HOW DO YOU FILL THE EMPTY SPACES?

Written by Les Dahl on July 20th, 2015. Posted in Peace, Sage's Scroll

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document.write(" sans-serif;">What do YOU do with the empty spaces in your life? The less-than-satisfying relationships, unfulfilled dreams, disappointments, lost hope, despair.

Left empty, these spaces create a quagmire of alienation and depression. Filled with the wrong “stuff”, they become the seedbed of frustration, stress and various forms of self-destruction. 

 

Three actions in life create empty spaces.

 

1. Moving forward...

 

The initial step of our journey of faith and friendship

with God leads into a vast empty space.

 

For Abraham and for Jesus' disciples, the initial step of their journey of faith and friendship with God created a huge empty space. They left everything—family, houses, and lands—to answer the call to follow.

They had no idea what lay ahead. All they had to go on was an invitation that resonated deep within their spirit and a promise that sparked hope. Yet, it was enough to germinate a seedling of trust in the One they followed.

Their step of faith was a monumental risk which created a vast empty space.

It was almost 4 years before the disciples saw their empty space filled by the One who promised to fill it beyond what they could image. Abraham waited faithfully (but not always patiently—he was, after all, human like us) 25 years before his promised son was born, the beginning of a numberless nation.

 

2. Passing through a wilderness...

 

Everyone who is led INTO the wilderness is led OUT,

their empty space brimming to overflowing!

 

All who are intentional about pursuing their journey of faith and friendship with God are led (by God) into a wilderness. The wilderness is that dry, barren space where nothing seems to go our way and everything is tested to the breaking point.

Immediately after their miraculous deliverance from slavery, where did God take His people?

God told Moses, “These people are not ready to have the empty space created by their freedom filled with the Promised Land. They have not met Me in a personal encounter to know who I really am. They don't know my Word by personal revelation and so they don't have the faith required for the intense battle ahead. They have been delivered from physical slavery, but their minds and hearts are not yet emancipated. I must put them through the refiner's fire.”

He led His people into the wilderness.

In the wilderness, we encounter God in 'burning bush' experiences. As they did Moses, these encounters fuel our faith and our confidence in God.

The wilderness strips us of the extraneous religious trappings we so readily cling to and presses us into an authentic faith that is based on personal revelation of His Word. Then, when confronted by the enemy of our soul, the devil, we can answer his accusations and temptations with authority as Jesus did, “It is written...”

The wilderness exposes the residue of Egypt still in us, the traces of our old self and our old life hidden beneath our carefully crafted image. These habits and attitudes form a maze of landmines waiting to detonate. In the wilderness they are uncovered so they can be de-fused.

Although the wilderness is not a pleasant space—in fact, it is often a painful place—it is of great benefit. 

 

3. Took a wrong turn...

 

Wrong choices made with bad judgement

create empty spaces,

but none of them turn aside God's love toward us.

 

Our personal journey of faith and friendship with God is a winding path with many crossroads and forks in the road.

Like Christian in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, it is easy to take a wrong turn, get waylaid, or fall into the sticky 'Slough of Despond'.

With brutal honesty, the Gospels record the disciples' blunders.

The Torah does not hide Abraham's gross errors of judgement. One, begetting Ishmael by Hagar, is the root of the Middle East crisis that threatens to explode at any time.

Although our wrong choices made with bad judgement result in empty spaces that only God can fill, none of them turn aside God's love toward us.

His mercy triumphs over judgement—i.e. God is far more concerned about finding a way to redeem and restore us than He is to judge and punish us as we deserve.

Neither Christian's detours, nor the disciples' blunders, nor Abraham's error of judgement kept them from experiencing their empty spaces filled with God's promise.

Christian reached the Celestial City, the disciples became the apostles who turned the world upside-down with the Gospel, and Abraham became the father of nations.

 

Empty spaces make us stronger, move us forward and

establish shalom as we embrace the process.

 

Shalom!

Image courtesy prozac1 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

WHEN DOES LEARNING BEGIN?

