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Happy 4th Anniversary California!

Happy 4th Anniversary California!

May 16th commemorates my fourth year living in California. Man, it has gone by so fast. The entire move started with a phone call out of the blue from my mother. We were living in Houston, TX at the time. I was doing just fine. I had my own place, car, getting promotions at work, involved at church. Life was good. But when my mom called asking if I would be willing to move to San Diego, CA, I was caught off guard. If you knew my mother, you would know not to get too excited by such hypothetical questions as they usually didn’t manifest into anything. But she was serious. My mom and stepdad were experiencing difficult financial situations and spiritual warfare and while on a fast, my stepdad was given a job opportunity in San Diego and my mom received a word from God saying, “Your reward is in San Diego.” When she told me this, I had a decision to make. Did God also want me to go to San Diego? I had never been to California and none of us knew anyone there. The same was true about Houston before moving there. I went into prayer and thought seriously about it. After multiple conversations with my mother, I decided that moving to California was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I had no strong ties to Houston other than I loved being a Texan and still miss it greatly. I never received an audible or definitive word from God to move. But I also didn’t hear anything about staying put. I’ve never been a person to base life decisions around a job, so other than that, I really didn’t have a reason to stay. My brother was graduating from college so it worked out that we would pick him up from Indiana University, where I went to school too, come back to Houston to pack and then hit the road for golden coast. I never imagined actually living in California. I dreamt about it. Growing up I wanted to be a filmmaker. I actually got accepted into NYU Tisch School of Arts for filmmaking but it was too expensive, and I was offered a full ride at IU where I studied Marketing with a concentration in video production. Like most people, especially coming from the Midwest, California has this persona of being America’s paradise and the land of dreams. That dream was becoming a reality. What really confirmed that God was with us in the move was how He provided for us to get here. We had moved to Houston as an act of faith but the move tested us beyond what we were expecting (more on that in a future post.). The biggest hindrance of moving to California was the difficulty and struggle we had moving to Houston. We didn’t want to repeat that, especially not my mother. But by faith, we put in our two week notices. When I told my co-workers where I has going, they were shocked. Repeatedly, as if scripted, everyone told me how beautiful San Diego was and how expensive it was. That would lead to the question of "do you have a job lined up?" I answer was no. None of us had jobs lined up. My stepdad’s opportunity wasn’t even guaranteed. We were literally living off the promise of God’s word. I was too afraid to tell people that, to be honest, because telling non-believers your moving across the country to live in one of the most expensive states with no job, just God’s word, get you crazy stares and whispers. Heck, there are Christians we have told that look at us in disbelief when sharing the testimony. To avoid the awkwardness I would say "oh, I’m going with my parents and I’m looking into getting my MBA", which was true. I was seriously considering going to USC and still considering. Everyone would always respond in some form of "I wish I could move to San Diego." Which struck me as sad. I am sure many of them had legitimate reasons why they couldn't make the move they wanted. Many of these people surely had more opportunities and resources to move if they really wanted to, but something was holding them back. Many would consider our move reckless. But nothing is more secure and guaranteed than living on a prayer and God’s promises. There are so many people limiting themselves from experiencing the most in life because fear and putting their trust in something other than God. I need a job lined up first. I have to get my things in order first. I need to have money saved first. These are all wise things you should do when considering a big move. But sometimes when walking by faith, God wants you to make the first move in faith and obedience, and He will take care of the rest. It's exactly what happened with Abraham in the Bible. That is exactly what happened in our case. After putting in our notices at work and not renewing our leases at apartments, there was no looking back. My mom, in intense prayer for a specific type of apartment, by faith started calling apartments while still in Houston until she found one she liked. It was a three level townhome apartment. The blessing was that they were willing to let us move in with out any of us having a job or able to provide proof of income once moving there. Unprecedented. My mom later told me that when she was praying in the car, frustrated in not finding a place, God spoke to her to just call without considering the lack of requirements usually required for moving in. She obeyed, and we had a place to stay just like that. We got my brother, packed our stuff and hit the road for a cross country move. We took three cars and nothing else. No moving truck. We donated all of our furniture and anything that couldn’t fit in the car. Only a small amount of personal items were placed in a storage unit to be shipped later. It was a two day drive, 8 hours crossing just Texas on I-10 going through El Paso. I would have been faster but my stepdad’s car got two tire flats on separate occasions. After getting through the flat, desert plains of rolling tumbleweeds and sand tornadoes and the high wind, high altitude mountains of Arizona, where we stayed the night in Yuma, we began our entry into California. I was shocked to see sand dunes crossing the state border. I was even more surprised by the rolling hills and mountains of San Diego. We were stunned. We could not believe how beautiful it was. A far cry from the flat plains of Indiana and the Ohio River Valley. I am almost embarrassed that I did not know there were places that looked like this in America. I knew California had beaches and palm trees, but imagines of the French Riviera I always wanted to visit came to mind when I saw the homes and buildings along the hillsides. As our initial shock began to wear off, we finally came into our destination of Oceanside, CA. It was a Sunday. We were scheduled to get our keys to the apartment the next day. So we pulled into a nearby Motel 6 and decompressed. This was our new home. In our research of California before coming we had heard of a little burger place called In N Out. There was one by the Motel 6 so we went there to have our first meal in California. The double-double with grilled onions and chilis is now my go to order after visiting countless times and experimenting with variations. But the fries are lacking. I’ve had them in just about every variation and something is off. But I digress. Looking back over these 4 years I have to say I do not regret moving here. I am so glad we took a step of faith to get here. The first few months after moving here, we had enough savings to explore and enjoy without the pressure of looking for jobs. I was able to go to San Francisco, Orange county and numerous beaches before getting a digital marketing job where I am currently employed. All of us found jobs quickly, as soon as we started looking. God came through on His promise. Though there has been a significant culture shock that was felt later and the cost of living can present some problems, we are doing very well and are blessed. I personally have grown the most spiritually in my life since moving here, been more involved in the church than I have ever been, grown more professionally and created some of the most significant relationships I have ever had. My family often discusses what exactly the reward God was talking about when He called us here. There are many blessings that I can recall since moving here. But I would have to say that I believe that my reward from God has been a lifelong journey of bringing me to a place at the right time in my life with the people I was meant to meet and know so I could not only discover the truth, identity, purpose and legacy He destined me but live it out confidently. Truth. Identity. Purpose. Legacy. That is my pursuit. The last four years have been so impactful. And this is only the beginning. I believe there is so much more to come. So thank you God and thank you California. Here is to many more years of living by faith in the Golden State!

