Whispers of God . . . 

Musings on God in Life

Published monthly columns

by Mark P. Gonzales

Joyful Chores?

 

HEARING GOD’S HEART ABOUT DAILY CHORES.

As I write this in my youngest son’s cozy office in his and his wife’s lovely Colorado home, I keep sneaking a peak out of one of the many large windows in his lodge-like home at the breath-taking beauty of a Rocky Mountain range laced with sun-splashed snow, including the local majestic landmark known as Pike’s Peak.  Wow.

And yes we went skiing on Tuesday and just returned from snow-shoeing through a mountain forest on this Friday afternoon, so I am still basking in the unmistakable presence and whispers of God through it all.  Ahhh . . .

But there has been another tremendous attraction for me during this 5-day getaway to be with my family . . . my two year old grandson, Finn!  I’d offer you a couple of dozen pictures of him along with our other four amazing grandchildren, but alas, there’s this space issue for this column.  So permit me to give you a glimpse or two . . .

Since my arrival in his home on Monday, I have watched Finn tirelessly do something most of us would almost never expect in any child, or teen for that matter:  joyful  chores!  Really. 

Yes, I know that to most families, a joyful chore is an oxymoron, but this boy loves to help his mommy and daddy, not just at the beginning, but all the way through the end – cooking, cleaning, whatever.  He is such a finisher, if he is showing me his little train set, he’ll bring me all 18 railway cars, two at a time, until I have the whole set!  Then he’ll do it again. 

But one of my favorite things is when mommy and daddy ask him to throw away some stray papers off the floor. With pure focus in his little eyes, he will scour the room and put every last scrap in the trash, then, with his well earned triumph, he will spin around, put his tiny hands behind his back and saunter off with an unmistakable spirit of joy at a job well done!  I love it.  I am amazed . . . before my very eyes I see a mountain sized wonder: a boy and his joyful chores.

You know, when it comes to my every day chores, I think God will truly smile if when I grow up, I can be more like Finn.

Tolerating my chores with you,

Pastor Mark

 

Two Schools

 

HEARING GOD’S HEART ABOUT TOUGH DECISIONS.

Though my dad went home to glory several years ago, in many ways he still lives on today in the impact and wisdom he left in my heart and life.  One of the many things he poured into me as a young teen that I have often remembered and practiced the last fifty years to my benefit, but also often forgot to my chagrin was this:

“You know, son, you can learn one of two ways in this life:  through the school of hard knocks using the trial and error method, or through the school of wise counsel by learning from other people’s errors.  It’s your choice, but tuition at the school of hard knocks is far, far more expensive.”

Wow.  What was even more impactful to me than that truth itself, was the fact that my dad, though not perfect, did his best to live that way.  I have vivid memories of how many people he would talk to and how much research he would do before pursuing a major project, like building a home for our family—twice, or making a big purchase, like a car or a color TV when they first came out.  Of course, it drove my impatient little heart crazy that he took so long to make the purchase or start the project, but that just gave him the opportunity to teach me that “Impatience can be a very expensive character trait, son.”  But back to the two schools . . .

With three full grown sons, three lovely daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren under 10 years old now, Lindy and I are watching them go through both schools in their life journey, just as we did . . . and still are.  Really, you might ask?  Aren’t you firmly and exclusively enrolled in the school of wise counsel by now?  Uh, no.  And why not?  Well, because we are still human, and we still have blind spots and wounds from the challenges of life that sometimes jump start us into the trial and error school that gives us more hard knocks and wounds.  The only good part of that is that it at least helps us give our offspring more breathing space to bounce in and out of both schools as well.  Ahh, such is life.

Be that as it may, we still make ourselves available to offer them a bit of counsel here and there, and we still continue to seek out counsel for ourselves, especially from up above.  The Lord is our Wonderful Counselor, you know.  And when I think about how much we wince when we see our kids or ourselves paying high tuition costs in the school of hard knocks instead of heeding counsel, I can only imagine how much He winces when His children do the same.  But, He is still . . . always . . . right there for us . . . willing to whisper in our ear . . . and save us a lot of pain.

Trying to listen more with you,

Pastor Mark

Elephant Bonds

 

HEARING GOD’S HEART ABOUT FEELING TRAPPED.

The other day my lovely wife, Lindy, was listening to a wonderful radio preacher and later reminded me of a classic story he shared about elephants and their single ankle rope on a small stake that amazingly keeps them from running off from the fair ground.

The story involves a passerby asking the nearby trainer why the elephants simply would not yank it out with their obviously superior strength.  The answer is that the same size rope and stake had been used on the elephants since they were much younger, smaller, and weaker, when they really were not able to pull free.  They were, therefore, conditioned to believe they would always be unsuccessful in their future attempts to break free, even though at some point they had grown big enough and strong enough to do so.  Kind of sad, but a great story, isn’t it?

Is that really true, you may ask?  I wanted to know that as well.  So, with a little digging, I discovered that, while it is indeed true, there are some additional and equally insightful factors beyond the conditioned response.

One story cited accounts of elephants who did break the bond of the rope and stake when a fire broke out.  Another cited elephants who would break their normal bonds when they wanted to rush and meet another elephant that had been taken away and now returned.  Still another concluded that, as long as the elephants were fed well, kept amused and never abused, there was no reason for the intelligent creatures to even try to break away. Thus, the mere hint of restraint was enough to keep them in place.

So, knowing that Jesus loved to use parables to help us in our lives, I started thinking: “Okay, Lord.  What can I learn from all this?”

One takeaway that comes to mind is to keep asking myself if any of the limitations or fears I feel today are rooted in my assumption that my limitations of youth are still at play in my life, even though I have outgrown them, but never realized it.  Hmmm.  What a subtle prison!

Another is to ask myself if I have a habit of waiting for a fire to erupt before I try to break out of an area of bondage.  Hmmm.  Maybe I should ask some people I trust if they see any ropes and stakes in my life BEFORE a fire breaks out.

Or, how about this . . . Have I settled for far less achievement and destiny because I let my failures in earlier years convince me that I should be content with lesser goals, since I would never be capable of those attempted dreams, though I’ve grown bigger, stronger, wiser, and potentially more resilient?  Hmmm.   If I am continually seeing myself as  weak and feeble, then I am in serious danger of getting stuck right there.   Trapped again!

One last question: Has the ease of my fair ground life, regular feedings, amusements galore, and former successes kept me from experiencing greater heights and freedoms?  Yikes!  Another prison!

Hey, why don’t we access our growing strength in the Lord and break free of our little ropes and stakes, my friends?  There is far more life beyond the fair grounds!

Breaking free with you,

Pastor Mark

Small Things

 

HEARING GOD’S HEART ABOUT REDISCOVERING LIFE.

I am getting a fresh look at small things in this life, especially when I hang out on the floor with our grandkids, four of the five under 2 years old and an extra sharp 8-year-old grandson.  Life looks very different from four feet lower than I am used to viewing it, plus, there is something about being on the floor with them that helps me remember all the small things they are discovering from down there . . .

Chair and table legs.  Adult knobby knees.  Stray dust bunnies.  Electrical sockets, with holes!  High, no, very high ceilings.  Dogs at eye level.  Lots of cabinets.  Oh, look, drawers too!  Electrical cords.

And then there’s the joy of watching them be so amazed at small and simple things like . . .

Ice cubes.  Toilet paper.  Trash can contents.

Dog food.  Squeezing Jello.  Pouring out milk.

Tasting everything.  Discovering fingers.  Pointing fingers.  Poking fingers.  Sucking fingers.  Cardboard.  Window blinds.  Dropping peas.  Making snot bubbles.  Squinting eyes.  Forming words.  Licking glass doors.  Grunting.  Rolling.  Waddling.  Throwing.  Cuddling.  Giggling.  Fighting sleep.  Pulling hair.  Poking noses.  Stretching ears.  Wiggling toes.  Stumbling.  Falling.  Crying.  And making all kinds of noise, especially when they are together!

Lindy and I love it, and every time we think of them and what they are discovering in such small increments, it makes us smile.  And then I remember . . .

No matter how old we are, we will always be children of God, and as His children, I believe He takes even more delight in us as we stumble through the small things in life, than we do with our grandkids.   With a busy summer with the kids and grandkids at home more, there will be a ton of small things—good and bad – that will be filling the hours, days, and weeks ahead.  And they can drive you crazy, or they can lead you to a fresh reminder of the delight of being on the cutting edge of discovery . . . and being a kid again . . . WITH your kids.  And every time you do, God will smile, too.

Giggling through the summer with you,

Pastor Mark

Nests and Nestling

 

HEARING GOD’S HEART ABOUT EMPTY NESTS.

While they are having a house built out at Babcock Ranch, Lindy and I are getting to host and house one of our sons, his lovely wife, their 9-year-old son, and their 18-month-old daughter for a few months . . . PARTY TIME!

Yep, our empty nest has been reactivated, recharged, reinvigorated, and reenergized!

And we love it!  We really do.  But, like every good party, there are messes and challenges that are part of the glorious package, especially for those of us in the Fall season of our lives.

Our restful, autumn lives with gently falling leaves of gold, have now been pretty much   trumped by four other lives bursting with blooms of springtime color and spectacular summer rains!  How quickly we forget our earlier years of zesty child rearing once the pace and rhythm of life slows down.  So now,

What was quiet, now is not.

What was orderly, now is not.

What was routine, now is not.

What was predictable, now is not.

Thank you, Lord!

Why do we love the disruption? Because it is a refreshing change for us, and we love seeing our kids and grandkids on the constant and cutting edge of discovery each day.  Granted, we get all that in spurts as careful-not-to-interfere grandparents – nowhere close to the 24/7 dynamic the young parents face – but we get to observe the spectacle much more closely in this brief season that they are under our roof.  What a gift.  The blessings – which far outweigh the minor lifestyle disruption – are already starting to pour in.  For example . . .

Watching and fielding our very perceptive grandson’s steady flow of honest questions on just about everything, is fascinating as we see his mind rapidly spinning and processing not just the words in our answers, but the tones, pace, thoroughness, and attitude in the way we share them.  Hmmmm . . . .  As for our 18-month-old granddaughter . . .

Watching her progressively warm up to us with innocent trust has been touching our hearts immeasurably – like yesterday when our daughter-in-law dropped by my office and carried her wee one in to say hello.  As they got near, the little princess raised her toddler arms to me and said: “Up?” –  which I couldn’t resist – and the moment she got nestled in my arms, she burrowed into my shoulder to cuddle a while.  Ahhhhhhhh . . .  a wee bit of heaven on earth!

So, our nest and our routine will be tattered for a while, and we couldn’t be happier.  We are building memories and creating bonds that will bless us for years to come.  God is so good.  And by the way, His delight will be far greater whenever you raise your arms to Him and ask: “Up?” . . . and then nestle into Him for a while.

Creating a nest for nestling,

Pastor Mark

Dropped Batons

 

HEARING GOD’S HEART ABOUT TRANSFERRING WEALTH.

The baton exchange in an Olympic relay race can look fairly simple . . . unless you are watching Youtube videos of some of the U.S. teams in the 2004 games in Athens, or the 2008 games in Beijing.  Yes, you guessed it.  Several of our teams dropped the baton, even after countless hours of practice leading up to their one time shot for Olympic gold.  But regarding a far more important type of gold, far more people are dropping the baton . . . in fact, about 70% of us!

The successful and fruitful transfer of wealth from one generation to the next is failing at that alarming rate, according to a Forbes Magazine article and other studies and books such as Hobby Lobby founder – David Green’s excellent book: Giving It All Away . . . And Getting It all Back Again, which I just finished reading a couple of days ago.

One of the biggest problems is that our very successful and aging Baby Boomer generation is passing along family businesses and money through their wills and trusts in ways that damage their children and grandchildren, rather than help them.  Ironically, even though most people instinctively know that passing along excessive unearned money most often destroys personal incentive, improvement, and a solid work ethic, they are doing it anyway!  Green’s book describes and outlines a much better way that actually strengthens family bonds and character by reminding us that our goal is to “pass along values (such as the joy of lavish giving), not just valuables (to keep it all in our family).”  I was fascinated to read how the Lord has led him and his wife to raise their kids– who are now raising their kids– to be crazy generous.  How crazy?

Believe it or not, this 4 billion dollars a year company and three generations of Greens actually work hard to give away 50% of their earnings to worthy Christian ministries every year!  The other 50% goes back into building the company and more stores for one primary reason:  to make money to help more people in need.

Do your family a huge favor.  Read the Hobby Lobby family story to help you get some fresh ideas about how to pass the baton of your values and valuables carefully, wisely, and with the joy of living generously!  And if you’d like some local contacts of savvy advisers and worthy ministries, feel free to contact me.  I love to connect people!

Crazily giving with you,

Pastor Mark