Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

“Lucy means light and additionally (the name) carried extra significance as my maternal grandmother, Lucille, was a spiritual rock in our family, before her untimely death on my birthday in 2009. I loved that the strength of my grandma might have an opportunity to live on in her great-granddaughter and was very pleased when Jaime was the first to suggest that we name her Lucy.”

Our shining star's bright light

Lucy – our shining star’s bright light

Four days before The Amazing Home Birth of Lucy Fisher, amidst a second blizzard in as many weeks during the relentless January snow of 2011, we received a visitor.

I was standing at the changing table situated directly under a window facing our backyard. Perched confidently outside our second floor apartment, overlooking the children’s bedroom, was a breathtaking cardinal against the backdrop of snow. I called the attention of the whole family to come marvel. But it wasn’t just the cardinal’s symbolic beauty amidst the storm that was so captivating, for as in continuing to observe it I felt strongly that it had arrived here on our branches purposefully.

A symbol of beauty amidst continual storm may have been something even more

A symbol of beauty amidst continual storm, this cardinal’s arrival may have been something more

I am not sure I would be able to explain it to a skeptic, but as has occurred to me on previous occasions, I sensed that this particular bird in this exact moment was there specifically for me. That it was present to deliver a message and would be content to remain watching over my household until I received it.

The cardinal stayed long enough that I eventually was compelled to grab the video camera and record it’s appearance. The picture to the right is an actual screen shot from the recording on that winter day. I could not shake the feeling that this sighting was not simply fortuitous but meaningful in some way. I have never been inclined toward interest in animal spirits, but decided out of curiosity to Google possible meanings for the overt arrival of a cardinal.

The first website I found spoke of a cardinal as potentially representing the spirit of a deceased loved one signaling that they are still with you. I immediately thought of my grandmother Lucille, who had very unexpectedly passed away in her sleep two years prior in January 2009 on the birthday I share with her husband Vern.

Grandma Lucy and Vern (or Pops as we called him) had been very formative in my life, despite living some distance from us. It was Pops that gave our family our first computer and Grandma Lucy made a habit out of sending the whole family homemade birthday cards printed on her PC. It was humbling to think that I may have been the last person she wrote to while still alive. After receiving notice of her passing earlier in the day, one of my grandmother’s signature “Lucilove Creations” birthday cards arrived in the mail for me. Inside was a clip art picture of a bursting balloon with text that said, “Popping out of the balloon to wish you a Happy Birthday!” and a handwritten note that read, “Love, G’ma + Pop – thanks for the Holiday picture of your family. – Clara is so cute. –” It was not only a balloon, but our hearts that had indeed been burst.

I had been unable due to finances and work responsibilities to fly out to California to attend her memorial service and regretted that. I felt maybe in some small way that Grandma Lucy was trying to tell me that it was okay. I went and found the birthday card she sent me in order to re-read her last words once more.

It was not until much later upon revisiting that birthday card that I noticed the sticker seal (pictured) my grandmother had used on the envelope and my eyes widened.

Cardinal Stamp

Did the last piece of mail my Grandmother sent before she unexpectedly passed away contain a meaningful sign of things to come?

Maybe it had been my grandmother after all.

This notion was not dispelled at all within me when a few years later, I noticed again on my birthday and the anniversary of her departure that a Facebook friend had unwittingly changed their profile picture to an image of a solitary cardinal perched on a snow covered barren tree branch.

However, it was not until this week that a greater picture started to come into view. My wife was out on a winter walk with the two little ones when a cardinal flew up to them and landed right next to our daughter Lucy, who carries the name of her great-grandmother she was never fortunate enough to meet.

Or had they met?

Was it possible that our blizzard cardinal had arrived in anticipation of our little Lucy just days before her birth? That even before we had decided on her name, Grandma might have known? That perhaps her presence was in some way paying another birthday visit the day before Lucy would turn four years old?

I am not one to put much stock in fortune tellers, mediums and the sort, but I found it strangely compelling when someone very close to us recently paid a visit to a psychic and was told, with no inquiry at all, that my deceased grandmother was watching over Lucy.

And why not?

Jaime and I had often joked that in the transition from two to three children that an extra set of eyes would be helpful. The reality of having three small children within the span of less than three and half years is that you cannot attend to all of them the way you would like. You give it your best shot and pray to God it works out. Is it possible that God in His infinite wisdom and boundless sense of humor may have answered our prayer by letting Grandma Lucy look out for her namesake on occasion?

And if so, what is it that Grandma Lucy has seen?

LucyLove

LucyLove

I imagine she is seeing what the rest of us have been fortunate to experience, a wildly determined yet emotionally sensitive little girl with a heart full of love. Lucy is a scene-stealer in the best sense of the term.

My grandmother was a huge college basketball fan, perhaps she has laughed along with us enjoying every moment of Lucy’s annual March Madness NCAA bracket picks, including “Hot Mexico” in 2013. Maybe it was my grandmother who put in a good word for Shabazz Napier and UConn last year which resulted in our whole family losing to a 3 year old.

The Bracket champ gets to choose the lunch of their choice at the destination of their own choosing. In true Lucy fashion she selected to eat Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches at our local children’s museum Kid City. Even better was the time she won our “Easy A” inspired Family Member of the Week vote and decided we would all eat hot dogs and rice as her celebration meal.

As the third child, Lucy is regrettably and constantly subjected to influences we never would have let our eldest children be exposed to. But as the older kids reach new developmental milestones and as our hands have become increasingly tied, she is most often right there in the mix. Last year as the big kids discovered Star Wars, the result was a phase where Lucy would make her presence known by singing the infamous Darth Vader intro “The Imperial March” followed by mechanical breathing at the dinner table.

She seemed to struggle a bit naturally with the arrival of our youngest Miles. They are 32 months apart, the largest age-gap between any of our four, and I think she enjoyed be the littlest. But her infectious giggle and sharp wit have carved out a place all her own. Just a few months ago she began playing nicely with her baby brother and then remarked to Jaime, “I am not jealous of Miles anymore. I know I am everyone’s favorite!”

Never have we met a more fiercely independent young lady. I have worked with many kids over the years in various capacities and found that the vast majority can be convinced to alter their behavior given enough time and the right approach. Lucy defies the odds. Once she makes up her mind, you will not be able to change it in the interim.

