Where Are You?

Date: 28 Sep 2021 Comments:0

Hello readers! I realize it’s been almost 10 months since I updated you all on what has been happening. I think that is a testament to why I am just now posting something. As I mentioned in my previous post, I took a new contract to hire position that is 100% remote in Nov. 2020 to lead the IAM efforts for a well-known unified communications provider. As of May 2021, I officially became the IT Security Manager for IAM at Zoom Video Communications (the name synonymous of online meetings since COVID). I now lead a small but mighty team building the future of Identity and Access Management for this fast growing company as well as serving as the final technical resource for the myriad of tools we are intending to bring to the company.

Beyond that, the world is still grappling with the pandemic (though many have argued that it is nearing an end, I can’t say I feel confident about that) so I spend much of my time in a strange dichotomy of intense COVID restrictions in some parts of my life and virtually nonexistent restrictions in others. For the most part, my family has returned to whatever sense of normalcy one can achieve in the post-pandemic world; my children are all back to attending in-person school, attending various extracurricular activities such as sports, dance, and church activities. I blinked and am now the father of a sophomore daughter who is about to attend her first ever homecoming (or HoCo as the hip kids call it) with some gal pals, a 10 year old son who is hitting puberty and starting to question lots of things in this world, another 10 year old autistic son who dances between deep love and unexpected anger as the way takes him, and two 7 year olds to whom my relevance is slowing decreasing.

We did finally buy that house thanks to COVID level rates of financing and I have spent considerable time (and plenty of money) to make into a perfect place for our family. I am happy to say that our investment in an early 60’s property with very good bones has paid off with an almost 7% gain in value in less than a year. As money or time come available, my wife and I are making incremental upgrades including the installation of a 3-way mini-split HVAC system that provides hot and cold air directly to the top floor and sunroom of our house, installing of new, more secure door locks, cleaning up dead vegetation, and many other projects. The house may not look like the perfectly manicured lot with diagonally mowed grass and the perfect array of flowers and colors, but it is certainly a beautiful and stately house with many mature trees and a place where neighbors and friends gather often to share life together.

I would be gravely unprepared to tell anyone what will be happening next in my life as I try to approach each new day as an opportunity for God to use me in whatever way He sees fit. Sometimes I find that I am the calm and supportive voice in my children’s ears as life wails and roils around them. Sometimes I am the altruistic idealist who tries to find light in the darkest places and most hurt people and, if God wills it, help shine some light. But one thing that is absolutely certain, is that I continue to keep my heart open to the things this world needs and ask God to use me to be an agent of change. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Time for an update

Date: 28 Dec 2020 Comments:0

Well, I am finally done grading my classes for the 2020 Fall semester at Liberty University. Wow… what a year it has been. This has easily been one of the most challenging years I have ever had for many reasons. Unfortunately, it had a strong impact on my ability to perform at my best for the students and that fact bothers me a great deal.

For the longest time, I have only taught one class per sub term for Liberty University. In these cases, I have around 20 students that I need to assist and this is manageable with my full time employment. However, starting in the beginning of 2020, I have not had a single sub term where I have been assigned less than two classes. On occasion, I was originally provided 3 classes before I explained that I simply cannot carry that kind of weight.

Teach two classes at a time means that I am responsible for 40+ students at one time while still working my normal job for my primary employer. This was usually manageable because I was well established in my employer’s eyes and I could usually balance the workload. However, in November of this year, I decided to leave the company that brought me to Kansas City three years ago because I was simply not getting anywhere financially or in my career path. I took a fantastic position as a consultant supporting a large video communications company in California.

With this change, I am now in a totally new environment wherein I do not have any previous rapport to draw on. I had no PTO as you have to accrue it over time. Plus, the client I am supporting is still in startup mode which means it is always busy and there are always changes happening. I was instantly flung into a whole new style of rapid fire work 100% remotely. I love the ‘never have to go to an office’ mentality but it is very difficult to balance work life when you work from home AND teach for a university.

