Of Mountains, Mustard Seeds…& Land of The Lost?

LOTL

“Have you prayed for something big or small? How long did you have to wait, or did the answer ever come at all? Words are mere expressions of thought, and nothing more. Believing is what really counts my friend, and faith is what unlocks the door.”

No truer words have been spoken as those from the song Prayer Is The Key To Heaven, Faith Unlocks The Door. I used to think I was a person of faith having been raised in the church. Life has a funny way of making an innocent child grow cynical. Funnier yet is how God chooses to show up and remind you that he listens and answers in marvelous ways.

My family moved from Santa Ana to Corona when I was small but my dad still worked in Orange and we’d go visit my grammita in Santana almost every weekend. I loved the drives to and from on the 91 freeway. A big reason why was because of the rolling hills and mountains along the way. There was a particular group of mountains that reminded me of some that I would see on my favorite TV show, Land Of The Lost. For those that don’t know, Land Of The Lost was a show about a family that was transported back in time to the dinosaur age. Every time we drove past those mountains I’d imagine there were dinosaurs or dinosaur bones in them. Silly I know but I had a very vivid imagination.

It was around this time I had learned in Sunday school about what it means to have faith. One of my favorite lessons was when Jesus told his disciples about having the faith of a mustard seed and that we could say to a mountain move and it shall be done. I figured that I’m already small and that would help play into the size of my faith. Oh the mind of a child! I was ready to put my faith to the test. I figured if Jesus said it then it can happen!

One day we went to pick up my Jefito from work in our 75 periwinkle and maroon Toyota Celica. Hey, that was a cool ride back in the day. Anyways, as my mom was driving I was looking out the backseat window at my dinosaur mountains. I built up all the faith my tiny self could muster and under my breath I looked at those mountains and I said, “In Jesus name, move!” I could feel my eyes grow like saucers as I waited to see what would happen next. Then pow, bam, boom…nothing! Well, I guess I didn’t have enough faith. So that was that. I would forget about this moment for almost twenty years.

Fast forward and I’m in my early twenties. It’s a late Friday night and I’m driving home from Irvine. As I’m driving along a stretch of the 91 I hear “look to your right”. I glance over and see that construction has begun on what would become the 241 Toll Road. In that instant I realize my dinosaur mountain is gone! Up until that moment I had all but forgotten about it. I was overcome with emotion. I didn’t have any pressing needs or wants at that time but God saw fit to show me that He heard the prayer and saw the faith of a little boy and oh how He answered. Now I know some of you will be thinking, “come on Jefe, construction workers moved that mountain”. You know, God will use normal circumstances to bring about supernatural events.

I forget how much later, construction was completed and the 241 Toll Roads opened. I was sharing with some kids I had been mentoring and a friend, Brett, about what I had prayed as a child and how my dinosaur mountain had been moved. Brett asked why I called it my dinosaur mountain and I explained how I loved Land Of The Lost and that I’d imagine dinosaur bones being in them. His eyes widened and his jaw drops. He tells me, “You know I worked on the construction of that”. He then proceeds to tell me that they had to halt construction because they discovered dinosaur bones!

I don’t know what you’re facing or praying for today. I do know that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. If he said it, believe it. Have faith to move your mountain. He’ll answer you and it might be in a way and in a timing you might not be expecting but his timing is perfect and his love is marvelous!

 

 

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Mid-Day Music Break: Believer

 

 

I dream of tongues of fire
Resting on Your people
I dream of all the miracles to come
I hope to see the coming
Healing of the nations
I long to see the prodigals return
So many hopes and longings in You
When will all the dreams come true?

I’m a believer in Your Kingdom
I am a seeker of the new things
I am a dreamer with some old dreams
Let them now come

I hope to see You come down
Rend the mighty heavens
And let Your glory cover all the earth
To see Your sons and daughters
Come to know and love You
And find a purer passion in the church
These are the things my heart will pursue
When will all the dreams come true?

I’m a believer in Your Kingdom
I am a seeker of the new things
I am a dreamer with some old dreams
Let them now come
I’m a believer in Your Kingdom
I am a seeker of the new things
I am a dreamer with some old dreams
Will You now come

Praise & Worship (The Remix)

I often wonder if we were to change old (and not so old) praise and worship songs to fit today’s “modern” church service – would they sound/look like this?

