Jason’s Early Walk

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV

Jeremiah 29:11 is my favorite verse, and a verse that God has shown to be true in so many ways. I don’t recall if it was one of the verses I clung to in my early years, or one I clung to when I was struggling in the darkness, but it certainly has been a verse near and dear to my heart for many years now. I can say, with absolute certainty, that God is alive, that He is moving in my life, and that He has a hope for my life. This isn’t just a belief. It isn’t just faith. It is truth that I have personally experienced, and continue to experience to this day.

I rededicated my life to the Lord on July 4, 1996, and I can honestly say that after that date, my life changed forever. Sure, I was still working the dead-end job of security. I still had all the speedbumps that I put into my life in regards to my education that would hinder me. Yes, even the depression was still there in my mind. These things looked bleak and hopeless before that fateful night, but now, I had given it to God and moved out of His way.

There was a kiosk in the mall of a company known as “Internet in a Mall.” They were a small Internet Service Provider that I decided to sign up with for my Internet service. I was still living with my parents at the time, but I had my own phone line and my own computer. I would talk to the employees there quite regularly, and when I had problems with the service, I talked to them about it. They could tell that I knew a lot about computers. One day, not long after I rededicated my life, one of the employees came up to me and handed me an application. “We’re opening a new location. You’re already hired. Just fill out this application to make it official.” I hadn’t even asked about it, the thought never even crossed my mind, yet here it was, being dropped into my lap like manna from heaven.

I worked for the company for a very short time, at the same time, I was still working security at the mall. In a very short time, I was promoted to assistant manager at that location. Things were looking good, until they weren’t. I was called one morning and told not to go in to work, that the company had just gone bankrupt. I was still working security at the time, so I wasn’t completely out of work. It still looked, though, like I was going to be stuck at a dead-end job. This time, though, I had something else going for me. I had a few months experience working for an ISP, which meant I could probably work for another ISP. I managed to find a small local one that was willing to hire me one day a week and for special events. It was a start, at least.

A short while after I was hired, things got more unstable at the mall. I knew I had to make a choice of whether or not to stay working security. Security, while it was a dead-end job, was still a safety net for me. I was barely working at the ISP, and security had been stable. That same weekend, I was attending a Promise Keepers event in Los Angeles. I remember going to the event and praying on the way there. “Lord, I know I need to leave my security job, but I’m only working part time for the ISP. Please give me a sign that I’m making the right decision.” I didn’t know what the sign would be, or even if I would get a sign. I just put my fleece before the Lord and sought an answer. I had already made the decision, and even if I had no answer, I was going to go forward, trusting in the Lord.

The Lord answered very loudly and clearly. Those who don’t believe might stand on coincidence, but for it to happen the exact same day, the exact answer I was seeking, is about as much of a coincidence as monkeys typing War and Peace. While I was at the Promise Keepers event, I had received a voice mail message. When I listened to it, it was one of the owners of the ISP offering me a full time position starting the very next day. I hadn’t even put in the notice to quit the job with security, nor had I reached out to the ISP to see about getting hired full-time. I had only prayed, asking the Lord to confirm that I was making the right choice. I was in tears with joy. The Lord had answered my question and had shown me the way to go.

I put in my two week notice at the mall and accepted the full-time position at the ISP. The ISP was right around the corner from my church, so on my lunch break, I often went to the church bookstore/café. When I wasn’t on a call for work, I, like everyone at the office, was allowed to work on our own projects. My project was “Door to Christ.” It was a web site where I would share the Gospel, much like my goal for Reflections. At the café, I would do research, take notes, and bring those notes back to put onto the web site when I had a chance.

