Monday, January 27, 2014

immigration, meaning, perspective

I RECEIVED a reference from a friend a few weeks ago. When I got around to calling I explained who I was, who I was calling for, and what I was calling about. I was told that the person I was calling for was not available. And after a few minutes of conversation, the phone was handed to someone else. With the new person, I explained who I was, who I was calling for, and what I was calling about. And after a few minutes of conversation, a break in the voice on the other side of the call, I learned why the guy I was trying to reach was not available.
He had been detained. He was in an immigration holding facility. He was awaiting a decision, a direction.
Hearing the voices of the two women I talked to on the phone that day, puts the difficult situation our community/country is experiencing into perspective. As they tried to describe the situation without change to their voice, I could hear their eyes welling up. I could hear the rhythm of their heart quicken. I could hear all this.
When I dialed my phone that day (just about 2 weeks ago) I had no idea who I was calling, or what was going on in their lives.
This is often the case isn’t it?
Sometimes this is even the case with longtime friends. Sometimes even the case with family.
Sometimes we call and have no idea what’s going on. We don’t know the hurt, the sorrow, the situation.
Our lives are full of trials and adventures, some we want to experience, others we want to run from. Sometimes we believe it’s easier to live life in a perpetual state of ignorance – having accepted the “blue” pill (inter Matrix reference).
But ignorance is not bliss. No matter how simple or disconnected we may feel. The truth is – ignorance is not bliss. The Blue Pill would not have made life easier; rather it would have made it meaningless.
For it is within our daily interactions with one another that we find meaning. A listening ear, an embrace, a laugh; this is where we find meaning.
I’ve thought a lot about this immigration thing which daily flies under my radar. The confusion, hurt, and uncertainty was not lost on me that day – nor since. Hearing those voices crack and hearing their eyes fill with tears will stick with me. I don’t know them, but having spent time with them on the phone, living life together for those few minutes…
I pray.
I pray that I don’t live a life of ignorance; pretending lives around me are not experiencing great joys and often greater pains.
I pray for my friends. I pray for my neighbors.
I pray for hostility to be calmed.
I pray for peace in the midst of chaos. I pray.
Today, I choose the red pill and pray that my eyes may forever be opened to the reality in our midst.

Monday, January 6, 2014


Big Box
We hear this term a lot in our culture. Big Box. Big Box stores have popped up everywhere. At times we’re inclined to visit them simply because they hold so much of what we “need.”

Sometimes it’s kind of comical to read posts from friends after they visit Target or Costco. I’ve read facebook posts like: “wow, I got out of Target for under $100” or “why do I go into Target to get one thing, and come out 15?”

My wife and I shop at both of these Big Box stores. I actually enjoy Costco (even though they don’t play music while I shop). I enjoy wandering the aisles, checking out the ever changing samples, and the tasty treats. This summer I stopped in to grab some milk. (I have a 4yr & 1yr old, so we go through those 2 packs pretty quick!) On that particular trip, all I got was milk. As I checked out, the cashier looked at me kinda funny. She smiled and said: “Wow, this might be a first! Wish I could just come in and get only one thing.”
Novel feat, right!

What strikes me about these Big Box stores is our attraction to them. In my head, I associate Big Box with any nationwide chain. But Wikipedia told me this morning the term really is representative of these big stores that have a giant footprint and typically look like – well a big box.

Back in ’05 an Art Student, Julia Christensen, researched the growing trend of empty Big Box stores. You know the ones that sit vacant year after year. The Rensselaer Magazine article about Christensen’s research noted that: “Many of these superstores close because of lack of business or, more often, says Christensen, they move into a bigger and better space across town.”

Why is it if we are so attracted to them (as I believe we are – particularly after visiting Costco before and after the holidays) that they close? Why is it that these giant buildings are left abandoned? Why is it…?
Beyond these questions, I really wonder about these Big Box or nationwide chains and our inability to support the small, local, independent.

I lived in Seattle Washington for five years. While there I loved all the local restaurant choices. When we would have friends visit we’d take them to one of the fantastic local places – often just a short walk away. But this is not the case in most of the country. And unfortunately, having now returned to Southern California, this is not the case here.

If you ask where to meet a friend for lunch– what’s suggested is all too often the “big box” chain. We like the familiar. We like having everything in one place. We like the simplicity of the common.

As I perceive it, we have this same tendency within our culture when looking at churches. We look past the small to see the big. Culturally we gravitate to the all-encompassing, one-stop options where we think all our “needs” will be met.

But what fascinates us about The Standing Room, Catalina Coffee Company, Ocean Diner, Two Guns Espresso, Triangle Hardware, and (the list could go on, but I’ll pause there)  – with their quirky atmosphere, great product, and unique experiences… These stores provide us with something a little more.

In the New Year, I want to challenge you, when we look for places to meet friends, take family, or to just go and be; consider the smaller independent spots before giving in to the gravitational pull of the Big Box.
In the New Year, I want to challenge you, if you’re considering a place to go and worship; consider the small local faith community in your neighborhood.

Sometimes these seemingly smaller places (restaurants, stores, faith communities) actually offer us more. Sometimes these seemingly smaller places actually provide what we really need – a place to be, a place to participate, a place of community.