Thursday, September 3, 2009


There was a story in the news last week about three boaters in Texas who spent eight days surviving in the Gulf of Mexico after their catamaran capsized. Through their ordeal they dealt with hunger, oppressive heat, dehydration, sharks, even hallucinations.

Now let’s stop and pause there for a second.

Just try to imagine going a full week – all seven days – clinging to a floating piece of debris, trying to keep a level head, fighting off doubt and fear and the only thing on your Day Planner’s “to do” list is to hope someone, anyone, finds you and your two buddies.

Sounds like a movie, doesn’t it? But this was real. And got more “real” than most people could ever imagine. Because according to one of the survivors, Tressel Hawkins, “It was on a day-to-day basis that everybody had their breakdown.” He then added, “The power of prayer had us feeling safe as far as knowing that we were going to make it out of it, but [we] didn’t know how long that we were going to have to endure this.”

It’s hard for me to fathom that. Honestly. Being out on the open ocean for days with only small rations of food, very little drinking water and dealing with continuous threats of sunstroke, exhaustion and sharks circling your boat. Yet feeling safe. That you knew you would make it out of it. Because you knew – soul deep – it was just a matter of time before God rescued you.

Wow, that’s white knuckle faith. With a whole lotta trust thrown in as well. Which is why this story continues to inspire me even as I re-read it days later. Because for a lot of us, we’re dealing with our own “capsized boat” in life. A job situation is “less than stellar”. The dreams you were certain you would achieve by now seem more out of reach than ever. The hopes you had for retirement have gone up in flames. An addiction you’ve wrestled with for decades just won’t leave you alone. And on and on it goes.

It’s with those struggles in mind I bring up Romans 5:2-5 which reads, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

I don’t know if those guys knew this verse while they were stranded at sea, but they certainly know how to live in it, especially through the hardest ordeal of their life. And in times when it feels like you’re just clinging on to something, just hoping to be rescued, I hope you can live those words as well. Times when you go through your own breakdowns, only to have God lift you back up, dust you off and set you back on your feet again. And times when you’re not sure when you will be rescued, but there’s no doubt that God is providing for you and will send you a lifeline.

So this week I’d encourage you to jot down that Bible passage, paste it on your refrigerator, your computer at work, or prop it on your bathroom mirror. And repeat the part of the passage that simply says, “hope does not disappoint us”. After all, it is through God whom we can find our true hope. Courage. And faith to carry on.

And know this, He will rescue you. It may take longer than you think it should. Or not even happen how you want it to play out. But know He has got you in the palm of His hand and hears your cries. And is planning for His own rescue mission designed especially for you.

“Hope does not disappoint”. Not for three guys from Blessing, Texas. Or for you.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Ever wanted to learn a second language? I bet most of you have. And even though I took Spanish in high school, most of what I learned has evaporated to the four winds over the years (sorry Ms. Hein, I know you did your best).

But being on a Hispanic Outreach every Saturday, well, it kind of helps to know the language, you know? So that’s why a couple of us on the team are taking a Spanish class over the next six weeks.

And what’s funny is when we first talked about signing up we were all excited and said how much fun it would be. Now, when we get to class I feel a little bit like I’m back in high school and hope I don’t mess up my pronunciation, forget an important word within the phrase and hope I can just kind of “get it”. Although I am pleased to report that we all know the most important phrase of all, “Donde esta el baño?”.

And while going through the class and having Dr. Bonilla (oh, did I mention we’re being taught by a former NASA engineer?) it’s interesting how he patiently walks us through Keeps telling us to take it slow, not go too fast. Not do too much. Just keep at it, keep practicing and even if we only learn five phrases by the end of the class, that’s five more than we knew before.

Something I’m taking away from the class other than learning a foreign tongue is it strikes me that God works much the same way. He has his own language and whenever we start our relationship with Him some of it, maybe all of it, is hard for us to comprehend. It’s completely new, maybe even strange.

Because He may speak more differently than any other language you’ve heard before. Some of you may only have felt real love and encouragement from one of your parents, but not both. While others have never had a real loving, nurturing relationship in your life. Some have a past that leaves you with guilt and regret. While others have been rejected again and again. And that’s where it becomes strange, because the language of God says you’re loved more than you can imagine, forgiven of every single thing you’ve done wrong and are cherished more than any of His other creations.

