Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Great Episode of Oprah

I used to be a big Oprah fan. My college roommates and I would tune in most days and I longed to be a audience member on her "Favorite Things" episode (OK - I still long for that). In recent years, she's said some things about her faith and the idea of being "spiritual" that have kind of rubbed me the wrong way, so I'm not watching too much anymore. But a couple of weeks ago, I tuned in for an episode about people who live lifestyles that are out of the ordinary. Lisa Ling was the correspondent and first she went and learned about life as a geisha. Most of the show though, was dedicated to the Dominican Sisters of Mary. Lisa Ling stayed overnight at their convent in Ann Arbor, Michigan and then a few of the sisters were brought on the show.

I have to say the one thing that stood out the most to me was their happiness. These ladies were so joy-filled! I've met several nuns in my day. Some were very serious and others could be better described as "merry," but each of them in their own way to me is a model of dedication to Christ. It's not an easy life. In these times especially, the value of a woman is so heavily placed on beauty and her role as a wife and mother. To choose to live a celibate life and to never marry or have children (or make-up in most cases!) takes a true calling.

If you missed it, click here to see a portion of the segment. There is even a local girl, Gina in it. She's pals with Olivia. The after-the-show segment here talks about the importance of silence and meditation. What a great message forall of us who often have difficulty slowing down and spending some quiet time with God. It's also a reminder to pray for vocations to the religious life. There are plenty of people and things leading our kids into the complete opposite direction of a life dedicated to Christ. We need to be strong in our prayers and support as well.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Meatless Meals

This afternoon, I have to sit outside a Chick-fil-A for four hours. It's for a very worthy cause: we're collecting donations for Help Brings Hope for Haiti, Inc. Unfortunately, it's going to be a torturous time due to the fact that because it's Friday and Lent has begun, I can't eat meat! No chicken nuggets, fingers, sandwich with the yummy pickles on it... Sure, the waffle fries are fair game, but it's not the same. There's just something about holding a chicken nugget between my thumb and index finger and scanning the painters pallet of sauces I've laid out before me. Do I go Honey Roasted BBQ? Polynesian perhaps? or to the classic Ketchup? So many choices! It's beautiful.

OK, back to the issue. No meat today! It's Friday and it's Lent. If you've ever wondered why Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, it's not because the Pope owns Long John Silver's. Abstinence from certain foods has been part of the history of man since the beginning. Abstaining from something helps us refocus on what is important and it cuts out things that might have seemed important. One belief on why meat was chosen is because most people feel that giving up meat (beef, chicken, pork) is an inconvenience. We should inconvenience ourselves from time to time to remind ourselves that God is the top priority and pleasures are a lesser priority.

So what's for dinner tonight? Of course, you can probably open the door to any Catholic church's social hall and belly up to a fish fry. And during Lent the fast food fish sandwich commercials seem to pop up more often than in other times of the year, but if you want to take a pass on the Fillet-o-Fish and make something at home, looking for a veggie recipe can really open up a world of options for you. The other night I made a Vegetable Lasagna that was scrumptious. Here's the recipe , and it's Weight Watchers (pictured above)! I also made this Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables last week and (thanks to the load of cheese in it) it was tasty as well.

Growing up, we would do the Long John Silver's thing most Friday nights. Looking back on that now, I cringe, but I can't lie - it was pretty good! No matter what you do for your Friday night dinner, try to do something as a family. You'll make meatless memories that can last a lifetime!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Air We Breathe

