Serving With Family

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted because so much is going on.  I thought about doing a post on my reaction to the election but there’s plenty of that going around and I wanted to make this a little more light hearted.  I’ve also been itching to finally get back on here and share about our recent trip to Ensenada, Mexico.  We did our annual toy drive for the community of Colonia 89 in October this year.  Pastor Hector never connected the toys with Christmas with the kids anyway and with so many ministries to give to during Christmas time we wanted to separate from that season a little bit.  This was a fantastic trip.  We took about 15 people down with us this time and had a great time.

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This was just the beginning when we first got there.  The line soon was around the corner.  About 500 people showed up.  This is both children who received toys and parents who received food and gifts for themselves also.  Since we made a trip down in July to drop off some of the toys, half of the setup was already done when we got there, saving us a bunch of time.  I’m not sure this year could have gone any smoother.img_5241
Each child got to pick out a toy of their choice.  Our volunteers helped this process run very smoothly.
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Pastor Hector is always so efficient at making sure the process runs smoothly.img_5251

Cailyn jumped right in and was a big help in setting up and handing out toys.  The boys were also a very big help but somehow eluded the camera.
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After the children picked out their toy, they went into the children’s building next door and got prayed for.
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All of our volunteers were amazing.  We never had to worry that something wasn’t getting done.  Everybody did an awesome job of serving and helping out wherever it was needed.  It was such a huge blessing to serve alongside of all of these amazing people.  Once the kids were done with their part, we reset the room and the parents came in and got food and a gift for themselves.  Each one of the orange bags has rice, beans, maseca, and other food for the family to add to their pantry.
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Cailyn also made a new friend in the process.  Cailyn speaks about 3 words of Spanish and the little girl speaks little to no english, but they figured it out.
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I love being able to take my kids with me on these trips and expose them to life outside of the United States.  In this small community I do keep my eye on them, but I don’t worry too much about them.  Everybody is watching out for them, making sure they are safe and taken care of, just like the rest of the kids in the community.  If you’re not already, get out and serve with your kids.  You don’t necessarily have to go to Mexico, but expose them to helping others, especially during the holiday season when everything is about receiving for most people.  Dios Me Ve is an amazing ministry with a real heart for the community.  It’s been a huge honor and privilege for me to be able to watch it grow over the last couple of years and participate in that growth.  After we returned to the states the director of our mission board was able to raise enough money to finish the retaining wall around the church before the rainy season, as well as install the septic and get the stucco on the children’s building.  We’re watching this community be changed little by little right before our eyes.  I can’t wait to see the landscape of Colonia 89 be changed in amazing ways, not only physically, but for the kingdom of God.  One of the things that is heavy on my heart right now is helping Pastor Hector build his house.  He has a piece of property that he was able to buy years ago but hasn’t had the funds come in to build a house on it.  Right now a friend of his is letting him stay in his house.  Whenever funds come in to the ministry, Pastor Hector makes sure he spends the money on what the people that donated it intended it for.  Even if they say that he can use it for whatever he wants, the church always comes before his own needs.  He would not be the one to tell you all of this either.  He doesn’t spend any time begging for money to build his house, simply enough to take care of the community.  It is an honor to serve alongside of this man.  If you would like to hear more or would like to donate to the ministry of Dios Me Ve, send me a note in the contact us page.  Below are some more photos for you to enjoy.

Until next time, be blessed.

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Training Up The Next Generation

Yesterday was a new experience for me.  It was my first day teaching Bible Released Time. This is a program in California where students are allowed to be out of class for 1 hour each week to attend a Bible teaching.  It’s actually California law.  This is something that all students in California have a right to do, they just need teachers to come and teach them.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as it was my first week.  The flyers and permission slips had gone out late, only a week before, due to some push back from officials in the school district.  We might have 2 kids, we might have none.  We ended up with 13 kids on that first day.  One more wanted to come but forgot his permission slip.  Others will be coming in the weeks to come.  They were very well behaved and wanted to be there too.  I didn’t notice any kids that seemed like they were doing this just to get out of class.  Some of them had some Bible knowledge already, some because they were regular church goers and some because they attended Released Time last year.  Most were participating when I asked questions and were engaged in learning about the Bible.  Teaching these kids made me feel fulfilled in a way that I hadn’t felt in a while.

