Compassion and Character Development

“God of justice, love, and mercy” are the lyrics to a song. And this God seeks to meet our needs. Jesus says in Matthew 15:32, “I have compassion for these people…” He goes on to meet the needs of the people without them even asking, which can suggest that God sees our needs and longs to do something about it.

Yet God is inviting us to a transformative life where we become compassionate people, taking initiative, and becoming responsible self-leading adults. The work of God to meet our needs is sometimes a precursor for us to learn to trust and become responsible citizens, parents, or employees.

Jesus shows us compassion so that we might be compassionate people. That’s why I’m open to border and immigration reform that attends to both the needs of the people longing for a better life, but also done in a responsible way.

It’s also why I encourage employees to take personal and professional responsibility in order to become just, loving, and merciful people. To be compassionate is to meet the needs of those hurting, to restore them to full function, so that they might become compassionate people who serve others as restored, fully functioning people.

Workplace Prayers: Week of November 11-2019

Lord God Almighty, the One who works on our behalf,
Make your face shine on us as we enter into the day’s work.
Satisfy us with your loving-kindness that we might praise you as we attend to our daily tasks.

  • Help us not to forget that you are with us in our cubicles, office, showroom floors, and tech bays.
  • Help us to see how you are working on our behalf as we look through paperwork, warranties, or repair orders.
  • Help us to see how are work is dignified, needed, and that it makes a difference in people’s lives.

We confess that we can become arrogant and stubborn at times.
We use our work knowledge as power over others.
We want to see things done our way because we’ve exaggerated how much we know.

Forgive us when we misuse our power and authority over others,
when we value people in higher positions over less sought after positions.

We confess that we seek to be in control because we think we know what’s best. We use others to our own gain and we ask that you forgive us.

May we turn our face towards you and be a people of hospitality and joy towards our fellow coworkers and customers.
Be gracious and compassionate over us.

Restore us and make your face shine upon our work activities that we may be saved.

Amen

Vices To Avoid, Virtues to Adopt

In Nehemiah 9, there are two words that I’m curious about. They’re marked by a transition in the storyline, “But they…”, which signifies a turn.

The writer had just recapped all the things the Lord their God had done for them. It should have translated into a life of gratitude and humility. Instead, Nehemiah says they “became arrogant and stiff-necked”.

There is pride that is about a worthy pleasure or satisfaction of a hard days efforts. But this sort of pride being described is about arrogance. And arrogance is about about an exaggeration of someone’s importance or abilities. It reminds me of certain presidents we’ve had in our history, business leaders that have come and gone, and certainly spiritual leaders who struggle with this vice.

Arrogance…an exaggerated posture of our abilities and worth.


The other phrase is being stiff-necked. A commentary says,

“The imagery is that of an animal that struggles against having a yoke placed on its neck.”

Breneman, M. (1993). Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (electronic ed., Vol. 10, p. 239).

This image and phrase is about being stubborn. To be stubborn is to be so fixed on one’s position, even in the face of truth or good reasoning.

Arrogance and stubbornness.
Exaggerated views of self and an inability to be be open to sound reason.

A posture of gratitude and humility however, acknowledges that we have reasoned enough to know that we are limited in our knowledge, don’t know everything, so we’re grateful to receive from others, especially from God.

To live by virtues of gratitude and humility is to own our deficiencies and our limited resources and reasoning. That’s why we can follow leaders who are transparent, vulnerability, and who own their limited resources and reasoning.

In the context of a God-humanity relationship though, the stakes seem higher. The Nehemiah 9 passage is labeled as a confession of sins storyline. It acknowledges that there is a God who has chosen a people, is from everlasting to everlasting, glorious, exalted above all, gives life to everything, and is faithful. This God also hears our cries and sees our suffering, and then delivers and makes it right.

The writer does another “But” to transition yet again. This time, the transition signals a turn to acknowledge who God is:

  • forgiving
  • gracious
  • compassionate
  • slow to anger
  • abounding in love
  • does not abandon us in (even when we abandon God)
  • Gives His good Spirit to instruct
  • Sustains them in the wilderness

Sounds like the kind of life I’m looking for. For my marriage, parenting, work, friends, and inner life. These are great virtues to live by which are shaped and formed in the context of a covenantal relationship and Lordship to Christ Jesus our Lord.

I keep turning to God because I met by his loving kindness, compassion, and sustaining power! God keeps abounding in love for me and the world! That’s enough for me to keep devoting my life to Jesus.

Lebron James and Home Building

Home is still the primary place where we shape and form the future. It’s a great reminder for me to be (and live out) what I want my kids to become in this world (what a tall order!).