Written by Les Dahl on July 16th, 2015. Posted in Education, Family, Learning Solutions, Parenting Strategies

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document.write(" sans-serif;">Children are born with much more intelligence than we credit them. We assume that because they cannot talk, i.e. articulate thoughts in verbal communication, they are incapable of thinking. “Thoughts must be verbalized before they can exist or legitimately be called thoughts,” we say. In fact, babies begin to exercise intuitive and mental abilities at birth. Some researchers believe intuition functions while the baby is still in the womb.

 

Babies begin to exercise intuitive and mental abilities at birth.

 

A baby's perception develops as he becomes increasingly aware of light and movement around him. With his five senses, which become operational from birth, he gathers information. His mind begins processing input—sorting, categorizing and synthesizes data into increasingly complex images. It is not by chance he recognizes familiar objects and people. Deliberate movements emerge, the result of rudimentary critical thinking.

We parents cannot contain our excitement when our baby utters his first word. Perhaps initially he is only mimicking us, but from birth his mind takes note of the sounds coming out of our mouth. Intuitively, he recognizes an appropriate response is expected. His mind sifts through his memory bank to find a matching audible. No match.

 

Deliberate movements and sounds are the result of rudimentary critical thinking.

 

He pays careful attention to our speech, even when we think he's not listening. He practices his expanding catalog of new sounds. We coax him to talk. One day, he looks intently into our eyes and clearly articulates ”ma-ma!”

Our outburst of joy and parental pride does not go unnoticed. The emotion, followed by a gush of praise and love, is registered in his memory. It feels good and becomes a strong motivation to recreate the process in order to experience the reward again. His little mind is already climbing the ladder of learning.

 

So, when does learning actually begin?

 

We don't realize how much is 'uploaded' into our unborn children while they are still in the womb.

 

A mother physically nourishes the developing embryo through the umbilical cord. But a little body is not all that is emerging. The foundation of emotional well-being, self-esteem and desire to live is laid in the womb. The soul and mind of the little person forming inside is also being nurtured...

  • by cultivating positive emotional responses to situations and people encountered during the day,
  • by smiling and laughing often,
  • by listening to good music and singing,
  • by reading aloud and telling stories,
  • by creating secure, wholesome family relationships,
  • by expressing love, acceptance and greatness to the unborn child,
  • and especially, as the husband and father is involved.

We don't realize how much is 'uploaded' into our unborn children while they are still in the womb. Fortunately, our Father in Heaven compensates our short-coming with His grace.

 

After the baby is born...

 

1. Add to the above curriculum lots playtime, unstructured and structured, as much as possible outdoors. Curiosity and imagination, important components of learning, are developed during play.

 

Playtime provides constructive parent-child interaction and spontaneous parent-guided learning.

 

2. Conversation is another important addition to the 'early learning' curriculum. Converse with your child as you would with any other person. 'Baby-talk' is cute, but unnecessary. It is the sound of your voice that delights your infant, whether the sound is 'goo-goo' or actual words. Remember, that little brain holds much more intelligence than you think! As you discuss things intelligently and your child listens wide-eyed and mouth agape, realize he is absorbing more than you realize. When he begins to talk, you will be amazed at the vocabulary ready on his tongue as he communicates thoughts and feelings.

 

Respect the intelligence of your child with intelligent conversation.

 

3. Involve your child as much as possible in what you are doing, even if he sits in the stroller nearby watching and listening. Again, you will be surprised by the learning taking place.

 

My grandson was not yet 1 year old and could neither walk nor talk. He watched intently as I fixed a ply-board barricade across the doorway of his veranda play area to keep him from crawling outside. Satisfied he was safely contained with his large-size lego blocks, I returned to my work.

Not much time passed when my wife called. She pointed to the doorway. There was my grandson, pulled up into standing position with a toy screw driver in hand working at a screw that held the barricade in place!

Having watched me use the tool only once, he was able to recognize the toy replica in his lego set and figure out what to do with it! My grandson is not a genius—he's a normal, curious, super-active boy. At that moment, I realized that...

 

Children are much more intelligent than we give them credit!

 

Image courtesy tuelekza / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3 WAYS TO KNOW IF YOUR FAITH IS AUTHENTIC AND MEANINGFUL

Written by Les Dahl on July 14th, 2015. Posted in Health, Peace, Prosperity, Sage's Scroll

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document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">How do you define your Christian faith? 