It also got me thinking.  I’ve been saying for a couple of years now that I believe Corona is going to be one of the hubs of a great revival that is coming to the U.S. soon.  I’ve always wanted to be a part of that revival, and not watch it from the sidelines.  I always assumed that participation meant that I would be preaching or doing something high profile to reach as many people as possible.  But maybe my part doesn’t look the way I thought it would.  Revival always starts with the younger generations.  Perhaps my part is not to be in the middle of the fire.  Perhaps my part is simply to spark the flame by teaching and training the next generation, then it’s their turn to turn the spark into a full blown wildfire.  What a cool opportunity to be a part of, being able to reach out to the young people in the city outside the four walls of the church and train them to be the faces of the coming revival.  What an honor and a privilege that God would use me in such a way.  I’m so glad that I get to be a part of this.

Here’s the problem.  There are 25 schools in the Corona/Norco district, and we are in 5.  I know that the person in charge of Released Time in our city has been to all of the big churches in our city and many of the smaller ones, and believe me there are plenty of churches in this city.  Only a couple are actually participating, including ours.  The others are too busy doing other things, mostly within the 4 walls of the buildings.  I can’t for the life of me imagine what they have to do that is so important that they can’t give an hour a week toward teaching these kids.  It is a privilege that we have this law in California, yet we are not taking advantage of it. Many of you have kids in these schools.  Wouldn’t you want your kids to be able to participate in this program?  So I’m calling everybody reading this to action.  If you live in Corona and want to be a part of this, or if you live in another part of the state and want to know how to get started, visit our Contact Us page to give me a call or drop me a note and I’ll get you pointed in the right direction.  We have this great opportunity, let’s not squander it by being in only 20% of the schools.  Let’s get into 100% of the schools by next year.  This should be a no brainer.  1 hour a week.  1 teacher and 1 helper.  I know there are at least 50 people out there that have the time to pour into these kids.  Please join us.

Until then, be blessed.

3 Steps To Financial Freedom

One of the things I love doing is helping people find financial freedom.  So many people are living in hopelessness and don’t know how to make things change.  One of the things that we are slaves to in this country is debt and financial instability.  Financial concepts are not taught in schools anymore (with the exception of 4 states) so we grow up not knowing the things that will help us out in life.  For example, how many of you know what the rule of 72 is?  Some of you do, most of you probably don’t.  I didn’t know it until I got into financial services as my career.  The rule of 72 states that you take the interest rate you are earning and divide it into 72.  That will tell you how many years it will take for your money to double.  The higher the interest rate, the more times it will double before you retire.  The more times it doubles, the better off you will be at retirement.  Here are a few quick tips and steps to getting you on the road to financial freedom:

