Counting My Blessings

Counting My Blessings

God is a good and faithful God. Even when we’re experiencing tough times, we continue to praise His name and glorify Him.

I was sitting at a red light last night when I was rear ended by a drunk driver. It appears I was propelled into the intersection where I was hit by a second vehicle. Thankfully, I have no recollection of the accident (#blessing). I came to with a man in my passenger seat instructing me to stay calm because I’d been in an accident (#blessing).

The first responders on the scene (#blessing) used the jaws of life to pry open my door and remove me from the vehicle. Ryan and Cody helped keep me calm as the took my vitals, loaded me on their rig, and transported me to Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, which is less than a mile from the crash site (#blessing).

I was brought into the ER, my head and neck stabilized as a needed precaution. Another first responder found my phone on the scene and brought it to me (#blessing). I was able to then notify people of what had happened.

It's but a flesh wound.

My wife Lee arrived and coordinated with my ex-wife Alex who was already in the waiting area of the ER (#blessing). Lee and I are staying in a hotel in Tampa this week with our puppy Max. Not knowing how long the evening was going to be, Lee brought Max with her to the hospital and Alex took him home for the evening so Lee could focus on me (#blessing).

I was treated by the amazing team at FHWC (#blessing). Kate (my PA), Sharon from radiology, Aaron and Justin (my nurses), and everyone else with whom I interacted were exceptional.

My injuries are minor (#blessing). Small laceration to my forehead, burns and scrapes on my left side due to airbags, and a deep bruise to my right Achilles tendon. I also sustained a mild concussion.

Upon being discharged at 3AM with my foot in a splint and my scrapes bandaged, Lee drove me to our hotel where we both promptly fell asleep.

We spent most of today on the phone with our auto insurance company (#blessing), scheduling appointments with various doctors (#blessing), speaking to our attorney (#blessing), and keeping our family and friends abreast of the situation (#blessing x2).

The book of Job teaches us the story of a man who, “was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.” (Job 1:1 NLT) Yet he was made to suffer loss and personal anguish. And through it all, he remained faithful to God and did not curse His name. “So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning.”
(Job 42:12 NLT)

I am not a blameless man like Job, but I am the Lord’s servant. I could have easily died last night, or suffered devastating injury, or be in an ICU tied up to all kinds of machines working to keep me alive. Instead, I hobbled out of the ER with crutches and a dull headache (#blessing).

God was with me last night, as He is always. He placed His hedge of protection around me last night (#blessing), as He is want to do to those who worship Him. I am not deserving of His grace, yet He provides it anyway (#blessing). I praise His name for His is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, now and forever.

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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)


Mental Shuffle

Mental Shuffle

Yesterday I wrote about things I am going to miss once Lee and I move to the Dominican Republic. Tonight’s post is kinda’ the opposite, but not entirely.

To say my music family has changed my life is a dramatic understatement. When you follow the dominoes that have fallen, it’s very clear Lee and I would not be preparing for this move into full-time mission work if not for our music family. We ended up at Relevant Church as a result of being invited by our friend whom we met through our music family. Our introduction to Advocates of Love came as a result of my best friend whom – again – I met through our music family. Being introduced to that community of friends back in 2006 has been life-changing.

Part of this music family experience had been The Rock Boat, a floating music festival that is the best vacation you’ll barely remember. Lee and I have had the pleasure of taking part of seven TRB’s, and each one has been uniquely special. From our first in 2007 to our last in 2015 (we missed a couple of years here and there), thinking back on TRB memories makes my heart smile.

I say “last” one because we sailed on TRB XV a day after returning from our first ever mission trip in January 2015. Even though we had a good time, there was something off about that boat. For Lee and me, it was not the go-for-broke party atmosphere we’d enjoyed on previous cruises. Rather, there was an almost somber undercurrent, a whisper from God telling us TRB XV was our last hurrah.

He was preparing us for our next steps.

So here I am, on the sail away day for TRB XVIII, seeing the Facebook posts from literally hundreds of my friends who set sail for five excellent days of music, sun, fun, and killer hangovers. And it’s interesting how The Boat is no longer a priority in my life. Instead, I am filling my days with process steps I need to complete in order to move to a foreign country and serve God with the work my wife and I do.

