A Simple Cup Of Water

A Simple Cup Of Water

As I was on my run through Mission Viejo, I came upon a man on the corner with a cardboard sign that said “PLEASE HELP”.  He was also wearing a shirt that said he was homeless.

I won’t lie, I found that a bit odd. I kept on running.

Then it hit me. God whispered in my heart to help the man.

It didn’t matter what my perceptions were, my fellow brother in Christ needed help.

I was reminded of words spoken by Jesus himself.

“If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded” – Mark 9:41 NLT

All I had was two fives. It was money I was using to stop at the store later to pick up some groceries on the way back. Most people tend to give homeless people just a few dollar bills. If we don’t have ones, we don’t give them anything.

I turned around, pulled out one of the fives and very happily gave it to the man.

I saw the face of an older man. A man who has lived a long life and was struggling. This wasn’t some younger person with their full physical abilities. This is someone much further along in their life.

His face lit up. He thanked me profusely. He told me he’d pray for my family and I. I told him God loves him and to take care.

With that I continued on my run.

Then I felt guilty. I felt like I should have given him all of my money. After all I was going to be headed home to a house. I’d be eating a good dinner and sleeping in a comfortable bed with my family all under the same roof.

After turning around to head back home, I decided I’d offer to go buy him some food at the store. I’d make sure he was nourished.

As I came back up to him, he saw me and smiled. He thanked me again. I asked him his name, and found out it was Henry. We placed our hands on each others shoulders. I talked to him and asked if I could buy him some food. I told him I wanted to make sure that he was eating and taking good care of himself. He said thank you, but he was fine. He pointed to his bag where I saw he had some food given by other people. I checked again,”Are you sure there’s nothing I can get you?”. He said he was fine and then told me again that he would pray for me and my family.

I told him again to take care, told him God loved him, put my headphones back in my ears and went to go cross the street.

Then I felt him touch my shoulder. I turned around, took out my headphones and with him staring into my eyes he said.

“Jesus loves you. I will pray that He will give you and your family double.”

I started to tear up.

I thanked Henry before I became a sobbing mess on the side of the road.

How did this man know my struggles? How could he imagine to say something that I so badly needed to hear at that moment?

When you’re un-employed, financially stressed out and anxious to get back to work, those words just dive deep into your soul.

While my faith is strong, when your stress limits are pushed to the edge you begin to wonder how much God loves you. After all, if He did wouldn’t He want to make things better? Despite the most intense levels of perseverance, you just want the pain over with.

At that moment, I felt like God was talking to me through this man. As if God found a way to remind me in an audible way that He does in fact love me and that help was coming.

Henry had just blessed me more than any amount of cash could possibly bless him.

As I recounted the story for my wife later that evening I did break into tears. As I write this I find myself tearing up.

My family and I prayed for him later that evening, and I kindly ask that you do the same in your prayers.

While I know I did a good thing for Henry, in the end I realize I was the one who got the biggest blessing. The greatest gift. The greatest help. It’s a moment in my life I will remember until the day I die and will forever give thanks for.

Perseverance

Perseverance

Hard times. Troubles. Challenges. Trials.

We hate those words.

Those words scare us.

No one in their heart of hearts ever desires to really go through them.

No matter your age, gender, nationality or wealth you get to experience them multiple times throughout your life.

Sometimes we deal with multiple challenges and trials at the same time. I really hate that!

Like myself, you might be dealing with them right now.

What’s interesting is that as a society, despite the fact that we hate these struggles, challenges and trials we enjoy movies, books, TV shows, and music that tackle these words head on. For me, it’s always been movies that mean the most. It’s the medium I connect with and speaks to my heart and soul.

“Apollo 13” and “The Martian” are two movies that stand out amongst the crowd.
Apollo 13 is perhaps the most meaningful because it actually happened.

Here you have three men in space, and hundreds on Earth who have trained and prepared for what is to date still one of the most daunting voyages ever undertaken. The crew of Apollo 13 flung themselves into the cosmos, knowing there were so many things they couldn’t predict or anticipate. It required a huge level of faith.

Then so many things went wrong, none of which they were ever prepared for.

While it’s amazing that they overcame everything, what’s more amazing is their perseverance. They kept “working the problem” no matter how tired, hungry or afraid of death they were.

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be more mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4

That perseverance taught all of NASA, and the world not just how to solve those problems. It taught them how to deal with, or avoid future problems.

Perseverance isn’t easy. It’s the part we hate the most about our trials. We want to pray away, wish away, or pay away the problem. We just want it to go away, get our lesson and move on.

While that may work, it’s a band-aid. You aren’t taking care of the root issue and you aren’t really preparing for what’s coming down the line.

Your perseverance may be required for days, months or years. There may even be times where you think you’re done, but you’re really still in the middle of it. It’s the center of the storm, and you still have a dark, overwhelming journey ahead of you. That right there is so scary to realize and accept. It gives me chills just writing it.

Even scarier is that you may have to deal with something that requires perseverance for the rest of your life. That’s really hard to admit and write.

Being out of work for the last 4 months after 16 years straight of employment, I have struggled with perseverance every single day.

Getting out of bed realizing I still don’t have a job.  Trying to find a job. Trying to get interviews. Trying to not let the disappointment crawl into my head and affect my moods, or impact the people around me. I want to snap my fingers and make it all go away, I want God to make a job immediately appear.

Some might say “If God loves you so much, then why doesn’t He make it all better?”.

Could He? Yup.

Do I wish He would? Every day.

God is not a vending machine.
God is not a genie.
God is not Amazon with next day delivery.

He wants to help us with our problems, but He’s not interested in immediately solving all of them. He wants us to learn perseverance. He wants us to put faith in Him at a level that some find a bit illogical.  As the passage in James 1 continues…

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” James 1:5-8 NIV

I have learned that while I lean on Him for guidance, strength and wisdom He is refining me like a goldsmith. He is keeping me strong through the fires so that what comes out on the other end is an even stronger person.

“Then I will test those survivors by giving them many troubles. The troubles will be like the fire a person uses to prove silver is pure. I will test them the way a person tests gold. Then they will call to me for help, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘You are my people.’ And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” – Zechariah 13:9 ERV

What’s comforting is that He’s promised that if we stick through it. If we persevere. If we stay close to Him that HE WILL deliver us. HE WILL make life better. HE WILL prepare us for the next challenges that we encounter.

It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s frustrating.

He will NEVER forsake us and NEVER break a single promise.

While my trials aren’t over by far, I am stronger and getting stronger every day.

I know this because…

He’s brought me through the challenges of the past.
He’s bringing me through the challenges I’m going through now
He’s going to bring me through the challenges in the future.

It just requires perseverance and putting absolute FAITH and TRUST in Him. 

In the end He will make us like a precious and strong metal with a value that can never be measured. We will then proudly proclaim Him as our great God. The provider of all providers. The father that loves and supports us 24-7, 365.

For those who are fighting the fight, or multiple fights. Know that you are not alone. Keep persevering. Keep praying. Know that He is in your corner.  He is fighting for you. He is with you. Yes, even those that don’t believe in Him.

For those that have fought the fight, or are in a calm spot. Keep praising His name. Keep leaning on Him. Keep the perseverance alive. Help your fellow brother and sister through their fight. Remind them that they too will make it through. Remind them that they’ll be better than when they first started. Pray for and with them, especially those that haven’t given their life to Christ.

God has got this.
God has got you.
PERSERVERE ON

From Pain Comes Joy…A Letter To My Seven Year Old Self…

Hey there Chris, it’s me, well really it’s you, but like 36 years in the future. No, dude, it’s not that old.

I know right now you’re going through a lot of pain. Mom and Dad are getting divorced, and your life is turned upside down.

So since I know how you like news delivered, first I’m going to tell you the bad news.

Before I do, you need to know NONE OF THIS is your fault.

You didn’t do anything wrong. You are a great kid and this is all Mom and Dad’s fault.

So the bad news…this is all going to be long, hard and drawn out. You won’t know what to do and there won’t be much help you get dealing with your pain and frustration. You are going to be unique among your friends in that you’ll have divorced parents. Fortunately, or unfortunately you won’t be alone in that boat for much longer.

Mom and Dad are going to keep fighting. A lot.

They’re going to hate each other and send really bad messages to each other using you as the messenger.

There’s going to be court stuff that goes on, that stresses Mom out and you’re going to try and be helpful and help her out and get involved. You really shouldn’t, but I know us. You’re going to anyways.

 

I wish I could say, that’s it. It’s not.
I’m sorry, but you need to know.

Dad is going to get re-married. You’re going to get a step-mom, a step-brother and eventually a half-brother. You’re going to hurt a lot as you watch Dad give them more love and attention than he seems to give you. There are happy times there, but it’ll seem more hurtful than happy.

I know you’re thinking, I’m never going to get a divorce. I won’t make my kids go through this, but I’m sorry to say it’s going to happen to you too. It’s going to be painful, expensive and stressful.

Your mind has got to be racing right now, trying to think of ways to avoid all of the pain that lays ahead of you. I know this is a lot to ask a 7 year old, but I need you to be strong.

Right now you see God as someone to be afraid of. Someone that won’t let you into heaven unless you do EVERYTHING right.

So here’s the first of the good news.

He’s not like that at all! God is an amazing being and He’s watching over you, even when you turn away from Him. You’re going to come to know Him and find strength from Him in so many different ways. Think of God like “The Force”, just without the ability to do Jedi mind tricks or wield a lightsaber.

I want you to remember this scripture, because it’s going to help you through days when you’re not sure you’re going to make it through.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4 NIV)

Want more good news?

You’re going to have a great kid named Josh. He’s incredibly smart, loving and is into Legos. He’ll even enjoy Star Wars with you. He is going to make you so proud.

There’s more.

You’re going to meet and marry an amazing woman named Jennifer.

No, it’s not the Jennifer you live next to right now. It’s a different Jennifer. But it’s kind’ve cool because you’re going to have your first kiss with Jennifer next door and your last first kiss will be with a Jennifer.

She’s going to have a daughter named Kaylin who you’re going to love. She’s going to be the daughter that you always wanted.

She will slowly but surely get into Star Wars as well, she’s even going to get to the point where she knows more about some of the characters than you do. Crazy ehh?

Wanna hear something even cooler and you might even think I’m nuts?

You’re going to become amazing friends with Kaylin’s Dad Rommel and Step-Mom Lisa.

You’re going to become such good friends that you’ll wind up greeting each other with genuine hugs. You’re going to enjoy spending time with them and talking with them. You’ll even play around with Kaylin’s little half-sister Madelyn.

This is actually all of you together celebrating Kaylin’s birthday…

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You’re all going to take Kaylin to a Divorced Kids Care class at Saddleback Church and you’re going to see how kids that are in your situation get the help they need. I wish I could bring you from the past to take this class, but we still can’t travel through time.

Wanna hear something even crazier? Rommel is going to support you getting a job at Saddleback Church. Yes, you will be that close.

You’re going to be part of this amazing Step-Family Small Group and meet Paul, Michelle, Tiffany, Aaron, Paddy, and Christina. They will be friends who are there to support you and your wife through the challenges you’ll go through together. You’re going to be there for them too and it’ll make life that much sweeter.

And that’s when all of the horrible stuff that you’re going through right now will make sense. You’ll come to understand what that scripture means.

You may wonder why God doesn’t just stop it all, but there is the beauty, He gives us all free will. We can do what we want, He doesn’t try and control us. He provides guidance, but it’s up to us to take it. Mom and Dad have been offerred it, but they’re not taking it. He’s going to give it to you too and you won’t take it for awhile.

But He’s working on setting your path right to make up for the mistakes that Mom, Dad, you and others will make in your life. He’s going to give you the strength to make it through and He’s going to take everything and give you what we have today.

Your life WILL BE BETTER for having gone through it and you’re just going to have to trust me on that.

On top of that you’re going to be an inspiration to others. You’ll give other kids the hope that they can have a happy life after divorce and show other parents how divorced life doesn’t need to be a fight. To drop their selfishness and focus on making a better life for their kids.

I’m sorry for everything that you’re going through right now Chris. I wish I could take all the pain away, but we need it to get to where we are today and to make it through the challenges we’re going to face in life. I promise you it’s all totally worth it.

Just know, you’re an amazing kid. You are loved and you will make it through.

Love,

Your Future Self

P.S. Empire Strikes Back is going to ROCK! It’ll actually become your favorite and there’s this awesome moment you won’t see coming. There are also  5 more Star Wars movies that are going to come out between then and now. Star Wars will go on for a very long time and you’re going to find a lot of hope and inspiration in it.

God Listens. God Answers. God Loves.

As someone who is a practicing Christian, living up to God‘s word isn’t easy.

I know He doesn’t expect me to be perfect, but my personality doesn’t let me shoot for anything less than that.  Oh, I don’t hit perfect. Never will. Doesn’t stop me from trying.

To say God has blessed my life is an understatement.

I’m married to a woman, who is amazing just in the fact that she puts up with me. Then she’s amazing in so many ways on top of that.

I’ve got two wonderful children who I couldn’t be prouder of.

I’ve got a job where I have the potential to do so many amazing things with co-workers that challenge me and keep me laughing.

I live in a nice home, eat good food and have friends and family that love and care about me.

Recently we received another blessing. My wife got a new job.
It freed her from one where they didn’t appreciate her and left her feeling like crap at the end of the day.

Really what do I have to be upset about in life? Nada.
There are A LOT of things that could be wrong in my life, but they aren’t.

But like so many people, even for those that seem to have it all there are days that stress the ever-loving crap out of me. That’s especially so when it comes to finances.

There was just one small hitch with this new job…it would mean that we’d have to get our own health insurance or pay for COBRA which is incredibly expensive.

We’re trying to be responsible and tackle the debt we accrued so this expense was going to put us in a tough position, possibly leaving us without health insurance.

Saturday night as we reviewed the options and my stress level jumped, my wife was loving and supportive reminding me to lean on God. For  a split second I thought, but didn’t shout out “How the heck is God going to put that money in our bank account?!!!

Yup, I really thought that. Mr. loving Christian…totally doubting his God.

After filling out the massive online application for two medical insurance providers and a couple of drinks, I prayed.

Then over the course of the last few days it felt like all the financial weight of the world was upon me. Yesterday on a long drive to San Diego, I had a long conversation with God.

My simple prayer was “I don’t need more money. I don’t want more money. I just want to be able to take care of everything and make ends meet.”

Then immediately after I was done I got a phone call that created more financial stress. I looked up and cried up “Really? You call that help?”

Yes, I verbally questioned God. I was pissed with Him. Why after spending the time to talk with Him, could He let that happen? I started questioning, why have faith in something that didn’t seem to deliver? Why keep praying and asking for help when I felt like I kept hitting brick walls?

This is the challenge that people make, somewhat rightfully so. How could this all-powerful, awesome, loving entity allow bad things to happen?

Shortly after 9/11 I had a conversation with my boss. Him being a devout Catholic, I asked him “How could God have allowed that to happen?”. His answer was simple “Because He’s fighting the devil, and sometimes the devil wins”.

Yes God is powerful, but bad things happen, they will always happen and He doesn’t make them happen, He doesn’t allow them to happen they just happen.

Sometimes out of pain and tragedy comes something so much better. Sometimes after having your world rocked, good is shown to you and reminds you of what you have to be thankful for and reminds you that there is so much more good in this world than bad.

We saw that after 9/11. We’ve seen that after so many of the tragedies that have taken so many from us and hurt so many. We’ve seen heroes rise from the ashes. We’ve seen people be blessed in ways that they wouldn’t have, had the bad things not happened.

I’ve learned over time  and have been reminded recently by our Pastor, Rick Warren “God wants to turn your mess, into his message. God takes your test and makes it your testimony”.

This morning I said a far simpler prayer. “God, I don’t know what your plans are, or where you’re going with any of this. I don’t understand it and I can’t control it. But I guess that’s just it. I’m trying to wrestle control over something that only You can handle. So I’m going to let You take it from here and stop questioning You.”.

About 30 minutes later I got a call from my wife. Her new employer was going to let us take advantage of the health insurance immediately. It would go into effect immediately after our current insurance expires.

Problem solved. Crisis Averted. God comes through…AGAIN.

Not only had God helped us get the insurance we needed at a price we could afford, but He also showed us how even more amazing my wife’s new job and boss was. She’s working for people who care about her and our family.

Yeah, I felt like a heel having gotten so angry, and even having doubted Him.

But then I remembered that He loves me no matter what. Even though I had gotten angry at Him and thought He was a bad parent. As it is when my children do this, I still love them and He still loves me. He’s still looking out for me. He’s still making sure that my path ahead leads to something good.

The path won’t be without bumps. It won’t be without challenges. It won’t be without pain, sorrow and loss, but He’s there with me to give me strength, love, support and protection that no one else can.

With this, He’s made my mess his message, and turned a test into a testimony.

Folks, God doesn’t make sense and He never will to us here on this planet.
The great thing is that His love knows no bounds. His forgiveness is powerful. His support is like none other.

When I look at the big picture of my life I see how He’s done some pretty astounding things, and seen the person He’s transformed me into despite who I am and how I’ve talked to Him. My life has been much more amazing since I let Him in it.

One of these days I will learn to let go better. I’ll stop trying to control things I can’t. I’ll stop trying to understand Him and just trust in Him.

So why did I write all of this? Am I trying to convert people? Am I trying to thump a “virtual Bible“?

No, I wrote this for two reasons:

1. To give thanks to Him for saving my butt, yet again in the most public way possible.
2. To help others see how He’s worked in my life in the off-chance they could become interested in learning more about Him.

Even if I never achieve my second goal, I know that my first goal is accomplished and that’s what matters most to me.

“So we don’t focus on the troubles we see right now; instead we look forward to what we don’t see yet. For the troubles we see now are temporary, but the joys to come will last forever.”
2 Corinthians 4:18

 

Happy 35th Birthday My Love!

My dearest Jenny,

Today I along with your daughter, step-son, parents, friends, family and everyone you’ve touched over the past 35 years celebrate a day that has wonderfully impacted our lives.

Over these 35 years you’ve accomplished so much and you continue to do so with each and every day.

You are an amazing mom to Kaylin, balancing love, patience, tenderness and caring discipline to help her become an incredible young lady. Being a single mom has not been easy with numerous challenges thrown at you, yet each and every one you’ve overcome while at the same time teaching Kaylin valuable lessons about life and love.

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You’ve taken that same incredible skill as a parent and shared it with Josh. I know he’s learned a lot from you already and has experienced every bit of that same love you give to Kaylin.

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Despite having a couple thousand miles in between you and your family you are still a supportive, caring and loving daughter, sister and aunt. You do everything for them that’s within your means and even then you’ll go above and beyond that. You may not be able to see them as often as you’d like, but they know how much you love them and how you’ll do anything within your power to be there for them each and every day.

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Friends like the ones you have are not easily gained, and even harder to keep. You are always there for them with a listening ear, a loving hug, cheers of support or a wealth of reasonable advice and guidance. You love them like an extended set of family, each and every day, with every Facebook post, phone call and text message you make. To them you’re not just a friend, you’re a sister to them all with a big heart and bright smile.

And then there’s the woman you are to me….

You give so much to so many others, yet you still manage to give me so much each and every day. I get everything they all get and so much more!

You are patient and understanding with me like no one has ever been before. I can seemingly drive you nuts, yet your love for me never falters.

You have shown me love.  Pure, true, wonderful and totally unselfish love that I thought was just something that was made up in movies.

You continually inspire me and help me see how much more I am capable of accomplishing. Just when I think I haven’t got anything left, you help me find that I can do so much more and then help me do it.

You have made and continue to make me a better man in every way shape and form.

I cannot wait until the day I get to call you my wife, and look forward to getting to spend the rest of my life with you.

Jenny, you are so much to so many people and none of us will ever be able to properly show or tell you how much you truly mean to us. Had it not been for that day 35 years ago that God blessed the world with you, life just wouldn’t be the same.

Happy Birthday My Love! May God bless you (and us) with many, many, many more!

Happiness…Just Accept It

Happiness is a really interesting beast.

According to our founding fathers, we’re free to pursue it.
Based on the Will Smith movie, we’re allowed to misspell it.
Once we’ve got it we tend to question it and wonder if in fact we’ve found it.

Then we try and hold on to it so tight that we do stupid things and it slips away from us and we are off on the cycle of trying to get it once more.

Recently I’ve had a lot to be happy about. So happy that at times it seems almost surreal and I wonder how it could be happening to me.

Seriously the thought goes through my mind of “How do I deserve this?”, “Why would I get to feel as happy as I do right now?”.

I ponder if my happiness is true or just perceived. If it is true how much longer is it going to go on (aka – when is the bottom going to drop out?).

The fact of the matter is that I need to just listen to what so many people have told me, especially friends that have been INCREDIBLY RIGHT when I was so wrong and just enjoy it.

Don’t question it.
Don’t analyze it.
Don’t wonder why.

Just accept it for what it is, don’t try and make it something more (or less) and live in the moment.

Accept that I’ve worked very hard to make a lot of other people very happy. I’ve put a lot of good karma out there, and now I get to enjoy it coming back to me.

God has granted me this period of happiness because I’ve earned it and put a lot of my heart and soul into helping it come to fruition. I’ve also gone through a pretty deep, dark forest to get out to this beautiful clearing.

Now this is a bit of a challenge for an over thinker like myself, but it’s a challenge I fully accept and look forward to. The best part is as I take it on I get to feel things I haven’t felt for the longest time and some I’ve never felt before.

So today I thank God for this happiness (especially the people that are a source of this happiness), I choose to Just Accept It and will enjoy it for as long as I possibly can.