Things You Can Count On

A grace that’s sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9);
a mercy that endures (Psalm 136:1);
an atoning blood that cleanses (1 John 2:2);
a hope that doesn’t disappoint (Romans 5:5);
a love that never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8);
a purpose that works all things together for good (Romans 8:28);
a peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7);
a joy unspeakable (1 Peter 1:8);
a kingdom that’s unshakable (Hebrews 12:28);
a foundation which is indestructible (2 Timothy 2:19);
a High Priest who prays (John 17);
a Savior who lives (1 Corinthians 15:1-11);
a Spirit who comforts (2 Corinthians 1:4);
a Father who cares (1 Peter 5:7).

– Roy Lessin, DaySpring Cards

God is On Your Side

The Lord will fight for you.”  – Exodus 14:14

I read these words and draw in a deep breath.
I need them right now.
Don’t we all? Oh, we may not go to war.
But we fight…
for relationships
for dreams

We battle…
against illness
against discouragement
I think of you staring at the screen, perhaps feeling your strength is small.
Oh, yes, I know what that’s like.
But victory isn’t up to us.
And those words you sometimes hear? “You’re not worth fighting for.”
They’re a lie. Nothing more.
This is the truth from the heart of One who calls you His own:
You are loved.
You are worth fighting for.
You are even worth dying for.
So go into your day, strong friend, knowing that nothing can defeat you. You’ve already won.

by Holley Gerth, DaySpring Cards

Celebrating 19 Years of Marriage

Today is Jennifer and my 19th wedding anniversary! It’s a day, I’ll never forget! Not only did I marry my best friend, but it was an incredible day surrounded by our friends and family. 19 years later, I’m still madly in love with this incredible woman and thankful for the incredible journey we’ve shared.

Over 19 years, we’ve truly had a lot to celebrate. So in celebration of our anniversary, here are 19 wonderful memories that I’m thankful for, in the years that they happened…

’93 – Marrying my best friend and a honeymoon in Hawaii!
’94 – Eliminating our debt!
’95 – Buying our first home in Woodland.
’96 – Bringing home our first puppy, Mickey.
’97 – Adopting our sweet Maggie Mae at Christmas.
’98 – Reliving our nation’s history in Washington DC.
’99 – Getting cultured in theater at Music Circus.
’00 – Moving to El Dorado Hills and our vacation in New York!
’01 – The birth of our son, Zachary Bryan!
’02 – Cheering the SF Giants through the season, onto the playoffs and into the World Series!
’03 – Celebrating 10 years of marriage in Lake Tahoe and sharing in the joy of my graduation from Western Seminary!
04 – Leading our small group through two life transforming studies.
’05 – Vacationing at Walt Disney World in Orlando to celebrate my ordination.
’06 – Hiking Rock Lake with our 4-year-old son Zach, who made the 2.5mile hike up the mountain on his own.
’07 – Enjoying a sabbatical in Hawaii! One of the highlights of our life!
’08 – Our best camping experience in 15 years of our family tradition at Plumas Eureka State Park.
’09 – Moving to Southern California!
’10 – Celebrating our SF Giants World Series victory! What a thrill!
’11 – Being season ticket holders for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
’12 – Being with family at the wedding of our niece Jessica, who was a flower girl at our wedding 19 years ago.

Wonderful memories with my wonderful friend. Here’s to many more incredible years, celebrating life together! I love you Jen!

A Tribute to My Mom This Mother’s Day

For Mother’s Day, I rewrote a popular poem, to say thanks to my mom for all that she’s done for me…

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed and care for all the stray pets I brought home, and I learned that it was good to be kind.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite meal for me, and I learned that it’s the little things in life that matter the most.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you take care of our house and everything in it (perhaps a little obsessively) and I learned how to take care of the things that I’m blessed with in this world.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t feel like it and I learned what it meant to be responsible in life.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but that it’s okay to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight and I experienced first hand what it was like to be loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw how proud you were of me as you talked to your friends and it motivated me to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you playing Santa Claus one Christmas Eve night and I saw in your face the reality of Jesus’ words,”It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked at you and wanted to say “Thanks for all the things I saw you do, even though you thought I wasn’t looking.”

Yes, when you thought I wasn’t looking, I learned a lot of life’s lessons that I needed to know, in order to become the man I am today. So thanks mom for being you, even when you thought I wasn’t looking!

I love you mom!

Happy Mother’s Day to you and to all the wonderful moms who make this world a better place!

