Archive for April, 2017

My Father

Dad and UsAs I reflect on my dad’s birthday this week and how grateful I am to him for being such a huge influence in my life, I realize my life story begins, all thanks to my dad.

You see, my mother was sterile her whole life. She didn’t menstruate till it was surgically induced in her 20s and it only lasted a year. But when my dad met my mom, he fell in love with her at first sight and he knew then and there she would be the mother to his children. It was the late 70s and as you already know from a previous post my parents were seeing miracles, signs and wonders everywhere; so it seemed like nothing was impossible for God to perform and my dad was convinced my mom would be healed and get pregnant.

Why did my dad believe my mom would get pregnant? God helped his Faith in 3 specific ways: the prophetic, His Word, and a vision he had as a child.

1) My parents received many prophetic words of encouragement from people who knew about their situation and even complete strangers at healing services, prayer groups, bible studies or just people who would be praying at home and would hear from God to tell my mom and dad to not lose hope because she would soon be a mom. 2) Every time my mom and dad sat down to pray and read the Bible they would inevitably find themselves reading the story of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis. 3) My dad, as a child, had a vision where he saw that he was older and a father and was surrounded by his children. He likes to tell us he saw us just as we are when he was only a child. He held onto that vision as proof that that word would come to pass and God was certainly faithful by giving him 4 of us kids!

As  children we were first introduced to God by my mom as “Papa Dios” or “Daddy God” and it really was very easy to believe in a Divine Father who loved us, who cared for us, who provided for us, who watched over us and who was a happy and fun Father who only wanted the best for us because we saw an earthly dad who did the same things each day. My dad was very affectionate with us, always present at our school on school trips and being a lunch dad who helped in the cafeteria and at recess. All the kids loved my dad.

My dad got us all the treats my mom wouldn’t let us have (seriously not good but wonderful at the same time). My dad was in the electro-mechanics field so when my mom, a teacher, asked him to put a lock on the TV, he installed a keyhole into the side of our TV that would open the circuit so that it was impossible to watch TV while they were out and he did it with one of those round tubular keys so that we wouldn’t be able to pick the lock. He was such a softie though, that every once in awhile he would tell us where he hid the key as long as my mom didn’t find out.

There was very little my siblings and I didn’t have or get to experience growing up in Astoria and while both my parents worked, most times my dad worked two jobs at the same time but he did it with a willing heart and he did it joyfully. I remember one time he worked for Dominos as his second job and even though we were sad we didn’t get to see him so much on weekends, we loved getting to experiment with him in our kitchen testing out new pizza combos. My brothers especially loved Dad’s pizza job!

One of my most precious memories happened in high school. My parents were very traditional in our upbringing and culturally if you’re under 15 as a Latina you are still considered a young girl so you can’t do things like shave your legs or wear make-up but it was NYC and not shaving your legs in 9th grade meant being made fun of. After one completely humiliating incident where a girl in my class told all the guys I didn’t shave, I came home in tears and was inconsolable. My dad lavished me with words of love and encouragement about how I was beautiful, loved, special, blessed and stronger than the hurt of that incident. And then, practical as ever, my dad took one of his yellow Bics and taught me to shave.

There are so many different aspects of my dad’s character and his gifting that I love about my dad! I really love his creativity and his artistic abilities. My dad hand-painted my baby clothes with scenes of Bambi, birds, butterflies, flowers. His mom was a seamstress so he and my mom used to make my sister and I beautiful dresses when we were growing up. Musically, he has a superb ear and could help us with our prep orchestra and marching band practice at home because he would always catch our wrong notes. But my favorite is his voice. I love it when my dad sings. I love the strength of his tenor and I love being able to pick his voice out in a choir because it’s the strongest voice. I remember as a child people at church used to tell me my dad sounded like Placido Domingo. I have always loved hearing him sing and even though my dad says we sing because his side of the family has always had singers, musicians and songwriters, I know that I sing because I learned to love singing  when I sang with him.

My dad’s birthday was Tuesday and today I celebrate my dad by sharing with you a snapshot of the great man of Faith God gifted me with as a father. I hope it inspires you to look for the gold in your dad. To the girls, I hope it encourages you to hold out for a man of God. To the guys, I hope it gives you proof that being a beloved husband and dad is an achievable goal you can aspire to, if you hold fast to God’s help, always.

Kairos Moments: When you see that God’s word in Proverbs 20:7 is true. “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.”  When you purpose to do the same with your life, thereby leaving a legacy of righteousness to the next generations.

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Stop, Listen & Go

I LOVE to travel. I mean I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. I love being introduced to the new. I love the change of scenery.  I love the instant gratification of arriving at a destination. When it’s long-form travel, I love being able to sit back and allow myself to be carried forward into the next experience and moment. I love the movement of travel and I love the stillness.

