Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Every December 31, I like to reflect on the year, looking back on everything that transpired over the past 364 days and what I hope the coming year will hold. I'd like to take the time to highlight some of the big events from 2008:
1. Rock the City & Franklin Graham Festival - attending these events were both fun because of the huge crowds present at both and being able to witness so many people either returning to God or giving their lives for the first time.

2. Thanksgiving in July - while this event was trying and time consuming, it was also so much fun to see twenty-some people come together and fellowship. What will forever be etched in my mind is the whole turkey thing. I didn't know it takes several days to unthaw a turkey so we had to creatively thaw it...that's all I'm saying.

3. Xtreme Camp - getting away from everything for 4 days was so much fun. We definitely experienced our share of fun things but we also encountered God. The thing that stands out to me the most was our first night there when we came together for our first service. We began with worship but it ended up lasting for the duration of the service. I'd never felt God like I did then and I remember right before we walked up to the stage I went to one of the girls in my cabin who had started crying while we were praying together. I gave her a hug and told her, "God hears you and loves you so very, very much." She started crying again and that caused me to cry. I think that night was a time of healing and breakthroughs for teens as well as leaders.

4. L.A. Missions Trip - this trip included a lot of firsts for me. It was my first mission trip, first time on a plane, first time going to Disneyland and first time going completely across the country. The week was so incredible - it was a time of fun but also of out-of-my-comfort-zone moments, too. Meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds was probably what I will remember the most. Hearing accents from all over was so cool and being able to work alongside people I probably wouldn't normally cross paths with was the perfect example of brothers and sisters in Christ joining together under a common goal.

5. Graduating...Finally! - being able to finally be done with school is both a huge accomplishment and a transition. Knowing that I won't ever have to deal with papers or professors or deadlines ever again is a hard thing to comprehend but it's also a relief to have it behind me.

This has been a busy year but it's been good. Sprinkle in a two concerts (John Reuben and Pursuit of Red at Zuma), a few worship nights and some movie outings to finish off the year. While I'm glad things have slowed down a little bit, I'm also really excited for all of the "beautiful surprises" awaiting me in 2009. See you next year!!

Monday, December 29, 2008


Have you ever felt you're standing on a precipice, daring to peek over the edge and gasp at the drop below? You want to cross the chasm separating you from the other side but there's something pulling at you, preventing you from making that attempt. Or maybe there's a door in front of you and try as you might, you're unable to open it. You turn the knob, bang on the door, kick the door - everything short of tearing it apart piece by piece. You know if you can just make it to the other side, you'll find what you're looking for but you have to first figure out a way to either cross the canyon or open the door...
It's as if you're on a plateau or stuck in neutral or find yourself in a monotonous routine that threatens to push you over that canyon. You can feel it in your bones that there's something big waiting for you on other side - the missing piece you've been searching for. It's as if you're being held back by some unseen force and you fight with every breath in your body to overcome and break free - to finally grasp the proverbial carrot dangling in front of you.
With a new year upon us, we all sit down to make new year's resolutions and other promises to ourselves that we more than likely will abandon shortly after we ring in the new year. We reflect on the past year and examine the things in our lives that we want to change - things we want to accomplish or experience. This is the time to gain our second wind as we struggle to overcome the things that we've battled during the year - the invisible hands that have been holding us back. With January 1 comes a fresh start for all us; a clean slate. We can choose to either continue to remain standing on one side of the canyon, staying where it's familiar and safe or take a risk and cross the distance by using the well-worn and fraying rope bridge. Yes, we may fall or have to stop along the way but "without risk you never fully discover who you are - who you can be."

Saturday, December 27, 2008


While holidays are a great time for family and being able to momentarily forget about all the things we must accomplish and check off a to-do list, it's also a time of thinking of what could be. I tend to want to run ahead of God on some things instead of surrendering to Him completely. Though I know He has great things for me, I don't like waiting or not knowing what the next step will look like. While waiting on God is a really great way for me to develop that trust in Him, it's also really hard being able to only see a small part of the big picture.

