Being There

These last several weeks have had me reassessing the relationships in my life. My wife’s surgery left her physically limited for a period of time, but it brought us closer together as a result. My kids spending an entire week with me full time as their mother was out of town allowed me to appreciate anew the young adults they’ve become, and how much I cherish my time with them. Throw in the Thanksgiving holiday, and it’s been, for the most part, a re-evaluation of the priority people in my life.

I received from a dear friend a copy of the notes she took at church leadership meeting, and many of them have hit home in terms of this season in which I find myself. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Life is not measured by collection but connection.
  • Fullness only comes from connected relationships.
  • No matter how much potential my device has, if it goes dead, it’s worthless.
  • A church can be full of people, but without chargers, the church is dead.
  • We don’t have to be perfect. We aren’t the charge.
  • God only wants to know if you’d be willing to be a cord, to connect people.
  • God uses us broken folks to connect those needing His power.
  • What a blessing to be able to connect with someone from our own vulnerable places. He isn’t looking for us to be the solution, just the connection.

I know I am far from perfect, and my life is a continuous journey in search of daily betterment. In looking back on the road I’ve traveled, I clearly see the mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve leaned along the way. More importantly, I see they are not without value and opportunity. My mess ups serve as an example and reminder to others that through God’s grace, we can overcome the weight in our lives, a weight that oftentimes seems insurmountable.

God uses us broken folks to connect those needing His power.

I was at dinner recently with my cousin and her husband. They were in town visiting, and we had the chance to sit together and get caught up on life. As we started going back to stories from our respective pasts, we realized there was so much about each other we didn’t know. We were connecting new dots in the fabric of our relationship, and helping each other as a result. My pains and anguishes from the past help put into perspective some struggles they were facing, and vice versa. We were there for each other, connected in God’s presence, learning from His plan for all of us.

It was no accident that happened. I’ve always maintained that coincidence is God showing off, and God wanted us to come together in that moment to connect, to be a resource to one another in terms of how we overcome the challenges in our lives. The answer, of course, is His love and mercy. Still, we need to be reminded of that. We need to be able to rediscover that truth in our lives, and we do it by connecting with others; by being there for those we love and allowing them to be there for us in return.

What a blessing to be able to connect with someone from our own vulnerable places. He isn’t looking for us to be the solution, just the connection.

Your challenges, your experiences, your struggles; they not only make you stronger, they allow for the opportunity of someone else to make it through their tough time. Don’t be too proud to share with someone else the crap you’ve been through. After all, when going through a storm, no one wants to hear about someone else’s perfect beach vacation. They want to be reminded the tempest is temporary. They want to feel connected to something real. They need to be recharged to life and His word. Don’t be afraid to be that connection for them.

Storm

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)

Feet on the Ground

There are so many things that come to mind when I think about the word Mission. I think of an elite group of soldiers making their way through a South American jungle, en route to a specific location. I think of wordy statements corporations place on their websites, most of which go ignored by the companies’ employees. I think of a style of architecture popular in the Southwest.

…and yes, I think of Ethan Hunt precariously dangling from a cable in a sound and temperature sensitive computer room.

You've got the theme song stuck in your head now, don't you?
You’ve got the theme song stuck in your head now, don’t you?

But for the purpose of this particular post, my mission is to set you on a mission to help us take part in a mission trip.

In January, my wife and I will be joining other members of our church family in the Dominican Republic as part of a faith mission trip through Relevant Church. We’ve always wanted to be a part of a mission team, helping others in need, and Kingdom building here on Earth. Now we have a chance to do it, to be ‘feet on the ground’, and the part of something so much greater than we could offer as individuals.

But we need your help to get there.

We have a very modest goal of $2000. This will provide for the both of us to take part in the mission trip, and also covers our travel to the Dominican Republic and accommodations while we’re there.

If you’re interested in sponsoring us, Lee and I have set up a GoFundMe fundraising page at www.gofundme.com/gileeDR. Please note all donations made through our GFM page go directly to Relevant Church (we don’t hold any funds). If you prefer, you can donate directly through Relevant Church at bit.ly/Relevant_DR. And if you consider yourself old school, you can send a check, made payable to Relevant Church, to 1704 N. 16th St. Tampa, FL 33605. (Please be sure to include a note stating the donation is for Gil and Lee).

If you’re in a position where you can’t support us financially, you can still help us out by keeping us in your prayers. Additionally, you can share this post with your friends, as well as online via Facebook, Twitter, etc. Lee and I are blessed to have such a wonderful network of family, friends, and peers, and even if a small percentage of that network donated just $5 each, we’d easily reach our goal.

We want to thank you in advance for your time, generosity, and prayers. We hope we can be a reflection of your love and inspiration to those most in need in the Dominican Republic.

DR Mission Trip
Please help us reach our goal so we can be a part of something great for His Kingdom and His glory.

Roadmapping Passion

We had our church small group today, and the focus of tonight’s group was matching our personalities with our passions. Who knew that asking, “What are you passionate about?” could so easily stump a room of adults?

When it comes down to it, it’s quite difficult to pin point what is your passion. Much of the conversation centered on situational experiences. It’s easy to be passionate in the moment, but in general, what drives you?

Personally, I have some work to do in order to determine and understand what drive me. I ask myself for what causes am I willing to donate time or money. For what issues am I willing to take a stand to the point of being arrested or mocked by others? Outside of my kids, is there anything about which I am truly passionate?

I am probably going to spend the rest of the night reflecting on that question and praying for wisdom and guidance as I look to answer it. Whatever the answer may be, I hope it is found in the arena of doing service to others.

