Tag Archives: listening to God

Don’t Play with Ouija Boards Kids: All spirits are not the same: Receiving the Holy Spirit Part 1

10 May

Hands perched on the plastic guide, my sixteen year old brother was determined to prove the Ouija board was nothing more than a modern-day superstition. As a budding engineer and mathematician, if it’s wasn’t measurable by science, it was a fanciful fairytale or snake oil trickery. The four of us had been playing with the Hasbro board game for nearly an hour; even though our parents had strictly warned us never to play with a Ouija board, we figured it couldn’t be that dangerous since it was sitting right there on our cousins’ bookshelf.  My older cousin Terry and I had used up our turns asking the Ouija board questions about friends, who we would marry, and what we would do when we “grew up;” my brother finally had enough. “You’re moving that thing, I can see you moving it,” my brother cried out. “I saw your hands pushing it over letters to spell ‘dolphin trainer!’” But no matter how much we objected or even when we tried it as a group all together, my brother would still claim, “Someone here is moving it.”

My brother was going to put an end to this nonsense once and for all, assured he would prove  the Ouija board operated through ‘power of suggestion’ or flat out fakery on someone’s part. Pairing himself up with my pre-kindergarten cousin, he determined there could be no variable for cheating since my cousin couldn’t spell.  Because he wasn’t trying to trick himself, and his partner was incapable of pulling one over on him, he predicted the outcome was going to be…a lot of nothing.  He scanned the room for a question that could have no subjective answer. He couldn’t ask the Ouija board about his future or what someone’s favorite color was, because that too could be a manipulated answer. He spotted a stack of magazines on the coffee table and randomly formulated a question, “In the third magazine down, on page, um…twenty four, what is the forth to the last word on the page?” The planchette began to move, my little cousin was under suspicion.  As it glided across the board, through the round window it paused for a moment over, “G.” Then it quickly slid over the letter, “O.” From there it highlighted, “L” and finally, “F.” Eyes wide, we all became suddenly sheepish. My brother pushed the top two magazines off the pile and picked up the third. Opening to page twenty four, we all crowded around to see the results…”and golf was her passion.”

Screaming, there was lots of screaming. I feel like we all jumped to our feet so quickly we almost hit the ceiling; someone grabbed the Ouija board and flung it across the room. Terrified, we fled to the hall and trampled each other down the staircase; no one wanted to be “last”…that’s always the one in the movies that gets taken.  After that day, we didn’t speak about the incident; not only was I sure my brother and I would get in deep trouble with our parents, I was freaked out to discover there was something outside myself that I couldn’t see and couldn’t control. Yet, while we wouldn’t talk about the incident again for another twenty years over a Christmas dinner, as a child of eight years old, little did I know this event would cause huge issues in my life with receiving God, receiving part of the Trinity…His Holy Spirit.

Advertisements

Origin of the Species: My Book’s Evolution and the Big Bang of His Words

18 Apr

“The photography and concept are exceptional. However, despite there being lots of interest in your proposal, I am afraid that we must pass…”

Senior Acquisitions Editor,
Zondervan Publishing
August 15, 2007

Only a few months earlier in May, I was walking on cloud nine. After two years of collecting photographs and verses, we pitched our concept:, a hardcover, glossy, coffee-table book, filled with colorful images and scripture to the largest Christian Publisher around; and the response was beyond my wildest dreams.

“This is really beautiful! It would be an honor to work with you!” Sue beamed excitedly over the phone to my partner Keith and me from her Zondervan headquarters in Michigan. “I have big plans for this work, maybe something like what we did with Rick Warren and The Purpose Driven Life. We’ll start with some revisions, but all I really need to do is get your book before the board at the end of this summer…then we’ll go full speed ahead and with a national launch.”

Preparing to become a Christian Superstar dominated my thought-life all summer; “What is my best side for the camera?”  “How much of the back-story do I tell interviewers?” There was a concern about how the fame and money might change Ava and me, so I determined we would stay in Danville and try to lead “normal” lives.

As August came into view, the anticipation grew. I was scheduled to meet up with Keith that afternoon and just before I left, I felt the Lord speak to my heart, “I love you. I love this book. I have so many great plans. Don’t be surprised if things work out differently than you think.”

“Wow!” I thought to myself, “This book is going to be even bigger than I imagined! If God himself is saying He has great plans…maybe I’ll even be on Oprah!” (At this point, I didn’t yet comprehend that God is not impressed with TV personalities and media exposure. He admires broken and contrite hearts.)