Before she even had teeth she wanted to brush them alone. Just last week she had nearly psyched herself up for a visit to the dentist before changing her mind onsite. I had to hold her straight jacket style against me a week ago, wrapping my legs around the feral beast and holding her jaw open in order to get a halfway decent dental cleaning. To her credit, her oft-independent brushing has yielded no cavities. These tendencies along with her strong joyful passion for dancing through life has earned her the family nickname “Wyldstyle”. photo 2

But be not fooled by her rough exterior. She is a true romantic at heart, magnetized to love stories and dreams of being a princess. Whereas I made a semi-intentional effort to squash some of this in her older sister, I have Let It Go with Lu-Lu and enjoyed watching her be herself. The theme of her four year old birthday party was “Pink.” We decided to play with some Power Rangers action figures the other day and when in character as Troy the Red Megaforce Ranger I asked her Pink Ranger what we should do today, she replied, “Maybe… get married!”

I will have to keep my eyes on her and welcome any assistance from Grandma Lucy in this task.

But ultimately, what I admire most in our little girl is her kind hearted and loyal servant nature. She loves to help Jaime bake in the kitchen. She is so infatuated with her BFF that she goes about re-naming everything in our home “Shianna” in her friend’s honor. She even passed a test of Dumbledore’s earlier in the week.

I recently started reading through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with the kids knowing that my 7 year old bookworm Clara would latch on to the compelling story, and in true fashion Lucy came along for the literary ride, though she would have probably preferred nightly stories about princesses. After we finished reading the book, we rented and watched the movie.

The next morning we ran into a bit of inter-sibling conflict over which show they would like to stream on Netflix while I got ready for the day. Clara and Shepard were arguing over which of their selections should trump Lucy’s desire to watch Strawberry Shortcake. I decided to employ a little Harry Potter parenting and see which of the kids may have been able to internalize one of the major messages of the Sorcerer’s Stone.

I will make no spoiler apologies for a book that will reach the age of adulthood this summer, so as more of a refresher, Harry stumbles upon the Mirror of Erised with an “inscription carved around the top: Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.” Ms. Rowling does not spell it out, but the cryptic inscription when read backwards says, “I show not your face but your hearts desire.” At the climax, Harry uses his familiarity with the mirror to foil the villain and secure the titular Stone, but is somewhat confused as to how he accomplished the feat:

Harry: “How did I get the Stone out of the mirror?”

Dumbledore: “Ah, now, I’m glad you asked me that. It was one of my more brilliant ideas, and between you and me, that’s saying something. You see, only one who wanted to find the stone – find it, but not use it – would be able to get it.”

Using this little nugget of wisdom I designed a test for my children. I first asked them, “What do you want to watch?” and all three provided their individual answers with no overlap. Next I posed the question slightly altered, “What do you think would be best for you all to watch?” Child One and Child Two maintained that their selections would not be only in their best interest but also for the greater good. Only Lucy deferred her personal preference. Therefore, much to the chagrin of the older siblings, Strawberry Shortcake it was.

Lucy wins again.

My prayer is that my daughter will be able to maintain her fiery independent spirit in balance with her demonstrated ability to sacrifice her own desires for the sake of community.

Grandma Lucy – Any assistance you can offer in helping your namesake and this little light of ours shine along the way is genuinely appreciated.

Lucy wins again!

Lucy wins again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading.

If you are interested in watching Lucy in action, here is a little impromptu interview we did last week recapping life as a 3 year old when Wyldstyle got out of bed reporting she wasn’t “sleepy”:

 

I am a protestor. This is the first in a three part series outlining my thinking and position as it relates to racial injustice in our society and lamenting racial divisions within the Church. In observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday last Thursday (1/15) and this weekend’s observance of the Holiday set apart in honor of his legacy, Part One highlights Dr. King’s own words from a half century ago that still ring loudly in their call for freedom today.

I wrote these words for everyone who struggles in their youth, who won’t accept deception instead of what is truth. It seems we lose the game before we even start to play. Who made these rules? We’re so confused, easily led astray.

Sometimes it seems, we’ll touch that dream, but things come slow or not at all. And the ones on top, won’t make it stop, So convinced that they might fall.

Lauryn Hill “Everything is Everything” (1998)

On September 1, 1958, writing from New York City, Martin Luther King Jr. publishes “My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” in the September issue of Fellowship, an abbreviated version of chapter six of his book Stride Toward Freedom. Citing Jesus in Luke chapter 4, Dr. King writes, “The Christian ought always to be challenged by any protest against unfair treatment of the poor, for Christianity is itself such a protest, nowhere expressed more eloquently than in Jesus’s words: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’”

The Reverend continues, expanding on his long held deep concerns about the gap between superfluous wealth and abject poverty. Dr. King notes, “Capitalism is always in danger of inspiring men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life.” These words would be exponentially prophetic, especially highlighted by the needless death of Eric Garner over sales of loose cigarettes in Staten Island, New York on July 17, 2014 in which we became aware that the situation had escalated to one in which capitalism is now more concerned about protecting a living than taking a life.

Four and a half years later, on April 16, 1963, amidst an eight-day incarceration in Birmingham, Alabama for engaging in direct nonviolent protest, Martin Luther King Jr. pens an eloquent defense of work being done to advance Civil Rights and a stinging critique of the critical clergy who have failed to support the movement.

Dr. King gives the benefit of good will to his fellow clergy, but explains that their charges fall outside of the Biblical mission of Shalom, saying, “I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

Dr. King’s appeal here lays the moral and ethical stare decisis for those listening to the Sprit’s prophetic voice to become involved in addressing injustice where they are able.

In his treatise from Birmingham, Dr. King expounds on the value of nonviolent protest explaining that the intent of such direct action is to create opportunity for negotiation, “to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

Is it possible that this is what theology looks like?

He continues, “privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily… We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation.”

For Christ followers, especially those like me who enjoy asymmetrical power and unmerited privilege in our culture based on gender and race inequality, the challenge is to look to Jesus’ example of a King voluntarily stepping down from His throne and to ask myself if I am willing to pay the same severe price of such a costly interruption.

Mug shot of Martin Luther King Jr. (1963) "One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

After outlining a multitude of the inhuman offenses of the racism which he suffered, Dr. King makes a plea that, “when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”– then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait… One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

Our brother and hero in the faith then shares his broken optimism lamenting the racial divisions in God’s church, “I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action.”

“When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.”

The temptation is to say that things have changed; that Dr. King’s “Dream” was eventually realized and that a post-racial society has been achieved over the course of the last half-century. That simple academic knowledge of the Bible is we need to make things right. This would make me feel better. Allow me to discount the narratives that do not fit my worldview. But if we are willing to listen to our brothers and sisters of color, to hear the minority report, we find an entirely different story altogether.

