Featured

Natural Talent

interview-strength

Every person is created for a purpose. Throughout a lifetime we each are given many opportunities to operate out of our design through the various movements of life. Though the ability to appreciate one’s current circumstance is a gift from above, we can achieve a greater sense of fulfillment, joy, and peace when we understand our unique giftedness and how we are to use what we have been given to bless those in our proximity.

While no one appreciates a boastful person, it is a wise individual who understands their giftedness via their strengths and weaknesses. Thus, a worthwhile exercise is to contemplate, “What are the three things I am good at?” (or your top five for you overachievers). Once an understanding of this is ascertained, a fun and fruitful exercise is to share your insights with individuals whom you trust and are close to. After you share, solicit their feedback and receive their affirmations and unspoken additions. I assure you, if you engage in such conversation, it will be one of the more life giving conversations of your week, if not month or year.

Natural-talent-2

This conversation of exploring one’s giftedness is a conversation I have been around for a long time. A few years ago I took a strengths finder assessment and received the results of Learner, Consistency, Arranger, Positivity, and Responsibility. While I do not let those words constrict me, I hold onto the truth they carry, abiding by a good life philosophy–examine all things and hold on to what’s good.

Without further ado, here are three things I have discovered, through internal reflection and external input, to be some of my inherent strengths.

  • I have the gift of encouragement. I am good at speaking words of encouragement, appreciation, and life to people who are in desperate need of such timely words.
  • I have the gift of compassion. I have a strong ability to love people, especially the outcasts and downtrodden. A part of my ability to do this is my ability to see/focus on the best of an individual.
  • I have the gift of synthesizing. I have a hunger to learn processes (natural, emotional, relational, systemic, etc.) and the ability to digest and comprehend them in a rational, logical, systematic way that eliminates the fluff and focuses on the heart of the issue.

While I could go on and on and on about my humility, etc. that will suffice for now. ; )

To conclude, recently I’ve been talking with my friend Brian Divine about the inherent weaknesses of every strength. For example, while rocks are strong, they are not flexible. While I am not yet ready to articulate the “dark side” of the above mentioned strengths, a valuable exercise, if not more so than the identification of our strengths, is the connection to how they make us susceptible to the various shortfalls we succumb to. Stay tuned for the follow up discussion.

Discovering with you,

Unmasked & Unfiltered

Featured

Heal Our Land

In the wake of the recent shootings plaguing our nation, there is no shortage of opinions on how to “fix” the problem. Some say it’s gun control, others claim it’s mental health, while others say it is a need for tighter security and so forth. While there is no simple solution, there IS a formula which leads to our nation’s healing and wholeness.

In the days of king Solomon, at the culmination of the building and dedication of his temple, God said, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Lord knows how desperately our land needs to be healed today, both metaphorically and literally. For increasingly we are seeing stories about violence, severe droughts, flash floods, ravaging hurricanes, powerful earthquakes, raging fires, and erupting volcanos. As Barry McGuire claimed in 1965, it seems we are on the Eve of Destruction.

While the stories in the news communicate a world growing ever dire, God has revealed his plan of redeeming the mess we are making. When God spoke to Solomon, the first step he mentioned for his nation’s recovery was to become humble. Today, in the era of selfies, insta, instant, and making things great again, the fundamental requisite for humility is needed more than ever. Far too many people walk around with a spirit of entitlement and haughty eyes.  If we as a nation would only humble ourselves, we would make giant strides toward healing, but more than humility is needed.

We also need to pray. When we humble ourselves we are able to see situations are more massive, complex, and out of our control than we realize. Once this heart stage is reached, the healthy response is to pray, but more than prayer is needed.

We also need to seek God. While prayer should be a form of seeking God, when most people pray they speak, but do not seek. They make requests, but don’t ask, “God, where are you in this?  God, what are you trying to say?  What are you trying to tell me?” etc. In seeking God, it is important to remain humble and to pray continually, but more than seeking God is needed.

We also need to turn from our wicked ways. Since we all sin and fall short, we all have areas in our lives we need to turn from. Though those areas may not directly contribute to the issues being sensationalized by the media, they are negatively contributing to something. When we do our part and partner with God in the work he desires to do in our lives, we begin to see a beautiful change within us, and in time, within the social groups which we have influence. Thus, if we desire to bring healing and wholeness to our nation, we must follow God’s prescription. For if we do not have a humble heart, we will not pray, and if we do not pray, we are not seeking God, and if we are not seeking God, then we cannot turn from our wicked ways, and if we do not turn from our wicked ways, then what hope is there for our nation?

