Recalling and appreciating our past …

On NBC’s show “Who do you think you are?” where celebrities dig up their family history, NFL great Emmitt Smith discovered that he is a little bit Native American, some European, and 81 percent African and that one of his ancestors, by the name of Mariah, was “bred” by a slave owner and that was a connection between the black and white sides of his family. Also, while many slave families were torn apart by the constant trade of slaves going on, Mariah and her family were kept together. Amazing.

Lisa Kudrow (of “Friends” fame and whose family was of Eastern Jewish descent)’s father, in 1947 or 1948, was told by a relative named Uri that Jewish families were burned and killed, and it just happens that Uri is still alive and well in Europe, and for the first time since the WWII era, Lisa Kudrow’s father and his relative viewed each other via webcam. On another episode, Sarah Jessica Parker discovered one of her ancestors was one of the accused during the Salem witch hunt in American history.

I have a fascination with history, and this show is like watching a great adventure into the past. To see where we come from, and the people who have risen to fame in our society today, what all of our ancestors did and how they helped define and shape us. Granted, these people have the money to go digging for their past and a show is dedicated to helping them do just that, but to learn about the people in my ancestry and the lives they led and how they impacted who I am today would be a fascinating venture indeed.

I know little of my ancestry, and I hope for the chance to learn more in the future but I am proud of what I do know: My mom’s father was a man of God who loved to preach, and my dad’s father was bold about his faith, which helped define future generations of his family.

Experience of a Lifetime – Awake 2010

I admit I’ve used the expression “experience of a lifetime” quite a few times throughout my life so far, but considering all the life experiences and roles I’ve had thus far, I can say being in the core leadership for ICPF Awake 2010 was by far the most transformative experience I’ve had.

The few times I’ve used this expression include when in 2005-2006 I was serving as the Oklahoma DECA State Reporter, a role I hardly anticipated. And that did transform my personality, as did my time as a student at the University of Central Oklahoma.

But with this experience, I had the privilege of organizing an event, with the best committee ever to work with, for about 600 young people and adults for a weekend where the Holy Spirit took control and touched lives. Looking back at the seven months of planning that went into the camp, I can say I am amazed and astounded that God would see fit to use someone like me, with all my flaws, in such a role, yet everything happened for His glory. I learned so much about leadership, about dealing with people, about dealing with logistics, and overall how to ensure that things happen according to plan.

And it was an absolute privilege working with the various committees and people who made this camp happen. I know thanks have already been said to everyone, so I’ll surmise by saying it was an unforgettable experience and I wish it could have lasted longer.

The question now is, where does all this take me? Despite what my circumstances may be, I stand firm in the knowledge that my God is faithful and sovereign and He has a plan for me that is perfect according to Him, so I just simply have to trust in Him.

Narrowing Your Vision

A continued reflection on “How to Live Life on Purpose” by Pastor Art Sepulveda

So I’m still in Chapter 1 and want to highlight a portion that is key to understanding how to narrow your vision to something specific and how to get there.

An excerpt (Page 4):
Vision brings your future into focus. The word “focus” is the key to understanding what clear vision really is why it is necessary to accurately see your future. Once you have had a vision, you still need a strategy to bring it into reality. King Solomon once prayed, “…give Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart…” (1 Kings 3:9, Amplified). This tells us there are TWO STEPS involved in a vision being formed and fulfilled:
Step#1: Having a hearing heart (the initial desire, dreams, and vision).
Step#2: Having an understanding mind (strategy, direction, and pathway)

Pastor Art states that he wants to “see people transformed by the life-changing power of God into victorious Christians.” But he understands that he can’t possibly reach everyone with such a broad goal. So here is his narrower goal: “When I focus my desire to a narrower scope, my vision is to build a local, New Testament church in Honolulu, Hawaii, that will make successful Christians out of as many people as possible by reaching them with the life-impacting message of Jesus Christ.

Many of us have big dreams, big visions. Some lyrics from “Dream Big”, a song performed on American Idol by then-contestant David Cook:
“When I was a little boy, I swore that I would change the world. When I grow up, nothing else would be enough. I see it every day, we settle for safe. And we lose ourselves along the way. If you don’t dream big, then what’s the use in dreaming? If you don’t have faith, there’s nothing worth believing in. It takes one hope to make a start worth reaching for.”

But if you don’t narrow those dreams down to specifics, you will be left dreaming big and accomplishing nothing. This is where GOALS come in. “Goals are simply ‘bite-size’ pieces of your vision that can be measured and attained. Without goals, a vision never goes beyond a dream.”

