Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Consistency

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much"

This is a passage of interest for me, as I always regarded the "very little" as insignificant. Who has time to put attention into every little detail, like keeping your room clean. when you are trying to change the world?

But what this passage suggest is quite different. It seems almost paradoxical and counterintuitive.

It suggest that if we remain faithful, consistent, in the very little, then we would, as a consequence, also be faithful in much.

I believe the small things are the training for the big thing. If you are trying to master a skill, it requires a lot of mundane, boring and seemingly trivial tasks, and in the context of the great goal it may seem "very little".

Learning to play the guitar was very frustrating at times. The tedious little exercises that were repeated almost ad infinitum, required to train both mind and fingers, could get really boring.

But over the years, as I remained faithful in these little exercises, I was able to finally be comfortable with the guitar.

I have a big problem with consistency. I know that being faithful to the little is very important for my growth and maturing, and after many tries and promising attempts, I usually steer off and find myself in the same place where I started.

Sometimes something "magical happens", as some weird screws are suddenly tightened in my mind towards a goal and I am able to focus, remain faithful and consistent, build habits, and get very close to the goal, but then something disrupts my routine and all of that might as well be counted as naught, because I suddenly find myself without the habits, and many times worse than when I started.

This can be very frustrating, as getting back into the groove is difficult, and it feels that I'm starting from zero once again.

But slowly, as time goes by, and after many new beginnings, I can see some progress. It's not as fast as I want to, but after this dance of two steps forward and one back, I feel that I'm finally advancing.

Consistency just takes practice, almost like a skill you have to work on. It takes a lot of seemingly trivial, tedious and repetitive boring work, and yet it's what better prepares us for the big things, like maturity.

Like keeping your room clean.

Like ministry.

Like intimacy with God.

Photo Credit: Mary_on_flickr.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Operation Room Cleanup Update

So it's been a week since I made the commitment to clean up my room and be done with the unpacking.

With the amount of stuff that I've accumulated over the years, this is no easy task.

Well, how did I do?

Ok, mostly.

Honestly, I'm still not done with my room, but I've made good progress.

I gave out a third of my clothes, for example, and I have a bit more room in my, um, room.

I connected an extension that I had for a while, to connect my lamp, since there is no electronic outlet nearby.

I arranged some books and threw away copies of old magazines.

I arranged some of my clothes.

I swept the floor and it's oh so much cleaner.

There seems to be a bit more order in this room, and I'm happy with the progress I've made.

But I'm still not done with it. And so, Operation Room Cleanup continues. Unfortunately it will take me a little bit more than a week to finish it.

I am content that I'm one step closer to finishing moving in.

Oh, having a room in order, the seemingly endless task.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

This Week in Ministry (12/16/12)

This has been a good week, full of joys, pains and disappointments, this emotion-filled salad we call life. So let me round it up to you in the top five things in the ministry this week...

1. The friend who got baptized last week, who in this blog I'll call Georgie Frijolini (I assure you, all the names that I use here have a close resemblance to its real counterparts) has been a blast to share time with! He is been coming along to many of the events and "ministry hangouts" that we have. I hope that he becomes part of the beautiful ministry that is growing in Oakland!

2. Last Sunday we had  one of those ministry hangouts, where the team and some youth we have met went to play bowling. We had a blast, and connections were made stronger. Mr. Frijolini joined us for this event :)

 

3. Soccer night on Wednesday is giving us some fruits! We are getting to know more people, and more importantly, we are able to know people more deeply. We are planning some exciting things for Wednesday nights so please keep us in your prayers.

Mr. Frijolini playing keeper at Soccer Wednesday nights
4. I got to lead the youth choir this past Thursday night! This is the first time that I have to lead a choir, but it was a great experience! I still get a little nervous and self conscious when I get behind the mic with my guitar, but I'm getting way more comfortable with it.

5. One of the Hondurans kid we got to know from Wednesday night Soccer got arrested this week for dealing in San Francisco. He was beginning to open up to us, as he can be very shy and polite around us. I'll call him Fahrenheit here (trust me, the same note above applies here). Please pray for him in this difficult time. We are really sad to hear these news, as he showed a lot of interest in growing in relationship with God.



