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Friday, May 28, 2010

Remembering and Honoring

On this final weekend in May, as in every year, our country observes a time of remembrance of our military troops, both past and present. I am filled with awe whenever I spend time with someone who has served our country in time of conflict. Listening to their stories leaves me speechless. 

The phrase All Gave Some, Some Gave All best sums up those who have served to protect and defend this great country. Many have done so at the expense of their families, their futures and their dreams. Sadly, many came home to an ungrateful nation. Many face physical and financial hardships few of us can comprehend. We walk right by them every single day. I see elderly men who proudly wear hats identifying which Navy ship on which they served. Others have pins and buttons signifying their branch of military. You have probably seen license plate frames on cars proudly indicating the driver laid his life on the line for us. 

It is so easy for us as humans, and as Americans, to take the good life for granted. September 11th is so far removed from our consciousness that we complain when we are inconvenienced at airports. Americans who watched planes impale the World Trade Center, killing thousands, have put down their American flags and now carry picket signs in a war of words against their fellow citizens. 

We have forgotten.

This weekend, as you barbeque with friends and family, as you celebrate the unofficial start of summer, as you travel near or far in this great country, remember. Remember that this country exists only because there were men who were willing to lay their lives on the line in order to stand up for their freedom and carve out a new life in a new, undeveloped land. Remember that the freedom we enjoy now, the freedom to complain, the freedom to protest, the freedom to disagree, the freedom to worship, the freedom to not worship, the freedom to pursue your inalienable rights bestowed by our Creator, whether you believe in Him or not. 

When you see that veteran in the store, Starbucks, in a restaurant, or anywhere in your journey this weekend, take a moment and thank them. If you have more than a moment, take the time to listen to them. Listen to their stories. Listen to their love of this incredible country. I guarantee you, you will bless them, and you will walk away changed. This country isn't about politics, and certainly not about politicians. It's about the men and women who have put it all on the line for everything you and I enjoy daily. 

May we never forget. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

When the going gets tough

Yeah, you know the rest of the famous quote. The essence of the saying is that difficulties do not change who we are, they reveal who we are. I know people who are going through the most difficult times of their entire lives as I write this sentence. What amazes and inspires me is that in the face of these difficulties, they find the ability to laugh. They remain faithful to their beliefs. They don't hide away from friends, families and commitments.

On the flip side, there are people with motives and intentions which blow my mind. You can't find people with such evil in their hearts in the cheesiest of soap operas. In my business, I run across a lot of situations where you see people in some difficult situations. Some handle it with dignity, others with the worst behavior imaginable. 

These circumstances remind me that when the going gets tough, who we are will be revealed and intensified. I pray that when I go through the storms of life, I will handle things with the grace, dignity, humility and most of all, the faith I have seen in the people I admire the most. If I don't handle things the way I should, I pray I have a soft heart to receive the counsel of those I trust.


If you're going through a difficult time, be objective and honest with yourself with how you're handling things. If you aren't happy with the way you're dealing with it, spend some time with someone you trust and admire. Ask them to walk with you and mentor you. Choose someone who possesses wisdom and faith. Choose someone who will spend time in prayer with you. Choose someone who will open their bible with you.


If you're not going through a storm right now...you will. Sorry to tell you that. In the calm, prepare yourself. Fortify your faith. Fortify your mind. Fortify your heart. Once again, God's Word contains all we need to prepare us for the inevitable storms in our lives.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

If not now, when?

We fill life with so many things. We fill every nook and cranny of our time with stuff. We are slaves to our schedules. In doing so, it's easy to push aside our dreams. 

A few years ago, I decided I was going to check off one item from my bucket list. As a lifelong baseball fan, one venue I've always wanted to visit is Wrigley Field in Chicago. The one time I've been to Chicago, I wasn't able to go there. I was, however, able to see Wrigley Field from the Sears Tower.

Yeah, not the same.

So to put action to my passion, I checked out the schedule of my San Francisco Giants to see when they would be in Chicago that season. I was thrilled to see they were going to be there on Labor Day weekend. Since this discovery occurred in April, I knew I had plenty of time to save money for a flight, hotel and rental car. I found a couple great tickets on eBay, and bought them. I then told my friend, with whom I share this bucket list item, and he excitedly jumped on board.

As the weeks and months moved on toward our date with destiny, my friend began to get cold feet. His kids, his wife, this obligation and that. All very legitimate. But it wasn't like we were taking off for months, backpacking across Europe or something. It could be as short as overnight. As it turned out, we didn't go.