Is it by religious performances such as going to church, putting some money in the offering plate, reading your Bible occasionally (or every day), saying your prayers before going to bed? 

Is it by things you don't do, such as wearing certain fashions and make-up, drinking beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages, attending parties and concerts, engaging in activities deemed “worldly”? 

 

Rules can be helpful and doctrine is important,

but they do not necessarily define

authentic, meaningful faith.

 

My personal faith has come under intense scrutiny. 

With age and experience comes a refined perspective of what really matters in life. KEEP IT SIMPLE...KEEP IT REAL has become a mantra to daily guide me through circumstances and relationships. 

My role model is Abraham, the “friend of God” whose unwavering faith is legendary. So I ask myself, what is the acid test of authentic, meaningful faith?

 

THE ACID TEST OF AUTHENTIC, MEANINGFUL FAITH

 
  1. Am I experiencing a quality of life that is characterized by overflowing joy and abundance?

Jesus said, “I came to give you life to the full, till it overflows with joy and abundance.”

I learned an important lesson from the “old-time country folk” we were privileged to meet in our early years in Jamaica. These were simple rural farmers who had few earthly possessions, but were rich in faith, generous without measure, ever satisfied and grateful, enjoying full and meaningful lives!

 

Abundance is not measured by the amount

of our material possessions,

but by our stewardship of what we have,

whether little or much.

 
  1. Am I experiencing an ever-increasing freedom to be who I was created to be and do what I was created to do?

Jesus also said, “If you live by My Word, you are truly my disciples; you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.”

Freedom comes when we are clear about our identity and purpose. But freedom depends on two conditions. 

First, like Mary sitting at Jesus' feet, we must stop the busy-ness of our life to listen intently to Jesus' instruction. 

Second, like the disciples, we must follow closely as Jesus guides us through the day, listening intently to how He applies eternal truth to the situations we encounter. 

We too readily follow what others say we should be and do. Our ear must be attuned to His voice and our live mentored by Him—He is our liberator!

 

Freedom comes when we are true to ourselves

and engaged in our life's purpose.

 
  1. Am I experiencing transformation from within?

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, “Present all your members and faculties to God. Don't allow yourself to be pressed into the world's superficial mold, but be transformed from the inside out by a complete make-over of your mind—new ideals, new attitudes and new paradigms.”

The journey of authentic faith is a process. 

A new-born baby with all the seeds of identity and purpose inherent at birth must pass through the various stages of growth. Through patient nurturing the seeds blossom and in time bear fruit.

So too, as we surrender ourselves to God, we are birthed into new life of authentic faith. Our identity and purpose, like tiny mustard seeds, must be nurtured. 

Holy Spirit activates the eternal Word in us. As we embrace it, the Word challenges our thinking. Our perspective changes, as do our values and our objectives. 

Gradually, we become who we were created to be, engaged in the assignment we were born to fulfill.

 

Under Jesus' watchful mentorship,

the seeds of greatness within

blossom and bear good fruit.

 

Is overflowing joy and abundance a hallmark of your Christian faith? 

Do you enjoy ever-increasing freedom on your journey of faith? 

Are you noticing transformation of heart and mind as Holy Spirit nurtures identity and purpose in you? 

If so, yours is an authentic and meaningful faith. Not perfect, but nurtured by the Word, mentored by Jesus Himself.

 

If not... 

find a quiet place to sit, like Mary, at Jesus' feet. Ask Him to speak His words of life. 

Listen intently and then follow His instructions diligently. Trust Him with the details of your life. 

Find a trusted fellow sojourner of faith to walk with you.

 

More than anything else,

Jesus wants you to enjoy

authentic, meaningful faith.

 

Shalom!

 

Image courtesy imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

Written by Les Dahl on July 8th, 2015. Posted in Education, Learning Solutions

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document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">Children must be fully present and fully engaged to learn. They must be keenly focused on the task at hand and actively involved in the process. This is a challenge in the classroom and home school environment.

Before I begin a coaching program with a student, I establish the "Rules of Engagement." These guidelines also frame my mindset as I home-school my two grandchildren.