Wow, even as a veteran follower of Christ, it’s still hard to comprehend how deep and vast God’s love is for me. For you. For every person we come in contact with. After all, it’s a language like no other. The language of God – Love. Grace. Healing. Mercy. Forgiveness. Acceptance. Joy. And on and on. In that we can all rejoice.

But as with any language, you need to not just comprehend it, but to speak it as well. Practice speaking it to yourself first. Then friends and family. Then to others. After awhile you get better and better and more fluent.

And with God’s love language, it’s no different. Speak to yourself first with love, grace and mercy. Then to friends and family. Encourage them through their struggles and pain. Forgive them for being human and making mistakes. Accept those who are different than you (that one’s tough, I know, but we have to do it). And then speak it to a total stranger.

So here’s my challenge for you this week, actually it’s two. Jot down the phrases, thoughts or ideas God is speaking into your life right now. Is it trust? Faith? Forgiveness? Grace? Patience? Whether it’s through nudges, the Holy Spirit speaking to you or circumstances, try to recognize them and then spend a little time hearing what He’s telling you.

Secondly, put His love language in action in a couple people in your life. Your spouse. A co-worker. A client. A neighbor. Someone who simply needs something positive to happen in their life. Doesn’t have to be rocket science, just practical and honest.

And keep at it until you become more and more fluent in the greatest language of all – the language of God.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


So for the past three weeks I’ve been attending a free “Getting The Most Out of Your Resumé” class at a local church. And although I’m self employed, I figured it would be a good way to get out of my apartment, meet some new people and, on a self-serving note, get to learn firsthand what H.R. folks look for during an interview. (Here’s a hint: Don’t lie, they know when you’re lying. And wear clean clothes.)

Most of the people in this class are currently unemployed (including one of the H.R. presenters) while others were afraid of being down-sized in the near future. Some had made peace with their situation and were trying to move on while others, well, you could just see the fear in their eyes. The “what am I going to do?” fear wrangling them in its grip.

And you know there are hundreds of classes just like that one going on every night across the U.S. And they’re filled to capacity with people who are looking for some shred of hope to cling to. Real, honest stories. Like the guy told me he’d made a six figure salary “easy” for the past five years, but this year he’ll be lucky to clear $30k. Another woman who told me she’d sent out scores of resumés but hadn’t had a single response.

Keep in mind all I wanted to do was get some insights from H.R. folks, get my resumé evaluated by a professional and network with some of the presenters. That’s it. But I quickly found out (like in the first half hour of the first session) that I needed to put “me” aside and focus on helping others.

Times are hard and I’m not immune to them either, but hearing the stories and sensing the fear some of my classmates are living with made the walk home from class difficult. I’d end up spending the time praying for people like Ann, the single mom of four who’s returning to the workforce after a 10-year absence. Or Monte a customer service rep whose company went through cutbacks and was let go. Or Rob who has done almost everything in the financial sector and now he’s just trying to figure out what it is he wants to do in life. For him, it’s not about the big salary or the corner office, it’s about doing something he enjoys and in his words, “live more, you know?”. Sure do, Rob.

And here’s the thing, each night while walking back home, I’d be praying for Ann or Monte or Rob or George or “God, I forgot the guy’s name, but you know who I’m talking about...” and it became less and less about me and more and more about what I could do for them.

On the walk home last night, I had an urging to read Hebrews. Now understand I don’t read Hebrews. I wasn’t even sure if it was in the New or Old Testament (it’s New Testament by the way). But I felt that nudge to dive into it and see what I could find. Below is the scripture that not only jumped out at me, but was actually underlined in my Bible. I don’t read Hebrews. I don’t mark up my Bible. But there, marked in Hebrews, was the following passage:

Hebrews 10:23-25 – Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Could you use a little “unswerving hope” right now? If so that’s my prayer for you and whatever you’re going through right now. Unemployment. Underemployment. Health issues. Marital issues. “Life” issues. Whatever.

One, that you never, ever swerve from God because He is faithful. Two, that you encourage others in love. And three, that you link arms with other Christians and keep each other moving forward and remind each other who we are in Christ. That we can “do all things in Him”. That He does come through for us – each of us – every time.