And it’s also a reminder that the Church is called to be a social communal reality of God’s presence as family. It’s why there are more and more people who don’t care to show up to a church service on Sunday, but will share a meal during the week, spend time with others in other settings for the sake of having honest, loving, truthful relationships.


“You can have all the support in the world while you’re at school or while you’re at basketball and while you’re playing sports or anything, but if you go home and it’s not stable and you don’t have any stability there, you can resort back to the negative things or the bad habits that you might have.”

Lebron James, https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/28007714/lebron-james-help-build-housing-promise-school-families

The Laundromat Movie – Theology Review

“The meek will inherit the earth…” Matthew 5:5

A movie about power, money, and corruption has this two characters that quote this verse. One quotes it in a church after hearing the priest preach about it. The other quotes it after their husband dies and is looking for justice.

Both characters were taught that to be meek meant to be passive. One had an eschatological view (end of time) that the meek would inherit the earth sometime when Jesus returns. But certainly not in the present time.

To be meek, biblically speaking, is to not abuse power or not to be arrogant and oppressive. It means to use power under the Lordship of Christ. We use our power for the benefit of others; not at their expense.

In the movie, The Laundromat, both characters had a different biblical interpretation that in some ways, shaped their lives and decisions. It matters how we interpret and how we theologize. It’s partly why I’m constantly reading and reflecting. I’m seeking integrative truth to believe and live from.

The one character (Meryl Streep) who is seeking justice from a corrupt political and banking system ends up going under cover to expose the companies for their deceitful practices. She used meekness to seek justice. The other character (Antonio Banderas) misused his power and knowledge to take advantage of others, not wanting to know what these shell companies were actually doing. They called it privacy. But this was not privacy. This was a sin of omission…a failure to know their clients and their business purposes. In fact, they did know what their clients were doing but kept hiding behind “privacy laws”. This is the exact opposite of what meekness and justice are.

From an eschatological perspective, we don’t wait for Jesus to enact justice at the end of time. We’re to seek justice with an attitude of meekness. If something is wrong, we’re to do something about it. And we’re to do it with meekness and Jesus does.

The movie is a great reminder to keep doing the work of theology to deepen our understanding. It takes work and effort to think through ethical matters and biblical understanding. We need an integrative approach to keep seeking truth. And it’s a great reminder that integrative theology affects how we do business, runs companies, and do life together.

Oceanside Church Planting Update

Letter Ethnos Network Global Church Gathering 2019


To My Ethnos Network Fam:

Hi!  Roy here from Oceanside, CA (San Diego North County).  I wanted to say how sad I am that I can’t be there with you this week.  

Some Family Updates

Recently, my mother in law had life saving surgery.  She was going into septic shock and the doctors were able to find what was happening and correct it immediately.  Unfortunately, she has had some setbacks and my wife Christina and I have become her caretakers. She has been in and out of the hospital several times these last 6 weeks.  

The good news is that the doctors now think that she is improving and needs to keep resting.  My mother in law is a strong woman of faith and I’m grateful for that since she’s been through a lot.

As you could imagine, I could not–in good faith–leave my family and be out of the country.  While Christina does much of the attending to her mom, we have two young teenage boys–Christopher and David–to attend to.  My family is my first church to pastor.  

Church Planting Updates

We’ve had to put the church plant on hold for now to attend to my mother in law.  But God continues to give me a love for our beautiful city. I ask that you help pray for the following:

  • My mother in law’s health.  Her name is Victoria.
  • Our marriage and immediate family so that we might be good caretakers.
  • My ministry as a pastor in the marketplace.  I pastor 600 employees, supervise two chaplains that each serve different clients.  In total, we serve close to 1000 employees in the San Diego area (and their family members).  God is up to something in the marketplace!
  • For the City of Oceanside.  That God would plant vibrant, multi-ethnic/cultural/class churches that serve the marginalized, the poor, and underserved for the sake of Jesus.

We’re grateful to be in partnership with you and hope you have a deep time of refreshing and renewal!

Practicing Becoming Like Jesus in the Workplace

Being in the marketplace is a gift to see how God is shaping and working who you and I are becoming. Most of our becoming is happening in the daily grind.

Our mindset and resolve to be like Jesus requires desire and duty. Desire is birthed out of our intimacy with Jesus. Duty is sustained by grace.

One practice that is helping me stay focused on who I am becoming is to pray in the morning, midday, and afternoon. I was eating lunch with a group of employee friends and someone made a comment about the scripture I was reading. We ended up talking about how we eat three times a day and I responded by saying that humans don’t live by bread alone, but by the very words of God.