Reflections: Day 2 - Be Still and Know that I am God

Reflections: Day 2 - Be Still and Know that I am God

This 7-day devotional series will reveal how to spend this time in quarantine reflecting and examining your life through God‘s eyes, so that you can redeem your thoughts towards your past, be present with Him and boldly enter the post-COVID world in the center of His perfect will in this season of our lives and the next. DEVOTIONAL TWO: The first time I read Psalms 46:10, I was in high school, sitting on the floor in my room, causally reading through the Bible. Psalms 46:10 - “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Something about the simplicity and practicality of the scripture stopped me and without a moment to doubt myself, I closed my eyes and sat perfectly still. I had no clue what to do or expect but I sat quietly, my mind completely blank, to see if I could know God. Nothing. I waited some more. Still nothing. I waited in the quiet darkness of having my eyes closed. So then, I tried to actually think of something and the thought of how big God must be dropped in my spirit. I saw myself and imagined how my life is in the palm of His hand. Then I imagined all of planet Earth in the palm of His hand. In my mind, I was looking down on Earth, how small it was and how big God must be to hold it. And then I imagined the planets like Saturn and Jupiter and stars like the sun. Earth so small in comparison ….yet God is bigger. And I began to fly, through space, passing through the stars until I could see the whole milky way galaxy. How big and beautiful ….yet God is still bigger. I kept soaring through space, remembering all the constellations and galaxies I saw in science class. And though I tried, I couldn’t fathom how far and wide and infinite the universe must be yet still God is bigger. And in the moment of reaching the end of my imagination, incapable of grasping how big the known universe must be, let alone knowing the God who created all of it and His love for me, I could feel the presence of the Lord surround me like never before and honestly have not experienced since. I felt weightless, as if I began to levitate off the ground. I was in awe. My eyes remained closed but the feeling of floating became so tangible that I had to open my eyes to see if I was still on the ground. I opened my eyes. I was where I was sitting the whole time, on the floor of my bedroom. Slowly, I could feel the weight of my body come back until I felt normal again and my focus fully restored to the reality of the moment. God is real. I know God is good and faithful. And He is patiently waiting for us to put our phones down and make Him a priority in our daily lives to show us who He is and what He can do. During this season of reflection, while we are sheltered in place and many of life’s activities are on hold, let's not replace one distraction with another but be still, get in God’s word and get to know Him. His word is alive. The Bible is not just a book of theory and philosophy. It is alive. It became flesh in the form of Jesus and continues to live and manifest in us when we believe it, say it and live it. Taste and see that the Lord is good. The Christian life is an experience that should saturate every area of our life. Let’s spend time together in reflecting on who He is. Be still. Be quiet. And He will reveal himself to you. Scriptures to Read: Psalms 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!” 1 Kings 19:11-13 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and [g]Godhead, so that they are without excuse, Ephesian 3:17-19 ...that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Application Take an hour in your day and have a date with God. Divide the hour into the following parts: First 15 minutes - Thank Him and worship Him out loud. Play some praise music. Get in His presence. Second 15 minutes – Spend time reading some scripture Last 30 minutes – Turn off your phone, music, TV, all distractions and just listen with expectation. Ask God to speak about whatever He wants to talk about and to reveal Himself. Write down any revelations you get. Prayer God, quiet my restless spirit. Calm my mind. Surround me in a peace that surpasses all understanding. Give me discipline to not be distracted. I break the spirit of addiction to my phone and all digital distractions. I welcome your presence. Make me sensitive your presence. Reveal all that you want to reveal Holy Spirit. Have your way in the moment. I pray I am never satisfied with your presence. My hunger and thirst for you will never cease. Thank you for revealing yourself to me Lord. Amen.

Reflections: Day 5 - Reflecting on Our Testimonies

Reflections: Day 5 - Reflecting on Our Testimonies

This 7-day devotional series will reveal how to spend this time in quarantine reflecting and examining your life through God‘s eyes, so that you can redeem your thoughts towards your past, be present with Him and boldly enter the post-COVID world in the center of His perfect will in this season of our lives and the next. In previous devotionals in this series, I have talked about mostly what not to do during your time of reflection - resisting from turning to old ways and reviewing your past from a negative perspective and not God’s perspective. But there are things in our past that are worth reflecting on and things God actually insists meditating and reflecting on: Testimonies I love testimonies. I love thinking about my own and love hearing about others even more. (Definitely expect testimonies in future blog posts). Testimonies are faith builders. They prophesy God’s will over our lives. They are the evidence of God’s existence, His power, His love. It also fulfills the checklist of qualifying thoughts the Bible says we should be meditating on. Testimonies can: Defeat the enemy Prophesy Win Souls Build your Faith Honestly, meditating on testimonies has pulled me back into faith in the face of overwhelming doubt and unbelief, which is kryptonite to our faith walk with God. The most difficult season of doubt I’ve ever had was my junior year in college. I began entertaining thoughts about whether Jesus was truly the way, the only way? Is my faith just a factor of me being born in a Christian home in a Christian nation? Wouldn’t I be just as devote and faithful to Islam if born and raised in an Islamic home and nation? And what if all religion is BS anyway? I would watch debates and listen to atheist arguments and seriously consider their point of view. I would question passages in the Bible and became increasingly angry at prayers that weren’t being answered. Was there a God even there to listen? I tried confiding in the few Christian friends I had, but to no fault of their own, were insufficient in aiding me. I had to do what David did. He encouraged himself in the Lord. I looked over my life and the experiences I had with God that I just could not deny. Hearing His voice, feeling His presence, seeing Him heal and deliver. Any truly intimate relationship will have experiences and encounters that are without question real. That is the type of relationship God wants with His children. My faith is strong today because it is built on His word coming alive in tangible ways and being experiential. As I reflected on the testimonies in my life, the doubt dissipated. I came out of that season of doubt stronger because I reflected on His testimonies in my life. I don’t think I can overstate how important testimonies are - for our spiritual wellness and as a tool to witness and win others to Christ. God even commands that we hold on to His testimonies to remember and to pass down to current and future generations. So in this time of reflection, as news continues to remind us of the worsening conditions of the outbreak, racial injustice and now killer bees, spending time on what God has done, what He can do and will do again is a perfect remedy for any situation but especially these days. Scriptures to Read: Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Revelation 19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Psalm 119 2-3 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways! Joshua 4:5-7 ...and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” 1 Samuel 30:6 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. Application: Take a pen and paper (or digital device) and write down as many testimonies where God showed up and showed out that you absolutely can’t deny. Take time to reflect and relive the moments. Find someone who needs a breakthrough in one of the areas you have had breakthrough from your testimony list. Then reach out to them to share your testimony and prophesy over them what God did for you. Prayer: Thank you Jesus for being the author and finisher of my faith. Thank you for all that you have done for me. I have so much to be thankful for. Bring to remembrance the times you have been a blessing in my life that I might have forgotten. Renew my mind to think of your testimonies first before I have a chance to complain. Give me boldness to share my testimonies with others. Highlight to me those who need to hear the amazing wonders you have done in my life. I will pass along my testimonies to my children and grandchildren to strengthen their faith and serve you all of their lives. Your testimonies will always be before me and in my thoughts. Thank you for the greatest testimony of all: dying for me that I may have eternal life with you and all my sins washed away. Amen

