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.

Friendly Friday – Kendall Lyons

Have you ever had a tough time explaining how you met someone? “Hey, how did you guys meet?” You stumble across um’s and awkward pauses until you figure out the best way to explain a peculiar story. That’s pretty much the case with my friend Kendall.

I had the great fortune of traveling to Colorado last summer to attend the Wild at Heart Boot Camp hosted by John Eldridge and his Ransomed Heart Ministries team. It was a great men’s retreat the opened my eyes to all types of new directions in my faith walk with Jesus, and allowed me to realize the warrior that lives in me, fighting everyday here on earth for the kingdom of God. It was four days of reflection, introspection, and fellowship with the hundreds of other men at the retreat.

In those moments of fellowship, we’d congregate around the fire, introducing ourselves and sharing life stories. I traveled to the retreat with my friend Jeff, and I told him I’d meet him down at the fire once I grabbed some stuff from our dormitory area. Upon my arrival, he peppered me with questions.

“Hey. Do you know this guy named cartoon daily?”

“Cartoon daily? His first name is cartoon?”

“No. That’s his Twitter handle. Cartoondaily ….. something.”

“What? What are you talking about.”

“I met this guy and he happened to mention he’s a blogger. I told him I was here with a buddy of mine who also is a blogger. I mentioned you’re danaCreative, and he said he knows you.”

“Wait. What? He said he knows me?”

“Yeah. Says he follows you on Twitter … or something like that.” (my friend Jeff was not very keen on the details that evening)

So after the sketchy conversation and upon returning home, I did some research and found @CartoonDaily1, better known as Kendall Lyons.

The Internet is a great tool. So much so that it allowed two complete strangers, both with a penchant for writing and a mutual love for Jesus Christ, to come together in a really unexplainable way. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Kendall in person, but we’ve interacted quite a bit since the retreat, and I am a fan of his work.

Kendall is a youth minister and a writer – he just released his book “22 Life Lessons for Personal Growth” – and a dedicated man of God. In addition, Kendall is a talented artist and self-proclaimed cartoon fanatic. I look forward to growing in this friendship with Kendall, and I smile knowing there is another warrior out there working hard to kingdom build here on earth.

You can find Kendall via his blog at KendallLyons.com. Please take a moment to check out Kendall’s animated mini-bio for Draw My Life. It’s excellent.

Happy Friday!

075/365 Sticky Art

My awesome daughter Natalie, in addition to being a rising soccer talent, a straight-A student, a respectful young woman, and, most importantly, a giving and selfless human being, is also pretty darn talented when it comes to art. Here’s a little something she put together with some wall-stick clay (aka smurf snot).

Pretty cool.


Sticky Art

012/365 nadaCreative

When I first put together my site for danaCreative,  I wrote how I came up with the name for our brand.

The dana aspect of our brand is an homage to Gil’s children and is a play on their names.  Many would question why Natalie, who is older than her brother Daniel, is not listed first.  The reason for this apparent slight is had she been listed first, the brand would be nadaCreative and then we’d simply be left with nothing.

Today, I signed up for Pinterest, and spent a couple of hours perusing the site and having my mind blown*. For those of you unfamiliar with the site, Pinterest lets you organize and share beautiful and inspiring things you find on the web. The items are ‘pinned’ to a pinboard, and you can browse pinboards created by other people. This browsing is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.

In seeing the sheer volume of creativity and vision that other people have, it left me feeling very un-creative. Very nadaCreative. Still, I hope this new found drug site fosters new creativity inside of me to finish some work-in-progress projects at home and tackle some new ones.

Give Pinterest a try when you have some time. And ignore what others may tell you. It’s NOT a site just for women!






*Click here to have your mind blown.


Forgiveness. Vengeance. Pain. Suffering. Closure. Healing. Finality.

As I contemplate this week’s topic for Random Writers – What is one thing you felt strongly about but changed your mind? – these are the words that are rattling around in my brain.

I grew up a Reagan Republic in a very conservative, Hispanic, Catholic household in Miami. That meant there wasn’t a lot of room for shades of grey regarding most topics of discussion. Specific to the death penalty and capital punishment, the answer was clear cut; You willingly and deliberately kill someone and you deserve to die. There were no “if’s.” There were no “but’s.” There was simply an emphatic “Que lo maten” imperative from my parents coupled with equally emphatic hand gestures. (If there’s one thing about angry or emotional Hispanic conversation, it always comes with hand movements).

I never disagreed with that position. The message from the New Testament notwithstanding, I took the side of the Old Testament when it came to capital punishment. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. A life for a life. I was an unwavering supporter of the death penalty, understanding of the argument which states it’s better to set 100 guilty men free than to put one innocent man to death, but not overly concerned about that scenario.

Flash forward to 2008 when I was summoned to perform jury duty. It was a re-sentencing trial for a convicted murderer. The conviction was not in dispute. Rather, our job was to hear the evidence and make a recommendation of life in prison or the death penalty. It was an experience I will never forget, and one that made me reconsider my position on the death penalty. It’s so easy to think, “Fry the bastard” when you’re removed from the incident in question. However, when immersed in the details of case in which another person’s life rests literally on your judgment, a world of perspective is usually found in that moment.

Flash forward to today. The trial of the man accused of manslaughter in the death of my wife’s cousin begins. Five years to the day of her tragic passing, my in-laws are hoping for resolution, closure, and justice for their beloved Dee. It’s been a roller-coaster of delays and continuances, and we’re all praying the jury deliver a verdict of guilty.

Yet those prayers are to God, and Jesus taught us to forgive those who wrong us and pray for our enemies.

This is where my conflict lies.

Although the death penalty is not part of the discussion in the trial of the man accused of negligence in Dee’s death, it does, for me, raise the question of how can a parent not want anything but death for the person who is responsible for the death of his or her child?

My mind immediately goes to the scene from the movie “A Time to Kill” where Samuel L. Jackson’s character ambushes the men who savagely raped his daughter and kills them. I get that anger. I understand that rage.  I almost applaud it, because for me, parenting is a zero sum game. You invest your heart, your soul, your every ounce of being into your kids. And to have all of that taken away by someone else? How can you not go down the path of vengeance and want to kill that person?

I know I’m not answering this week’s topic question. I also know I’m avoiding it because I don’t particular like the answer as it applies to me.

Do I see the world of grey that exists in the discussion of the death penalty? Yes, I do. Am I a 100% proponent or opponent of capital punishment? No, I’m not. I better understand now that each circumstance is unique and must be reviewed in accordance to the specifics of that case (e.g. I’m all for putting to death a serial killer like Ted Bundy, but I felt a world of reservation regarding the recent execution of Troy Davis).

The only thing I am sure of, however, is that if – God forbid – someone ever took the life of one of my kids, I would consume myself in finding a way to kill that person with my own two hands.

Learning to Let It Go

“Que pena.” Being from Miami, it’s a phrase I grew up with a lot. It translates to “what shame” or “how shameful”, and it’s the keystone to cultural behemoth that is Hispanic Catholic guilt.

I grew up in an environment in which many things were done not so much out of genuine desire, but rather out of the need to not look bad. Family politics, neighborhood hierarchy, school/church perceptions; they all helped steer the actions – and reactions – of my family circle.

As I think about this week’s topic for Random Writers – What is the greatest discovery you have ever made? – I see how it’s so easy to get caught up in appearances, and how the focus on façade is not unique to any one region, religion, or demographic. Rather, I think it’s part of our innate human desire to avoid the feelings that come with embarrassment or shame. Just like we don’t deliberately seek out activities that will cause us physical pain – “Hey, let me put this marshmallow that’s on fire in my mouth!” – we also look to avoid those circumstances which feel us leaving humiliated.

What I’ve learned over the years is there’s a great sense of liberation that comes from letting go of shame, and it ties into what I wrote about dealing with people who don’t believe in you. In my opinion, if you’re not an important aspect of my life, then I don’t really care what your opinion of me is. Therefore, if you think what I am wearing is tacky or doesn’t match, then that’s your problem to deal with. You think I’m making a fool of myself in public, well then I’m sorry you feel that way. You don’t like how I spend my time and money, then just be happy it’s not your time or your money.

Don’t get me wrong. Etiquette, decorum, and basic classiness are important elements of our society. You don’t want to be cutting jokes and making a ruckus at a memorial service. And even if you’re the type to 100% not care what other people think, there are definite consequences for employing that philosophy. Still, there is a sense of freedom and personal satisfaction in doing something the way YOU want to do it and not because your mom or your teacher or your significant other wants you to do it that way.

The weight of other people’s perceptions and expectations can be suffocating. So, too, can lack of forgiveness. Something else I’ve discovered on this often random but never purposeless journey we call life is that as important as it is to let go of shame, it’s equally important to let go of hurt. You think the idea of being okay with making a fool of yourself in public is hard, try forgiving someone who’s hurt you? It can sometimes feel downright impossible.

To me, forgiveness is like a bolt cutter. This specific bolt cutter, however, requires two cuts in order to work properly. We use this tool to release ourselves from the wrongs we’ve committed, which are attached to us at the ankle like a dead weight. We use it again to let go of the times we’ve been wronged, which are shackled to us at the other ankle.  This weight pulls us under and drowns us. We can’t cut just one and be released from what is dragging us down. Instead, learning to accept the forgiveness of others is the first cut. We learn through example, and we must then take the bolt cutters and forgive those who have hurt us. Only then can we rise to the surface and truly take in a deep breath of fresh air.

I like to think I’ve learned a lot in my lifetime so far, and every day brings a new discovery. Yet, learning to live life according to my own expectations has allowed me to better enjoy life. More importantly, learning to forgive has allowed me to better grow as a person. I think Zac Brown said it best; “You keep your heart above your head and your eyes wide open / So this world can’t find a way to leave you cold / And know you’re not the only ship out on the ocean / Save your strength for things you can change / Forgive the one you can’t / You gotta let ‘em go.”