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)

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!

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.

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.

You think Jerry Brown supports education? Really?

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine and said that I really would like to get away from political commentary. There are so many bloggers out there covering the ridiculous antics of politicians and the deceptive methods of the mainstream media outlets of covering political issues. However, every time I think I am ready to break away from politics, somebody does something so insanely stupid that I just have to talk about it. The CTA is usually on the top of the list of ignorant, stupid and deceptive, even coercive, political propaganda.

The latest is that they want us to support Jerry Brown for governor and Barbara Boxer for senate, because they support education. Really?

A little history lesson for those not paying attention… When Jerry Brown took the leadership of our state, he inherited the number one state in education, the best state for starting and growing a business (filled with entrepreneurs), a surplus budget and the most popular place to move to in the country. When Jerry Brown left office he left us with a failing education system that has continued to decline. Higher taxes with so many entitlements that our budget has been in perpetual decay since, now approaching bankruptcy. Businesses and citizens are leaving California in droves. Boxer and Feinstein have combined for the highest tax and spend policies of any state, yet the money that has gone to education has been largely ineffective.

Truth be told, California now has the highest illiteracy rate in the nation. Our state is close to bankruptcy and we have some of the highest tax rates. It all started with Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer. At least we still have great weather.

Bank Of America is Taking My House

Like many of you I am struggling with the economy and, in particular, with keeping my home. I am a school teacher in a public school with a wife and three elementary age children. Furlough days and salary cuts combined with the economy and the collapse of the housing market have put me in a situation where I can no longer afford my mortgage payment.

Fortunately, there is a home loan modification program for which I qualify. Unfortunately Bank of America home loans is so caught up in inefficiency and corruption that they are not completing the process. A year ago I was current on my mortgage, I had a credit score in the 700’s and no other debt than my home and a car payment. I saw the writing on the wall and applied for the Making Homes Affordable program. I was told I qualified and given a trial payment to make. Each month I paid my trial payment and was told that my loan was in the review process until April when I was told that no application had ever been filed. I was re-entered into the process and given a new trial payment which I have been making. Last week I was told that I was no longer in the program because I had declined their offer. However, I never received an offer. Now I have an appeal that is pending and then it will go back into the review process.

This entire process was supposed to take 30 to 90 days (depending on which operator answers that question) and it has been almost a year. Meanwhile my credit score has plummeted and my mortgage is in default. At the very least, B of A in inefficient and disorganized, but they may be dishonest, corrupt and fraudulent. At the very least, B of A in inefficient and disorganized, but they may be dishonest, corrupt and fraudulent.

Truth be told, I already knew that about Bank of America and I did not apply for a home loan with them, but theybought my loan from another lender, so here I am. I told them they can have my house and it can sit with the other half-dozen homes on my block that have been foreclosed on that the lenders can’t sell. I hope they don’t really want it.

What did you do on your summer vacation?

For the past 13 years I have taught summer school each summer. I always hoped that someday I would not have to… that I would be in a financial situation allowing me to enjoy the summer with my family traveling or otherwise enjoying my time off. That’s not the way it went.

Elk Grove School District did not offer summer school this year because of budget cuts. Teachers’ salaries have been cut and furlough days are mandated. We have lost all of our pre-service days and we will have an additional number of days that we are being forced to take instruction away from students.

Apparently the President believes throwing more money at it will solve the problem. Another bail-out plan to “save jobs” will send money to school districts to hire back laid off teachers. It’s yet to be seen if this is a long-term fix or a band-aid, but it should be noted that none of the other bail-out plans have had the desired effect.

I spent my summer trying to sell granite http://capstonebrazilianimports.com and designing web pages http://www.belachifoods.com and I have no intention of spending more than a few hours at school getting ready for the new year. It’s a feeble effort, but, truth be told, I know that the expectation is that teachers will do what they do to help students because we care and we will do it without being paid. We will teach the same with less prep time and less instructional time. I hate being taken advantage of.

Primary Decisions

With the primary fast approaching, I have finally decided who to support. I have listened to the ads and to the candidate’s rhetoric and I have come to the conclusion that the best choice for California is Meg Whitman. Poizners ads are far from truthful and he has chosen several out of context sound bites in an effort to portray Whitman as something other than she is. Our economy is a mess and Whitman knows how to run a successful company (eBay seems to be doing OK). I have also chosen to support her “team,” those with whom she would like to work. So here it is:

Governor: Meg Whitman

Lt. Governor: Abel Maldonado

Atty. General: John Eastman

Insurance Comm.: Mike Villines

Controller: Tony Strickland

Sec. of State: Damon Dunn

US Senator: Carly Fiorina

US Rep: Dan Lungren (dist 3)

Assembly: Jack Sieglock (dist 10)

County Central Committee: Tony Andrade (dist 5)

Board of Equalization: George Runner (dist 2)

I’d also like to put in a plug for Jim Cooper as sheriff. I know Jim, but I know his daughter well from coaching Sheldon softball. Here is what I know about good kids… they come from good parents and Jim’s daughter is a good kid. I can’t give a higher recommendation than that.

Truth be told, I think we should elect only candidates who are not currently in office and that is how I am voting, with very few exceptions. Fire em all! Let’s start over.

The Government’s First Responsibility…

is to protect its citizens from foreign invasion. As most of you are probably aware, Arizona is the first state to pass a state law requiring the enforcement of federal immigration law. While those on the left cry “unconstitutional” many more centrist Republicans are jumping on the bandwagon in an effort to gain some (or at least avoid losing any) votes in the November elections.

Here are some facts. People who come into the country illegally are criminals. They break the law by coming here illegally. People who break one law are many times more likely to break other laws. DUIs, hit and run car accidents, thefts, and violent crimes are committed at significantly higher rates by those who have broken the law by coming into our country illegally. People who are here illegally are willing to work off the books for lower wages than citizens or legal residents. This takes jobs and benefits away from people in our work force.

People on the left claim this is about race and racial profiling. Even in Arizona, where 60% of the people are in favor of the law, 50% have at least some concern that racial profiling may be a problem in it’s enforcement. If I go visit another country, I am required to carry with me proof that I am there legally. It has never even occurred to me that it has anything to do with race. I have a legal driver’s license that I have to carry with me all the time. If I am questioned by law enforcement and they deem it necessary for me to show my identification, I have to do so. It has nothing to do with my race. It is a simple matter to prove that I am legally in the country and that I am who I claim to be.

California wants to declare war on Arizona. Texas and Utah are about to sign similar laws as the Arizona mandate, so I suppose California will declare war on them as well. Obviously California thinks it is still as popular as it used to be. Liberal spending and anti-American sentiment in California has destroyed the economy here and driven away businesses as well as residents. I suggest an opposing approach. If you have a business in California, move it to Arizona, Texas or Utah. If you are planning a family vacation, go spend your money in those states and avoid the high-priced California vacation spots. If you are thinking of moving, move to a state where they enforce the law and protect you from foreign invasion. If California wants to declare war on America, lets fight back. Liberal law-makers in California think they have all the power, but they only do as long as we let them. The rest of the nation could decimate California’s tourism industry and economy as a whole.

My wife just became a citizen. She came here on a student visa and then got her legal residency and finally her citizenship. Yet many people are rewarded for circumventing that process and cutting to the front of the line for jobs. They have not respect for our nation or its laws. They simply want to steal opportunity from those that are already here.

Don’t be fooled by those who are claiming that passing laws against illegal immigration is unconstitutional. Just because they are loud, doesn’t mean they are right. Truth Be Told, not enforcing federal immigration law and refusing to protect our nation from this, or any, kind of foreign invasion is unconstitutional.