Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Day 8 of the 30 Challenge to Write

There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions,
so they be each honest and natural in their hour.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today's Challenge

What would you say to the person you were five years ago? What will you say to the person you’ll be in five years?

Five years ago I was working fulltime for a church in Corona as the youth pastor and associate pastor. At the time I felt like the culmination of lots of hard work and prayer was being blessed. I had worked hard to build credibility. I had worked at a large church with an enormous youth group giving me the experience to grow a youth group. I went to seminary and received a Masters in Christian Education with an emphasis in youth ministry. After three years of ministry with this youth group in Corona, we were experiencing numerical and spiritual growth. Every year more and more junior high and high school students and their parents called our church home. It was a very exciting time!

Four years ago that vocation was no longer a reality.

What would I say to myself 5 years ago?

Stay true to who you are. Do not cut corners. Give yourself fully to the work you have been called to. Never stop!

Be prepared for change, just because things are going great does not mean that rugs can’t be pulled out from underneath you.

Don’t give up, even though it hurts when unexpected change happens. It is not the end of the world. Good things can still, and probably will, happen.

I am loved. Do not lose track of those people who love you.

Be prepared to set new goals and reevaluate your old goals.

Expect the unexpected. You might end up doing something unexpected.

Work hard. Keep your eyes open.

What would I say to myself 5 years from now?

I think in retrospect of everything I have learned these past 4 years I would tell myself the same things I told myself 5 years ago. We are placed in situations that we may have absolutely no control of. But that does not mean that we cease to exist because the situations are ugly and hurtful. But we have a control on how we dust ourselves off.

We decide to work hard and keep our eyes open to new opportunities around us. Something unexpected can happen and we need to be ready to embrace the unexpected. We need to check our goals, because goals are what motivate us into action. We will always be loved. And when change happens, and it will, we are not going to give up. It is not the end of world, rather as we know from our past experiences, it is time for another new beginning.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Literal Adam and Eve?

I am a monthly subscriber to Christianity Today magazine. I enjoy the magazine, it is a critical magazine at times and makes some unpopular statements. This month Christianity Today’s cover story “The Search for the Historic Adam” written by Richard N. Ostling, is one of those articles. Christianity Today also offers their own response to this article. Now I am not going to comment on the article here but I will present some questions that come to mind if we discover there was not a literal Adam and Eve of the Genesis narrative we grew up knowing and believing.

What happens to our faith, and Christianity in general, without Adam and Eve?

What happens to the theology of Paul?

If early man was part of an evolutionary process, are we really created in the image of God?

How hard do we fight to retain a literal Adam and Eve? Should we?

Day 7 of the 30 Challenge to Write

Our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today's challenge:

What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to accomplish but have been afraid to pursue?

These past days have reminded me that I desire to be a good communicator. Communication is done in so many different mediums. There are oral communicators that speak and individuals that communicate through the written word.

I have a desire to communicate well.

These individuals use stories and narratives to communicate history. These individuals use poetry to communicate beauty and art. These individuals use truth ,fact and fiction to communicate morality. These individuals can motivate others to action. These individuals can give warnings of things to come. These individuals use humor, irony and tragedy.

I have a desire to communicate well.

It is my desire to continue to communicate through these 30 days using many of the styles and methods I have listed above. I desire to refine the craft and improve my consistently challenging myself to write deeper thoughts, to write clear and concise thoughts without a ton of words.

I have a desire to communicate well.

I look forward to feedback. My hope is that this feedback will drive to do better. That this feedback will push me to look further inside myself to discover the hidden communicator I feel I can be.

I have a desire to communicate well.

Hungry for God, Chapter 3

Every day I take a shower. It is not an option, I must take a shower. Even when I worked for a camp, almost hundred miles and an hour car ride down a very windy mountain road to the nearest big town, I took a shower--everyday.

If I do not wash my hair for even one day, I am uneasy about my oily hair, and I feel that I smell foul.

I cannot imagine missing a day. A month would be beyond my dreams, rather it would be a nightmare!

My dealings with the poor and the homeless have been limited, safe and at a distance. I have brought junior high kids to the inner city and skid road to experience and see the tragedies of people living less than 20 miles from our comfortable and big homes where we all take nice hot showers, everyday.