Which is exactly the God-inspired encouragement we need in times like these.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


To know you’re going to be ok. That, in the words of Bob Marley, “Everything’s Gonna To Be Alright”.

To know you’ll still have your job on Monday. And Tuesday. And Wednesday. To know you’ll be able to cover the bills. That the spot on the x-ray will be benign. That your kids will return home safely. That the car will last another year.

To know you have some sense of security.

With that in mind, I’ve got some bad news: There is no such thing as security. No guarantees about your job, your finances, your 401(k) or what Monday has in store for you. Moreover, there’s no way to 100% protect yourself from cancer. No magic cloak to use to protect your kids. And your car? Make sure you check your oil, Mr. Murphy.

Depressing? Sure it is. Which is why most people avoid it. Talking about it. Thinking about it. Even acknowledging that, yes, there are trials in life, but no security. Not in this world anyway.

And we, as a nation, are obsessed with security. “As long as I can just make it through this week, everything will be fine”, “As long as I have ‘x’ amount of dollars in my account, I’m covered”, “As long as I don’t have to deal with that right now, I’ll be fine”.

Is that living? Is that how we’re supposed to get through life? Absolutely not.

It’s times in my life when I’m trying to create my own security that I read the Book of Job. Remember, Job was a righteous man who had everything he could hope for, which made him a prime target for Satan (’s not just you).

Satan tells God that his beloved servant Job wouldn’t be so righteous and so loving if God made him, what’s the word? “Uncomfortable.” You know, put the screws to him a little. But God (being “God”) knows Job’s heart and tells Satan that Job will stay faithful. Go ahead, test him. Trial after miserable trial, catastrophe after catastrophe, the unthinkable comes upon Job until he looses everything. Everything. Except his devotion to God.

It’s only here, at his breaking point, when he’s sitting on a simmering pile of what’s left of his empire and covered with lesions that Job demands to speak with God. Not to curse or defy him, just to ask what in the world is going on. As you read the entire book, you can feel Job’s angst and pain escalate as he cries out to him. And, this is the part I want you to read whenever you are crying out to God, wanting to know, “What in the world is going on here, God?”. Check out Job 38:1-7:

Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-while the morning stars sang together and all the
angels [a] shouted for joy?”

And God is just getting warmed up. As you read the following chapters God, the ultimate defense attorney, piles up more and more evidence of his power for his closing argument. He demonstrates his true might. His awesome power. His unsurpassed knowledge. His perfect timing. And his love for all things he created. As well as, catch this, his never-ceasing provision for those who love him.

In the end, God offers far more than an explanation to Job. But real security. In Him.

100% Guaranteed.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


“Live everyday as if it were your last.”

Ever heard someone say that before? Sure you have. You've probably said it to someone else at one time or another. But lemme ask you this: Do you actually do it, live everyday like it was your last?

After all, if it were truly your last day on Earth, would you have gone to work today? Or, would you have spent the day cherishing your kids? Prizing each last moment soaking in all the beauties and small wonders of this world. Catching one more sunrise. Listening to the wind rustle through the leaves. Watching a bird soar in the sky and letting your mind go with it.

If today was your last day, would you, given the choice, have paid the utility bill or spent the money on one last round of golf (for old times sake)? Would you have worked late finishing up that business proposal or proposed a candlelight dinner with your wife instead?

“Live everyday as if it were your last.” Honestly, how would you “live it”?

Ok, now let me pose this question to you: How would you treat someone – a total stranger, a friend, a former colleague – if you knew today was their last day? (Bet you didn't see that one coming.) What if, just by chance, you knew today was “it” for them in this world. What would you say? How would you treat them?

What if it that person was the Taco Bell employee who just messed up your order (again)? Or the guy who just totally cut you off in traffic? Or the person at work who just seems to delight in your suffering?

How would you treat them knowing today was their last day?

After all, it happens. You no doubt know of someone, maybe a person you just saw a week earlier, who you later found out were now gone. And when you hear the news of their passing, well, it kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it? I know how I felt when I learned that someone I knew had passed on too soon. It stops you in your tracks and puts your whole world on hold.

I believe that’s the exact impact Jesus was after when he said in John 15: 12-17, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.”

