Once You Go Black

Once You Go Black

I love movies. I specifically love Marvel movies and seeing what the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has become. As a writer, I geek out at the breadth and scope of the MCU, as well as the challenges that come with trying to maintain continuity from movie to movie. The MCU started with the first Iron Man movie in 2008, and I can only assume the writers involved did not foresee the explosive success Marvel would have in cinema over the next ten years.

I also did not read many comic books as a kid. For me, the MCU ties back to warm memories of my childhood (given I would watch Spidey and Friends on Saturday mornings) but also allows me to discover these characters and storylines through the eyes of an adult.

Watching Black Panther tonight, I left the theater with an enthusiastic sense of “well done.” Without regurgitating much of what’s already been written about the movie, I have to applaud the creative team of the film for producing an entertaining story that is also timely and poignant. I think there is truth in the critical feedback of this movie as being groundbreaking, and I will borrow from my friend Enaye, an educator and African-American woman when she says:

“Seeing a major mainstream movie with a predominately black cast that was not the stereotypical story of slavery and/or struggle for freedom, or Tyler Perry style comedy (no offense to Perry) was refreshing. Seeing fierce black women warriors with depth of character and not hyper-sexualized was amazing!” 

I really can’t state it better than she did, and I, too, noticed how the women in the movie were not garbed in gratuitous, tight outfits which I feel are a misogynistic throwback to a male target audience. With Black Panther, there was none of that, a fact that should be applauded in and of itself.

Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright in Black Panther (top). Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow (bottom).

I am glad Black Panther is breaking records at the box office. I am thrilled to think of a young generation of African-American kids growing up with characters like NakiaOkoyeShuri, and T’Challa as their role-models. And I am glad to see a movie that challenges the status quo as well as the still-antiquated perception we see in our country towards people of color. To quote the title character, “In times of trouble, the wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers.”


P.S. For a great spiritual take on the movie, please see Greg Morse’s article about the movie on the Desiring God site.

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Closing the Gap

Closing the Gap

Due to a slight, little mishap that caused a shovel to go through my fiber cable from my ISP, I had no Internet last week. As a result, keeping up with my blog was cumbersome, to say the least. I am glad, however, that I’ve been able to catch up with my posts. In case you missed them, here is a listing.

(Ga)rag-er That

(Ga)rag-er That

The alarm went off at 5:00 AM.

ON A SATURDAY!!!!

Instead of lazily sleeping in on this first day of the weekend, Lee and I trudged our way out of bed to begin setting up items for our garage sale. We worked in the driveway in darkness and fog. It was a scene right out of a classic, noir movie.

Are you sure you want to sell the wheelbarrow?

The thing with Florida fog is that it’s basically a big blanket of wet. By 6:30, the pages on the paperbacks were drenched, the electronics were dripping, and we were running out of paper towels.

But in the end, the sun broke through and we had a good turn out. I wish I could say we sold everything (hardly), but a lot of what we didn’t sell went straight to the Salvation Army. We have some items we’ll attempt to sell online, but today was a success in that we took a big chunk out of the ‘stuff‘ mountain that’s been in our garage.

And now … time to catch up on some sleep.

Real Talk

Real Talk

In this process that is transitioning to full-time mission work, things got a lot more real today.

It started this afternoon when Lee and I met with our realtor. Referred by my new boss, our realtor Jeff was very nice and we found him to be confident and personable. After we showed him around the house, we sat down to discuss the details of the house, what additional work needs to be done in order to list it, what the right price point is for the house (given various factors), and the expectations Lee and I should have in terms of timelines and processes.

The experience was informative and eye-opening. On some aspects, Lee and I were right on with what we thought the answer would be, and Jeff’s concurrence was reassuring. On other points, however, Lee and I were way off. So it was a bit of a learning experience, and one we can step through with confidence knowing Jeff has our best interests in mind.

A couple of hours later, we fielded a call from my aforementioned new boss and we discussed the missionary agreement the non-profit put together for us, as well as a possible option for living accommodations in the Dominican Republic. It was a constructive and informative conversation, and one that has brought us one step closer to the reality of becoming full-time missionaries.

After it was all said and done, I took a moment to process it all. Selling the house, moving out, finding an interim solution until we can move to Samaná, and figuring out all the logistics and timelines of actually getting to the D.R. For the first time since we thought about making the move into mission work with Advocates of Love, I felt the weight of this new reality bear down on me. For the first time, I had to take a deep breath and deliberately remind myself to trust God.