Here’s an excerpt from a book of prayers that I read each day:

“Lord, my God, King of heaven and of earth, for this day please direct and sanctify, set right and govern my heart and my body, my sentiments, my words and my actions in conformity with Your law and Your commandments. Thus I shall be able to attain salvation and deliverance, in time and in eternity, by Your help, O Savior of the world, who lives and reigns forever. Amen.”

Tickle, Phyllis. The Divine Hours (Volume Two): Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (p. 75). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
link: amazon

By midday, some of us are wondering who is really Lord. Is it my manager, the company owner, the stock market? Whose really in charge? Can I, in the middle of my work day, say, “Lord, MY God and King”. Imagine what that prayer does to our hearts and minds you just got into a conflict with a coworker or your project isn’t flowing you planned it.

These written prayers, inspired by the Psalms and the Bible, help give me language to pray. They also fill my heart and imagination to see how God is at work in my life.

If you haven’t heard, God cares about the workplace, the tasks, and the people. In fact, God longs to redeem and renew each aspect of the workplace.

I’m glad you went to church on Sunday. But it’s Monday and the worshipful response now starts. It starts with simple prayers, meditation, listening, and being mindful of God’s presence shaping and forming you to become like Jesus.

Church Memories

When I was a young kid (into my late teens), I belonged to a church community. From the ages of 10 until I was 20, I attended the same church.

A predominantly Latino American church, we had three services: 830am, Sunday school, 11am, and Spanish service at 2pm.

This is where I learned about Jesus, community, and how to play the drums.

Youth group was fun.
Music was rich.
People were caring.

I couldn’t wait to attend midweek and Sunday services. I loved everything about it. Most Sundays, we had a lunch break and the food was amazing. Or we’d go somewhere to eat and keep hanging out.

I made so many friendships, and mentors spoke into me. I’m a chaplain because of them.

One thing led to another and the church went through a horrible split. Friends left. Families were torn. What we had disappeared in the wind after some months. The next 6 years weren’t any better.

I haven’t been the same since then.

I’m grateful for the two communities we’ve been a part of. But it hasn’t been the same. It shouldn’t.

Sundays, I’d get up early, pray, and head to church where I’d be until late at night (choir practice). I looked forward to it all. Experiencing God and community. It was exciting and memorable.

Sundays have become something else for me. The magic of a Sunday morning is still there, but different.

I’m sad most Sundays. I drive 25 min to another city. I don’t get to sing in Spanish. I miss that.

The music isn’t the same. The musical community and mentoring… Gone.

I don’t get to hear the older women call me over in Spanish and offer me food or ask me how I’m doing.

I’m looking for something on a Sunday morning that had the same community and experiences I had, without the baggage that led to a split.

That split (and a subsequent church experience) hurt me to the core. I’m over it but not OVER it. I carry the memories of something I felt, but haven’t had in a while.

I’m not blaming or trying to say my current Community isn’t good. It’s not them, it’s me.

I know that.

There’s a part of me that wants what I had in the past. But I wouldn’t last in it. There’s a reason it split: good theology and leadership matter.

I have to do the work of finding and building community. That’s now on me. Nobody else.

I do hope that I’ll be able to be part of a community where I hear worship in Spanish and get to smell authentic Mexican cuisine.

Caring for Aging Parents

As a Chaplain, I’ve visited employees’ parents and have prayed with the family as they work through health issues requiring more caregiving from the adult-children.

Stability Undone

Imagine that you have a way of living, set routines that allow you to connect with your immediate family, work at your own pace, and a sense of stability. Then imagine all of that coming to a halt because of an aging parents’ health condition taking a turn. Work and home life schedules destabilized. Concerns of the health condition, finances, and proximity to the parent are all stress factors that are being worked through in real time.

Nonconstructive Responses to Health Issues

How do we respond to challenges such as our parents going through health concerns? We love and want to honor them during a loss of health (among other losses). Howard Clinebell says that people can respond in ways that actually create more of an emotional tailspin, causing more problems than needed. Here are some nonconstructive responses from people:

  • Denial that a problem exists.
  • Evasion of the problem (via alcohol or drugs, for example).
  • Refusal to seek or accept help.
  • Inability to express or master negative feelings.
  • Failure to explore the nature of the crisis and alternative solutions.
  • Projection onto others of major responsibility for causing and/or curing the crisis.
  • Turning away from friends, family, and other potentially helpful persons.

During health changes with aging parents, adult-children themselves need care, nurture, and supportive skills to manage the crisis. The threat of loss can be stressful and anxiety-ridden. An adult-child will most likely feel grief at a deep level, causing anxiety and a sense of being disoriented as they adjust to new normals.

