Devotional: Walking with God 24/7

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Enoch walked with God.” (Gen. 5:24)

In Marketplace Leaders, Os Hillman writes that “the true test of a person’s spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the daily grind of everyday life when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening.”

From my ability to remember anything until now, my dad has always told me pray as the first thing I do when I wake up, the last thing I do when I go to bed, and every moment in between. Zen Habits taught me to be present – even in the most simple activities like washing dishes, taking out the trash, and handling an email. And my time at Saddleback Church has taught me that anything and everything is a form of worship…if I make it so.

All of this has strengthened my resolve to walk and talk with Him all through the day – about my wins, losses, struggles, confusions, my moments of happiness and sadness, and/or any random topic that comes to mind. I want to speak with Him like I would any other family member, friend, or someone I just met whom I crave to learn more about and befriend. I feel horrible when I only come to Him when I’m knee-deep in some altercation; He still helps me out of it and stays with me through it like an unconditionally loving Father…but that’s not the kind of relationship I want to communicate to Him.

I want to seek God with all of my heart, body, mind, and soul the way David did; the way Enoch did. It’s the relationship that matters the most to me – and I pray that You’ll help me know it and live it at 100%, 100% of the time.

Leaving my 10-year career at Fransmart

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This picture was taken at a very pivotal time in my life. I was at the 14th Factory Museum in Los Angeles with my family (a MUST visit – even if you’re not an art fanatic), and while I was admiring the exhibit, I wasn’t entirely present. My mind was immersed in one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

For the past few months, I was feeling conflicted about my job. Which was the strangest thing, because I love the work I do at Fransmart – acquiring small food concepts and growing them into global restaurant chains, and helping entrepreneurs and investors win in the process.

It didn’t make sense that I felt pulled in a different direction. My job was rewarding on so many levels.

After a lot of time in prayer, thinking, and discussions with my wife and other loved ones…I felt a calling that told me it was time to leave Fransmart and put more chips on my entrepreneurial aspirations.

Telling you I was nervous was the understatement of the century. I felt tremors coursing through veins just thinking about leaving. While The Halal Guys was growing by leaps and bounds, we haven’t taken a distribution for two years; all profits went to either repaying our investors or reinvesting into fortifying our organization and new store development. Fransmart was my family’s main source of income; I love the company, my CEO Dan Rowe, my teammates, and my senior post; and I have insurance, a retirement plan, and other perks. I felt stupid and crazy for having these thoughts.

But if I look back at all of the game-changing moments in my life – leaving college DURING MY LAST SEMESTER BEFORE GRADUATION to pursue my first restaurant; being employed by Fransmart when I was trying to franchise my own restaurant; going through a difficult divorce after only six months of marriage; meeting my wife at church when I wasn’t looking; her kids adopting me before I later realized I couldn’t have kids; embarking on The Halal Guys as the largest franchise partner in the chain….I’m reminded that none of these events were ever planned, that these couldn’t happen by my own power, and that they were not decisions I would’ve normally made had it not been for God’s persistent calling and provision.

I put up a fight with myself and God. “Why?!” “This is my main bread and butter until the revenue from my other projects eclipse what I do at Fransmart. Isn’t this a little premature?” And “I’m able to handle multiple projects at the same time; there’s no need to leave if I don’t have to!”

Time and time again, without fail, and in the Bible as well as in my life…thinking I know better than God always fails. Not following His will always fails. Delayed obedience is still disobedience, and always fails as well.

So back to the museum story, where this picture was taken…I was moving from one exhibit to the next, where I was directed to exit the indoor part of the museum. The internal conflict of whether I should leave or stay with Fransmart was hit in the face with a sign that said “EXIT” and “MORE THIS WAY.”

It wasn’t even part of the exhibit, but it was the most important artwork for me. It helped tipped the scale towards leaving. It was God’s way of yelling at me – all other subtle whispers and mediums to move me didn’t shake my indecision for months until this moment.

That night, I submitted my letter of resignation to Fransmart, and the new adventure began.

Ten years of service. Ten years of working long hours. Ten years of traveling all over the globe. Ten years invested into a career that I thought would last until retirement. But as the investment disclaimer always says: “Past performance is no indication of future performance;” success and comfort zones both breed complacency; and God tends to strip you of the life you knew so that you can depend on Him, build spiritual muscle, and give you more purpose.

I’m scared out of my wits for leaving – but it’s proof that I was dependent on my job more than Him. I’ve learned that when I’m scared, I am on the right track. And the Bible teaches me that there is only enough room for one of the two – fear or love. If I replace this fear with love, then I’ll remember that God cares for me unconditionally, is much wiser than my own knowledge, and has a plan bigger and more meaningful than I can ever imagine. So with that encouragement from Him…I am super excited.

I am thankful to have left my employer on good terms, as I plan on doing independent consulting for Fransmart; but now I have a clean slate to use my experiences, talents, and passions I’ve gathered along the way to help people the way I believe God has called me to help. I never really had a plan to transition to, but that’s a good thing – since I’m letting Him lead me; I just need to be comfortable with uncertainty. I’ve already received some excitement for my departure and opportunities from my network, and so having a clean slate definitely makes room for interesting and meaningful work (it also can attract jobs I shouldn’t be doing, too; but I’m trying to create boundaries in front of them).

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

Here’s to the end of one chapter; and on to the next.

Throwback: Rwanda- and purpose-bound

This is part of a series called “Throwback” – where I revive journal entries and blog posts written/posted on this very day, years ago.

Written on May 23rd, 2013 (four years ago), after I had asked my CEO Dan Rowe for a temporary leave to prepare for and serve on a missionary trip in the country of Rwanda – where a team of us spent time with the poor and helped them build sustainable preschools that hopefully gave them life-changing power.  

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I had a hope that reset blog would be done just in time for my mission trip to Africa; and thanks to making time and an amazing web site designer, it met the deadline.

I am very entrepreneurial and hard-working by nature; and I used to subscribe to the philosophies of: “I work 80 hours a week so that I can avoid working 40 hours;” “I can sleep all I want when I’m dead;” “Work now so that you can enjoy life later;” and a host of other Kool-Aid flavors I was drinking and getting unhealthy sugar-highs from.

There are a series of events that happened in my life that caused me to change all that – and I’ll save that for future blog posts – but learning the hard way, finding my way back to God, being introduced to Tim Ferriss and the 4-Hour Workweek philosophy, Zen Habits, and other signs and nudges…compelled me to make some major, major changes.

For the focus of this blog post, I’ll mention the major one: I changed employers.

Whereas I used to work for Fransmart full-time as their Senior Director – I am now working full-time for God and serving people. Fransmart gives me work I enjoy, and I do quite successfully at it – but my main purpose is to do eternity-based work that I was created to do, and money does not last.

What lasts are God, His Word, and people. That’s a compensation that no firm on earth can match; a retirement that lasts forever; work that is recession proof; and work that is truly meaningful.

It was scary and I am taking a huge risk and leap of faith…but I have confidence that God will provide. And so far, because of the move to leave my career, Fransmart generously offered to keep me on payroll as an advisor. I’ve learned that I don’t need too much money to be happy (in fact, it may be a hindrance, actually); I am no longer stressed by and make any money-based decisions (and those type of decisions are always poorly-played out); and I am thoroughly enjoying my new lifestyle.

One of my biggest life decisions was to go on a mission trip to Rwanda to build preschools for the materially poor children there. It’s an initiative under The PEACE Plan via Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California – one of the biggest churches in America. The idea that I could be used by God to bring people closer to Him; lift the materially poor out of poverty and its horrible effects (sex/labor trafficking, drugs, violence, gangs, etc.); help people become self-sustainable; and in the meantime work on my own brokenness, because I have issues, too…I couldn’t think of a better use of my time, than time spent with and for Him.

 

It’s crazy – I don’t know anything about construction, school planning, caring for children, teaching, etc. but I love children and knew that God would fill in the gaps and details.