But travel doesn’t just speak to a physical sensory awakening, travel speaks to my spirit.

There’s something about the physical act of going from one destination to another that always causes me to sit back and think about where I’m headed in life. My dreams and decisions are birthed in the forced stillness of an airplane covering long distances and crossing timelines…as if I am being carried forward towards dreams that are within reach and closer than I’d imagined…

Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Proverbs 4:25 (NLT)

Sometimes the days are so busy, it’s easy to get caught up in the constant activity and forget to take the time to dream or check-in on my dreams. The daily grind becomes more about reacting to a full schedule or workload. Staying at work late trying to finish projects given around the closing bell (sigh), fitting in time at the gym, coming home late hungry, making dinner, social media socializing, Netflix unwinding, going to sleep late, snoozing 3-4 times the next day and rushing to start another cycle of just trying to make it to the weekend.

And yet God is reminding us in Proverbs to Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Asking you to believe they are within reach and closer than you imagine because His plans for you are greater than your day-to-day and He wants to birth Hope in you to believe and imagine again.

Now, as you know, last year I traveled to Paris and “backpacked” through France & Italy mainly, with some Belgium and Spain thrown in, so I spent lots of time travelling between geographical destinations. Journal in hand, I had hours to sit and listen to God and reflect on next steps as the train rushed by lush landscapes and I saw how accessible the next destination could be. I would dream of lushness in every area of my life and actually see and hear how easy it could be.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NIV)

I’ve decided and I hope you join me too, to bear MUCH fruit EACH day. I’ve decided to bear the fruit that I’m meant to. Yes, God’s Grace and the Fruit of the Holy Spirit allows me to be kind, loving, gentle, peaceful and patient each day, bearing fruit each day, but I also want to fulfill His purpose for me and in that way yield the most of my talents and abilities. So, this is what I’ve done since my sabbatical and what I’m purposing to do as I step into the Greater Unique Calling for which I was created. (Watch this sermon series by Jeremy Pearsons‘ on getting Fit for the Master’s Use, HERE.)

First: Take time daily to STOP.

STOP and DREAM. STOP and ASSESS where I’m at in the dreams God has placed for my life. STOP and PRAY over those dreams and project. STOP and DECLARE God’s Goodness over every part of my life and the glorious future that He’s prepared for me. STOP and write down what He’s showed me and what goals I’m pressing forward to.

Second: LISTEN for His Voice and His Direction. John 15:5 is SUPER IMPORTANT. Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing.

What does remaining in Jesus, practically look like? It’s saying, “Jesus, Help! Holy Spirit, Help!” throughout the day. It’s finding His promises about that situation in the Bible and writing them down to carry with on your person, as a lifeline. It’s spending time in His presence throughout the day, EACH day.

I set apart daily quality time and stay connected during the day as I’m working, eating, commuting, working out…by saying things like, “God, I love you. You are so awesome. You love me so much. I think you’re so kind, so great, so amazing to me. I see how you care for everyone in my family. I see what you’ve done in my life. I trust you. Thank you for your help. Thanks for making me smart. Thanks for making me beautiful. Thanks for setting up this opportunity for me.” (In “thought-seconds”- time spent is like speed of light status)

Third: I GO. I get moving. I take action. I write the blog post. I apply for the job. I make the decision. I go to the gym. I make the coffee date. I take the class. I research the idea. I look up cost-of-living in the new city. I practice the skills I feel I’m losing. I set the money aside for the dream. I read the book. I quit the time-draining activity. Whatever Holy Spirit has told me the Father and Son want me to do, I endeavor to do.

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” John 5:8 (NLT)

This isn’t always easy. I would say from looking at my life and the conversations I’ve had with friends the hardest part is to GO. Doubt likes to creep in at this step and tell you, you heard wrong. Passivity can saunter in and say, “Not yet, you have time. Status quo looks good.” Fear, (I hate it!), will show you every possible worst-case scenario of you taking action. So, what do I do? I do it anyway. I arm myself with the WORD and if I can’t shake off the what-if, as Joyce Meyer says to do, “I do it afraid,” but I do it.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!” Exodus 14:15 NLT

Personally, I like the verse above and I use it as an exhortation to myself, when I know that the next step is contingent on me actually getting myself in gear and taking action. By this point I have Stopped to Listen and I know what I have to do but instead of doing it, I’m like God, You need to change my situation, and He’s like, “Ok, Raquel, you know what you have to do. I’m on your side. Your move. Get moving; I’m going with you. I’m going in front of you, I’m watching your back, I’m holding your hand, but you have to take the step, if you want to see all My promises come to pass in your life.”