1. GO SLOW.

“We are not in a race, so we will take our time.
We will progress at a speed that is comfortable FOR YOU.
If I go too fast, let me know and we'll slow down.”

Remember Aesop's fable about the tortoise and the hare? 'Slow but steady wins the race' is foundational for creating learners.

We live in a fast-pace, press-the-button, instant-response culture. Our tolerance threshold is so low that we almost lose it if success is delayed a few seconds—heaven forbid, a few minutes!

This impatience pervades the classroom. After just one attempt at solving a math problem, hands fly in the air with a complaining, “I'm no good at math!” At the first difficult word, an agitated “I can't read!” is muttered. Teachers add to the mix—"I just explained it to you!"—expecting children to grasp quickly what seems so easy, to them, that is! We forget this is a child we are instructing, not an adult!

An inflexible curriculum that requires each student, whether hare or tortoise, to keep to a lock-step schedule compounds the problem. Consequently, the 'bright' hare, who catches on quickly, is under-challenged and bored, while the tortoise, who may be equally 'bright' but simply needs more time to process the learning task, is overwhelmed and frustrated. Learners are created when each child finds his groove — his individual pace, rhythm, style and challenge level.

Several important dynamics emerge as children find their groove. Almost imperceptibly the plodding tortoise gains momentum. He may never run as fast as the hare, but how much he learns along the way is amazing. No longer off-balance nor out-of-step, our tortoise displays surprising endurance, sticking to the task right to the finish line! Relaxed and comfortable, he finds learning enjoyable.

With enjoyment comes motivation, and with motivation comes courage to try new things...and even make mistakes!

2. MAKE LOTS OF MISTAKES.

“We learn best from mistakes, so don't be afraid to make mistakes.
A mistake simply tells us to look at the question again,
perhaps from a different angle.
A mistake shows me how I can better help you learn.
If you don't make any mistakes, you really don't need me!”

A most difficult land-mine to diffuse is the fear of making mistakes. As early as kindergarten children devise coping strategies to divert the ire of teacher and the ridicule of peers. By grade 4, these coping mechanisms can become devastating learning disabilities.

Surprisingly, one such is the alphabet song— “A-B-C-D-E-F-G . . . Now I know my A-B-C's!” Most of us grew up with it and even learned to read in spite of it. I became painfully aware of its destructive side while working with Benny (not his real name).

At 9 years old, Benny could not read even at a kindergarten level, but he assured me he knew the alphabet. We started at that level to build his vocabulary. After several unsuccessful guesses at 'reading' the word goat, I asked Benny to spell the word. Dumbfounded, I listened as he sang the alphabet song. At 'g', he announced proudly, “That's a 'g', sir.” He sang each letter of the word. Benny knew the alphabet song, but he did not know the alphabet!

Children need to be able to make mistakes—lots of them—without fear of reprimand and ridicule.

Reflect on how many great scientific discoveries have come 'by mistake'! In science labs 'trial and error' is lauded as 'experimentation', but in school it is marked with a big red 'X' accompanied often by verbal, emotional and sometimes physical punishment! That rigid, old-style learning regimen must be replaced with a child-friendly, mistakes-are-welcome learning zone!

My grandson taught me a positive alternative. Each word on our daily spelling test is marked right or wrong immediately before proceeding to the next word. Andres enters a check or an X with his pencil, thus eliminating the intimidating red X from teacher. But he is just beginning to spell, makes lots of mistakes and is easily discouraged.

After struggling with a word, Andres checked the word and asked, “I got that one, right?”

“Well,” I began, “you got it, but I had to help you.”

His face fell as he reached for his eraser.

“Leave the check mark there,” I interrupted. “You did get it right with my help. Let's put a circle around the check mark to remind us that we need to practice that word a little more.”

He thought that was a great idea.

He doesn't need an X to know whether he spelt the word correctly or not. He also knows that with more practice, he will spell it correctly. Together we discovered a way that motivates him to learn.

3. HAVE FUN.

“I love to learn because learning is fun.
So, when we are no longer having fun,
we will take a break or focus on something else
and come back to this learning task later.”

Confident learners emerge in a comfortable, safe and enjoyable learning environment. Removing pressure, intimidation and fear gives way to purposeful, spontaneous learning.