Is it possible, as comedian Chris Rock recently pointed out to Frank Rich of New York Magazine, “When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before. So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years.”

Is it possible some of us just discounted the above statement because it came from a comedian and used that as an excuse not to hear the experiences and wisdom that could be gleaned from hearing a black man out?

Regardless of what you have come to believe about the character of Michael Brown following the tragic untimely end to his young life, are we willing to hear the anger and distrust of the Ferguson community? Even if it costs us something?

After a sixth bullet struck Michael Brown he fell facedown onto the double-yellow lines of Canfield Drive. Mr. Brown’s blood began to run in a small river down the pitched road. His body lay prostrate in forced submission to the police where he remained, at least partially uncovered and in view of neighborhood residents and onlookers for four and a half hours. In the aftermath, a 21 year old Ferguson resident, Alexis Torregrossa, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “They shot a black man, and they left his body in the street to let you all know this could be you. To set an example, that’s how I see it.”

Do we have ears to hear Ms. Torregrossa? If so, we must acknowledge that we have more work to do. Work that starts with listening, not to why all lives matter, but to how and why for so long the lives of black people have been placed at such a grave discount.

Are we willing to listen?

Jan 2015 New Yorker Cover

“We were just kids just living in wide-eyed innocence, minivan floor like a tenement. We were just kids who believed in more than just dreams, in more than just justified ends to a means” – Switchfoot “Who We Are”

We wanted to help. We did not know what we were doing. We changed the world.

In early 2006, during months a Southern Californian would refer to as Spring, but in Montana the ice is just starting to thaw, I read something that would change my life. The Facebook was limited to college students and prompted status updates (Joshua Fisher is…), so if I recall correctly, it was a post on Shanley Deignan’s Xanga site. There was mention of an organization that had made its way through Nashville advocating on behalf of orphaned children in Uganda. Children in danger of being forcibly conscripted into a guerrilla army comprised largely of child soldiers. I looked up the group online and discovered they had been founded by three kids in their early 20s and had set up their headquarters in El Cajon, CA, the city where I was born.

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Walking from Missoula Valley Church to the Courthouse in Downtown Missoula for the Global Night Commute in solidarity with the children of Northern Uganda (April 29, 2006)

I felt reborn in outrage at the plight of these children and responsible to help both them and my fellow San Diegans in the battle. With that sum of knowledge I found myself dialing the fledgling offices of Invisible Children and asking what we could do to help in Missoula.

I learned that Northern Uganda was in the trenches of a 20 year ongoing war that had left nearly two million people left internally displaced, nearly 60,000 of whom were living in absolute poverty in housing camps. Key to the country’s conflict was rebel Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) comprised of and sustained by kidnapped children, forced to commit terrible acts of violence or have these same acts carried out on them and their families.

By 2006, an estimated 400,000 children nationwide, referred to as “night commuters”, were walking from their rural villages into city centers each night in order to sleep in groups, hoping to avoid the fate of the 25,000 children abducted before them. With a quarter of all Northern Ugandan children over the age of 10 with at least one deceased parent, the kids had banded together for self-preservation. Invisible Children co-founders Jason Russell, Laren Poole, and Bobby Bailey had discovered these children on a 2003 trip hoping to make a documentary on the conflict in the Sudan. Instead they turned their lenses toward this true, untold story in hope of making a positive change.

Armed with a rough cut of their documentary, a non-profit was birthed with a goal of providing resources to the “invisible children” of the world, to inspire and empower the “young and young at heart in the developing world.” A three pronged approach of objectives was formed, to build a grassroots awareness of the war in Northern Uganda and the children it was affecting, to empower individuals stateside to engage in direct action and finally to provide aid on the ground in Uganda.

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Jaime, Lana and Katie get prepped for the Global Night Commute (GNC)

Action step number one would be to “lay down for what we believe in” by participating in a Global Night Commute. Rain or shine, on April 29, 2006, people were asked to both empathize and make a statement of unity with the children of Northern Uganda by walking in groups to their respective downtowns throughout the United States to sleep overnight and peacefully advocate for the end of the war. Late to the game, this gave us in Missoula approximately one month to plan, organize and execute the event. I was put in touch with I.C. National Tour staffer Genevieve Luippold who could have easily told me that Missoula wasn’t a high priority for engagement or participation, but instead matched my enthusiasm and offered full support in getting Invisible Children on the ground in Montana.

In order to gain approval to use the Missoula Courthouse grounds for an overnight peace demonstration, City Officials informed me we would need the approval signatures of the city’s Police Chief, Fire Marshall, City Attorney, County Commissioner as well as the Transportation/Engineering Department and the Maintenance Department’s Facilities Manager. Undaunted and assisted by the relatively small size of the city, I gained all the signatures over the course of a one week period.

We got permission from the Missoula Valley Church to screen the documentary film twice before the 29th and eventually also facilitated a screening on the University of Montana campus. We ordered t-shirts and bracelets to fundraise and set up a church-wide tag sale, which netted approximately $1,400 in to support the organization and sponsor education for the kids in Northern Uganda. I sent out a press release, made a local appearance on the evening news, and made sure our event information was available on the internet. We made signs, put up posters, rented port-a-potties.

It was a whirlwind. With all the wisdom of my 23 years, I had not even viewed the actual film myself until four days prior to our first screening and two weeks before the Global Night Commute. Taking 21 units in my final college semester and working a part-time job as an Afterschool Program Director for the Boys and Girls Club didn’t leave time for much. Adding the responsibility of coordinating an event of this magnitude wasn’t well advised.

I was stressed out and the stress carried over into my relationship with my wife. Jaime was willing to help to a larger extent, for this to be a joint work, and I had not yet learned how to relinquish control over my what I considered my projects.

I got some pushback from church members who were uncomfortable with the idea of the church organizing a social justice event or screening a film with moments deemed questionable.

I received tough questions I did not know how to answer and pretended to be more knowledgeable than I was, fooling no one. I still recall trying to navigate in a public forum how my support for possible U.S. troop involvement in Uganda differed from my opposition to the U.S. military intervention in Iraq.

But throughout the process we did our best to help. We were encouraged. We grew.

The conversation between Jaime and I about how to balance responsibility and ask for help is one we continue to this day raising four children and being pulled in many different directions simultaneously between family, work, social and church responsibilities.

Where my knowledge of the situation faltered I did research and also learned an important lesson that it is okay and often preferable to admit I don’t have all the answers.