It’s not hard to trust God. It’s hard to remember to trust God. And for now, that is what I must do: remember to trust in Him. I know this is a process, and I know I cannot determine all the answers myself. Instead, I will pray for continued patience and wisdom, and I will lean on the words of Proverbs 16:9.


In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.

– Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)


Steak N My Heart

Steak N My Heart

Lee and I met on February 15, 2005. Since then, we’ve never gone out to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Instead, she and I celebrate what we affectionately refer to as our Valenversary. It’s great because we’ve never had a problem securing a reservation for the day after Valentine’s.

This year, we wanted to do something completely different. Lee and I love steak, and we wanted to try a steakhouse neither one of us had been to previously. At the recommendation of friends, we tried Rococo Steak in St. Petersburg. It was, simply put, amazing. My steak was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had, and Lee’s was even better.

The service at the restaurant was impeccable and the overall ambiance was comfortable (albeit different). Still, if you’re looking for great steak in the Tampa Bay area, Rococo is a can’t miss.

Image from TampaBay.com

As for our anniversary, it’s been an amazing thirteen years. Thirteen years ago, I was aflutter in chaos and personal darkness. I was perhaps as far away from God as I’d ever been in my life. Yet in that darkness, God found me and blessed me with a shimmer of light and introduced me to the woman I would go on to marry.

We were both burdened with a sense of broken. We were both meandering through life, aware of who God is, but not in any particular hurry to get back to Him. I firmly believe God used Lee to steer me back to His gracious protection and vice versa.

Thirteen years ago tonight I was greeted on a blind date with an amazing smile and a surprisingly firm handshake. Looking back, I am so lucky and blessed Lee firmly grabbed my heart and decided to never let go because she has saved me in so many ways.

Deep Dive

Deep Dive

Although I am technically unemployed, every day is a busy day. There is always something to do. Something that needs to get done. There are always items that need to be boxed, other items that need to be listed on eBay, and just tons of crap that needs to make its way to the trash.

But this morning, as I was going through my YouVersion reading plan, I felt compelled to do a little more with my Bible reading.

With YouVersion, I use the New Living Translation and have the app narrate to me as I read along. It helps me better retain the content (mostly because I don’t trip up over the pronunciation of Biblical names, etc.), and also, because I’ve been using this method for such a long time now, the narrator’s voice is comforting and familiar. My physical Bible, which is a note-taking Bible, is in the New American Standard translation. I use NASB because that is what was used at my Bible college.

In YouVersion, there are notes that show references to other parts of Scripture, and as I was reading through Galatians, it was impressive to see how many times the Apostle Paul referenced the Old Testament in his epistle. So I felt compelled to just go through each chapter of Galatians and use the digital notes from YouVersion’s NLT to create hand-written notes in my NASB Bible.

What resulted was a deep dive into the book of Galatians (six chapters) that took several hours to complete. It was interesting and eye-opening, and I was able to read the Word from a completely new perspective. It was such a positive experience I am thinking about doing the same for all of Paul’s epistles (there are thirteen).

With so much to do in preparing to sell the house and move, it’s true I could have used the time this morning for other tasks. However, there’s no disputing there’s no other task that would have been quite as valuable.


Spontaneous

Spontaneous

Lee came home from work and I could see she was tired. Tired from a busy day dealing with contracts and proposals. Tired from the eighty-minute commute that was a result of just crappy traffic. Tired of yet another day of same ‘ol, same ‘ol.

Ever the non-master chef that I am, I suggested we go out for dinner.

Our first choice was a dud. Although there were clearly four empty tables in the outside seating area, we were told it would be a fifteen-minute wait to be seated. I wasn’t about to try and understand the hostess’s math regarding that situation, so we left and reverted to our standard fallback option of TGI Fridays.

I know Fridays is not glamorous or romantic, but it was a very crisp day and we wanted to sit outside. The great part of it was there was no one else sitting outside once we arrived. We had the entire patio area to ourselves. This meant quiet. It also meant we could just enjoy each other’s company.

I don’t know why, but it felt like forever since Lee and I just sat and talked. No phones, no kids, no distractions; just good, solid conversation. I felt like when we were dating, when everything about Lee kept me fascinated and intrigued.

And that’s the thing, we get so caught up in the routine and day-to-day of our marriages, it’s so easy to forget those tiny things that were so important. For us it was always about enjoying each other’s company, and some of the best memories I have from our dating days are those nights we’d stay up until the early hours of the morning just talking.

Tonight was a spark for sure. A spark I know we need to propel us through our next adventure in the D.R. And I look forward to continued spontaneous moments with the woman who is not only my wife but also my companion in all I do. She’s my best friend with whom I can talk about anything.