As if this mixture of energy was not enough, my wife and I, after 9 months of trying to live like hermits and avoiding public as much as possible to prevent infection with COVID-19 – ended up getting COVID-19. I cannot express the wild mixture of weakness and general feeling unwell that COVID brings to your life. I was lucky that my symptoms were mild and mostly went away after about 5 days. My wife was hit much harder and still barely has a voice despite being clear for over a month.

During that infection time, I had started my new job and had no PTO but I was still expected to work from home and keep grading for Liberty. For some unknown reason, we also decided to buy a house since the market was fresh with good rates thanks to COVID. So now you add the pressures of the two jobs, recovering from COVID, and buying a home. Suffice to say, I am all but spent and expect to stay that way for a little bit.

Thankfully, God was there through all of it. He helped us find the perfect house and made all the work fall into place. After making a bad hire for a general contractor who robbed us blind, He put a great contractor right in front of us that re-did all the work that the first team messed up and managed to quickly finish all the outstanding work that was left when the first team walked off the job. He kept me with minimal symptoms from COVID so that I could still work for my employer and not have to just barely survive. Now, I feel like God is already giving us some simple examples of why he placed us here in this house at this time in our lives.

The bottom line is this, I did not perform like I wanted as an instructor (or even a husband for that matter), but God pulled me through and I am hoping that the next year will be much easier and full of blessings.

Almost a Year… What’s Going on?

Date: 22 May 2019 Comments:0

It’s hard to believe that I have not added anything to this blog in almost a year. So what exactly has been going on? Obviously more stuff than I can possibly fit into a single blog post, but I will try to hit the important notes. It’s been a heck of a busy year.

The first change is in my role at my job. I originally moved to the KCMO area to work as the lead IAM Architect for my company even though it was being bought out. For several months, nothing changed. However, in June, the company released a lot of people – by God’s grace, I was not impacted. I continued to work towards IAM things with my team until about August 2018. I was asked to help out another part of the team with some new security tools since the team was getting small (down to 1 person). However, after about 3 months, my entire life was absorbed by the new security tool. Then, in February of 2019, the one person I was supporting apps with left the company. I am now in charge of 3 tools, none of which are IAM.

The second change is with teaching. I had a very tough teaching term back in summer 2018 and almost lost my ability to teach because of a mixture of stress and life changes. The family had moved in to KCMO completely (instead of me watching only the two oldest kids) and now the house was constantly busy and so was my work so I fell behind in teaching. However, I took a break during the summer and then picked up solid in Fall 2018 and have done well since then.

Lastly, there were lots of family challenges this last year. We invited one of our exchange students back to our home for a second year and brought in another student that we had never met. It was definitely a tough time because the new student was from a very different culture then what we were used to and it caused lots of friction. In the end, it was a good experience.

Mix together all 9 members of the family, extensive taekwondo classes, work, teaching, ministry, etc. I am usually either busy until the last part of the evening so I choose to relax with a video game or a movie during that time. I just have not had the time or the inclination to blog as much. I also stopped doing the Daily in the Word (DITW) bible study as I have been getting most of my bible study with my Men’s Coffee group. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, but with all the other pressures of life, I just couldn’t keep up the study regimen.

So what’s next? Well, we are entering the second full summer in KCMO. I am not teaching at the moment but will be hopefully teaching in the next term. I am still doing my normal job. We have lots of fun travel plans for June and July. We’re going to see some old friends and make some new ones. Then, in August, two brand new students, one from Japan and another from Egypt will be joining us for the exchange year.

Now I wait to see what God will do next.