  1. Budget: Even a simple budget on a piece of paper is better than nothing.  But you have to be diligent with it.  You have to do the budget every month and discuss it with your spouse.  It can’t be fuzzy math.  Fuzzy math has gotten my family in trouble more times than I can count.  Pay cash for as much as you can and stick as tightly to the budget each month as you can.  Things happen, which is why until you have a fully funded emergency fund, you have to be prepared for incidentals.  Your budget should equal zero at the end.  That means you are telling every dollar where to go, rather than wondering where it went.  When you input your income and all of your expenses, you should have zero left over.  Any leftover should go into the saving box.
  2. Pay Yourself First:  This is pure psychology.  When I describe it to you, you’re going to think, “how can that possibly work?”  I thought the same thing, but believe me, it does.  You have to do it right though.  Most people, when they get paid, put their money into their checking account.  They then pay all of their bills out of that account.  When they are done paying the bills, if there is any left over, they figure that is extra money for either fun or for buying that thing they were thinking about buying but weren’t sure if they had the money.  Then something happens and they need money to pay for a car repair or something else and they are out of money.  Here’s how paying yourself first works.  When you get paid, you put your paycheck into your savings account.  Then you transfer only what you need to pay for your expenses (see Budget above) into your checking account and pay for those expenses from there.  Whatever is left over stays in your savings account.  This allows your savings account to grow, slowly at first, but you will see the results.  This will be difficult at first if you are paid twice a month or more.  Until you build your savings to the point where you can transfer the full amount for your expenses into checking, you will have to transfer it a little at a time as it becomes available, using your budget to keep good track of how much you’ve transferred and how much you have left to transfer.  It takes a lot of discipline, but it pays off in the end.
  3. Get out of debt:  The dreaded D word, debt.  It is possible to live debt free.  It again just takes discipline (the other dreaded D word).  One of the mistakes many people make is making minimum payments on credit cards (or any other loan for that matter).  The credit card companies set those minimum payments in a way that is going to earn them a ton of money.  Always pay more than the minimum payment on your credit card and work as hard as you can to pay it off.  Once you have the credit card paid off, cut it up.  You don’t need it.  Work on paying cash for everything.  Credit cards are nothing more than a really expensive loan.  If you have more than one loan, snowball the debt.  Basically that means that you pay the minimum payment on all but one of your debts.  Pay as much as you can on that one debt until you pay it off.  Once you pay it off, move on to the next debt and the entire amount that you were paying on the first one goes to paying off the second.  Then you do the same for the third and so on. If you are $10,000 or more in debt, there are other options to help you pay those off.  I won’t discuss those here, but if you need help with that you can contact me.

If you’re serious about finding financial freedom, we are here to help.  These are three steps to get you started but there is more you can do once you’ve mastered these.  Some of them are hard to understand from reading a blog.  I can describe them to you better in person.  Visit the contact us page for our information.  I am a financial planner with World Financial Group and am here to help.  I’ll do a FREE financial check up for you that will show you where you are and where you want to be and how to get there.

Until then, be blessed.

An Excellent Wife, Who Can Find?

Me.  That’s who.  We’ve been married 10 years now and it hasn’t always been easy.  But I chose wisely.  I chose a woman who is an amazing wife and an amazing mom.  She doesn’t always believe it, probably because I’m better at expressing my feelings in writing than verbally.  But that’s part of the reason that my first official post on this blog is about her.  Who better to feature in my first blog post than the woman that has made life possible these last 10 years?

10  An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.

Its nice to be married to someone I can trust.  I don’t worry about where she is.  She is worth more than jewels.  Every once in a while I think back on the women I’ve dated (or wanted to date) and they are still great women, I’m just not sure they would have put up with me for 10 years.  I’m massively introverted and see the world through different lenses than most people, which can make me very hard to live with at times.  The Lord has also called me into ministry (Wholly Anointing) that hasn’t been easy to do.  But she’s stuck with me and supported me through it. I’m both jealous and grateful of the fact that she succeeds at everything she puts her hands to.  The Lord has used her to provide for us in amazing ways.

12  She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
13 She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.

I don’t know about wool, but flax is definitely a staple in our household lately.  She keeps us eating healthy.  Before you Bible scholars get up in my grill, I know I’m taking that out of context.  It’s a joke.  But she does fulfill the essence of this verse.  She takes care of us.  She is always busy making sure we have what we need.  She delights in the work that she does.  She loves helping her customers, and they love her.

15  She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.

She rises while it is still night (in the winter when the days are shorter) and makes us breakfast.  The parenthesis above used to be true but are more of a joke now.  She used to hate mornings and wake up at the last possible moment, but has made an effort to wake up early and make sure I am provided for.  It’s been a blessing the last few months to wake up and have food on the table in the morning.  I’m fine with fending for myself but it’s nice to be taken care of.  She would feed the kids but they are addicted to their Babushka’s blinchki.  I’m sure she looks forward to the day when she has maidens to give portions to.

30  Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who afears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.

I’m skipping a lot of the chapter because it would make this post 3 years long and you won’t read it all.  The last two verses are the most important to me.  She fears the Lord.  Who cares about anything else?  The rest of the chapter talks about many things that don’t really happen in our society so it wouldn’t be fair to compare her to them.  She serves in the church, playing violin and singing on Sunday mornings from time to time and helping out wherever she can.  She uses her business to bless others when she can.  She takes care of her temple and helps others to do the same (see the About page if you want to find out more).