I feel like a broken record since I know I've posted about this before but the whole concept of surrendering to God keeps coming back to me. I don't think we can truly understand the importance of giving God our plans so He can have the freedom to work in us and help us become who we're meant to be - how He sees us.
I'm a sucker for happy endings and I thought of the movie The Family Man when writing this post. Jack is given the gift of being able to see what his life would be like had he made a certain choice only to find out it's nothing more than a dream. He then has to decide if he wants to really have the life he imagined and then make it happen.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


I find it almost comical how far the world strives to blur truth from reality when it comes to holidays important to the Christian faith. Christmas is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of a baby who forever changed the world He just became a part of. Instead it’s about Santa and reindeer and presents and lights and all of these other things; it seems we’re so far removed from the real reason of Christmas at times. On the other hand, the world will also acknowledge the true meaning as they sing carols, proclaiming Christ’s birth. It seems that Christmas is the only time of year where it’s not infringing on personal freedoms or separation of church and state to talk about Jesus or sing about Him.

It can be so easy to become wrapped up in gift giving and all the other things we associate with Christmas that we lose sight of what it’s really all about. It IS about giving; God gave us the gift of His Son yet I think we sometimes feel like we have to spend all kinds of money, go on a hunt for the ‘perfect’ gift, cover our house with lights, decorate every inch of yard with inflatable characters along with plastic nativities (my favorite is Santa kneeling at the manger – don’t quite get that) and whatever else. What happened to family gathering together and simply enjoying the closeness and love provided by such an atmosphere? No matter how much money is spent on gifts, there’s no amount that can buy happiness. We’ve diluted Christmas down to money instead of the priceless gift we all received, if we’re willing to accept it.

I hope that we can disentangle ourselves from Hollywood’s picture of Christmas and refocus back on the real meaning. It’s like a box within a box. At the very center is a tiny box representing Jesus but it’s inside box after box that we sometimes forgets it’s there and even add another box to the many layers. Let’s take the time to peel away the layers and embrace the timeless story of a baby in a manger who is the perfect picture of love.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

run your race

So yesterday was a roller coaster day; I don’t know the reason for the ups and downs I experienced but it was just one of those days where you want to do nothing more than go home, put on some pajamas, grab a carton of ice cream or chocolate (maybe even both) and lose yourself in a chic flick where the guy predictably but reassuringly gets the girl.

I’ve realized it can be so easy to look at others and secretly wish for what they have. While happy for them, you also can’t help but think that life on their side of the fence must be a little greener. The only problem with this attitude is that all of us have a different race to run in this life. God put different gifts and calls in all of us, causing the path which we are led on to be just as different. To want the life someone else has is saying you want to trade in the plans God has for you in order to live someone else’s life. In a sense, you’re substituting your uniqueness to be average (I’m borrowing that from the youth pastor at Angelus Temple).

I’ve concluded the only solution to this is to turn to the Bible and lay hold of all the many promises God has for us. If we can confidently trust that God knows exactly what He’s doing and give Him every part of our lives – our dreams, desires, hopes, plans…basically everything – then He can have the freedom to lead us down a path that is so amazing, wrought with all the things our heart longs for but carried out according to His timetable and as He sees fit. Here are some verses to get you jump started:

“I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (Message)

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” – John 15:7

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8

“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.” – Matthew 6:25-26 (Message)

Monday, December 22, 2008


Today was a rather challenging day...I'm chalking it up to being Monday. I was in need of something to make me laugh and wanted to share...

Saturday, December 20, 2008


With Christmas right around the corner, the whole reason for the holiday is on my mind. I love the Christmas story because as Pastor has said before, it’s a story that is so far fetched that it has to be believable. Think about it. God, in order to save a lost and searching people, sent His Son as a baby to that very world. He didn’t send Him as a man with a strong army, ready to conquer those who opposed Him but sent Him in such a subtle and unassuming way. He sent Him not to be born into a king’s family or even a priest or wealthy family but to a teenage girl who was no one to give a second glance to. Add to this the fact Mary wasn’t even married but engaged (I’m sure the talk around the well was just buzzing).

So Gabriel appears to Mary, with news that I’m sure was hard for her to comprehend. He tells her that God has chosen her to be the vessel with which He will provide salvation for the world. The only catch is that she has to say yes. God isn’t going to force her to bear His Son. I was talking to Dayton a few weeks ago and he brought up a point that I had never thought about before. I’ve always thought about the fact if Mary had said no, God would have found someone else but Dayton posed the question of was Mary the first one? How many other girls had Gabriel appeared to before Mary? I think it’s an interesting concept. How many girls laughed when Gabriel told them they would be the one to give birth to God’s Son?

And then when the time does come for Mary to finally bring the promised Messiah into the world, she doesn’t give birth in a comfy inn or even someone’s home. The only place available (since Jesus couldn’t wait any longer to make His appearance) was the same place occupied by animals. The first ones to greet the Savior were donkeys and horses. Shepherds were the ones to behold the tiny baby and stare at Him in awe. It all sounds so completely out there but at the same time, makes perfect sense. There’s a feeling of rightness in such a beginning to God’s plan of redemption for us. But for any of it to happen, Mary had to say, ‘“Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38).

I found this video, showing clips from the movie The Nativity Story and really like how it’s coupled with the song “Filled with Your Glory” by Starfield.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


A few months ago our youth worship band, Pursuit of Red, played at a local youth rally. Some of us went out to show our support and towards the end of the service, we were asked to get with someone else and pray for them. Alicia and I prayed for each other and one of the things she asked God for me was for “beautiful surprises.” That phrase has stuck with me and I can’t help but wonder at the vast amount of surprises God has for us, just waiting to shower them upon us.

I helped throw a surprise birthday party for a friend earlier in the year and though I wasn’t able to see his face at the exact moment when he realized what was happening, I was assured that he was truly surprised. A surprise party is not nearly as much fun if the person for who the party is for either knows about the party or doesn’t like surprises, making such an event rather awkward. Such a person is hindering himself from allowing others to bless him and could be missing out on some really great things by having such a mindset. How often do we do the same thing with God? We either constantly question Him, being no better than the child who incessantly asks his father, “Can we play now, dad? Can we play NOW, dad?” or we become so close-minded to anything that’s out of our comfort zone that such experiences simply pass us by.

Someone could have a gift in hand, ready to give it to you, but until you make that move to accept it, they’re left standing there waiting and you’re standing there empty handed. I think it’s so important that we remain open to what God wants to do in our lives. It would be like asking Him to bless us but then giving Him a list of guidelines on how to bless us. How fun is it for the blesser to be told by the bless-ee how to do the blessing?

Let us learn from the movie Elf. Jovi is presented with a surprise when Buddy asks her out. She could have said no (which would have been understandable – the guy did eat cotton balls and used gum) but she saw an opportunity before her and decided to step out of the box. Moral of the story? Don’t be so quick to overlook what could quite possibly be the most amazing and beautiful surprise.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


When working with four year-olds, it's important to keep them busy and focused, otherwise chaos is most likely to ensue. Idle hands are curious hands and if you want to maintain even the slightest amount of order in the classroom, you will think of ways to use this energy to your advantage. One thing I do and I'm still amazed at the effectiveness (for the most part) is to explain that I'm in need of helpers and I'm looking for boys and girls who are sitting like they're supposed to, not talking, etc. (basically what they're supposed to be doing all the time but they are four :-) As soon as I make this announcement, every child sits a little straighter and looks oh so angelic. There's always the one or two, even though I said I wouldn't call on those who are talking who say, "I want to be a helper." I've tried using the tactic of saying I'll be watching from the time we go to praise and worship until after the lesson to instill that thought of, "Oh, she's watching me. I better be good!" but I'm still working on that.

It's like when parents tell their kids year-round to be good because Santa's watching you. I never believed in Santa growing up (and I'm thankful because how traumatic would that be to believe in this person but then find out he's not real?) but I would think that might be a little scary to kids that someone is watching them, without their knowledge. And the whole coal thing? Don't get me started.

There's also the instance of in school, when the teacher has her back to the students and says, "I'm watching you. I've got eyes in the back of my head." What's the obsession with letting children know they're being watched? I think we all know it doesn't ensure good behavior, otherwise they wouldn't need the constant reminder. Add your pastor telling you that God's watching you as well and you realize that there's always someone who sees you, 24/7. So why do we do things when no one's looking, thinking no one sees us? Apparently, there are a lot of people watching us, whether we know it or not. I don't know that this post really had a point but was something I was thinking about...

Monday, December 8, 2008


I worked with the four year olds yesterday morning and taught on the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. I had skimmed over the lesson on Saturday and actually took the time to really read it Sunday before any delightful children showed up to the classroom. As I read over the points for the lesson, I couldn’t help but realize I could learn from this story as well. Zechariah and Elizabeth were both older but had never had any children. I’m sure they probably questioned God as to the reason for this since they both served Him and Zechariah was even a priest. I’m sure Elizabeth wanted a child to hold in her arms and Zechariah wanted a son to carry on the family name and maybe even become a priest like him. Yet year after year, Elizabeth remained barren. How many times do we find ourselves in the same position? We desire something from God and question why He’s yet to answer us.

So one day an angel appeared to Zechariah as he was offering incense in the temple. What I find so cool about this story is that on the day the angel appeared to him, Zechariah was performing a ‘once in a lifetime’ act. The ability to decide who would enter the temple to present the incense before God was determined by casting lots. So as Zechariah stood before the altar, an angel spoke to him, promising he would indeed receive his long-awaited child; not just a child but a son. But because he doubted (as we all tend to do), he was unable to share this great news with all those who had looked at him and Elizabeth with disapproval (since the fact that she had remained barren for so long could sometimes be viewed as a sign of God’s disfavor). For nine months, he had to remain silent; only able to watch as his wife bore the evidence of the angel’s words. As the story continues, once John is born and Zechariah insists that will be the child’s name, he’s able to talk again and he and Elizabeth share in the joy of finally having a son. On the heels of this birth, Elizabeth’s cousin Mary is also pregnant (with a certain Son of God) and seeks refuge at Elizabeth’s house while she decides what her next step looks like (another story entirely).

A few things I want to point out that really spoke to me are this:
1. When the angel spoke to Zechariah, one of the things he said was, “…your prayer has been heard…” – even when we feel like are prayers are going no higher than the ceiling, God does hear us.
2. The last part of the lesson said, “God always keeps His promises” – we may think God’s forgotten us and we’ll never receive the things we feel He’s promised us but GOD ALWAYS KEEPS HIS PROMISES.

I want to end with what Gabriel told Mary when she asked how she was ever to give birth to the Savior, “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I was driving to work today and couldn't help but not miss a u-haul-size truck parked in an empty parking lot, plastered with scriptures; basically presenting a "get right or get left" message to all those who might read it. Though I’m sure the owner of this truck has the best of intentions, I can't help but wonder if there's not a better way of reaching those who are searching. Instead of offering condemnation (and I’m not saying this man is) why not offer love? Why not let our actions speak for us?

If we look at Jesus' ministry, He didn't point His finger in people's faces (except for maybe the Pharisees but they already claimed to have salvation - another story entirely) but instead treated them with kindness as well as offering them hope. I think of the woman who had been caught in adultery. Jesus had every right to condemn her and tell her what a horrible thing she'd done. Instead, He said, ‘“Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”’ (John 8:10-11)

One of the coolest things about our time in L.A. was the fact that when we ministered to people, we were able to look past their physical condition (be it that they were homeless or whatever) and simply show them God’s love. We went to Skid Row one day and gave out hot meals to people and also passed out cups of water to those waiting in line. Something as insignificant as a cup of water but at the same time, on a hot day a cup of water could be an answer to prayer for someone. I know for me, I was able to give a genuine smile to all those I handed out water to and my hope is that they were all able to see God in me and in the rest of us there. We didn’t preach to them or tell them they were sinners; we gave them food and tried to love them as God does. We let our actions speak for us.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I’ve just finished my work for the semester and will graduate with my Master’s degree next weekend. While I’m immensely relieved to have this behind me, I’m also a little unsure of what to do with myself now that I’m really through with my college experience. After being in school for my whole life, how am I supposed to transition to life away from the classroom? The fact that I’m wanting to be a teacher ensures that I’ll never walk completely away from the learning experience but still, it feels so weird knowing that I’ll never again have to go through the process of registering for classes, purchasing text books (and paying an arm and a leg for them!), enduring waiting for my grades to be posted, or anything else associated with higher learning.

So while I’m super excited to no longer have to deal with the stress and time constraints provided by school, I’m a little sad that it really is over. It’s as if I’ve been handed a blank book, ready for me to fill it with whatever I choose. I can go down whatever path suits my fancy and use my degree or not use it or whatever I want. There’s a sense of freedom attached to finally reaching this point in my life. So I think the logical thing to do is look to God and ask for His direction as I begin a new chapter in my life. The time following graduation can be full of countless opportunities and experiences if I’ll follow God and walk down the path He’s leading me on. I have no idea what’s in store for me now but will follow Lincoln Brewster’s advice in his song, “Today is the Day.”

I putting my fears aside
I`m leaving my doubts behind
I`m giving my hopes and dreams to You

I`m reaching my hands to Yours
Believing there`s so much more
Knowing that all You have in store for me is good

I found this clip from The Office and wanted to share. Enjoy.