Culture Shock: A Midwestern Boy Comes to California

Culture Shock: A Midwestern Boy Comes to California

I was born and raised in Indiana. I lived in Houston, Texas for nearly 4 years after college. For those considering moving to California, know that there will be a culture shock. You won't feel it at first. It will come slowly as you settle in. Many native Californians will not understand your confusion or shock because many have not lived outside or visited much outside the state. When I meet others who moved here from out of state, we instantly connect of the...let's call it...uniqueness of California.Texas has its pride. New York has its attitude. The South has its charm among other things. But they all feel like America. California is truly out on its own. Some of its good. Some of its just different. Here are just some of the things I didn't know and had to a just I didn't know how conservative I was until I moved to California. I didn’t know ordering soda was a sin or that people called “pop” or "coke" soda for that matter. I didn’t realize people would vote to increase gas prices. I couldn’t imagine paying for grocery bags, something people again voted for. I didn’t know straws were public enemy number one. I didn’t know Disneyland was better than Disney World, according to people have not been to Disney World. I didn’t know there were people who had never heard of or tasted chicken and waffles. Or chicken biscuits. I never imagined 90% of my friend group would be Mexican. I have never been mistaken for being Dominican or Puerto Rican ever in my life. I didn’t know how much I love bachata music and that it's basically R&B music in Spanish. I had never been mistaken for a Marine, apparently not many black men in San Diego that aren’t in the military. I didn’t realize how out of shape and unsightly my appearance and body was. I didn’t know celery water was a thing. I didn’t know how much I would enjoy dancing to bachata and salsa. I didn’t know how much I love BBQ until I moved to California and have yet to find any good BBQ (Phil’s BBQ is trash). I didn’t know vegan 4th of July BBQs were a thing. I didn’t know dogs were on the same level as humans in terms of value of life and preferred over having children. I didn’t know how much I would love being a beach bum. I didn’t know the people I would meet in my late 20’s might be the best friends I have for life. I didn’t know difference in the reality and the perception of Los Angeles would be so jarring. I didn’t know I would have my first car accident (totaled) and car broken into (twice, one time in San Fran in a rental car). I didn’t know being direct or honest could be perceived as offensive. I didn’t know people associate the words “hiking” and “fun”. I didn’t know I would be baptizing people in the ocean. I didn’t know people actually, genuinely cared for me outside my family. I didn’t know I would minister a wedding for a couple who met in my bible group. I didn’t know how much I would LOVE Mexican food (apparently the Mexican food I grew up eating in Indiana that I hated wasn’t real Mexican food, who knew?). I didn’t know I would be used by God so much since moving here. I didn’t know I would be so involved and in so many ministries in leadership roles at church. I didn’t know Leroy was pronounced LeRoy. I didn’t know homelessness was unsolvable, apparently. I didn’t know how truly difficult and painful snowboarding could be. I didn’t know studio apartments could go $2500+. I didn’t know speeding tickets could be almost $400. I didn’t know there was a thing as a sunshine tax. I didn’t know how there were places this beautiful in America. I say all of this with love and appreciation. It has challenged me to grow and evaluate who I am and want to be. I have adjusted and adapted some of the Californian ways. But my roots will always be Midwestern. To more experiences, lived and learned.

My Thoughts on Church Shopping

My Thoughts on Church Shopping

From Indiana to Texas to California, I have been to a lot of churches. I mean a lot a lot. I have seen the good, the bad and ugly. Churches of all sizes, all styles of worship, different denominations and a mix of all kinds of congregations. I've collected enough church swag, I should do unboxing videos and reviews. (*takes mental note*) With all that experience, I wanted to share some tips about finding the church God wants you at. To begin, there is no perfect church. And while we are at it, friendly reminder that church is not a building. Church is not a traditional activity we do on Sunday's. It is not something we do just because someone told us we needed to go. The church is the body of Christ. A group of believers coming together to worship God, grow in our faith and discipleship and be equipped to build His kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven. It has been said that the church is a hospital for the spiritually sick and there is some truth of that. Being a Christian is basically admitting we are broken, sinful messes in need of our Savior Jesus Christ. It has also been said that hurt people hurt other people. Which is why a level of humility, grace and mercy should be demonstrated towards God's people, understanding we are all made in the image of God. We are all in a sanctification process. We need to not be so dismissive of people and pray we see them the way God sees them. It will give you a whole new perspective. (Side note: with that said, there are situations that cross the line and even some churches can become toxic and detrimental to your spiritual growth. I am working on a post on red flags to know when it's time to leave a church, so stay posted.) Now moving on to some more advice: Get to know God and His word first But isn't church where you go to do that? Yes, but, how do you know if a particular church is teaching you the right things about God. I know many people will disagree, but I strongly recommend spending time reading the gospels, Psalms and Proverbs and learning how to pray and worship Him on your own first. This way, you have a spiritual detector to see past the cafe, and activities and production and all the superficial stuff to get to the real question: Is God even in the building or is this just some social club? John 14:25-27 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. My upbringing in the church was mostly of the Assemblies of God and Pentecostal flavor. But my mother raised my brother and I to learn how to read the Bible on our own, get a word from God on our own, pray on our own. We couldn't rely on her relationship with God. We had to have our own. And that we shouldn't automatically accept what a pastor is saying is truth. Go home and test the spirits. Does it actually line up with the word of God? I often hear people quoting their pastor or denominational arguments more than the Bible, mostly because their foundation in faith was given to them by someone else's relationship with God and not their own. When I was in college, I was desperate to find a church and connect with fellow Christians. I began attending one church and their college men's group. Their services were meh, but I did enjoy the Bible studies and everyone was soooo friendly. Until they sat me down for "the talk." The talk that I wasn't saved because I was not water baptized. I explained that I was baptized at 17, and filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of tongues at 12. (Yes, it can happen in that order but that is for another post.) “No, that's not right“, they insisted. Because I didn't believe at the moment of my water baptism I received salvation, they believed I wasn't saved. So I would need to be water baptized again, in their church, in their way. Now if I had not had my own relationship and experiences with God that aligned with scripture, I might have fallen for it. Serious doubts about my salvation arose, and I went to more extensively study the topic on my own, avoiding commentaries and bias arguments. I was willing to admit I was wrong and be re-baptized if necessary. But first I wanted to know, "Holy Spirit, what do you say?" I returned concluding they were mistaken. I do believe they are saved Christians and I am too because of our faith, saved by grace, through no works on our own but by His on the cross. I laid out the experiences with God, went over all the scriptures with them and parted ways. I could not continue to be in an environment that constantly caused me to question my salvation. Pray God will place you where He needs you to be Friendly reminder: it's not all about you. Finding a church should not be about convenience. Questions that we ask that don't matter: How far is the church? How is the worship? Is the pastor funny? Is there a cafe? What kind of activities do they have for me and my family? Questions you should be asking: What are the opportunities for me to serve? Will my gifts and calling be utilized and developed for building His kingdom? Are the teachings convicting and anointed? Are the people there a part of the body of Christ God wants me to be connected with? Don't see something you would like at your church? Instead of thinking "that sucks, let's move one", think "maybe I can start that up at this church." When I moved to California, I prayed for 3 specific things when I decided on what church to attend: divinely connecting with the right people to mutually push each other into our God given purpose a place my gifts and callings would be utilized and developed a place I would find my wife After countless, meet and greets with the pastor, spiritual tests, new member classes and small group introductions, I finally found a church, despite my initial hesitation and criticisms (pray for me) that God wants me at. Though still waiting on that last thing, the last two years of attending my current home church has far exceeded my expectations and changed me for the better. I have grown so much spiritually, been involved more than I have ever been in a church and taken on multiple leadership roles. I started baptizing people and teaching in front of large groups. I am praying and leading people to salvation more than ever before. The favor of God has been strong on me in all the areas I am serving. And that is the key. I am serving more than I am consuming. Put God first and He will show up. But it all started with changing from a "what I can get from the church" mindst to "what does God want me to do for this church?" mindset. Quick Tips: Be Patient God wants you planted in His body more than you do. It can be exhausting; I know. But keep the faith. You will find home. Visit a Small Group The Sunday service should play a small role in your decision to join a church. It may be the main event but remember, we the people are the church. And if you are serious about planting roots in your new church home, you need to meet and know the people you are going to do life with. Visit a small group to sense the spiritual maturity of the congregation. Who are these people? I personally believe in diverse congregations because that is what Heaven will look like. What is flowing from the head should be flowing to the body. Sometimes there is a disconnect between the good preaching and example and how people are translating it in everyday life. You don't want to be unequally yoked to the wrong body. Check out their statement of belief This should be very easy to find on their website, if they have one. (If they don't, see it as an opportunity to serve instead of judging them.). Consider it a warning if this is hard to find or it is vague with little to no scriptural support. A church should not be afraid to state what they believe. Side note: I always check to see what they say about the Holy Spirit. That is the major differentiator for most churches. I'll leave it up to you to determine what it should say - hint, ask the Holy Spirit. What ministries do they have? A great way to learn about opportunities to serve or opportunities to step in and fill a gap. Are there online messages? This is an efficient way to check out multiple churches quickly, but does not at all replace the live experience. Don’t be distracted by the style of the preaching or the appearance of the pastor. Question to keep in mind: Are the messages Bible based? Are the messages anointed? With these tips, I pray you find your church home like I did. It will be sooner than you know.

