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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Forward

Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

John 13:7 (New International Version)

Yeah, so I think you can easily summarize my 2008 with this particular verse from the bible. Just last week, a close friend reminded me of something I said at the end of 2007. I stated that I didn't want 2008 to be like the previous year. I had a particularly rough year in 2007, and the thought of enduring another one like it was enough to cause me to examine my life very closely.

There is the saying that the definition of insanity is doing things the same way over and over, but expecting different results. There weren't bad things in my life, but there weren't things in my life which were inspiring or requiring growth. So when I made that statement to my friend, I was saying that I didn't want to be exactly the same, only one year older in December 2008.

Little did I know what God had in mind for me.

Back on July 8, 2008, I wrote my first Crossing Paths post announcing that I was moving from my home of 11 years, San Jose, and relocating to Rocklin, CA. Maybe God misunderstood what I was saying
a year ago. I didn't mean geographically when I said I didn't want to be in the same place a year later. But in all honesty, I am beginning to understand that it was necessary for me to physically move from where I was to where I am. I have tried to share with you, through this blog, the good and the difficult things which have transpired since July 8. Sometimes our lives seem to be in some kind of crock pot, slowly cooking the contents at a leisurely pace. For me, the second half of 2008 was a microwave. The past 5 months has seen more things happen in my life than the past 5 years combined.

As I look ahead to 2009, I stand upon God's promise that He has plans and a purpose for my life. They're for my good, and not to harm me. They are to give me hope for my future. I have arrived in Rocklin, but I have not arrived at some spiritual or life plateau from where I can just kick my feet up and admire the view.

I do not see any magical significance to the annual flipping of the calendar to a new year. Each day holds the potential of changing our lives one way or the other. But because we measure time by calendars and clocks, we tend to evaluate each year by looking back, and we either dread or eagerly anticipate the coming year. I'm choosing to do the latter. I don't know what 2009 holds for me. I have hopes and dreams, but only God knows. All I know is that I am on a good path and upward climb. I do not intend to lose any of the momentum which has been built in the 5 months since I came to Rocklin. I expect there to be difficulties and surprises along the way. But in the things I plan, and the things which require my flexibility and endurance, I submit everything I am into God's hands.

He's taken great care of me so far, despite myself. I know I can count on Him to keep it going.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008; The 49ers and I Had Similar Years

As you likely know, I'm a definite sports fan. More specifically, I'm a fan of my particular teams. Among my teams is the San Francisco 49ers. I grew up going to games when you could literally drive to the stadium the day of a game, buy your tickets minutes before kickoff, and still end up with pretty good seats. Then they went off and won some Super Bowls, and those days are ancient history.

But this year's team had a season which seemed to parallel my own. Let me 'splain.

The 49ers started off the season decently, going 2-1 in their first three weeks. But then they lost their next six games. Things got so bad, they fired their coach after seven games, roughly halfway into the season.

My year started off decently. I typically spend the first couple months of the ye
ar doing a little volunteer stuff for a local San Jose high school's girls basketball team, which was a lot of fun. That was always the kick back, fun time of my year. Then I hit the months of March through June. These were difficult months for me. I was in a job which had no real future in it. I worked with some really great people, but at the same time, I felt like I was on a professional and financial treadmill. Meanwhile, things at church were going well, but it was pretty much a carbon copy, (I'll bet people under the age of 30 have NO idea where that term comes from), of the past several years. Once again, I felt like I was on a treadmill. I reached a point in my life that I felt like if I wasn't making tangible progress, I was actually losing ground.

So, like the 49ers, I made a change.

After the 49ers changed their coach, they went on to lose their next two games. The change didn't bring about immediate success where it is most obvious, in wins. But there were signs of improvement. There were signs of hope.


For me, after I made my move to Rocklin, there were no immediate signs of success. I got laid off from my job, found another job, then got laid off from that job. However, I also found a great church in which I made some good friends and got involved in ministry. The tide was beginning to turn.

During the final seven weeks of the football
season, the 49ers won 5 and lost only 2. What an amazing turnaround! Their final record ended up being 7-9, but no one is focusing on the first nine weeks in which they were 2-7. People are fired up about the last seven games. There is a saying in sports which is so true, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. The 49ers finished their season on an up note. This momentum was so inspiring to the players and management, the owners of the organization met the players and coaches in the locker room immediately after the final game of the season. They took this opportunity to announce that they had offered the permanent coaching position to the wildly popular man they hired after week six on an interim basis, and who led them to the new culture and attitude.

For me, the last couple of months have had their challenges, but those challenges paved the way to some genuine excitement. I am exiting 2008 on an up note. I've got a job which is challenging and motivating. Through this job, I am also getting very involved with the leadership of the church and making some wonderful relationships. The momentum in my life as I finish 2008 makes the prospect of the coming year very exciting for me. I am not lamenting the rough start to my year, but riding the wave of what has transpired over the past five months.

It's how you finish.

Notice I didn't say "end". This is not an end. There really is no end. Not yet. It's simply the finish of one season which will carry over into a new one. The potential is great. Expectations are high. There will be challenges. There will be victories, and there will be defeats. But all the preparation and determination are leading to such a time as this.

I'm looking forward to the new season!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dinner and Discussions of Spleens

My parents are each 73 years old, but there can be varying degrees of 73ness. You know what I mean. Whatever age you are, there are people who share your chronological age, but some make it appear older or younger than the number may suggest based on their appearance and/or behaviors.

My parents are beginning to show more and more signs that their 73 is really catching up to them. For instance, during meals, my mom enjoys sharing stories of old friends and relatives. Now this isn't really a problem, except that when you hit a certain age, the only updates you get from your similarly aged friends and relatives are medical in nature. Therefore, while eating my meal, my mom wants to tell me about her cousin in Bakersfield who had her spleen removed. Then I hear about her friend's failed back surgery. Then my cousin's post-operation infection. It's taking everything within me to keep my food, well...within me.

My poor mom is afflicted with two men. This is most evident when she is sharing memories of days gone by. As a woman, my mom's stories involve a lot of details which my dad and I perceive as red traffic lights on the road toward the point. As men, we just want to sail down the road and arrive at our destination as quickly as possible. As a woman, my mom takes a casual cruise, taking in every detail along the way. Dad and I see these details as stop lights because we have to sit there and wait for them before we can continue toward the destination; the point. Sometimes, we even have to take the occasional turn on to a side street of thought and roam through that neighborhood of (to us) meaningless information before we can return to the course. This maneuver is always keyed on the word, "anyway."

For example, "remember? I had prime rib, mashed potatoes and broccoli. You don't remember? Anyway, that was the night we flew in and stayed in San Jose for a week."

On one hand, the fact that she remembers exactly what she had for dinner at The Hungry Hunter the night I picked them up at the airport ten years ago is an encouraging sign. Her mind is very sharp. On the other hand...what does that have to do with anything?

