About this Blog

The purpose of this blog is to encourage your personal, daily walk with Jesus Christ, by seeing Him through the eyes of Mark Rodriguez. Updates will be made regularly so please subscribe. Most posts are taken from Mark's private journals or written by his mother unless otherwise noted.

Friday, January 29, 2016

How to Really Live Like a Child of God

How does one really live like a child of God?  Great concept, but hard to live out in a fast paced world full of adult responsibilities, heartache, and to-do lists.  What would it look like to really go through the day in relationship with the God of the universe? 

My little Nica Chica, Maria, has taught me quite a lot about this.  When we met Maria, she was 4ish and had no memories of family life.  All she knew was life in the orphanage.  What this consisted of was 43 abandoned children coming from all sorts of backgrounds.  The best case scenario was a background in simple poverty.  The worst…unthinkable.  One of Maria’s sweet friends literally had a scar around her neck from the dog chain used to restrain her. 

All that to say, these kids weren’t the best at teaching each other what it meant to be in a healthy, happy family.  And the staff, God bless them, tried their hardest but there were too few of them and they worked in shifts.  It in no way resembled a family. 

When Maria entered our family, she had no idea what that meant and, I guess, assumed it would be like another orphanage, just smaller.  So imagine her delight (and sometimes dismay) when the caregiver (me) didn’t leave…ever.  Not really getting what a mother was, but somehow understanding that I was “hers” and she owned me. 

The power struggles that ensued are for another post, but one of the first beautiful things she began to do was assume I would give her my attention.  And she wanted it…ALL THE TIME.  Whether I was reading, sleeping, using the bathroom; it didn’t matter, I was hers. 

Our time at the pool was the best example of this phenomenon. It didn’t matter how many billion times I had watched her jump in the pool.  It didn’t matter that I clapped and cheered in the past.  She wanted it and expected it every last time and was incredibly hurt and offended if I didn’t want to watch.

Our first visit to Nicaragua to meet Maria

Mira! Mira!

The look of a child who knows she has been watched :)

She would shout “Mira! Mira!” (command form, not polite form!) “Look! Look!” And knowing this little person had missed years of having a mommy look at her, I did watch and cheer and clap.  Over, and over, and over again.  I had an empty heart tank to fill.  

This is where we start with God.  Except he is a much better parent than me.  He doesn’t run out of patience.  He doesn’t need “alone time” to read, sleep or use the bathroom.  He delights in His children and loves to be “owned” by them.  He hears “Mira!” “Look!” and says “I see you."
Some things never change...Spring in Florida 2015
So today, I am challenged to live like a child of God.  Throughout this day, I will approach Him like a child learning to be in His family.  I will ask Him to watch me, protect me, comfort me, encourage me, guide me.  And I won’t just do that once in the morning devotional time.  I will talk to Him as if He is a real person, because, well, He is! What would my day, your day, be like if we really engaged with God and expected Him to engage back? If we expected to hear "Child, I SEE YOU."

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will REJOICE over you with GLADNESS; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with LOUD SINGING." Zephaniah 3:17

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Amazing Communion

 (re-post from Mark's journals)


Lord, it's such a crazy thought that my prayers are "powerful and effective." That statement just blows my mind, even if I don't fully get it yet.  What I do get, however, is this: because of my prayers, something happens.  My prayers do something.  They have impact.   That's such a crazy concept, Father, and I pray that I would come to understand it more.  

It's also crazy just to think that I can pray.   That I can commune with you.  Before you took our sins upon you, communion with you was blocked by a veil.  When you died that veil literally tore apart.  A personal relationship with the God of the Universe became possible for even the lowliest person.  That's incredible, and like the other idea I mentioned, I don't completely get it.  I don't think I'll ever be able to grasp it while I'm on Earth.  What I do understand of it blows my mind; it seems impossible that I, a sinner, could have an intimate relationship with the Lord, with the Ruler, with the Master of the Universe.  And that you want that relationship with me, well...it's amazing.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Calling all Characters

I am a huge fan of the family getaway.  When I was a kid, we would cram into the back of the car (no seat belts), draw a line down the middle of the seat and fight our way to our destination.  My poor parents.  I quickly learned to sit behind my Dad’s seat so when reached around to get me he couldn’t reach.  Some might have called me incorrigible, but I prefer strategic.

Once we got some miles behind us and the “packing the car stress” had worn off, my sister and I were allowed to split a coke and we started to remember that we liked each other. We have great memories from those times. Once we pretended we were from England and talked in an English accent while visiting multiple shops. “But dahling, Mummy would not like that.  She prefers tea and crumpets.”  Then there was the time Dad lost his bathing suit in the ocean and Mom had to run down with a towel to help him while we all busted out laughing. 

