Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Filthy Snakes

Hello All,

This picture was taken by a mountain biker in a ca
nyon here in Orange County. The actual canyon is not known to me, but the thought of riding my bike around a corner and taking a spill on or near these snakes, would just make me wet my pants repeatedly!!

But, I don't live near there, so no problem right? Well, sort of. Some weeks ago, Lela was out walking, a morning exercise regime that happens every other day or so, and she heard the sound of rattles in a near by bush. She was able to quickly move past and a life threatening event was a non-event. A few weeks later, Lela was out again and this time, she came upon a snake on the grass. From the sounds of the description, the rattlesnake had just begun the process of digestion, and was about 4 ft long. This was a much closer encounter with the wild. Both of these instances were a decent distance from our house. You could walk there, but they were not likely to crawl here.

That is, until a neighbor told Lela the other day of a startling discovery. I believe that her son discovered some baby rattlesnakes in the bushes right where the kids play every day! BABY RATTLESNAKES!! Great! Of course, it would just so happen that in one of my sermons, I have a brilliant illustration using baby rattlesnakes. The illustration, of what I actually do not remember, recounts how baby rattlesnakes are much more potent that their adult counterparts because they are unable to regulate the use of their venom. A mature, adult snake, knows just how much venom to use and not an ounce more (Hey, there might be an illustration there as well!) whereas, baby snakes just let it all hang out, thus producing a lethal combination.

Did I mention they are right in the bushes around the corner from our house!?

Now, I am not a snake hater nor do I have a fear of snakes. I truly and REALLY respect them! I don't mind seeing one as long as it's from a decent distance, say roughly 10 to 15 feet. And the thought that I could just happen upon one, has begun to change life. For example, we live in Ladera Ranch, which is not a place that you have to be that careful in. I generally walk at a quick pace, with iPod on, scanning the beauty of the hills and greenery around me. That has had to change.

I no longer walk around very casually. I keep my eyes peeled on the ground, scanning the bushes and the grass. Most of the time, I leave the iPod back at the house or if it is with me, it's off, as I listen for the sound of rattles. I have considered buying hip boots so that I might have an extra line of defense against the reptilian threat. I am sure that Lela is following similar protocals with regard to the kids and their playing.

Oh, but wait: There's More! (Thank you Ron Popeil!) So, the gross cousins of the filthy snakes are the Ladera Spiders. Now, last year, before the snakes came to town, there were the vile spiders. These spiders spin these really wide webs that cover the entire sidewalk. You do not see the webs until the very last second, and sometimes, not even then. Last year, the family and I were walking to blockbuster, when I walked straight into a web and the spider walked straight into my mouth!!! Yes, I had a live spider IN MY MOUTH!!! He got spit out as fast as I could get him out of my mouth, but he was a momentary guest.

So last night, I am coming out of the pool area. It's about 10PM, so I am not so worried about the snakes, who generally come out in the heat of the day. I am pumped that I almost made it across the pool without stopping, which is my August goal. (For those who do not know about my new venture of swimming, see this blog post here.) Well, my celebration is short lived, as I AGAIN walk right into a spider web, FACE FIRST! No mouth contact this time, but a "web sight" I don't ever want to visit again!!

It's just not very relaxing at all! All of this reminded me of a verse from Ephesians 5:15.

"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil."

This is how I walk! I walk around watching my feet and walking a bit slower so as to see the web before it sees me! I walk wisely that way.

Perhaps, I needed the picture spiritually as well!
Maybe I needed the new illustration. There are days that I walk as though there is no war, no enemy and no consequence. I forget that while I am free from attacks, relatively speaking, that they could start again just as quickly as they left. The enemy takes no days off, he has no vacation (or "STAYcation" as the term goes in Orange County) plans. The fight for daily, progressive sanctification, a fight against my flesh, and against the enemy, never stops! How then shall we walk?

Maybe this little story will remind you as it did me!

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

910 words...The winner of the "picture is worth a 1,000 words": The Yellow Hola Yelling Man! If you guessed that, you win...nothing! But it was fun anyway...right?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Where Not To Find A "Blessing!"

Religious Man Eaten After Trying to Receive Blessing From Crocodile

Bangladesh police say a crocodile killed and ate a 25-year-old after he waded into a pond next to a shrine in an attempt to receive the animal’s blessing, reported Friday.