I don’t want to just brag on my wife without leaving you with a lesson I’ve learned.  Most of our struggles over the past couple of years have been the result of me worrying about providing for my family.  I left a job where I had hit the income ceiling and was working way too many hours that I wasn’t getting paid for, for a job where I have flexibility in my time but it’s not guaranteed income.  I’ve desired to start thriving a bit, and not just survive.  I’d like to do more than pay bills every month.  But the Lord is slowly changing my focus (not that the Lord is changing it slowly, I’m just slow to learn some things).  I always say God, Family, Everything else, but I don’t always live it.  It’s hard for me to shut my mind off at the end of the day and stop thinking about what I didn’t do or what I need to do tomorrow.  I was watching Star Wars Episode 1 with the kids a couple of months ago and something stuck with me that hadn’t before.  In the beginning of the movie, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are talking, and Obi-Wan says something to the effect that Master Yoda always says to be mindful of the future.  Qui-Gon responds yes, but not at the expense of the present.  (Insert whatever nerd jokes you want here, but who says you can’t gain real wisdom from Star Wars).  I’m working on doing better at that.  The hardest thing I’ve had to learn is that my family needs me more than they need my money.  The Lord has always provided.  ALWAYS.  I don’t know what I worry about or why.  I have a vision of how I want things to be and have a hard time adjusting when they don’t go that way.  Give your family yourself, and let God take care of the rest.  Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere (who says you can’t get a little bit of wisdom from Van Wilder either?).  The Bible says that faith is the assurance of things unseen, and who has ever added a single moment to their life by worrying?

Cherish the things that are right in front of you before you worry about the things you have no control over.  My kids are 7 and 9 already and the years are only going by faster.  I have no idea what happened to 2016.  Don’t lose give another moment of time to worrying.  It never feels like it, but we do have control over that.  Control what you give your time to.  You’ll be blessed for it.

Blessings.

Life Lessons From A 4 Year Old Cow

First published December 12, 2011 (One of my absolute favorites.  I’m crying rereading this one.):

I’ve been waiting for days to post this one.  I finally just got my internet back up…

On Thursday, December 8th, I went to Colin’s preschool Christmas play.  Mrs. Meier got up and basically told the audience to be gentle and not make fun of the kids because, you know, they’re preschoolers and most preschools wouldn’t even attempt such a thing.  What caught me was this.  She said that the children actually took their roles seriously, because they know that they are sharing the story of the birth of Jesus, and that some people in the audience may not have heard that story.  That’s when I realized that I wasn’t just there to see a preschool play.  I started to cry with the realization that my four year old son was about to share the gospel.  I’m not sure if I stopped crying through the entire play.  It was an amazing feeling.  He didn’t play Mary, or Joseph, or Gabriel, or Jesus.  He was a cow.  But he memorized his line, was excited about his part, and did a fantastic job.  They all did.  It was amazing.  It makes me think about how we sometimes (or often) think that one part in the play called life is smaller than another.  We attain to be the super educated, loud voiced, bold, go everywhere and talk to everyone evangelist.  But that may not be our role.  We may have a lesser known part, a lesser seen part, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any lesser of a part.  The Bible says that the ear shouldn’t think it’s less significant because it’s not a hand.  I struggled with this for years before I finally accepted who I am and what role I play, and most of all that that was OK.  You may be a cow, or a horse, or the manger that Jesus was laid in, or even a piece of straw in that manger.  The only thing that can make you less significant is if you see your role as less significant and spend all of your time trying to be the star that leads to Jesus instead of best and softest piece of straw that you can be.  The next time that anyone, especially the evil one, tries to tell you that your role isn’t significant, do what I’m going to do.  Remember the words spoken by my precious 4 year old son on December 8th, 2011: “I, said the cow all black and white, I gave Him a place to sleep that night.”

May the Lord bless you all.

