Life: It's All Around Us

Life: It's All Around Us

Saturday, February 26, 2011

X Marks the Spot

Have you ever heard yourself say things like ... 

" I want to find purpose in what I do."
" I want to feel fulfilled."
" I want to wake up excited for what the day
" I want to be happy."
" I want to be more intelligent."
" I want to make a difference."
" I can't believe I get paid to do this."
" I could do this for the rest of my life."    

     One of my husband's favorite movies is National Treasure.  He enjoys the history references made throughout the movie and all the entangled drama found in the discovery of the treasure.  He loves the persistence and the relentless determination of those seeking the treasure.  He loves the triumph over the adversity and the payoff they receive for their patience.  When we think of going on a treasure hunt, we envision a map with a BIG red "X" on it indicating where the treasure can be found.  Life is much like a treasure hunt.  Many of us spend years and years in hopes of discovering our own personal treasure, that is, the thing in life we are most passionate about.  I'm sure many of you have been or are at a place where you are still attempting to discover that "thing" that drives you, that "thing" that truly moves your heart and makes you feel fulfilled. Discovering your passion is not always so easy.  Some people, like my husband, knew from a very young age the thing they were most passionate about and without apologies pursued it whole-heartedly.  But for many of us, this discovery is more like a treasure hunt.  We spend our lives weaving in and out of experiences, trying to be persistent and patient in hopes of one day stumbling upon the big red X and "presto!" we found our passion!  If only life were that easy!  Well, I'm right there with you!  So, as I continue on my own journey, I thought I'd share with you some practical advice I've stumbled across along the way.

First, start out by asking yourself the following questions:
" Where am I today?"
" Where do I want to be tomorrow?"
" What do I want to do with my life?"

Begin your Discovery through ...

Your own personal Intuition.  Another way of saying this is to listen to your heart.  You are wired with certain "hot buttons."  These hot buttons are things that move your heart to action.  Your intuition guides when these hot buttons ignite.  This could mean working for a cause or pure enjoyment.

Your day-to-day Experiences.  Be aware as you go through your day.  Anticipate things that may trigger your passion and make you take note.  This may be an observation of stranger's job, a commercial you see on TV, or a quality conversation with a friend. 

Your own Quiet Time.  Find ways to "shut the world out" and the many distractions from your daily life.  It is often in these quiet moments that our minds can unfold our life experiences and help us to sort out our thoughts.  I have found that being in nature often clears my mind the best.  Try taking a long walk or packing up the tent and camping outside over night.

Your Past, Present, and Future.   Remember things that made you excited or intrigued as a child.  We loved those things in our most honest & vulnerable moments, before our views on the world became skewed.  Then think about the things that you look forward to each day when you wake up.  What happened on days that you considered a great day?  Finally, take time to dream about the future.  If there were no limitations on what the future could look like for you, what would your life look like?  Now, look for the connections from all three.

* It never hurts to Gain Perspective.  Have friends and family name your strengths & weaknesses or your talents & abilities.  Take inventory of the things they have told you.  Although we truly know ourselves the best, they will see your passions from another perspective.

* Seek out New Experiences.  This will widen your view and cause you to step outside your daily box that may be holding you back from discovering your passion.  Try taking a class (cooking, art, etc), consider getting a part-time job in a new field, help a friend at work, attend lectures or meetings, or take up a new hobby.  Although these things may stretch you, they will ultimately break down many of the barriers that prevent you from finding what you enjoy.

* Be aware & Take Note.  Literally.  Keep a notepad with you and write down when you are moved by or are intrigued by something.  You will be able to compile this later on to help determine an area where you are passionate.  

* Expose yourself to New Perspectives
   * Reading (authors or topics that will stretch your perspective or increase overall intelligence.  Also try reading bios from those people in society you admire or aspire to be like).
   * Traveling (expose yourself to new towns, new people, new cultures).
   * Watching Plays or Movies (allow yourself to be enveloped and intrigued by the story line.  Picture yourself in their shoes and see how it makes you feel).   
   * Attending Festivals or Concerts 
   * Find Alone Time to Think 

(Again, as you are exposed to these New Perspectives, take time to write down when you are moved or inspired by something.  After some time, read through your notes and see how these merge together). 

