Trusting God Through The Storm

About 11 years ago we bought a house. It was our second home and it was about as close to our dream home that we were going to get. It was walking distance to the school I teach at. The kids could grow up there and be able to attend the high school where I teach. It was a new home and a blank canvas. We could make it anything we wanted it to be. We felt really blessed to be able to buy this house and looked forward to many years there. With the financing we got, we were able to buy more home than we could afford at the time and my wife could stay home with the kids (we had a 2 year old and twins on the way). My teacher’s salary would go up, as it does every year and, by the time the mortgage adjusted, the house would be worth enough to refinance and my salary would be enough for the higher payments. It was a good plan and one we felt certain God had led us to.As we all know, mortgage rates jumped, home prices collapsed, and many salaries, including mine dropped. When our mortgage adjusted, my salary was not enough to cover the payment and we were upside down on the mortgage and could not refinance. The program for “Making Homes Affordable” didn’t and we were forced to sell our home in a short sale.

I was confused as to why God would lead us to this wonderful home and then take it away. I kept asking for answers and for clarity. What was I supposed to do now? I found myself in the middle of a storm that I didn’t see coming. I was suddenly moved from a place of security to a place of desperation.

In Mark, chapter 4, we read the disciples were in a much more dire situation. The literal storm that had come upon them suddenly, had them fearing for their lives… While Jesus slept, appearing not to care; appearing not to be doing anything.

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (?Mark? ?4?:?35-41? NIV)
In the midst of the storm, Jesus expected the disciples to know that He had it all under control. I think there are two significant points of the story. First, is that Jesus is in control and we should trust Him. The other, though, is that He is able to surprise us with what He is able to do, no matter how well we think we know Him.

Jesus calmed the storm and then asked His disciples why they didn’t trust Him. I’m pretty sure He has said that to me, as well, more than once.

This is not the only time Jesus taught about trusting God. Early in His ministry, during the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus compared our Heavenly Father to a caring earthly father.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (?Matthew? ?7?:?7-11? NIV)
Jesus tells us that is is OK to ask… no, He encourages us to do so. Our Father loves us more than any earthly father could, so, of course, He will give us what we need. Not necessarily what we think we need, but what He knows we need.

I still struggle with this sometimes. I know God loves me. I know He is able to do all things, including helping me through my storm, but why would He, when so many others need more than I do? The answer is there in Jesus’ message. It doesn’t say “those who really need it…” or “those who ask first… or loudest… or most often…” He says “EVERYONE who asks…”

Even me. Even you.
So, we moved into a rental, still walking distance to my work and the kids’ school. It was smaller, but a perfect home for us for the time being. We were able to set money aside over the next 3 years and rebuild our credit score. We always put God first and never varied in our tithing and offerings given through our church, where we regularly attend. This last year, God blessed us with a home to buy. No fancy financing this time. Not a lot of bells and whistles. Still, a nice home, in walking distance to school and work, with enough rooms for each kid to have their own. And a lot of projects to do to make it our own. I’ll be working on those for a while.
I can almost hear Him;
“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

If you are not currently in a storm, you either have been recently, or will be soon. We all have storms. We all have doubts. Sure, we should be praising God and building our relationship with our Savior all the time, but it’s during these storms that we fall to our knees and cry out to Him. 

This is when we learn to rely on Him. It’s a common christian myth that God will never give us more than we can handle, but He will certainly never give us more than He can handle. At least some of the storms we face are because God wants us to rely on Him. He wants us to admit that we need Him.

Every time we cry out to God, it’s for a want of more of something. More security. More courage. More strength. More health. More love. More shelter. More wisdom.

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

What is your storm? What do you need to rely on God for right now. Jesus tells us to ask… to seek… to knock. This is a natural progression towards answered prayer. Ask God in faith. Seek out the answer. When you get to the door, knock, and go through.

Truth be told, there will always be storms. Jesus will always calm them, if we ask.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (?Ephesians? ?3?:?20-21? NIV)

Changing Minds, NOT!

2009-usa-flag-graphics

Some of my regular readers may have noticed a diversion in my writing from the political arena. While some of that is because I have been focused on running and healing and, thus, my thoughts have also been focused on those things.

I have also been focusing more on mentoring and affecting positive change. No one I have ever met has changed their political opinion because of a blog or facebook post. I had my friends on the right arguing with me. I had my friends on the left arguing with me. While I still have strong political opinions, I would rather spend my energies in more constructive efforts.