That's it for this week, see you next!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Operation Room Clean Up

When I introduced the recent blog changes, I made a brief mention of how my room would be like my little kingdom, and how I deal with it should reflect my personality and growth.

Well, how is my room since I moved in two months ago?

Let's just say that if my room were my little kingdom, and the things living in it my subordinates, I would have probably been found dead already, murdered for my disorderly tyranny, and a new king would have been put in my place.

I actually thought about posting pictures of it, but showing one's private room to the wide world web seems like a really unwise idea.

Plus, I'm embarrassed to show it to you.

Books and clothes (most of it) have a place to live. I still have too much crap. I'm currently in the long process of getting rid of some of my stuff.

This is a great exercise, getting rid of one's stuff, for it forces one to question one's attachment to personal belongings. What do I really need? Do I really need that much clothes? Wait, I actually like that shirt.

But my room being small, and my belongings many, and my commitment to Simplicity already made in InnerCHANGE, well my belongings kinda lose in this equation.

And so, I want to make a new commitment this week. The aptly named commitment will be "Operation Room Clean Up". Pretty clear huh?

I make the commitment to clean my room and be done with the unpacking by next week. I think is time *sighs*.

I don't promise to show you pictures of it. I will try to be as honest as I can with the progress though.

Do you struggle with this same problem of keeping your room clean? If so, what advice can you offer in keeping it clean?

See you next week!

Photo Credit: Siena College.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

This Week in Ministry (12/09/12)

As I was thinking about writing this post, I was getting kind of worried. This seemed like an uneventful week in the ministry, what with all the holidays festivities around us, ministry seems to take a break.

But reflecting on it, God has shown me what I would have otherwise missed, and now I see that some pretty exciting things have occurred this week.

1. One of the youth that we know for several years is finally getting baptized! God has brought him out of many dark places, including drugs and alcohol. In the midst of some difficulties, God started to call him, and he accepted the call! He started to go to church thrice a week. And now he feels ready to take the next step of faith, and making his relationship with Jesus official by going through baptism. Please pray for him during this time, that his relationship with God will only grow. He is a dear friend to me, and he has been in my prayers (and my team mates prayers) for several years now. To God be the glory!

2. This past Thursday I went to a play that my church was having. It was about the Virgin of Guadalupe apparitions. When someone was presenting the play, he decided to prep up the crowd. He started to ask people, by a show of hands, where they are from. He went through different countries, and people raised their hands. El Salvador? Many hands. Mexico? Couldn't count them. Nicaragua? Me and some other stranger. Honduras? Nobody.

Wait?! What?! Nobody? Really?! This area is full of Hondurans, but none came to this event?! Why haven't I met any Honduran in the parish? There is something wrong here.

As I was moving into Oakland, I felt that God was calling me to serve the immigrant youth, but specially the Honduran youth. I felt He wanted me to be part of this parish, and help bridge the parish with Hondurans.

I am sad of this realization. Why isn't the people I want to serve coming to this parish?

3. The leader of the youth choir just said that he was going to step down. I don't know what that will mean for me, as I'm the only person in the choir now that can play the guitar. I hope someone comes to help me!

4. Connections with Hondurans are growing! Relationships are slowly growing! Some of my team mates and I just visited one of these youth during work. He has a couple of weeks of being in the city. Everything is strange and foreign, and he feels out of place. He was so happy to see us! Please pray for him, and for our relationship with him to wrong. I will call him Xerox here :)

5. I am getting to know a lot of the youth at the parish. I love how diverse this group is, and how they seem to connect with each other. Pray that I continue to build relationships with them.

That's it for now! See you next week...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Patience...

"Patience, it's a wonderful thing" goes a song that I like.

Indeed, but I can get rather impatient at how difficult it is to grow in this area.

Anyone who knows me can tell you how impatient I can be. If there is something that I want then I can get desperate. This desperation expresses itself unashamedly in the way I rush into things, open packages, even in how I eat and drink.

When I was living in Nicaragua, my parents decided to take us to Disney World for one Christmas vacation. I wanted so much to go there. I wanted to finally visit the United States. I wanted so much to, oddly enough, eat at Mc Donald's (hey I was a little kid bombarded with the creepy Ronald Mc Donald commercials)

And so we decided to get our American visas, a painfully long experience.

