He Told Me to Buy a Kayak

glideblueThe only thing I never did that he told me to do was buy a kayak. 

When my kids were born he suggested that I give up golf and spend the extra time with the children as they were young. It might be because I’m a bad golfer (which I am), but he said it was more about the irreplaceable early years with kids. He said there would be time for golf (and other time consuming hobbies) later when the kids were older and didn’t have as much time for me. So I gave up golf and several other hobbies. And he was right, I’ve had the privilege of being more involved in my kids lives than most other dads.

vacation-circled-on-calendar-jpgHe told me to always have a vacation planned, even if it was a small one, so that I’d always have something to look forward to when work seemed overwhelming.  He encouraged me to have it on the calendar as soon as I got back from a vacation so it would be ready as the next motivation.  So I planned breaks just like he suggested. And it’s always worked the way he said it would.

He told me to be more careful in my social media posts and in my writing.  I made a lot of hurtful mistakes early on. He stressed to me that written word is so much more forceful than spoken word and encouraged me to always go have a conversation with a person instead of writing them a letter or a Facebook post.  And so I became more conscious of what I posted, and more committed to face-to-face discussion.  And while I still make mistakes, my relationships are so much better because of his advice.

When I was wounded and mistreated by another leader I was supposed to follow, he cautioned me against bitterness and against rash decisions to leave. He advised me to work toward forgiveness and peace before deciding to move on, so as not to jump to something that wasn’t ideal just to get away from conflict.  And so I stayed another year. I let God work on my heart. And finally made a move that was healthy in motive and opportunity.

median-home-price-house-on-mney-stackHe told me that a house costs more than just a mortgage payment. He told me roofs need replaced and furnaces go out and that I should set aside a capital items savings each month as part of what it costs to own a home. And now my roof needs replaced and my furnace is on its last legs and I’m glad I have a savings account.

When I wasn’t sure what I should be doing with my life anymore, he told me it didn’t matter as much what I did as who I surrounded myself with while doing it.  He told me that a person could have fun doing anything if they were doing it with people they loved. And so I stopped looking for the right job and found joy and contentment with my teammates.  And I started to love my job.

He even told me what to listen to on my iPod. He would often come home from a big conference all excited about some speaker that had taught him something new.  He’d hand me a thumb drive with the talk loaded on it and tell me “just listen.”  And reluctantly I would listen to it and discover it was just exactly what I needed at that moment.

But most importantly, when I was scared to take a big risk professionally, he told me to trust who God made me and lead out boldly.  He himself had so much faith in me that I couldn’t help but take the risk to trust God’s work in me too.  And it was scary, but it turned out to be the best risk I ever took.

15356623_10154758601636944_1635425140574694767_nEverything Rob Cizek ever told me to do was better than a good idea; it was great.  It was wisdom.

I’ve had many bosses, mentors and friends in my life. But none who’s advice I respected more than Rob’s.  And it was easy to accept his wisdom because I knew he genuinely cared for me.

It’s often been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  And Rob knew much more than most.  But he also cared even more than that.  

Every person who worked with or for Rob has the same story.  We all trusted what he said because he showed us how much he cared.  He always had our back. We’d rotate through his office and lunch meetings with our problems and frustrations, and he’d patiently listen and offer support. There had to be days that’s all he did.  It must have been overwhelming at times. It’s amazing one man could handle all the burdens we laid on him.

And when those long days were done, he’d often head out of the office to Silver Lake.  He’d put his kayak in the water, push out and relax.  He told me it was his own place of reflection. It was where he found peace.  He told me to buy a kayak, because everyone needs a spot like that.

Today, I know he’s in a real place of peace.

Rob, I’m going to miss you awfully.  There’s so many things I still wanted to ask you and learn.  So many things I still don’t know about being a dad, pastor, friend and human.  I’m going to miss our lunches, texts, laughter and friendship. There’s a bit of peace missing now in me. Today, I could really use that spot on the lake.

So I think it’s time I do the one thing you told me to do that I never got around to.  I’ll buy that kayak.  And maybe I’ll push out into Silver Lake one day soon.  And when I dip that oar in the water, I’ll think of you.  And I’ll remember what you taught me and I’ll pray that somewhere over that water I’ll find the strength that made you such a remarkable man.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Sebastian’s Voodoo

We’ll take a quick break from our discussion on non-violence today and I’d like to show you a short film by Joaquin Baldwin that a good friend of mine shared with me the other day.  This film has won just about every award a short film can win.  It is a great story of self-sacrifice with tons of Jesus overtones.  Enjoy!

About:  A voodoo doll must find the courage to save his friends from being pinned to death. Created at the UCLA Animation Workshop, with music by Nick Fevola.  Short by Joaquin Baldwin.

Sebastian’s Voodoo website

A Conversation Between Seattle & Mississippi

I have to sing a song to spell MISSISSIPPI correctly.  Just seems like there are a few too many “S’s” in there, doesn’t it?   But, I’m sure it is a beautiful state.  And anyway, I received a facebook message from a friend who lives there a few weeks ago.

It was great to hear from a friend I hadn’t communicated with in a while.  Isn’t Facebook great?  Ahhh, cheers to you, facebook people!

But, it started an ongoing conversation that has been one of the more rewarding and fascinating conversations that I have had in a long while.   One that I think is too valuable to keep to ourselves.

And so, with her permission, I have decided to let you over-hear our conversation.  Now, you should know from the beginning, that we don’t agree on a few things.   And I think that will become obvious as you read.  But, you should also know that we DO agree on a great deal.  Not the least of which is our love of God, our love of people and our commitment to friendship.