While I was working at the ISP, I started becoming more involved at church. I was going to home Bible studies and a college and career Bible study. After a while, I decided it was time for me to start serving in Ministry. I thought a good place to start was as a decision follow-up counselor on Sunday evenings. Praying with those who just accepted the Lord and setting them onto the right path, as others had done for me a year before. In addition, I thought I would join the Children’s Ministry as a teacher for grade school. The Lord had other plans, and He put me in with four-year old children. It was soon after, that I discovered they had a shortage of four-year old teachers on Sunday evenings. I knew the Lord was calling me to help fill that shortage, so I stepped back from the follow-up counseling and chose to teach the children in the morning and in the evening. It was an incredible blessing and one I never once regretted.

They say that all good things come to an end. That may be true for those who aren’t with the Lord, but my experience has always been quite different. I had been working at the ISP for a year and a half, all while serving the Lord in various ways. Then, suddenly, after returning from the church café, I was called into the manager’s office and was told I was being fired. The reason was something to do with how I handled phone calls. There was one manager, not my direct manager, who was gnostic and always complained about how I was on the phone, but would never tell me what I was doing wrong or how to correct it. Apparently, she had complained to my manager and the owners as well, and ultimately, they decided to let me go for that reason. Everything seemed to be crashing around me, and I left the office in tears. I went to the church for prayer and by the end of the prayer, I was filled with the peace of God. I had no job, but I knew that I would be ok, that God would provide.

I was still living with my parents at this time, so I went home, not crying but rejoicing. My mother couldn’t believe it and was worried about my job options. I wasn’t, though. I knew that there was another ISP I could apply to and would undoubtedly get hired. They had purchased the ISP that went bankrupt, and between the two ISPs, I had about 2 years of experience. I didn’t want to apply there right away, though, as I didn’t want another phone support job. So, instead, I tried to get hired at an orphanage for disabled children. When that didn’t work out, due to education and experience, I applied to the larger ISP and, as suspected, I was hired. I was only out of work for two weeks.

When I was hired, I had put down a condition of wanting Sundays free for church. I was told that company policy was all new hires had to work weekends, but after six months, can switch off weekends if an opening is available. I would still be able to go to church Sunday morning and still teach in the morning, but evenings had to stop. Trusting the Lord, I accepted and reluctantly informed the Ministry that I had to leave Sunday evenings. Again, the Lord had moved in unexpected ways. In less than three months, I was offered a shift that freed up my Sundays completely, and I was able to return to teaching the four-year old children on Sunday evenings.

Two years prior to this time, I was working a dead-end job at security with no hope of anything better. Now, I was working call-center technical-support for a nationwide ISP. I was serving the children in the church, and walking with the Lord daily. It wasn’t always walking in a straight line, but I was walking forward. My schedule also allowed me to start in a new Ministry, as a counselor in the Junior High Ministry, working with 7th and 8th grade kids. It was an amazing time. During one of the summer retreats with the Junior High kids, I felt the Lord’s leading to be baptized with the Junior High kids that had also chosen to be baptized at that time.

With everything going on, the Lord continued to show His faithfulness through that time. After working at the ISP for six months, I was offered a new job. I went to a home Bible Study at the house of a man who owned a small business he ran out of his house. We had gotten to know each other through the Bible Study. He knew about my work at the different ISPs, and my work with the children. He knew of my computer experience and needed someone to do IT for his home office, as well as help with sales. He had even talked to the owner of the ISP that fired me and was told “We made a mistake firing Jason.” As a result, I was able to move away from the ISP into an actual hybrid IT/sales position with a Christian Brother.

Coincidence! Luck! Happenstance! There’s no such thing. The only explanation that makes any sense is that there is a God, and that He is giving me a future and a hope, like He promised. The company I worked for now, working for my Christian Brother, sold software to the mortgage industry. It was the #1 selling software at the time, and sales calls were simple. I just answered the phone and took the orders. The people calling in already wanted to purchase. At the same time, I was the sole IT person for the office. Looking back, I probably wasn’t the best choice, due to my lack of experience, but it gave me experience I desperately needed. On top of that, I was sent to take extension courses in VisualBasic 6, ASP, ASP.NET 1.0, and VB.NET 1.0, which he paid for to prepare me for a time if I ever stopped working for him. At that time, I couldn’t imagine not working for him, because he was a generous, fair and honest employer who was also a true friend. Of course, the Lord had other plans, and like all that had gone before, He has shown himself faithful, giving me a future I could never have expected.

to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:26 NKJV

Jason’s Time in Darkness

Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.