Reflections: Day 4 - Our Reflection in His Eyes

Reflections: Day 4 - Our Reflection in His Eyes

This 7-day devotional series will reveal how to spend this time in quarantine reflecting and examining your life through God‘s eyes, so that you can redeem your thoughts towards your past, be present with Him and boldly enter the post-COVID world in the center of His perfect will in this season of our lives and the next. One of the hardest things for me to do is look in a mirror. I’ve never been particularly happy with the way I looked. Like just about everything I see in life, I always spot and dwindle on things that are wrong, broken or flawed. The acne scars and bag under my eyes. The love handles that won't seem to go away even after losing 20+ lbs since January 2020. My bulging, squinty eyes. The list could go on and on about what is wrong with me or what I would change. The same goes for my past. During this lockdown as I work from home, I have noticed that my thoughts often, like most of the time, drift negative, especially about my past. What I should have done, what I shouldn’t have done, how I should have started this blog years ago, relationships I should have pursued and those I shouldn’t have. Regrets. Shame. And the fact that I turn 30 this year isn’t helping. Most of this happens in my bed, staring at my ceiling fan in the darkness of night after telling Alexa to play rain and thunder sounds, dreading the mundane repetition of the next day. But this type of reflection is not healthy or biblical. Dwelling on the past, without God’s perspective, can steal your time, joy and stop you from God’s best for your future. Focusing on the negative and replaying past mistakes is paralyzing as you try to avoid remaking the pain. For me, low self-esteem has been a hindrance to relationships, both friendships and romantic, because of the lies and the false memories that I replay in my head seeing my past through my carnal eyes and not from God’s vantage point outside of time, where we are seated with Him in heavenly places. God wants to redeem your past. He works all things out for your good if you love Him. Whether your BC (before Christ) days bring shame or even if you were raised in the church like me and feel regret about past decisions, if you take the time to reflect and ask God to show you how He was there all along, He can reveal himself even in your past. What didn’t kill you made you stronger and, the wisdom gained will propel you to new heights. God wants to plunder the darkest moments to show you that He can make beauty into ashes and use it to be a blessing to you and for others He wants you to bring into the family. If all your time is focused on the past, you can’t live in the moment or have the time to plan for the future. For me personally, if I stop and purposefully think how God has been a part of my life since I was a child and how I got to this moment as I write this devo, I have lived an incredibly blessed life and have experienced so much with God, how can I be regretful of anything. It’s a matter of which perspective I take. The past year I have grown and doing better at seeing my life and myself the way God sees me (the existence of this blog is evidence of that) as I reflect on the fact that He has been directing my path all along because I have been seeking Him all along and that can only mean that everything, flaws and all, can be used for His glory. But I’m still a work in progress, obviously. 3 things that have gotten me to a better place: Be grateful - Gratitude dissolves worry and complaining. It's a mood shifter. We have more control over our emotions and thoughts than we want to admit. Declare His praises and see if God doesn’t show up. Stop the comparison - Your journey is yours alone and not to be compared to others. What God wants to do in your life is for you and those He will bring in your circle. He is the potter and we are the clay. We are uniquely, fearfully and wonderfully made for a specific purpose, place and time. You can never fail at being you. See your past the way God sees it - God never leaves anything wasted. He works all things for your good. Mistakes are learning opportunities. Losses are opportunities for gain. Your past is not regretful but in God’s hands, a testimony that overcomes the enemy. Don’t run from your past. Give it to God and watch what treasure He makes from it. Scriptures to Read: Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Psalm 139:14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. Romans 8:26 - 28 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Isaiah 61:1-3 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Application Close your eyes. Think of a moment of shame, regret and hurt. When you are there ask God to reveal where He was in that moment. Where is He? What is He saying? Surrender that moment to God and ask Him to redeem it. What can be learned and how does He want you to us it for His glory? Write down what is revealed to you. Prayer Jesus, redeem my past. Give me your eyes to see my past. Show me how you have been directing my path. I thank you that you are a God of restoration. The great redeemer. You knew me before I was born and made me for such a time as this. You started and good work with me and you will finish it. Replace my regret with redemption. Silence the lies of shame and condemnation. Holy Spirit lead me into all truth into how I should see my past. Give me eyes to see myself the way you see me. Give my eyes to see others as you see them. My identity, all of me, is in you. We are one. I pray every aspect of my life my glorify you and build your kingdom. Amen.

Reflections: Day 3 - When Not to Reflect Back

Reflections: Day 3 - When Not to Reflect Back

This 7-day devotional series will reveal how to spend this time in quarantine reflecting and examining your life through God‘s eyes, so that you can redeem your thoughts towards your past, be present with Him and boldly enter the post-COVID world in the center of His perfect will in this season of our lives and the next. There are at least two scriptures in the Bible where God tells someone not to “look back.” One in the Old Testament and one example in the New. The most famous perhaps is the example of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt when looking back on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. There is a common theme in both scriptures that warns of how not to spend this time of reflection. Both stories contain two components that I want to focus on: the act of looking back and a specific thing God wants to avoid us seeing – death and an old way of life. Sodom and Gomorrah is notorious even among non-Christians and non-Bible readers as it is synonymous with a godless, sin filled city or place in need of God’s judgement. Some would argue California fits the bill (Los Angeles and San Francisco to be exact). More importantly, for Lot and his family, it also represented an old way of life as God was calling them out of the city into a new season with a new destination. When Jesus was being chased by wannabe disciples, he told them to not look back once their hand was on the plow, not even to go back home to bury and mourn the loss of a loved one. (Side note to self: write devo series on the top savage moments of Jesus’ ministry because the hippie, love is love, politically correct Jesus being preached in some churches needs to get back on the cross and stay there.) What the passage means is as we have extra time on our hands in this season of reflection, we need to make sure we are not reflecting on things dead and gone, our old ways of thinking and behavior God has and is in the process of removing from our lives. Economic stress from losing a job or reduced pay, anxiety about the future or cabin fever could entice us to look back and return to the vices we used to do to help give us relief, like drugs and alcohol or the even the more acceptable sins like gluttony, greed or envy of those who might not be as impacted by the pandemic. The enemy has a way of seasoning past sins with a sweet nostalgia that is attractive and alluring but is an illusion, a lie and a trap. Over glamorizing the feel good parts and downplaying the devastation. Loneliness is another enticer as a result of social distancing. How easy it is to load up Pornhub, or reach out to an ex or any form of intimacy which is actually plain, old lust. Dating apps are experiencing a surge of activity and, I can’t lie, this is the most active I’ve ever been on them but there is a dangerous slope if we don’t check our hearts. Because true intimacy comes from our relationship with God and should be the standard we bring into every relationship. I’m guilt of many of these things, which is why I’m writing about it. I admit it is a struggle keeping the hand on the plow, seeking the kingdom first and not looking back on our life that is now dead and gone. But if you are born again, the old man is dead and the new creation is born. Don’t let temptation and the stress of the times cause you to return to your vomit. That is not the type of reflection God wants in this season. Scriptures to Read: Genesis 19:24-26 Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. Luke 9:59-62 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 1 Peter 2:18-20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” Application: Think of a temptation or ungodly desire you have been struggling with particularly in the past few weeks. Confess those sins to God. Then, confess them to a close, trusted, Christian you know to pray with you. Prayer: Lord Jesus, I confess my sins to you and ask for forgiveness. I repent and ask for strength to turn away from my sin. I will seek the kingdom of heaven first and your righteousness. My life is not my own but was purchased with the blood of Jesus. Search my heart and mind of any impure or corrupted ways. My past is dead and gone. I am alive in you Jesus. You remember my sins no longer. My past is redeemed by God and will be used for your glory. Thank you for your mercy. Thank you for salvation. Remove the taste of sin and my desires of it forever. Amen.

Reflections: Day 6 - Reflecting on the Present

Reflections: Day 6 - Reflecting on the Present

This 7-day devotional series will reveal how to spend this time in quarantine reflecting and examining your life through God‘s eyes, so that you can redeem your thoughts towards your past, be present with Him and boldly enter the post-COVID world in the center of His perfect will in this season of our lives and the next. Thank God for hot showers. They are laboratories of epiphany. I don’t know if it’s the hot water hitting the skin, the feeling of cleanliness or slight vulnerability that is freeing, calming…and present. The hyper self-awareness centers me, allowing me to feel every second going by. Its probably why it's in the shower I can hear God the most and clearest and further proves the value of taking the time to be present. Being present in a moment can be challenging. I, for one, am often dwelling in the past like I mentioned in previous posts or constantly dreaming about the future leaving little time to be productive in the moment. And then there is the addictive and mindless habit of checking my phone and needing to be constantly stimulated with updates and endless scrolling. All of this robs us of the richness of life that surrounds us at any given moment. It can blind us to things right in front of us that we might later regret for not appreciating once it's gone. Reflecting on the present is an activity of taking inventory. Emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally and every other area in your life. What are things you can be thankful for today, and what things do you feel are missing? There is a lot of talk about the new normal that is already here in some ways and on its way in others. One thing I have learned is working from home isn’t so bad. I also learned I wanted to start a blog and podcast and business and finally take advantage of this moment because with so many distractions gone, I can think clearly about where I am in life. I don’t want to go back to normal. God makes a way out of no way and is ready to do a new thing. I want to be ready for that. That means I need to be listening to what He is saying in my spirit now. So many Christians are still relying and doing things from an old season, that they are missing what God is doing now. God might have called you to that church but now He might need your gifts and talents for another. Maybe the job God blessed you with has reached its expiration date because He has a better opportunity for you now. We need the fresh manna of God daily. When God delivered manna to the children of Israel, he gave them enough for that day only. If they tried to save it for the next day, it rotted and was crawling with maggots. Manna represents God’s living, right now word or rhema, the spirit to spirit communication God uses to speak with us today that is always aligned with His written word or logos, in the Bible. That is why we don’t live on bread alone but every word that proceeds from His mouth and, why Jesus referred to himself as the bread of life. He is our spiritual manna today. Faith is NOW. We need to be hearing what He is saying daily. That way we are dependent on Him daily and not running off ahead without Him, a persistent problem I have. That is why God often gives us the whole vision of the promise for hope but then only gives us pieces of the instructions to get there, always having to be present with Him every step of the way. As you reflect on your present situation, think about some of the answers to these questions: Am I where I need or want to be? Am I in the center of His will presently? What moves or changes do I need to make today to get there if I’m not? How is my relationship with God currently? What can I begin doing today to improve it? God has so much He wants to share with you. God has all the answers. Carve out some time to be alone with God today. The past is gone and, tomorrow is not promised. Carpe diem – seize the day! Scriptures to Read: Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Matthew 6:33-35 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Psalm 68:19 Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation! Selah Application: Take some time view God's creation. Either on a walk or sitting on porch or balcony during sunset or sunrise, pause for a moment to admire God's creation and what it reveals about His nature. Write down or record what is revealed. Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for waking me up and breathing life into me to enjoy this wonderful day you have made. I rejoice and choose to be glad in it. I repent of not putting you first and giving you the scraps of my time and attention. I come boldly to your throne, grateful and humble, seeking You. Your voice. Your presence. I ask that you set the agenda and not me. Pour your heart out to Me God so that I may know your ways and thoughts. What are your concerns? What would you have me to do today? Open my ears to hear and give me a heart receptive to what you have to say. Thank you for the blood of Jesus that allows me to have a relationship with you and to know you. Amen