Clinebell says that:

A crisis occurs within persons when their usual problem-solving activities are ineffective, allowing the stress of unmet need to rise unabated. The stress stems from the deprivation of the satisfaction of some fundamental physical or psychological needs.

Clinebell, Howard,McKeever, Sister Bridget Clare. Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling: Resources for the Ministry of Healing and Growth

A crisis has a way of halting our usual patterns of coping in life, causing a tension of new needs and stresses to figure out how to maneuver.

I’ve seen people have more stress and act out in unhealthy ways when the lack of healthy crisis response skills are not sought.

If the problem is not resolved, the inner stress of unmet needs mounts until it reaches another threshold—the breaking point where major personality disorganization (psychological, psychosomatic, interpersonal, or spiritual illness) occurs.

Clinebell, Howard,McKeever, Sister Bridget Clare. Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling: Resources for the Ministry of Healing and Growth

Finding a New Normal

The best I can do as a chaplain is to help the person think through options and goals during this time. Here is where Clinebell really shines in his approach to helping people cope with the crisis:

  • Facing the problem.
  • Enlarging ones understanding of it.
  • Expressing and working through negative feelings such as resentment, anxiety, and guilt.
  • Accepting responsibility for coping with the problem.
  • Exploring alternative ways of handling it.
  • Separating the changeable from the unchangeable in the situation, and avoiding wasting precious energy by trying to change the unchangeable.
  • Surrendering grandiose, burdensome aspects of one’s self-expectations.
  • Opening channels of communication with helpful people among relatives, friends, and professional persons.
  • Taking steps, however small, to handle the problem constructively.

Christ Jesus Faces Problems

It seems like Jesus models facing problems head on throughout the Gospels. If someone is sick, He visits. If someone dies, He weeps and goes to family’s home. When religious leaders are misusing power, He deals with it directly.

The ultimate problem is the Cross. He wants to avoid it, not face it when He prays to the Father to find an alternative options. During the prayer, He ends up saying, “Not my will but your will be done”. He does this three times!

As a chaplain, I’m trying to help people see the situation for what it is, helping them face the gravity of the problem and then asking God for the wisdom to walk through it with grace, trust, and peace. Options. Possibilities. Reflecting on the type of people we want to be during this time. Seeking meaning.

For me, as I provide care for my family members who are going through health issues, I want to see myself as a person who is safe, loving, and nurturing. I want to be the type of person that knows God longs to equip and help shape my character to reflect Christ in all circumstances. This means sacrificing, seeking a deeper meaning and purpose to the situation, being a faithful presence.

Becoming Intentionally Worthless

“they followed worthless idols and became worthless”
“They lived a “nothing” life and became “nothings”

2 kings 17 (NIV, MSG)

Before I exposit my deep knowledge, I’ve been trying out different ways to read the bible on a daily basis. I’m not the best at it but I’ve been trying different lectionaries. The Daily Lectionary is based off the Book of Common prayer (and if it’s not, please correct me). It has a New Testament Reading, Gospel Reading, Old Testament (OT) Reading, and Psalms readings. There is a thread of themes weaved into the readings. I highly encourage this mode of reading.

Today’s passages were a struggle. I got stuck looking up Asherah polls and worship from the OT. Why would the people of God keep turning to other belief systems when Yahweh was their belief system?

We tend to be inward, self-preservation type of people. Some of it is healthy. Some of it is destructive when it interferes with personal health and communal vitality.

We believe and behave certain ways because we get something out of it. Because it may appear to work in the moment.

I believe that trusting God as the primary source of making meaning in life is vital to who I am and become. And yet there’s a bit of self-preservation in that statement.

I don’t want to have a “worthless” or “nothing” type of life. It just doesn’t sound appealing or a worthy endeavor.

I’m very curious about how we become who we are. It’s something that has fascinated me for years.

How do we become believers of Jesus?

How do we become good musicians?

I saw a very nice BMW car the other day and the license plate decal spelled the words CREATE WEALTH. For that person, wealth was very important. He had his two kids in this great looking and expensive car and it appeared that he learned how to create wealth. I don’t know for sure because all I see is his high priced car. But does that mean he’s wealthy and has learned how to create wealth. And who will he become in the next five years? Is creating wealth going to help him become a “someone” in life, someone worthy?

The Kings passage is contrasted with Peter confessing that he was a sinner and was not very holy. With Peter praying for a deceased woman who comes back to life and then spends a designated amount of time in this new town. With Psalm 66-67 that speak of God’s creative power and our commitment to make vows with God.