Shalom!

(Special acknowledgement to Gerry Grant, my mentor/presenter at the Fundamentals of Davis Dyslexia Correction Workshop. He introduced and practiced these “rules” throughout the workshop. I adapted them to become my own “Rules of Engagement”. Thanks, Gerry, for the great idea.)

Image courtesy Digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

THE TRAGEDY OF THE RICH YOUNG RULER

Written by Les Dahl on July 6th, 2015. Posted in Peace, Prosperity, Sage's Scroll

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document.write(" sans-serif;">His question was sincere and to the point, “How do I access the eternal realities of life?” Jesus' answer shook him to the core. “Sell everything. Give the money to the poor. Come follow Me.” The young man counted the cost, turned and walked away sorrowful. Therein lies the tragedy of the rich young ruler.

 

The rich young ruler who encountered Jesus is amazingly similar to Abraham. Both were financially secure, young, and influential leaders of their communities. Both were very religious, Abraham in paganism and the rich young ruler in Judaism. And both had a deep hunger for a spiritual encounter with God beyond the rituals that defined their spiritual experience.

 

After acknowledging Jesus' reputation and authority as a rabbi, the young man got straight to the point. “I have everything in this life, but there's still something missing. How do I inherit eternal life?”

 

Testing his motives, Jesus cited the Commandments, the very foundation of the young ruler's faith. Interestingly, Jesus quoted only the commandments concerning relationship with other people. God looks for faith demonstrated by action.

 

There was no arrogance in the man's reply. “All these I have kept from my youth. My doctrine, my religion, my morals are intact, but that doesn't satisfy me.”

 

Then Jesus looking at him, loved him.” Jesus saw no reason to doubt his integrity. Kneeling before Him was a young man on the verge of greatness and destiny. Jesus was immediately attracted to him, ready to mentor him. His answer cut right to the root of the issue. “To find the missing piece in your quest for eternal life, give up your wealth, your position and your influence, which have become your security. In total surrender to God, let His eternal Word be your security. Begin a journey of faith and friendship with Me.”

 

As God called Abraham to leave all and follow, Jesus called the rich young ruler to leave all and follow Him. It was a call to shift from relying on temporal earthly security to depending on the eternal promises of a faithful God—a huge risk and a bold step of faith. But wasn't that what he asked for: How do I inherit eternal life?

 

Feelings of sorrow and regret similar to those the young ruler well up in us as we think of all we supposedly have to give up when we totally surrender to Jesus. That mentality is purely religious. It reflects a poverty mindset, not the culture of blessing God desires for us.

 

The rich young ruler was secure in his wealth, influence and religion. Jesus challenged him to let go of this earthly security and embrace the eternal security described in His sermon on the mount—“Set the Kingdom of God as priority and you will be well taken care of by your Father in Heaven.”

 

Abraham left all to begin his journey of faith and friendship with God. We are told Abraham never once regretted his decision. Besides unimaginable favor and blessing, he enjoyed immeasurable freedom in his relationship with the Eternal God. The rich young ruler, on the other hand, turned away sorrowful. He never broke free of the chains by which his earthly possessions possessed him!

 

The greatest tragedy of this story is found in Jesus' words, “Come, follow me.” Jesus only extended that personal invitation to twelve others. They became the disciples he mentored for 3 1/2 years. After being endued with the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, the influence of these “Apostles” spread across the then-known world, changing history forever! The rich young ruler was invited to be one of them! In the light of what Jesus offered him, was the price too high?

 

And us? Do we count the cost too high to surrender our earthly security for His eternal security? Do we still hesitate to take the journey of faith and friendship with God, trusting Him to take good care of us along the way to the greatness and destiny Father has in mind for us?

 

Shalom!

(The story of the rich young ruler is found in Matthew 19:16-22. Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18-23)

Illustration of Rich Young Ruler by John Lear, "The King Nobody Wanted", <www.gutenberg.org>

 

THE CULTURE OF BLESSING

Written by Les Dahl on June 29th, 2015. Posted in Peace, Prosperity, Sage's Scroll

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document.write(" sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">Among Christians, Abraham is known for his unwavering faith. In Jewish tradition, however, Abraham is known for his culture of blessing. What is a culture of blessing and is it related to faith?

