Preface – 2018 Writing Resolution

FeaturedPreface – 2018 Writing Resolution

Write every day.

That’s it. In a nutshell, my resolution is to post to my blog every day.

Yes, I know I’ve said this before. And like many other resolutions that have preceded this one, momentum seems to last a matter of mere weeks. But there is one vantage point I have going into 2018 that better positions me to tackle this challenge: I am currently unemployed.

I am no longer bound by the daily grind of work emails and conference calls. Therefore, I have nothing but time and no excuses for failing on this resolution. I will be honest and admit there may be days when I ‘cheat’ by posting only a picture or share an interesting item with only a scant investment of actual writing on my part, but when we get to December 31, 2018, I want to look at my WordPress statistics and see at least 365 posts. Yes, that means there may be more than one per day (as this preface post is), but I promise to not inundate my blog with meaningless noise. These pages have always been an open book of who I am, my personal experiences, and the journey I’ve taken since my first post back in 2004.

I hope you will join me on this new adventure. I can only imagine the posts that will come once Lee and I transition to full-time mission work. I am excited about this new chapter in our lives, and I pray this excitement jumps off the page in the entries to come.

Happy New Year and enjoy!

#2018WriteNow

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Axl Rose Was Right

Axl Rose Was Right

Actually, my pastor was right.

Never pray for patience, because when you do, God is more than happy to put you in situations where you need patience. Ever since Lee and I moved here to the Dominican Republic, I think I’ve prayed for patience on a daily basis. I know what you’re thinking, but you should know that living in the D.R. and being put in situations where you need patience are redundant.

So when I am in a jam where my head is about to explode, I think of two things. The first is another thing I learned at Relevant: Be the church. It’s a mantra that reminds me that regardless of the situation, I am called to be a reflection of God’s grace and love.

::whispering:: Be the church. Be the church. Be the church.

The second thing I think of is the chorus of perhaps my favorite Guns N’ Roses song called Patience. Although the song is about a relationship between a man and a woman, the lyrics of the chorus are applicable in any stressful, p.i.t.a. situation.

::singing in my head:: ♫ All we need is just a little patience. ♫

Today we completed some back to school shopping for some of the kids, and the scene inside the store we visited can be best described as chaotic. For reasons I can’t really explain (yet I understand because I grew up in Miami), the people here seem to be very impatient. Don’t get me wrong; Dominicans are sweet and friendly and inviting and generous, but they are absolutely not zen-like. Just spend a minute driving on the roads and you’ll understand.

So when there are nine people in line and there is only one person at the cash register, the vocal opinions start flying. Comments about how there should be other registers open abounded. People began looking to cut in line because they only had one item to buy. The atmosphere grew toxic quickly.

::singing in my head:: ♫ All we need is just a little patience. ♫

It’s important to note the store was not air-conditioned, the outside temperature was about 90 degrees, and it had just finished raining, so humidity was at a million percent. It was hot, sticky, crowded, noisy, the lady behind me was jabbing my ribs with her shopping basket, and there was a man in the corner that kept looking at me funny.

::singing in my head:: ♫ You and I just use a little patience. ♫

In looking at the lady working the register, you can see her counting the minutes in her head until closing time. She was being berated by customers, sometimes verbally, almost always visually. I stepped up to pay for my items, Axl Rose’s whistling still playing in my head.

I said hello and I wished her a good day. Startled, she looked up from her register as if in shock anyone would offer her a gesture of kindness. I smiled at her and she smiled back, I think more out of instinct than out of genuine reciprocation. We completed the transaction and I thanked her for her help. She looked at me and thanked me with her eyes. It was only a split second, but I can see it was a moment of relief she was able to experience before diving once again head first into the hornet’s nest.

::whispering:: Be the church.

Now I know this post smacks of humble-brag, but what I want to share is this: goodness begets goodness. In this particular case, patience begat kindness. For me, it became apparent all my prayers for patience were not for my benefit but rather for the benefit of others. All my hours in the proverbial furnace were not so I could appreciate the splendor of the refinement. They were so the woman at the register could have a tiny moment of joy in an otherwise joyless situation.

God does not work on us for our sake alone. God works on us for the betterment of His kingdom. And the thought of being an instrument for His glory is music to my ears.

 

In His Timing

In His Timing

I believe in God winks.

You know, those little moments that are serendipitously cool and bring us just a little closer to the Lord. After all, coincidence is simply God showing off.

So after having blogged last night for the first time forever, Lee and I were reviewing the post and talking about our experience here in the D.R. so far. I was at the end of Page 8 of my post, reflecting on the words I wrote.

(W)e need to raise young men with the understanding that women are priceless and not property. They are to be cherished and protected, not sold and enslaved. That is a generational change. That is kingdom building here on earth. And that is why Lee and I are committed to being here for decades.

I had Spotify playing in the background and Wasteland by NEEDTOBREATHE came on.

Now, I know the lyrics don’t exactly apply to how I am feeling about my new life experience in the Dominican Republic, but the chorus sure does.

Oh if God is on my side
Oh if God is on my side
Oh if God is on my side
Who can be against me?

I firmly believe the timing of the music was God’s way of reminding me to keep on marching, to keep on pressing even through the difficulties and distractions. It was His way of winking at me and saying, “I’ve got you.”

God wink indeed.

Our Life in the Dominican Republic (So Far)

Our Life in the Dominican Republic (So Far)

When the year started, I really wanted to post something on my blog every day. I built good momentum until about the April timeframe when I was involved in a car accident. Then, I had a week-long site visit to our children’s home in the D.R. and the lack of reliable Internet threw me off track.

Lee and I have been in the D.R. now for forty-five days and this is my first blog post. The thing with blogging is that you need both time AND motivation to sit down, organize your thoughts, type them out, edit them, and make sure they formatted correctly for your respective blogging platform. Suffice it to say time and motivation with regards to writing has been scarce.

So, as I sit in my apartment, I am feeling motivated to take some time and capture my thoughts for my blog. I will say there is a LOT to capture, so in the interest of avoiding a TL/DR post, I’ve broken this submission into various, bite-sized pages. This way it’s not an overwhelming read, and you can easily come back to it later if you so choose.

With that, I thank everyone for the continued prayers and support, and – of course – for taking your time to share in this writing experience with me. I hope you enjoy.


Click here for Page 1 of our story so far.

Connected

Connected

I am not sure why we experience surreal moments, and I’ve often wondered why we have feelings that leave us questioning the validity of an experience.

I was sitting tonight conversing with my wife’s cousin’s husband Frank as my wife Lee and her two cousins Kathy and Marcia were catching up on old times and working on a craft project. Frank is a terrific and engaging man. A twenty-four year Army veteran and now retired school teacher, Frank’s stories are always intriguing and oftentimes spellbinding. Frank now volunteers at an equine therapy ranch where kids with disabilities, both physical and emotional, receive therapeutic treatment via their interactions with horses.

As Frank was telling me about the work he was doing at the ranch, he segued into a conversation about working with at-risk youth. Specifically, he told me about a young man in his class some thirteen years ago that stood out because of his bad and bullying behavior. Frank explained how through a classroom exercise he had determined this particular boy needed help. He was not in a normal state of mind. A social worker that was with Frank framed it more specifically. “He’s a sociopath,” said the social worker. And shortly after that, this boy dropped out of school.

Frank did not hear about this boy again until he saw news reports about a murder committed during the burglary of a jewelry store in New York. The suspect was not apprehended on Long Island and had slipped into Connecticut where he ended up killing two more people in another jewelry store burglary. The victims this time were a husband and wife.

My heart skipped a beat.

“Wait. When did you say this was,” I asked?

Frank confirmed the timetable for me.

“What was this boy’s name again?”

Franks confirmed that for me, too.

Chris DiMeo had been his student. Now he was a felon convicted of the 2005 murders of Tim and Kim Donnelly. Tim and Kim’s son Eric is the guitarist for The Alternate Routes, a rock band out of Connecticut and one of whom I’ve been a fan for several years.

In 2016, Eric wrote a touching and heartfelt song about the events surrouding the death of his parents. Lee and I have seen The Alternate Routes perform live since then, and I spoke briefly to Eric about the impact of his music. I wish I had delivered something of eloquance in our quick conversation, but I think all I could muster as I wiped a tear from my eye was, “Dude, that song is incredible and amazing. Thank you for sharing it with us.” As always, Eric was humble and gracious and so very appreciative for the feedback.

As I sat here tonight talking to Frank and I realized his former student is the man who took so much away from Eric and his family, I became dizzy in the surrealness of the moment.

And I wish I could wrap this post up in a wise and witty bow that brings this whole conversation full-circle, but I am at a loss for words. My heart aches anew for the pain Eric and his family experienced. My heart aches for Frank and his knowledge that one of his students went on to become a monster. My heart aches for the next person who will receive a life-changing phone call (see video below).

I don’t have an answer to the questions rattling in my head except, perhaps, to say we must keep on fighting the darkness with light and attacking evil with love. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me right now.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12 NASB

A Gentle Nudge

I have two friends on my mind tonight.

The first is my friend Rick. He is also a writer and keeps a blog about his experiences during his faith journey with Jesus. His blog is called Discovering and Sharing Grace, and its focus is on gentle witnessing.

When I met Rick several years ago, his words and his writings gave me a new perspective on what it meant to evangelize the gospel of Christ. They also made it obvious to me that in-your-face Bible thumping is not the solution. Rather, a gentle approach in which you share what God has done in your life and give to Him all the glory for His continued blessing; this is how we kingdom build here on earth.

I was thinking of Rick as I was conversing with another friend of mine, someone whom I’ve known for over three decades. I was surprised to learn this friend is not a believer, and as we had a conversation about faith and religion and salvation, I could hear Rick’s voice whisper in my ear. “Be gentle. Stay gentle.”

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. – 1 Peter 3:15

I am very passionate about salvation, but eternity and the afterlife is not something (IMHO) that should be discussed passionately. Rather, I invited my friend to allow God to surprise him. I asked him to put aside for a moment his very analytical and scientific brain and just let Scripture speak to him. It was a good conversation, but it was also nuanced and delicate.

Still through it all, my focus was to be supportive and inviting. At the end of the day, I don’t save souls. Only God can do that. Still, I can be obedient to the need to share the gospel and invite non-believers into a relationship with Christ.

Overall I think it went well, and my friend will be in my prayers going forward. I ask you to keep him in your prayers as well.

Wild Goodbyes

Wild Goodbyes

Although our final Sunday at Relevant Church will be on July 1 (the day we expect to fly out to the Dominican Republic), Lee and I hosted a get-together today for our church family. We wanted to have some time to be able to meet with people and basically say goodbye given we won’t be in town the next three Sundays. We had a good turn out and were even surprised by some of our music family members stopping by to say hello (and goodbye).

Over the last fourteen years of blogging, one constant has been the blessing that is our music and church family. Lee and I have grown so much and experienced so much as a result of the love and support we’ve received from both groups. In many ways, we would not be where we are today – on the cusp of picking up our lives and relocating to Samaná- if not for those individuals who opened doors along the way. The dominoes that fell in order to make this chapter in our lives a reality are the individuals with whom we took in concerts, went on vacation, and worshiped together on Sunday morning.

Lee and I are so very thankful to those who came out to share this time with us, and I honestly do not have the words to properly express how much it is you mean to us. With heartfelt sincerity, thank you!

BWW