Later, my dad took some time to parade his collection of items he ordered from catalogs. Then, he brought out the catalogs for me to browse through. Sometimes he gets things that are actually kind of cool. Other times, he ends up getting something that is supposed to be slightly better than a thing he already has. That means he has no need for the old one, so guess who he wants to give it to. I love my dad very much, so I have to walk a very thin political tightrope when balancing whether to accept or turn it down. Sometimes I just need to take the battery operated floor sweeper, though my Swiffer does the job quite nicely. It makes him feel good.

My parents are the sweetest people ever. My dad gets people to fall in love with him wherever he goes. He's just being himself, and people love to come up and give him hugs. He's a good and gentle man. This Christmas, he got me four different sweaters and shirts. Three of the four, I'll definitely wear. The fact that he hit on 75% this year is a nice improvement on previous years. Sometimes he's still guilty of buying me something he would wear. But that's part of the charm, and one thing I know I'll fondly remember for the rest of my life.

So while my parents are showing their age in some funny ways, and some troubling ways, I hope to be able to hear about spleens and battery operated floor sweepers for a long time to come.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Because You Want To Know



Here is the latest update on my Fantasy Football standings. As you can see, I'm still in the lead with only this weekend's games remaining.

Troy slipped from 8th place to 9th.

All is right with the world.

Friday, December 26, 2008

December 26


December 26 is the middle child of dates on the calendar. Well, at least in the United States. In Canada, they invented a holiday called "Boxing Day", whatever that is. I thought it had something to do with the physical conflict between people out at the stores the day after, trying to make exchanges and returns of stuff they received the day before. Speaking of, does anything epitomize femininity more than pink boxing gloves and matching head gear?

I digress.

Do you ever get that weird let down feeling the day after Christmas? I mean, there's all that build up in the weeks and months leading up to Christmas Eve and Day, then WHAM, it's December 26th. I always feel that way. For the past I-don't-know-how-many-years, I have been involved with Christmas shows. You have months of rehearsals leading up to several performances, then WHAM, it's over. It's the same feeling. That "now what?" feeling.

Fortunately, this year December 26 falls on a Friday. Next year will be even better because it will be a Saturday. I wonder how many will have to return to work on Friday, only to follow it with a weekend. How weird is that? You have to fire up the engines and put in an honest day of work, but on a day sandwiched between Christmas and a weekend. And to make matters even more interesting, you have to do it again next week when New Year's Day does the same thing to our schedule.

Remember when we were in school? We had weeks away from school, so the calendar looked something like this: Sunday-Saturday-Saturday-Christmas Eve-Christmas Day-Saturday-Saturday-Sunday.

Ahhh, those were the days.

Now we're all workin' stiffs. Many of you had the foresight (and seniority) to take a week or two off with vacation time. That's the way to do it.

But here's to December 26th. The red-headed stepchild of days on the calendar. You're under appreciated in this country, but today, we salute you!

Now hurry up and get over with so we can enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Heart, A Manger


I love Christmas. I love the music, the lights, Christmas trees. But I've been careful not to miss what Christmas really is. I've been thinking of the humble beginnings of Jesus on that silent night. I never cease to be amazed that God would introduce His son to our world in such a humbling, downright inglorious setting.

A stable.

You see, there was no room in the hotel for them. So it was off to the barn for Joseph, his wife, and their soon-to-arrive son. God could have chosen so many more fitting ways to usher the Savior into the world He created. A palace would seem appropriate. But He chose a stable. Then, the indignity carried out even further. You see, there was no cushy bed in which to put the newborn Messiah. So they improvised.

A manger.

A manger is basically a trough in which animals would shove their dirty snouts in order to get a mouthful of sustenance. But on this night, it would be a cradle. Instead of holding the food for farm animals, this time it held the Bread of Life for all mankind.

And now Jesus abides in an equally humble place. A place which is every bit as flawed and inconsistent with a place you would imagine for the King of Kings. A place which is just as unfitting for royalty as can possibly be.

My heart.

Had Jesus been born as He deserved, how could He find my heart a suitable home? My heart is anything but a glamorous mansion befitting a King. Instead, my heart is a humble and unassuming place. But as Jesus made that stable and manger the center of His will and glory some two thousand years ago, He is working to do the same in my heart and life. By merely living in it, He raises its value and its potential.

Everything Jesus has ever touched, He changed from being ordinary. That is why His life started out in such a humble, unglamorous setting.

And maybe...just maybe, He'll touch my life, and yours, and make it fit for a King.

Merry Christmas, from my heart to yours.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

My fondest memories of Christmas relate to Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day. Without going into a lot of lengthy details to distract from the upbeat theme of the occasion, suffice it to say that I was raised as an only child, despite the fact that I have one biological brother and two step brothers. Growing up, aside from the dog, there was no one else around within 30 years of my age. So Christmas Eve was very special because that was the one time all year long when my brothers would all come over and be there at the same time.

I was a bit younger than each of them. In fact, I was five years younger than the nearest chronological sibling. So they tended to hang together, and I was the little guy who was often the target of physical and psychological older brother torment. But I didn't care. It was just great to have them around.

When it was time to open up the presents, paper was everywhere. We tore that place up! The joyous sound of "WHOA!" was heard several times during the course of the evening. It seemed like the opening of gifts lasted for hours.

It's been several years since I've shared a Christmas with my brothers. They all have their own lives. I think the fact that we grew up separately, and were not exactly close in age has a lot to do with our distance today. Not to mention the geographic distance which stands between us. But I do have great memories.

On Christmas Eve 2008, I will participate in my church's special one hour service. It will be nice to do this, since in years past, I always had to decline because I had a lengthy drive to be at my parents' house, and I didn't want to get there in the middle of the night after battling traffic out of the Bay Area. Now, about 30 miles separates us, so I can still do the service and get to their house by 8 pm.

There will be no kids tearing into presents. It will just be my parents and me. A little quiet time, reading the biblical account of the birth of Jesus out of Luke chapter 2. Christmas Eve now has a different energy level than it did all those years ago, but in a different way, it's even more meaningful now. Not because of who isn't there, but because of what my parents and I share. Each of our lives have been changed as a result of the life of Christ which started in that humble manger. Our relationships with each other are so different, so much better than it was all those years ago. We've each taken interesting paths to get to where we are today. None of us knows how many more Christmas Eves we'll share together. Without anyone saying anything, we will enjoy this one knowing that Christmas Eve 2009 isn't guaranteed to any of us.

As you experience your own Christmas Eve, I pray that you spend it surrounded by people you love, and more importantly, people who love you. I pray that it is somehow the most special yet. I hope you and they have many, many more Christmases together yet ahead. But I pray that you never take one moment of this Christmas for granted. I can think of many people I know who will experience this Christmas as the first one without a special someone in their lives who they lost this year. When you look around the room at them, when they're not even aware of it...just look at them and thank God for them.

And remember to thank God for sending His son to us. This is, and always will be the greatest gift ever given.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Lights

One tradition of Christmas that I love to this day is driving around looking at homes decorated with festive Christmas lights. I've lived in a few cities throughout my life, and I have always found the neighborhoods which banded together to bring Christmas cheer to the community.

I'm thankful to say that Rocklin has at least one such neighborhood.