For every brother or sister who was skeptical of our commitment to peacefully demonstrate, I was pleasantly surprised by many more who stepped completely out of their comfort zone to offer support and show up. Even more, I was thrilled to meet the cohort of folks who were eager to show solidarity and lend their support for the cause in the face of their antipathy for the church. I learned when the church expands out of the building to meet needs in the community, whether local or global, new faces who will not approach stained glass stand ready to side with the values of God’s Kingdom.

Missoula, MT Global Night Commute (April 29, 2006) at the Missoula County Courthouse

Missoula, MT Global Night Commute participants (April 29, 2006) at the Missoula County Courthouse

Over 100 people showed up, from as far away as Edmonton in Alberta, to our Global Night Commute in Missoula to offer encouragement, write letters to lawmakers, pray on the hour for the children, share in each other’s company under streetlights and eventually get drenched in our sleeping bags overnight.

I will never forget Lana (McCrary) Miller on the morning of April 30, shivering after little sleep, covered in cold Montana spring rain, saturated sleeping bag in hand, smiling.

We were smiling because Invisible Children had provided us an opportunity to put our faith into action, to start being the change we wished to see. It was an opportunity relished and capitalized on by many, but especially by 20-somethings over the course of a decade of work.

After Jaime and I relocated to Connecticut we remained active in Invisible Children’s work highlighted by participation in another overnight commute in 2009. The Rescue in New York City resulted in Jaime (five months pregnant with Shepard), myself and 19 month old Clara sleeping outdoors with friends, family and strangers in Brooklyn Bridge Park raising awareness for the continued troubles of our Ugandan friends.

Via continued advocacy efforts such as Give Peace a Tri, the #Kony2012 Campaign and the Fourth Estate Conference, a 92% reduction in LRA killings has been achieved in the last three years. 1.8 million displaced people have returned to their communities. 2,659 people abducted by the LRA have returned to their families since 2010. 11 Ugandan schools have been rebuilt and more than 6,000 Ugandan scholarships awarded. Two bills were passed in Congress and signed into law contributing to the peace movement.

Invisible Children's The Rescue in Brooklyn Bridge Park (April 2009)

Invisible Children’s The Rescue in Brooklyn Bridge Park (April 2009) with Karen, Chantelle, Garrett, Jaime and Clara

With so much achieved, as of December 31 2014, Invisible Children has officially closed down their media and movement offices. The focus of all remaining resources and future raised funds will be on only the most essential programs in order to complete the mission of liberating every captive man, woman and child from the LRA.

At the beginning we envisioned a full-length feature film to be released by the end of 2006 and a quick end to Kony, the LRA and the need for night commuting. We spoke of expanding the organization to help all invisible children across the globe. We encountered adversity, personally and organizationally, but all hardships only strengthened the foundation for continued advocacy for the thousands of us who learned alongside each other.

Sometimes our visions do not come to fruition. But in the end, we realize that dreams bigger than ourselves are always worth pursuing. That even if we never reach our initial desired ends, perhaps we plant seeds along the way, means of accomplishing much more.

Thank you Invisible Children. Thank you for your willingness to help. Thank you for inviting our assistance. Thank you for changing the world.

 

Becoming

Posted: January 1, 2015 in Faith
Tags: , ,

On a recent trip into the city, I came across a postcard advertising a New Year’s Eve celebration in Harlem. Written on the black card in bold white caps was the word “BECOMING.” A subtitle was followed by the question “what are you becoming?”

what are you becoming?

What am I becoming?

As a family in recent years we have been failing forward in attempts to observe the liturgical season of Advent. Hoping for a period of hopeful anticipation wrapped in peaceful reflection. Instead what still seems to occur to a large extent is a month-long stress fest of Holiday gatherings, gift buying, vacation planning and playing the role of community Social Worker to family, friends and the church. A side note for anyone interested in going into the field of social work – what the books do not tell you is that social workers aren’t just on the clock for an 8-5 (and normally more) gig, but you become the default social worker for everyone in your extended network. It is an honorable yet incessant profession.

A fringe benefit is the ability to turn your own social work assessment skills onto yourself. Over the past month or so, amidst the stress, I have noticed I have been more prone to flashes of daydreaming. This is a recognizable coping mechanism, a subconscious effort to flee stressful moments. One of these mental escape visions occurs most frequently and I wondered what it might say about who I am currently.

It’s Game 1 of the World Series. Top of the first. I am leading off, batting left handed. First pitch fastball low and away. I gracefully, confidently, prepare to drop the barrel of the bat into the strike zone while beginning to lean my body toward first. I absorb the velocity into the wood, transferred into my left hand before returning just enough force to lay the ball down. A bunt. The ball slowly advances up the third base line. Centered between the grass and the chalk. The third baseman double clutches before deciding to let it roll. Hoping for a foul bounce that does not come. Indefensible. I run through the bag and return with a half drawn grin, ripping the Velcro of my batting gloves before lightly fist bumping the first base coach. I can’t hear them, but I am sure the media in the press box is marveling at my brazen execution. In a game of momentum, we suddenly have the lead.

My wife laughed out loud when I shared this with her. Specifically that in the vision I am batting left handed. Outside of front yard wiffle ball games and a few select rec league softball games I did not bat left handed. Nor for that matter did I bunt. I had good speed playing ball as a kid but I also had good power. So despite often batting leadoff, I always preferred to hit a first pitch fastball out of the park rather than lay down a bunt single. Certainly, I quit playing long before ever having a reasonable shot at playing professionally and nowhere in the 2015 forecast is there a chance of signing with a big league ball club, especially one World Series bound. A fantasy for sure.

But why this one?

Playing baseball at all harkens to a simpler time with less real responsibility and more overt praise of my skill set and potential. Batting left handed tells me I am feeling vulnerable approaching life’s important moments from a position that is learned, not natural. By the book, batting leadoff means you take the first pitch. Breaking this rule in a situation of great importance says I long to take more risks. But the unorthodox success that follows in the dream shows I am less interested in actual risk taking and more occupied with succeeding in risk taking. Being seen as a brilliant strategist capable of flawless execution. Not so deep down, I desperately want to be viewed as an elite and valuable player with an attitude certified as confident rather than arrogant.

But I am not confident in this moment. I am afraid. I do not have all the answers, I may not have any. The bunt itself actually belies any good intentions, manipulating a maneuver largely associated with sacrifice into an occasion for self aggrandizement. Perhaps the truth is I want to be on a winning team, but only if I have a starring role. Worse, the vision entails no such reference to team or to victory. It seems I may be satisfied to be viewed as a competent and talented martyr, playing as an individual on a team headed for defeat.