One final excerpt that exemplifies the differences between a mission, a vision, and a goal from Pastor Art:
“Let’s say your mission is to build a successful business. Your vision might be to build a car dealership and sell cars; your goal then could be to sell “x” number of cars each month. Someone else may have a mission to be a farmer. His vision is to grow wheat and his goal is to grow “x” number of bushels of wheat a year.

So to summarize, don’t just have big dreams. Consider those dreams, then narrow them down to specific, attainable goals. And God will take you down a journey of a lifetime, sometimes on a route you didn’t expect. Personal example: I graduated with a degree in journalism from UCO in December, and thought that the highest probability of a job was in the newspaper industry. Yet now I am a copy editor in the book publishing industry, and I can potentially visualize a future for myself in it. But I believe this job is God’s purpose for a specific reason: Before submitting each job application that I have sent out in the last several weeks, I prayed a specific prayer understanding that God is a sovereign God who knows my beginning and my end, which path my life will take me on: I prayed that God would open the right doors and close the wrong doors. And after submitting multiple applications, God opened this door.

You may have a certain dream/vision for your life, but when you dedicate and submit it to God, He will guide you along a path that may not seem right at the moment, but He will reveal His purpose to you at the right time. Never lose that faith.

Until next time, God bless!

How to Discover Your Calling

The 2004 book by Pastor Art Sepulveda (Word of Life Church – Hawaii) “How to Live Life on Purpose” is a very practical book in regards to finding the meaning in your life and living in a way that follows that God-given purpose and not just whatever path comes your way.

I’m in the middle of Chapter 1, which emphasizes Art’s point that we need to “Value the Power of Vision” and he offers this definition:
Vision is the ability to see God’s presence, perceive God’s power, and focus on God’s plan in spite of obstacles.

The quote that precedes this chapter is “Vision is a mental picture of a future state” – Casey Treat. Art states that most people today live in one of two realms, neither of which exist: the past and the future. Why? Because they don’t understand the need of a strategy for the present in order to leave the past and and powerfully step into a better future.

If you ask most people today what they envision for their future, what would they say? Would they have a specific outlook for their life that is their vision for their life? How important is it to have a vision for your future?

I know for me this was a challenging thought, especially this particular reflection from Pastor Art:
Many years ago at a conference I heard Dr. David Yongi Cho, the pastor of one of the largest churches in the world, make a statement that challenged the course of my life then and that continues to be a “journey maker” for clarity in my life today. He said, “Show me your vision, and I’ll show you your future.” Then he said, “If you can’t tell me about your vision, what you’re saying is that you have no future; and if you can’t describe your future, you’re unclear about your vision.”
This shocked me as I realized that by omitting one-a clear vision-I had automatically disqualified myself for achieving the other-a meaningful future. As a young college graduate, I had a great deal of knowledge, but I had no clear vision of my future. Only when I allowed God to paint a picture of my future on the tablets of my heart, did I begin to understand the power of vision. It was then that I saw my vision as a strategy to take me out of my present and into my future.

I aim to continue this chapter’s thoughts later, but let these thoughts challenge you at this moment. I know I was impacted, especially by the lines I bolded. I am a recent college graduate, yet I have no clear vision for my future. Yes I have ideas and vague plans, but I have yet to clearly define what that is.

What is your status? Do you have a vision? Do you know where you want to be in the future? On a deeper note, is your vision God-centered or self-centered?

Anyhow, more later on.

“It Can’t End This Way”

I signed up a while ago for Pastor Jentezen Franklin’s podcast updates on iTunes. But apparently I hadn’t updated it in a while. And so in the midst of this snowstorm and down period of my life, I updated the podcast and a message entitled “It Can’t End This Way” came up.

I listened to it, and from the very start I was encouraged that this was a message from God just for me in this time.

Because you see, it doesn’t matter what your past is. There are very likely many regrets you are living with right now, as am I. But there’s an urgent message for the body of Christ now, and that now, especially now, is not the time to give up on your God-given purpose in life, on your dreams, on the vision that you have for your life.

If you’re like me, when things get rough, it is hard to hold and the temptation to lose faith and move backward is very strong. Especially when the weak areas of your life are bearing you down and causing you to stress. Especially when it seems like failure is knocking on your door every day. And you constantly wonder why you keep messing up, and you keep getting frustrated at yourself.

But as Pastor Franklin’s message states, It Can’t End This Way! There is a divine purpose for your life, people you are supposed to impact, and you are meant to glorify God with your life. So it doesn’t matter what the past has been, we as believers must choose to make our futures better. And it is entirely dependent on us making a choice to do so, not just hearing about it.