The people of Israel sought prosperity by believing in Asherah worship. Peter and the Psalms writer is seeking direction from the God who created all things.

The people of God ended up slavery. The apostle Peter became the head of the church and a martyr for the sake of Christ, the Victorious one.

The people of God wrestled with their beliefs and allegiance.

Peter wrestled with trusting Jesus to be Lord.

There’s that flippin word again: Lord.

What might happen if I follow Jesus? Will I become worthless and live a “nothing” life? It doesn’t seem to be the case. But I still struggle with this followship effort.

Taking the Reality of the Church for Granted

As I’ve been working on church planting, one thing I’ve realized is that the concept of church has to start with God’s heart (mission) for humanity and this world.

If you’ve grown up in church, then sometimes the language of what church is about seems familiar and “known”.

But I’ve noticed that I’ve taken the reality of Church for granted.

What is the purpose of a church?
Why would someone make a decision to be a part of one?
What is God’s heart towards the Church at large and local church?
What is our role in God’s mission for our local city and the world?
What is the work of the church?

I’m not interested in planting another Sunday service in Oceanside. I’d just really like to worship with others, be reminded of who God is and how I might respond in faithfulness.

I’m interested in partnering with others to grow up to be like Christ in life, words, actions, and relationships.

And I’m interested in doing the work of Jesus via the church with others, learning from each other as we submit to the Lordship of Christ.

I don’t have the darnest clue of how to gather folks to figure this out. But I’m praying that the Holy Spirit is at work in the small seed of desire to be an incarnational presence in our city.

This Little Girl

Many times as I’m about to pray or read the bible, I’m anticipating and hoping for a life changing experience. I want the feels, the revelation insights, or the sweet moments of inspiration.

I pray and read thinking that I will find a new insight that will transform my life. If you’ve been in christian culture for a while, you know what I’m talking about so don’t front. 😉

Today, I read 2 Kings 5, 1 Cor. 4, Matthew 5, and Psalm 80. All have great content and something profound to offer. But to be honest, I was riddled by the story in 2 Kings 5. Specifically about “the little girl from Israel”. This “little girl” is juxtaposed by Namaan, a valiant soldier. He has a skin disease but is a man of power. The little girl’s name is not given and she has one line in the whole story that is about to change Namaan’s life.

A little Girl.
One line in the whole story.

Did I forget to mention that she is a slave but instead of seeking revenge, she points Namaan to a possible cure of his skin condition.

Namaan is the enemy: slave owner, soldier who killed the little girls community.

But this little girl from Israel values the heart of Yahweh. She learned it from the great prophet, Elisha.

God doesn’t just want us to obey him. He wants us to value what He values. “This little girl from Israel” learned what God valued and she began to value it too.

Day Dreaming or Daily Depression

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams and listening to others about their dreams. When Brene Brown (famous TEDx speaker and therapist researcher) speaks, it’s like God herself spoke through the prophet! In one of her books, she makes the case that when we squander our gifts and dreams, we become depressed and anxious.

People don’t dream because they may be afraid of failing, which makes them anxious and maybe a little depressed.

But if we don’t listen to our dreams or nurture our gifts, there’s a high probability that we will experience anxiety and depression.

A few years ago, I’d get home from work and think to myself, “Is this all there is to life? Go to work, come home, do the family routine, and go to bed?” I was depressed. I didn’t realize it at the time until I found myself crying one day with a friend.

None of what I’ve said is the major point of this post. But it provides some context for this: “be generous with your life…” (Eugene Peterson).

What is your source in life that is guiding and leading you, your dreams, gifts, and hopes? What or who do you turn to when trying to make sense of this life and world? As I write this, I am hoping you picture me saying these words with fervor, passion, hands opened as a plea to think deeply about this.

The God I can reading about and introduced to through Jesus in the Gospels keeps telling me to let my life shine by being generous to others, by opening up my life to others and that something supernatural happens in the exchange: The Generous God is present and things change.

The other day, I was meeting with a Gen Z’r (someone born between 1995 and 2014). His big concern was financial and work stability. He was only 22 years old and was having anxiety about this. Sociologists have made this observation with this generation.

So we talked about their dreams and aspirations. Nothing came up. So we prayed for a little bit and the person said, “I think I’m so afraid of not having stability that I’ve stopped dreaming! I need to figure this out.”

There was a sense of awe and that something bigger was happening in the room. So we dug deeper, asked more questions, prayed more, listened, and there was more awe.

The Generous God is saying to dream and to be generous with others! Give your talents, dreams, and gifts away to others. Something “AWE” is waiting to happen!