Man Party

Today is Friday! It’s the night that my son and I set aside each week to do some male bonding, enjoy life and have some fun together. We’ve been doing this for almost a year now. It’s a night that my son gets to stay up until midnight. It’s the night we get to eat all sorts of junk food that’s bad for you. It’s the night that we cut loose and celebrate authentic manhood.

My son Zach is the master planner of Man Party. I am just the financier. Zach gets to pick what we do, where we eat and who we include. But the financier has to approve it according to the budget. The night usually begins with dinner at home, Portillo’s or Chick fil A, then we usually watch a movie at home or head to the 4 Star Cinema, where a ticket for a first run movie is only $7. We’ve also spent many a night at Disneyland, and this summer have plans to take in an Angels game or two as well. But lately, we’ve been doing the movie thing, followed by some video games. Over the course of the last few months, we’ve watched the prequel and trilogy of Star Wars, the Back to the Future series, as well as the complete set of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

As you can probably imagine Zach looks forward to this night all week! We talk about our options in the morning as I drive him to school and we confirm our plans on Friday morning. Tonight we’re heading to Portillo’s for dinner and then off to see the Avengers! And Jennifer, my wife, is totally supportive and wouldn’t have it any other way.

So why do I do this? Because I love my son. Because I want him to have special memories with his dad. But primarily because I believe that my relationship with my son will greatly shape the man he will become in the future. Additionally I’ve learned that men don’t like to sit face to face and talk about their feelings and that it’s much easier to open up when we’re doing something side by side, and we can just let the talk flow naturally as we stand in line for a roller coaster or talk on the ride home about how cool the special effects were in Real Steel and about the life lessons we learned from the story.

Yes, it’s in these shared experiences that I get the opportunity to speak into my son’s life. And for my son, it’s all in the context of having fun. I don’t know how much longer Zach will want to continue prioritizing Man Party with dad, but I am clearing my calendar as much as I can, to make sure I’m there until Man Party is replaced with dates with girls.

Flourishing in Community

God made you to flourish! And as God’s created handiwork, we were made to flourish with him and with others in order to produce blessing beyond ourselves. Therefore, in order to become God’s best version of ourselves, we need to be in community with others, specifically seeking to build and cling to these four important relationships in our lives:

  1. God… A healthy relationship with the Creator and a willingness to allow his Word to guide our actions, activities, and govern how we act towards others.
  2. Wise Counselors… A relationship with those who have already been where we are or who are a little further along on the journey; these are individuals you can bounce ideas off of, gain wisdom from and get perspective from.
  3. Close Friends… Everybody needs a few close friends they can laugh with, cry with, be sarcastic with, play golf with, surf or do whatever with.
  4. A Close Confidant… Either a spouse or a trusted friend who you not only enjoy being with, but who speaks truth into your life and with whom you feel safe enough to be real.

Having these sorts of relationships will not only help us run the race that God has called us to, but will also help us to experience joy and encouragement along the way. After all, life is truly better together.

The Millennial Teenager

A few months ago, I posted an image from the people at MBAOnline showing what literally happens in a 24 hour life cycle on the internet. It was one of my most popular posts and generated some fun comments. Well the folks of OnlineSchools.com have taken the idea a step further and narrowed down the field to show us what life looks like technologically for the Millennial Teenager, who literally has no awareness of what life was like before cell phones and the internet.

What’s interesting to me are the stats at the end of this image that show the significant differences between heavy and light media users in their overall satisfaction and performance in life. What’s your take? And as a parent how do you monitor the numbers of hours your teen is connected to technology?

31 Questions

Over the years, I have accumulated ideas and questions that have been helpful to me in transitioning casual conversations into spiritual ones. Here is that list of those conversation starters. Perhaps some of these might help you easily engage others in a conversation about faith…

  1. Where are you on your spiritual pilgrimage?
  2. Who is the most impressive person you have ever met?
  3. What single thing would you like to make absolutely certain you do (if at all possible) during your lifetime?
  4. What historical character, from any period of history, would you like to meet?
  5. What are you reading for leisure these days?
  6. How do you know you’ll go to heaven when you die?
  7. How are you growing personally?
  8. In your opinion, how does one become a Christian?
  9. How would you describe your father and his impact on your life?
  10. Do you have a mentor?  Tell me about his or her impact on your life?
  11. What do you think would probably surprise most people about you? Why?
  12. What is your greatest strength, and what are you doing to develop it?
  13. Why do people do what they do? What are the assumptions you make about people?
  14. How do you handle pressure?
  15. What do you consider to be the two major turning points in your life?
  16. What is something you consider to be a great personal success? Why?
  17. What is your key to maintaining balance in your life?
  18. What are two or three major truths upon which you base your decision-making?
  19. Tell me about two of your life long friends, and why they have had such an impact upon your life?
  20. How would you describe your mother, and her impact on your life?
  21. In your opinion, who is Jesus Christ?
  22. If you could know God personally, would you be interested?
  23. What have you found to be the best way of absorbing disappointment, rejection, distress and discouragement?
  24. If you could ask God any question, what would you ask?
  25. What is the most important thing in the world to you, and why?
  26. What gives your life value?
  27. Does your worldview, have an answer for why there is pain, suffering and evil in the world? If so, what is it?
  28. What is your basis for morality (what is right and wrong)?
  29. If you were to inherent a million dollars today, and couldn’t spend it on yourself, what would you do with it and why?
  30. Has anything ever happened to you, which was dramatic, personal or spectacular enough to have caused you to be certain there is a God who is both infinite and personally caring?
  31. What in your opinion is the meaning of life?

Refuel

Today I was talking with a pastor friend of mine about the need for Christian leaders to refuel themselves in ministry. Ministry responsibilities can be hard work, resulting in long hours and challenging days. In 1 Samuel 30:6, we read how “David strengthened himself in the LORD his God,” during an emotionally difficult season in his life. In looking at David’s example, it’s important that those who are in ministry, either vocationally or as a volunteer, take time to fill their tank, so that ministry is the overflow of an emotionally healthy self.

Over the years, I have gotten better about taking time to refresh, rejuvenate and renew. Each person rejuvenates differently, but here are six things I have found that fill my tank and inspire me in the race that God has called me to…

  1. Listening to music – Nothing uplifts my soul like an inspiring or upbeat song.
  2. Practicing spiritual disciplines – Time spent with Jesus in prayer and Bible reading gives me perspective, hope and principles for living.
  3. Reading – There’s something very inspirational to me about reading a good biography or Christian living book.
  4. Hanging out with inspiring people – I love to hang out with visionary leaders who want to impact the world as well as hear the amazing stories of God’s redemptive work in others lives.
  5. Enjoying hobbies – I love capturing the beauty of God’s creation through the lenses of a camera! And I marvel in the strategy behind a great baseball game.
  6. Getting away – Unplugging and getting out-of-town, even for a few days, clears my mind and helps me refocus on what’s really important in life.

By being a healthy leader, you motivate others to live a healthier life as well. So take time to refresh. In doing so, you give yourself and those you lead a great gift.

Be a Tourist

This past week, I had the opportunity to travel with my son Zach to Sacramento as a chaperone for his school’s 4th grade field trip. Since Zach was born in Sacramento, and my wife and I lived in Sacramento for 20 years, we went into the experience thinking, we knew and saw everything there was to know and see. Boy were we wrong! While we had pretty much been everywhere the tour took us, having the experience of an educational tour guide opened our eyes to the events and experiences that brought Sacramento’s rich history to life in a whole new way.

As I have reflected on the trip over the last couple of days, I got to thinking…how often do we play tourist in our own city? As a kid, I grew up only 20 minutes from San Francisco, but would rarely go into the city as a sightseer or really take time to learn about its diversity and history. Even my wife Jennifer, who was born in San Francisco and raised just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, has never been to Alcatraz, which is one of the city’s hottest tourist attractions.

Almost every city or county has certain facets that make it unique: the natural environment, historical sites, tourist attractions, walking trails, hometown diners, architecture, or quirky local treasures. And when you decide to play tourist in your own town, you set out to discover some of the things that you might otherwise take for granted. Such was our experience in Sacramento this past week. While we lived there for many years, there was so much history we failed to integrate into our day-to-day experience, which if we would have taken the time to understand, would have helped us connect the dots of mills, forts, street names and schools. Things we often took for granted while we lived in Sacramento, because we never really spent the time to really learn and play tourist in our own city.

My history teacher Mr. Ladendorff would often say, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.” There is such rich history in our city, in our state and in our country. By learning from the men and women who have gone before us and taking the time to be a tourist in our own surroundings, we might just discover something we’ve been missing. So try setting aside a day every once in a while to learn more about the lesser known facets, or experience familiar ones in a new way. You’ll not only gain a greater appreciation for the place that you live, you might just enjoy yourself as well!

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