You should also know that though we have different perspectives on some things, I highly regard and respect her both as a person and a thinker.  And whether you agree with my perspective or hers or neither, I hope that you respect our friendship as well.

And lastly, you should know that the conversation you are about to listen in on, is a dialogue in process.  Though I can’t totally speak for her, I can say that God is continually reforming my thoughts on these areas and that where I am today may evolve by tomorrow.  And in that way, you are not reading our hard and fast thoughts, but our attempts to discover what we believe out loud, in conversation, with each other.  It is more vulnerable that way, but more rewarding, I think.

And so, I will post our comments back and forth to each other over the next few days.  “Letters from Seattle” will represent me.   “Letter from Mississippi” will represent her.   And it is our prayer that no matter where you come out on these issues, that it would cause you to think, to stretch, to grow, and to maybe start your own conversation.  Or in some way join into ours by leaving a respectful comment here.

Maybe the time for distasteful arguments is done and the time for constructive and respectful conversations is finally here.   God, may it be so.

To have the proper context, however, you must have read an earlier blog I wrote several months back.  And so I have re-posted it below.  I will follow with the first “Letter from Mississippi” in a few days.

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Mega-Pastors can be Mega-Wrong

I think i’ve discovered why the church can too often be found on the wrong side of major issues. In fact, how it can many times be found on the exact opposite side of even God on major issues . . . Church Leaders.

I drove home from the gay bath house last week [see my previous blogs about Gay Bathhouse] and came home to a startling news story. Well, it was actually just a news teaser for the 11-o’clock news that night during a commercial break during “The Office.” But, nonetheless, it startled me.

“Mega Church Pastor Protests High School Students.”

Headlines like that tend to catch my eye. So, i tuned into the local Seattle newschannel website to read up on what it was all about–after “The Office” was over, obviously.

The basic story was that each year, high schools in my area (and probably elsewhere) celebrate a day called “day of silence.” It is an event sponsored by the “gay, straight alliance” that encourages students to not talk all day in order to bring awareness to and solidarity with potentially gay students among them that are treated poorly, made fun of and often don’t have a credible voice.

A local mega-church pastor, who lived in the community of one such high school, decided to organize a protest of the event. So, in front of many news cameras, he called for 1,000 members of his church and other Christians to come down and picket and protest outside of the school for the whole day, chanting their anti-gay views and “correcting” the sin of a few through the personalized and compassionate forum of a billboard sign.

Now, in one sense, i realize that “day of silence” probably has a pro-gay agenda to it. But, as i read the article, i couldn’t help but wonder, “what is so wrong about not wanting gay students to be made fun of, physically abused or emotionally taunted?” In that regard, as a follower of Christ, i whole heartedly agree with the sentiment of the day. And on any level, what does picketing a bunch of high schoolers really accomplish?

My problem was i had just come home from sitting inside a very promiscous gay bath house in Seattle, where i had been sitting with my friend Rick handing out condoms and information to everyone who walked in. We didn’t personally know any of the guys that came in that night. We didn’t have any signs. We weren’t chanting anything. We simply handed out latex.

And as i sat at home reading the news story, the dichotomy of events perplexed me. On the one hand there was a mega church pastor that many people know, calling for Christians to protest teenagers attempting to humanize homosexual people that are often treated otherwise. And on the other hand, there was an everyday Christian that nobody knows, living with AIDS, sitting in a place most don’t know about and would never want to go to, handing out medical prevention (though not perfect) to oppressed adult addicts.

Both men agree homosexuality is not God’s ideal. The issue isn’t the morality of the lifestyle, but of the morality of our response. And because morality is a fuzzy term, let me define it this way. At issue is not whether Jesus approves of homosexuality as God’s ideal, but how Jesus would respond to people that are homosexual.

And in this case, the Mega-Pastor is Mega-WRONG. What the MP (mega-pastor) fails to realize is that protest without relationship is simply verbal violence. What the MP doesn’t understand is that compassion for people who don’t agree with you is “loving your neighbor as yourself.” What the MP has mistakenly accepted is that if you yell loud enough Jesus’ voice will be heard, when Jesus himself yells only at the religious pharisees and whispers grace to the sinner.

And what this reminds me is that, apparently, you can have everything RIGHT in your theology, but not be RIGHT. You can worship God in all the RIGHT ways, but not be RIGHT.

And as far as i can tell, Jesus never organized a protest of anything (unless you count his little tirade against the religious leaders in the temple), he simply went and ate and spent time with people who’s lives missed the mark of God’s ideal, calling them to something more fulfilling. He loved them to “abundant life.” There was no place for protest.

And so, Rick sits in Seattle at a gay bath house. No signs. No chants. He hopes that he is making a difference. Is a condom the answer to the problem? No. The problem is much more complex that what simple latex can fix. There are emotional, spiritual and mental issues that must be addressed. A holistic answer is needed.

But in the vaccuum of that answer, it is the only thing Rick knows to do. And so he does it.

It makes me wish that when people thought of Christians they thought of people like Rick rather than the blow hards that get all the news headlines like our local mega-pastor last week.

It makes me think that if Jesus were here today, he’d probably look more like the average guy, Rick, than the news bite mega-pastor any way.

I often ridicule Christians, mostly because we are such an easy target. But, i really don’t think all Christians are bad. I am one. Or that church is bad. I’m a part of one.

But, what scares me is that there is a vocal minority giving my faith a bad name. No, not my faith, my God. People hear words like they did last week and think that they are God’s sentiment or God’s words. And they never have been. The mega-pastor is simply wrong.

So, here is to you, out-spoken mega-church pastor. I’m pleading with you. Please examine your response to people with the life of Jesus before you speak and act in ways that shame Him and us.

I’ll even keep using the name “Christian,” if you’ll start acting like one.