Justice. Mercy. Grace. Cookies.

Slide1Thursday night is a very special time. It is family dessert night and tonight was Tommy’s favorite: chocolate chip cookies. Tommy’s mother was almost done baking and the smell permeated the house. Tommy’s father cuddled with his daughters on the couch while the little boy embraced their dog Shiloh on the ground in anticipation of the goodness that awaited him.

“All right family,” mom rang off cheerfully. “The cookies are done!”
The children were allowed two cookies and a glass of milk. They savored dessert night together and finished watching the family movie.

Later in the night Tommy’s stomach began to growl. Perhaps, he hadn’t eaten enough or perhaps he just wanted more cookies… Whatever it was, he found himself on the countertop reaching for the cookie jar atop the fridge and eating one cookie after the next. When he laid back down he felt pretty bad – partly because he had eaten too much and partly because he felt bad. Gluttony and guilt weighed heavy on him. Still he was tired and sleep came quickly. (Thanks to the carb crash.)


“Thomas!” his father scolded him loudly, “Come out here now!”
“Did you get into the cookie jar last night?”
“N-nn-no daddy,” the child stuttered softly, cookie crumbs and chocolate stains still on his face.
“Look Tommy, I know that you did and now you’ve lied to me about it. Please don’t lie to me, son. For the next month you are not allowed to have dessert during our family dessert nights. Now get ready for school and let’s go.”
Tommy’s dad was upset because his son lied and because he usually took the leftover cookies to the homeless on his way to work every Friday.


“Tommy, come out here quick, son.” Father called from the kitchen. Tommy scurried out of bed.
“Did you get into the cookie jar last night?”
Tommy’s eyes darted away from dad as he looked down with regret.
“Yes, I did, daddy, and… and I’m sorry.” He softly spoke.
Sitting in silence for a moment his father sighed. “I know you love cookies, and I do, too… Do you know that what you did was wrong?
“Yes, I do, daddy.”
“Ok, Son, I forgive you and please don’t do it again.”


“Tommy,” father whispered, “Get up, let’s go.”
It was early and the sun hadn’t come up yet. Riding in the truck Tommy wondered, “Where are we going, daddy?”
“I know what you did last night, son. It was wrong and you deserve punishment.”
Tommy hung his head in shame. He couldn’t see as the sun had just begun to come up and it was blinding. He wondered what kind of punishment awaited. Mostly, he wondered if he’d ever be allowed to have cookies again.
The truck stopped and they got out. Father took Tommy by the hand and began to walk forward.
Squinting his eyes and straining to see, Tommy finally got in the shadow of the huge building they were walking towards. Right in front of him was a big sign: “Cookie Factory.”
“You are my son and I love you. You see son, I just bought this factory and everything inside it is yours.”


Two Years Ago Today


For every story there is a beginning, middle and an end. But when finally reaching the end one may look back and wonder; how did I get here? Can I ever go back? Is there anything to go back to? Is this the way the story has to end?

I sit staring at the same blank wall. It’s a different wall now but my frame (or should I say pain) of mind is still the same. I still can’t believe he is really gone…

It was a normal Saturday, nothing eventful that I can or can’t remember. I went to sleep to get up early for a three year anniversary celebration of a church plant called Clarity. When I awoke in the morning I was getting ready and I noticed I had a voicemail. Listening to the message I became alarmed. My Dad had stopped breathing in the evening and was now in the ICU on life support. Sheer panic took a hold of me.

I raced to the hospital with Reni as soon as I could. Met and hugged my distraught step mom. Still in a state of Shock we entered the hospital room where my father was. He was hooked up to breathing machines and unconscious. I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing him there. And even now as I think about it, it still cuts so deep. I tried to be strong but my voice broke and a few tears came down as I gripped his hand and told him, “You have so much to live for.”

We exited the room and the doctors and nurses began explaining things to me that I never knew about or wanted to know. He was sick and had pneumonia. He also had sepsis which is why his body was bloated. They said his kidneys may be shutting down and mentioned kidney dialysis. When I asked a nurse about odds and what was really going on she said we should pray.

I didn’t really understand the weight of the situation. My dad had been in the hospital at the beginning of the year with blood loss and stomach bleeding and he pulled through and was strong. He almost just laughed it off. We had even been working on his porch in the previous weeks and everything seemed to be fine. Still Reni and I headed back into the room to pray.

