Devotional: Brokenness is necessary

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Prepare it with oil on a griddle; bring it well-mixed and present the grain offering broken in pieces as an aroma pleasing to the Lord.” (Lev. 6:21)

There is a common denominator among people in the Bible who went on to do incredible things that changed history. It happened when Paul was struck on his way to Damascus, and was blind for days. It happened to Joseph when he was sold into slavery by his own brothers and experienced many more hardships along the way. The stories go on and on…and the main theme throughout is that God can only exhibit His power when we are broken.

What scares me a little bit is that this brokenness can’t be summoned on our own, or by demand. God needs to break us, and it’s never a comfortable, predictable, happy, or desirable experience.

I fear being broken through loss of a loved one; losing all of my possessions; feeling without a purpose; being betrayed; and whatever else my imagination runs wild with, that I currently enjoy and am thankful for.

This is going to happen no matter what, and no one who seeks the Lord is immune from it. With that in mind, I can only hope to have the strength to accept it, let the Lord bear the pain with me, and allow Him to transform it for good – and the sooner the better. What’s worse than being broken is being in denial or angry, and inadvertently being the bottleneck for letting God heal me and equip me for something more meaningful.

The next time my world comes crashing down, or the fear of it plagues me…I will do my best to thank the Lord in advance, since He’s about to give me bigger purpose; pray for the peace that surpasses understanding; and dive in.

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.

Impossible to stop growing

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I’m walking along the streets of New York City right now and saw this skyscraper currently in being built.

I am marveled at how new construction can continue in one of the most crowded cities in the world; but this sight sends a wonderful message that regardless of where you are in life – maturity in age, profession, relationships, whatever…you can still make time for change, you can still grow, you can still build upon, you can still tear down and recreate.

If you’re thinking you’re too past your prime in starting a business, leaving your job, trying for different position, taking on a hobby, breaking up a comfortable but toxic relationship, starting a new and better one, reinvigorating your existing ones…I believe it’s just a mental prison with unlocked doors where you can leave at any time, and living in fear instead of love and the courage that comes with it.

Alarm clock & calendar futility

There will never be “the right time.” Our brain was programmed to protect us and keep us alive – not take chances and thrive us. It doesn’t like uncertainty, instability, or invulnerability; and you are only fooling yourself if you think you can will the brain to go against its hardwiring.

If that’s the case, how do you break out of this mold of just surviving, to pursue your passions that give your life meaning? I mean – it’s scary as heckers to go out of your comfort zone.

It’s about courage. You just need want something more than your fears, and take that first step.

You don’t even need to be confident – it’s super overrated. I’ve learned that most successful people were still scared – maybe even more so – after they took the action.

Don’t make it complicated, don’t over-think it, and don’t expect anything except the fact that you had the guts to do what you’re meant to.

Devotional: Anger Danger (too bad it doesn’t rhyme)

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” (Eccl. 7:9)

I read in today’s Marketplace Leaders devotional that anger can be seen as a warning light on your car dashboard. When it goes off, it doesn’t reflect what’s going on externally – although there are plenty of uncool, undeserving, unexpected things; it informs you that something’s wrong with the car, and that you need to check under the hood.

Anger usually happens when we lose control over a circumstance that results in an outcome that doesn’t meet our expectations. It stems from either fear, or a protection of personal rights.

God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of love. Trying to control the circumstances is playing God; and you are clearly not Him. It also doesn’t keep you open-minded to the possibility of better outcomes – and from my experience, God’s plan is 100% ALWAYS better than my broken, selfish, limited-based plan. And when you leave the outcome to Him, it is always successful, and there is a sense of freedom that sparks joy and helps you be in the moment.

The next time you get angry when someone cuts you off on the road, your kid spills food all over the floor, you lose a business deal, someone loses your trust, or anything that normally makes you livid – stop yourself, and try to incorporate empathy, forgiveness, and faith in the better plan…and prepare to have the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Grrrr….rrreat! (I hope you got this one lol)

Devotional: Feeling unqualified?

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” (1 Sam. 10:22)

In today’s Marketplace Leaders devotional, Os Hillman uses the story in the Bible where Saul was chosen to be the first king of Israel. And when it was time for the prophet Samuel to onboard him, he was no where to be found – to which God responded to the people questioning his whereabouts that he was hiding among the crowd.

Before all of this Saul had never led anybody – let alone an entire nation; and he had never had to be accountable to God or anyone else, really. He must’ve been so freaked – as he was inexperienced, incapable, and was tempted to stay safe in mediocrity.

But time and time again in the Bible – through Moses, David, even Jesus, etc. – God flies right past experience, knowledge, strength, and capacity – things that this world puts way too much emphasis on – and selects people for roles that they are incapable of achieving without God’s help, and would’ve never in their wildest dreams pursue.

He turns any negative or seemingly unrelated experience into ministry; He equips His chosen ones with unlimited, impossible power; and He directs them to discover and fulfill their purposes.

There are a few appointments in my life that I could easily avoid to ensure certainty, safety, and enjoyment – being a dad, a husband, a son, a multi-organizational worker, etc. But that would be a shallow life with no purpose, no growth, no appreciation, and that’s not what God uniquely made me to achieve.

If Saul chose those values and stayed hidden, Israel would not have thrived and opportunities for a relationship with God would not have happened. Imagine the eternal consequences of that.

If you knew you were meant to live for more than yourself, and that you had a mission that scares you to pieces because it stretches your comfort zone, isn’t in your know-how or muscle, and/or would be shunned by others…remember all of the people before you who have been in the same situation as you, took a leap of faith, and changed history. And remember that your mission is unique only to you, and if you don’t do it, no one else will and the world will be less-off without your contribution.

Live out your calling.