Inspector Humayun Kabir said Rubel Sheikh and his mother traveled to the Muslim Khan Jahan Ali shrine, where hundreds of people visit every day to offer hens and goats to the crocodiles living there.

Part of the shrine ritual involves bathing in the water with the crocodiles, but devotees are very rarely approached by the animals, according to Kabir.

"He went into the pond hoping to be blessed when a crocodile attacked him and dragged him into the deep part of the pond,'' Kabir told the Australian Associated Press.

"This is a very unusual incident. Normally, the crocodiles are very friendly and do not harm people.''

About 25 people dove into the pond to try and rescue Sheikh, but could not find his body. It washed ashore Thursday and had been largely eaten, Kabir said.

The line "normally the crocodiles are very friendly and do not harm people" just flattens me!

BTW, just in case you think I could have made this up, here's the link. The story of the filthy snakes is coming soon.

Blessings...From The Lord...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Yellow Hola Yelling Man

Hello All,

As promised, here is the story surrounding this surly character. He's not actually surly; I just wanted to use that word. But he is an iconic figure from Kingsfield's recently completed Vacation Bible School. He is Pastor Pablo. He is me...I am him...we are each other, though he is not Pastor, this is much more deep than I originally considered!

The concept of Pastor Pablo was born a week and some change prior to VBS. The theme of VBS was "The Most Amazing Race" and it was centered around the theme of missions. The second day was set in Latin America, which provided the context for Pastor Pablo. The character was the brain child of one Tatum Norman, who has a flair for all things dramatic. If I am not mistaken, she actually wrote the full drama from the week, but only wrote a line and a half for good ol' Pastor Pablo, which shows just how much trust she has in my ability to memorize lines. (She made a very good decision!)

I will say that I felt a little pigeonholed, being asked to play a man from South America. I truly believed that I could have just as easily played a Swedish Pastor. I fought this blatant stereotype, but in the end, found little acceptance, so I played the part of Pastor Pablo.

Prior to playing the part of Pastor Pablo, I played the part of the resident sound man, playing the soundtrack for the worship team, consisting of some of our finest youth. Kingsfield Church has a truly bright future when it comes to worship teams. Our VBS featured the sounds of The Brothers Worrell, Nick and Brody, and the sight of the worship leaders of hand motions, led most prominently by Alex Nogy, who also happens to be one of the greatest babysitters on Earth. In the sound booth with me on several of the days, were the rest of Kingsfield's staff, sans Brenda, who was actually running the entire event. Lela got into the action as well, volunteering to watch some of the smaller Kingsfeldians. All told, beside the staff, there were probably 30 other dedicated volunteers who attended each day.

I thought that it was great to watch, as a staff, the entire event unfold without us being in front. Even Brenda, our children's director moved aside and let another emcee each day! The staff served as sound people, lighting engineers and song show runners. It was good for us to stand back, because a whole lot of people showed their giftedness in ministering to the kids that came each day.

This of course did not remain that way, as I was called to play my part on the second day of VBS. My line was simply to say "Hola" and "Thanks for the futbols. The little children will appreciate this gift from you." Of course, I could not just say "Hola" in plain voice. I needed something special, memorable, iconic. So, even though I don't consider myself an actor, I did draw from people who are actors, who speak often of referencing certain characters to bring their characters for life.

Who did I "channel?" I wanted to reference a few people. For charm, I wanted a little Ricardo know, from Fantasy Island fame? No, not Tattoo! The other guy! "Smiles, smiles everybody." Now, I needed some flamboyancy to add to that charm. The only people I could think of were Charo and Rip Taylor. So, put Ricardo and Charo and Rip in a blender and you get Pastor Pablo. Pastor Pablo was Mr. Ostentatious.

I came out of the back and yelled "Hola," all the way to the front. I caught a glimpse of my son, who noted that Pastor Pablo bore a striking resemblance to his Daddy. His big smile and laugh made this dramatic effort worth it, even if I don't win a Tony. I recited my lines and left the same way that I came in, except that I was yelling, "Adios."

What I did not expect was what I would experience the rest of that morning. I was walking back to my office and I heard a group of kids yell "Hola!" Carrying the phone around and answering it and I heard a scream "Hola." All that morning, all I heard from every corner of the building was "Hola!" It was hilarious!

The kids referred to me as Pastor Pablo for the rest of that week. It was very cool, as I became a part of their culture for that week. Pastor Frank, as influential as he might be and he's not really that much, paled in comparison to Pastor Pablo during that week in the eyes of the kids.

So much really happened that I cannot take this entire entry to speak about. What I valued the most was the opportunity to witness this event up close, as part of the scenery and the story of this week in the minds of the kids. As a Pastor, I was able to sit in a duck blind, and see the joy on their faces, created by a fairly simple background by Hollywood standards, but a ton of work by some very dedicated, passionate children's volunteers.

I grew daily to appreciate the love that was being poured out on the kids of Kingsfield. People who I would normally see come into the sanctuary, who I would nod at or shake a hand, were going from virtual strangers to ministry partners. Kids who were a part of the Youth Group, that I knew, were now becoming people that I looked at in an entirely different light. I saw them as future leaders of ministries, valuable resources in the hands of the Lord. From the fun kids who did the dramas to the ones who led the groups, to the one who took over a thousand photos of the entire week. These even became the impetus behind my venture into Facebook, where I have attempted to stay connected.

In addition, I saw the great value of Mrs. Brenda Paternostro, playing the part of many, many unthanked, unappreciated Children's Directors throughout a million churches. Watching her work and coordinate this giant undertaking was just inspiring. Her heart to transmit the love for global missions to the hearts of the Kingsfield kids is not only admirable, but deserves the Highest Commendation, as Mission is the heart of God Himself.

This week of VBS inspired and moved my heart. Sitting and watching the kids express their love for the Lord in worship, and attend themselves to the lessons that were prepared for them, brought great joy and hope to my heart. I am not sure if it's the only outreach that can be effective, but I believe it to be effective nonetheless, not just for the kids, but for us Pastors as well.

Of course, I would like the chance to explore other characters next year. I have been attempting to play a Transylvanian Pastor named Bela! Hopefully, I'll get the chance.

Blessings... To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

Total Words: 1,187!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The People Have Spoken - Suspicious Mexicans

Hello All,

It all began on a whim: The available staff decided to hit Chipotle for lunch. It was a Friday, and it had just been decreed by Pastor Chris, that a half day off was in order. The mood was jovial as Jono and Simone, our beloved Youth ministers, had just completed their week long camp. A celebration was definitely in order.

As we came to Chipotle, the atmosphere was chaotic and the crowd refused to disappear making the seating arrangements a bit uncomfortable. We finally all got seated and proceeded to laugh and talk, then laugh and talk some more. I will say here that there is truly no better feeling than to love your fellow co-workers in the Lord. When the staff gets along this well, it makes the work that much better. Lela and I truly love our staff and are thankful to be here at Kingsfield.

So, we finish lunch and begin to make our way back to our respective cars. On our way back to the parking lot, a car show of sorts, had begun to attract a good deal of attention. I believe that there was Lexus and that there was an opportunity to test drive one. Of course, as a Pastor, I can hardly afford to spell the word "Lexus," much less test drive one, but that did not dissuade my interest, especially when I noticed that there was a man who was wearing the exact same shirt that I was!

Of course, I pointed this out to the staff, and was immediately challenged to go and get near the guy, who also happened to be Mexican and looked somewhat similar to me. (No, we don't all look alike!!) Not being one to back down from a challenge or an opportunity to laugh with the staff (rhyme intended!), I smoothly walked over.

Now, I put myself in this guy's position. I figured that he would find it amusing, or at the least, acknowledge the oddity of the situation. Instead, I was greeted with an emotion that I could not have anticipated.

I walked up to the car (you know what kind!) and got up close to the man, who was clearly deep in admiration. I said, nonchalantly, "Nice car, huh?" He smiled and replied, "yes," simultaneously realizing that I was wearing the same shirt that he was. The smile dissipated and a very suspicious look came over him. He quickly moved away, trying to distance himself from me. I could not figure out what it was, but as I continued to close in, he continued to attempt to escape!

Now, there was a sense of intrigue. Why was this man acting this way? Could it be that he knew that I was a Pastor? Did he feel that I was going to evangelize him or assault him with tracts? I don't think so. I am not really known well here by face.