Be Passionate

 

“There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions in a way that server the world and you.”

– Sir Richard Branson

204/365 Audacious Expectations

Today we had a meeting at church in preparation for our upcoming growth group semester. Lee and I are so excited we’ll be covering Steven Furtick’s Sun Stand Still in our group. The book is about having audacious faith in God. Here’s a description of the book from the author.

This book is not a Snuggie. The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien. I’m not writing to calm or coddle you. With God’s help, I intend to incite a riot in your mind. Trip your breakers and turn out the lights in your favorite hiding places of insecurity and fear. Then flip the switch back on so that God’s truth can illuminate the divine destiny that may have been lying dormant inside you for years. In short, I’m out to activate your audacious faith. To inspire you to ask God for the impossible. And in the process, to reconnect you with your God-sized purpose and potential.

193/365 Good Fortune

Tonight we got together for dinner with the members of our growth group from this past Spring. It was great to see all those loving and familiar faces, and it felt like more than just a couple of months since our group concluded in early May. I feel like I’ve been in a personal funk since the group wrapped up, like when you do well on a diet and then let yourself go all over again. Being with the group was a reminder of how I can always do better with my life, both in small and big ways.

In addition to the wonderful food – we always have such wonderful food at our groups – the fellowship that was shared, as well as the loving spirit that filled the room, was just the kind of positive uplift I needed in my life at this time.We also took the time to discuss and plan for the next semester of growth group. I was thrilled to see we all were in agreement to use the same model we followed last semester, with Renee and Mark hosting and Lee and myself leading the group. I think we even settled on which topic we want to cover in our next group.

Getting back to the food, someone had brought, as their contribution to the pot-luck dinner, some fried rice and fortune cookies. I am a big fan of fortune cookies, and I opened mine with giddy anticipation. The message?

Getting together with old friends brings new adventures.

As I’ve said before, coincidence is just God showing off.

Freaking Out

Random Writers – Write about what life has taught you recently.

It was Spring 2009. I remember sitting in a mandatory meeting for my son’s First Communion, and all I could think about was how I so desperately did not want to be there. That though process was the first domino that lead me to walking away from my religious upbringing. My son’s First Communion would be one of the last Catholic masses I would attend.

It’s not that I had a crisis of faith. On the contrary. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt that God has been with me. Jesus has always been a part of my life. But right up until that moment, it was always a formal relationship I held with my God.

What I experienced was a crisis of church.

I was engaged to a woman raised Southern Baptist. She, too, had a very strong connection with God. Like me, she was yearning for a new way to celebrate her faith. We were both looking for a way to celebrate together.

I never shied away from stating publicly I believe in God. Yet through my Catholic upbringing, I never considered myself the evangelical type either. I was bothered by self-professes ‘Jesus Freaks’, and I cringed whenever I heard someone say something to the effect of, “You have to let Jesus show you the way.”

Whatever, dude.

My relationship with God had always been reverential. Much like the relationship I still maintain with my mom, it’s always been about honor and respect. Parental.

In the summer of 2009, and at the suggestion of a friend who had been facing a similar crisis of church, my wife and I began at attending a new and different place of worship. Christian, non-denominational, and situated in Ybor City in Tampa, Relevant Church was the answer to our prayers.

I remember having a conversation with a good friend of mine and how in her studies they’d discussed how Christianity needed to get back to basics. How the church needed to simplify. Relevant, with their purpose of “impacting the emerging culture with the reality of Christ”, did exactly that. They simplified the way we worship and celebrate God’s kingdom. From the moment we walked into the building and experienced our first service, Lee and I knew this was the place where we’d be able to celebrate our faith together.

As time passed and our involvement in the church increased, we found ourselves leading a growth group, which is a weekly meeting in which we discuss a chapter of the book we’re reading for that semester. We also pray together, share our stories of growth and faith, and experience true fellowship. Think of it as Bible study meets book club.

After several weeks, I’ve found a new strength in my relationship with God. My eyes have been opened to new perspectives, and I’ve been introduced with new and exciting ways to better my life and live it in way that honors God. I’ve also learned to let go of the formality with which I burdened myself in how I viewed God.

I’ve always been proud of the relationship I had with my dad. Lots of hugs. Lots of kisses. Lots of “I love you’s.” What I am realizing now is that I can have that relationship with God, too. That it’s okay to think of God as an open-armed dad, smiling and happy to see me, wanting the best for me, and watching over me in what I do. He wants me to be happy. He wants me to succeed. He wants me to know that by placing my faith in Him, there is nothing I cannot accomplish.

So here I am, three years removed from my crisis of church. I find myself closer to being the Jesus freak I mocked than to being the guy sitting in that meeting just wishing for it to be over. I’ve learned that in life, our roads our varied, but our destination is ultimately the same. Betterment, fulfillment, joy, and community. Living a good life and being a good person.

My recent life lesson is that when you open your heart to God, He helps you find that which you’ve been wanting most.

060/365(6?) Leap of Joy

When I first started keeping this daily blog, I was reminded by a friend of mine that we’re in a leap year and my posts should be xxx/366 instead of 365.

So here we are on Leap Day and I am still referring to a 365 day year. Perhaps I should have gone back and corrected the numbering on all my earlier posts.

Especially after a night like tonight in which Lee and I kicked off a new growth group through church. We will be covering the 4:8 Principle, which is a study of the Bible verse Phillipians 4:8, and is centered around finding joy in all that we do.

After all, who couldn’t use an extra day of joy in their lives?

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