     There is no perfect remedy for discovering what you are most passionate about.  However, these suggestions should give you a boost in the right direction.  However, the most important thing anyone can do to discover their passion, is to pray and ask God to reveal His perfect will for your life.  He may just choose to use one of these suggestions to do so!  Please comment as you begin your own personal experiences.  I'm excited to be on the journey with you!     

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Our friend is WRONGFULLY imprisoned

Please READ this story and allow your heart to be moved & compelled to ACTION ...

(this is the back story from my friend Holly's FB page)

"On Feb 17, a dear friend,  George Aguilar  has been sent to prison. He has been an incredible light for Christ in sharing the gospel with everyone he comes in contact with - and especially with our international friends. As a result, we believe that his imprisonment is a result of spiritual warfare as Satan seeks to silence a powerful witness for Christ. So, I am writing to plead that you pray earnestly on his behalf. He gave me permission to share his story.

Jorge's amazing STORY ... 

Jorge Aguilar ("George" as many know him) moved to America from El Salvador when he was ten years old to live with his father. Life was not easy, however, and he suffered much as a teenager with few, if any, positive influences on his life. As a young adult, he  - along with some friends - began to rob churches, taking computers, projectors, and any other equipment that they could. Finally, he and the others were caught and arrested for their crimes.

As a young man facing a trial and prison, George was frightened and searched for something that he could do to try to help his situation. A friend suggested that he write an apology letter to the churches he had stolen from. So, he penned a letter and the detective who had arrested him accompanied George to help him personally deliver the letters to the churches. Unfortunately, most of the churches did not reach out to George, even after receiving his letter. But one church did.

Pastor Nick Garland from First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow was not there the day George brought his letter to the church. But God used George's letter to move in Pastor Garland's heart, and so he called the detective and asked George to be brought back to the church. That day, both Pastor Garland and George sat weeping in the pastor's office as he led George to faith in Jesus.

Very shortly thereafter, George was sent to prison and then boot camp for his crimes. But Pastor Garland and First Baptist Church of BA continued to pour into George's life. After he had served his sentence and was finally released, the pastor continued to mentor George. And George began to grow in his faith by leaps and bounds.

Now, a number of years later, George's faith in Jesus is amazing. He is so saturated by the Word of God that it flows from him in every conversation. He passionately loves his Savior, and over the past few years has actively shared Christ with all who are around him. With drunkards while they vomit on the floor. With strangers that he meets on the side of the road. With Mormons. With Muslims. With Jews and Hindus. Recently, he has joined Tim and Jenny Farrell and myself as a vital teammember in leading an international Bible study group that is reaching Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. He is a blessing and the fragrance of Christ to all who know him.

On Feb 17, however, he had to go to court to resolve some final immigration issues resulting from his crimes from a number of years ago. He and everyone else (including his attorney) were expecting for the issues to be dropped and finished. However, because of some bad  decisions on part of the judge and other attorneys, the judge instead ordered George be deported and immediately took him into custody to send him to prison ... and he has been there ever since."  

We have said George has turned into a modern day Paul!  He is in prison but has been preaching and lifting up the name of Jesus to everyone he meets.  He has seen prisoners weeping over their own brokenness and has shared the gospel with many.  Although this is amazing, he IS being wrongfully detained and needs to be released!

Let's put feet to our faith!  Here's how you can be a part of George's FREEDOM:

1.) Pray.  

Pray that God will prepare Nuria Prendez's (Case Worker for immigration) heart, so that she will be willing to give the order to have George released.

Also, George has been sick this week with a high fever and cough.  He needs both physical and spiritual strength.

2.) Write.  

Even if you don't personally know him, if you are a believer, he is your brother.  He could sure use the encouragement & writing a letter is a great way to do that!  

Here's the best way:

Be sure to write his Spanish name "Jorge"  - not George - on the envelope):

Jorge Guillermo Aguilar-Alvarez, #1133546, F-18 M-1
David L Moss Correctional Facility
300 N. Denver
Tulsa, OK 74103

Do not send anything in addition to your letter. No pictures, money, gifts, etc., are allowed.
Each letter will be opened and reviewed before being given to George. Therefore, each page of the letter/card must have Jorge's full name and ID number (1133546) printed at the top.
Internet printouts are usually rejected, so if you want to send him something from the internet, you will need to copy and paste it into a Word document and remove all references to email addresses and websites.
Handwritten notes are best.

3.) Give. 