A thought from Pastor Franklin’s message:
Isaiah 6:4: And the post of the door moved at the voice of Him who cried, and suddenly the house was filled with smoke. Another word for post is “Pillar” – The pillar was there from the beginning, for years, and notice the glory doesn’t come until the pillars start moving.

If we can get the pillars to move again at the sound of His voice.

Can this be your testimony:
“I started in the fire and I’m not going to end up in smoke.”

God is looking for some people who can say ‘It doesn’t matter how rocky or how rough the day has been, but the sun hasn’t set yet, and it can’t end this way.

Can we make this statement today? Can we let go of the past and move forward?

2010: A Chance of Renewal

From the Century Dictionary:
Renew: (From Middle English “renewen”) “To make new again; restore to former freshness, completeness, or perfection; revive; make fresh or vigorous again; restore to a former state, or to a good state after decay or impairment.”

I don’t know about you, but I think it is time for renewal. 2009 was a year that was generally bad with the economy worsening and the individual economies of households across America suffering. And a rebound from the chaos of last year is slow at best, currently in progress. On a personal level, 2009 was a bad year, based on mistakes and a lack of certain accomplishments. And I feel I have pushed other parts of my life to a higher place than God with some choices I made.

But sitting around wallowing in guilt and shame will do no good. I know my life needs a “restoration to former freshness.” I try but cannot remember when life was better and I felt more peace. But I know there was a time when optimism ruled my heart. But I’ve sensed more recently that the optimism I used to feel has changed to more worry and doubt in my own abilities. And that’s just it. It’s not in my own abilities. It is only because of the grace of God I am alive and in the position I’m in.

Yes, 2009 was a year of moments of terrible mistakes and great successes. But I would say the greatest moment of 2009, one of the best anyhow, is that I was able to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Central Oklahoma in December. It was the end of a four-year and one semester phase of my life that was filled with many lessons learned the hard way and memorable moments with newly formed friends. But after all those mistakes, to walk the stage and receive my diploma was a great euphoric feeling.

But now it is 2010. The possibilities are endless, as long as I am willing to work to make them happen and trust in God completely. I am proud to have the privilege of working with ICPF for the coming Awake ’10 camp during Spring Break, with OPYF for the coming Annual Drama, and my church with a long list of things involving the youth group and Sunday School. I have only a tentative idea what will define my life past Spring Break week, but I am confident of one thing: my God is in control and He will guide my paths, as long as I let Him and don’t try to manipulate things into my own path and direction.

Don’t let the regrets of 2009 ruin your 2010. It has been on my mind endlessly, this message of having optimism for the new year. Because for me, it is difficult to get over the mistakes of last year. But we all need to take the approach of moving forward. This song by Israel Houghton should be the anthem for this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYaiGB7eYU8.

Don’t let Satan guilt you into letting 2010 be a bad year. Make a solid, firm decision to have hope and change your reality this year. If your reality last year was one of regret and mistakes, let 2010’s reality be one of being an overcomer. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S52FUX3QY_A). If you don’t make a move and don’t decide to allow the Holy Spirit to embolden and lift you up, you are making a choice nonetheless, to let Satan rule your heart. No matter what phase of life you are in, set specific goals to make this year a dramatic, life-changing year for yourself. And after you set those goals, seek the help of the Holy Spirit to boldly move forward in your life and live your life to the fullest with God by your side.

Your words DO matter

Words. We write them, we sing them, we say them, we think them.

But as John Piper, Justin Taylor, and other contributors make very clear in their compilation “The Power of Words and the Wonder of God” (2009), there is power to your words. Significant power.

Justin Taylor, general editor with John Piper, makes this tie between words and Christianity in the introduction:
“At every stage in redemptive history-from the time before time, to God’s creation, to man’s fall, to Christ’s redemption, and to the coming consummation-“God is there and He is not silent.” God’s words decisively create, confront, convict, correct, and comfort. By His words he both interprets and instructs.”

Taylor recounts the power of words as expressed in the Bible from the opening scenes of the Bible (where God speaks, names, and sustains) to the life of Jesus and His words in the Gospel.

Author Paul David Tripp highlights how many think words don’t matter:
“All of us are tricked into thinking that words aren’t really that important, because they fill all those little mundane moments of our lives. Maybe that’s exactly why they’re profoundly important. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you only make up three or four big decisions in your life. Most of us won’t be written up in history books. Several decades after you die, the people you leave behind will struggle to remember the events of your life. You live your life in the utterly mundane. And if God doesn’t rule your mundane, he doesn’t rule you, because that’s where you live.”

Think about it. On a day-to-day basis, your words make such an impact on people. You can lift people or tear people down. It’s your choice. You can choose to maintain that grudge against that person who hurt you, or you can choose to say the very powerful words: “I forgive you.” We sometimes think so highly of ourselves that we think our pride is so important that we can’t forgive others. But in reality, our life is but a glimmer on this earth, and significance comes from Christ. So, in a blunt way, we individually are not so important that forgiving others should be so difficult. And this goes to myself as well, believe me.

Tripp also focuses on the importance of the heart:
“When the Bible uses the word heart, it means the causal core of your personhood. The heart is your directional system. The heart is your steering wheel. Your behavior isn’t caused by the situations and relationships outside of you. Luke 6:43-45 teaches that your experiences influence, but do not determine, your behavior. Your behavior is shaped and caused by how your heart reacts to and interacts with the situations and relationships that are outside of you.”

-Final thought for this blog: Your words are a reflection of where your heart is. If your heart is full of bitterness or anger, your words will reflect that. If your heart is full of lust or sin, your words will reflect that. If your heart is full of joy and happiness, then your words will be happy and joyful. If Christ is in your heart, then your words will reflect the personality of Christ to those around you.

I will continue, as I just started this book. Remember how important your words are!

What drives you?

I live for the weekends. I know many people say this, but my reason is that I get to exercise my passion in life during the weekends, which is church. I know school is a necessity for advancing your life and all, but the thing that drives me the most in life is church, the idea that one day I will lead a church.

School is fun, interesting at times, but for me, when Thursday afternoon hits, and my classes are over, and my Vista meeting is over, the weekend has arrived (as I have no class on Fridays).

The combination of seeing friends/family from church on the weekends and spending time in His Word is invaluable to me. I relish those moments, and wish they could last longer.

But that’s just me. What’s your passion? What drives you?

A Glimpse into History

Last week, I had the chance to tour Old North, the first building constructed in the state of Oklahoma for the purpose of higher education, specifically for the Territorial Normal School, which is now the University of Central Oklahoma. The building was completed in 1893 (You can see pictures from Old North’s history at http://library.uco.edu/archives/ucohistory/university-buildings_details.cfm?ID=26).

What’s amazing to me personally (being a history buff), is that I was walking through a building of living history. A building where classes were held in a different era with a different culture in the area. The second from last picture on this page (http://library.uco.edu/archives/gallery/purchase-photos.cfm?search=1) shows an image of a teaching school in Old North from around 1940. We walked through the whole building and likely passed the area where these students and teachers once stood for this photo. How amazing.

Some highlights:
We discovered an area that resembled a secret room hidden by what was formerly walls around it. It was a tiny area that the university architect supposed someone had lived in once because when demolition time came, a bed was found in the room.

Also, the building was struck by lightning at one point and if it had struck one location to its left the building would have been ultimately destroyed but because of the framework (I forget the technical term) the building was saved.

Anyhow, the highlight for me was climbing the stairs into what still serves as the campus bell tower at the top of Old North. At the very top of the building now you see clock faces but before 1906, there were no clock faces and people would go up to that area and take pictures there. I had the chance to look up into a tiny room that at one time in the early 1900s some women entered and sat for pictures in. What a moment.

Anyhow, for some this might just be boring. For others, mildly interesting. But I love history and seeing buildings with living history.

For a preview of what’s going to happen in Old North in the coming years, keep an eye on The Vista this semester!

Insipiration from seemingly nowhere

For the past few months, or perhaps longer, I’ve been in a rut. I’ve been in a place where nothing seems to be happening that is exciting or meaningful anymore. Like everything is just one big cycle where things are the same endlessly.

That changed tonight. God took a random project I was involved in and clarified to me how provident He is. Here I was thinking, I was just aimlessly roaming around, seeking His will, or simply claiming to be seeking His will. But tonight, I discovered a man whose passion is ministry in the most unlikely of scenarios. I was involved with a short film project with a few friends from school, and one of the guys I met through the process is an active Christian who uses his filmmaking skills to minister to others. From the few moments I spent talking with him, I can tell, God willing, we can accomplish some great things in the future for His glory and expanding His kingdom.

The best part about this is that God is active in my life, sometimes I just lose sight of that. I thought I was just doing this film for fun and spontaneity, but through it I found I am in the will of God. Praise God that I am finally inspired to clean up my life (in so many ways) and be proactive about it!

My inspiration seemingly came from thin air, but it was from the hand of God. That is the God I serve.