Without disparaging him as person, I believe that President Obama possesses a significant character flaw in that he does not recognize when something is not working and, rather than correct it, he insists that it is working. Even if one agrees with the leftist ideals, it is hard to find anything that is working in the present administration as he said it would. The preferred method of dealing with issues has become to blame others or deny failure; i.e. Affordable Care, Benghazi, IRS targeting, immigration, weakening world image in regards to Putin and Iran, etc, etc…

I believe our nation is in decline. I believe that Obama wants to change our position in the world and, although his intent may be noble in his mind, in my perspective, he has done more damage to our country, both domestically and on the world stage, than any other single person in history. I believe his vision for what the United States should be is not good for the world. I believe that the U.S. has always been a world leader and President Obama wants us to be more like part of a world committee.

I do not believe that the Republicans have a solid plan to repair the damage, nor am I convinced that some of these same issues would not have appeared had we elected Mitt Romney. I am fairly certain, however, that it was a bad idea to elect someone without any previous leadership experience and I feel Romney would have handled many of them more effectively. (I should add that Romney was not my choice either.) Barack Obama is an excellent campaigner, but a poor leader. In my opinion, he has demonstrated this repeatedly.

Truth be told, I don’t think he is a bad person, but I’m fairly certain he is a bad presidient.

CIM 2013

Run for a Reason - BeChange

Run for a Reason – BeChange

27 degrees! 7AM. At least it’s not raining!

I expected to have a good race, although I was concerned about my training (or lack thereof) over the past 4 weeks.

2013 was to be the year of goals… of achievements… of miles and races and personal bests. Instead it was a year of injuries and frustration. On the upside, I did finish my first 50k, my second marathon, and an adventure run that took me beyond anything I thought I would possibly be able to do… ever. I had the opportunity to mentor a student through completing her first marathon and that has led to mentoring three more students in running races in 2014. I completed 17 races and some of those did have improved times over last year. I ran a total of over 800 miles (although I was shooting for 1000); that’s a lot of miles for a 3rd year runner. My injury in February slowed me down and I over-trained trying to make up for it. That probably contributed to my plantar fasciitis which has plagued me for the last 3 months.

Despite that, I had high expectations for the CIM and felt good at the start. The plantar fasciitis was sore, but not affecting my stride and not unbearable. Running with the 4:10 pace group through the first 3 miles and settling in on pace to complete at 4:30 through the half, I still felt I was on track.

I don’t know if it was the pounding of the pavement, or the cold, or the fact that I had run very little over the past 4 weeks, but the hurt set in at about mile 15. I was able to push through and still had hopes for a decent finish for the next 5 miles. Passing through the “wall” I felt I could still pick up the pace and finish strong, but the more I tried to pick it up, the slower I got. My foot was still hurting and now so were my knees and calves.

My buddy, Dave, caught me at about mile 22 and we decided we were too tight to really run and that our goals were so far out of reach that it didn’t matter any more. Quitting was still not an option and, as we often say, “keep a pace… forward is a pace.” So, after a stop at “aid station” Starbucks, we continued at a shuffle-walk until the end. We talked and hung out and made plans for how we might help next year without running and what trail races we might do.

26.2 miles in just under 6 hours. It actually turns my stomach a little and I’m a little embarrassed of my time, and a little angry at myself, but we did finish.

The most important thing is that, no matter how difficult, and painful, it got, we did not let down the kids we were running for. See, we run for a reason. We run for those who can’t, who don’t have some of the bare necessities that we take for granted every day. Things like school supplies, medical and dental care, clothes, meals, etc. What’s amazing is that this tremendous need that we run for is right here in Sacramento.

Jason Harper, founder of Be Change shared this with us, talking to all of us who ran:

 

Yesterday I met with a child who will benefit from your efforts.  Before I could say hello, he said, “How’d all our runners do? Did we do good?”  
 
He is 12 years old and I had been telling him the support he receives to get a warm jacket, a trip the dentist, or a doctors visit is because of Be Change Runners.  That is where he found love, acceptance and kindness. Its also why he said “Did WE do good?”  Because he aligns himself with you.  You are part of the only resource for life altering needs being met in his life.  On behalf of him, thank you.
 
I told him, “We did real good!”  I said that because of you.
Truth be told, I have no intention of running CIM, or any long race on roads again, but I’m glad I did it. I hope I can continue to raise awareness and money to help these kids change their circumstances. Please help me by contributing on my Group Rev page. Together we can make a difference. No gift is too small or too large and it is tax deductible.
Thank you!

Proposition Picks

Several of my friends and readers have asked about the whereabouts of my typical proposition recommendations. I have posted my thoughts about two of this year’s propositions (30 and 32) in my post from September 28 in detail. As usual, I have read the texts of the propositions and try to see past the ads that misrepresent to voters what they will really result in. My thoughts on the others, as far as I have them, are presented here.