Even if George is released from jail, we still must file an appeal to the decision to have him deported. We have 30 days to file the appeal; otherwise, George will be sent back to El Salvador permanently.

However, filing an appeal costs $4,000. Because George is currently imprisoned, he has no way of paying this amount. And even if he is released, this is a large amount to come up with in 30 days. Therefore, I am asking you to pray about and consider helping George cover his legal fees needed to appeal his deportation.

Contributions can be sent directly to his attorney's office. Attach a note with the check directing the funds be applied to Jorge Aguilar's account. Please make checks out to:

The Law Office of Campbell Cooke
Southern Woods Park III
4627 E. 91st Street
Tulsa, OK 74137
Phone: 918-960-3400

1.) Call.

 Luke 18:1-8 "And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Contact Senators Coburn and Inhofe to ask for help in obtaining George's release.

The call only takes about two minutes of your day.
US Senator James Inhofe – Immigration is Chris Stover at 405-608-4381
US Senator Tom Coburn – Immigration is Janice Hagen at 405-231-4941 ext 16


Thank you in advance for all you're going to do to get involved!  To God be all glory!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why I Stop Praying

I recently got a FB message from a friend and this is what she said:

     "I have an interesting question for you....but I thought I'm sure you and your husband have been in my shoes before.  What do you do when you have been praying for something for quite a while, and trying to be patient, and still don't really feel like you know what your supposed to do? And at times, don't feel like you're really getting an answer? Been super overwhelmed about something, so I thought I would get your perspective."  

     I know many of us feel this way at times.  We begin to get an overwhelming sense that even if we were to scream at the top of our lungs to the Heavens, God still would not hear our voices.  When life is pressing in and we feel an answer could not come fast enough, we still don't receive clear direction.  I would encourage you to read the following passage: Luke 11:5-10. This passage shows us what happens when we keep asking, keep searching, and keep knocking. Persistence moves the heart of God. Also, read Luke 18:1-8. Just like the widow was persistent in pleading her case, we have to be persistent in pursuing God with the things that are closest to our hearts, in a sense, pleading our case with Him. The scripture says He will not delay in answering us but keep in mind His time table is very different than ours. To Him, a day is like a thousand years & a thousand years like a day. The answer may not come in our timing but it WILL come. The answer may not be what we want to hear, but He WILL answer. God will honor your faithfulness in pursuing Him, regardless of the answer He gives you.

When you feel tempted to STOP praying, push through and be even more PERSISTENT!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happily Ever After

     Zac and Amanda were two very different individuals when they met.  They had both recently graduated from college, Zac from Tulsa University and Amanda from Pittsburg State University.  He was the quarterback, she was the homecoming queen.  So, by all movie standards, they were destined to be together.  But something much deeper than a hollywood cliche was drawing these two to be at the perfect place at the perfect time.  

     It was Sept of 2007.  On this particular evening, Amanda was going to a birthday party for a friend at a restaurant on the Riverwalk in Tulsa, OK.  Zac was there too, with his own friends when he noticed an acquaintance he hadn’t seen in a while.  On most normal occasions, Zac would have tried to avoid the sometimes awkward situation of running into someone you haven’t seen in a while and all the meaningless small-talk that comes along with it.  However, this night was different.  Zac did begin speaking with him. 

     In the midst of the conversation, Amanda caught his eye from a small distance away.  The very moment he laid eyes on her, she made a deeper, lasting impression on him.  This wasn’t just some girl in a restaurant.  Zac was seeing Amanda through a different set of eyes, eyes that would eventually become clearer to him as his new life began to unfold.  But for this special moment in time, he was struck by her radiant spirit that seemed to glow from the inside out.  He saw a light in her Spirit he was instantly drawn to.  He had to meet her.  It was like his next breath depended on it.

     Through his unexpected run-in with an old acquaintance, Zac got his introduction.  Amanda, however, was not as eager.  She was just there to spend time with friends and meeting a guy was the last thing on her mind.  But Zac, being the persistent salesman that he is, would not take no for an answer.  That night, he " sold " himself to Amanda.  She relented and gave him her phone number.  When Zac called her, they proceeded to have the longest, deepest, most meaningful conversation either of them had ever had.  They both felt an unusual connection and knew something special was beginning.  This led to their first official date at quaint, little steakhouse on Main Street.  

     Before they met, Amanda, began attending a church in Tulsa, OK.  During her time of being single, she had began to learn so much about herself and about God’s love for her through her pastor's teaching.  Zac, on the other hand, though he was raised in church had drifted away some during his college years and was coming into this relationship with a bit of a wild past.  After Zac began attending church with Amanda, he began to realize the unmistakable light he had seen in her that first night was her love for Jesus.  He knew he had seen in her the spirit, the love, and the connection that he, too, so desperately wanted.  They began growing in their journey to know Jesus more together and their connection grew deeper in the passing months.  

     Zac and Amanda both knew they needed to surround themselves with other couples who felt the love they felt for one another and for God.  They began to seek out a small group at church where they could find the deeper, committed friendships they were looking for.  They finally found a group, a community of friends where they could really connect.  Here, they were able to surround themselves with couples who truly loved them and wanted to see them become all they could be for God and for each other.  That’s exactly what began to happen.  Zac and Amanda would faithfully show up to their small group, God would speak to everyone, Zac would cry, Amanda would comfort, and their love for one another grew deeper with each passing month.  As they grew in their relationship with one another and with the Lord, they both felt they were ready to take their commitment to the next level.  Zac knew he wanted to propose to Amanda.

     Zac went to a jeweler and custom-designed the ring for Amanda he felt was the visual picture of the light that shone from within her spirit.  The magnificent yellow diamond and the beauty of the finished ring was only a fraction of the beauty Zac saw when he looked at Amanda.  This ring would be the outward symbol of his internal commitment to her for the rest of their lives, but Zac did not propose right away.  He knew Amanda’s relationship with her family was such an important part of her life and wanted to respect her by getting the needed permission of her father.  Zac drove to Amanda's hometown to meet with him and, after stating his intentions, Amanda’s dad gave the blessing for Zac to marry his little girl.  He now felt more ready than ever to ask her but it was really important to Zac that he propose at a time when Amanda least expected it.

     It was August of 2008.  They had driven to Amanda's parent's home to celebrate her birthday.  Amanda’s entire family would be there and Zac could not think of a better time or place to propose.  It was a celebration of Amanda’s life, the life he had fallen in love with, surrounded by the people who meant the most to her, those who would become his family.  However, as the night went on, Zac was never able to find the right time to ask with the whole family there.  Reluctantly, he decided to wait for a more intimate moment just between the two of them.  
     Later that evening, after the party, as they were sitting on the couch at Zac’s house casually talking, he looked at her and suddenly felt compelled to ask the love of his life to be his wife.  His love for her had been building to this moment and he was ready to put a permanent seal on his commitment to her.  He told her to sit tight for just a minute while he grabbed a little surprise he had for her.  When he came back, in a very intimate moment only the two of them could be a part of, he asked Amanda to marry him.  There they sat.  In this small, quaint house that, together, in all of their love, they would turn into their home.  From this moment on, every time they sat in that very spot, they would be able to instantly go back to the time when they agreed to join their lives together.   They could go back to the moment where only the two of them would know the overwhelming emotion of finally ending the journey to find “the one.”  For they had found each other and would now begin a a new journey, not as individuals, but as a complete pair. 


Zac and Amanda were married on October 17, 2009.
They are now expecting their first baby, a little girl due in April!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ready to Leap but need a PUSH?

Just heard a great line on a movie " Later is always harder than
Sooner... no one is ever really ready, that's why they call it a Leap.
If you keep waiting, you'll wait forever."

Someone skydiving for the very first time, looking over that ledge on
the airplane, will never be able to wait long enough to 'be ready' to
really jump.  They can not muster up enough courage in their human body
to be ready for something like that, there are too many "what-if's"
involved.  But, here they are, the decision has been made & this
is what they are doing.  After all, they are already up in the plane. The pilot
has brought them this far, a seasoned skydiver has helped strap
them in & given them all the instruction they have from their own
experience, and now its all up to them.  There is no backing
out.  They just have to close their eyes & JUMP, trusting the
parachute will do what it's "promised" & catch them.  When it's all
said & done, this parachute will have done one of two things ... keep
them from crashing to the ground OR given them a soft easy, safe
landing ... it all depends on how they view the parachute. Either way,
if they take this difficult LEAP & the parachute does what it's sure
to do ... this courageous person will land safely on two feet ... and
this experience will leave them ... never the same.