CCM Drumming. Lord, Help Me

The other day, I played at a worship night event and had lots of fun. I used the house kit: a Ludwig Keystone. I loved this kit. But this isn’t the point.

The worship set was a mixture of some gospel (not hard core, but some), African, and CCM. In all, it was a multi-genre set that was fun.

Afterwords, a few drummers came up and asked about the cymbals and shared some compliments (always a weird thing cuz I want to hear the compliments but I also don’t want the attention). One dude asked me, “Do you play at church”, and my knee jerk response was, “Well, I’m trying not to”. And then I started laughing!

He then asked me, “Cuz it’s too simple?” And honestly, I wanted to say, “Yeah! It’s too simple, dry, boring, and bland”.

But I didn’t. I said, “Well, I do periodically play at churches but I just don’t have much fun doing it right now.” Most churches are playing all the popular worship songs that churches like Bethel, Hillsong, and other mega churches have written. And the genre is this mesh of rock, folk, ballad which we have simply called CCM (contemporary christian music).

I also told him that I grew up playing and attending a church that did musical styles ranging from gospel, r&b, ballads, and latin jazz. That’s what I grew up playing…and still enjoy to this day.

I don’t have anything against CCM music, or the people who have created the songs, or the musicians. In fact, it takes lots of creativity to do what they’ve done. So I have respect for them.

I’ve been in the studio creating some CCM tracks and when I’m doing the creating, it’s MORE fun but it’s not what I prefer to be doing.

In the words of Marie Kondo (Netflix, Tidying Up), the current church music stuff does not bring me any joy. Whatsoever. I don’t blame the creators of CCM or churches that do this style of music.

But I get zero joy out of playing CCM or listening to it.

I’m sharing all of this because I’m frustrated with musical styles at church. Why is it that most churches only do CCM? I mean, really!? There’s some tom stuff at the beginning. Die out at the bridge. Build it back up with toms. And then go into a full blown rhythm at the end.

At this very moment, I wonder if there’s someone from a gospel music church that’s saying, “I wonder why we ONLY do gospel music and not CCM?” Or at a latin american church that only does samba and salsa! LOL!


I’m not saying anything spectacular right now. I’d have to dig a little deeper. There’s the whole convo of being a multi-ethnic church and about being hospitable to others. There’s a lot happening with music, church, worship, with many different layers that includes theology and anthropology.

I think about how a church will have a particular musical genre value and sometimes it just feels imposed on me. Or the idea that I should like it and respond in exuberant praise. “Well, it’s not about the music Roy! It’s about Jesus. Stop being so difficult and superficial”. I’ve heard comments like this before. I wanna say, “Ok. You’re right! I’m sorry.” But I’m not sorry for sharing that I have zero joy in playing CCM stuff. I try my best at it but it’s not what I prefer.

I guess I’m just trying to figure out how I can play more multi-genre sets that capture different ways of experiencing God through music. I also want to be stretched as a musician and learn different genres that give me joy.

Here’s to hoping for different genres to be played at churches so that we can appreciate different cultures and tastes.

And here’s hoping to get more latin jazz, afro, jazz, experimental jazz, neo soul gigs that will help me grow as a musician.

Faithful Beyond Shame

The voice of shame distracts. Insecurities, self doubt, and fear hijack my brain, triggering an emotional spin cycle of depression, withdrawing, and infidelity. Yes, in my hijacked state, I become unfaithful to God’s purposes, vision, and call on my life. I fantasize about other ways to live my life, trying to run away from God. Why? Some say it’s because of spiritual oppressiveness. Other responses may be because of our brokenness. I think it’s all of these things AND my sense of desiring to be in control. If I could be in control and call the shots, then I begin to believe that I can control outcomes and other people. I can play being godlike.

When I squander the gifts and calling God has given, I become more shame-filled and withdraw. I become less of who God has designed me to be. I’m aching for deep communion with God and instead of responding with faithfulness and fruitfulness, I hide. I withdraw and nurse my shame and pain.

God longs for us to be faithful and fruitful, to the point where the Lord will get our attention in specific ways to get us to re-think and re-turn to Him. I’m grateful for all the “re” words in the Bible. God won’t give up on us. He’s committed to us and the redemption of this world. Living a life of faithfulness and fruitfulness is a steady, daily call. And it liberates us from bondage to shame and meaninglessness.

(Review of Deep Work) Rule 1 Work Deeply

Deep Work by Cal Newport is a book that has been circulating in my network for the last two years. The book is about creating rituals and rhythms to have focused time on working and focusing deeply on things that matter, while removing distractions. Reducing shallow thinking times, disconnecting from social media and online surfing for long periods of time during the day are just some examples of reducing distractions.