This got me to thinking. If not now, when? Are we going through life denying ourselves of beautiful opportunities because we think our world will cave in if we take 24 hours, a weekend, or a week off? Even God took a day off after creating the world.

More importantly than that, what other decisions are we postponing? I know people who find every excuse in the book to put off going to church. I've heard it all when it comes to not giving up smoking, or drinking. I've heard a lot of nonsense when it comes to giving up personal habits which are destroying not only themselves, but the people who love them.

If not now, when?

Tomorrow is promised to no one. What are you waiting for? What are you postponing with a truckload of excuses? Do you need to get away and enjoy life a little? Do you need to commit to finally quitting a bad habit? Do you need to re-prioritize your schedule and obligations in order to fit in things which are essential to your personal and family development? Are you better at being busy than you are at being effective?

No matter what it is, it all starts at the same place. A decision. You have to choose. There is no other way. If you're a slave to your schedule, if you're a captive to the calendar, it's time to do some pruning. You're living life on a treadmill. If you have a list of excuses which are tethering you to a tree, you have to cut the rope! It's the only way you'll move forward! And when you do, you'll see that it takes less energy to move forward than it does to go through the motions and go nowhere. 

If not now, when?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mancation

This afternoon, I will be taking off for the weekend to The Man Cave's second annual Mancation. We will be at the beautiful Granlibakken resort in Tahoe City. I'll be leading worship this weekend, which is always a great thrill. There is something about a room full of men who are hungry for God, singing and worshiping without a care of what others will think of them. As we say, it's a safe place with a dangerous message. 

In the year and a half since The Cave started, we have seen some very special things. We hear incredible stories, most commonly from the wives and children of men who have been influenced positively by The Man Cave. We've seen men turn away from a life of alcoholism. So many of the men have been dealing with unemployment issues, trouble paying the bills, businesses collapsing, and so much more. Even those who haven't experienced desperate times find a refreshing presence in and among the men of The Cave.

I was very surprised to find that God would put me in a place of ministry in such a venue, but it has been pretty incredible. I'm excited to see what God has in store over the next 48 hours. 

"A good man obtains favor from the Lord..." 
~Proverbs 12:2 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Best Offense Is To Be Offensive

I have to chime in on the whole Cinco de Mayo incident at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, CA. Personally, I'm pretty tired of having the beliefs I hold most dear being considered "offensive" to a vast minority of people. My faith and my patriotism are under attack in, of all places, the United States of America. I'm not surprised by any of this, mind you. Things are so backwards these days. The tail is wagging the dog, and we've allowed it to happen. 

It certainly isn't our intention to be offensive. We're just such easy pushovers. All one has to do is simply accuse someone of being a child molester, and they are automatically guilty in the court of public opinion, even if it's totally made up. Similarly, being called a hater, a racist, a homophobe or any such thing automatically makes the target defensive and guilty even in the absence of truth. 
 
Men and women have laid down their lives to defend the very symbol of freedom these students proudly displayed last week. Memorial Day is only weeks away. Will immigrants be sent home from school or work if they wear the colors of their native country? I certainly hope not. 

My faith enables me to love those who disagree with me. It liberates me to be gracious in the face of opposition. My patriotism does the very same. How can I be surprised that those without faith and without love of this great country only seek to mock, bully, slander and silence their opposition?

I'm proud to see those who share my faith and my patriotism beginning to stand up and fight back. I'm excited to see people shining the light of truth upon the deception of hypocrisy and double-standards. We must not allow others to hang false accusations around our necks without standing up for the truth. Even leaders in our government are making wildly irresponsible characterizations about their constituents. 

The pathway to the defeat of all we believe in and stand for is paved with ignorance and passivity. We must make ourselves available to the truth, then proclaim it loudly and forcefully!

"...the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."
Matthew 11:12b

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday Rerun: October 6, 2008

The following post was inspired after watching the Vice Presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. More accurately, it was inspired by one particular phrase. It never ceases to amaze me how something that lasts only a second or two in time can stick with you and not let you rest. That was pretty much what happened to me that night.

Here is what I came from it.

Letting Go

Last Thursday night, I sat glued to my television (in HD splendor, I might add), watching the Vice Presidential debate. There was an interesting back-and-forth that I haven't heard discussed much, but it caught my attention. The Obama/Biden ticket has been doing their best to tie the McCain/Palin ticket to the Bush Administration. They've even gone as far as saying that by electing McCain, it would effectively be Bush's third term. Where it got interesting to me was when Governor Palin rebuked Senator Biden for focusing on the past. Biden's response to that was a pithy phrase which has been replaying in my head since I heard it.

"The past is a prologue."

I go back on forth on whether I agree with this statement. I guess it depends on your perspective. A prologue is something which essentially sets up a main body of work. I do not believe that past failures condemn one to a lifetime of similar defeats. The context of Senator Biden's use of this phrase was basically to do just that. In that context, I do not believe it is absolutely true. However, if we learn from past failures and mistakes, yes, it can be a prologue to a rags-to-riches story.

Every one of our lives is an example of this. The alcoholic or drug addict who comes to a place in their lives where they turn it around and beat their addiction. The person with a long trail of failed relationships who identifies their own shortcomings in order to contribute to and recognize healthy relationships. The person who is so riddled with insecurities that they are paralyzed by fear of failure and they don't experience the best that life has to offer.

I have been contemplating this particular topic for some time, and as is becoming more commonplace in my life, that usually means that God will go out of His way to drive the point home to me. With that being said, guess what the new sermon series is at my church. Yep, Letting Go.

Yesterday, it was about letting go of your past. We are not doomed to failure and disappointment simply because we have some major events in our past which have scarred us. I think of the biblical story about Jacob when he wrestles with God and man...and overcame. That was an absolute turning point in Jacob's life. After which, God literally changed Jacob's identity. However, Jacob was left with a limp. The limp was a constant reminder, a symbol of that pivotal point in his life in which his passion drove him to unprecedented tenacity and boldness.

Learn from the past, but don't dwell on it. Move forward. There is a reason we have only one set of eyes...which happens to be on the front of our heads.

This is my public declaration. My past is just that. Today is a new day. I am determined to be better today that I was yesterday. I want every decision, every word and every action to be toward my own betterment, and that of those around me. I'm letting go of the past and not dragging it with me into my future.

I feel better already.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Photo Phriday: Beautiful Sunday in San Francisco

A couple of weeks ago, I went to San Francisco for a laid back Sunday afternoon. It was a beautiful day with a cloudless, sparkling sky. Naturally, I had my camera in tow. Even though I've been in The City a bazillion times in my life, I still find breathtaking vistas throughout. I will share several of my pictures from this great day with you over time, but I'll start with just a few for now. 

Even if there are towns, cities or getaways you've seen a million times, take time to appreciate their beauty. Even more, think of the people in your life you see or talk to daily. How much more amazing are they? Take time and really appreciate the beauty of relationship.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Location, Location, Location

I was reminded of this old real estate adage yesterday in church. It got me to thinking about how important it is to be in the center of God's will. I think we tend to think of this place as being an itty bitty spot that is almost impossible to find, much less stay in with any degree of consistency. 

In my life, I have definitely been outside His will. However, I have spent much time being where God wants me to be. In those cases, it has always been when I have purposed to be who He wants me to be. I am simply at my best when I concern myself with pleasing Him rather than myself or anyone else. When I look to Him, I simply can't help but bless the lives of others, while at the same time, experiencing His goodness in my life. This doesn't mean everything goes perfectly. This doesn't mean things are easy. It just means that my faith is strong when my heart is properly calibrated with His.

Psalm 37:23-24 tells us that when we please God's heart, He stabilizes the very ground we walk on. In other words, He will bless our journey when we focus on Him. Verse 24 even makes allowance for the inevitable times when we lose our balance in life. We don't need to be perfect. Just submitted and committed. 

God is blessing me abundantly. It is not because of my righteousness. He is blessing me because, 

   A) He loves me. 
   B) Because He knows without His blessing, I'm lost. 
   C) Because I know that without Him, I'm lost. 
   D) Because I know that anything good about me is because of His love and faithfulness.

I don't stress out anymore about trying to make things happen. Life is just too big and too complicated on your own. You can do all the right things, and still the end result can blow up in your face. But when I'm in right relationship with God, He will order my steps and put me in the right place at precisely the right moment. By my doing, it's coincidental. By God's doing, it's providential. The pressure is completely off of me.  


If you're agonizing over something in your life right now, let it go. Release it. Instead, focus on pleasing the Lord. Trust Him. Trust His word. He's working on something for you right now that will blow your mind. But the only way you'll recognize it, the only way you'll have the wisdom to appreciate it, the only way you'll have the maturity to receive it is to put yourself in the right location. It's not as elusive as you think.