I thought the whole enterprise of getting a U.S visa was ridiculous. You would pay $20.00 to get into the embassy (back in those days, now it's like $100), wait in line for like 8 hours, and chances are you will not get one. Good way to spend your day off.

Anyways, midway through the adventure, hungry and desperate, I started to cry. I want to go home! Screw Disney and Mc Donald's!

Wisely, my parents told me that when I get to Disney, I would hardly remember waiting in line.

We finally received our Visas, and indeed, when I was in Disney all the pain that I suffered from the waiting were long forgotten.

Waiting, it's a wonderful thing.

I honestly don't like Waiting, along with its all too clean sister Patience. If it was up to me I would send them both to pound salt!

But waiting it's the only remedy that I know for impatience.

Thanks to God, and the road He has taken me in the last couple of years, I have seen that I've grown a little in this area.

I offer one example to illustrate this.

When I bought my first laptop, my love for electronics and impatience created a powerful synergy, which basically resulted in me opening the package before I got to my house. I booted the thing up while I was driving.

That was 4 years ago.

I just received my new laptop. I ordered it online (Goodness gracious! Oh the horror! Oh the waiting!) It was delayed for a whole week.

When I finally received it and got into the car, I received a not so strong urge to open it. I didn't, even though I wasn't driving this time.

I got home and carefully got the laptop out of its package, plugged it in, set it up, played with it for a while, and then went to Church.

The change seems small, even laughable. But it means a lot to me.

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" Romans 8:18.

I believe Paul. I believe that when I get to the Heavenly "Disney" I will forget all the dreadful waiting that I endured on earth.

Photo Credit: Meddy Garnet.











Sunday, December 2, 2012

This Week in Ministry (12/02/12)

 

Today I want to introduce This Week in Ministry, a weekly feature in my blog where I will briefly share 5 things from the ministry in East Oakland.











1. Part of my ministry is to connect the Central American youth with the local parish, St. Elizabeth. I have started to attend Mass here, and even participate in the many ministries in the parish. Apparently, I'm officially a "Lay Minister" in the parish.

2. I started to play soccer with some of my team members, where we have connected with many Central American youth! This has reminded me of two things: how much I love soccer and how much I suck at it. Please pray for some miraculous improvement of skills!

3. One of my main goals this year is to connect with the youth group at St. Elizabeth. I'm now officially part of the youth group choir! I play the guitar and sing.

4. I'm also part of the Christmas play that the youth group is preparing! I'll be a wise man, apparently my youth and lack of wisdom weren't reasons enough to keep me from it :)

5. I saw a youth in Oakland that I was visiting for a month at juvenile hall during my ministry in San Francisco! I was very surprised to see him and he seemed very pleased to see me outside of the context of juvenile hall! It's great to see how these two ministries connect.



That's it for this week. See you next.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Moving away from "I failed"...

"So what's God been teaching you lately?" A friend asked me recently.

I thought about this for a few seconds, and then I remembered something I heard when I was praying when I was working.

I was working the graveyard shift at Pacifica, and I was feeling tired and miserable.

The manager had called me earlier, changing my schedule once again. "I think it would better for you if you work Wednesday and Thursday" she said. Those are the only two days that I have for ministry. "I can't, I have other commitments".

This was the third time that she changes my schedule.

"Oh you and your commitments!" she answered with frustration. "Jose, I thought this was going to work with you living far away and everything, but if you can't work those nights then I'm gonna have to let you go".

And so I was working that night, with the familiar feeling of failure looming over me. I checked the schedule, and I wasn't there anymore.

It wasn't just this event that was carrying the feeling, which any sane person would think me mostly blameless.

It was the scolding that I would get from her almost every time she saw me. How I forgot to do this and that, how I wasn't doing "anything" and so on and on...

She did know, however, that many times I stayed working up to 40 minutes without pay, trying to finish all the tasks that were required. I was new and my work rhythm wasn't yet developed.

I thought the reason that she changed my schedule and ultimately took me off the schedule was because she was dissatisfied with my job and wanted to fire me in a passive aggressive manner.

"I failed" I told God that night, tears welling up in my eyes "I'm sorry".

"No you didn't fail" I heard back. "I put you in this job for a reason, to grow in it, and you will be here as long as I want you to. You have grown because of this job."

It's true, I have grown a lot because of this job.