If there is to be hope for us, we must find answers to the following questions: Where do I need to grow in humility? What does my prayer life look like? How do I seek God? Do I take the time to seek him?  To look and listen for him? What are the unhealthy areas of my life I need to turn away from? What work is God desiring to do within me during this season of my life? What spheres of influence do I have in my life and how can I bring hope, healing, and wholeness into them? Who are the people helping? Who are the ones doing it right?

Seeking Hope and Healing,

Aaron

p.s. Mr Rogers’ response to violence in the media.

p.p.s. The way of the fool seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice (Proverbs 12:15).

Featured

Sign Posts

sign-post

Earlier this week I awoke before dawn to meet a bunch of people I did not know, to go running in a place I’ve never been.  As the morning and run progressed, I found myself alone, with only the rhythm of my feet and breath to keep me company.  After enjoying several minutes of this tranquility, a fork in the trail appeared and I realized, I had no idea which way to go.  With the split rapidly approaching, I scanned the horizon to look for any sign of the runners ahead of me.  When all was close to lost, I spotted a trace of neon blue moving through the brush, indicating the way.  When I caught the runner, I thanked him for being my “sign post.”  To which he laughed and said, “No problem, I was just following the people ahead of me.”

In thinking of the people who have gone before us, I began to think of the Christian faith and of all the great men and women who have gone before us whose stories and efforts, told and untold, have helped perpetuate the record of God’s story of redemption.  During this period of musing my heart went to a place of deep amazement and gratitude.  I am thankful I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  I am thankful for the countless stories I have at my disposal to learn from if I only seek.  Somewhere in this flurry of thought arose the old adage,  “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

While pondering the optimal path at the crossroads of life, if it is possible, seek the forerunners.  Seek the wealth of wisdom from their success and failures.  As Solomon put it, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Thank God we don’t have to do this alone.

Featured

The Heart’s Desire

Heart

It has been said, “Of all things, the human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked.” However, from it flow the springs of life. In this post I plan to explore the current desires of my heart in order to discover a greater awareness of myself and ascertain a greater understanding of our most central organ.

One heart has many desires and over a lifetime millions are felt in between the intervals of its pulse. While a select few are acted upon, it has been my experience that most, for better or for worse, either dissolve into oblivion or are amassed within the innermost chambers, labeled with the tag, “maybe one day.”  Last summer, as I performed an inventory of my desires both great and small, I discovered some amazing things. In my post from August 2017, I shared how my desire to be the best servant of God I can be, supersedes my desire for a wife (which is a great desire). As the inventory continued, I recognized the immeasurable joy my soul experiences when I finally take action and transform one of my “maybe one day” desires into a tangible reality. This experience was notably first felt when I purchased and learned how to ride a motorcycle. Now, as I ride through the back country roads of San Diego County, my soul is fed, not only through the fullness of the moment at hand, but through the totality of the sensation on a meta-scale; namely, the fulfilling of a desire I’ve had in my heart ever since I saw Snoopy and Woodstock cruise through the desert on a chopper in an episode of Charlie Brown back in the 80’s. Speaking of back country roads…a little detour. Have you ever been driving down the road and all of a sudden realize, “I have no recollection of the past x miles of road?” Like, I know I’ve been driving, and I know I’ve been alert (or at least semi-alert), but I feel as if I’ve jumped a segment in space. This happens to me from time to time when I get absorbed in deep thought while driving. While this is sobering in my car, it’s a bit more eyeopening when I’m on my motorcycle. Ah, it’s great to be alive! : )

Currently, one of the more significant sources of joy in my life flows from a similar path of action. Along with the desire to ride a motorcycle, another desire I’ve had from a very young age which I have finally taken action on is Portuguese-American dancing.  As a little boy I remember admiring all the adults as they danced the Chamarrita at the festas in Buhach. As the Caller called the moves, I remember being amazed with the utter uniqueness of what was happening. From then I’ve carried the life long goal of being a caller in the Chamarrita.  While I have yet to achieve that goal, I am a whole heck of a lot closer this year than I was last year.  After practicing for the past eight months, I am excited to announce that my first public performance will be this upcoming festa on Sunday, May 20th.  If you’re around the San Diego area you should definitely come check it out. All that said, as I have been investing in this over the past several months, my smile beams from ear to ear, my spirit rejoices, and my soul shouts in triumphant victory, “YES, FINALLY!”