Just like with old computers when you’d run a defrag command in order to re-order the hard drive, God performs a spiritual defrag in us according to His will. Things we once thought were important are moved out of the way in order to make more room for Him.

Would I like to be on a music cruise with my friends right now? Of course! Is it where I need to be right now? Not even close. Where I need to be is here, prepping my house so I can sell it, reaching out to other ministry organizations seeking partnership opportunities, and praying everything for which we’re hoping comes to fruition.

So instead of pining away about a ship that has already set sail (literally), I’ll close out with a nostalgic look back at what used to be. Enjoy.

Things I’ll Miss (Part 1)

Things I’ll Miss (Part 1)

As Lee and I prepare to take our next steps into full-time mission work, we’ve had several conversations about what it means to give up everything and act out of obedience to God’s calling. Many of those talks have been deep, tear-producing moments that have helped us grow in our faith. Others have been more tongue-in-cheek banter about some of the conveniences we’re going to miss. This is one of those moments.

If you stop and think about it, the list of things we’ll be leaving behind is really quite long. In all seriousness, that’s part of the obedience process. However – and as an example – today was a busy day with errands involving a visit to the veterinarian and an oil change for the car. As is typical behavior for Lee and me, I decided to pick something up for lunch on the way home (as opposed to fixing lunch once I got there).

In a pinch, we like ordering from Little Greek that is in the shopping center across the street from our housing development. The food is always amazing, the service is fast, and it’s an affordable meal. Lee, who was working from home, placed the order, and I picked it up as I completed my errands.

As we sat and devoured our food, the thought came to me. “We’re not going to have this in the D.R.” It was a somber and melancholy thought, one that quickly led to another conversation about things we’re going to miss once we move. So in the spirit of list-making, I am moving the gyros from Little Greek to number 2 on my list of foods I will miss most, second to the deli subs from Publix. Seriously, I may cry if I think about going a year or years without Publix subs.

But in the end (and in all seriousness), missing out on these items and conveniences is so worth it.

Point of No Return

Point of No Return

Today was a busy day.

Last night, Lee’s sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and his fiancé made the drive from Dothan, Alabama, to our house. They wanted to be here early in the morning so we could get started on packing up Patsy’s belongings into a truck and then make the six-hour drive back to ‘Bama. We spent the morning moving boxes, loading furniture, and getting creative with how best to fill the sixteen-foot Penske truck. My hat’s off to Lee’s nephew Hunter who Tetris’d the inside of that vehicle and made it all fit.

We said our goodbye’s at noon and off they went.

After a brief rest, Lee and I went out for a bite. As we sat at the restaurant exhausted, and while recapping the managed chaos that was the morning, the reality of the situation seemed to hit us both at the same time.

“I can’t believe we got it all to fit.”

“Mostly all of it.”

“True, but at least all the essentials are in the truck.”

*pregnant pause as we looked each other in the eyes*

“There’s no turning back now.”

“Nope!”

And there it was, like a ton of bricks on our table. We knew for a month this day would come. We’d been discussing Patsy’s move for several years. Yet it felt almost surreal to be in the conscious understanding of the situation and having a, “Wow! This really happened,” moment.

As I mentioned yesterday, having my mother-in-law live with us was actually quite great. And although we were sad she was gone, the more pressing feeling at that moment was how we’d passed a proverbial point of no return. It was a tangible feeling of commitment to our call to move into full-time mission work.

Whether or not the opportunity in the Dominican Republic works out (we are very confident it will), the fact remains there’s no deviating from our plan to sell the house. Our next step is in ministry, and our next step does not involve our current home.

Oh snap!

 

Yes, it can be a bit intimidating. If you let it, the anxiety can be overwhelming. But Lee and I have been operating from a place of obedience since we prayerfully decided to heed God’s call and go. And acting out of obedience means placing our full faith in God.

Coincidentally, we came across an ad for MyIntent.org, a site from which you can order bracelets and other items with your special, intentional word. For me, that word is Surrender. For Lee, her word is Brave. I think both words perfectly summarize our situation. We have the courage to move into the unknown because we surrender our fears to God.

Why would we ever want to turn back from that?


So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT

Voice and Light

Voice and Light

I was watching the Golden Globes tonight (tuned in about an hour into the show) and noticed many of the men and some of the women had on their formal wear a pin saying, “Time’s Up.”

Upon looking into the meaning of the pins, I learned many of the celebrities arriving at the awards show wore black as a statement of solidarity with victims of sexual misconduct.

I can’t begin to understand what a victim of sexual misconduct feels with regards to dealing with a traumatic memory of unwanted advances and opportunities foregone as a result of saying no to a predator. Yet I can assume the current climate of greater openness and increased dialogue of the subject matter is one that is a welcomed by those who’ve lived so long in silence.

It takes a certain amount of courage to come out and stand up against a predator, especially one who has the weight and power of a Harvey Weinstein or other lofty executive. We fear to stand alone in our pain, being looked on and judged, wondering if the risk of speaking out will result in the reward of justice. To see so many artists come together in solidarity is heartwarming and much needed. These conversations that begin in Hollywood will hopefully traverse the walls of boardrooms, private offices, and even personal bedrooms across the country.

My pastor today preached about drawing courage by worshiping God. “Worship is being God-conscious and not self-conscious,” he said. When we’re right in our worship of and alignment with God, we can stand confidently in what we say and do. This means defending and advocating for those who are not in a position to help themselves.


Give justice to the poor and the orphan;
uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.

Psalm 82:3


There is a lot of darkness in the world, and it is our job as believers – as followers of Christ – to shine a light into every corner of our planet. Silence equals darkness, and we should not be afraid to speak up for those who cannot. We should also be willing to stand next to those who use their voice against any form of oppression and victimization. We are the defenders of His truth and the carriers of His light. Let’s make sure His light shines on.

 


For more information about #TimesUp, visit timesupnow.com

One Step At A Time

One Step At A Time

The first marathon commemorated the run of the soldier Pheidippides who, according to legend, ran approximately 25 miles from a battlefield near the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians in 490 B.C.

I used to run. I used to love running. I hope to pick up running once again. However, getting into a routine of running takes discipline. Building up the necessary endurance to run a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, etc. requires discipline and a plan. For many, it also requires a support structure.

As an example, for me to get back into shape for running a 5K will require an aerobic base building routine that includes a run/walk plan. An acceptable first week of training is 20 to 30 minutes total of jogging/running/walking three times a week. By contrast, ultra-marathoners (those who run 100-mile events), have insane training regiments. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to be an ultra-marathoner (or regular marathoner for that matter). It takes time, it takes commitment, and it takes patience.

The same is true for being a Christ follower.

I admire those who’ve devoted a lifetime to serving God and sharing His glory with others. For me, the standard-bearer is John Piper. His site, Desiring God, is a fountain of learning and inspiration. I began my faith journey anew in the summer of 2009, and it’s such a blessing to be able to look back on the last eight and half years and recognize how much I’ve grown. I also look forward knowing I have a lifetime of growth yet to come.

I’ve also had conversations with others who are kicking the tires of faith or new to being in a relationship with Christ. I’ve been told they look at me as a model of what it means to be a Christian, and as flattering and humbling as that is, I remind them of how I still have a long way to go. Yet, I appreciate the comment, and I once again make the analogy to running. I am somewhere in the 5K to 10K stage of my spiritual activity, yet my eyes are set on the ultra-marathoning John Piper’s of the world, hoping I can one day come close to reaching those levels. By contrast, others find themselves on the couch, trepidatious about lacing up their Jesus shoes and starting a walk with Him.

What this all comes down to is that as we enter the season of resolutions and newfound resolve, I pray you give yourself the requisite patience and time to grow in your relationship with Christ. If you’re new to the faith, please know being a Christ follower is not easy. Accepting Jesus into your heart does not mean your life instantly becomes care-free. Instead, it means you can walk with confidence knowing God will provide.

The activation of the Holy Spirit within you is instant, but it will take years of spiritual and scriptural training to see the transformative change He provides. This means making reading the Word part of your plan. This means making service to others part of your plan. This means re-evaluating the priorities in your life. It’s a process – a sometimes grueling process – but one that yields rewards on both sides of eternity.

“He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 NLT


PostScript: I realized after having written this post I wrote basically the same post back in April of 2016. I try not to regurgitate material, and I apologize for the oversight.