DITW – The Plan versus the Prayer – July 16, 2018

Date: 16 Jul 2018 Comments:0

Many of my thoughts as an adult are guided towards what plans I have made and what plans I need to make. As silly as it sounds, I have become the product of time rather than time being determined by me. I look at all the theoretical roads that lie before me and try my best to determine which direction is best. Sometimes, I have made the decision to travel the wrong way and other times I have traveled a way that seemed wrong but ultimately was right. It’s easy to see how we are driving to make plans based off what we think is important or priority but my reading today reminds me that our plans are only guideposts for what God plans to do and he’ll do as he sees fit “We make our own plans but the Lord gives the right answer” (Proverbs 16:1, NLT). As a follower of Christ, I have tried my best to figure out exactly what God wants but I often realize that I will never make the right choices if God is not in those choices, the letter to Ephesus guides us as such: “Don’t act thoughtlessly but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” (Ephesians 5:17, NLT). God does not always want me to have an answer and will often find ways to remind me that he is God and I am a child who constantly strives to follow his example. Sometimes, the best way to find out what God wants is the way that I often use incorrectly – prayer. I pray about things all the time, some of them are deep and important and some are honestly quite small and not too important in the grand scheme of things, luckily God does not judge us for our small prayers any more than our big ones. David often found this was his only refuge but he had great faith in it: “I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray.” (Psalm 17:6). To be a better praying person, I also need to go to a simple method from Psalm 16: “Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. ” (Psalm 16:5, NLT). The less I let the plans I have made direct my path, the more I find the great wonder of God’s direction. The reverse, unfortunately, is also true – I worry so much about my plans succeeding that I forget that even if my plans fail, God’s will still succeed.

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DITW – Being a Christian is Not Easy – July 10, 2018

Date: 10 Jul 2018 Comments:0

I wish that every day of my life I had a great story about how being a Christian made my life so much easier or better but if that was the case, I would not truly absorb the magnitude of grace. Unfortunately, many of the churches out there preach some derivative of the “Prosperity Gospel” where they talk all about the good stuff and not the bad. They (usually) have good intentions such as trying to build faith but I think that the times when life is the hardest yet we still maintain faith and joy are the times that build us up the most. In my reading, I found several verses that provide guidance on this. For instance, the prosperity gospel is nothing new, even Paul dealt with it as we find in second Timothy: “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3, NLT. It’s easy to think that God wants us to be happy but that’s not always the case. What’s even more funny is how we somehow think that God owes us something because we are Christians or because we do this or that good thing but I think Job’s story shows us how silly expecting we are owed something from God is: “Who has given me anything that I need to pay back? Everything under Heaven is mine.” (Job 41:11, NLT) It’s true, if God gave us what we deserved, we’d all be dead in sin with no way out. But if we persevere, God will bless us in His time and His way just as he did later in Job but sometimes he expects us to start that conversation: “When Job prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before!” (Job 42:10, NLT). Perhaps it is the fact that we see the challenges we face as prisons that God has put us in because he does not like us but that’s part of why we don’t see our blessings in disguise. I would love to say that I could emulate Paul in Acts when the jails doors opened and they could have escaped (Acts 16:27-28, NLT) but they waited until God’s time and it served to make them all better and saved the lives of the jailer and his family among many others. We must keep our eyes on God’s future and timing and not ours, even when life is not as happy as we’d like. Proverbs reminds us that God still cares for us, despite our circumstances: “The Lord will not let the godly go hungry, but he refuses to satisfy the craving of the wicked.” (Proverbs 10:3, NLT). I still have plenty of days where I wonder why God has not removed me from this desert place (emotionally and physically based off summer temps here) but I also know that the longer I persevere, the more powerful my faith and prayers become.