And fill in, He did – God has blessed this initiative above and beyond, and I haven’t even touched down in Kigali, yet:

  1. For me, He used my love and knowledge of social media, business, and marketing to build awareness and shared excitement for this and future trips. I believe He’s been working on me in preparation for this – and spiritual maturity takes time.
  2. Financially, the initiative has gotten so much monetary support – that not only are the intended project needs met, there are enough funds to build 1 more school than initially planned (I am out there to follow-up on 3 schools already up and running, and identify sites for 3 more). I am so humbled by God’s people and their like-heartedness, and the power of prayer.
  3. And for my team – teachers, child psychologists, and people who have been to Rwanda have joined my team and will be working alongside me.

Whoa. Talk about getting hooked up.

I am currently typing this blog post from my plane flight from New York City to Brussels, before making the final connection from there to Kigali, Rwanda. I’m not sure how the Internet access will be there; nor will I know if I’ll even have time to write – as I might be out all day working – but I am honored to be doing this mission and sharing it with you.

You can keep your job; but reset your answer when asked who you are truly working for.

Devotional: Power in powerlessness

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God.” (Matt. 5:3 The Message)

The sooner you give up trying to handle problems yourself and give it to God, the sooner it gets solved – with a 100% success rate and always in a better way than you had planned.

So knowing what I know above – why am I still constantly opting for a horrible track record and quality of life?

Arrogance (thinking I know better), pride (not admitting I can’t do it all), ego (thinking I’m too good to give up), stubbornness (refusing to let go), abundant knowledge or talent (believing I have the competence and experience to logically fix the bugs), ignorance (not realizing that God has promised to take care of me), forgetfulness (forgetting that he will take care of me), and using God as a last resort (instead of a first line of defense and offense) all create barriers to accessing my Creator’s unlimited, unconditionally loving, infinitely wise, and freely-given power.

And what makes His help even better than it already is, is that I can start receiving His assistance RIGHT NOW; that my Savior doesn’t require me to be perfect or jump through hurdles before I can come to Him.

I am making a list of things I’m currently confused about, hitting a dead end on, and are frustrated with – regardless of how big or small – at work; at home with the family or kids; within me mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally…and telling Him He’s got some problems He needs to fix on my behalf. I need to put the heavy burden I’m currently carrying onto Him, and relax.

I want to tip the scale of trusting Him instead of myself, and being open to however He handles it instead of my own agenda; and I know I’ll be in for a treat. There is immense power in being powerless.

Rest, recharge & redirection 

Good morning to the my audience of three (the blog reader who stumbled on this by accident, my dog Sugar who was sitting on my lap when I wrote this, and myself when I was editing lol!) #sosad

Pastor Rick Warren at my Saddleback Church has always reminded me that in order to know how something works and what the function of something is, you need to consult the Owners Manual. And with that logic, if God is my Creator, then it’d be wise to look to the Bible to see what I was built for and how to use me correctly so that I don’t miss my purpose or harm myself or others.

It’s a combination of being young, immature, and too proud; being seduced to get my guidance elsewhere; and needing to hear it 1,000 times before it seeps in (I’m quite stubborn)…but I never really tried to read the Bible, interpret it, and apply it until recently.

And just like meditation, exercising, etc…it’s been life-changing.

Here’s a Bible verse that I’m going to try and memorize, keep it in my heart, and use it to drive everything I do this week and beyond. Hoping it does wonders for your soul as well, and inspires you to open the Bible so that God can open His mouth.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me besides still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the right paths for His name’s sake” (Psalm 21:1-3).

How can I not be comforted and secured by this passage? Not “most” or “some” of my needs are met – ALL of them are…so I can stop looking in all sorts of unhelpful, unhealthy, and unusual places.

We are a product of our environment, and if our surroundings are beautiful (green pastures) and nourishing (still waters) – then we can truly relax.

Many things can recharge my body and mind i.e. Nutritious foods, meditation, exercise – but they are only temporary, and God isn’t about short-term leases. He goes past the physical, mental, and emotional layers of my my being and makes sure my soul revving at 100%. That’s more sustainable and powerful.

And most importantly, he eliminates stress, uncertainty, and lost time and energy by putting me in the right direction.

I truly don’t need to look anywhere else for provision. You can’t get a better deal than this.