My good friends Jason and Heather live about a mile from me, and within a few blocks of some winding streets which apparently have quite a reputation for getting their Christmas on. Jason and Heather had family over this past Saturday, as tradition dictates, and then they all go for a stroll down to look at the lights. They invited me to join them, and I was eager to participate.

We got to the part of the neighborhood where the homes were lit up like the Vegas strip. It was awesome! Evidently, the homeowner's association all but requires people to participate. And boy, do they! We saw houses with a variety of themes to them. Many featured Disney movie themes, some feature Charlie Brown and his pals. We saw several nativity s
cenes. We even saw one which had several wooden snowmen on the lawn which depicted them playing baseball. Many of them had Boston Red Sox hats or jerseys on them, so that particular family's allegiance was not hard to discern.

There was one home that featured The Beatles on their front lawn. But to me, what took the cake was the home with Marilyn Monroe prominently placed at the top-center of the roof under bright lights and a rotating color light ball. As you can see, it was Marilyn's classic pose from the movie The Seven Year Itch. I'm not sure that this particular image will crack into the top Christmas icons for the
ages, but I have to say, it was unique.

It was a great night. Many of the homeowners pull out their portable fire pits right on to their driveways, round up a bunch of chairs, and just watch the people walk and drive by. There were hundreds and hundreds of people walking through the neighborhoods. Everyone having a great time, everyone festive and behaving appropriately. No one was in a hurry. It wasn't too cold. It really was a perfect night for this.

I was rather shocked to see the numbe
r of limousines parading the streets, with people of all ages hanging out the windows to take in the sights. There were also countless cars with small children standing in cars and SUVs taking in the view through open sunroofs, a la Dino from The Flintstones. From what I understand, people drive from as much as 45 minutes away to come visit this neighborhood.

As a big kid, I love living in a community which celebrates the season. Many people I passed that night were not afraid to say, "Merry Christmas." I have to admit, it almost catches me by surprise these days. I don't expect everyone to celebrate the religious origins of Christmas, but I'm happy when I see people unafraid to use the term which has almost become controversial. It is Christmas, after all.

I love Christmas. I love Christmas traditions. You can bet that taking a stroll through this neighborhood will be part of my Christmas activities as long as I live here.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Nobody Is Bulletproof

You may look at that title and think to yourself, "duh!" Well, I know it's true, but I realize that there are people in my life who I really think never have big problems. I forget that even those people you think have it all together, sometimes go through serious difficulties themselves.

I just found out recently that a friend of mine, (whose gender, name, location and any other remotely identifying information will be omitted), just lost their long-standing job. I don't know to what degree my friend was stunned by the news, but I sure know it was a good thing I was seated when they told me.

This event was a shocking reality of just how serious things are in the world today. I hear all the statistics, and I've been part of them. But there are some people you just figure are somehow impervious to struggles. It's not because they're fake, simply pretending everything is hunky dory. I know things are not perfect in their lives, or in anyone's for that matter. But for whatever reason, I simply assume that some people are insulated from some of the garbage I have to go through because they're better, or they are living the "American Dream."

Such reminders of how fragile things can be is frightening. None of us are bulletproof. Bad things happen to good people. Even the best of people. I expect such things of my life. I'm a big goober. But our goober quotient sometimes just doesn't have anything to do with it.

This reminder is good for me because it has awakened in me the necessity to pray for those who I think are bulletproof. The fact is, especially these days, we just can't assume that people are immune to extreme difficulties. The fact is, no matter what the economy is like, life can happen in the blink of an eye. Just last week, another friend of mine informed me that their mother, a very dear woman in my life, found a couple of lumps on her breast. She had to wait the better part of the week to get the results from the biopsy. Thankfully, they were benign.

But it was another reminder.

I've had my difficulties. I'm still going through them. Many around me are going through things. The lesson here is that we need to keep in touch with our friends and even people we meet throughout our journey. We need to pay attention to people's stories. Some people you might not expect it from may be going through very difficult times. When you ask, "how are you doing", mean it. Be willing to stop and listen to them just in case. Be willing, yourself, to be honest about the difficulties in your life. I'm learning there is no shame in going through troubles. People are more understanding, and less judgmental than we fear.

We'll get through it...together.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Barbie Is For The Birds

From the "truth is stranger than fiction" file, I present to you this little gem. It seems Mattel toys is honoring the 45th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock's thriller, The Birds, with a commemorative Barbie doll fashioned after the movie's bedeviled target of the feathered menaces, Tippi Hedrin.

As you can see in the picture, Barbie is depicted in the throes of thwarting off the aerial onslaught of winged attackers. All the while, Barbie has a surprisingly serene expression on her face, unlike her motion picture counterpart. But I guess it stands to reason that Barbie in distress might not have been alluring to consumers.




It seems that the concept of honoring this particular horror film is not unprecedented from the world of iconic doll makers. Evidently, the che
rub-faced Madame Alexander line has also released their version of the damsel in distress from birds with anger issues.


Personally, I have a particular movie I wouldn't mind seeing Barbie honor. The 35th anniversary of this particular film is in 2010, so if it happens, remember you read it here first. Why not feature a half-eaten Barbie as a tribute to the movie Jaws?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Prop. 8 Is The New Roe v. Wade

A rare bonus post for a single day. Two for the price of none! What a bargain!

I'm not really in the mood to really dive into this topic, nor is the week before Christmas the ideal time, in my opinion. This is merely an observation I've made in the wake of President-elect Barack Obama's decision to have Pastor Rick Warren offer a prayer at the Presidential inauguration next month.

The backlash I'm seeing in the local news outlets here in California about the single issue of Proposition 8 completely defining a person reminds me of how conservatives have been known to look at those in favor of legalized abortion. It basically doesn't matter what your body of work shows, it matters how you stand on a single political flash point.

Rick Warren has been embraced by Christians and non Christians for his book The Purpose Driven Life. Pastor Warren has risen to national prominence as a beacon of information and human compassion. The presidential summit held at Warren's church in Orange County was unprecedented, and applauded by both ends of the political spectrum. For one evening, no one seemed too concerned with the separation of church and state, and despite the stereotype of evangelical Christians being overwhelmingly Republican, it was anything but a home field advantage for John McCain.

The left now has it's own equivalent to Roe v. Wade. This is the litmus test which will be used to determine whether someone is loving, or hateful. Conservatives have used the abortion topic similarly. Regarding Proposition 8, I find it unfortunate that people perceive this as hateful. It's too bad that the body of Rick Warren's life is so easily and quickly dismissed because of his stance for the traditional and biblical definition of marriage. There are people in my own life with whom I disagree, and who likewise disagree with me. However, they must also know that I do not define them or base my affection for them on how they vote or who they fall in love with.

I wish in my heart people would not judge or discriminate against others for any single ideology. We don't have to agree on things. We do, however, have to coexist. Agree with me, or Rick Warren, or Barack Obama, or the butcher at the grocery store...or not. We all have redeeming qualities which should not be disqualified because of a single issue, no matter how closely to home it may hit.