What I am becoming?

In sharp contrast to my daydream is a memory I have of a co-worker eight years ago. We had just moved from Montana to Connecticut and I was in training to work at a school for adolescents with mental health and behavioral issues. We were asked to participate in an ice-breaker activity in which a deck of cards with pictures on them was passed around the room. We were then asked to identify the image we most associated ourselves with. I remember choosing a picture of a palm tree on a white sandy beach set against a bright blue sky. It reminded me of my San Diego home in a time that a new arrival to New England and a new job afforded great unfamiliarity.

Shola was a fascinating middle-aged woman from Nigeria. Her thick accent a tell of her non-Western upbringing and values. When it came time for Shola to share her chosen card, she spoke slowly and pointedly. She had selected a picture of a lamb. The lamb had been forewarned by one of the trainers as looking crazy, so when I saw it with its big strained eyes and open mouth I had dismissed it rather quickly, not finding myself in the strange looking sheep. But Shola did.

She noted with all sincerity, without an ounce of presumption, that she had selected the lamb because of its gentle nature and its willingness to be obedient. I wrote in my journal at the time that it wasn’t hard to see her servant-nature and noted my prayer was to be able to grow into that kind of maturity.

This is what I hope to become.

I will remain committed to failing forward. Aiming to become a better listener. A more humble servant with a better sense of boundaries. A more vulnerable person.

I believe Social Work Researcher and TED Talker Brené Brown when she says, “Faith minus vulnerability and mystery equals extremism. If you’ve got all the answers, then don’t call what you do faith.” (Thanks to Debby McCrary for sharing this quote).

I am listening to the recently penned words of Don Miller that “I can only do three big things in a year. That’s it. Just three.” Accordingly, I am trying to remember that to excel in one “Yes” may demand a thousand “No”s.

I am wishing to quiet my inner turmoil and be liberated from self-importance through simple obedience. I am hoping to be able to hear the still small voice of the Spirit via communal discernment. I crave to know the meaning and value of Sabbath as a Spiritual Discipline.

Help me out. Let’s fail forward together. Let me learn from you.

What are you becoming?

 

Advent

Posted: November 30, 2014 in Advent, Books, Christianity, Christmas, Faith, Holiday, Poetry

Lo, in the silent night
A child to God is born
And all is brought again
That ere was lost or lorn

Could but thy soul, O man,
Become a silent night!
God would be born in thee
And set all things aright.

15th Century

 
Though Advent (literally “arrival”) has been observed for centuries as a time to contemplate Christ’s birth, most people today acknowledge it only with a blank look. For the vast majority of us, December flies by in a flurry of activities, and what is called “the holiday season” turns out to be the most stressful time of the year.

Mother Theresa once noted that the first person to welcome Christ was John the Baptist, who leaped for joy on recognizing him, though both of them were still within their mothers’ womb. We, in stark contrast, are often so dulled by superficial distractions that we are incapable of hearing any voice within, let alone listening to it.

Advent marks something momentous: God’s coming into our midst. That coming is not just something that happened in the past. It is a recurring possibility here and now. And thus Advent is not merely a commemorative event or an anniversary, but a yearly opportunity for us to consider our future, the promised coming of God’s kingdom on earth.

If the essence of Advent is expectancy, it is also readiness for action: watchfulness for every opening, and willingness to risk everything for freedom and a new beginning.

That is why the imagery of the nativity scenes is not sufficient to explain the Christmas message. Yes, God came into the feeding trough of an animal. But it was not only as a baby that he lay there. This child was the same man who was crucified on Golgotha, and who rose again. Within the manger lies the cross – and the hope of redemption and resurrection.

To recognize this requires reverence and humility. It requires faith.

 

 

The entirety of the text above consists of excerpts from the preface and introduction of “Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas” published by Orbis Books (Fourteenth Printing, November 2011).

“Switchfoot is a surfing term… To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It’s about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music.” – Jon Foreman (September 25, 2000)

Just shy of a decade ago, I had fallen in love with a girl who I hoped would one day become my wife. She however was less than sure about our relationship’s long term chances. So, in pursuit, this Southern California boy was visiting New England for the first time, approaching life and love and God from an unfamiliar stance.

One hot summer day in July 2003, Jaime and I took the train into New York City. It was my first trip to the Big Apple and in our travels we came across the now defunct Virgin Records Megastore in Times Square. Jaime’s younger siblings Robert and Cassidy had recently introduced us to a San Diego-based rock group called Switchfoot via shareware mp3 downloads and I remember pledging my musical allegiance upon hearing lead singer and guitarist Jon Foreman quote Pooh Bear as he lamented, “Tut, tut, it looks like rain”. Back in that era reigned by Napster, we were even willing to buy actual albums from this unappreciable band if only we could hunt down their CDs. After coming up empty in Connecticut, we figured if we could find these guys anywhere the Virgin Megastore was a good bet. Sure enough, there was one copy each of “Learning to Breathe” and their just released “The Beautiful Letdown” in stock. With $30 between us, Jaime and I had enough to secure the discs, but in the days before ubiquitous iPod use, the question was who would own which album?

I suggested this be our first official joint purchase as a couple. Jaime was not as committed to this idea and quickly countered, “What if we break up?” Hoping I would eventually be able to win her heart I replied that if we broke up, she would keep both albums. This settled the issue and as a memento I kept that receipt in my wallet for years until the ink faded right off of it. We rode the Metro North back home that afternoon poring over the liner notes of the albums and meditating on the lyrics.

Easy living, not much like your name
Easy dying, you look just about the same
Won’t you please take me off your list
Easy living please come on and let me down

The next summer, being “young and dumb” but willing to commit to God, each other and a life of the road less traveled we were married. We have been riding life switchfoot ever since, trying to embrace the change and movement that comes with living outside of your comfort zone. This choice has undeniably created in us a better story, though in all good stories something important must be at stake. Ours has been no exception, requiring forging ahead through hardship and the unknown.

It has not been easy to merge the lives of a West Coast introvert and an East Coast extrovert. It was not easy to be married at 21 while trying to finish college and make a new life in Montana, a place we had never even visited before picking up the keys to our first apartment. It was even harder to leave that first home together in Big Sky Country along with some of the best friends we’ll ever have in order to head back east. It certainly has not been easy to have three small children just three and a half years apart in an area of the country where raising children before all your ducks are in a row is socially frowned upon. It has not been easy to make it on one income, while trying to pay back loans for two college degrees, in order to allow Jaime to stay at home and intentionally mold our children. I certainly have not always enjoyed the transition from worrying only about myself to carrying a social work caseload between 12-18 families or adolescents involved in the foster care system who rely on me daily to help solve their problems in the face of poverty, homelessness, substance abuse etc. It is not currently easy to live in an experimental communal household, sharing everyday living space with a total of 12 people leaving little, if anything, that is solely one’s own possession. No, nothing has been easy. Instead, it has been beautiful. It has been worth it.