In part 2 of his book, he starts with Rule #1: Work Deeply. Newport addresses the need to build habits and rituals because we get so easily distracted by the superficial. Newport says,

Unfortunately, when it comes to replacing distraction with focus, matters are not so simple. To understand why this is true let’s take a closer look at one of the main obstacles to going deep: the urge to turn your attention toward something more superficial. Most people recognize that this urge can complicate efforts to concentrate on hard things, but most underestimate its regularity and strength.

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 98). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

CONFESSION: I know that when I begin to read a book or start a project, the moment I hit a tough problem, I go online or check social media sites. I go superficial real quick.

To say that we can just will ourselves past these temptations to be distracted is futile. Willpower is more like a muscle than an inherited trait. As Newport says,

“You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it. Your will, in other words, is not a manifestation of your character that you can deploy without limit; it’s instead like a muscle that tires.”

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 100). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

This is good news for me. I no longer shame myself for not having the “will” to muscle through deep thinking work. I need a different way to approach deep work.

This is where Newport offers the key motivating strategy and idea for engaging in deep work:

The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration...if you deployed smart routines and rituals—perhaps a set time and quiet location used for your deep tasks each afternoon—you’d require much less willpower to start and keep going. In the long run, you’d therefore succeed with these deep efforts far more often.

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 100). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The first strategy to develop healthy habits and rituals is to have a philosophy to integrate deep work into our working lives. There are a few different depth philosophies to integrate deep thinking and focused time. For the sake of encouraging people to buy the book, I’m offering a very quick one summary of each:

  1. The Monastic Philosophy: create deep efforts by eliminating or reducing shallow obligations. Works well for people who have singular goals in mind and have the kinds of jobs that allow for this type of schedule.
  2. The Bimodal Philosophy: dedicate stretches of time without interruptions and distractions (this would ideally be a dedicated whole day of deep work).
  3. The Rhythmic Philosophy: establish a simple routine/ritual schedule that removes the need to decide IF you should do deep work. This could be a set block of start and end time (i.e. waking up at 530 am and doing deep work for 2 hours).
  4. The Journalistic Philosophy: fitting deep work into your schedule whenever you can (this presupposes an ability to switch modes and go into deep work rather quickly…it’s not for a deep work novice).

We can develop our own philosophy so long as we follow some of the general guidelines from these. In all of these frameworks, the importance is that intentionality and active engagement are implemented (do it!). This can be an experimental time at first to see what works.

For example, I like to get up at 5am and meditate. This sets the tone for the rest of the day. It’s followed up by 1.5 hours of focused deep work time. Since I have a full time job, I need the deep work time in the mornings (when I seem to be most fresh). I try not to go online when I’m getting bored or hit something hard in my deep work. That’s when I tend to get frustrated and want to be distracted.

Sermon On the Mount – More of God

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%205&version=MSG;NIV

It reminds me of the first step in AA – “We admitted we were powerless”. There are a few times I’ve been at the end of my rope. And in many of these cases, it’s been my doing. I overcommit and try to take on too many things. This causes undue stress and I end up not doing anything well.

Admitting that I’m limited with scope, time, and talent is a relief. I can’t do every single thing I think about or want to do. Life is a season of ebbs and flows. There are times when I have bandwidth to try new things. But mostly, I’m a father and husband who is also a corporate chaplain. I have limits to my time and abilities.

Being at the end of my rope has caused me to say “I’m powerless”. I need help. I don’t know what to do but I’m open to there being less of me and more of God’s rule and reign.

I long to trust Abba (heavenly father) for the sake of trusting. Less of me and my own issues, and more of God’s rule and reign is a good thing in my life.

A Precious Container of Enough

I’m doing this Ignatian Spirituality Daily Devotional this month. It’s been great! Today’s was especially encouraging. I was listening to it on my run through the neighborhood.

A prayer I needed this morning. What I have (and offer) is enough…because it loves You!

“Lord,
I am a precious container of love,
genuine and costly.
When it is time to pour it out,
don’t let me get too lost in calculation,
or worry about wasting it.
Don’t let my desire to love others
get drowned out by the voices that tell me it’s pointless.
Give me the courage to break the jar,
and let me hear you say that what I offer is enough,
because it loves you.”

Jesuit Prayer inspired from the Gospel of Mark ch.14

https://www.pathwaystogod.org/day-22-challenge

Making Marriage Simple: Negativity is a wish in disguise (ch.7)

NOTE: I’m reading through “Making Marriage Simple, by Harville Hendrix and offering some overviews of the chapters. It’s a great go-to book for advice and practices to help nurture and restore marriage.