No, I suspect (hence the title "Suspicious Mexicans") that something else was going on in his mind. Being a fan of the t.v. show 24, I believe that his actions were much more indicative of a man who had something to hide. My presence, in the exact same shirt, could only mean one thing: He was about to be kidnapped! I was going to be left in his place to covertly infiltrate his gang of international gun smugglers. His movements betray a seriously nefarious mind, caught in the clever trap of the government!

Of course, one cannot seriously deduce what to attribute this attitude toward, but I can say with certainty, that the staff laughed it's guts out! The only ones that were not laughing were my kids, who did not understand what the fuss was all about! So, the staff had a laugh over that as well!

After it was all over, we belly laughed at the scenario and walked back to our cars in exhausted glee over this hilarious episode. More than anything though, it was just another special memory with my friends on this excellent staff.

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

P.S. 684 words...

In The Meantime...DAVID

Hello All,

I am still tallying the votes for the "Pictures" post ("the response has been overwhelming," he said with his tongue firmly planted in his left cheek!) and have also found there to be little time over the last week to fulfill my task. Great news is that tonight, I will be blogging one of the stories that those pictures represent. In the meantime, many of you are aware that I went, along with my family last week, to Family Camp. I might write about that sometime soon, or never, but what I did write for Family Camp were the devotions for the families that went. I got the opportunity to do that last year, and was asked to do it again. I thought that I might share them with you here. The theme was "Heroes Of The Faith: Though None Go With Me..."

So with no further adieu, here in this post is the one I wrote about Daniel. Please keep in mind that these were intended for the whole family, something that I find difficult to do well, but tried my best to accomplish.

Then David said to Saul, ‘Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’
I Samuel 17:32

It’s hard to be brave sometimes, isn’t it? Being scared seems to be easier. Being scared is a reaction, being brave is a decision. There are some scary things in this world. But there was nothing more scary than having to fight a giant. That is what the army of Israel had to face.

His name was Goliath and he was over 9 ft tall. He was a champion fighter, with thick armor and a long sword. He stood out and yelled at the army of Israel, challenging them to a one-on-one fight. “You send your best fighter to fight me and the winner takes all!”

Wow! How would you like to be the person that had to fight this monster of a man? Now remember, Goliath was challenging soldiers to fight. These were men with armor and weapons too! They were trained for battle too. Granted they were a little shorter and a lot less fearsome than Goliath, but they were soldiers. They were expected to fight. They were equipped to fight. Unfortunately, it seems that they were too scared to fight! This standoff took 40 days!

Enter in David. David is just delivering some cheese and bread for his brothers. I imagine that he was singing one of his Psalms, just walking along, when he comes upon the two armies, standing across from each other. He hears a distant voice and runs to hear what the voice is saying. He hears Goliath screaming, “I defy the armies of Israel…”

David was angry and thought, “How can this man talk like this?! Doesn’t he know that God is our God?! I won’t let him speak about God this way!”

Now, what is striking is that David is the only one to think this! For 40 days the soldiers have been shivering in their sandals! They have been afraid. David is not even a soldier! He was only running an errand for his Dad! But he had learned something that he had seen in experience: God would protect him and give him the victory.

“But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep his father's sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. ‘Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.’ Moreover David said, ‘The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you!’”

David knew that God had been with him every time he faced troubles. He had faced fierce animals and scary things, but he knew that he had never faced them alone, for God was with him.

Do you know that God is with you and that He will never leave your side? When you know that, you can always stand up for what is right, for the things that make God happy! When you know that God will never leave you, and that He will always stand with you, it’s easy to choose to be brave and hard to be scared!


Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.
Daniel 6:10

The Bible tells us to follow the rules that are endorsed by our society, except when they conflict with how we worship and obey the Lord. For example: If the law tells me that I can’t ever talk about Jesus to anybody, but God’s law tells me to talk to everyone about Jesus, then I must listen to God! He is my highest judge and the one that I ultimately want to please. Thankfully, there are not many times that this is the case in our society (the United States) today.

But in the times of the Bible, things were very different. God’s people had to live under an oppressive government system that made the King of the land, the ultimate authority. If the King decreed that something was law, then that law was permanent and binding.

One day in Babylon, there were some very jealous men who decided to trick the King into making a law that would get Daniel in trouble. They came into the King’s court and told him that it would be a good idea if he told the people that they could only pray to him for a month! Can you imagine that? The King thought about it and realized that this made him even more important, so he said, “Yes.”