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DITW – Keep the Path, Despite Opposition – June 28, 2018

Date: 28 Jun 2018 Comments:0

The more powerful we become as people, the higher up the social stratum we climb, the more we tend to forget what brought us to where we are. I have always strived to show my appreciation to the path that led me to where I am. I started as a pizza cutter/boxer for a pizza company and eventually made my way up to leading professional teams to accomplish big things. Yet, in all of those things, I am reminded daily of how quickly God could change my course should he so desire. In my reading today, I can gather that although God loves me, I should always remember his power as Job explained to the priestly men who tried to convince him to renounce God: “Doesn’t his majesty terrify you? Doesn’t your fear of him overwhelm you? Your platitudes are as valuable as ashes. Your defense is as fragile as a clay pot.” (Job 13:11-12, NLT). It reminds me that although God gives me the ability to call on him, I should always remember to ask in reverence if I expect any kind of response. As we are reminded in Romans, we all must be willing to explain to God why we did or did not do something: “Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God” (Romans 14:12, NLT). In the end, it is only God’s opinion of us that should matter to us at all and we should always approach that with fear and trembling “For he knows those who are false, and takes note of all their sins.” (Job 11:11, NLT). So I will continue to seek God’s will with everything I do and not care what the world thinks of the path God gives me, it’s the only way to live in God’s will: “To reject the law is to praise the wicked; to obey the law is to fight them.” (Proverbs 28:4, NLT). I want to live a life in humility of the grace God has given me and may I show the changes he has made in my life by my actions.

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DITW – Friend of the King – June 22, 2018

Date: 22 Jun 2018 Comments:0

I have often heard the phrase “mankind dislikes that which it does not understand” but I always thought of this as someone choosing to be scared of a technology or a cultural thing rather than understanding it. However, the more places I take my family with its special needs children and large size, I can feel that fear and dislike everywhere. It seems that no matter where we live, how good of people we are, our family disquiets those around us who do not understand us. Even now, in the new home, we have felt this in the way some of our neighbors treat us. I look to the sky and say “Why is it like this, God? Why do we feel so out of place everywhere we go?” Sometimes this is answered in the kindness of a stranger or a momentary calm over the kids. However, in today’s reading, I think God gave me some insight into this through Peter: “It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you.” (1 Peter 2:15, NLT). So it would be far too easy for me to take my frustration and respond to these people who treat us badly or look down on us – to ‘shut them down’ with a scathing word but does that do anything but confirm their thoughts? I think not. It’s far better for me to handle myself with the grace and patience that is only God in me. In the end, my reputation as a person is the only thing I have going for me and that’s worth a lot as Proverbs reminds me: “Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1, NLT). By me answering prejudice, misunderstanding, dislike and scorn with a gracious heart, I show them that judging a book by its cover does no good in our situation. Perhaps that’s why I rarely get as loud or angry as I feel inclined to do. Ultimately, I serve the king of Heaven and Earth, what do I fear from man and their opinions? Only graciousness should be my response and that will earn respect much more than anger “Whoever loves a pure heart and gracious speech will have the king as a friend.” (Proverbs 22:11, NLT). Wow… the friend of the king of all? That’s worth caring about, not man’s words.

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DITW – Do What is Right – June 21, 2018

Date: 21 Jun 2018 Comments:0

There is no doubt in my mind that those who follow Christianity are prone to look strange or do things that simply don’t make sense to others around them. In fact, some of the things that my family and I do, such as housing 7 children, are weird enough on their own, but it seems completely normal to us because there are many ways that we hope these things will reflect the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Luckily, we live in a country that is tolerant (albeit less so each year) of our beliefs and so our punishment is rarely more than social stigma. However, in the days of the apostles, they were constantly under fire as my reading discussed. The Sanhedrin were tired of Paul and John teaching about Jesus and tried again to stop them: “We gave you strict orders never again to preach in this man’s name!” he said. ‘Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him and you want to make us responsible for his death!’ But Peter and the apostles replied, ‘We must obey God rather than any other authority.” (Acts 5:28-29, NLT). As we can see, the original followers of Christ were completely unapologetic about their desire to teach of Jesus and to live as he lived, even if it meant death. Later, as one of the Sanhedrin was explaining why they should leave Paul alone, he brought out a salient point – if the people are opposed to your Christian life, it’s not you they are fighting against, but God. “But if it is from God, then you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” (Acts 5:39, NLT). How much different would our lives be if we remembered who it was that allows us to live as we do, allows us to be ‘weird’ in they eyes of the public? Sure, we may have some rough times here and there, but God is in all of those things. One thing’s for sure, God is the authority that guides our lives and no man can conquer that. As Proverbs reminds us: “People may be right in their own eyes but the Lord examines their heart. The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices.” (Proverbs 21:2-3, NLT) In the end, God will judge each by their own lifestyles and he knows the lives we truly lead. “But the Righteous One knows what is going on in the homes of the wicked;he will bring disaster to them.” (Proverbs 21:12, NLT). So we should do our best to serve others and live as Christ instructed for the plans of God will always be helped by God.