In ch 7, Hendrix says that negativity is a wish in disguise. This means behind the negative or hurtful thoughts, there’s an unmet desire. We long for something that is not being met. This is good news! It gives us insights as to what we CAN DO with our anger, hurt, or deep needs.

Hendrix offers simple ways to communicate these wishes in way that is responsible and clear enough for your partner to understand.

Here are a few steps (buy the book for the rest of them… 😉

1. Say it so your partner can hear (Use “I” statements such as “I feel lonely”, not “You are never home!”)

2. Be brief and clear (don’t ramble on and flood your partner with EVERYTHING)

3. Choose one frustration at a time (this will help your partner to respond)

4. Approach your partner when you’re feeling calm (it’s HOW and WHEN you say it that matters)

5. Never criticize, shame, blame, or analyze your partner.

Making Marriage Simple, by Harvile Hendrix (ch. 7)

You’ll have to read the rest for some additional tips on sharing the actual wish and behavioral change you’re looking for. It’s easy to read and understand. Go for it! Get it! 🙂

Staying Put in Your Relationship

I’ve been reading this book on marriage by Harville Hendrix on the recommendation of a good friend whose a psycho-analyst and therapist. It’s been helpful to work through my own patterns of thinking and emotions. (link here)

It is a lot harder to find our peaceful center when looking into the face of another—especially when that “other” may not be feeling at peace with us. And when our beloved is bugging us, forget it. Peace flies right out the window! For this reason, we say that one of the greatest spiritual paths is staying put in your relationship and learning how to really love your partner, warts and all. When you can validate your partner’s experience and express empathy—even when their experience makes absolutely no sense to you.

Hendrix, Harville. Making Marriage Simple: Ten Relationship-Saving Truths

Sometimes it’s tough being the person of peace. At other (most) times, it’s tough to be the wart. What Hendrix offers is a way to slow down and show each other empathy of the deepest kind.

He says (bullets and emphasis mine):

Elevating your relationship to this status transforms the Imago Process into a spiritual practice. Like meditation and prayer, Dialogue slows you down, quiets your mind, and invites you to…

*put aside those same old thoughts you obsessively think about over and over again.

*Instead, you simply Mirror back your partner’s words, and imagine how they are feeling, truly bearing witness to their experience.

*Then when you offer them a Caring Behavior and speak to them from the Owl instead of the Crocodile, you are unleashing the neurochemistry of Love.

*This feels great to you, and is great for your partner. The Divine is waiting to show up in the Space Between.

Hendrix, Harville. Making Marriage Simple: Ten Relationship-Saving Truths .

God is present and when we choose to be empathetic, listen, and hold each other’s pain, there is sacred space between both partners. God shows up!

God Loves Oceanside through People

God is in the business of renewal and justice. As such, I’m grateful to be part of a group of people (in tandem with people of peace and churches in Oceanside that have many decades of service) in Oceanside that are praying for revival and renewal.

We are daring (and humbly) ready to trust that God is at work in the city to renew and reconcile, and that He wants to do that through Osiders: human beings whom God has rescued, healed, and sent into this great city.

God has always had in mind to partner with humanity to rule and reign in this world. Through Jesus, he rescued and renewed us so that we might be agents of the Good News.

This Oceanside renewal project is based on God’s choosing of this city to see it prosper and bring hope. This is a movement of peopled called together in the name of Jesus to see justice, wholeness, and transformation happen among us.

God has always called and empowered His people to see His good purposes fulfilled. And God will continue to call people to be about this redemptive project.

God’s goodness will be enacted through a people called and empowered. And it is happening now! Not later. Now!

We’d love to hear your story and your heart for this great city! This is not our exclusive vision or purpose. It belongs to Christ and we’re grateful to be a part of it. Let’s collaborate and partner to see God’s good purposes accomplished in and through Oceanside.

Peace,

Roy (Pastor, Facilitator)

Preparing to Preach

I came across this post on book recommendation geared for the weekly pastor-preacher. 

I found the book review post very helpful, given that I’ve had certain proclivities to prepping in the manner discussed but also about using the lectionary text. There’s a bit of liturgical theology that I feel drawn towards. 

I liked the idea of letting the text percolate throughout the week, allowing it to marinate and fill the imagination. Much of the work is listening to the text and Holy Spirit. That requires intentional listening and time.

It was encouraging to think through preaching prep from this perspective. It makes it feel more like a daily habit of listening to how the Word is providing daily bread for a meal to be spread out on preaching day.