God called Abraham to leave country, home and family to follow where He would lead on a “need-to-know-basis”. Abraham took God at His word, trusted Him explicitly and did what God asked no matter what the cost. His was a faith of action, rooted in personal relationship.

Wherever Abraham went, he graciously welcomed strangers as if entertaining angels. He knew what it was to be a pilgrim and stranger in a foreign land. He also knew friendship with El Shaddai—the God who blesses me and makes me fruitful and multiplies my descendants after me. Out of Abraham's faith and friendship with God emerged a culture of blessing.

God entrenched blessing, friendship and faith in an eternal covenant with Abraham. On His part, God committed to “bless and multiply” Abraham; in return, Abraham embraced the mandate to be a blessing. Everywhere he went, Abraham received unprecedented favor, not because he was perfect—he blundered more than once—but because of God's commitment to the their covenant. Empowered by the covenant, Abraham bestowed hospitality, generosity and respect to all he encountered.

Through Jesus, we are adopted into Abraham's family of faith and become eligible heirs of the same covenant. As with Abraham, God commits to bless us and our family. Thus empowered, we are mandated to cultivate a culture of blessing. Sadly, many are stuck in a WIIFM mentality—“What's In It For Me!” We mistakenly think the covenant is a “Membership Certificate” to the “Bless Me Club”. This was not Abraham's mindset.

To bless is to pronounce words or initiate actions that invoke divine favor upon someone or something. With words and deeds of blessing, God mentored Abraham to bless. It became second nature to him, a characteristic habit.

How can the culture of blessing be instilled in us?

  1. Like Abraham, we surrender to a journey of faith and friendship with God.

Total surrender released Abraham to discover who he was created to be. It involved risk, the greatest being “What if...?” But it also allowed Abraham to discover happiness and greatness. Abraham called Him El Shaddai—the God who blesses and prospers me and my family.

Our journey into a culture of blessing also involves total surrender and risk, but if we are no longer behind bars, life can be an adventure. In the company of Abraham's Friend, we too discover happiness, significance and destiny.

  1. Like Abraham, we intentionally hone our senses to be aware of God's favor.

Abraham found El Shaddai true to His promise. Abraham's moments of weakness never altered God's blessing. Such faithfulness transformed Abraham. He became aware of divine favor everywhere and in everything. Gratitude, blessing and worship flowed spontaneously from Abraham's heart.

As we intentionally set our radar to scan the horizon for divine favor, our eyes suddenly open to the goodness of God. We are amazed by the meteor rain of blessing penetrating the negative atmosphere surrounding us. It's as if the whole universe is programmed to work in our favor. We find, like Abraham, a spontaneous response of gratitude, blessing and worship well up in our heart.

  1. Like Abraham, look for and create opportunity to the bless others with words of empowerment and acts of generosity.

In Jamaica, cashiers and sales clerks wear name badges, I make a point of addressing, thanking and complimenting by name each person who serves me. I do so deliberately with intention of blessing them.

Another interesting phenomenon of Jamaica are windshield washers. At busy intersections in Kingston and Montego Bay, young men stand armed with squeegee and pepsi bootle full of soapy water, ready to wash your windshield as the light turns red. Often these young men are “street kids” and despised by motorists. Few allow these “urchins” to touch their vehicles. If I must pass through one of these intersections, I make sure I have an appropriate “tip” to leave the fellow who cleans my window. Interestingly, every young man responds with “Respect, Dads!” or “Manners!” which is street lingo for "Thanks!”

A teller who served me in the bank looked very athletic. As I mentioned this to him, his face lit up. “Actually, I was on the track team at my high school. My dream was to represent Jamaica at the Olympics, but I had to hang up my spikes and get a job to help support my family.” A passion, a dream unfulfilled.

Have you thought of becoming a high school track coach, training young athletes like yourself to fulfill their dream?” I asked. Those few empowering words brought a dying passion to life with possibility.

Like Abraham, I am on a journey of faith and friendship with El Shaddai. Empowered by His covenant with Abraham, I am determined to envelop myself in a culture of blessing.

Shalom!