I have taken church groups to other poor parts of Orange County to offer a hot meal, once a month. Only once a month. It was always a struggle to get individuals and families to sign up to serve. Prior to serving the hot, and simple meal, the group would stop at Carl’s Jr. for a burger and fries. My goal was to get the groups going to eat alongside the individuals they were serving. Make connections and make relationships, get to know the individuals you are serving. They have lives and stories.

It never happened.

I believe the reason my goal never came to fruition was because of an unwillingness to face the reality that this individual I am talking to could be me. An unwillingness to face the uncomfortable and to be with someone who has gone without a shower for days or months. An unwillingness to face the uncomfortable and to face that undesirable stench that comes off someone unclean.

I pray that my eyes would be opened and that I would sense a different smell, a more desirable smell...

Margaret shares a story in chapter 3 about Jim Cymbala praying with a homeless man, up close and personal, in spite of the filth and smell coming off this homeless man. It took a God sized prompting, “Jim, if you and your wife have any value to me, if you have any purpose in my work--it has to do with this odor. This is the smell of the world I died for.”

This is the smell of the world I died for…

This is the smell of the world I died for…

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Day 6 of the 30 Day Challenge to Write

Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you had one week left to live, would you still be doing what you’re doing now? In what areas of your life are you preparing to live? Take them off your To Do list and add them to a To Stop list. Resolve to only do what makes you come alive.

Bonus: How can your goals improve the present and not keep you in a perpetual “always something better” spiral?

A couple weeks ago a group of people followed a “prophet’s” message that judgment day was approaching. On that day the real believers would be called up, or raptured to heaven. As the weeks and days drew closer, many of these followers could be seen standing on street corners with signs and banners warning others to repent.

So this assignment was something I considered as I observed the actions of these followers. I had heard that many of these followers quit their jobs and sold all their possessions. Their belief was that anything less would demonstrate a lack of faith in the prediction of judgment day, which translated into a lack of faith in God.

What would I do if I believed that judgment day was really approaching?

As a Christian I do not believe that God would call us away from our calling, even if He made it known The End was quickly approaching. Because is it really The End?

Revelation 21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

When The End happens we discover that it really is The Beginning, again. We will live in a city, and city life requires jobs, professions and vocations. It requires moms, dads and children. It requires schools, teachers and students. And it will require grocers selling healthy foods to the people. People will continue to work. And this is not a new thing. In the first Beginning, Adam and Eve were given tasks in the Garden, it wasn’t a free ride. So maybe the oldest, and maybe noblest, profession is being a gardener. Think of that the next time you see your gardener mowing your lawn.

So what does that mean to me? God calls each of us to do and be. Many of us feel that our jobs, professions and vocations are callings given to us by God. I do! How I could stop doing what God has called me to do?

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Hungry for God, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 of Margaret’s book “Hungry for God” is Kairos Moments. Time in Greek is represented by two words, chronos and kairos. Chronos is the measure of the quantity of time: seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and years are all measures of time. Summer, winter, spring and fall are all measures of time, chronos. Kairos is the measure quality of time.

We all experience both types of time, kairos and chronos. I like to consider a day at work. Most days I work 8 to 10 hours. Some days time drags, other days time flies. Some days are fulfilling, other days feel like nothing gets accomplished.

I look forward to my time with Monica. Thursday nights are date nights when we usually go out to dinner together. These are nights are devoted to sharing our time with each other enjoying each others’ company. It isn’t about how long we are together, it is about the love we share with each other.

Margaret uses the example of kairos with God interactions with Adam and Eve in the Garden. As I was reading this chapter I was reminded that we follow a God that lives outside time and space. God does not measure time in the same ways that we do. He does not set an alarm clock to wake up for work. I am sure God does not have a Day Planner. God lives outside the chronos. God desires the kairos.

But God desires the relationship. God desires time with us, not the quantity of time but the quality of our time with Him. It is not just about the time spent in prayer or reading the Bible. The big question is: am I devoting my entire heart, my entire mind, my entire soul and my entire strength to my kairos time with Him?

Day 5 of the 30 Day Challenge to Write

If we live truly, we shall see truly.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today's challenge:

Not everyone wants to travel the world, but most people can identify at least one place in the world they'd like to visit before they die. Where is that place for you, and what will you do to make sure you get there?


I have been fortunate to travel through the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. As a kid, my family would load up our camper and travel to mountain resorts. It was always an adventure to have the five of us, and sometimes the family dog, crammed in that little camper. This was the mode of our transportation and our accommodations all the way through our high school years. Thankfully, my brothers and I slept in a tent once we landed at our camp ground.

We traveled once to North Dakota to visit family; my mom lived there until her family moved to California. Many of her aunts and uncles lived there at the time we visited. We traveled up Highway 15, passing through Utah, Montana and South Dakota. We saw Zion National Park, Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore. It was incredible!

In high school I was able to go with my high school band to Hawaii. It was awesome. The trip was filled with concerts, parades and acts of mischief.

When I graduated high school my buddies and I bought ourselves a Caribbean Cruise graduation present. It was another awesome experience filled with exploring the ports and experiencing culture. One of the ports we stopped in was Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We had no idea what we were going to experience in Haiti. I can tell you it was life changing.

In one of the Jamaican ports we optioned out of the tour package and just rented a taxi for the day. We saw and experienced all the same excursions that everyone on the ship did, but for only $20. We also drove through the neighborhoods, drank Red Stripe Beer and ate lunch with the locals. It was unforgettable. Since then I have been on cruises to Alaska and Mexico and we take similar, self made excursions, in the back of a cab or in a rental car.

In Haiti we were planning on doing the same thing, except there was taxi cab system in Haiti, just millions of people cramming the dock as we pulled our ship in. It was 1978. The country was in turmoil, many uprising and coup├ęs have happened since that year.

As we walked onto the dock we were being pulled and grabbed at until we hired a young man to be our walking guide. His job was to get us to the capital, the marketplace, and to keep us safe. I think he cost us less than a dollar, total.

We experienced and saw more poverty than I knew existed in the entire world, collectively. People with deformities were lying in the streets begging for pennies. Young children were walking through the litter and urine of the streets barefooted. It was the most depressing day, but the most eye opening day I have ever known. Since that time the sights and smells have never left my mind. When the earthquake hit Haiti it all came rushing back.

I have dreams to visit Europe, especially Germany and Romania where my ancestors lived. I heard the family is still standing, hundreds of years later.

I have dreams to visit lands of Biblical importance: Israel, Egypt, Rome, the Middle East.

I have dreams to visit Rwanda and Burundi.

I have dreams to visit New York.

I have dreams to visit cities like Portland and Seattle.

But I have this deep desire to visit Haiti again and to stay in Port-au-Prince. But this time when I visit I pray that I can be used to help with the troubles and hurts that this country has experienced. That might be nothing more than offering a fresh drink of clean water, but I know that many there crave that drink.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Hungry for God, Chapter 1

Yesterday the mailman delivered a large manila envelope addressed to me. It looked exciting! I love getting mail, especially if it is something cool. And this large manila envelope did not disappoint. In that large manila envelope was a gift from Margaret Feinberg: her latest book, "Hungry for God: Hearing God's Voice in the Ordinary and the Everyday."

A couple years back I was in the bookstore looking for something to give as a gift. That day I discovered Margaret Feinberg through her book, "Organic God." It is funny that there are those times when a book's cover is what draws you to pick it up and buy it.

I took the book home and was preparing to wrap it up when I decided to give it a quick read. This is generally very difficult since I am a slow reader. But this book sucked me in. I was giving the book as a gift that evening and I was doing my best to read as much as possible. Unfortunately I didn't finish and I had to buy myself my own copy.

So today I have started reading "Hungry for God" and I am thankful that this gift from the large manila envelope is for me to read at my leisure. I just finished chapter one, "An Forgettable Invitation." I know that God desires a relationship with His people and with me as an individual. I loved when Margaret talks about God meeting Elijah on Mount Carmel in the whisper.

When you and I whisper we need to be extremely close to the listener for them to hear us. You do not whisper across a room. A whisper is close and intimate. The whisper must have fresh breathe because you are that close. Monica and I have our whisper moments.

So when God is in the whisper to Elijah, it is close and intimate. Wow! I want to hear God in the whisper. I want God to be close and intimate with me. I know that God is always near, I pray that I would be a good listener.

Day 4 of the 30 Day Challenge to Write

That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.
Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare?
Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin,
or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton?
Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare.
Do that which is assigned you,
and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today's challenge:

Identify one of your biggest challenges at the moment (ie I don't feel passionate about my work) and turn it into a question (ie How can I do work I'm passionate about?) Write it on a post-it and put it up on your bathroom mirror or the back of your front door. After 48-hours, journal what answers came up for you and be sure to evaluate them.

Bonus: tweet or blog a photo of your post-it.

My Post It says: What are my plans to achieve my aspirations?

Rick Ellis' Aspirations


I strive to build relationships with the customers and the employees I come into contact daily.

I strive to know as many customers by name as possible.

I strive to make our customers feel like a guest in our home.

I strive to fill all our customer requests.

I strive to keep the store clean.

I strive to help my employees reach their fullest potential.

I strive to reward employees who do above and beyond our expectations of them.


I strive to serve others.

I strive to love my wife more.

I strive to grow intellectually.

I strive to read as much as possible.

I strive to rest and enjoy the world around me.

I strive to build on my happiness.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Day 3 of the 30 Day Challenge to Write

It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion;
it is easy in solitude to live after our own;
but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd
keeps with perfect sweetness
the independence of solitude.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Today's challenge:

The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What's one strong belief you possess that isn't shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?


One of my strongest beliefs as a leader is that I cannot hold tightly to things that others should be allowed to do. Empowerment is one those words leadership books and professionals are constantly encouraging leaders to practice. And it is a practice because it doesn't come easily. Many of us don't just fall into leadership, rather we earn the right to be a leader.

Many, many years ago, at the young age of 16, my first real job was as a grocery bagger. Later I became a produce clerk, frozen food clerk, grocery clerk, grocery manager, assistant store manager and finally store manager. The road was long, none of these accomplishments happened over night. But along the way I learned a lot about the industry and how to drive sales and make a profit.

I have heard more war stories from my bosses. These men and women worked hard to build their companies, and these stories are important to remember and share. They worked singlehandedly when there was no one else in their employment. They worked the produce, grocery and checked out groceries all by themselves. They opened the doors at 8AM and closed the store at 10PM. There were no lunches, they grabbed a snack and ate it as they worked.

The problem for many is the road to success (done so many years ago) is the thing they hold tightly to. These individuals think they are the only ones that know how to accomplish the task. Everyone else will do it wrong, or be incomplete, or they will take too long. I know how to accomplish every task in the store, I can do it all. But is that the task I was hired to do?

Empowerment requires letting go, allowing others to complete a task with little interaction from the boss.

Empowerment requires coaching and cheerleading. I feel that spending 5 or 10 minutes with my empowered leaders gives me their best performances. Daily I listen to their accomplishments, struggles and goals. I offer my thoughts without just giving a solution (who knows, they might have a better solution). I help the leaders identify problems and offer my assistance if necessary. But I really enjoy praising my team for excelling in reaching sales goals (which they are doing regularly!).

Empowerment is not creating individuals that look and work like me. Empowerment allows others to discover that they are unique and they are capable of doing great things.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Day 2 of the 30 Day Challenge to Write

Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. The force of character is cumulative. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

If 'the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tracks,' then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence?

Today I get outside myself and live for others.

These are easy words to say, difficult to execute. My senior pastor would challenge the congregation to get outside ourselves, because the church God blesses gets outside of itself. So it becomes something that is individual and collective. There is the challenge of trying to accomplish this daunting task every day. But there is knowledge that we are not trying to accomplish this daunting task alone. Others, like us are also trying to make a difference without seeking personal gain. And isn't that the difficulty for us: not looking for the pat on the back, the praise or the big bucks?

So I am going to look at every encounter with another human as a divine appointment. I will make every effort to smile and say hello. And if the situation presents itself, strike up a conversation and listen. Who knows how God will use me in that situation, I just have to be willing to be used.

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

1 Corinthians 4:2