Love each other. Like it was your last day, not to live, but to love. To appreciate. To serve. To encourage. And treat each other like it was their last day. To show a little more compassion. Offer some understanding. Demonstrate to someone that God really cares about them more than they could ever imagine.

Because truth of the matter is, someday will be your last day. And theirs as well. But that’s not what really matters here. What matters is how we treat each other the rest of the days we’ve been blessed with.

So we can always live as a true blessing to someone else.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Heal the lame. Raise the dead. Or befriend someone shunned by society.

Which one seems the most miraculous to you?

Before reading Acts 9:32-43, my money would have been on one of the first two, but now I’m not so sure. Take a look at the following passage.

As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years [eight years!]. “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”

Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

So let’s set the scene. Peter takes the disabled, the diseased and the despised and blesses each one in mighty ways. With Aeneas and Dorcas he performs miracles in the name of Jesus to give them new life (Aeneas is able to walk again, Dorcas is literally brought back to life). You can imagine their lives afterward.

But for Simon, well, it’s a little more tricky.

See, Simon was a tanner which was seen at the time as a dirty, despised job, one that was very looked down upon. Because his business was dealing with dirty animal carcasses day in, day out which meant Simon was seen as “unclean” among the Jews. Along with shepherds, tanners were on the fringe of society. And Peter’s decision to stay with Simon was an act that showed he was willing to reject traditional Jewish discrimination.

Which is what I want to address. A lot of times we read about the miracles that Jesus performed and are in awe. Or we read about the disciples like Peter who healed in the name of Christ and are taken aback, maybe even wishing we could experience something of that magnitude. Something that special.

And as we see from Peter, we can. He doesn’t just befriend the unfriendable, he rejects prejudice in Christ’s name. That’s big. Because we all have our prejudices. Our own judgements. Sometimes we “size someone up” and don’t even know why (I do it all the time). And it’s Christ that says there is only one judge – God Himself.

So my challenge for you this week is to experience the same miracle Peter did, “befriend” someone you currently see as unbefriendable. No, you don’t have to hang out with them or become their new best friend, just do something nice for them. A simple compliment. Ask them how they’re doing. Buy them a cup of coffee. If you find yourself judging, stop and pray. For you and for them. Start small and let God do the rest.

Who knows, maybe you’ll experience your own miracle – healing against judgement – in your own life.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Let’s kick summer off right. Let’s talk about a cookout.

But, nay, not just an ordinary cookout. A true feast. A banquet. With giant smoked turkey legs and everything. And here’s the good news, you’re part of it right now, even as we speak. So grab a Chinette plate, your plastic fork and enjoy.

To set the scene, let’s take a look at Luke 14: 15-24, the Parable of the Great Banquet.

When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ “

“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

“ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ “

Ah, now that’s a cookout, isn’t it? Invite everyone and anyone, no matter who they are, except those who told the master (in not-so-many words) “Sorry...I’m kind of busy.”

Which is precisely what I’m getting at. Because you are taking part in that very feast right now. You haven’t told God you’re “too busy” or have better things to do. Instead you act like the servant who goes out and finds people to serve. You lead an outreach at church. You care for an ailing family member. You pay for a stranger’s lunch. You....are taking part in this feast. And I don’t want that very key point to pass you by.

Because for a lot of us, we serve with a sense of duty. Because our hearts lead us to unquestionably “go for it”. Or it’s just something you do and don’t think twice about it. But I don’t want you to miss the big point and realize what your acts of grace, kindness, love and charity really are – a place at a Great Banquet being thrown by God Himself.

Sadly, I’ve missed out on that point many times when doing an outreach and don’t ever want that for you. Not anymore. So if this “60” plants a seed in just one person’s brain and they realize that serving is being part of the best cookout ever, then it's done its job.

Tomorrow, instead of trying to make the Hispanic Outreach perfect, I’m going to focus more on Who makes it perfect. Instead of paying for someone else’s order at a fast food joint thinking about my minor sacrifice requiring me to skip the fries, I’m going to just be grateful they get to share the fruits of the feast.

So this summer, enjoy your own “cookouts”. Whether you invite friends for burgers and dogs or serve a stranger so they may know about God’s bounty.

But never – never – miss that one simple fact. That we all get to enjoy a place at the table of God’s feast.