John 12:35-36 NKJV

It is hard to walk in darkness. I had spent a few years doing just that. I hadn’t completely hidden the light in my life, but I had unintentionally put some distance between myself and God. I hadn’t walked away, but I wasn’t walking with Him either. My life was in darkness without Him, and I knew it. I just wasn’t sure how to get out of it. It was a question I asked one of the youth leaders at the Catholic retreat. “I know God wants me to open the door to my heart and let Him in. I try to do that and I want to do that, I just don’t know how.”

I don’t know how long I suffered with depression. It wasn’t anything that was officially diagnosed in me either, but it was there. There was a poem I had written in my senior year that was titled “Falling.” I was proud of the poem and shared it with one of the teachers. Of course, reading the poem, it was clear to see both depression and possibly even suicide. It talks about falling, the ground coming, and asking the Lord for forgiveness, that I was dead and I was wrong. When I wrote it, I wasn’t thinking about suicide, but anyone who read it would certainly think otherwise. I did see a therapist for free, at the recommendation of the same teacher, but there was no diagnosis of depression that I can recall. It wasn’t anything that my parents really understood. How could I be depressed when I had a family that loved me and things seemed to be going good for me. After all, it was my senior year, and the best school year I had ever. It was the first year of having close friends that I enjoyed spending time with, that treated me with respect. Even I tried to tell myself that there was no reason for me to be depressed.

I had signed up to join the Air Force upon graduating from High School. I didn’t have the grades for good colleges. Yes, I could have done community college first, but it seemed like joining the Air Force would be a career path for me. I was going in for electronics, even though I really wanted to work with computers. The fear of war in Iraq was a real thing at the time, and joining the Air Force seemed to be a better alternative than the possibility of a draft. So, in the summer after I had graduated, I was sent to San Antonio, Texas for basic training. I remember getting up before the sun, humidity even at that early in the morning, and “black flag” days where activity was extremely limited. Even more, I remember my depression and suicidal thoughts hitting me harder than they ever did before or since. There was a time I even contemplated putting a razor to my wrist, which, thankfully, I didn’t do. I even remember writing a suicide note that I had planned on mailing to my parents. I sealed it, put a stamp on it, but never put it in the mail.

What kept me from the darkest part? I knew I hadn’t been walking as closely to the Lord as I should have been. I was afraid that, were I to die, I would go to hell. I was also afraid of hurting my family. I didn’t want them to suffer by losing me. I clung to Footprints in the Sand, the fact that Jesus was carrying me during my darkest hour. I clung to my Bible, trying to get comfort from His Word. I spoke to the Catholic Chaplain when I could. At home, I was able to combat the stress and the depression through escape. I escaped into fantasy books. I escaped into writing. I escaped into computers. I escaped into Dungeons & Dragons. I escaped into video games. I escaped into my friends. I never ran to the Lord. In that place, I wasn’t able to escape into my normal escapes, and I hadn’t yet fully learned how to run to the Lord. I clung to a poem. I clung to some verses. I clung to my faith. I didn’t cling fully to the Lord. This period was the closest in my life that I ever had been to contemplating suicide. Thankfully, the Lord protected me and strengthened me, even though I didn’t feel it.

After two weeks, the process began for me to be discharged and four weeks after I left, I was back home again. Although now that I was home, what was I going to do? The Air Force was going to be my career. I had no other plans. I had ruined many potential plans due to my poor performance in school. So, the answer, pushed by my parents, was that I was to get a job and go to community college. I had so many bad habits built up from school. In addition, I had an overactive thyroid that hadn’t yet been discovered. Add to that the depression that was still in the dark recesses of my mind. Put it all together, and I wound up failing to complete community college classes, even going so far as to drop out of the class. Even a computer programming class, a class I enjoyed and excelled in, wound up getting dropped. From outward appearances, this looked like a continuation of the bad habits I built up in high school. Maybe it was, maybe it was ADHD caused by the overactive thyroid, maybe it was something else. I can’t say for certain what the problem was, all I knew is something I still remember telling my parents in frustration.

“I don’t know why this is happening! I want to learn, but I keep hitting this wall. I don’t know how to get past this wall!” I didn’t know, and still don’t know, what that wall was. I don’t know if my parents thought it was just my bad habits or if it was just an excuse. In the end, it really didn’t matter. All we really knew was I wasn’t fully applying myself again, for whatever reason, and I was spiraling out of control when it came to my continuing education. Of course, without that, it meant very little hope for me to get a decent job and be even harder for me to move out of the house.

I worked fast food, then worked in retail. From there, I moved on to security. My education still floundered, when I even went to school at all. Three different community colleges, all three had no classes completed. My depression that lived inside of me festered, as I looked at my life and saw no hope for the future. Maybe I could work as a police dispatcher? I applied, but failed the entrance exam. Maybe I could work in the post office? Again, I applied, but apparently failed the entrance exam. I say I failed both exams because I never got a follow-up call for any additional interviews. Could also have been a lack of education that kept them from reaching out. In the end, I wondered, would I be stuck working mall security for the rest of my life?

All during this time, I was walking on my own. I was walking in darkness away from the light. I still believed in God, I still trusted in Him, but I wasn’t walking with Him like I should have been. I was lost in the darkness, living a life without much hope for the future. While the darkness wasn’t as bad as it was when I was in the Air Force basic training camp, it was there, and I was still clinging to the words of a poem and the Bible that gave me comfort, but I wasn’t clinging to the Lord.

Then one night, the Lord directly reached out to me. When I was working security at a mall, I met a woman who locked her keys in her car, and I helped her contact a locksmith. As we waited for the locksmith to arrive, she talked to me about a business she was involved with. It sounded like a good idea to me. Maybe it was the answer to keep me from working security for the rest of my life. Little did I know, though, the Lord had other plans for me. I got to know this woman more as I became involved with the business. At one point, she invited me to an evening service at her church. I hadn’t been going to church since returning from San Antonio. So, I accepted her offer and went to an evening service at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. It was Pastor Greg Laurie’s church, but if I recall, he wasn’t there that evening. At the end of the service I went forward at the altar call. I did it more because I thought that’s what she wanted me to do, but I know a bigger part of it was God moving.

After talking with a counselor, telling him it was more of a rededication, that I would start going back to the church I grew up in. I didn’t go back to Harvest, but did start going to church with my parents again, as I was still living with them at the time. I still was doing things with the woman I met, and the business, hoping that would lead me where I needed to be. Yes, I was going to church again, but most things really hadn’t changed for me. I was going through the motions, I did want to be closer to God, but I still felt like I wasn’t walking where I needed to be.

The Lord, as always, was faithful, even if I wasn’t faithful. He had a plan for me, even though I was unaware of it. After a bit, I started church hopping. I went to the church I grew up in with my parents, I went to Harvest, and I went to Calvary Chapel Chino Hills. I never really settled into one area, but because of the churches I was attending, I started hearing more about the Harvest Crusades. So, on July 4, 1996, I went by myself to the first night of the Harvest Crusades. I remember The Kry was one of the bands performing and for the first time realized that there was such a thing as Contemporary Christian Music. I don’t recall the other bands there that specific night. I remember Pastor Greg Laurie giving the message. I don’t remember the message now, but I remember quite clearly the moving of the Holy Spirit.

The altar call was given and people were invited down onto the field to give their lives to Christ. I told myself “I don’t need to go down, I am already a Christian.” Another call was given, and I told myself. “I went forward at the church, I don’t need to go forward again.” Then he said something I could not “reason away.” He said “All you prodigal sons and daughters out there…” I tried to find an excuse not to go onto the field, but I knew the story of the prodigal son quite well. I knew that the Lord was calling me down onto the field that night. I knew that He was speaking directly to me. I had asked Him many times since High School, “I know that you say open the door to my heart, and I want to do that, I just don’t know how.” Well, He was finally answering me and I chose to listen.

With fireworks shooting into the sky, I prayed with a group of others on the field of Angel’s Stadium in Anaheim, California, to receive Christ into my heart. It was a rededication of my life to the Lord, not like the one I made a few months prior. This was a first step out of the darkness and into the light. I attended the other nights of the Crusade with a joy that I had never felt before and I had decided to make Harvest Christian Fellowship my new home church. No more church hopping. No more seeking. The Lord had seen me in the darkness, reached down, and guided me back to His light.

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.”

Luke 15:22-24 NKJV

Jason’s Early Years

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,

Psalm 139:13-14 NKJV

I’m nearly 50 years old. Some might say the best years of my life are behind me. Others might say the best years of my life are still to come. My response is, every year with the Lord is one of the best years of my life. There have been times in my life I walked closely with the Lord. There have been times in my life that I have walked distant from the Lord. One thing I can say, I never walked away from the Lord.

I was born and raised in Southern California, not far from Los Angeles. My parents were Roman Catholic and I was raised in the Catholic Church. Some Christians might argue that Catholics aren’t Christian, but when it comes to the core beliefs of all Christians, Catholics believe and teach the same things. There may be aspects of the religion that some Christians don’t agree with, but this entry is not intended to be a focus of Catholic apologetics. This is to share the environment in which I was brought up, about the formative years that helped shape the person I have become today.

I was baptized into the Catholic Church. I took my First Communion, went through the Catholic Catechisms and was confirmed into the Catholic Church. My baptism was when I was an infant, as is the practice among Catholic families. Through my baptism, my family promised to raise me in the ways of the Lord and in the practices of the Catholic Church. That was a promise that my parents kept. My First Communion was when I was in grade school. It was a time that I first understood that the wafer and wine offered in the Catholic Mass were the body and blood of Jesus Christ, broken and shed for our sins, so that we might be saved. Catechism went through my school years and ended with my Confirmation. My Confirmation while a Confirmation into the Catholic Church, was also a profession of faith. Through the Confirmation, In addition to affirming that I would follow the rites of the Catholic Church, I affirmed that I believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, part of the holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I was baptized with oil, signifying the Holy Spirit’s influence in my life. Yes, there was a lot more surrounding being Catholic and doing the rites related to Catholicism, but at the core, I made a stand for my True and risen Savior.

The Catholic Church wasn’t my only exposure to being a Christian. My parents were both living examples of what it meant to follow Christ. It wasn’t about the things they did, but about the person of Jesus Christ. Salvation always came first, followed by the Service. The three “S.” Sin, Salvation, Service. They lived and modeled their faith in everything they did. When I was in grade school, my mother attended a women’s Bible Study at a Christian Reformed church. I clearly remember going to VBS every summer. It was always a highlight of my summer. In High School, I went to a Catholic retreat. I think it was “LifeTeen” or something similar. It was young adults speaking to teens about what it meant to be a follower of Christ in the Catholic church. I don’t remember a lot about that retreat, but I do remember talking to one of the counselors, talking about wanting to be closer to God.

My first eighteen years were well grounded in faith. I didn’t read the Word daily but I was regularly exposed to it. I grew up, not only with the Word, but with the daily example of my parents. I grew up with love and not hypocrisy. I grew up seeing the truth and love in practice. Despite all this, my youth was far from clear sailing.

From kindergarten through twelfth grade, I spent the entirety of my educational years in the public school system. In addition to that, I was in the same school district the entire time. That meant, for the most part, I saw the same kids, year after year, and that wasn’t always a good thing. From as far back as first or second grade, I remember being teased and bullied. I remember many times running away from the bus or school in fear. I remember kids wanting to pick fights with me, but, to this day, I still don’t understand why. The handful of friends I did have outside of school, didn’t want to associate with me when we were in school. Even in high school, the boy I considered my “best friend” would push me into the bushes on the way home from school laughing at “bush games.” Yet, he was my best friend, so I laughed along with it. Why? Because when we weren’t around others, we did have fun together, and I didn’t want to lose one of the few friends that I had.

I was loved at home, but for some reason, I was disliked at school. For years, I struggled to make and keep friends. I did things, some things I shouldn’t have done, to try to keep my friends. Nothing illegal or dangerous, but still wrong. When I did get friends, even if they were, in hindsight, fair-weather friends, I was afraid to do anything that would end the friendship. It wasn’t until my Senior Year that I actually had a core group of friends that were stronger than the ones I had in the past. One was one I had been friends with since middle school, and many of the others were friends made that year. We were the outcast group, for the lack of a better term. Many of them were probably not good influences, but they were trustworthy and faithful friends. They knew that I didn’t drink, smoke, nor desire premarital sex, and they would actually stand behind those decisions. They respected me enough to tell me not to break those stands, even if they were doing those very things.

Part of the desire to “fit in” came a thought that I was a “nerd” and being a “nerd” was somehow a bad thing. I don’t know if that came from the other kids who bullied me, but I suspect that is where it came from. To avoid being seen as a “nerd” in my mind, I had to stop trying so hard in school. That started a bad habit of not doing school work and not studying. I loved to learn, and I retained a lot of what I learned despite lack of studying, but wanting to fit in and not be bullied was more important. Then there were my fair-weather friends, who I would rather spend time with than doing the work, because they were the only friends I had, so they were important. Then, somewhere along the line, this lack of effort became a habit. I can’t point to any specific thing, but I do know that this habit was something that my parents were in constant discussion with the teachers about. I had the ability, I just wouldn’t apply myself and do what was necessary. How much of it was laziness? How much of it was me wanting to be liked? How much of it was me not caring? How much of it was the bad habit that I started? I honestly can’t answer that question now. All I know is that my parents did everything they could to try to correct my behavior, but I was too stubborn. Despite all that, I still did manage to graduate, even though I did have to go to after school classes to make up the credits I needed for previous classes in which I failed.

Thankfully, my early years had the strong foundation of Christ. I may have struggled through my school years. I may have dealt with insecurities and depression. I may even have been borderline suicidal at times. Despite all that, the foundation of Christ kept me from going over any edges. The love of my family, the attention of my parents, the example they showed, all helped me to move forward. I may have been a struggle for them when it came to my schooling and my lack of dedication there, but despite that, I knew I was loved. More importantly, I knew I had Christ in my life. The poem “Footprints in the Sand,” which I first received in grade school, had one line that always helped me in those times, and even beyond. “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I [Jesus] carried you.”

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:29-30 NKJV

Simplicity Point: Reflections

For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:2 NKJV

Simplicity Point: Reflections is a sub-blog of Simplicity Point. Simplicity Point is technology focused. It is a place for me to share my technobabble regarding programming and more, so that other developers can learn from my experiences. Simplicity Point: Reflections, on the other hand, is much more personal. In this blog, I will be sharing Bible Studies, Devotions, Reflections and other creative works.

  • Bible Studies: The Bible Studies are in-depth studies of God’s Word. It could be a specific topic, a single passage of Scripture or a full chapter.
  • Devotions: Devotions usually center around a prayer or verse or two. Where a Bible Study is more in-depth, a devotion is more of a communication and a meditation on God and His wonders.
  • Reflections: Reflections are more personal or general in nature. They are posts that talk about life and my personal thoughts regarding various topics.
  • Creativity: Creativity is my creative outlet, sharing my personal creative works. These are works of fiction and imagination. While some might be inspired by real events, they are all imagination.

All my posts should be weighed against the written Word of God. Read the Bible in context and pray to know what God is saying to you.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV