*bleep* that *bleep*

Coward is a strong word. I don’t like that word. I don’t like the negativity it conveys. That being said, I have no problem considering myself as cautiously predisposed.

Although I like roller-coasters, I wouldn’t call myself a thrill seeker. I’ve ‘jumped‘ out of an airplane and it was the most thrilling experience of my life. One that I am sure I will never, ever do again. I stand at the GoPro dislay at Best Buy and I am mesmerized by the videos of people skiing and kayaking and mountain biking and jumping things that if they were to mess up even in the slightest would mean almost certain thanks. I watch those videos knowing that will never be me.

And then there’s the really crazy stuff, like this video of French freediver Guillaume Nery. To say this is crazy is an understatement. To say this is incredible cool despite the insanity is spot on. I don’t know what drives people to do things like this, and deep down inside I don’t want to know. What I do know is that I can’t stop staring in awe when I see feats of human accomplishment and endurance like this one. It makes my tailbone tingle and simply blows my mind.

Being Brave With Yourself

We had a guest pastor at our church today. Scott Harris from Brooklake Church in Federal Way, Washington (just outside of Seattle) spoke and gave an inspiring sermon on courage. He started by mentioning the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware. The book is based on Ms. Ware’s years of work with terminal patients. Through her time with them, she’d ask them about any regrets they had in their life. The most common regret she found was, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Scott focused on that point and how so many of us live a life not true to ourselves, our dreams, or our convictions. He spoke on how the social norm is to be someone else in an effort to appease others. The message was simple: Lead Yourself Courageously. It’s time to stop living in fear and instead begin working our way through fear. He mentioned how, “the path to your greatest potential is straight through your greatest fear.”

Personally, Scott’s message struck a chord in my heart. It took me back to what I was feeling at the Ransomed Heart retreat last summer, and how I knew I needed to overcome my fears if I wanted to be great. It was a feeling I all to easily moved away from, settling back into what is comfortable and easy. I haven’t been living a life true to myself (not entirely at least), and I haven’t been moving in a direction driven by passion or purpose. I have a list of writing projects I want to complete, and that list hasn’t had anything crossed off it in a couple of years now. I have an ambition to step away from my 9-5 norm and into something significantly more rewarding, yet all I’ve done is proverbially window shop instead of going into the store. And for me, it’s not so much a fear of failing, but rather the fear of not knowing how to get there.

Scott used the story of David and Goliath as an example of how in stepping into courage, and placing our faith in God, that which seems impossible can be accomplished. David was not afraid not only because he knew he was capable, but also because he had complete faith in God. “The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” – 1 Samuel 17:37. It’s no surprise then the command, “Fear Not” is the most frequent command in all of scripture. This further supports the idea that  fear is the one common denominator we all share.

I strive every day to move towards that level of faith David displayed in slaying Goliath. It’s not an overnight thing, however. You don’t just wake up one morning feeling like David, confident in your ability to overcome incredible odds. Having unwavering faith requires a relationship with God. It’s a process in which we grow toward him, every day letting a little more of our earthly ideals go, and surrendering more and more to His grace and holiness. It’s an experience that takes us through the hard times so that we can celebrate the good times. It’s a movement in which we fall and fail, only to be forgiven and redeemed. It’s something with which I oftentimes struggle, but only because I fail to be courageous while succumbing to silly fears.

Scott went on to elaborate the following:

  1. Courage is established in an environment of uncertainty and fear
  2. Leadership is establish through courage, not talent or calling
  3. Courage is calculated, not careless

I believe these points to be true. I also believe it can be summarized in this way: Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the doing despite of it. As you look at the year ahead, what’s the one fear you’re going to walk into head on? What is the dream inside your heart into which you’re going to lean? How will you display your courage and be brave?

Risk With A Purpose (W@HBC Day 3)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 17

This weekend has been filled with inspirational stories of men. Warriors, athletes, leaders, innovators. As I took in the stories of these great and inspirational men, I wondered to myself where and how I fit in that mix, if I do at all.

In 2004 I took up writing as a hobby. Actually, I took it up because it was a more healthful alternative to the drinking I was doing to deal with the pain in my life at the time. My marriage in shambles and my father recently deceased, it was very easy to find comfort at the bottom of a bottle or eight of beer. So writing became my outlet, and I’ve been fortunate to see it turn into something very positive and constructive in my life. I’ve taken on several writing projects since then. I self-published two short novels, had my writing featured in both my local newspaper and a compilation book, and I have nearly 600 blog posts following my timid and awkwardly horrible first post. Yet through it all, I’ve found myself afraid to take the next step forward with my writing.

This afternoon’s session was about risk-taking. We discussed the difference between risk for no reason and risk for good. In summary, it was the difference between immature thrill seeking and laying it on the line for the greater good. I really don’t know where I fall on that spectrum except to say that as I grow older, my propensity to play it safe increases.

As to where I fall in the mix of inspirational and heroic men, I found the answer not in the chaos of a war field or in the roar of a capacity-filled stadium. I found it not in the applause of an auditorium nor in the quorum of a corporate board room. Rather, I found my answer in the serenity of sitting on a porch, pen in hand, as I overlooked the majesty of the mountains. As nature kissed my ears with the melodic rustling of aspen tree leaves, I came to the realization some of the most important, heroic, inspirational, and valiant people in the history of the world were writers. Four in particular came to mind: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

I am not saying I fancy myself the author of the next Gospel. Rather, as I rediscovered and reaffirmed yesterday, I am a writer. I need to renounce my fears and timidity. I need to step out of my comfort zone. I need to take a risk.

I need to put myself out there as a writer, sharing my stories and experiences, because I believe that is where God is directing me to go.

The Writer

Who Am I? (W@HBC Day 2)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 16

Another struggle discussed this weekend is the struggle men face with identity. Oftentimes men allow their inhibitions, fears, and past failures to define who they are. In reflecting on this item, the following is a list of truths about myself. Consider this my personal Vision Statement.

  • I am Gil Gonzalez
  • I am a child of God
  • I am His humble servant
  • I am a follower of God’s beloved son Jesus Christ, my Lord and savior
  • I am a redeemed man, a sinner once broken and ashamed, now rebuilt through God’s amazing grace
  • I am the father of two young adults whom I firmly believe will greatly contribute to global betterment in all they do
  • I am a husband to an amazing woman, whose heart is as great as the ocean
  • I am a son to a loving and generous mother
  • I am the living memory of a hard working and devoted father
  • I am a man, still evolving, still learning, and still growing
  • I am a journeyman walking in faith with Jesus in my heart and with the Holy Spirit lighting the path ahead of me
  • I am a fighter, at constant battle with an enemy that is relentless, deceiving, and hell-bent on distracting my soul
  • I am a vessel for God’s message, proclaiming His word via all that I do, all that I say, and all that I believe
  • I am a writer, called to use my gifts to help create betterment in the lives of others

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” -Matthew 7:7-8

Alone With God (W@HBC Day 2)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 16

I felt safe. Hidden away from where anyone could see me. My legs crossed, my back resting against a plank of wood that makes up one of the walls of the play house in which I sat. Wood and sheet metal haphazardly thrown together to give the feel of a lone outpost on the frontier of the wild west. It was my refuge for my exercise in solitude, for my display of discipline in silence.

Just me alone with my thoughts, a pen an paper in my hands to help capture some of the better ones. And I was eight years old again. Free to dream big and to long for adventure. I’d stare at the daunting mountain and I’d puff out my chest. “I’m not afraid of you,” I’d tell it. “There’s nothing I can’t do.”

But even I did not believe those words. The world of adventure and excitement and discovery lay just outside the walls of my fort, but as along as I was inside the fort, I was safe. Safety equates to comfort. Comfort equates to complacency, and complacency is the sin in which I’ve been indulging for some time now.

He (Adam) replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” – Genesis 3:10 (NLT)

I don’t believe God wants me to be complaisant. I don’t believe God wants me to sit back and just watch from the sidelines. Through my experiences, God has deconstructed my notions of church, faith, and religion. In rebuilding me, He has reset my understanding of what it means to believe in Him.

He crafted me, much in the same way a wood worker crafts a model boat, putting together the scraps of my former self into something new and useful. Then, he gently placed me on the waters of His will and gave me a nudge.

I can look back now and see how far I’ve come. I can also look ahead and see how much further I’ve yet to go. I do not know the destination, and to a large extent the destination does not matter. What does matter is that I know I am not afraid. What is important is the relationship I keep with God as I progress through my journey.

God never waivers. He will not fail me. I, however, will undoubtedly fail Him. I will lose sight of my direction. Distraction, routine, boredom; all these things will drive me to give credence to the enemy’s whispers and suggestions.

There is an eternity of truth in the old saying “To err is human, to forgive divine.” I am human. I will fail. I will trip up along the way, but I will not stay down. I know that with every step I take, God is there with me. God see’s into my heart, and He will always lift me back up. God wants me to succeed. He wants me to experience joy. He is my biggest fan.

God is also the truth. He is the one constant on which we all can rely. If I hope to be the father I want to be, if I expect to be the husband I want to be, and if I plan to be the son to my mother I desperately long to be, then I need to begin by placing my faith in God and letting His truth and His will lead me.

“The worst thing that can happen to you is for the counterfeit to work.” –Craig McConnel/RHM

Fort Gil

A Sudden Realization (W@HBC Day 1)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 15

It’s the first day of my men’s retreats in Fraser, Colorado, and John Eldredge himself is hosting the first session. There was a little fan-girl squeal inside of me as he walked to the front of the presentation room. There stood a man that was a key domino in not only making my relationship with my wife Lee survive, but also in helping me return to God. Without getting into specifics, I can say I would not be at this retreat is not for the encouragement of my wife.

In John’s session, he tasked us with an exercise. “Name your favorite movie and explain why.” The ‘what’ part was very easy for me. I enjoy doing top-of-mind awareness exercises in my head, and for some time now, the answer to the question of “favorite movie” has been Field of Dreams.

Before I continue, it’s important to note I came to this retreat because I felt compelled by God to attend. I can’t explain the ‘why’ except to say it’s as if God invited me to a surprise party and I have to wait to see what the surprise is. I know God is calling me in a new direction, away from the corporate monotony in which I find myself. But as to where He’s leading me, I have no clue.

I began to answer the second part of the exercise question. ‘Why’. Why is Field of Dreams my favorite movie? I always used to think it was because I shared a connection through that movie with my dad. I love it because of the ending, where the main character Ray meets a younger version of his father and Ray asks him if he wants to have a catch. It’s because of that scene I was unable to watch the film for some time after my father passed away (8 years to be exact). The emotion of that scene is powerful, and just thinking about it make my eyes swell.

I put pen to paper and began to answer the question. “Because of Ray’s confidence in the voice he hears. He has faith and he has courage. Courage to risk everything, to give up everything for what he feels he is called to do. ”

I looked up from my notepad and then back down again. Did I just write that? Where did that answer come from? What the …. ? I’d never looked at Field of Dreams that way before. I’ve seen the movie a thousand times and it has never spoken to me in that way until today. Until I was prompted by John Eldredge to answer the question ‘Why?’. Until I was prompted by God to answer the question, “Why are you here at this retreat?”.

I call moments like these Godsmack moments, and this one was very clear to me. God’s surprise party is about me finding the courage to follow His calling for me. To stop ignoring that little voice that is telling me to go forward and to be great.

In Field of Dreams, the voice Ray keeps hearing says, “If you build it, he will come.” What I keep hearing God whisper in my ear is, “I have built you, now go on.” I just need to find my courage and strength to obey.

“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” -Psalm 119:32 (NIV)

093/365 More Brave Than I

I didn’t start riding roller-coasters until I was a legal adult. There’s no way around it. I was a full-on _____ when it came to those rides.

So as much as I love roller-coasters now, you can begin to imagine how proud I am of my 10 year old son for summoning up his little-man courage and taking on what had been one of his greatest fears.

We spent the first day of his spring break vacation at Busch Gardens, and he made the decision he was going to ride The Scorpion roller-coaster. This was the first non-kid roller coaster he’d ride that had a loop. (I guess you can say Space Mountain is a roller-coaster, but no loops on that ride).

I could hear his heart pounding as we stood in line, and we tried to keep him distracted with silly conversation while we waited. Still, when we sat down and the safety bar locked over our respective thighs, you could see the look of raw fear on his face. You could almost hear him scream inside hi head, “I want to get off!”

But he hung in there.  The ride finished and he let out a clumsy half-laugh, half-sigh of sheer relief. It was over. He had conquered not only the ride, but also that fear of the unknown that had been a grown-up roller-coaster.

Given the fact I can remember as a 10 year-old myself watching my brother ride that same coaster and feeling my legs get weak at the idea of riding it, I was so very proud of Daniel and his accomplishment. Not that it’s a difficult thing to do, but I can say my son is more brave as a 10 year-old than I ever was. And as a dad, that’s a pretty awesome feeling.

 

The day got even better as Daniel worked up the nerve to ride Busch Gardens’ newest coaster Cheetah Hunt. I have to admit, it’s a GREAT ride and lots of fun. Danny loved it so much he wanted to go again, but technical difficulties with the ride prevented us from doing so. I’m just glad we know which ride we’ll be hitting up first the next time we go to Busch Gardens.