Prop 30 – increases sales tax and income taxes on high income earners. The presented purpose is to support schools, however, the text of the law creates NO NEW ACCOUNT and, in fact places all of the increased revenue in the hands of the very politicians that have been mismanaging the state budget for years; in the general fund to be used as the legislators dictate. Recommendation – NO

Prop 31 – Increased accountability and forces a 2 year budget. Recommendation – Yes

Prop 32 – Stops unions from taking money from employees without consent to use for political support. CTA and other unions are trying to convince voters that this law prevents unions from supporting political causes while allowing private industry to continue to do so. The key fact is that a business owner uses his own money or money from his or her company to support what they choose, while the unions take money from employees and use it, in many cases, to support political causes contrary to the employees’ whose money they are taking. Recommendation – YES

Prop 33 – Allows consumers to change insurance providers and transfer their ‘good driver’ discount with them. Recommendation – Yes

Prop 34 – Repeals the death penalty in California. Recommendation – vote your conscience.

Prop 35 – Increases penalties for human trafficking convictions. Recommendation – Yes

Prop 36 – Modifies ‘3-Strikes Law’ to reflect the original intent. Currently, an individual with two violent convictions could get a life sentence for a non-violent conviction. The law would change to only give a life sentence to those with three violent convictions. Recommendation – Yes

Prop 37 – Requires labeling of genetically engineered food. In my opinion this is a waste of money. Recommendation – No

Prop 38 – Increases income taxes to provide funding for schools. This proposition is vague at best. It seems to be poorly written and gives more money to the politicians that have been mismanaging it. I don’t trust them. Recommendation – No

Prop 39 – Restructures corporate tax laws to require companies to pay taxes based on where their business is done, rather than where they have their corporate headquarters. Eliminates the advantage of placing the headquarters of a company outside California when their business is done in the State. Recommendation – Yes

I hope this helps you all make informed decisions. Happy voting!

“Oh CTA, ‘there you go again'”

The biggest problem with the California Teachers Association is that they attempt to use our children in an attempt to blackmail us into paying for their liberal causes. If you happen to lean left, this may be OK with you, but I think it is fairly obvious that their political agenda is much more important to them than are teachers or students.

The CTA support of propositions 30 and 32 illustrate this pretty effectively.

Proposition 30 is a tax increase for high income earners, but also a sales tax increase (supposedly temporary, but I’ve never seen one that is). The CTA is telling us that there will be mid year cuts to education if this is not passed. The truth is that there may be. I didn’t say the blackmail was a bluff. However, the wording of the proposition does not guarantee the funds raised go to education. They go to the general fund, which means it can be spent any way the legislature chooses. The legislature has mismanaged our money so badly, I just don’t see any reason to give them any more. Not only that, increasing sales tax always leads to less buying power and lower consumer confidence. Raising taxes has never had the effect of improving the economy.

The CTA opposes proposition 38 because it does not have the automatic guarantee that mid year cuts will be avoided, but, in fact, the current budget was not approved based on the passage of proposition 30, so it’s failure shouldn’t affect the current budget… I point again to the blackmail.

Proposition 32 limits the ability of unions to take workers’ money and use it for political contributions. Again, if you lean left, you probably don’t mind how the CTA spends the money they collect from teachers to support liberal candidates and causes, so, like the CTA, you might want to vote this down. The argument of unions is that wealthy individuals and corporations can make large contributions, but this takes away the political voice of the unions.

Here is the key difference… wealthy individuals and corporations are spending individuals’ money to support causes and candidates they believe in. Unions, on the other hand, take workers’ money and spend it how the unions want to, regardless of what the workers themselves may want to support. More conservative teachers, for example (I know we are rare, but we do exist), have our dues taken from us to support liberal politicians and legislation aimed at increased government, taxes, and social programs. Not to mention the CTA’s role in taking away parental rights for parents of students in public schools. We are told we can “opt out” of the political contribution part of our dues, but it never ceases to amaze me that when they calculate the part of our dues used for “contract negotiation” it always comes out that the political part is a very small slice – of course, those who get the money are the ones who get to determine this, hmmm. They also make certain that those who “opt out” are not protected if there is any legal action against them.

Truth be told, the propositions determine who gets your money and what they can do with it. I suggest you read them and decide for yourself. I’m voting “NO” on 30 and 38 and “YES” on 32. I’ll decide where my money goes, not the CTA.

Chicken, Marriage, and Civil Rights or “How Marriage Equality Advocates Could Win The Debate”

I got sucked into a Facebook debate about Chik Fil A president Dan Cathy the other day. I probably should have just stayed out of it, but it’s been on my mind since then. Dan Cathy was called a bigot, a hate-monger, and intolerant. It also was suggested that the “one issue that separates the ‘good guys’ from the ‘bad guys’ is their opinion on marriage equality.”

I’m not thrilled about being called a “bad guy” and I don’t really agree that I am an intolerant, bigoted, hate-monger. I was even told that I was “hurting people I care about” because of my beliefs and opinions. So I had to think about why this issue has become so huge in recent years and what we can do about it. I think it is necessary to divide the issues and discuss them individually.

First (because it’s easiest) – Dan Cathy, Chicken and The First Amendment…

Reasonable people agree that Dan Cathy has the right to say what he wants and to support causes he chooses with his money. People may choose to not patron his restaurants because they disagree with him. Fine. No one has said that any of this violates his rights or their rights in any way. The First Amendment comes into play only when government officials threaten to limit his ability to do business in their districts because they disagree with his moral views. This is a clearly bigoted and intolerant position on their part… not on Dan Cathy’s part.

This leads to a second issue – terms and definitions…

Bigotry is behavior. Intolerance is behavior. Hate is an attitude. Some have claimed that Dan Cathy (and others) are all three of these because of their beliefs and that the only reason he treats customers and employees the way he does is because it is required by law. This is a ridiculous argument. It is possible to make a conclusion based on someone’s behavior, but it is unreasonable to make a conclusion about their thoughts that is contrary to their behavior. Tolerance is, in fact, the very acceptance of those with whom we disagree. I would concede that Cathy may have been insensitive in the way he answered the question, but it is, at least unfair, to label him in the way that he has been.

Enough about Dan Cathy… he really is not that important to this debate and does nothing to further the discussion, other than perhaps shedding national spotlight on it.

The problem is that some have redefined bigotry and intolerance as anyone who disagrees with their opinion and if one should voice that opposing opinion that is labeled “hate.”

One more clarifying definition… Marriage is NOT a civil right. Marriage is a ceremony, originating with religion, in which a man and woman are joined according to their religious beliefs. This is the definition of the term. Marriage has been recognized by most governments as giving these couples certain rights and responsibilities, but it is not, in and of itself, a right.

This leads us to the question of civil rights. What rights should all people have? What rights are afforded to married couples that others should have and do not?

Finally, then, how can those who are currently arguing for “marriage equality” secure the actual rights they seek for those who are currently denied them. The question to ask is, “Why are these rights given only to married people?” Shouldn’t non-married people, regardless of sexual preference, be allowed to choose their beneficiary? Shouldn’t everyone be allowed to determine who can visit them in the hospital? Shouldn’t any person be able to assign any other person of their choosing to have power of attorney or any other rights of survivorship they choose?

Truth be told, I would never deny any rights to any one and I will fight for and support those who are denied rights for any reason. However, comparing gay marriage to slavery and women’s right to vote is an insult to those who fought so hard for so long for those rights. I don’t believe that opinion makes me bigoted or intolerant. It’s OK with me if you disagree and I don’t hate you if you do so. According to the definition, marriage is not a right. Let’s fight for the actual rights and stop all the name calling and the intolerance on both sides.

Why So Much of the World Hates Christians – Part 1

It is no secret that much of the world dislikes (at least) Christians. Many Christians, on the other hand seem to take this as some sort of affirmation since they are “hated because of Jesus.” Unfortunately, that is not the only reason.

Gandhi said “I like your Christ, I just don’t like your Christians.” I believe this is because there is an air of arrogance among Christians that is all too common. It is ironic to me that the very thing that we should be most humbled by creates this attitude of being better than others. That is, the saving grace offered to all by Jesus Christ’s supreme sacrifice. We are all “saved by grace, and that not of your own selves, lest anyone should boast.” Yet, boast we do.

Christians are often judgmental. Jesus told us that only God will judge, but His would-be followers seem to take upon themselves to be His proxy in determining who is a Christian, what defines a Christian and whether or not they are adequate at being such. Not to get political (that is not my point today), but prominent, well-respected Christian leaders, Franklin Graham and Rick Warren have each taken it upon themselves to declare that presidential candidate Mitt Romney is not a Christian.

Franklin Graham stated that Newt Gingrich is, because he claims to be such, but Romney is not, despite that Romney also claims to follow Christ. Rick Warren says that “the sticking point” is that Mormons do not believe in the Trinity as three separate beings as the “majority of Protestant religions and Catholics do.” There are two major flaws with that statement. First is that Catholics do not believe in the Trinity as three separate beings, but rather as one being who appears in three different forms. His second error is that Mormons do actually believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three separate beings and state so in their first article of faith.

As an ex-mormon, I will gladly discuss my disagreements with that belief system and reasons that I chose to leave it, but the doctrine of the Trinity is pretty sound in that respect and Rick Warren simply does not have his facts straight. My concern here, however, is with Christ followers claiming that they are in a position to judge who is or is not a Christ follower. Isn’t that for Jesus Christ to determine?

Truth be told, it hurts all of us and diminishes our integrity as representatives of Jesus to claim from God what He says is only His… Judgement is The Lord’s.

Hyperinflation and Education…

 

I’m not quite as anarchical as some of the people in this video. However, it is critical for us to realize that it may be too late to save our economy and, perhaps, our nation. The government is NOT our friend. After hyperinflation destroys our monetary system as we know it, those who have a tradable skill or the ability to produce a necessary product will be the ones who survive. Everyone else will be forced into a life of servitude and absolute poverty like we have never seen. I am not talking about a great depression – I’m talking about the absolute and complete collapse of our economic system. The government strategies are NOT working. They cannot work.

It’s true that the education system we now live and work in is actually a propaganda machine whose largest purpose is to create more people dependent on that very system.  On the other hand, we live in that system so we have to learn to work within it. There are exceptions, but, in general, higher education still leads to better jobs, but so does more practical experience. While a college degree does not set you apart, because everyone has one, NOT having a college degree puts you well behind those who do for most career paths. You have to have both. Get as much education as you can without debt. Get as much experience as you can. Learn to think creatively. Realize that owning a home is not, necessarily, the key to the American Dream. Invest in your future (real estate is not a good investment) and live within your means.

Truth be told, the student who is able to work and gain experience while putting themselves through college, graduates with true value in the real world and in the job market place.

Osama Bin Laden and Paul – A Comparison

It has become somewhat trendy among more liberal Christians to make a comparison between Osama Bin Laden and Paul (as in wrote half the New Testament). The thinking is that, before he became Paul, Saul was a really bad guy and then God changed him and he became the most prolific evangelist of his time and, perhaps, since, and that by killing Bin Laden it may have cut short his opportunity to be converted to following Christ and thus change the world as Paul did.

Let me first say that I am not a war monger. I do not support killing and wish that we could all live together in peace. However, war has always been a part of this sin filled world and death has always been a part of war and, in particular, holy wars have always been especially bloody. This post, however, is about my objection to comparing Bin Laden with Paul. We can discuss what makes a war justifiable another time.

Saul was a religious zealot persecuting a specific religion because of their beliefs that threatened his own. Bin Laden was a terrorist using religion in order to destroy a culture and economic system that threatened his own. I’ll concede that he may have seen himself as a religious zealot, but that is where the comparison ends due to the fact that his target was not a specific religious group, but anyone who disagreed with him.  In this, he is much more similar to Hitler that he is to Saul.

Saul was corrected, by God, and shown the error of his ways. He changed his name to Paul and devoted the rest of his life to correcting his error and showing all that he could the truth that he had found. Some may argue that Bin Laden may have changed his ways had it not been for some Navy Seals, but I propose that if God had intended to use Bin Laden in the way He used Paul that God would have protected him from those Seals and he would still be alive.

Truth Be Told, to suppose that the US Government killing Bin Laden messed up God’s plan is to suppose that the US is somehow more powerful than God and diminishes His very essence.

What Happens in Vegas, Stays… on Facebook!

So, I was in Vegas this week for The International Stone Expo and Surfaces. You can read more about why I might do such a thing by checking out CapStone Brazilian Imports on Facebook or on Twitter or at our website. Anyway, I have a couple of observations.

I like the Luxor. I think the architecture is fascinating and the shops and restaurants at Mandalay Place (the bridge between Luxor and Mandalay Bay) are excellent. However, the Luxor seems to be losing its luster to retailers. The shops on the tower side of the Pyramid are almost completely empty.

Everything in Vegas is 3 times as expensive as it is in the rest of the world. On the other hand, once you check in, you don’t really have to go outside at all, and, as I mentioned the restaurants are amazing. I highly recommend Tender and Tacos & Tequila in Luxor, Burger Bar and RM in Mandalay Place and China Grill, the Red, White and Blue Cafe and (my favorite) The House of Blues in Mandaly Bay.

There are at least three Starbuck’s in Luxor and three in Mandalay Bay. They charge 65 cents for water and the Perfect Oatmeal comes with two toppings instead of three (the 3rd is offered at an extra fee – unless you whine 🙂 ) and they do not have free wireless internet.

Truth be told – that makes it a little less than perfect, if you ask me.