Serve Your Way Out Of Your Funk

First published December 22, 2011:

The beginning of this week was a little stressful.  We had something pretty much every night this week.  Of course, this would have to be the week that all of our kids got sick.  I was out of the oils that I would use both to prevent these sicknesses and to fight them if they happened.  So the kids ended up taking medicine again.  Poor Colin got an ear infection.  His cry of pain was different than the cry of when his sister kicks him, a cry that pierced my soul because I used to get ear infections all the time and I know how they feel.  I was wrestling with feelings of being inconvenienced mixed with the emotion of not wanting my child to suffer so.  Tuesday night we had to cancel our final training meeting to become table leaders at FUSE (I wonder who wants to prevent that from happening).  Wednesday we had plans to bless a single mom as a table group and I said I would do the main dish.  I generally like to challenge myself with food so I decided to do a ham from scratch, something I had never done before.  I had to figure out how to cook it though, since I would have to work on Wednesday, so I decided on the slow cooker.  With all of the distractions of sick kids on Tuesday, I didn’t check to see if that would even work.  So, of course, when I went to put it in the slow cooker Wednesday morning, it didn’t fit.  It stuck out of the top by about 4 inches.  Being a bone in ham, there was nothing I could really do about it.  So I asked Lena to bring our roasting pan back from her parents house so I could come all the way back home from work and put it in the oven so it would have enough time to cook.  I admittedly was nervous about the ham, because I had never cooked one before and I wasn’t really going off of a recipe, I was making one up (I now believe that recipe was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but more on that later)

So he decided to go with a laundry list of problems this week, huh?  No.  I know the first half of this post was a lot to read, but I had to set up the scene for the blessing.

Needless to say, Wednesday morning I was in a funk.  A pretty good funk.  I wasn’t in a bad mood or even angry, I was just emotional.  Colin went to the doctor and had a full blown ear infection, I had a lot to cook, and I really didn’t want to be in a funk when we went to bless that woman.  I wanted to enjoy blessing someone else.  So how do I get out of this funk, Lord?

When I went home to put the ham in the oven at lunch, I parked the car and saw one of our neighbors and her mom pulling groceries out of the car, a lot of them.  I didn’t really have time to stop because I had to get the ham in the oven and get back to work, but I was compelled to go.  I don’t even know those neighbors very well, though I say hi to them every time I see them.  But I’ve been praying for a way to get to know our neighbors, and my first new years resolution in a long time is exactly that, to get to know our neighbors.  So I saw the opportunity to serve Jesus and maybe open a door to getting to know them and I went over and asked if I could help carry the groceries.  The daughter said I could carry the water that was still in the car and I told her to pile it on.  She gave me the water and some soda to carry and I carried it to her apartment, where her dad greeted me and took it out of my hands, extremely appreciative.  All of them were.  They actually seemed a little beside themselves.  And here’s the miracle, I was instantly out of my funk for the rest of the day.  I had a couple of moments maybe, but that heavy feeling that I felt all morning was gone.  I then realized that the Lord knew exactly what I needed and set it up.  Those two women could have come home at any time during the day, even one minute earlier or later would have made things different because I was in such a hurry.  They came home at exactly the right time that I would be pulling up and see them and be able to help them.  It was a setup.  The Lord set me up.  And I’m so glad He did.

It’s amazing what serving can do.  Jesus tells us constantly to be servants, and I don’t think it’s just for the people we are serving.  It’s healing to our souls as well.  Everything came together for me that day, and we were able to really bless a family in need.  The woman’s mother was overwhelmed that we were coming to serve in that way.  And the ham, oh the ham.  People raved about it.  Everybody wanted the recipe.  That was more uplifting than it may have been to the average person because I love cooking and haven’t had a chance to do it as much as I would like, or at least to experiment and learn the way I used to.  Usually I get premarinated meat or anything else that’s fast and easy so dinner is ready on time.  It’s not very often I get to experiment and come up with ideas of my own and make them.  Experimentation could go either way for even a professional chef, which I am not.  So the Lord blessed me with that affirmation also.  What started out as a pretty rough day turned out to be amazing, all because I had my eyes opened and took the opportunity the Holy Spirit put in front of me.

So next time you’re in a funk, find a way to serve someone.  It’s the best medicine.  It takes you out of yourself and makes you others minded again.

May the Lord bless you all this Christmas season.

I Knew Where You Were

First Published July 30, 2012:

Yesterday, we were on our way to drop the kids off at Children’s Ministry at church.  Colin and Liam went one way when we were going another.  So we called to them to follow us.  Liam did, Colin didn’t.  We kept calling for him but he wasn’t paying attention, as he often does.  So, we decided to teach him a bit of a lesson on paying attention and knowing where we are.  Lena kept walking with Liam and Cailyn and I slowly walked back to where Colin was to wait for him and see when he would realize what had happened.  He had already left when I got back, but there were only two ways for him to go.  One would lead him right to Lena, the other down the steps towards the sanctuary.  Either way I knew where he was.  I passed by one of the pastors on my way to look and he said Colin had passed by him looking a little freaked out.  I jogged over just to make sure I was right and he hadn’t gone down the steps, but it seemed to have worked out.  He had found Lena.  He was obviously a little distraught, though not as much as I thought he would be.  I actually didn’t mean to take it quite so far, I thought he would still be where we left him when I got back, but lesson learned none the less.

So, I’m not writing to tell you all what a mean parent I am.  I’m trying to set the stage for what happened next.  As I took his hand to reassure him, something came to my head that I felt compelled to tell him.  After asking if he was OK, I said, “I knew where you were.”  Immediately, as the words were coming out of my mouth, I realized what had just happened.  The Lord had used my child to reveal something about His character to both my son and me.  As Christians, we are often so hard on ourselves.  We think that every time we mess up we lose our salvation and have to regain it.  We feel like we have to pray the prayer again and walk up in front of the church again and become a Christian again.  The fact of the matter is that we’re going to mess up.  When we become Christians, we are no longer sinners, but we do still sin.  We fall away.  We lose sight of our Father.  In a panic we run to find Him, fearing that we’ve lost Him forever.  When we finally look up (which is where He resides, so why didn’t we look there first?) we see Him again, and He looks down and says, “I knew where you were.”  Our sins and mistakes are no surprise to God.  For some reason we think we can fool Him or hide from Him, or that He looks down at the latest thing that we did and says, “Boy, I didn’t see that one coming.  I’m going to have to question whether or not he’s saved.”  He knew everything you were going to do before you were born.  Psalms 139:7-16 says:

7      aWhere can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8      aIf I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in 1Sheol, behold, bYou are there.
9      If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10      Even there Your hand will alead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11      If I say, “Surely the adarkness will 1overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
12      Even the adarkness is not dark 1to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
bDarkness and light are alike to You.

13      For You aformed my 1inward parts;
You bwove me in my mother’s womb.
14      I will give thanks to You, for 1I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
aWonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15      My 1aframe was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the bdepths of the earth;
16      Your aeyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in bYour book were all written
The cdays that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Ps 139:7–16). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

God knew us before we were even born.  That mistake you made that you thought made you fall from grace, He knew you were going to do that.  It wasn’t a surprise to Him.  The key is to confess and repent, not pray the salvation prayer every Sunday.  You may have thought you were lost, but as God’s child he knew exactly where you were, and he was waiting for you when you came back.  Unlike my situation, where Colin was out of my sight for a few moments, you were never out of God’s sight.

As I’m writing this the Holy Spirit is revealing more of the story to me.  The reason Colin was “lost,” was that he wasn’t paying attention.  He was curious about something.  I don’t know what it was, but it was something that had caught his attention enough to not notice us.  I know he should have heard us calling because Liam heard and came.  It seems like we are much the same.  Something else gets our attention.  We’re curious about something and we take our eyes off of God for a moment to see what it is.  And He lets us.  Sometimes it’s harmless, and sometimes it’s something that bites us.  But once our curiosity is over and we realize that we’ve lost sight of our Father, He reveals himself to us again, puts his arm around us, and says, “I knew where you were.”