Reflections: Day 7 - Reflecting over the Horizon

Reflections: Day 7 - Reflecting over the Horizon

This 7-day devotional series will reveal how to spend this time in quarantine reflecting and examining your life through God‘s eyes, so that you can redeem your thoughts towards your past, be present with Him and boldly enter the post-COVID world in the center of His perfect will in this season of our lives and the next. I didn’t realize I was a beach bum until I moved to California. I never grew up around the beach being from Indiana but as soon as I started going to the beach, I realized I could sit there all day doing nothing. I quickly bought a tent, beach chair and towel. I don’t go nearly enough. I plan to change that once I move closer. But sitting on the sand, watching the waves and staring over the horizon is mesmerizing. It seems infinite. The beach is the perfect place to reflect and do one of my favorite things: Dream. God sized dreams. About my future. Like I said before, a new normal is coming. Instead of fighting it, I want to be equipped and positioned to take advantage of the new opportunities that lie ahead. And how awesome that we serve a God who knows all things and can reveal the things to come. If only we were bold enough to ask and believing enough to listen for an answer. So many ideas have been birthed for me in this quarantine, including starting this blog. I am sure there will be all kinds of new technologies, businesses, practices and procedures developed from the pandemic. Wouldn’t you rather be an influencer of what becomes the new normal than have the new normal forced upon you? The world should be looking to God’s people for solutions and what’s next instead of the other way around, which has become common. Waiting on the world to change when, we the church, should be changing it. We have too much power and authority to sit back and wait to see what happens. Let's spend this time in reflection partnering with God on the future and our role in it. Wisdom is essential in navigating the weeks and months ahead. No one knows what is coming next, only God and maybe the creators of the Simpsons. I believe there is an ocean of creativity that has not been tapped by the body of Christ, rich in innovations that can change the course of your life and those around, all for His glory. Whom shall we fear when He goes before us, making our paths straight and lighting our way. Jesus calls us not to worry about tomorrow and we should not because if He is with us today, He will surely be with us tomorrow and the next day. He has a plan and hope and future for us that far exceeds our expectations and imagination. Your future is bright if it remains in Him. All we need to do is set our gaze upon Him, knowing as surely as the sunsets and rises again, so does God fulfill every promise He has for you, if you stay faithful. Scriptures to Read: Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Isaiah 42:9 Behold, the former things have come to pass,
And new things I declare;
Before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Proverbs 16:3 Commit your works to the Lord,
And your thoughts will be established. Application: Create a dream board, using scriptures, pictures, drawings, whatever to visually represents the promises and dreams God has for your life. Write the vision and make it plain to anyone who may see it. Post it somewhere you can see it every day. Prayer: Holy Spirit, I ask for wisdom. Lead me into all truth and guide me in the direction I should go. You have a hope and future for me. Search my heart and remove all that may hinder me. Renew my mind that I may know your perfect will. Give me the desires of your heart Lord. Synchronize my heart, mind and spirit with yours so we are one. Let me dream your dreams without limitations. Give me faith to walk out the truth identity, purpose and legacy you have for me to bring glory and honor for your kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven. Amen

My Thoughts on The Broad: A Contemporary Art Museum in the Heart of L.A.

My Thoughts on The Broad: A Contemporary Art Museum in the Heart of L.A.

I love art. I love museums I would not consider myself an intellectual, I don’t feel I’m well read enough for that but I love learning and consider deep thinking a hobby. What I don’t understand are those who classify themselves as non-thinkers and think museums are people. I might have a business degree and love working with number but I would still consider myself a creative and have a deep appreciation for the arts, the creative process and the artist. I have been around and known some truly talents artists, writers, musicians, dancers and painters. I even taught a 10-week small group based on Bill Johnson’s book Dreaming with God about the role of the Holy Spirit in the creative process. But I must admit, the mind of an artist is unique and fascinating and wildly different than mind. The way they capture sight, sounds, emotions and memories that ferment in their soul, rising to climax, flowing onto the canvas, pages, film and instrument, a piece of their soul taking a life of its own. This is why I love going to art museums. You get to see the history, culture of civilizations, and the skill and brilliance of people who are able to create things I could never even begin to create. At least that is how I feel about most art. And then there is contemporary art. Enter the Broad Museum, a FREE contemporary art museum in downtown Los Angeles. Would I recommend going? Yes! I mentioned it was free didn't I? Tip: The Broad is free but it requires an online reservation. Before the coronavirus, weekend reservations would sellout two-week out. Otherwise, you have to wait in the standby line and hope you can get in. It is a very nice museum with some very impressive and thought-provoking piece along with some fun interactive exhibits that is well worth your time if you are and art museum type a person. People who find art museums boring are dull themselves and lack the intelligence to keep up and provide little reason to invest a relationship with such a person. However, some, dare I say even a lot, of the art is hilariously pretentious and makes you wonder is this a joke I am no art expert and didn’t study it in school. I enjoy being employed with no student debt. But there is something underwhelming, pretentious and downright hilarious about contemporary art. What impresses me about most art is the fact that I don’t have the imagination or skill to come up with something even close to what they created. I can create the art or something like, knowing my lack of talent is such an arena, I question it's worthiness to be in a museum. Case and point, take this beauty…. Side note: in a bit of sad commentary on my generation, there were several individuals taking selfies and pictures of the art while STANDING IN FRONT OF THE ART. They were literally blocking the art in their photos as if they were the art. The murals and sculptures were their backdrops. The lack of awareness and narcissism is stunning, but I digress. Then there is perhaps my favorite piece: Michael Jackson and Bubbles. Behold and be enraptured by it's…it's…oddness yet splendor yet unsettling presence. Am I looking at him or is he looking at me? Did he just blink? Why can’t I look away or stop laughing? I cried actual tears laughing at the screenshots after my visit. Take a closer look... No, closer. Now that is art! If that doesn't make you feel some kind of way, I suggest someone check your pulse. The ability to convey deep, raw emotion, good or bad, reminds you that you are alive. The worst thing I would imagine for an artist is for their art to illicit no emotion. Indifference. That is usually how I feel about most contemporary art, indifference. However, the Broad is an experience I definitely plan to revisit as the range of art will trigger a spectrum of delight, confusion, anger, joy and everything in between. And with new artists exhibiting regularly, there is always something new to encounter. I just need this coronavirus to go away. Due to the coronavirus, the Broad is closed but they are offering a virtual tour experience below. https://www.thebroad.org/broadfromhome The Broad is a contemporary art museum on Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles. The museum is named for philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, who financed the $140 million building which houses the Broad art collections. The museum offers free general admission to its permanent collection galleries.

Address: 221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 232-6250
Tickets: free · thebroad.org

In Memory of Comic Con 2020

In Memory of Comic Con 2020

Oh 2020, have you no shame? What more do you want from us? Name your price. The white flag has been raised. We can't take it anymore. In the long list of hopes and dreams that were dashed this year, the year of COVID, one of them was Comic Con. Comic Con, an annual pilgrimage of nerds, freaks and geeks to geek mecca, always seemed to be a lofty dream as a teen and young adult, longing from the far reaches of Indiana where I grew up. California seemed a world away, let alone this premier event of pop culture, art and entertainment that I desperately wanted to mingle with. Then I moved to San Diego. Literally, one of the first things I researched to do once in SD was how to get Comic Con tickets, even before looking for employment (yes, priorities). That is where I learned about the infamous lottery process for the chance to purchase tickets. First, you have to go to https://secure2.comic-con.org/memberid/ and create a member ID if you have never been. You will need this to get alerts and info about attending, to participate in the lottery and to receive your badge. Then, in the fall of the year before the event, you have to enter THE LOTTERY. There are two lotteries: one for returning attendees you went the previous year only and one open lottery for everyone else who still doesn't have a badge after the first lottery. You are emailed a link with a time you have to be on a desktop computer, usually 9am PST, where you enter your member ID and at the stroke of 9:00, you enter a digital waiting room and....wait....and wait.......and wait to be selected by some comic con wizard to bestow the privilege of giving him money to attend his Grand Gala. It is nerve racking. Each passing minute is needle to the heart because badges always sell out within 40 minutes. In the 3 lotteries I've been in, the lottery never made it to 10am without selling out. There are only 100,000 badges given out, and you are competing in a world lottery. And if you are new, there are less badges to give out because the returners already claimed theirs in their lottery. Now, the following tip and story about what not to do brings up heated emotions in my family that I would recommend not bringing up at the next family reunion. The tip is to increase your chances of being picked, have other people WHO ARE NOT GOING to enter the lottery so if they get picked, they can put your name and ID on the badge, then you cashapp/venmo/paypal the money. One person can buy up to 3 badges, but everyone will need their own member ID to get a badge. Well, on our first go at the lottery, my brother Tommy and cousin Anysha, who lived in Indiana, planned extensively our Comic Con trip. Her brother Adryan never committed and was not involved in planning but was recruited to be a line filler to increase our chances. He was given explicit instructions on what to do in the chance he got picked, which was to put Tommy, Anysha and my name on the badges. (You may know where this is going.) So picture this. My brother and I sitting in the kitchen, bright and early, computers on and charging, credit cards and IDs ready and our phones on speaker as we talk to Anysha and Adryan, who were living together at the time. Giddy with excited, while knowing our chances are slim, we ran through scenarios, discussed who might be at the Con, what exclusive items we might grab, the places we'll eat......oh, just give us the badges already! The clock strikes 9. We enter the waiting room. Is everyone in? What are you seeing? Just a load bar and countdown to next refresh. There were a few false alarms. "You got it??!?!?!? Oh, I thought you said you did. You did????? Oh, you didn't?" The screen refreshes............................ ......................nothing. Still in the waiting room. Thirty minutes have passed and the soaring hope begins to recede into a gripping denial headed toward devastation. Fewer and fewer words were spoken. Contingency plans never discussed began formulating. We had to get picked. Why? Because. Because we had to. We wanted it too much. Then I hear whispers. My brother typing. "What is it?" I could tell something was going on. "Did Adryan get picked?" Silence. (He is sitting right next to me.) "Did Adryan get picked?" No response. I'm now angry. "What are you doing? What is happening?" Adryan has been selected Now it's pandemonium. Screams of joy. Everyone shouting over each other. Imaging my cousin running down the stairs to confirm with her brother. Member IDs and credit card numbers being shouted over the phone. "Did you get it right? Do you have it? WHAT IS HAPPENING? What are you seeing? TELL ME EVERYTHING." And that's when the truth came out. Adryan had made it to the payment page but Anysha's name was not on the list of badges. Why is Adryan's name on there? He said he wasn't going because he did not have money. But now, with the opportunity at hand, claims he planned to go all along. Devastation. There was never a scenario where this would happen. That he would get a badge and attend. My mother in the living room laughing at all of this: Comic Con, our excitement, the lottery, our incomprehensible determination and now this betrayal. I thought Anysha would murder him. He couldn’t go back to change name and ID. Our arguing and disbelief was futile. The timer to pay was close to ending and payment had to continue The badges were purchased for Tommy, me......and Adryan. I didn’t know what to say. I was just as devastated, by the injustice of it all. He stole her badge. Yes, he got picked but that was not the arrangement. Anysha surprisingly took it well (don't worry though, she would attend the following year. And will again in 2021 when our 2020 badges rollover from this year's cancellation.) Lesson: Be careful who you recruit to stand in line for you So Tommy, Adryan and I attended our first Comic Con. We only had badges for Friday and Saturday as the other days were sold out. We had no idea what we were doing and we were ill prepared for the heat and crowds. Luckily, my brother was able to score a night at one of the Gaslamp hotels, which is another, much more competitive lottery. Besides exploring the actual convention itself, which is basically the world's largest, most exclusive comic book store and geek man cave zapped with gamma rays, we really wanted to get into Hall H, the premier convention hall with the best panels of casts and celebrities of the biggest shows and movies, and hardest to get into. You have to get in line the day before, so early Friday morning around 7am, we got in line for an event that would start Saturday late morning. We thought we were early but the line was already hundreds of people long who got there at 5am. In line, we took shifts going into the convention and bringing back food and drinks. They did not start passing out the wristbands for Hall H till about 8pm. I was frantically checking Twitter to see if they had run out because even though we had been in line for over 12 hours, that did not mean we would get the wristband to enter Hall H. There are 4 groups of wristbands: A,B,C,D. Once D is gone, you are out of luck. Just wasted your whole day. Try again next year. So with each tweet of someone's lettered band, I could gage the chances of getting a band. At this point, the sun is down, and everyone is eagerly standing in anticipation, hypothesizing how close the volunteers passing out bands were and calculating the odds of making it to our part of the line. But then, we see flash lights. The bands made it to our part of the line. But would they run out before they get to us? The kept getting closer and closer. They could run out at any moment. Just short of reaching us. If we had only gotten up 30 minutes to get in line. They creep closer and closer. We got this. The devastation to get so close and not get in is too unbearable to contemplate. And then................. YES! WE GOT THEM. GROUP D. THE FINAL GROUP. After my heart rate returned to normal, we had to ask a very important question: What next? Originally, we were going to head home after getting our bands but after waiting all day, we were too afraid of leaving our spot in line and too unsure how it would work leaving and getting back in line in the morning. So, we joined the overnight slumber party in Embarcadero Park behind the convention center to hold our spot in line to get into the infamous Hall H. Again, we were woefully unprepared, not bringing enough snacks, water, seating, shade and something to sleep on outdoors on the incest covered grass of the marina behind the convention center. Side note: though getting into HALL H on our first Con and getting to see and hear from the cast and crew of Black Panther, Justice League, Stranger Things, Blade Runner, Ready Player One, Westworld, Thor Ragnarok and Atomic Blonde was a stellar achievement and great experience, the mental and physical lengths to get there are not worth repeating. I can say I did all that and now move on with my life. Year 2 was much better because we applied a lot of lessons from our year one, including getting a hotel room for every night in Mission Valley. We also won another lottery to attend the Conan O'Brien Comic Con taping. It would have been my third time this year to score tickets (thanks to my brother who has a gift of being selected in the lottery for tickets and hotels). But instead, I am sitting at home looking through pictures reminiscing about what could have been this year. I guess that's not so bad. Fingers crossed for 2021. Check out all things Comic Con at the link below: https://sdccblog.com/

California pastors petition to open May 31st.  Is it right to open now?

California pastors petition to open May 31st. Is it right to open now?

I came across an article online about California pastors planning to open May 31st, despite the governor's orders that churches remain closed until phase 3 of reopening, which has yet to be determined. The link to the article is at bottom of the page. Like most articles, I just read the headline and skipped to the comments section. One comment struck me hard: Would someone please tell me why Christians feels it so important to gather in large groups to practice their faith? It seems that the lockdown would be a perfect opportunity to read the Bible cover to cover (something I bet a lot of Christians have never done). I'm atheist, but I've read the entire King James version of the Bible, the Jewish Tanakh, the Qur'an, the Book of Mormon, the Buddhist Dhammapada, the Hindu Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads, and more. I have a feeling a lot of Christians get more satisfaction and comfort from the social aspect of church than they do from the scriptures, and the pastors get their satisfaction from a full offering plate on Sunday morning. Okay, he is an atheist and is cynical and doesn't understand the very communal and important part of worshipping with other believers and being in connection with the Body..... ......but.......he's also not wrong..... The church is not a building. We are the church. We are the temples of the Holy Spirit. We don't need to have a church building to have church. Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Too many Christians have built their faith on traditions and routine. Yes, we need the body to come together for the fellowship and community. There is power in unity and coming together to worship Jesus. But there are other ways to do that during this temporary health crisis. Let’s use our imaginations. Find Ways to Serve From food banks to checking in on your neighbors to donating blood, this is the time to be the church and not just go to church. I was able help assemble medical masks for first responders at my home church. Over all, our church helped and deliver over 350,000 medical masks. Check to see what your local church is doing. If they aren't doing anything, maybe you can be the one that starts something. For more information on how to volunteer in California, check out this link: https://www.californiavolunteers.ca.gov/get-involved/covid-19/ At Home Bible Studies Learning how to hear from God for yourself and not just relying on some pastor to do all your feeding. Many of us should be on meat but are still on milk. Let's take the time to learn how to praise and worship when there is no worship leader. Learn how to read the Bible without some pastor or author telling you which passages to turn to. We could be teaching our kids by example that time with God isn’t just at church on Sunday but everyday, everywhere. My mom would make me and my brother write our own Bible studies and we would have to teach them to the family. That is where I learned to love studying the Bible and discovered so much that honestly is rarely taught in the church. New Ways to Connect God has blessed this generation with technology that can connect us globally and instantly like never before. Streaming and video calls should be embraced. I have co-workers organizing game nights with families and virtual happy hours over video calls. My church's prayer teams have moved to praying for people over Zoom and has been effective. Here's a crazy idea, what if you picked up the art of letter writing and sent encouraging notes to loved ones. There is no limit to how God can connect His body to accomplish His purposes. Get Alone with God To be honest, church can be a distraction from God. We can get caught up in the routine and get so busy trying to be "a good Christian" we forget what it means to be a Christian, a relationship with God. Take this time to reconnect and elevate your relationship with Him. Pray Against the Real Enemy – the government is not the enemy. Please read this scripture. Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Don't get distracted. Don't fear. But there is an enemy set on killing, stealing and destroying. We need to be engaged in serious spiritual warfare instead of rushing to get back to our comfortable routines. Let's pray for our leaders, our essential workers, nurses and doctors, the scientists working on the vaccines and treatments. Let's also not forget the gift of healing and the laying on of hands to heal the sick. If more of the church walked in the power and authority Jesus gave us, the pandemic might have been over already. I don’t fear the coronavirus. I believe in the power of prayer and a God that protects and heals. I have seen Him come through too many times in my life and others to doubt Him. I am in California, and I disagree with how the lockdown orders are being implemented and that we are reaching the point that the economic collapse and detriments of lockdown are worse than the virus. It's unfair that Walmart, where people are all over each other buying non-essential items, can stay open but small businesses don't have the chance to safely reopen. But I’m not stupid either. Locking down is necessary, and it is working. The virus is highly contagious, and I believe the healthcare experts more than conspiracy theories. I would rather stay on lockdown a few more weeks than reopen, have a whole bunch people die then we shut down again and repeat over and over again. We can be inconvenienced for a little while for the benefit of other can’t we? I choose to be humble and not complain about small inconveniences that will save lives and get things back to normal sooner rather than later. Wearing mask is not the big a deal. Staying 6 feet apart, no big deal. Stay clean and sanitize, no problem. But remember, the church has not shut down and can’t because we the Christians still have our faith, our praise, our worship, our relationship with our Father and our gospel to spread. No one can take that away unless we are distracted by the strife the enemy is trying to stir up. I choose to see the opportunity in all this. An opportunity to pray like never before. An opportunity to be more like the church and repenting for being lazy and relying on the church “organization” – the building – to do the work that I should have been doing all along. Repenting for being a church consumer and not a contributor nearly enough. Repent of being afraid of being the church outside of church, Monday-Saturday. An opportunity to prepare myself for when the doors of the church do open, so I am renewed in Him so that I may pour myself out to Him with gratitude. An opportunity to not take the house of the Lord for granted. An opportunity to remind myself that nothing can separate me from the love of God, not the government or the locks on the doors of the church. https://www.championnewspapers.com/news/article_fc1e3cca-9160-11ea-89ac-0fa6937dba4d.html