How Desperate Our We For God?
I have a thing for cheesy Michael W. Smith music. The ones from back in the day when he had a mullet and looked like a Christian music version of Billy Ray Cyrus. It was glorious. He was like a Christian-Pop-80's-Synth-Mullet-Rockin version who was belting out tunes for Jesus telling me to go west young man. Awesome.
To steal a line from Smitty himself, if God really is "the air we breathe" do we really live every moment as if our lives depended on Him? John 15:5 says, "Apart from Me you can do nothing"
Why do we then try and live our lives like we can do it all ourselves? We press and push and fall and stumble and try to make it on our own. We struggle until when? We can't anymore. That is when we reach out to our Heavenly Father. For 11 rounds we have been fighting with something...depression, heartbreak, loss...whatever it is. We finally get knocked down and the referee is counting...5, 6, 7...we are on the brink of disaster when we cry out, "LORD! SAVE ME! DO SOMETHING!"
Did we have to get there?
Did we have to fall so far?
David, one of my absolute favorite Characters to me in the bible once wrote, "I seek You, my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You." Desperate. But for David, it was a constant need. He worshiped God to satisfy his hearts desire. He recognized his own need for a Savior. Not just in the desperate times, but in all times. He desperately longed to spend time with his God. Our God. We should too.
Yes, God will come to your rescue when you are down on the mat about to be counted out. Yes, God will save and react to our most desperate hour. But God also longs for us when things are OK. When life is fine and we are walking through the sunflowers. We should all spend a few moments with Him. Not just asking God for help, but in worship. Remembering the One who saves, who heals, who lifts, who makes right, who is good, who loves so perfectly...
God is there. God is ready. God is willing be there to save you in your most desperate hour of need. But wouldn't it be nice to have God with you from the start of the fight and not just the last round. Might save us from the loss of a few teeth and a nose job.
Be Blessed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Me vs Me


Lent is a week from today. Ash Wednesday or better known to me as "dirty forehead day" is the official start to 40 days of sacrifice leading up to Easter Sunday. Not being Catholic the whole idea of lent was foreign to me up until a few years ago. Being that Abby and I were going to be the morning duo for Spirit FM I thought it would be a good thing if I did it as well. So I prayed and asked God what I should do and also if He could NOT ask me to give up coffee. A week later I gave up coffee. Not because the clouds parted and a voice from the heavens said "Carlos, give up your coffee addiction for me!" It was more because if I was going to do this, I needed it to be a real sacrifice.

So this morning we talked about Lent and an article I found in Relevant Magazine. A great website by the way. In the article this is something the author wrote:

So my Lenten theme this year will be 1 Samuel 3:9 (“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”). How will this play out? I don't know yet, which is why I'm asking Him for direction. I do know that the very act of asking, and turning things over to Him, changes things—and changes us. Whatever Christ asks me to give up, I’m guessing it won’t be chocolate (I’m sort of hoping not). I have a feeling it’ll be something more along the lines of Pride. And yet I’m also trusting Him to be more specific. For example, praying daily for humility. Or turning off my BlackBerry. Or both.

Who am I kidding? He's asking for Everything. To quote C.S. Lewis, “Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it.’” (Mere Christianity) Funny how we never see this on an Easter card.

I love the idea of not so much giving up "something" for lent, like coffee or candy or something that in the grand scheme of things we can live without. But making a deep sacrifice and giving up the things that make me comfortable. I struggle with Pride, I struggle with my Ego, I struggle with my blackberry and the idea of truly becoming a servant for 40 days is tough! Opening up every morning and LOOKING for God to use me! Its a scary thought.

Imagine, everywhere you go looking for God to use you in some way. Walking around town with the intention of being a servant. I love what she wrote about C.S. Lewis, “Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it.’”

I know God appreciates our sacrifice of coffee for breakfast or candy for my snack, but can't we go deeper than just the surface? "I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it." That line keeps repeating in my head. For me, this lent, I am going to sacrifice myself, that God may use me how He wishes. Each day I am going to open up and start by looking for ways to be a servant. Daily giving up my Pride or my Ego and truly have that servants heart. Imagine the kind of world we would live in if we all had that heart. Its not going to be easy. I need to pray for wisdom and strength and Lord knows He's going to have to remind me of my sacrifice. Especially the day its pouring down rain and I drive by the guy with the flat tire and no umbrella and God gives me that tug on my heart to get out my comfy car and get wet.

Pray about maybe making a sacrifice for Lent this year. Maybe give up something small this time, like TV for an hour or coffee for breakfast. Or maybe go big this year and do something that could truly change your life.

Be Blessed.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

We Need Talking Cars

The Car Horn

As much as you would like to think your car horn is a great way to communicate on the road, it really isnt. It has a very limited vocabulary. Not only that, its so hard to use the horn to communicate correctly. Think about it. You hold the horm down just a split second too long and you've gone from "Hello" to "HEY YOU! MOVE!"

So let's fix that. I found this system on how to properly use your car horn. Its similar to Morse code, in which the frequency and duration of beeps convey specific meanings. This will enable us to communicate with each other more clearly.

Here's the code:

In a parking lot

Short honk: I seek your attention.
Medium honk: I seek your courtesy.
Long honk: I seek your doom for stealing my parking spot.

• On the freeway

Short honk: Caution! Your maneuver was unwise.
Short honk plus medium honk: Your maneuver was unwise, and I am carrying a grudge.
Two short honks and a long blast: Your maneuver was unwise, and all that keeps me from exacting revenge is the prison sentence of 25 years to life.
Three long blasts: Call a lawyer (I would add, PRAY! So you don't get here. I'd hate to see a listener of mine go to prison.)

• At a traffic light

Short tap: Perhaps you haven't noticed, but the light is green.
Two short taps: Perhaps if you weren't trying to drive, text and eat a takeout order of fettuccine Alfredo at the same time, you would have noticed that the light is green.
Two medium beeps: Perhaps if your parents had raised you to have consideration for someone besides your selfish, unintelligent self, you would have noticed that the light is green.
One prolonged blast: Perhaps you have fallen asleep, here let me help you. I will not stop the horn until you move.

• For other occasions

Short beep: Lighthearted salutation. It can be used to acknowledge passing neighbors or inform other people in your car pool that you have arrived to pick them up.
Short beep, medium beep: Punctuated signal of annoyance toward cyclists. The short beep warns; the medium beep adds emphasis. Similar to saying, "Hey you, MOVE!"
Medium beep, long beep: Excitement! It can be used to celebrate Buccaneers victories, support world-peace demonstrators or express appreciation for attractive pedestrians.

I found this list and thought it would help us all communicate just a little bit better. After the day that I had yesterday driving around Tampa. I need to make copies of this and start handing them out on a daily basis. Drive safe, take a deep breath and PRAY! Good luck on the roads.

Be Blessed.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Going Through The Fire

The Refiners Fire

We had an interesting Thought for the Day today on the morning show. Its not often that one sticks with me throughout the day. But I haven't been able to get this one out of my head. All day its just been on replay in my head. So I figured I would write something on it. If not for your benefit, then mine.

This is the line that been running through my head: For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, and they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” Malachi 3:1-3

The actual process of purifying silver is a tedious job. I've seen discovery channel enough to know that. The silver goes into the fire, then out of the fire, into the fire, then back out of the fire. Over and over and over and over again...until all the impurities are removed. Leave the silver in the fire too long, the silver is destroyed. Not enough and what's the point, nothing changes. Sounds vaguely familiar huh? It did for me.

As I go through life's "fires" or trials in my life I realize that once I come out the other side I come out of it a slightly different person. If I had done things God's way and learned to trust in Him, lean on His wisdom and just basically do what I was supposed to have done, I come out of that fire a lot like that piece of silver. A little better, a little shinier, a little more pure.

The most amazing part of the silver purification process is the test to see if it is its purest form or not. This metal is perfect only when the ‘refiner’ is able to see His reflection in the silver. Jesus is looking for our lives to reflect His glory.

That's a pretty neat thought huh...I thought so. I wish I could claim it, but I can't.

Count it all joy when you face life's fires because its an opportunity for God to refine the work he is doing in you. Yes, I know it stinks when your in it. The fire can be hot and I've lived in Florida long enough to know that heat can be brutal. Makes me happy I'm going to heaven. If I can barely handle a Florida summer, a lake of fire forever is something I'm going to pass on. But its the going through that refining process that Gods majesty begins to reflect in our lives, in our speech and in our actions. Trust me I know the process isn't always fun, but you come out the other side a better person, a stronger person and with a faith that was deeper than before you went in.

My hope for me is that I continue to let the refiner work on me from the inside out. Each time becoming more and more the man he created me to be and if it gets too hot, Jesus Christ is our escape. We can run into His arms and feel His love and grace surround us. He is looking for His face to shine in our lives. I also pray he give me a little warning next time. If I'm going back in I'd like to put on my board shorts and sunglasses and maybe even a little SPF 45 on my nose.

Be Blessed.