Last month marked the eighth anniversary of being married to the love of my life. In these years that have seen us start a new life and family together, Switchfoot has consistently supplied our soundtrack. Jon Foreman’s voice alternately dancing around and belting out the Gospel has become almost familial and the band’s own maturation over the past decade has seemingly mirrored our own journey and developing theology. Serious fans since that first joint purchase, Switchfoot gradually built up their status to favorite band as our common refrains have grown from “In the economy of mercy I am a poor and begging man” to “Do you love me enough to let me go? Every seed dies before it grows.”

While “The Beautiful Letdown” is an all-time favorite album and “Hello Hurricane” has become my constant companion on business trips down south, it was really Jon Foreman’s solo effort in releasing four seasonally themed EPs in 2007-2008 that set him apart in a class of his own. Acoustic throughout all 24 tracks, Jon artfully and intensely sings prayers to God and pointed criticisms of ourselves that are spot on. Some of the songs are so profound they had us wondering where this guy has learned about God and how we might be able to do the same. But while his recordings have great depth we found only shallow pools of information about Mr. Foreman’s own background. Thus, a pipe dream was constructed. Jaime and I wondered if it would be possible to someday ask him ourselves where he gets his theology?

Enter Hannah Lavoie.

Our good friend Hannah not only is a ginormous fan of Jon Foreman she also has become quite adept at tracking him down, boasting three different meetings with the man. Hannah was also about to celebrate her 20th birthday and had come across some insider information that Jon Foreman was going to be playing a FREE solo concert in New York City on the evening of her special day, August 3rd. Hannah wanted to know if Jaime and I wanted to conspire with her a way to get to the concert and possibly meet Jon. While both excited, my amazing wife took one for the team deciding to stay back with the kids to ensure a solid bedtime routine before embarking the following day on a cross-country family plane trip to San Diego. Meanwhile, Hannah and I formulated plans to get into the City early enough on a Friday afternoon to ensure a first-come, first-serve seat in an old high school auditorium seating less than 600.

Jon Foreman was playing in tandem with a church event facilitated by a newer and impressive group calling themselves Movement NYC and the night had the energy of a youth rally. At 29, I must have ranked in the 90thpercentile of age making me “old” folk for the pilgrimage, but I could not think of a better way to help Hannah usher in her 20s. After a time of worship and a devotional thought from the pastor of the church, Jon and drummer Aaron Redfield finally came out with electricity buzzing through the humid air of the packed facility. Dozens of fans leapt from their seats to crowd the front of the stage and Hannah and I exchanged a glance and thought, “Why not?” We joined the hard core fans up front and laughed at Jon’s jokes, sang our hearts out to favorite tunes plus a few covers and snapped some photos. Jon opened the show with a new song called “First Light” which carries the same soulful acoustic sound that powered his EPs and appealed to my own fascination with the light-dark theme:

Jon opens the solo set with his new unreleased song “First Light”

When your heart is feeling is low
And the weight is on your shoulders
And the tears begin to flow
From the lies

Just remember what you know
Just remember what I told you
The seed you planted, love, will grow
Give it time

And you know it
But your heart has doubts
You believe it
But you want it now

The day is dawning
The day is dawning
It comes in morning
First light

Highlights of the show included Jon mid-song inviting a fan up to play bass on his guitar while breaking out his harmonica and listening to him discuss life and music in between songs. In his humility, Jon stated he writes songs about things he does not understand, namely God, death, politics and girls. He played for over an hour jamming with Aaron and then for an encore asked if it would be alright if he played two songs before launching into pieces he refers to as cousins, “Your Love is a Song” and “Your Love is Strong.”

At the conclusion of the set, strategy ensued about how best to locate Jon for a chance to ask him some questions and maybe get a picture with him. I looked to Hannah’s expertise in this matter, but we found ourselves in a dilemma as Hannah’s tried and true formula had been to wait by his tour bus after the show. In such a small venue and playing as a solo act, there was no tour bus to speak of and there were multiple exits from the building. We made small talk with one of the youth pastors of the Movement NYC church who after hearing we had traveled from Connecticut and that it was Hannah’s 20th birthday stated he couldn’t tell us where Jon would be exiting the building, but did offer that Mr. Foreman had arrived in a van parked just outside the exit closest to where we were standing.

Rather surprisingly it didn’t take long for the crowd to disburse and less than a half hour after the show there was only Hannah, myself and maybe a dozen others waiting around for a chance to meet Jon. Hannah thought aloud about what question she might ask Jon and wondered if he would recognize her, this being their fourth meeting and third in less than a year. As for me, my question had long been rehearsed.

Aaron Redfield, the drummer for Fiction Family (a collaborative effort between Jon Foreman and guitarist Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek) who accompanied Jon during the show was the first to emerge and very agreeable, telling us a little about his life in Pasadena and introducing us to his lovely fiancée. Following Aaron we had a chance to meet and talk with Jon’s childhood friend Todd Cooper who served not only as Switchfoot’s longtime guitar tech, but actually was the one who encouraged Jon to learn to play guitar.

Then Jon came into view and this was our chance. We scurried over to his vicinity and after awaiting a few questions and photo ops from others it was our turn. I couldn’t help but give the guy a hug while explaining that it was so good to see a fellow San Diegan on the East Coast; while he may have been slightly caught off guard he took it like a champ, or maybe a President, though I refrained from lifting him off the ground. I told him of that first joint purchase Jaime and I made nine years ago just around the corner and with sincerity he told me that it was an honor to be included in our lives this way.

Jon did recognize Hannah, this now being their fourth meeting, and remembered her as an admissions ambassador from Lipscomb University in Nashville. He told us the name Lipscomb always makes him want to speak with a lisp which he proceeded to demonstrate for us with a laugh.

I asked him about the comment he made earlier in the evening, the one about how he only writes about things he doesn’t understand. I told him I appreciated his self-deference, but also that he isn’t giving himself enough credit given that his lyrics prove otherwise and demonstrate being well-versed in the complexities of God, death, politics and girls. He smiled a knowing smile and then I asked him our question, “What informs your theology?”

“I read a lot,” he replied while beaming friendliness and continuing to project modesty.