Obviously a desire satisfied and a longing fulfilled is cause for great celebration. However, one can only experience such satisfaction if they are willing and able to take action, and more importantly, if they are aware of what they need to take action on. I was discussing this with my friend Kendall and she said, “Aaron, taking action on long standing desires is great, but I think the problem for most people is identifying what those desires are.” As I sat with that, I realized it was true…for me and for many others. In the chambers of our hearts our desires lay dormant, slowly being buried by the sands of time until a stirring, something which awakens and reminds us of longings past lifts them to the surface. If we are blessed with the mindfulness of such knowledge, if opportunity greets us with the potential to perform, and if we are willing and able to act on it all…oh what a glorious day! Conversely, when we are unable to take action on a desire for whatever circumstance, it is a cause for grief.

Last summer I was able to spend a week with my sister Doreen and her family out in New Jersey. Among all the great things we did, the highlight was seeing Beautiful: The Musical (The Story of Carol King) on Broadway. While the musical was fantastic, I am always torn whenever I experience musical theater because on one hand, my heart is filled with gladness because I am experiencing a heart language. On the other, I grieve because I wonder what my life would have been like if I had pursued music instead of physics in college. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to be doing what I’m doing now, and who’s to say I wouldn’t have ended up here anyway, but I think it’s part of being human to wonder “what if…” Since I cannot go back and change the past, and since I am happy with my life now, I guess the only thing I can do is to let go. Sometimes that is easier said than done…

Ahhh, what’s a post on the desires of the heart without speaking of love…

Last August I met a fantastic woman (G1) who was interested in me. As we spent time getting to know each other we decided to start dating. Hallelujah! Life was wonderful. As we continued to increase the amount of time we spent together, I found myself becoming extremely vulnerable with her, sharing things I never though I’d share with anyone, especially a woman I was dating. It was an exhilarating and an incredibly hopeful time. While the cause of my excitement was multifaceted, a large chunk stemmed from finding something I was uncertain I would be able to find again. To be specific, there is a woman (G2) from my past, who is married now, who I have a powerfully charging chemistry with. About two decades ago G2 entered my life. As the years progressed our friendship grew and strengthened, preparing the fields of our hearts for the love we share today. Until recently, the chemistry we share, the electricity which sparks, has been unmatched by all who have sought the chance. For reasons known and unknown, our lives never synced. While close in heart and spirit, we repeatedly drift apart, as though torn by unseen currents.
During this time of dating G1, I met with one of the pastors of my church to speak to him about G2 because I was motivated by the amazing message he gave one Sunday about grieving. As I reflected on his words, I realized I needed to grieve the loss of that relationship (G2) and finally surrender it over to God. As I was in the process of doing that, G1 entered my life, rapidly becoming my heart’s confidant and showing me that it IS possible to achieve that same chemistry with another individual. As the weeks passed by, my knowledge and love for G1 grew in a life animating way. For the first time in a long time I felt truly happy and couldn’t share enough about this amazing woman who had entered my life. All was well and going smooth until the night my world crashed in an instant.
As I drove to meet her my heart broke more and more with every mile. Words fail to convey the pain I was feeling at that moment. We had a 30 minute conversation that evening, but it was a blur for us both. As I drove home I was in lament. I was an utter mess and couldn’t even cry, which made it worse because there was no release…that is, until I started singing. One of the ways God speaks to me most powerfully is by placing a song on my heart. As I was driving home, the lyrics of “You have called me higher” was on loop in my heart.  In reflecting on the reason for that, I started laughing because God had reminded me of a sermon I gave the inmates a few months ago about Paul and Silas. The heart of it being, in the midnight hour of your life, if you want the walls to come down and be set free, start singing to the Lord. Well, sing I did, and just as soon as the first words left my mouth, the tears fell and fell in abundance. When I arrived home I had to talk to someone.  The first person I called was my brother Michael. I frantically called him three times in a row, but he didn’t answer. I called my friend Stephen Johnson next, but he too didn’t pick up. Finally I thought of Greg Geldmacher. God bless Greg. He picked up and heard me out. As he prayed for me, which was what I needed the most, I didn’t hear a single word he said because I was crying, but I appreciated every utterance coming across the line. Greg brought me great comfort that night. Eventually, Michael called back and ended up coming over to be with me and joined me for a midnight run.
The rest of that week I was super depressed. It very well could have been the worst week of my life. It was the most my heart has ever been broken. As time progressed, things became easier (life has a funny way of marching on like that), but I was still in a fog. As the fog began to clear, I received breakthrough in two different ways. The first occurred as I was praying in prison. God blessed me with the healing insight that I’d been spending too much time looking back. Instead of ruminating on what was, I needed to focus on what will be. The second came as I was talking to my sister Doreen, I realized the main issue was I was in an emotional limbo. While my girlfriend had broken up with me, I hadn’t broken up with her. Also, during that week I met with my mentor Larry Eddingfield who really blessed me. Instead of preaching Romans 8:28 to me, he showed me how it was unfolding in my life. While this is only a fraction of all that happened during that season of my life, that is what I carried into church one Sunday as the pastor began his message.
The fact that the scripture was Matt. 6:19-24, part of the build up to 6:33 (one of my life verses), was not lost on me. Though the heart of the message rested with the truth of verse 24, “one cannot serve both God and Mammon,” I was asking, “What is my Mammon?” I did not have to search long…my Mammon is Wife. My desire for a wife is a consuming fire. My desire to have a woman to love and to love deeply. To hold in a deep embrace and to feel her love radiating from the core of her being to mine as she whispers “I love you.” To have someone who will not complete me, but complement me in every way I need support, challenge, and encouragement. Oh…I know the truth of God’s Word, but it doesn’t make the waiting any easier. As the recently departed theologian Tom Petty famously said, “the waiting is the hardest part.” People tell me to trust in the Lord and to wait on him.  Shoot, one of the most healing verses this past season was Psalm 27:13-14, and verse 14 says, “Wait on the Lord, be strong and take heart, and wait on the Lord.” It’s easy to be strong for a period of time, but when that period last for years…well the strength of every man wanes in time. This recent event was particularly devastating because I was finally given a taste of something beautiful, the sent of something amazing and lovely was in my midst, and then due to a circumstance which was completely outside of my control, it was all taken away. It has been hard. It sucks.
All that said, I know the key to my current season rest in Psalm 37:4, in delighting in the Lord, but that is a very difficult thing to do 24/7, especially while the arrow of loneliness pierces most deeply.
Before I conclude, I must share two revelations I received at the end of 2017. One, while I was reading 1 Chron. 6, yes the genealogy! I was asking, “What does this passage teach me about God?” It taught me that God has a plan and an allotment/provision for everyone. What does that mean for me? He has a plan and a provision for ME! Second, in a discussion with my ex-girlfriend (G1), she told me before she ever approached me, she prayed to God and he told her we would have a deep and lasting bond, but not to distract me from what he was doing in my life. Whether our bond will be deep and lasting is TBD. However, her story made me think. I’ve known for at least 15 years that I am meant to do great things (I mean, to whom much is given, much is expected). With that said, I have a humble confidence that the Lord is going to use me to do great and mighty things moving forward. The question then is, why don’t I have the same assurance that he will bless me with a helpmate suitable for said venture? This is a place I’m trying to get to as I delight in him and his faithfulness, provision, love, and purpose…trusting in the truth of Matthew 6:33.

Unmasked and Unfiltered,

Aaron

p.s. Below are some quotes and additional bits which I thought were relevant to the topic at hand. Enjoy!

“The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.” – Blaise Pascal

“Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.” -H Jackson Brown Jr.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” -Steve Jobs

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched–they must be felt with the heart.” -Helen Keller

“God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  -Psalms 73:25, 26

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” -Proverbs 19:21

Lyrics: You’re what I’m counting on

When the night stops pushing up the day
When the miles drop me on the open planes
When I’ve lost grace with the lady of the dawn
You’re what I’m counting on
You’re what I’m counting on

Where the hounds run
Track me in my sleep
When I can’t trust the company I keep
When I’ve push passed the point of pressing on
You’re what I’m counting on
You’re what I’m counting on

Where the bombs break
Right outside my door
And I can’t shake the onset of my wars
When the stakes are raised
We hold the hand we’ve drawn
You’re what I’m counting on

You’re what I’m counting on