Yet, becoming a World Renown Christian Author was never my plan. Two years earlier, at the start of 2005, authoring a book was the last thing I had planned to do with my life. Having graduated from UC Berkeley with a Rhetoric degree, law school was on the horizon. Yet deep down I had reservations about signing my life away to a career that would take me far from my daughter. “Lord, I just don’t want to wake up thirty years from now wondering what I’m supposed to really be doing with my life and why I’m so far from it. If you want me to go into law, great. If not, please change my plans.”

While my prayer came from a very genuine place, I had no real idea what I had just done to myself! My life was no longer my own; I had just signed away the right to have things done “my way.”  God had His own version of “Ari Fry” and he was about to let me in on the plan.

Not more than a few days later, succinctly and straight to my heart God said, “You are not going to law school. You have finished that path to it’s end. I have some work I need you to do with your brother, your mother, and a book.” While I was excited that there seemed to be a new game plan for my life, straight from the Big Guy upstairs…I had no idea what it all meant.

God’s mysterious pronouncement about my future began to take shape within two weeks. Seemingly out of the blue, a friend shared a longstanding dream to create a coffee-table book that would make Christianity accessible through images. Almost as soon as his words left his mouth, I felt the Holy Spirit bolt through me confirming this to be “the book” God had mentioned. I thought to myself, “Wow, this God stuff really works!”

In the years leading up to our pitch for Zondervan, as I took the images, matched them with verses and photo-shopped key words, hearing from God was no longer a rare occasion…we spoke everyday. As the body of work grew, so did my eyes and ears to hearing His lead. In one instance, while hiking down a path, God told me, “Stop, get down low, and look to your left.” In a world of it’s own, crawled a green ladybug on the spike of a thistle. Another time, God said to me, “Make the ‘R’ bigger. No, much bigger.” He was right, I was thinking too small, and once I adjusted the size, the whole verse fell into place.  It was a sweet time of doing what I love with the one I love.

So as the summer of 2007 came to a close and the call came in that afternoon from Sue at Zondervan, this total direction shift, a complete 180, seemed to come out of left field. Keith’s face was overshadowed with sadness, I had a hard time comprehending what was happening. I was scared to ask, “What did Sue say? Did you talk to her this afternoon?”

“The are killing their ‘Gifts and Inspirational’ department. They are losing money and it’s not an essential part of the company, so our book would be too expensive for them to produce because of all the imagery.” Punch in the stomach, I was out for the count. Didn’t see that one coming…at least, not at first. As I sat there reeling from the blow, I remembered what God had told me just that morning, “I have so many great plans. Don’t be surprised if things work out differently than you think.” Ouch, I guess His “differently” wasn’t the same as my “differently.” And as crushed as I was, I gave a champagne toast that night to the fact that I had heard correctly form God.

As the years have passed, we self-published, but that was too costly to support long-term. We’ve pushed on several doors, hoping a publisher would catch the vision; but each door seemed barricaded. We even recently had a way back into Zondervan, but ironically it was Round Two in the ring, ending this time with yet another punch to the gut. All the doors just keep closing…until now!

I found my Open Door.

My “Open Door that no one can shut.” Revelations 3:8

INTRODUCING…My eBook! Click Here for my $3.99 eBook

(The book will be accessible in your iBook app)

Low production costs, no gatekeeper publishers, my work can finally be sent out to do what it was always intended to do; give viewer’s a visually rich experience with the Bible.

While this was not what I had in mind when God proposed a book deal, nor what I anticipated when He mentioned His “great plans,” for this book, in the meantime He certainly has reworked, transformed  and upgraded it’s author. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Here are a few Excepts from the Book:

The Hat said it All

11 Apr

We were in a stand-off.  The only reason she didn’t begin eating the whipped cream off the top of her caramel frappuccino was because I had insisted on paying for it and now had the power to withhold it from her.  Our three bags of breakfast and single coffee drink were held as hostages until we could come to an agreement about their fate.  Visibly irritated with each other, we sat on the edge of our chairs, not talking, in the downtown Starbucks of Newport Beach.

Surrounding us were very beautiful people.  Their outfits were perfect, their hair was perfect, some sat typing away on their laptops intensely while listening to their favorite tunes on their iPods, some read the Sunday paper looking very smart as the ideal couple relaxing together over coffee in the early afternoon.  Everyone looked so self sufficient and successful; there was little need for God here.  Ava and I had come to this impasse only minutes before while we waited in line so I could purchase a breakfast sandwich.

“Hi, come wait with me in line; I don’t want to loose my place,” said the woman now behind me to the man across the room.  I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, “Oh my gosh,” she exclaimed.  “I can’t believe he’s dead!  He was so healthy too.  He exercised all the time and never smoked.  Oh that’s so sad.”  I just had to turn around and catch a glimpse of her; yep, she too was perfect in her tight black pants and eyes lined carefully to highlight their shape.

After I had ordered the sandwich, Ava held fast to the register, waiting for Grant the barista to return so she could order something else.  She and I had gotten into the bad habit of “additional orderings.”  Ava usually brings along babysitting money when we go out so she can supplement my purchases for her with extra items she knows I won’t pay for.

“Can I please have a caramel frappuccino and a bagel with cream cheese, toasted?’  However, not even fifteen minutes earlier I had just purchased cinnamon mini-buns from McDonald’s for her.  By no means am I a health food nut, actually Ava and I are known for “Donut Day” every Saturday morning and “In-N-Out” day on Tuesdays.  Yet even for me the combination of cinnamon mini-buns and a caramel frappuccino for breakfast, was ridiculous (the bagel was for the car ride home back to northern California).

So as Grant was preparing Ava’s order, I felt the Lord say to me, “Don’t let her purchase what she just ordered.  You pay for it.”  As I handed over my credit card, Ava looked at me with a smile, thanking me for what she probably assumed was just another gift for her fourteenth birthday.

One day earlier, she and I had been posing for pictures outside Cinderella’s castle in Disneyland.  It was a surprise road-trip for her birthday.  It had even been a surprise to me!  In the past, we have tried to host her friends for special trips or parties, but this year nothing was coming together.  During a Wednesday morning prayer and praise meeting, I felt the Lord continuously bring Disneyland to my heart and than began to see the word “Disneyland” strongly in my mind’s eye.  I don’t like Disneyland.  Knowing it was the last (not happiest) place on earth I wanted to go; it seemed God was asking me to take Ava to Disneyland for her birthday that weekend.  And while I felt He wanted to make the statement loud and clear that, “She is my Princess;” He also hinted that the trip was going to be a teaching tool for Ava and I to learn how to minister alongside one another.

“You’re not drinking that,” I told her as we grabbed a table right next to the counter.  Her face of joy slipped into confusion and then landed on irritation.  “That’s far too much sugar for one sitting.  You need to figure out what you want to do with that drink, because you’re not drinking it.”  The battle had begun.  There were only a few combinations of moves we each could make.  She could resist, rebel, give-up, give-in or obey.  I could demand, coerce, bargain, back-down or lead.  Neither one of us reacted initially, partly because we’ve learned to think things through before we act and also partly because we were hemmed in on all sides by very quiet, perfect people who would be instantly alerted to any non-conformist Starbucks’ activities.

So there we were, on the edge of our seats, with three bags between us and the fate of a coffee drink hanging in the balance.  After my initial objection, I began to notice a certain weightiness to the situation; like this moment in time was not really about someone’s sugar intake or a balanced breakfast.  There were larger implications to what was transpiring, likely becoming more obvious on the other side of this decision.  I had a dim awareness of what I felt God might be doing, so I stayed calm and hoped that God was at work doing something very big in this seemly insignificant moment.

Two minutes went by, silence.  Three minutes went by; a daggered glance in my direction told me she was not finding any happy options.  “Well, I could throw it out!” She stated this option less as a threat and more out of frustration.

“Okay, that’s one option.  Do you feel led to do anything else with the drink?”  By then the Lord was making it clearer to me that this whole frappuccino ordeal was an exercise for growing Ava’s faith.  Ava is not new to Christian ministry; she’s been raised with the concept that there are people in need around her.  Praying for others on the street and handing out food in Berkeley was something our family did regularly since she was eight, she asked her friends to join her self-made bible study at the age of nine, and most recently she joined us on a mission trip to the Philippines at age thirteen. However, while she ultimately ministered to those brought before her; Ava had yet to step out and feel confident enough to minister to someone through God’s leading based on her own relationship with Christ.

Eight minutes in.  Glancing over her shoulder a second time, “I could give it to someone?  But everyone in here has drinks already!”  Very true, one of the downfalls of being surrounded by seemingly perfect people is that they appear to need nothing.  In fact, they can even become quite insulted by the idea that they could be a “charity case.”  At first glance there seemed to be no need for God here.  Yet, while we had stood in line to order, a man at the far side of the room had caught my attention.  While everyone else seemed engrossed in their own world, this guy sat alone at a table, one earbud in, one earbud out, looking around the room with a gentle smile.   Ava seemed to have noticed him as well because as she scanned the room those two times, she paused on him for a second.  “I don’t know,” she said despairingly.  “That guy over there maybe,” motioning to the same man I felt led to as well.  “But he has a coffee. Why would he want my drink?”  Just as her faith began to rise, she was pulled back down by doubt and objections and she questioned me, “Do you know? Do you have any sense what I am supposed to do with this or who I would give it to?”

“Yep, I think so.  But I can’t tell you.  God is trying to teach you how to hear his voice.  If I keep telling you what I hear, keep taking the lead, how are you supposed to grow?”  Now it had crystallized in my mind.  This silly frappuccino incident was all a big exercise in hearing God’s voice and inaugurating Ava into her ministry.  In a safe environment, with low stakes and my support, Ava could learn to move where she felt God was moving.

Eleven minutes have gone by and we are still at an impasse; our strange interaction is now beginning to make our table neighbors slightly uncomfortable.  The woman next to me would quickly glance our direction and stare only long enough to assess the situation, but not long enough to call attention to herself.

Thirteen minutes in; I was impressed with Ava’s willingness to hear me out, but I could see she was getting to the end of her patience.  Just then, in walks another local carrying his daughter on his hip.  As he makes his way to the line, he looks around the room and singles out the same man that has caught our attention by the window sitting alone.  “Hey, Robert!”  He smiles and adds, “It’s good to see you.”  Robert raises his hand and waves, very receptive to the attention.

“Ava, so what do you think?  That guy by the window has been highlighted to you several times; do you think he could be someone God is pointing you to?”  I was trying to encourage her to connect some of the “God dots,” but still wanting to let it be her decision.  The reason this exercise was so timely and important was that in less than two months Ava and I would be leaving for our second mission trip to Sierra Leone.  While I have been called upon to help spiritually lead the trip, it has recently been brought to my attention that God’s heart is for Ava to come along side me as a spiritual partner in ministry, and eventually pass me by.  Within this context, the wait, struggle and uncertainty of the moment, the decision of the fate of the frappuccino was well worth gaining a spiritual partner to minister alongside with in Sierra Leone.

“Alright fine!”  Apparently the evidence was enough to cause Ava to be willing to offer her coffee drink to the man by the window. “I guess we can go over there and see if that guy wants the frappuccino.  But you need to go first.  I’ll go with you, but you need to ask him.”

“No,” I responded.  “That’s the whole point.  You need to be the one moving to the front, hearing God’s voice and acting on it.  I’m here as support.  You walk over there and I’ll be right behind you.”  I waited for her to move, and then followed her over to his table.  Now according to Ava, she was still worried about if and how she was going to be received by this man.  She was pretty sure that he was going to be uninterested in receiving her frappuccino (for the record, it had been un-touched with a straw and looked fresh from the barista…fifteen minutes earlier).  Interestingly, Ava said that when she finally approached him, she just then noticed his black hat that stated in big block white letters, “JESUS.”  In block red letters below it read, “Is My Boss.”  Jesus was literally written across his forehead!  You don’t usually get any clearer sign than that.  She admits to feeling a little stupid for questioning God about whether or not this man by the window would be receptive to her gift; what apparently had been a struggle for her all along, had never in reality existed.

“Excuse me, but would you like this caramel frappuccino?”  That was all she got out.  With compassion in his eyes, this man looked straight at Ava and began to let out moans and grunts of gratitude.  He was mute.  Formless words poured out of his mouth, but his heart emanating out of his eyes told the whole story.  His loud groans fluctuated with emotion while his hands gave the most beautiful prophetic blessing over Ava.  Repeatedly he made the Sign of the Cross, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, over Ava’s head and chest.  He then mimed and groaned how his heart was so full because of her gift.  He motioned to his cup, pointing to the bottom and how it was almost all gone.  He clutched his chest saying how precious it was to receive her drink, how full and loved it made him feel.  He then circled her head with his hand forming a halo and then gestured that the Lord had been with her since she was a little child and he was going to grow her into a powerful woman of God.

It was about this time when I began to cry.  This man’s compassion and love was so tangible.  To think we had ever questioned going over to him.  To think that we thought we were the ones bringing the blessing?  To think that we might have missed this moment altogether if Ava had rejected this test? To think that I cold have been more focused on calories then on the larger goal?  To think that all we had to do was spend a few minutes listening for God’s voice? So many near misses along the way, and yet so right on target.

We hugged our new friend Robert (I found out his name by calling the store the next day), and headed out to the car.  We were both stunned by how the whole thing had played out.  I feel strongly that God wanted to bless Ava with a Disneyland birthday, after all, she’s his princess.  However, the whole trip could very well have been about Robert.  It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to find out that God’s main reason for our road-trip was this random half-hour encounter at a small Starbucks in Newport Beach to meet Robert the mute believer who radiates Christ’s love, and Disneyland was just the bait.Image