Not wanting to let him off the hook that easy, I countered, “What do you read? Who do you read? I would like to read them too.”

He could tell I was being genuine, that this was not a flippant question. His countenance shifted somewhat, still affable but now with understanding eyes. He responded, “Kierkegaard, C.S. Lewis, Pascal… people who are smarter than me.” Then again with self-depreciating humor he added, “Basically everyone.” The crowd chuckled and I could tell this may be all I would get from the man tonight, and I was content to let that be enough. Hannah and I asked for a picture with him to document the occasion, but as we readied for picture taking position and found someone to take the shot for us, another eager fan named Corey approached with a query.

Hannah leads the way to Jon Foreman after a free concert in NYC on her 20th birthday August 3, 2012

This young man in his early 20s stepped into the frame with his girlfriend and told Jon that he hoped she would soon be his fiancée, but that as a musician himself he wanted to know how to balance being a good husband with being a dedicated musician. “You’re married, right? How do you do it? How do you do marriage and music at the same time?” Thinking about my own wife and some of the dreams we share, the nature of this question resonated with me. In Corey’s voice was a plea for advice from someone further down the path, wanting to know if it is possible to be passionate about your work when the nature of that work will require being drawn away from your family at times.

Again with a smile Jon replied, “The best things in life are darn near impossible. Marriage, it’s darn near impossible. But it’s beautiful. It’s great. Music is darn near impossible. You just have to find a way.” Sounds like riding life switchfoot to me.

“What, then, is the difference between an admirer and an imitator? An imitator is or strives to be what he admires, and an admirer keeps himself personally detached, consciously or unconsciously does not discover that what is admired involves a claim upon him, to be or at least to strive to be what is admired.— Søren Kierkegaard (September 27, 1850) 

The best stories are unpredictable.

It was the evening of December 8, 2011 and I was in a risk-taking mood. Just a week and a half earlier, on the morning of November 27, 2011, while teaching an adult Bible class, I invited my Church family to assist with serving the orphans of our society. I told them of my social work case load of 16 youth ranging in age from 15 to 21, all removed from their homes and biological families. Young people who never exited the State’s system of foster care through reunification with their families or by adoption to new families. As thirteen of my 16 youth were over 18 years old at the time, there weren’t too many people lining up to help with providing Christmas gifts, instead preferring to donate to the cause of younger children in foster care. As Thanksgiving had just passed and Christmas would rapidly be approaching,  I mentioned that if I could raise enough money, say $400, I could purchase each of my kids at least a $25 gift card. Not enough to make a significant purchase, but enough perhaps to let them know that someone cares about them and that they are not alone.

The brothers and sisters at the Ward Street church of Christ immediately responded to this call and two weeks to the day of my request had already donated over $1,000 toward gifts for my teens. Folks were willing to give more and made sure I knew they were ready to give whatever was needed. People were so eager to help, I had to make an announcement to stop having funds donated. I would have a hard enough time wisely spending the money that had already come in.

Enlisting the help of my wife, gift cards were obtained from Ulta for makeup for my lone female client, from Chili’s for one of my college students, from Game Stop for a couple of my high school guys, from Target, the mall and so on. $100 was reserved for a young man trying to save up for a computer and when his foster mother was told of how the money came to be obtained, she said she “smiled for three days straight” reasoning that if someone was willing to ask church folk for money on behalf of foster kids that they “must have at least a little bit of church in ‘em.”

But there was one young man, whose case had recently been assigned to me, for whom I wanted to do something a little more extravagant. 17 years old, he had a decision to make prior to his 18th birthday in early January of whether to continue receiving services from the State and remain in his foster home, or to forego any further relationship with the bureaucracy and take his chances on the streets. He is the type of kid you can’t help but like due to his authenticity. For example, he informed me he was having a hard time making a decision about what to do at 18 as he feels he can only plan one day at a time and did not simply want to sign paperwork indicating an agreement he was not prepared to keep.

In looking for ways to build a relationship with this young man we came to talking about his favorite sport, basketball, and lamented the NBA lockout which was threatening the cancellation of the entire season. I asked him what team he followed and he confidently stated he was a Lakers fan, a rarity here in the Celtics’ backyard, and that his favorite player was Kobe Bryant. I chuckled in surprise and told him that I have been a life-long Lakers fan and that my favorite current player is Derek Fisher, who was acquired by the Lakers in the first round of the 1996 NBA draft along with Kobe. I asked him if he had ever been to a game and he laughed as he said no. I admitted I had never been to a game either, even though I lived in L.A. for a couple years, and teased that maybe we should go together some time.

Now here I was, sitting in front of my laptop on this early December evening, looking at tickets on StubHub for a prime-time Lakers-Knicks matchup at Madison Square Garden slated for February. The NBA lockout had finally ended and I was thinking, “Why not?” One answer was the insane ticket price of $175 a seat, close to an even $200 after fees. But I figured with All-Star point guard Chris Paul looking for a trade to the Knicks to form their own three-headed monster of CP3, Melo and Amare, and the Lakers coming to town I couldn’t really expect tickets to be less expensive in an arena that seats only 19,763. I informed Jaime I was thinking of buying two tickets, one for my foster youth with donated funds and that my seat would be financed in large part by gift subsidies from my mother who normally sends $150 my way between Christmas and my own early January birthday. I theorized this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity for both myself and my client and my supportive and amazing wife mirrored my excitement encouraging me to purchase the tickets.

I was still hesitant to click the orange “Checkout” button, when I read that Chris Paul had just been traded. To the Lakers. And just like that, the tickets were ours. When I thanked the church the following Sunday for affording me the opportunity to serve in such fashion and explained the idea behind the purchase, there were many a teary eye among the congregation. Then it was my turn to feel the waterworks coming on when 9 year old Steven Pawloski approached me after services with a big smile and insisted I take his recently earned $20 bill so that my client and I could “buy snacks at the Lakers game.”

I couldn’t wait to tell the young man about the tickets. When I was finally able to track him down a few days later and I told him we would be going to see Kobe play live as a Christmas/Birthday gift, he laughed in disbelief the way I imagine Sarah may have when she heard through the tent flap she was to have a son in her old age. He didn’t have much to say, but it was the first look of joy I had seen on his face in the two months I had known him. His foster mother later told me he had reported the news to her with a mixture of happiness and sheer confusion, asking “Why would he do this for me? He doesn’t even know me.” To which she replied, “People don’t have to know you to want to do something nice for you.”

But in the days leading up to the game, the Paul trade to the Lakers was vetoed by the league, the Lakers would find the condensed scheduling of a lockout-shortened season especially tough on their veteran legs leading to a woeful road record, Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony was injured and it was announced fellow New York All-Star Amare Stoudemire would not be playing in the game after the tragic loss of his brother in a car accident. However, good spirits prevailed as we would still be able to see Kobe and D-Fish. Plus, with all of the Knicks’ firepower disabled, it appeared a lock we would see a L.A. win in our first NBA game.

I didn’t know who Jeremy Lin was until the night before the event. I was discussing the upcoming game and the opportunity it was going to build a stronger relationship with my client, when a co-worker mentioned the Knicks had some undrafted guard who went to Harvard and had been buried deep on their bench who had apparently found his way into the starting lineup and led the Knicks to a three game “Lin-ning” streak. New Yorkers and their losing team were finding love in a hopeless place as the California-born Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan, became the first Asian-American player to start an NBA game and lit up the Nets, Jazz and Wizards in a five day span averaging over 20 points a game. With the help of the New York City hype machine, suddenly Friday night’s matchup against the Lakers was again being billed as a marquee show, only this time due to a player who wasn’t even on the Knicks roster on Christmas day and was reportedly sleeping on his teammate’s couch.

The drive down to Manhattan provided ample time to hear my client’s own story from his perspective and our night was off to a good start as we walked through a lit up Times Square on Friday evening en route to the game. It appeared we were in good company as we approached “The World’s Most Famous Arena” with many fans dressed in Los Angeles Purple and Gold. There were also scattered Blue #17 jerseys fresh off the press that had already begun to circulate especially among the Asian-American fans in attendance. The souvenir stand on the lower concourse sold out of Lin jerseys before the game even started.

The sold out crowd was buzzing prior to the opening tip as we all looked forward to finding out if “Lin-sanity” could be sustained through a visit from Bryant, the league’s leading scorer, or if the novelty act was up. I was confident of the latter and leaned over to ask my client, ‘How much do you think we’ll win by?” He smiled as he shrugged his shoulders and declined to give his pick.

It did not take long to realize the young man had been wise in not counting Lin or the Knicks out. A couple minutes into the game, Lin knocked down a three from the corner over 7”1’ Center Andrew Bynum putting the Knicks up 3-2, and he didn’t look back. Lin set up Tyson Chandler for a bucket that put the Knicks up 5-4. They would not trail again. A jumper, a second assist to Chandler, another jumper, followed by a Lin steal and layup forced a Lakers timeout five minutes in with the score 13-4. Jeremy Lin was outscoring the Lakers himself by five points. My client and I looked at each other shaking our heads in disbelief and remarking that the Lakers looked tired after last night’s overtime win in Boston.

The electric New York crowd became more energized with each Lin basket and assist as the Garden’s Jumbotron incited cheers of Je-Re-My! Je-Re-My! Nearing the end of the first half, Lin blew past Derek Fisher on a fast break spin move and his following acrobatic lay-in gave him 18 points, gave his team a 9 point lead and won the hearts of all frustrated Knicks fans for life. The Knicks have this elaborate alumni program and kept announcing “Once a Knick, Always a Knick!” before announcing the attendance of Larry Johnson, Anthony Mason, John Starks and Walt Frazier at various points throughout the game. I found myself thinking that even if Jeremy Lin’s overnight sensation story doesn’t last another week, he already had earned himself an alumni pass based on the crowd’s admiration.

There wasn’t much to be pleased about as a Lakers fan as Kobe started the game 1-of-11 from the field and Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest) had three more personal fouls than he had points (zero) shortly into the second half. Kobe appeared jealous of Lin by the mid-third quarter and awoke his Black Mamba alter ego as he began splashing ridiculous fade away jumpers over the backboard while double teamed and even awed the New York crowd with a laser pass to himself off the glass before tip passing to Pau Gasol for his only assist of the game. Kobe’s gunning brought the Lakers within 6 on a couple of occasions, but the basketball Linja could not be stopped.

Lin hit a three pointer in the face of 7”1’ Pau Gasol, then pump faked another Laker before connecting on a 20 foot jump shot, before splashing yet another three from the corner sending the crowd into a frenzy. Lin invoked memories of the NBA Jam announcer exclaiming “He’s on fire!” and “Is it the shoes?!?” While the originator of the latter phrase, Spike Lee, looked so enamored standing courtside I thought he might immediately switch out his #2 Landry Fields jersey for Lin’s #17. Not that Fields would have even minded, as he owns the couch Lin is sleeping on, and despite only scoring only six points in the game he tweeted afterward “Most fun I’ve ever had playing ball. Plain and simple. God is great! Congrats to @JLin7.”

Jeremy Lin, the Balling LINJA, Energizes the Knicks and Provides Inspiration Beyond Basketball

It sure looked like Lin and his teammates were genuinely having fun out there. Jumping and shouting and laughing with joy while playing the game. And while Kobe had laughed Lin off as a nobody the previous night when asked about him, it was Lin who had the last laugh metaphorically on Friday. He put the nail in the coffin when he called for a clear out with two minutes left in the game, causing the fans to rise to their feet in anticipation. He drove past Matt Barnes and split the Lakers’ seven footers once again finishing off a circus shot and the chants of “Je-Re-My!” morphed into “M-V-P!” Spike Lee and Justin Tuck of the Super Bowl Champion Giants (it pains me to write that) were bowing to him from their courtside seats, which I’m sure if Lin even noticed among the celebratory chaos, would have made him uncomfortable given his strong Christian faith and humble personality. After the game he praised his teammates with a few sports clichés, but was never self-congratulatory and thanked God for allowing him to live his dream. Certainly his performance was worthy of accolades as after Friday night’s game, Lin had scored more points in his first three NBA starts than any player in the modern history of the league. To borrow a line from Ron Burgundy, I wasn’t mad, I was impressed.

As we walked out of Madison Square Garden amidst drunken New York fans, the young man I took to the game came away with a similar impression of Lin, noting “I have to respect him.” People who have attended events at the Garden for years and covered professional sports in New York noted it was “one of the coolest nights” in the history of a landmark arena that has seen so many unforgettable events and “one for the ages”. I would have to agree. Neither I nor the young man will ever forget Friday night. The night Jeremy Lin cemented his status as a star and provided hope that all things are indeed possible, even for the overlooked and underrated. Sometimes all you need is an opportunity and to know that someone believes in you. Despite our team’s loss, I hope my client and I can both hold onto this lesson we witnessed firsthand.

It seems things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes they turn out better.