Did I make mistakes? Yes. Could I have done things better? Yes. But I am a better worker thanks to this job, and maybe that was God's purpose in putting me there.

They didn't fire me that day, as I continued to work after that, until I quit a couple of days ago, having received more hours at my job in Oakland.

We are an "end result" oriented people. We tend to look at the end result and judge the whole process accordingly.

Sometimes our extreme pragmatism, our "whatever works" mentality makes us do things unethically, overriding the common clichéd saying of "the end doesn't justify the means".

But maybe God sees things differently. Maybe he sees our experiences as what they are, even if the end result wasn't what we wanted. Maybe it is the growing that comes from "failing" that really matters.

I am learning to move away from "I failed". I don't longer feel that I failed with my job at Pacifica.

How about my year at San Francisco? I have to be honest, it's still too fresh and still see myself like I failed.

But I know I'm slowly moving away from that.

That's what God has been teaching me lately.

Photo Credit: Marcie Casas.










Friday, October 26, 2012

Hiding Behind Your Personality Type

This is difficult.

There are so many areas that I need to grow in that I don't even know where to start.

As I shared in my last post, maturity doesn't come naturally, and our flesh fights against it. And fight it does, with everything it has, and it won't let you win as easily as you thought.

It seems that my personality type is also "fighting" against me. As an ENFP, they tell me that I regard routine tasks as unimportant and mundane, and that I have a problem following through commitments, which doesn't really make the most productive worker.

It would be so much easier for me to hide behind my personality type and say "You see! This is how I am and I have no fault in it"

Many of us do this. I have done it many times. "This is the way God created me" we even dare to say as an excuse to not change.

As I was applying to my job at Pacifica, there was a long questionnaire that I needed to fill out that would reveal a lot of my personality, to see how good a fit I am to the job.

A couple of days after filling out the application, I called the manager of the store to see how things are going.

"Jose" she said "I received your application and you got a really low score...in fact your score is the lowest of anyone who has ever applied here...your score is of 60%".

I remained silent, not knowing what to say. I felt as if reality was hitting me mercilessly in the face, and I felt that familiar sense in me, shame of who I am. It didn't help that I could hear the cashier and future coworker (presumably next to the manager as she was talking to me) giggling as she said this. That familiar sense of almost belonging, but not really, because I wasn't good enough...

The manager then proceeded to name the weaknesses that the test revealed "it says here that you have problems following through your commitments, that you are only organized when you have to, that you let your emotions affect your work..."

And then she proceeded to my strengths "You like team work, you are happy when others succeed..."

Yeah, a really nice and lazy guy, I thought. Way to go Jose.

All the wounds seemed to resurface at this point. All the people that told me "When are you finally going to grow up?!". I felt the sting of every word. I remained silent again.

It would be so much easier to hide behind these feelings and wounds.It would be so much easier to hide and simply accept my weaknesses as God given, and grow sour and depressed from all the wounding.

God created us beautifully. It is true that our personality types come with weaknesses, but it is also true that it is part of God's plan to share His divine nature with us, so we can grow into the image of His son.

He will only share of Himself as we allow Him to, gently pushing us to open even more areas of ourselves, until He consumes all. This beautiful union doesn't destroy us, creating cookie cutter versions of Him.

It completes us. We remain completely ourselves as we are completely His.

This is the mystery of the wedding of our Beloved with His Church.

Photo Credit: hang_in_there.













Friday, October 19, 2012

Introducing Blog Changes

Things have changed. I just completed my Apprenticeship in San Francisco and for my novitiate I'm going to be in Oakland. The ministry has changed as well.

I'm going to be working with the immigrant youth in East Oakland, trying to connect them with the local parish.

The focus of this blog will change as well. It's focus will be in the struggles that we can go through in our maturing in Christ.

For the longest time I simply assumed that maturity came naturally. My hair grows naturally into some unidentifiable mess, and no matter how much I protest against its disposition to chaos, every morning it greets me with an even longer defiance.

Not so with character maturity.

The year in San Francisco helped me realize that there has to be some dramatic changes in my character if I am to continue serving God the way He calls me to.

I realize that I have to give glory to God in everything that I do. Am I giving glory to God in the way I conduct everyday business? With the words I say? With the way I cut corners in many things that I do?

