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Monday, October 25, 2010

Happy 75th Birthday, Mom

Today marks what would have been my mom's 75th birthday. She was a mere 29 years old when she brought me into the world, and she left it 44 years and 23 days later. It has now been 19 months since she left us, but her influence in my life remains with me every single day. This is the mark of an extraordinary person.

Through the magic of Facebook, I have heard from many former classmates from my youth who remember my mom. Without exception, the comments I receive are memories of her beauty, both inside and out.

The only drawback to being the legacy of a remarkable person is the impossible task of living up to her example. She made life seem easy. Her grace, her humility, her simplicity, her faith. These qualities were what drove her through her life. When I was a young boy, she sacrificed so much to shield me from the complexities of life. When I was an adolescent, she often assumed the role of father, as well as mother, due to my dad's grueling work demands as a police inspector in San Francisco. Mom attended every single sporting event I ever participated in. Believe me, between the ages of 5 and 18, with all the sports I played, I kept her busy. It wasn't just the games, but also the practices.

I know there were times when my decisions in life didn't please her. In fact, I know there were times when I broke her heart. But with the qualities she possessed which made her the amazing human being she was, she was a faithful and supportive mother. Through her tears, I know she prayed for me.

As a grown man, I know how complicated life really is. As an adult, I learned of the extreme difficulties my mother endured as a young mother of two. Those who knew her know what an extraordinary person she was. But no one can truly comprehend to what degree.

I am blessed enough to know.

I pray that I would display even a small percentage of the grace, dignity and strength my mom demonstrated each and every day of her life, particularly in her final 10 years.

Her's was a life well lived. And each of us who knew her are better for having had her influence in our lives.

Mom, you are missed. Your love is alive and in my heart. Thank you for living your life as an example to us all. While life has its challenges, each day is a gift and an opportunity to love and be loved.

Happy Birthday.

Monday, October 18, 2010

At the fork in the road...take it (Part 2)

On Friday, I wrote about the inevitable fork in the road we all must face at times in our lives. But what happens when the decision is made? As Ladyfriend likes to say, "then what?"

It's unavoidable. When you've made a commitment to a direction, you will face difficulties. If not immediately, eventually. When I moved to Rocklin, I got laid off of three different jobs in my first six months, and my mom passed away. Many years earlier, when my parents sold all they had to move to Costa Rica to start a ministry, they faced difficulties that would make lesser people crumble. That's the thing. When you make a choice to get serious with God, and you choose the path that requires faith in Him, you will face obstacles and challenges that will cause you to question your decision.

Know this up front. It's going to happen.

This doesn't make you a bad person. This doesn't mean you're a bad Christian. It means that you're human. Yeah, I know. Deal with it.

But when you face difficulties, stick with it! Indecision and doubt will paralyze you. Proverbs 16:3 tells us to commit it all to the Lord. Dedicate what you're doing to the Lord, and He will bless it. He will see that you succeed. The key is, you have to submit your definition of success to God's definition. God's definition isn't necessarily what ours is. People evaluate success by what they can see. The clothes you wear. The car you drive. The house you live in. God evaluates success by what is not visible to the naked eye. What happens in your heart will eventually manifest itself in visible, tangible ways. Whether your heart is evil, or filled with God's love, your heart will be exposed in time.

If you're truly committed to reaching new heights in your faith, you must be willing to plunge to new depths of life experiences. Battles are not won without getting some dirt on your uniform. Taking enemy ground means having to traverse some unpleasant terrain. It's simply the way things are. But in doing so, you will discover your ability to go far beyond your perceived limitations. I thought I knew where my breaking points were. But the only way I could see what I was capable of, was to trust God when I was marching into the teeth of difficulties. I was in too deep. There was no turning back. I was committed. Still, with no regret.

I know I'm not painting a rosy picture. I would be doing you a disservice by telling you that navigating the road less traveled would be like cruising the New England countryside in October. As I have said frequently, time moves forward. By virtue of that, we have no choice but to move forward, as well. Time is like a bulldozer at our backs. It is always nudging, pushing, even forcing us to face things in front of us. The only way we can get past obstacles is to go through them. Think of video games. The only way to get to the next level is to successfully complete the one you're on. You can't say, "nah, this one's too tough. I'll just skip it." There is no greater feeling of accomplishment than overcoming obstacles. Face the challenge, and overcome!

The path of least resistance will not make you stronger in life. If you're serious about being an achiever, an overcomer, then you have to meet your challenges head on. Strap on your armor. Put on your helmet. Grab your sword and shield. Give your best war cry, and watch what God can do in and through you!

Friday, October 15, 2010

At the fork in the road...take it (Part 1)

There are times in our lives when we face difficult decisions. Often, there is no clear evidence that one way is good, while the other is bad. It's normal that each path has its share of pros and cons, especially from the limited view and perspective we have at the moment.

Just over two years ago, I faced a significant fork in the road in my own life. The decision to stay in San Jose, or to move to a new area. I loved San Jose. I was very involved and firmly planted in my church. I had wonderful friends. I had a good job. As a sports fan, I was anywhere from a few minutes from the arena to see the Sharks, to 45 minutes to the ballpark to see the Giants. But at the same time, there was something within me that was unsettled.

I know what you're thinking, but I don't eat sushi.

I was presented with a situation that would mean me relocating to Rocklin, about 140 miles from San Jose. The situation wasn't something that was once-in-a-lifetime or anything. It was actually nothing that significant at face value. But I could see that the ripple effect from going down that road would be life-changing. Eventually, I stood at the place where my next step would have to be a commitment to one way or the other.

There is someone special in my life who my best friends jokingly, and respectfully refer to as "Ladyfriend". So for the time being, that's how I will refer to her in Crossing Paths. She is facing her own fork in the road. The thing is, her fork has about twelve different options, and all carry potential consequences which make mine look like choosing between the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.

When looking at the fork in the road, it's impossible to determine that one is the correct road, and all other options are wrong. It's frustrating. It's frightening. It's overwhelming. In my case, I prayed and prayed. I thought and thought. But when it came down to making a decision, I considered one simple, inescapable factor.

Which path will require more faith?

That was it. All other questions made each path seem completely equal. That was the only question in which I could see a clear distinction. I knew that moving to a new city, going to a new church, getting a new job, and all the other starting-over elements were going to require me to reach a new level of faith. A level I had never faced before. I knew neither path would be wrong, but I was certain that taking the road to Rocklin would require of me a level of faith and spiritual maturity that you can only reach in sacrifice. I would have to sacrifice the familiar and comfortable nest I had built over a decade's time, for the great unknown.

The path has not been an easy one, but it's one I have never regretted.

If you're not currently facing a fork in the road, you will. If it is not clear to you which is the path to take, don't flip a coin or refer to the Magic 8 ball. Ask for wisdom. Consider which path will require the most faith. That doesn't mean do something stupid or that puts you in danger. It means consider the path that will require you to trust in, and rely on God in a way that makes you uncomfortable to think about.

If you know someone who is in this situation right now, support them. Advise them. Pray with, and for them. You cannot make the decision for them. Sometimes you may have a better view of the situation than they do. Be the voice of wisdom. Ask the question. What will bring you to a higher level of faith?

Once the decision is made, then what?

I'll tell you Monday.