Come, Now Is The Time To Worship: Come, Now Is The Time To Watch Worship
We Exalt Thee: We Have 15 Minutes To Exalt Thee
Holy Spirit Thou Art Welcome In This Place: Holy Spirit Thou Art Welcome In This Place But Please Don’t Convict Us To Righteousness
Here I Am To Worship: Here I Am To Be Entertained
Lord Let Your Glory Fall: Lord Let Your Glory Fall But Not Right Now Because We’re Seeker Friendly and Good With The Status Quo

There’s a hollowness in many churches all around our country today because they rather entertain than enter in. They rather grow their church exponentially but not teach them (especially newly saved) about the power they now have in Jesus to actually keep them. Worse yet, there are those who have been saved many years and are completely content in mediocrity and don’t believe in miracles any more. We’ve become ineffective not because we lack love but because we lack conviction and zeal. We do a piss-poor job of growing spiritually because it might stretch us out of our comfort zone. So we go through the motions like zombies. Let’s wake up. Let’s be real about ourselves and our struggles. Let’s be real in knowing we need a savior and not just His love and grace but His life-changing power. Let’s see a true revival. It starts with us. Ironically, we must borrow from an old song and say: I don’t want to be, I don’t want to be a casual Christian.

 

Mid-Day Music Break: Nothing Compares 2U

 

Recently, Jefe was talking with some of  his Ruiz primos about music and Chris Stapleton in particular. It wasn’t until he looked him up that he remembered hearing this tribute to Prince shortly after he died. Now for those that know Jefe, they know he can be somewhat unkind to people who cover other artists songs. However, Jefe was mesmerized by the soul and strength in which Mr. Stapleton sang Nothing Compares 2U. Jefe may not like some of the “new country” but thanks to Chris Stapleton, he has a new hope for not only that genre but music itself.

Prince & The Passion Of Purpose

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As 2016 draws to a close I can’t help but reflect on so much and upon the lives of people that have impacted mine, especially at a tender age. I know that it’s been eight months since Prince has passed but it still stings my soul. I was just a little boy when I first heard his music. I didn’t consciously know who he was until I was in the 4th grade. That’s when Purple Rain came out. But this is not a tribute or an act of redundancy. What can I possibly say that hasn’t already been said about the man?

Gifts and talents are placed inside each and every one of us. Some, like in the old parable, hide them and are afraid to use them. Others, wisely, use what is given and use them to the best of their ability. When I think of Prince, I think of a person who used every bit of God-given talent and ability. There’s a legendary honor in that. There’s a celestial respect given that makes history resonate with a melody of his music. It’s a melody that has it’s genesis in everything that pushes greatness. Passion. Not passion as we think but a passion of purpose.

Prince was designed to be a musician and music was his passion. Music was his purpose. There’s countless stories from seasoned musicians who were put to shame by the genius that was Prince. He played many instruments and he played them exceedingly well. Prince practiced and/or played music every day. Think about that. Really. I’ll give you a moment or two. There’s a vault of countless music that he recorded that has yet to be released. Will we ever see/hear it? To be honest, I could care less. The point of the matter is, he lived his life with a passion for his purpose.

How many of us are living our purpose? Are we merely existing? Do we have that fire to do the thing(s) that was given us? You may not think you have a talent but don’t let that deny the world of the gift that is you. If it’s been a while since you used your gift/talent take heart, it’s never too late to start again. This crazy, sick, old world needs musicians, poets, story tellers, encouragers, helpers, listeners…anything that brings light to our fellow man.

I implore you to dig deep and light the fire of passion for your purpose. It’s your gift to the world. We all need a reminder of passion for our purpose Maybe some day someone will write a story, a thought or a song about you and the passion of purpose of which you lived. A purpose of passion that encouraged a weary soul to seek the best in themselves. Leave no doubt that you are living a life with passion for your purpose. The world needs reminders every day.

*For Esperanza/Hope in all of us

Ballad of The Abused

DV

*Recently, in the news, there was a horrendous story about a firefighter who killed his wife and then killed himself. Although there were no preliminary reports of domestic violence it was a subject that struck close to some that Jefe knows and one in particular who reached out for help/advice. Usually, Jefe likes to keep things light but he sometimes has to give thought-provoking content. This is one of them.

Frustrated and Confused wrote:

I have been married for almost 21 years. I have two children – oldest being 21 and youngest just turned 18. My husband is a firefighter and his schedule has him away a lot. When he is home, we dare not disturb or make him upset. He is quite volatile and the slightest thing can send him off the deep end. He will yell and raise his voice at me and or the kids. He will sometimes throw or break things. I am ashamed to admit that he has placed his hands on me during fits of rage (although it was a long time ago) and that police have been called to my house but I didn’t have it in me to file charges either time. 

He is extremely controlling and manipulative. We have to check in with him if we go anywhere. When he is away at work, we have to answer his calls or texts right away. He doesn’t like my family and I hardly ever see them. We always do things with his side of the family but even then, he’s distant from them.

I don’t want to paint him as a monster because I know he had a rough upbringing and he is a terrific provider for us. He is emotionally detached however and almost everything we do as a family is centered around him and what he wants. I’ve prayed for him and things to change but they seem to be getting worse. I’ve tried to leave several times but something always keeps me coming back. Funny thing is that when he gets upset with me, he usually threatens divorce. I actually called him out on it recently. The following morning, he threw the divorce papers in my face and said if I wanted a divorce, I should be the one doing the paperwork.

I’m extremely frustrated and confused. What should I do?

F&C, first off let me say that your husband is probably a sociopath and without a doubt – a coward! All I need to know is this and I’ll make it simple for you: He’s put his hands on you before. I don’t care if it was a long time ago or not, that is flat out wrong. Second, he knows nobody else will put up with his crap so that is why he put the ball in your court, as it were, to have YOU start the divorce process. He is probably so sure you wouldn’t and he knew he’d be off the hook. Also, I have close friends and family that are firefighters as well and they’re not away as much as you say he is. But that’s neither here nor there. That’s a whole other response.

You know, I was fighting with how to respond so I had to reach out to an acquaintance who battled through over sixteen years of all kinds of abuse at the hands of her husband. It was only when she had been beaten within an inch of her life that she decided to leave. She told Jefe that fear and manipulation play a big part as to why women stay. She said that nobody can really understand unless they’ve been in that situation before. She said that it took her being beat so bad that she woke up in the ICU that she finally decided enough was enough. She didn’t have a plan but knew she had to file charges and most importantly get out. It was then in that process that she realized how strong she really was but because for so long her husband put her down and beat her, she never really knew her self worth.

I hope you know your self worth but YOU have got to want to change your situation. What’s it going to take? Are you really willing to stick around to find out? Your friends and family may want to help but what good is it going to do if you keep going back? What keeps you going back? History? Not wanting to be alone? Pride?

I have a friend who is a counselor and so is his wife who ironically enough, specializes with women who have been abused. Her first marriage was marred by domestic violence. Thank God that she can share her experience with others and help them heal and overcome. Anyways, my friend gave me this great anecdote that I hope is beneficial to you and those who may know of situations of domestic abuse/violence and need help:

“You know I used to be a life guard instructor and the first thing I would ask every new class was this: what do you do when you see somebody drowning? I’d get answers from, “get a pole” to “throw a life ring”. Then I’d ask: what if you don’t have none of that? Almost every time, I’d get this answer, “swim out to them and proceed with life rescuing procedures”.

Did you know that is the worst thing you can do because the person that is drowning has so much adrenaline pumping through them that their thrashing about can actually take whoever is trying to save them down as well. You actually have to get beyond arms distance and wait for them to exhaust themselves to the point where you see them start to go down below water. It is only then that you know it is safe to go get them.

F&C, I really hope it doesn’t take you to “go below the water” to finally get out and or help. By continuing to go back you’re teaching your children it’s OK for men to treat women/their wives without respect and like possessions. You are also teaching them that you’re fine with it and that they should be as well.

I’m praying that you find your worth and strength again.

1WS

The Fight Against Depression

01RobJust like Pagliacci did, I tried to keep my sadness hid; Smiling in the public eye but in the lonely room I cry; The tears of a clown when there’s no one around. – Smokey Robinson (Tears of A clown)

I don’t claim to be funny. I like to think I am. There’s nothing better than putting a smile on someone’s face. Maybe at one time or another I tried to be a class clown. Recently, however, after meeting up with some grade school classmates, I was told I had a loud mouth (thanks, Yvette and Brian). It’s kind of buzz kill to hear that I was more obnoxious than funny. I did and still do hate bullies. Pops taught me to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. I got into a few scraps defending classmates and sometimes I just got into chingasos because I didn’t know how to control my emotions. But that’s neither here nor there so I digress. Point of the matter is I like to take care of people. Still do if and when I can. Almost all of them never knew this one thing about me: I battle with depression.

Whether we want to admit it or not, there’s a stigma that goes with depression . People don’t want to talk about their mental health issues. They feel as though they’ll be looked down upon. They feel as though they’re not good enough to fit in. Sadly, their worst fears are proven to be true. People are judgmental or unsympathetic.

When Robin Williams took his life last year it hit me hard. I literally grew up watching him on Mork & Mindy. I loved his stand up comedy and movies. He made me laugh like no other. When I heard that he had battled long and hard with depression I felt even more heartbroken for him. I understood. I knew some of the pain and angst he felt. To the depths of which, we all are different but the pain is still there.

The best thing you can do when you are fighting with depression is to seek help. Sometimes it’s going to see if there’s a chemical imbalance or talking things over with a professional. Take that step. Don’t let fear grip and put you into a standstill. DO NOT ISOLATE YOURSELF! You have family and friends that care and love you but they can’t help you if you don’t ask for it.

01RobW

Family and friends of people who are fighting depression, be kind, be encouraging, be loving, be stern when you have to. There will be times when you will get frustrated but do your best to be patient. You’ll want to give up on them at times. Don’t. You may not understand their struggle but loving them isn’t and shouldn’t be set on the condition that they have to get better right away.

This subject is probably the most important I’ve written about. If it could help anybody get better then it will have served its purpose. I can’t repeat this enough: To those who feel like giving up, don’t. Fight! To those who feel like giving up on loved ones who are waging a war you don’t understand, don’t. You may just hold the keys to help them overcome.