To help me do this I decided to move into my own space in East Oakland. My room will be like my little kingdom, and how I deal with it should portray part of my character growth.

I also got a job. Two jobs actually.

One is in Oakland, the other in Pacifica. One is in a rough neighborhood, the other in a tranquil area right next to the beach. I couldn't find a more dramatic contrast.

Both jobs are as a cashier in a gas station.

One day the streets were filled with police cars and a Swat team truck right across  the gas station in Oakland. Not too long ago I saw a Lamborghini parked at the one in Pacifica.

The demands from management are also different. Pacifica is very strict with the way one deals with everyday task, writing down every single maintenance task that one does in the station. The one in Oakland is more loose. Sometimes we count cigarettes, most of the time we don't.

I believe that God has given me these jobs as training grounds.

When I was fired from my last job as a janitor, my confidence as worker went down considerably. As I took these jobs I felt a sense of insecurity. I hope I don't screw this up again.

I feel God leading me gently, telling me you have what it takes.

My everyday prayer as I go to work now is God, help me not to cut corners, not today, not never.

Are you going to cut corners in Oakland, even though management is not over your shoulders constantly?

God has purpose for everything. When I felt God whispering these words to me, I decided not to cut corners, even in Oakland. It wasn't easy. Doing all the tasks meant getting off one hour later than I should. But it felt good.

Maturity is a battle, and it comes to you in everyday tasks, even the most simple ones. It is intentional, and our flesh fights against it. I'm going to screw this one up it tells me. The voice of truth keeps telling me you have what it takes.

Photo Credit: Nicholas_T.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Called for...Suffering?

"For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly...For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps." (1 Peter 2:19,21 ESV)


 "And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23 ESV)


One of the most difficult things one can do is follow one's vocation. Being a follower of Jesus can be anything but attracting or appealing to our fleshly senses.


The first Scripture, taken from 1 Peter, tells us that not only are we to endure suffering unjustly, but goes one step further and tells us that we are called to endure suffering unjustly.


The Greek word used here for "called" is the same one that Jesus used to call His disciples to follow Him.


"God doesn't want anyone to suffer" many people tell me, as my road with God can get difficult and painful. Maybe it is the case that He doesn't desire anyone to suffer, but He does calls us to follow Jesus' example of suffering.


Don't believe the prosperity gospel that is constantly preached in the media. Follow Jesus and everything will be better. All your questions will be answered. Everything will be bright and beautiful.


Right.


As the second Scripture tells us, if we wish to follow Jesus, we need to deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily and follow Him.


Cross, as understood in a first century context, is a symbol of death. The disciples understood clearly what Jesus meant when He talked about taking up a cross.


A cross was not a romantic or religious symbol. It was an instrument of torture and death.


God doesn't promise us that we are going to be happy. He doesn't even promise a happy ending in this life.


But He promises His Peace and Joy.


" Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice" (Phillippians 4:4 ESV).


"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18 ESV).


Photo Credit: Baron Brian.























Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Looking for Connections

One cold night not too long ago, I was walking on Mission Street. I was on a hurry, trying to get back home before 7pm.


It was a Thursday night and I was getting ready for the Bible Study.

And then I collided with two young men. Their attire suggested that they were gang members. I simply said sorry and tried to move on.

They kept cussing at me, clearly pissed off that I had disrespected their space. Not looking for trouble, I just kept walking.

I feel God is calling me to make new connections with gang members, hopefully ones more productive than the one just described.

The Thursday night Bible Study is not attracting new members, as the old connections were lost and the ones who attend have simply moved on.

New connections are needed in order to invite more people to the Bible study. But how do you go about doing this? I can't simply walk up to a gang member on the street, greet him or her and ask "can I be your friend?"

Clueless in how to proceed and trusting in God's providence and guidance, a team member and I have wandered the streets of the Mission District, wearing our prison ministry uniform, and hoping that by being simply available we can one day make a connection.

There is some fruits to our apparent aimless approach. We met one OG one afternoon. We are connecting with one program that works with the same population that we work with.

I'm pretty excited about the future of this ministry. I know that God is already opening doors and making new connections. He is already working behind the scenes.

God can bless our meager and feeble efforts. Sometimes we have to proceed to do His work, even if we are not sure how to do it.

Photo Credit: Patrick McCully.