Wow, looks like I dived in after all.

Fantasy Football Update

Those of you who know me probably have already figured out that these updates wouldn't be appearing on my blog if I were anywhere but at the top of the standings. Hey, it's my blog, it's my game...why not?

There was a major turn of events last week which had a dramatic affect on the standings. "Longhorn" has been at the top of the standings right from the beginning. He has been in 1st or 2nd place all season, but I think he may have been just a little distracted in recent weeks.
Within a five day period, his two sons and their wives brought three grandbabies into his life, including one on Thanksgiving Day. Despite these events, he was still in a position to win it all.

That is, until last week.

Unfortunately, he missed the deadline to get his picks set, so he got no points, thus eliminating him from contention for the championship. He slipped from 2nd place all the way down to 6th. It's a sad ending to a great season, but somehow I think it's not the biggest thing in his life these days.


Troy is still in 8th place.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Motivation of Fear

There are many wise quotes about the consequences to doing nothing. You may have heard the saying, "you miss 100% of the chances you don't take." I am a very conservative individual by nature. That doesn't simply mean politically. It is a characteristic which applies in my life pretty much across the board. I'm not one who takes a lot of chances with my physical safety, with money, with relationships or anything.

However, there is a new wind blowing in my life. I'm finding that my fear of doing nothing is greater than my fear of rejection or failure. Without going into specifics at this time, (maybe another time), I am finding myself stepping outside my own familiar tendencies. I'm by no means wreckless. There is still conscious thought to my actions. I haven't thrown caution to the wind. I simply mean that I'm discovering that I'm more afraid of the regret of omission, rather than commission.

I have, in the past, been fairly passive in certain circumstances. I'm finding that there is a growing measure of assertiveness which is rising up within me. You might call it confidence. You'd be correct in doing so, but not entirely. The fact is, if you've been reading my posts over the past month or so, I'm feeling empowered by my liberty in Christ. One thing that really held me back in my decision, 25 years ago, to become a Chris
tian was that I feared I would lose my freedom. I perceived a whole lot more thou shalt nots in the Christian life. I saw it as a restrictive life. What I've discovered over those 25 years, and in a concentrated measure over the past year, is that a life which is truly submitted to Jesus brings liberty beyond description.

Right now, I'm not afraid of rejection as much
as I'm afraid of being in the exact same place tomorrow, next week, next month, next year - as I am today. I'd rather knock on a door and be told no than look back and wonder what might have been if I had only tried.

As Eugene Petersen writes in The Message, his interpretation of John 8:34-36 says the following:

Jesus said, "I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can't come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through."

When we take action under the authority and power of God, you see a confidence which goes beyond a simple human characteristic. You're just hungry to knock on doors and see if God has something special waiting for us on the other side. You just never know. Maybe there is.

What are you going to do about it?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Happy Announcement!

You know, I'm blessed. I once knew a guy who always responded with, "I'm blessed" every single time someone would ask him how he was. In a way, it was annoying because there was really no point in asking if you really wanted to know how he was doing. But in another sense, it doesn't matter how things are going...we're blessed.

In this economy, with the record unemployment numbers, I have to be honest. I'm blessed. I've been unemployed twice since I've lived here in Rocklin. That's twice in less than 5 months! The first stint lasted one month, and this recent one lasted 3 weeks. I know of people who have been unemployed for over a year, looking, looking and looking. In fact, I found that looking for a full time job is a full time job, itself.

Here's how things went this time. I had been looking through all the online job boards. I posted my resume everywhere. I submitted my resume everywhere. I was very discouraged because I really felt painted into a corner. The paint was my resume. I no longer wanted to be what my resume claims I am, professionally. I received offers for interviews, but just didn't feel right about accepting them. That's kind of odd behavior when you're flat broke with no income.

Monday, December 1: I was at a bible study at a church here in town. During a fellowship break, I returned a phone call which came during the worship portion of the service. The call was from the Creative Arts pastor from my church. Our senior pastor had asked him to contact me to see if I'd be interested in working for a guy he knew. His name is Gary. This is where it gets interesting. This guy is a guy I sort of knew. I went to college with his wife, back before they were married. I even attended their wedding nearly 20 years ago. He is a motivational speaker. He does a lot of corporate events, television shows and churches. He was looking for a personal assistant.

Wednesday, December 3: I hadn't heard from anyone yet. I saw my friend, the Creative Arts pastor this particular night and asked if he had heard anything. He gave me an unintentionally cryptic answer. He said I probably wouldn't hear anything until after the coming Sunday. He wouldn't give a reason, though I tried to press him for more information.

Sunday, December 7: As I'm walking into the sanctuary, I see Gary and his wife coming in just ahead of me. That's odd. They don't go to our church. Then I remembered the cryptic answer from Wednesday that I'd have to wait until after Sunday. Something is afoot. During the service, Gary is introduced as the new Men's Ministry pastor at my church. How about that? God is bringing this guy into my home church. Gary and I meet briefly following the service and set up a meeting for the following morning.

Monday, December 8: Gary and I meet at Peets Coffee and talk for about an hour. He tells me more about his business, his vision for his new job at the church, and what he is looking for in his assistant. Then, I tell him about my passions and my skills and giftings. Our personalities are different, but they blend. Gary recognizes the need to staff your weaknesses. He knows he has great strengths and talents, but he also knows he has deficiencies.

Don't we all?

At the end of our meeting, he tells me he'll get back to me. He needs to consult with his wife, as they are business partners as much as they are husband and wife. Within hours, he called me back and said I was in.

Since then, we've hit the ground running. We've had several phone convesations, meetings with him and his wife, meetings with the pastor and administrator at the church. As you read this, we're on our way to San Diego where he will be appearing on the local Fox affiliate's morning television show.

**UPDATE: I'm not on this San Diego trip after all. We've got some things to do in town while he's out promoting his book, so I'm keeping the home fires burning this week.

This is a great blessing to me. Gary and his wife have welcomed me with open arms, and we are already forming a great partnership.

I'll keep you posted on how things develop, where we are, what we're doing and where we're going. You can also follow me on Twitter. The updates are posted on the top right of this page. If you have a Twitter account, just click "Follow Me", and you'll get all my updates.

Stay tuned!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Am I Not Surprised?

Why is it that we have faith in God, yet get all shocked when things work out in ways that can only be attributed to Him? Why is it we pray for God to heal someone, to bless someone, to meet some kind of need, yet we're dumbfounded when it happens?

I have no right to claim any kind of special spiritual achievements in my life, but I do believe I have reached an important milestone in my walk. I honestly don't think I'm shocked when things I ask for come to pass. Let me balance that thought with this one. I'm also not surprised or even upset when things don't happen how, or when I had hoped.

I am at peace. I still have many unanswered questions, intertwined with some pressing needs. However, my job is out in the field in sales and the proverbial, other duties as assigned. God is in control of management and production. So we know our roles. God doesn't micro manage my life. He is aware of my performance and activity, but He lets me make my own decisions. I will perform better and earn promotions and bonuses when I stay in line with His policies and procedures, but He is patient with me when I take a little bit longer on my break than I should have, or I zig when I should have zagged.