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DITW – Holding Out on God – June 20, 2018

Date: 20 Jun 2018 Comments:0

Last night, my wife and I┬ástarted attending a Tuesday night bible study at our new home church. It talked about community and how each of us is part of the body and have skills to use. This is certainly something that I have always felt compelled to do, use my skills to glorify God. However, one of the points they brought up was a very popular topic about how we must learn to give up some things in order to get better things back. In essence, we must find the thing we are most protective of and be willing to give that up to God but He will return it and make it even better. When I did my reading today, it seemed to speak of a similar topic. It is easy for us to think that we can hold just a little piece of something back from God and it will be fine, but that is not what the bible tells us. In fact, Proverbs warns against this: “False weights and unequal measures – the Lord detests double standards of any kind!” (Proverbs 20:10, NLT). So what? Will God actually care if we hold it back? Yes, the king of Heaven and Earth does not take well to those who intentionally choose to disobey Him,, Proverbs addresses that too: “The king’s fury is like a lion’s roar; to rouse his anger is to risk your life.” (Proverbs 20:2, NLT). If you want a more biblical example of this, we must only read the story of Ananias and Sapphira who chose to sell some things as the church members often did but rather than donating all the proceeds to the church, they decided to keep just a little of it and the results were deadly. “The property was yours to sell or not sell as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” As soon as Ananias heard this, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.” (Acts 5:4-5, NLT). Now, I’m not insinuating that God is prone to dropping you dead for holding out on him, he is the father of grace after all, but the truth is that anything you don’t give away to God could be your undoing. If we hold on to money, health, children, cars, houses, anything, that we are not willing to offer to God, we’re only poisoning ourselves. God will do great things with the things you give him.

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DITW – Boldness Overcomes Foolishness – June 18, 2018

Date: 18 Jun 2018 Comments:0

In my career, I have found many folks that seem very bold and powerful in a group of their peers. They seem responsible and powerful and their comrades trust their words. However, as time goes by, if they are cross-examined by people with knowledge in their careers, it’s easy to see them shut down in the right situation. That is to say that we sometimes find power and boldness among our friends and peers but when we have no support, we must be able to defend our desires or decisions with true facts, not just a ‘cult of personality’. The same thing occurred to the priests of the Sanhedrin, those who were mostly responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus when they encountered Peter and John in Acts and I drew upon it for most of my reading today: “The members of the council were amazed whey they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13, NLT). This happened just after Peter healed the man at the Beautiful Gate as I referenced in my previous post. But when the Sanhedrin told Peter and John to ‘cease and desist.’ The men who had ‘been with Jesus’ were not afraid to shut them down. “But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20, NLT). In this case, the Sanhedrin were wise among their peers but when faced with the hard facts, their foolishness was overcome with the boldness of two apostles. How often in our lives, do we face challenges to our beliefs from those who are hostile to the Gospel and sometimes we let their jeers and aggression as a group make us afraid to speak what we truly believe. But those who deny that which is in Jesus, are foolish and will try to shut you down but you must be bold because the Scripture tells us to always support our truth with facts: “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” (Proverbs 18:13, NLT). We have a power that is often misunderstood and we can be ‘bullied’ out of standing up but that’s not what Peter did and we should learn to follow his lead because God’s boldness will stand against the foolishness of others.

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