My mother came to the United States in 1970 looking for new life in the land of opportunity. The U.S. was back then (and still is today) a symbol of hope for most of the free world. She was a recently married young lady and while she was not sure what the future held, she was sure it would be bright. Living in the U.S. would give her opportunities that she simply did not have in her native Dominican Republic. A couple of years later I was born and a few years after that she and my father divorced. This left me to be raised by a single mother in a foreign land.
I was the first of the family born in the U.S. so I did not have anyone to ‘show me the ropes.’ The streets of Brooklyn were not forgiving and I had my fair share of dramatic experiences. I saw people shot in front me, I have been shot at, I had a .357 magnum placed at my temple at the tender age of 11, I have seen lives damaged and destroyed by drugs and violence, and the list could go on and on. What was a symbol of hope for my mother was a minefield for me. While she saw opportunity, I saw tragedy as I endeavored to maneuver through the many pitfalls I had to avoid growing up.
I am not sure why, but my teachers often quoted statistics to us. They told us what the chances were that we – as little Black and Hispanic boys – would wind up either dead or in jail. I remember hoping to beat to odds and to be alive to see 18. I knew that if I were still alive at the age of 18 that I wanted to leave the ghetto. I was not sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted out. Guess what? I did not wait until I turned 18. While I was still 17 I joined the U.S. Army. I turned 18 years old in South Carolina, in Basic Training. I did not know what the future had for me, but God did. A few years later, at the age of 23, in Kuwait, He got a hold of me, and my life has NEVER been the same.
I am writing this post from Billings, Montana. I would not have imagined [growing up] that I would be in Montana. I have been to 18 (or so) countries and 42 (or so) states. The Father has blessed me to see the world and to touch countless people. He has used me to preach in tents, in chapels, in the desert, in field sites, and… in many unique places. He has used me to lead people to Him and to help people all over the world. While I am extremely glad that I am saved by the Blood of Jesus and that I am NOT going to hell, I am also thankful for the life that I now live IN HIM! Jesus did not die just so I could miss hell, He died so that I could enjoy life and that is what I am doing.
As I drive cross-country (for my second time) and I look at the beauty of God’s creation, I can’t help but laugh at God’s goodness. There is no way that I could have imagined my life to be so good as I was growing up. I can only look back now and say, “THANK YOU LORD!”
But what does this mean to you? You have taken the time to read this post; you should at least get something out of it. Well, here are a few nuggets that you can take away:
1. God also has a plan for you (Jer 29:11). He has a wonderful plan in store for you, one that was developed before you were ever born (Jer 1:5). Your job is to find it, follow it, and finish it before you die!
2. God wants you to enjoy life. Yes, He wants you to accept His son (Jesus) as Lord and to go to heaven. That is obvious, but He also wants you to sincerely enjoy life. If all He wanted you to do was go to heaven, then you could die right now (if you already know Jesus as Lord), but since you are still alive, then God is NOT through with you!
3. Be open to ALL that He has for you. I meet countless people that are too narrow-minded to realize when God wants to bless them. Welcome change. You cannot grow without changing and you cannot change until you change (smile). Take the limits off of your limitless God and let Him bless you. We serve a God that can do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20). Let Him do it. Don’t fight the process.
4. Be thankful. From time to time you should take self-inventory of all that God has done for you and it should cause you to WANT to say, “THANK YOU!” Thankfulness will enable you to enter every day with a spring in your step, a song in your heart, and a smile on your face. This way you can whistle while you work.