I am at peace. There are special people in my life who are facing literal life and death circumstances. My difficulties pale in comparison to theirs, but I know God cares about my things, without having to turn His ample attention from theirs.

He's quite the multi tasker.

I pray for these special people in my life. I pray that God would comfort them. I pray God would heal them. But ultimately, I pray that God would have His way, and that I would see Him in it no matter how things turn out. Remember, I'm in sales, not production. If I don't believe in what I'm selling, how can I expect others to want what I have? On the other hand, sales comes easy when your life's foundation is the commodity, itself. When others see it at work in your life, they'll be more inclined to believe in its value and power.

Christianity is a verb. I love this life. It defines who I am. I serve at the pleasure of the Most High God. He takes great care of me. (I was going to make a comment about God's retirement plan being out of this world, but that would be cheesy. Good thing I didn't write it!)

Time to get back to work!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lessons From A Cruddy Car

I've had some pretty serious clunkers since I got my first driver's license. These days, it seems to be vogue for parents to bestow upon their children new cars upon their 16th birthdays. Of course, it's for safety reasons.

Oh please.

Back in my day, we learned life lessons by having to deal with getting stuck on the side of the road (always on a rainy day, on a country road where the nearest phone was at least 5 miles away...uphill...through five feet of snow).

Anyway, that's another post for another day. Before I got my current car three years ago, I've had many cars, all in varying stages of jalopy-ness. I often would comment that the Blue Book values of my cars fluctuated depending on how much gas was in the tank.

The value of something, or someone, is determined by what that thing or person means to someone else. eBay has become a cultural phenomenon by capitalizing on this fact. You find an old button in the attic that means nothing to you. You consider just throwing it away, but instead, you list it on eBay. Then someone who collects antique buttons buys it for $100 because it holds value to them. Value, like beauty, tends to be subjective.

Not always.

The relationship between God and man is unique. God loves each and every one of us more than we can imagine, and none of it is based on merit. How could it be? When you're God, can a mere human actually impress you? Yeah...no.

On the other side of the same coin, God's value doesn't fluctuate. So many people call out to God when they're in deep trouble. You've heard the phrase, "there are no atheists in a fox hole." Well, it's human nature to look for help when we're desperate. We make promises. "God, I'll never do that again if you just get me out of this."

Here's the thing. People who don't have a relationship with God and don't spend time getting to know Him tend to humanize Him. They ask questions like, if God is such a loving God, why do children suffer? Why is there murder? The simple answer is because we have a free will. He allows us to make our own choices, even if they're evil.

We have devalued God. We have somehow reduced God to being the corrector of all our screw-ups. We made him Alice from The Brady Bunch. We run around the house, making messes, and He is supposed to follow us around and clean up after us so there are no consequences.

God has already done all He needs to in order to deserve our devotion. In fact, He's done more than keep His end of the bargain. He's gone significantly out of His way to give us life and a home which supports life. Namely, Earth. If that weren't enough, when Adam and Eve fell victim to the world's first and most lethal Trojan horse virus, the consequences were separation from God. From that point on, people had to offer sacrifices and crazy rituals to win God's favor.

That is, until God provided the ultimate sacrifice, once...and for all.

If God doesn't do one more thing for me. If He doesn't answer one more prayer. If He allows me to suffer as a result of my own mistakes. If He doesn't respond to my attempts to please Him with my words, thoughts and actions...He is still God.

If God could retire from all His work and just sit back knowing the body of His work is good and complete, He still deserves my devotion. God's value doesn't increase because He does something really good in my life. He doesn't owe me anything.

Thankfully, God doesn't retire. Thankfully, God still blesses us. Thankfully, even when we endure hardships, He is constantly at work in our lives and loving us through it all. Unrequited love breaks God's heart more than it hurt mine to be snubbed by that very cute girl I really liked. When we turn our backs on God, it brings Him great pain. That is because of the value we hold in His heart. God carries your picture around with Him every minute of every day of your life. In fact, he knew you before you ever took a breath. He eagerly awaited giving you life. He created heaven, and gave us a way to spend eternity there not for us, but for Himself. He loves you so much that He made a way to spend eternity with you.

How's that for value?


Friday, December 12, 2008

Fantasy Football

Every year, I host an online game during the NFL regular season. I invite a group of friends to participate, and we always have a great time.

Here's how it works. There are 17 weeks to the regular season. On any given week, there can be anywhere from 13 to 16 games. During the season, each team gets one week off, called a bye week. That is why the number of games varies. The object of the game is to pick the winners of each game. Your picks must be made before the first game of the week. For the past few weeks, there have been games on Thursdays,
so that means you have to have all your picks, including the Sunday games, set before the first game of the week on Thursday. Once that game starts, everything is locked. You can't make changes.

Here's where it gets tricky. You have to assign confidence points to each game. If there are 16 games that week, you assign a point value, from 1-16, to each game. You cannot use the same value twice. So here's an example of how you would do it. The Raiders stink. So, if they were playing a very strong team, say the New York Giants, you would be very confident the Giants would win. So you might put 16 points on that game. If t
he Giants win, the 16 points you put on it are added to your tally. For each game you lose, you simply don't get the points. At the end of the season, the player with the most points wins.

Each year, I have three goals.
  1. Make sure everyone has fun
  2. Win
  3. Beat (best buddy and Crossing Paths reader) Troy
Goal number one is most important. I don't think we've ever lost anyone because they didn't have fun. We have men and women in the group, college students, moms, dads, sons, brothers, sisters and grandfathers. It's a fun group of people, and it's growing each year.

Goal number 2 is a real challenge. This year we have twelve players, so coming in first is never easy. Counting this week, which kicked off with last night's game between Chicago and New Orleans, there are only three weeks remaining.

Goal number 3 is pretty much a lock.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lessons From a Trojan Horse Virus

Well, last week I experienced a first. For the first time in my life, I fell for the old Trojan horse virus trick. After I got past the initial self loathing process that comes along with falling for something like that, I had a pretty full day of dealing with getting the thing out of my computer. And the really humiliating thing about a Trojan horse virus is that it goes through your address book and cordially sends everyone you know the same virus.

How thoughtful.

Anyway, like most things in my life these days, I am having no trouble in finding life lessons in these little misadventures. So today, my life lesson learned from the Trojan horse virus.

The thing about these viruses is that they don't look like viruses. They look like something entirely different. I mean, who among us would look at something that had a skull and crossbones on it, and think to ourselves, "sure, why not? What could possibly go wrong?" Sin often presents itself in our lives in very attractive packages. In fact, I think it's safe to say that history's very first Trojan horse virus pre-dates the actual Trojan horse. Heck, it pre-dates the invention of the horse! Of course, I'm speaking of that whole Adam and Eve/fruit incident. Maybe you've heard of it? It's true. Think about it. Adam and Eve are knocking around the Garden of Eden without a care in the world. They're enjoying everything God had created for them. But then came that wiley old serpent. He approached Eve and eventually convinced her that there was absolutely nothing wrong with eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, despite the directive from God to eat from anywhere but that tree.

The bible says that the fruit on the forbidden tree was, "pleasing to the eye." Well, of course it was! If it looked like snot, I doubt Eve couldn't have been talked into it. Anyway, you know the story. Eve ate it, and like the Trojan horse virus, she passed it on to Adam. And like a dummy, he ate it, too.

There's another humorous aside in this story which I'll share with you another time. It's another topic, and I don't want to get sidetracked.

We can be so easily duped by things and people which look so darned good on the outside. But the devil is no idiot. He's puts sin in nice, eye-catching packages. But here's the thing. When we give in to sin and let it worm its way into our lives, it leads us into deeper and deeper sin. That is what happens to good people when they start with a little marijuana. But it's not enough. So now they need to move on to a little crack, which leads to a lot of crack, which leads to heroin, and so on. Or people start with a "little" porn. The next thing you know, it's not enough. They need to move on. They go from looking at it to needing to experience it for real. They find themselves in a dark subculture just to fulfill their need for more. The soccer mom, the bank executive, the politician, the pastor, the teacher. It doesn't matter. Sin has torn apart people from all walks of life. It's not just for homeless junkies.

Sin leads to death. An eternal, catastrophic death. But there is no way the devil is going to package it that way. Instead, he does it with something pleasing to our senses. He promises to lavish us with power, wealth and fame.

Just like avoiding a virus on your computer, there is a way to avoid falling into the trap of sin. Wisdom. And this important quality begins when we fear the Lord (Psalm 111:10). When we recognize God's ultimate power and authority, and fear the consequences of being separated from Him, we exercise wisdom.

Listen to and obey God. Know His word. The bible is the ultimate anti virus.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Recognizing God's Voice

Not long ago, I shared with you a story which reminded me of the need to recognize God's voice in our lives. The thing is, how do you learn to recognize it?

I'm sure there are many scholars and teachers out there who can give you a more theological answer to this great mystery, but I like to take a more practical approach. Not that theology is less important than practical. It's just that theology without practice is nothing more than book knowledge.

When I was very new in my faith, I found that decisions I was making were very atypical to the patterns in my life. For instance, when I was a senior in high school, and literally only weeks before I ultimately gave my heart to the Lord, I was preparing for the annual band trip to Southern California during Spring break. Not only was I part of the marching and concert bands, I was the student president of the music department. This trip was the social highlight of the year. And there was particular significance with it being my senior year.


However, having been on the trips the previous three years, I knew very well of the
activities which went on when the chaperones were nestled away in their own hotel rooms. The trip was scheduled for the week following Easter Sunday. But just a few weeks earlier, I had lost my entire interest in going on the trip. I notified the band director that I would not be going. He was very upset with me. I was the band president, and also the first chair in the trombone section. Despite the backlash I knew this would create, there was nothing in me that wanted to be part of this trip.

The Monday following the trip, and the first day back in school after Spring break, the Dean of
students approached me in the main hallway of the school. He was a very tall and imposing figure. At 6'7", he was affectionately, and reverently called "Lurch" by the student body, in reference to the character from the television show, The Addams Family. We had a very friendly relationship throughout my years in high school, but this time he had a rather serious look on his face.

-"I'm very disappointed in you, Corey."

-"Why?"

-"I heard about what happened on the trip to Southern California."


Apparently, things had gotten rather out of control - more than usual - on this particular trip. But I was able to tell him I wasn't on the trip, so I wasn't A) responsible for what happened, nor B) a participant in what happened. On both accounts, God had protected me physically, spiritually, and even my reputation. God's voice, at work. And as a brand new Christian, right out of the wrapper, I didn't even know it was God's voice until I could later think about everything and unpack it all in my mind.

A few years later, I was in Lexington, Kentucky on a tour with a Christian band I was singing with. We had a rare night off, and the guys in the band decided they wanted to go bowling. I just wasn't in the mood. I was going through a bit of an identity crisis. I was still very young in my Christian experience, and even newer at singing. I was traveling in a group
of people who were not only practically born on a pew, but most of them were part of musical families. I really felt unqualified, inferior, and very out-of-place. As the band was out having fun, I crawled into my bed in my hotel room and began flipping through the channels on the TV. I came across the movie, "The Breakfast Club". If you're not familiar with the movie, it's about a group of kids in high school who, for different reasons, are sentenced to Saturday detention in the school library. The cast of characters includes a rocker guy, a jock, a goth girl, a girly-girl, and a nerdy brainiac. Kind of an odd mix of characters to be locked together for an entire day. But it is a very introspective type of movie when considering what makes us who we are, and finding we may have more in common when we look beneath the surface.

It was the perfect movie for the mood I was in. Then it came to me. God's voice. As if someone shot a flare into a moonless night's sky, it revealed my fears and doubts. Then this simple question filled my thoughts;

-"Do you think I made a mistake?"

It was undoubtedly the voice of God speaking to me. The reason I knew this was because it was so opposite of my natural way of thinking. Then, in an instant, I pondered the depth of the question. In the entire history of mankind, going back to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, how many people have walked the face of the earth? Without even needing to know the specific number, I had kind of a scale to work with as I continue the thought.

Then, God continued;

-"Since that time, there have been only six people I have placed in this ministry. Only one lives any further west than Kansas.You. Again I ask. Do you think I made a mistake?"

Of course, I knew enough to know God doesn't make mistakes. He had selected me to be part of this exclusive group. And in those moments, I was able to see that my life was filled with purpose. There were better singers. There were people who had forgotten more bible verses than I even knew. There were people who were more of this, and less of that than I was (and am). But God has put His Spirit and purpose in me. Other people are not my standard of measure. I have God's call on my life, and He is my equalizer. God created me to be me.

God's voice, to me, is clear because it contradicts my own voice. His voice gives me purpose. It causes me to go against the pattern my life would normally take. It defies logic. It defies my sinful nature.

While the bible is commonly referred to as "God's Word", I'm so grateful that He speaks to me personally. He speaks to my heart in ways I can understand. He thrills me when He speaks to me. His voice sometimes comes through the words and actions of people around me, sometimes in quiet moments when I'm home alone, sometimes through a song or something I'm reading.

His voice is impossible to describe, but it's unmistakeable. And it's something I can't live without.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lessons From Basketball

Continuing with my life lessons from everyday things, today I want to focus on a simple element from the game of basketball.

When I was younger, I was very active in sports. However, I was not blessed with a lot of physical tools which made me a natural athlete. I am not very tall, by athlete standards, (unless you're talking about jockeys, then I'm Shaquille O'Neal.) I couldn't jump all that high. And I certainly wasn't very fast. I spent some time at an orphanage in Mexico, and one of my favorite things to do was play basketball with the kids. One of the older boys gave me a cool sounding nickname. I felt pretty special. I mean, he said it almost with a reverential tone. He dubbed me, "Tortuga". Wow, it's so percussive. It just sounds powerful! It sounds majestic! I couldn't wait to get home and get a personalized license plate that said, "Tortuga."

When I proudly reported to my mom that the boys gave me a cool nickname, she laughed.

How can you laugh at me? I am Tortuga!

That's when she sprung the news to me. Tortuga means "turtle".

That whooshing sound you hear was my ego flying around the room like a violently deflated balloon.

Anyway, back to basketball. When you shoot a basketball during the context of a game, you're typically being defended. When you lift off from the ground to take a jump shot, the defender instinctively will jump with you, with their arm extended in hopes of blocking your shot. If nothing else, they want to distract you with their pressure.

As you look at the picture to the right, you'll notice the shooter's eyes. They're not fixed on the distraction, but the goal. He's fully aware of the presence of the guy in front of him, but his concentration is greater than the would-be distraction.

My life is filled with potential distractions. As I write this, I am still unemployed. My bills continue to arrive, and oh by the way, Christmas is just over two weeks away.

Guess who that is waving a hand in my face trying to distract me.

The lesson is that no matter what leaps into my life in hopes of jostling my faith, I must keep my eyes on the goal; God. My faith, my focus, my devotion must be greater than the obstacles set in my path to rock my world. Like the basketball player, we must practice the fundamentals which will help us experience success, no matter what conditions are before us. Keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord is the first step. Taking your eyes off of Him and putting your focus on the obstacles will certainly create instability in your life.

So this is where I am. There's a lot of stuff going on around me which are very real, and very important. I'm keenly aware of them. But my eyes are fixed on Jesus. He is my goal. I trust He'll see me through.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lessons From My GPS Unit

I feel a little blogger "miniseries" brewing in me. Who knows, it may become a sporadic feature on Crossing Paths. That is, life lessons from everyday things in our lives. Today, I am thinking of my navigation system attached to the windshield of my car. This is my GPS, or Global Positioning System.

Navigation systems are a relatively new innovation for consumers. In 2005,when I was making
my decision on the car I was about to purchase, I was presented with the option of having a GPS in the dash. I figured I didn't need one. I mean, I never get lost, so that's a waste of money.

Then for Chris
tmas that year, my dad gave me one of those after market jobbers that you attach to your windshield by suction cup. After having one through these years, I don't know how I went so long without it. Do you remember life before cell phones? Before laptops? Before remote controls? Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

One thing I find particularly cool about my car's GPS is the fact that I have the actual voice of Mr. T barking out directions. "Hey fool, in 300 yards, turn left!"

The thing about navigation systems is that we tend to use them only when we need them. I mean, that makes perfect sense. You're not going to really pay attention to it when you're just going to the store, taking the kids to school, or driving to and from work. No, we utilize the GPS when we're going on a long trip, or trying to find a specific address in an unfamiliar part of town. You key in a destination, wait a few seconds, and presto! The system charts a course for you.

I am in a place in my life where I am relying on a different GPS. It's my God Positioning System. The difference is, I need to use this GPS in everyday situations. Even the very familiar paths I take. It's not something you call upon only when you're desperate or in unfamiliar territory. T
his GPS system is most effective when we use it on a daily basis. Not just when we're out and about, but even in our homes. You see, many people drift off their course with God even in the comfort and familiarity of their homes. In fact, many people appear to be on course when they're away from home, but home is where they're most comfortably, and secretly adrift.

Just like the system in your car, He's only useful if you listen to Him. If you think you know better, you may end up taking a wrong turn and end up somewhere you didn't intend to be. Even if you eventually reach your destination, you should have gotten there much sooner.

If you had only listened.

I'm learning to rely on my God Positioning System. I'm learning that even when He says I should take this turn, when I know that I can get where I'm going by taking this shortcut, my GPS knows that the course He has set is the best. Perhaps by taking the shortcut, I would miss wonderful views God created which overwhelm me with His majesty. Maybe there is someone along the side of the road who needs a lift. Maybe there are hazards in the shortcut which would damage me. Maybe there is a service station along this course which is stocked up with things I need for my journey.

I trust my GPS. I'm learning to rely on Him more. I am confident that He knows the best course for my life. He doesn't promise that I won't hit traffic or other inconveniences, but I know that He'll see me through it. I also know that I'll arrive at my destination right on time. And the interesting thing about my destination is that I'm not the one who keys it in. He knows my schedule. He knows my obligations. But He also sets my course, and He alone knows where that will take me.

What a road trip!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Free Shipping for Online Christmas Shoppers

I don't know about you, but any chance I have to avoid the mob scene at the mall during Christmas season is something I'll jump at. Christmas gift giving is great, but the gift buying can really suck. That is, unless you do it from the comfort and convenience of your computer!

But who likes paying for shipping?

Well, maybe this site that I found will take care of that. Check out http://www.freeshipping.org/. They offer free shipping for some 850 online stores, including some of the biggest retailers you can imagine.

C'mon now...who's your buddy?

Blanket, or Sci-Fi Freaks?

I have a DVR, so I typically zoom right on through commercials when watching TV. But I have come across this gem of a commercial. Have you seen this? Pay particular attention to the family in the bleachers at a sporting event. Tell me that if these people were at your kids event dressed like that, you wouldn't steer clear of them for play dates. Can you say cult members?

Without any further ado...


Friday, December 5, 2008

Gimme a Venti Couch with a Frothy Pillow

I read news which pleases me greatly. It confirms what I already knew, deep inside. There was a study conducted which goes to prove that those who take naps are more productive and smarter than those who drink coffee.

Here's what the NY Times reported:

Scientists spent a morning training 61 people in motor, perceptual and verbal tasks: tapping a keyboard in a specific sequence, discriminating between shapes on a computer screen and memorizing a list of words. Then the scientists randomly divided the subjects into three groups. The first took a nap from 1 to 3 p.m. At 3, the second group took a 200-milligram caffeine pill, and the third took a placebo. The subjects repeated the tasks they had been taught earlier and were scored by researchers who did not know which group they were in.

Those who had caffeine had worse motor skills than those who napped or had a placebo. In the perceptual task, the nappers did significantly better than either the caffeine or placebo group. On the verbal test, nappers were best by a wide margin, and the caffeine consumers did no better than those given a placebo. Despite their mediocre performance, caffeine takers consistently reported less sleepiness than the others.

“People think they’re smarter on caffeine,” said Sara C. Mednick, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and the lead author of the study, which appeared in the Nov. 3 issue of Behavioral Brain Research. “But this study is a strong argument for taking a nap instead of having a cup of coffee.”

Put THAT in your cardboard cup and drink it!

Clearly, this means that instead of running into the break room for another cup-o-Joe, just go into an unused conference room for a little siesta. Your boss will be pleased with your initiative, I'm sure.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lessons From Autopia

I have noticed this week that I seem to have a certain sense of calm despite my circumstances. Now the most cynical among you might shudder at such words due to the fear that by merely saying I have peace, I'm inviting certain chaos into my life.

I happen to believe my God is bigger than the rules of Murphy's Law.

What does this have to do with one of the longest tenured attractions at the Happiest Place On Earth?