Recently Carlos and I took the kids to a beautiful house in the Outer Banks that a friend kindly let us use.  Wanting to make memories we brought the games and fun food and set the atmosphere for family fun.  But the best memories can’t be designed, they just happen.  
January on Jockeys Ridge

While visiting Jockey’s Ridge, we came across the most bizarre scene.  “Um, Mom….is that a Tuscan Raider?” said Daniel, grabbing my arm and pointing.  Just as I went to answer him, a dark and menacing figure started walking in our direction.  Darth Vader himself was heading our way and I swear I was choking.  The force is dark in that one. Luckily he veered left and began chatting with an ewok.

We were captivated.  This assorted group of Star Wars characters began to act out scenes and professional photographers staged still shots.  A cluster of curious onlookers hung back too nervous to ask what the heck was going on.  
(check them out at www.carolinagarrison.net/)

Will and Daniel couldn’t stand it any longer so they got up the courage to ask another spectator, “What is going on? Are they filming a commercial? A scene for a movie?”  The guy immediately started laughing, “Are you kidding me? These guys are just a bunch of Star Wars Geeks in a club or something.” 

Hmmm. It had to be more than that. They were just…so serious.  So I googled the logo on the back of one of the roadies sweatshirts and discovered they were indeed Star Wars geeks but so much more.  They belong to a huge organization that suits up and contributes to their local community with volunteer and charity work. 

These “geeks” were part of a much greater story. 

In fact, we "geeks" are part of a greater story.  Isn’t that what we all secretly hope for?  To be an essential character in an epic story full of love, adventure and fighting for the things that matter?  Isn’t that why we are drawn to the great books and movies made about them? We want to see the protagonist overcome great odds to fight another day and kiss the person of their dreams.   

We want that story, but we want to kind of fast forward the “overcome great odds” part.  We (I) want the awesome costume, a little something to wake up and fight for, and we (I) certainly want to celebrate the victory.  But man, the overcoming part is really hard.  The victory seems very distant. 

I’ll bet Joseph felt that way when his brothers threw him into the pit (Genesis 37).  I imagine Esther wasn’t able to really enjoy the castle life while trying to stop the plot to kill her people (Book of Esther).  I’m guessing Jesus’ mother, Mary, had moments where she went from hearing her awesome part in the Story, to wondering how it was going to ever work out for the good (Luke).

When you are in the overcoming it is hard to keep your eyes on the end. 

Our example is Jesus…”who for the JOY that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Our Joy?  It’s found in the daily gifts of love God sends us in the beauty around us in Creation and in other people.  But really, it is in the promise of Heaven that our joy is found.  And the One that ensures the victory is seated there, strengthening us as we endure to live out our part in the greatest Story.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Where is God?

 (re-post from Mark's journals)

Where is God in the wind?
Where is God in the earthquake?
Where is God in the fire?

These are not questions of doubt, but questions of faith.  I must have faith that he is always there, in every situation I go through.  In all the metaphorical winds, earthquakes, and fires.  All I have to do is search, and he will reveal himself to me.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

Nutella Pancakes and a side of Sadness...

You would think I would know how to do “this” since I have been the subject of terribly bad news before. But I don’t. I’m winging it just like all of you. The “this” I am talking about is how to handle someone else’s very, very bad news while living my fairly normal day.

When you have experienced something horrible happening (spouse leaving, bad diagnosis, or death of a child) you wonder how life can go on for other people. How can the sun even rise and set? The shock you have experienced on an individual level certainly can be felt around the world, right?  You can feel the world tilting and you know it will never be the same. 

I remember when my Great-Aunt Dorothy called.  She had never called before so I knew the minute I heard her voice something had happened to my grandfather.  Instinctively I walked to the large window that overlooked a beautiful blooming dogwood tree.  I knew that when I heard the news that he had died, I needed to attach the memory to something beautiful. 

The sun does dare to rise and set, and the holidays refuse to get cancelled and the pantry does get empty and life invites you to engage.  And what choice is there, really?  My favorite alternative is to curl up in bed, which is why I got a puppy so that I can’t. 

So I was having a morning recently where I did engage with my life. Joy was present this particular Saturday morning. I had promised the kids we would experiment with nutella pancakes so I was pulling up my facebook to see the “how-to” post.

Then I saw the news. A far away friend had lost her daughter the night before. It was sudden and with no warning. I thought it was a mistake. But multiple posts from reliable people verified the awful truth. 

I had this surreal moment, that on a similar Saturday months before, someone else had been looking up a recipe and instead ended up reading about our loss. Someone had found out about Mark’s death the way I was finding out about this sweet girl’s passing. I was reading about it, not living it.

Being the receiver of the information rather than the subject made me think, “What do I do now? How can I possibly make these nutella pancakes? How can I enjoy my kids eating them? How can we ever even consider eating nutella again in light of this horrible news?”  Nothing felt right and I stood frozen in front of the computer and the hot griddle, listening to the tears sizzle. 

I don’t know if there is a right thing to do, but I made the decision that morning to make, savor and delight in the eating of the nutella pancakes. I made that decision because for that moment I had three sleepy headed children waiting expectantly and I don’t know how long I will have them.  I don’t say that in a fearful way, it is just the truth. 

I felt extreme sadness on behalf of my friend and what I knew she would be facing, but in a weird way, because of her loss, I felt even more fully the beauty of the chocolate all over my children’s faces. It isn’t fair how that happens, but I do think it brings meaning to something so incredibly sad. It honors the beauty of the life that has been lost because we live that moment “extra.” Fully experienced and appreciated.  Not in a thoughtless, insensitive way, but with the greatest care. 

When the inevitable pain in life comes, we can’t help but long for heaven.  But until the day of our own last breath we can seek beauty in the sadness, even it is means there are tears in the pancakes.  

Psalm 27:13 "I remain confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Break Me



There are things I really want to understand better.  One of those is your love for me.  Tied to that is how badly I've committed adultery against you.  I need to understand your sacrifice as well.

God, my greatest desire is to be close to you.  But Father, I can't come close if I'm selfish.  What am I still holding on to?  What haven't I fully surrendered to you?

I want you to break me. However messy it needs to be, please, just take away my selfishness.  You bring joy.  You bring peace.  I want to be close to you Father; I want my day to be filled with powerful communion with you.

You've done so much for me, and I take so much of it for granted.  But I don't want to anymore. 


Monday, January 4, 2016

When People aren't Who they seem to be...Bill Cosby, my ex-pastor, and me

Do you remember “The Cosby Show?” Our entire family could watch because it was clean, hilarious and modeled great family values. The Cosby Show made you want to be a better person, kid, parent, and family. 

How the mighty have fallen. Bill Cosby, the creator and star of “The Cosby Show” is in a world of trouble. A few days ago, Cosby was charged “with sexually assaulting a woman in 2004 after plying her with drugs and alcohol, marking the first criminal case against a once-beloved performer whose father-figure persona was already left tattered by dozens of misconduct allegations.” Reuters/Mark Makela. This charge is likely the first of many as more than 50 women have gone public in their accusations against Cosby. How brave these women are to put themselves out there like that.  And in a crazy way they have actually given Cosby a gift.  A gift of exposure and light so that he has to face the truth about himself. 

We all have these experiences when the person we have placed on the pedestal tumbles off. It is painful and foundation shaking. It is especially devastating when it is someone we know.  We want so badly for people to be who they seem to be. What do we do when they aren’t?

The Pastor that baptized me, comforted my family when my uncle died, married Carlos and me, also fell off the pedestal. After many years of leading a very large church, he admitted to a having a lengthy affair. His career was over and many were left struggling with reconciling their view of God in light of the betrayal of this man. There are still damaging ripple effects in the community from this situation and it happened many years ago.  

I had long since moved away when I heard my pastor had fallen from grace.  The news was shocking to be sure, but my first thought wasn't of surprise, but rather relief on his behalf.  How hard it must have been to live that lie, and to pretend for all those years. 

It is difficult to have someone you admire fall from grace, but it is also hard to be that person who takes the fall. Have you ever let someone down? Fallen off the pedestal? It is a long way down and the ground is hard. And yet it can also be such a relief. 

Not nearly as dramatic as the situations with Bill Cosby or my ex-pastor, I do remember what it feels like to be found out. My first year in college, I lived the double life…partying hard by night and attending Bible Study by day. I had to hide the one life from the other and it was exhausting, distressing and ultimately embarrassing. 

I could feel the “Hound of Heaven” running me down and I kept telling God “Not now, I’m having fun.  I’ll be back later.” Which, by the way, doesn’t work. He is a fast pursuer of His children. Like a mother pulling her toddler back from the busy street.

Then I got knocked off the throne of my own life. I got a horrible case of mono (hospitalized for a week…no more drinking for me), a friend asked the hard question “Which person are you going to be?” and my parents found out. Wham. All confrontational, all painful, all filled with grace.  

“For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” Psalm 56:13

The people who loved me stepped in and called me to be my best self. They didn’t settle for me walking the fence. They asked for the whole truth and didn’t let up until I gave it. They didn’t need me to be on a pedestal because the throne in their lives was already occupied by God. This allowed them to see me in my mess and not be afraid of it. They helped me become the person I really wanted to be…not some shadow version of myself. We can face our deepest depravity when faced with the irresistible, infinite grace of God.

We aren’t made to be on the pedestal. There is a peace in knowing that. There is relief in not having to hide. There is freedom in knowing that anyone could open any drawer, read anything I wrote, walk in to any environment I was in and they would recognize me.

In all my imperfection, when I walk in the light and truth I can become who God has created me to be and I can be fully known because I am not hiding or changing like a chameleon depending on the environment. Way more messed up than I ever imagined, but also far more loved. 

As we enter this new year, do we dare ask God to uncover the things we need to air out? Am I willing to expose my dark places to the sun and allow healing to occur? Am I courageous enough to ask my trusted friends to come into my messy places and am I willing to go into theirs? Can I invite a friend to share their truth with me and not put them on a pedestal they are only destined to fall off of?  Let this be a year of walking in the Light where we can experience the fullness of God’s love and grace. No more hiding.

“…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” Ephesians 5:8