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

What’s the result of Stop, Listen & Go? A life that promises the presence of Yahweh. Fullness of joy and Pleasures Forevermore.

Kairos Moment: Taking the time to dream with God, lets Him speak into your life the dreams He has for you and the direction you have to take. Staying connected daily means fullness of joy and rest and peace and hope; surely those are a taste of the pleasures and treasures He has set apart for His children who love Him and seek after Him.  

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My dear and talented friend Julie is a composer and she recently shared with me that composers often find inspiration while in transit. It’s so beautiful to know that melodies and scores are birthed from the sounds and rhythms of a subway car, a drive, the physical act of walking and the syncopated beat of footsteps, your own or those around you.

I was sitting here replaying the poetry of her words, visualizing and understanding that word picture she shared with me and I remembered the start of a blog post I never wrote. It began like…

There’s something about the physical act of going from one destination to another that always causes me to sit back and think about where I’m headed in life. My dreams and decisions are birthed in the forced stillness of an airplane covering long distances and crossing timelines…it’s as if  being in physical transit makes dreams feel within reach and closer than I’d imagined…

I was in my early 20s and recently out of college so I’m sure it was more florid. I was so lost in those two first sentences and the idea of the story I could write, that I actually pitched it to the Huffington Post Editor at the time. It was the mom of the family I babysat for and for a moment I wanted to be a faith/Latina/millennial blogger. She replied, “Sounds interesting. Write it and send it to me.” I felt a rush of excitement at the promise of the unknown, as I assured her I would write it and email it to her as soon as I got home. The problem was, once back home in the Land of Familiar, I remembered I hadn’t majored in journalism or English at school so what did I know about writing? I let feelings of inadequacy discourage me from writing what might have been published. The door closed and since it had only been a passing thought on a plane ride out to LA to babysit, I let it close and never looked back.

Joyce Meyer, in her book, Battlefield of the Mind, talks about how we often let our reasoning keep us from believing what God has spoken to our hearts and shows us what’s really happening:

“As Christians, we need to learn to decide to believe. God often gives us faith (a product of the Spirit) for things that our minds just can’t always seem to come into agreement with…The devil never runs out of fiery darts to throw against us when we are trying to go forward.” (p.59, Ch. 6)

At the time, I didn’t believe I could write the blog post I wanted to write because it would be scrutinized and found wanting. Many of us miss opportunities and fail to walk through open doors because we think we aren’t ready- we don’t have the right background, we have made too many mistakes, we didn’t study enough, we didn’t make the right decision, we picked the wrong major or the wrong college, we didn’t finish college…all the reasons/darts that the enemy throws our way when we are trying to go forward into what God has called us to do. I’m sure you can think of many other “reasons” we’ve heard that have prevented us from stepping forward and reaching towards dreams and visions God has placed in your heart.

Here’s the GOOD NEWS:

“But forget all that– it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43: 18-19 (NLT)
“…Rejoice in the LORD your God! For the rain He sends demonstrates His faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring. The threshing floors will again be piled high with grain, and the presses will overflow with new wine and olive oil. The LORD says, “I will give you back what you lost…” Joel 2: 23b-25a (NLT)
I will exalt you, LORD, for you rescued me. You refused to let my enemies triumph over me…You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever! Psalm 30: 1, 11-12 (NLT)

There’s actually so much Good News, it was really hard to just stick to 3 Bible verses. Open up your Bible today and I guarantee you’re bound to land on at least 1 of his 3000-5000 promises! And those promises are all yours, in Christ Jesus, so don’t let go of what is yours! Our God promises us, “I will give you back what you lost.” That means the big stuff- the big opportunities we thought passed us by, that are really circling around for us waiting for us to step out in faith for, and even the small things we’ve forgotten we lost, like the blog post I never wrote.

In a divine reminder of restoration and His loving-kindness towards me, as Julie spoke the words of birthing creativity in movement and transit she breathed life into the whisper of a story never written and never told. I agree with Mark Batterson, when he says in The Circle Maker, “God is great not just because nothing is too big for Him; God is great because nothing is too small for Him.” (p.115, Ch. 10)

He restores EVERY thing that was lost because Jesus accomplished total restoration on the Cross for us and we, who are in Christ, are now co-heirs of all the promises found in the Word of God. His love for us is HUGE and ENDLESS. And the best is that what God has placed in you and what He has for you can never be lost because He said it in His WORD:

For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. Romans 11:29 (NLT)
Kairos Moment: What I didn’t write in my 20s isn’t lost but is now transformed and made richer in my 30s. Next week, I’ll share about being in transit by taking steps of faith but also about being in stillness to hear His voice and I’ll start the post with two very simple lines etched in memory and brought back to remembrance by a Father who always loves and always speaks.

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