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We held each other’s hands and my dad’s, squeezing with hope and human frailty we prayed. We prayed for healing, we prayed for a full recovery, we prayed for his soul. Somewhere during our prayer my dad had an unmistakable jump. Like a sudden jerk, almost violent. I believe that he heard our prayers on some level. I never told my brother or stepmom about that encounter but I believe his soul was touched.

Other family members arrived and pulled us out of the room. I had offers from other pastors to come and pray but I thought there was tomorrow…

We left to go to the Clarity Banquet at night and I remember telling my story to all our friends there, numb, hurting inside, confused at how quickly life can change when you aren’t ready for it. We ate and shared and had a time of worship. I remember the worship sounded so angelic with everyone singing and God’s presence. I cried and wondered what it is like to worship God in Heaven in all His glory.

Morning came but that night was the last night of my dad’s life. He passed away before the sunrise came. There were frantic messages on my phone telling me that if I wanted to see Dad I had better come to the hospital quickly. They only keep the bodies in the room for so long after death. I had already seen my Aunt Robin’s body the day she died almost a decade ago so I knew that there was nothing there anymore. (On a side note my past addiction was heavily fueled by her loss.)

The moments, days, months, and now years that have passed are forever changed without my father in this world with me. It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through in this life and it’s difficult in a whole different kind of way than the other things. They say that grieving is the inward emotion and mourning is the outward expression of the grief within. Sometimes I just feel like a stone, like no one knows what’s going on inside or could comprehend it. I know I’m not the only one that suffers but my pain is my pain. It’s not stronger or more important than others’ pain it’s just that this is mine. Sometimes I feel genuinely connected to my father, knowing that he heard our prayers on his death bed and that God saved his soul. I know that he knows more about God and is experiencing Love in ways unimaginable. God gives me comfort and strength. Slowly, I chip away at myself and forge a stronger man. Yet, sometimes I simply, dearly miss that man.

I still have “Dad” in my favorites on my phone.

I’m not sure how to end this because it’s never ending but I hope my story may help you in your grieving process.

“It can be painful and seemingly never-ending but the only way out is through” ~ Carl Jung

“Grief changes shape, but it never ends. People have a misconception that you can deal with it and say, ‘It’s gone, and I’m better’. They’re wrong. When the people you love are gone, you’re alone. I miss being a part of their lives and them being part of mine. I wonder what the present would be like if they were here – what we might have done together. I miss all the great things that will never be,” ~ Keanu Reeves
You die twice, once when you stop breathing, and again when somebody mentions your name for the last time. ~ Unknown

Dad Castle

Surrounded – Beautiful Moment


Certain moments in life sometimes seem to perfectly align.

Recently this past summer I was driving to the beach with my glowing fiancée. We were holding hands, smiling, laughing and slowly making our way through the L.A. traffic. The music was the perfect volume and we made this turn under an overpass where the sun became brilliantly blinding. And in this moment so many inexpressible feelings from many spectrums collided in a vast array of emotions. Tears welled up in my eyes. Sometimes things are so beautiful in life there is an ache, but when all the colors bleed together the collimation is Joy overtaking. A sense of something far greater than self or those we are connected to but the one who is infinitely connected to each of us. Deeply and personally, never waving in His love.

And this moment was merely a whisper of affection and a display of the vast beauty He creates daily, for us to enjoy. We are surrounded by majesty and too many of those moments can pass in vain if we aren’t careful to stop and observe the soaring whispers all around. Let the beauty and ache of life resound in your soul and recoil a greatness that can only be experienced through the eyes of knowing God.



Pen meets paper with strokes of imagination inspired from the artist’s eye. As ink dries it paints the picture from the poet’s mind. He meditates on the perfect words, contemplates on the similes and metaphors, and intricately dedicates time to every jot and tittle. An endless pursuit of his greatest masterpiece yet, still he appreciates his older works for it is the compilation that has built him up to where he is now. And though he works in the now, he has hope that there are greater works yet to be done once this is accomplished. And so he continues to write with painstaking detail and love.

“We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

We are God’s, and we are His Masterpiece. In awe already? I know I am. And it gets even better! The Greek word for masterpiece used here is “poema” – which we would translate into “poem.” We are God’s poem. Moments in our lives are his lyrics; days are stanzas that the master writer is composing. God doesn’t make mistakes. God made you to be exactly who He wanted you to be – gifts, talents, dreams, experiences and all. And through the good and the bad He is shaping us into the image of His Son.

We are valuable because God created us. We have worth because Jesus died for us. And we are precious because God has put the Holy Spirit in our hearts and the Kingdom of God in our hands.

And so the Grand Creator continues to create.

Recapturing Day One


It was a crisp warm summer day in an afternoon that would be forever burnt into my memory. I was a little boy with my father and he was teaching me how to ride a bike. I had training wheels on, of course, and he thought I was finally getting the hang of it. We had been at it all day and the time had finally come. He pulled out some tools and detached the safety device. Now I was on my own. I remember not being able to balance at first but soon I was flying! (Picture E.T. video cover – at least that’s how I felt) I eventually learned how to ride and it became second nature. Not without my fair share of crashes and accidents though.

So many things in life are like that: new, scary, thrilling, uncertain, dangerous, exhilarating. But once we “master” them we can lose that first love we once had. Learning guitar was a similar experience of trial and error and finally learning something just to see a new hill to climb.

Recently, I was driving to lead worship for a service and I had all these thoughts. It occurred to me that God had been preparing me all my life to do the things He’s called me to do (Ephesians 2:10). What a profound thought. I was amazed at how easy it was to forget the time the Father had been training me. That there was a destination and a goal. My whole mindset changed as if this was the first day I had ever lead worship. And though the songs were familiar and I had played the chords many times, I found a new joy and passion in the small things I do that God considers great. I found assurance and confidence not in myself or anything I possessed but in God’s plan (Romans 8:28-29).

You were created with a purpose, goal and destination. It’s awesome to stop and feel the hand of the Father on your back as He removes the safety wheels and propels you into a great unknown future.

Change Agents


“Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing himself.” –Leo Tolstoy

In order to change, you must change.
In order to change the world we must be the change we want to see.

While profoundly obvious, it struck a resonating chord in me. At the beginning of 2013 I wrote an article on sustainable life-long change and how to implement it. Now in another New Year I find myself reflecting on the ways that I’ve changed, what’s made that possible, and why change is so important.

In order to first change we must admit something needs to change. When I was drug-addicted in Las Vegas, at my wits end and falling beyond rock bottom, I knew that my life had to change. It was hard to stare into the unknown with the fear of losing the things I loved the most that were also destroying me; drugs, broken relationships, pain inside that I was running from…

There are many reasons (or excuses) why we fear change but what it ultimately comes down to is the unknown. The “What if?” Yet, that is where excitement and adventure live. In change we grow (hopefully for the better) and the more we change, the easier it can become to tackle things that at one point seemed insurmountable. You can conquer your mountains.

How do we change? See my post HERE for more thoughts on that question.

I will leave you with these words of wisdom:
“Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
– Martin Rooney

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
– Howard Thurman

Created to Create


“In the beginning God created…” (Genesis 1:1).

The first thing we learn about God is that he is a Creator. An inventor, an architect, a visionary. The words of God then go on to tell us that we are created in His image or likeness (Gen. 1:26-27).

In Hebrews it says that God “is the same yesterday today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

The implications of this are huge. God created us and made us to be like him. He not only created once, but continues to create and inspires creation. He’s given us the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) and called us to join Him in the renewal of all things. Just as God breathes forth words of new life that feed our souls and awaken our spirits to dream and hope, so too, we are empowered to dream, create and speak forth God’s words and to be a witness.

For some this is preaching, others – musical gifts and worship, for others it is painting, visual effects or architecture; though all very different, they are together proclaiming the beauty of God. Creation. A universal language understood by all, the need and desire to create something out of nothing. To make beauty from ashes (Isa 61:3). To explode the beauty of our creativity from the abstract into tangible creations that stir the human spirit and touch the heart. We are different from animals in that we dream dreams and have the gift of imagination.

May God use the gifts and inspirations that He has given each of us to bring forth His kingdom, beauty and Love. Love is why we create and it is why we breathe and exist. God is love and without love we are nothing. Take heart in the things you were created to do and trust God to provide you with the inspiration. Create as you were created to create. For this is a true act of worship – to do what you were created to do.

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
-Eric Liddell (Olympic medalist)