Fasten your seatbelt.


When you're in a place where you have your faith and trust firmly planted in God, you're filled with a sense that there isn't much you can do that can completely screw things up. While traversing the road track on Autopia, your vehicle's wheels straddle a narrow railing. There is no dispute that you are, in fact, driving and steering the little vehicle. However, no matter what you do, it's impossible to take your car off the path and take it joyriding through the Magic Kingdom and beyond.

Using this as an object lesson, I have a certain degree of responsibility in the maneuvering of my life. I mean, we do have free will. Unlike Autopia, God doesn't force us to do anything. However, if we truly have surrendered our lives and trust Him, our nature is less our own, and more His. This does not require some unfathomable uberspiritual status exclusive to those whose faces are carved into the Mount Rushmore of Christianity. Instead, an everyday schmo like me can come to the place where we simply say, "I'm totally at the end of myself."
When we get there and we surrender ourselves to God's way, we're on rails.

I'm pretty much there. It's a place where, if I didn't know of God's intense love for, and devotion to me, I might find myself sticking the barrel of a gun in my mouth, or trying to find some kind of escape through substance abuse.

Instead, these thoughts are completely foreign. The furthest things from my mind. Instead of despair, I'm filled with expectancy. As I continue to pursue a closer relationship with God, as I continue to put myself in a place where I can receive from Him, I am confident that even if I oversteer, I can't completely jump the rail and end up going the wrong way. I don't know what is around the bend, but I know that God is there. God is also good. Therefore, good things lie ahead. There will likely be difficulties along the way, but my course is set, and I know I'll get there.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Taking A Stand

Part of coming to a new church, particularly for a music guy, is learning the new songs. Churches, like people, have personalities. And like people, most churches aren't perfect, or even better or worse than others. They're merely different.

Aside from the adjustment of being surrounded by entirely different people and being in an entirely different facility, I had to learn a ton of new songs if I had any thoughts of being able to sing from my seat in the audience, much less on stage for worship.

One song I've had to learn is called, simply, The Stand. There is something simple, yet declarative in that title. The bible repeatedly describes Jesus as being seated at the right hand of the Father. However, in the biblical account of when Stephen was about to be martyred, we notice that Stephen looked into heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Stephen had just taken a stand for Jesus, and now Jesus was standing for Stephen. Jesus was not simply a passive bystander when Stephen willingly and boldly surrendered his everything. Jesus stood witness, from the place of ultimate honor - God's right hand, and showed Stephen honor.

There is tremendous liberty in our lives when we give ourselves completely to something or someone. Living with abandon means living in liberty. Serving God with everything we have and everything we are is the greatest act of liberation we can ever know. When we stand for Jesus, He will stand for us.

Below are the lyrics to the song. If it's not already playing, you can listen to it anytime by clicking on it on the player in the right column. I think when you read the words, the song will naturally usher you into that place of abandon. That is where we ought to live our lives.



Lyrics | The Stand lyrics

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bearing Fruit in a Drought

I was reminded of Jeremiah 17:7-8 this Sunday during the sermon. It says:

7 "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.

8 He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit."

I am definitely one who wears his heart on his sleeve. If something is weighing on me, I don't do well to hide it. I'm not prone to anger, so it's not that kind of thing. I just tend not to be the joking, inviting type of guy I am under normal circumstances. I've been pretty much like that for the past week or so.

Last week was challenging, emotionally. Thanksgiving was special, as
usual. However, it was difficult to see my mom's ever deteriorating health. It was also tough because I know she is concerned about me. Hey, I'm her baby, no matter how old I may be. As much as a mom as she is, when she calls me and tells me that the Lord woke her up to pray for me, I don't even try to play things off as if they're fine. I've learned that I can fool my mom when she's being Mom, but there's no point when she's being my sister in the Lord. Despite her failing and withering body, she bears fruit to this very day.

All weekend, I knew I was going to have to be ready for Sunday. I was scheduled to be on the worship team, and I would be leading a song called Say So. Some
of the lyrics to the song are these:

What does it mean to be saved?
Isn't it more than just a prayer to pray?
More than just a way to heaven?
What does it mean to be His?
To be formed in his likeness?
Know that we have a purpose.

To be salt and light in the world,
in the world.
To be salt and light in the world.

Chorus:
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, say so, say so!

You can't "fake it til ya make it" with this song. This is a song about relationship over religion. It's not about formulas to reach a destination. We have a purpose. To be salt and light to the world. To, as described in Jeremiah 17, bear fruit no matter what the conditions are around us. There is great power in our words. When we, the redeemed, declare our redemption, it can't help but lift our spirits. When we encourage those around us to rise above their circumstances, we're bearing fruit. We're fulfilling our purpose of being salt and light.

I still find myself thinking of my little girls, Samantha, Felicity and Molly, from the show. I remember how sweet and special it was to get hugs from them. Samantha, in particular, loves to sit on my lap. Even though she's not really my daughter, there is such a feeling of warmth and trust when a child wants to just share space with you. It makes me wonder how much more God loves it when we want to share space with Him.

I don't know what tomorrow holds. I just can't control it. What I can control is how I let circumstances affect me. I don't want to stop bearing fruit. In fact, I want to bear more fruit. So many in this world can only look to themselves, or they look to the government to help them. I'm so thankful that above all that, I have a relationship with the most-high God. In Him I am redeemed. In Him my hope is secure. In Him I place my trust.

I don't care that winter is approaching. It's time to grow some fruit!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Daddy

We're now less than 2 weeks away from our Christmas performance, so rehearsals are really starting to ratchet up. Yesterday, we had our first walk-through. Piece by piece, groups and individuals have been working on their parts, and this was the first time we put it all together on one stage.

In a couple scenes, my partner in the choreographed and sychronized movements, (trust me...calling what I'm doing dancing just isn't fair), and I have children with us as our stage family. As it turns out, we have three girls. Two of them are the true life daughters of my partner and friend, Keri. The third is a close family friend they've known since the girls were toddlers. I have to say, we're fortunate to have some great girls. They have tons of personality, and they're just plain fun. They like to call me "daddy" in the spirit of what we're doing, and already, we're finding ourselves goofing off and making too much noise backstage. I asked them to name their characters. It was so fun to watch them get into the spirit of it. They settled on Samantha, Felicity and Molly.

I have to admit, there is a little rush that comes over me when these kids call me daddy. Of course, I understand the spirit behind it in this context, and each of these girls have wonderful families and real daddies. But having never been called daddy, and having dreamed of the day when it might happen, well, this is a fun and special treat for me.

I love kids, but I know in two weeks, my stage "daddy" persona will be retired. But I hope that the neat relationships I'm building with these three sweeties will continue. I love children. There is such innocence and potential in their young lives. They have so much ahead of them. It's so important to be someone they can look up to and respect. We never know how much of an influence we can be upon young lives. How much will they remember? How much do they notice? These kids don't worry about whether you have a job or not. They don't worry about the things we stress over. They see someone who took some time to play with them. To listen to them. To make them feel special.

Funny, that's just what they did for me.