers after this tragedy, except, like you, I am alarmed by the increasing strength and resolve of ISIS to move beyond it's own borders to perpetrate such an act, and afraid of what the future may portend for all of us in terms of heightened security, and greater general paranoia.  And, like you, my heart grieves for our friends in France.

Oh, there is one other thing...

I am worried about the backlash against Muslim immigrants who are streaming into Europe and the United States.  This past Sunday, I told a true story in my morning message (which will be posted later this week on our church website and on Facebook) of a Muslim man and his family who, in 2003 fled the oppressive theocracy of Iran.  He found himself in Afghanistan not long thereafter only to be beaten down once again by an 7.45 richter earthquake.  Still in flight for his life and livelihood, he made it to the shores of Greece, where he and his family found themselves in the city of Athens.  This man (who now goes by "M" because he is still afraid for his life), encountered Christianity for the first time in his life in Athens.  The Orthodox churches with crosses on the tops of all of them were a comfort to him.  "M" learned about the Christian faith and decided to be baptized.  On the morning of his baptism, a Muslim relative found out about the plan and boiled a pot of water and poured it over "M's" head.  With scars all over his body, "M" then crawled to the Christian church, and crawled to the altar where he said, "No matter what they do to me, I will love Jesus."

So, in the end, it isn't just France for whom the bells toll...

It is all of us, who must live in a world that is much less safe, and much less sound.

But we can emulate our friend "M" who, upon his baptism, said;  - "No matter what they do to us, we will love Jesus"

All For Now


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Give Or Treat

This week, I am in Pasadena taking a class for my Doctoral degree, so I don't have much time to write a blog, but I did want to pass along a sweet story that I heard this past week, from a guest preacher at Mission Street.

This past Sunday, David Lange, former youth and families pastor at highlands church in Paso Robles, spoke at Mission Street.  He told a story about his son, Devon, who is only 2 years old.  He did NOT want to go trick or treating on Oct. 31.  For whatever reason, this little guy did NOT want to go trick or treating.  Something about the entire thing just seemed awful to this little guy.  Finally they convinced Devon to try it.  So, he walked up to the front door, and when he rang the door-bell, the door opened, and a person stood there at the door with a bowl full of candy.  When Devon saw the bowl full of candy, he pulled out a piece of candy from his own bag and put it in the bowl.  He thought that trick or treating was about giving candy away and not getting it.

Maybe the little guy had it right.

Instead of "Trick or Treat" - Maybe it should be:

Give Or Treat!

"From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise" Matt. 21:16

All For Now,