The problem was that Daniel prayed every day, three times actually, to the Lord while he was in Babylon. He did not do this privately. He came to the biggest window, got on his knees and faced Jerusalem. He did this every single day. But what would he do when this action would now get him in trouble? Would he obey the laws that would make him disobey God?

We may never have to make that choice, but we will have to make a choice not to obey certain “laws” that might come from our friends. Maybe our friends will tell us that going to church is not cool and that if we want to be cool, we won’t go to church! How will you respond to that law? Someday, our friends may tell us that they won’t accept us unless we do something that the Bible tells us not to do. How will you respond when your reputation is on the line?

Daniel knew the law had been signed. Did he change his behavior? Did he still pray, but go quietly into a hidden room? No way! Daniel set himself up in the same place, just as he had done since he was young.

Daniel was not afraid to honor his God, even if he was the only one and even if he was arrested and forced to be the lion’s food. Daniel instead, chose to honor God above every other institution and rule. Would you be so bold?


But Ruth replied, "Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” Ruth 1:16 (NLT)

Have you ever had a friend that was just having a bad week? Nothing goes right. Their hair won’t comb right, their clothes get torn, their cars break down and their coffee is made wrong at Starbucks! Sometimes, things just go bad for no reason. There was a woman in the Bible, named Naomi, that was not just having a bad week, but a bad set of years. She had to move to a foreign country with her husband and two boys. While she was there, her husband and her boys died, leaving her without any form of finance and with two daughters-in-law.

Naomi did not have an enviable life. Her life was defined by struggle and sadness. With nowhere to turn, she decided to turn back to her hometown. Maybe there would be some family, or friends that could help support her just while she got back onto her feet. The problem was that she was going to have to leave her daughters-in-law that she no doubt loved. After all, it would not be fair to bring these foreign women back to her hometown, so she said goodbye.

Both of the young ladies had a choice. They could go back and restart their life, hope to be married, and maybe one day have a family of their own. The alternative was to follow this woman back to her hometown where they would be strangers and have little chance of ever finding the life that they dreamed of. This choice seems pretty easy, doesn’t it?

Well, one of Naomi’s daughters-in-law did turn around. She felt pain and sadness for having to leave, but this was the best choice for her, and she was not really wrong for making it. But the other woman, for some unknown reason, decided that she would not leave Naomi. She would stay with her mother-in-law, not only accompanying her back to her hometown, but promising to stay and be buried there as well.

Her name was Ruth. Ruth made a difficult decision to honor her mother-in-law, to stay loyal and loving in the most difficult times. Ruth went forward not having any clue what this decision might mean for her, but she knew that Naomi needed a friend, someone to stand by her. Ruth decided that she would be that friend, even if she was the only one.

Maybe God would have you be someone’s Ruth. Maybe there is a person in your life that needs a friend, who is having a bad day or bad week. Maybe they feel all alone and afraid for what their future holds. A person who is like Ruth stands there and says, “I’ll stand beside you even when it gets hard.”

Would you be willing to be someone’s Ruth? The Naomi’s of this world will thank you!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Are These Pictures Worth A 1,000 Words?

Hello All,

I used to love reading "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. I don't know if you ever read one, but they could go on forever or end abruptly depending upon your choice at the end of the given section. In following with this brilliant, yet unfortunately extinct novel approach, I thought that I might let the readers here choose their own "adventure." Now, be sure, I am going to write about each of them; Your input will determine the order.

While I am honoring the wonderful genre that was "CYOA," I am also challenging the establishment that proudly proclaims to us that a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Are all pictures fundamentally the same, and thus worth an equal amount of words? Are some pictures worth more? Here are a few pictures that may or may not be worth 1,000 words. You pick and I'll write!

How about this strange "hola" yelling man in yellow, supposedly from Chile?

Perhaps you would like to read about the suspicious other Mexican, curiously in the same shirt as myself?

Or, these filthy snakes!There you go! Comments here and on our new Facebook account will be tallied and the winner will be written. Here are the names of these three choices:

1) Crazy Yellow Man!

2) Suspicious Mexicans!

3) Filthy Snakes!

Let's have at it! I am hoping for a 3 way tie

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez