Project Gratitude – My Army

Project Gratitude – My Army

Prayer is a powerful thing, and I am a firm believer in prayer. Today I am thankful for this avenue God gave us that provides direct communication with Him.

In the book of Genesis is the story of Enoch, a man who walked, “faithfully with God.” I believe prayer, in conjunction with other instruments of faith such as fasting and devotion, allow us to experience this same ‘walk’ with God.

Prayer

And although we should pray always, praising His name and in a spirit of thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6), prayer tends to be most common in a time of need.

Much has been said about the negative effects of social media in society, and several aspects of this criticism are valid. I instead want to focus on the positive value of social media, primarily, the ability to rally prayer warriors.

I love the passage in the Book of Ephesians that describes the Armor of God. I think of it as a way to prepare daily against the weapons the enemy uses to distract us from God.

armor

So today, when I went to Facebook and asked for the support of my tribe of prayer warriors, each armed with the knowledge of Christ who lives in their hearts, they responded in full force.

My request was for Lee’s Aunt Mary who recently suffered a stroke. At almost seventy-four years old, the ability to overcome a stroke is made more challenging. Still, nothing is impossible with God.

When over fifty individuals raise their intentions to the Lord, I believe He honors that collective faithfulness. And what a blessing it is to see the response from friends and family as the pray for Aunt Mary. Not only is it tangible, it’s also inspiring and uplifting.

Today I am thankful for Facebook. I am also thankful for the amazing community of family and friends that support me in all I do. It’s a beautiful blessing.

I ask you keep Mary in your prayers. May God’s healing spirit guide her to a full recovery.

Project Gratitude – Online and In Heart

Project Gratitude – Online and In Heart

Today I am grateful for online courses. When I first began pursuing a degree in Christian Ministry at Trinity College of Florida, my first class was online. I hated it. Online learning was foreign to me, and I felt I could get so much more out of being in a classroom environment. It’s funny how things change as time passes.

Although there is something to be said about engagement with professors and other students in the classroom, I now love taking my classes online. Over the last eighteen months I’ve learned to adapt to the pace and self-discipline of online education. Plus, I don’t miss the hour commute to the Trinity campus.

Most importantly, however, I remember the bummer that was being in class this time last year and missing out on the College Football Playoff National Championship game. It was normal for me to bring a laptop to class in order to take notes, but I remember deliberately sitting in the back of class so I could discretely stream the game on my computer.

No such concerns this year. With all my classes now online, I no longer have to worry about such petty conflicts. Biblical Ethics or Bama vs. Clemson? Yeah, it was nice not having to deal with that this year.

But as wonderful as it was being able to enjoy the game in the comfort of my own home, the surprise I received later made it truly remarkable.

My son’s parkour classes are every evening from 7-9 PM, and every day we – my kids, my ex, and I – hash out the logistics for that day. The initial game plan was for me to drop Daniel off at class and have my daughter Natalie pick him up. When my son texted us stating he was going to skip class this evening, it released Natalie and me from the aforementioned pick up and drop off duties.

What I didn’t know was that Natalie, whose been accepted to the University of Alabama and had a keen interest in watching the game, would come over to watch the game with me. It was great to share that experience with her. I love that she has a genuine interest in learning the game, and it was so rewarding being able to be a resource for her in that way. It was a spontaneous and different and something I know I will cherish for years to come.

Bama

Today I am thankful my son bailed on his parkour class. I am also thankful for the loving and sentimental nature of my daughter, and her thoughtfulness with regards to making an average evening so incredibly memorable. We still don’t know where she will attend, but I am thankful she has a variety of options from which to choose. It’s truly a blessing.

Project Gratitude – Coaches, Cuts, and Cuisine

Project Gratitude – Coaches, Cuts, and Cuisine

Today was as enriching as it was long.

Normally. Lee and I like to not pack our weekends with too much to do. That usually makes for a bad Monday. But after having arrived home from our friends’ holiday party at 1:30 in the morning, the alarm was set for 7:00 AM so we could start our day.

First we were off to a 9:15 service at Idlewild Baptist Church. This is not our normal church, but they had a guest speaker today that I just couldn’t miss seeing. Growing up in Miami, Coach Bobby Bowden was someone I loved to hate. His Seminoles teams were always a thorn in the side of my beloved Hurricanes, but now I have nothing but admiration and respect for Coach Bowden. To borrow from Idlewild’s page recapping the event:

Coach Bowden told us about his life growing up in Alabama, his childhood, growing up in the church, playing college sports, meeting his wife Anne, and the start of his coaching career. Most importantly, Coach Bowden told us about his faith in Jesus Christ, and reiterated to us that the most important thing he ever did for his players is to share the gospel with them, and introduce them to Jesus.

Bowden

I am grateful for the opportunity to have heard Coach Bowden speak and for his affirming message. Much of what he discussed was a truth I already felt in my heart, but hearing his words helped me connect the dots and understand these feelings in a new, more clear manner.

From there Lee and I attended service at our church. Following the service, we had a team build in preparation for our mission trips later this month. We’re sending two team over two weeks to build beds in the Dominican Republic. This is a continuation of the work we kicked off last June, and today’s activity was a step through of the cutting and assembling we’ll be doing on mission. I am thankful for this wonderful team and for our friend Amanda who is the driving force behind the effort to deliver bunk beds to one hundred fifty families in the village of Quisqueya in the D.R..

Amanda

Finally, Lee and I wrapped up the day with dinner at the home of our friends George and Enaye. We’ve known them since we started attending church at Relevant in 2009, and we’ve been blessed to share so many experiences with them over the years.

About four years ago, George and Enaye adopted siblings from Ethiopia. They stepped out in faith and grew their family by traveling across the planet to bring blessings to a young boy and girl in need of a home. Tonight they invited us for traditional Ethiopian cuisine in celebration of Ethiopian Christmas, and the food was amazing. So rich in flavor, spices, and culture, it was great being able to take part in such a different experience. I am so thankful for the wonderful relationship we share with George and Enaye, and for the joy that is their three children Caleb, Meseret, and Binyam.

Food

Project Gratitude – Getting Ugly

Project Gratitude – Getting Ugly

In the summer of 2006, at a music event in South Carolina, Lee and I were introduced to what we now affectionately refer to as our music family. I literally do not know where we would be without the impact this tribe of music-loving lunatics has made in our lives.

Because of our music family, we taken part in amazing floating music festivals, developed deep, inner-circle friendships, traveled to places we most likely never would have on our own, and I’ve even jumped out of a plane.

jump

In fact, it was one of our music family members that introduced us to our church, an event that has truly transformed our lives.

Tonight was no exception. Our friends Jen and Joe hosted their annual Ugly Christmas Sweater party, and since we took part in last year’s shindig, there was no way we could miss this one.

Jen has quite the talent for not only hosting parties, but also making sure they’re entertaining with ice-breakers, games, and – apparently – a well defined, almost Germanesque sense of schedule. But in all seriousness, it was a great time. And it’s not about the prizes for ugliest sweater or the dirty Santa gift exchange. It’s about being with people whose company we genuinely enjoy and about whom we genuinely care.

There’s something unique about the bond we share with our fellow music fanatics. It’s a bond that has been strengthened over the last eleven years by shared memories, meaningful lyrics, loads of laughter, and the occasional circumstance that has left us all in mourning. There’s the saying, “Friends are family you get to pick,” and our music family is exactly that.

Heart

Today I am eternally grateful for this group of souls that occupy such a huge spot in my heart, and in particular for Jen and Joe and yet another amazing experience I now get to treasure forever.

ugly

Project Gratitude – Prime Time

Project Gratitude – Prime Time

Today I am thankful for video streaming services. Although I will admit Netflix is the most popular service in my household – primarily because of the original programming and all their Marvel related TV shows – from time to time Lee and I will jump over to Amazon to see what they’ve got to offer.

We love, love, love our Amazon Prime membership. We use it not only to order gifts, etc., but also for lots of everyday, household items. The free, 2-day shipping more than pays for the annual cost of the service, and since we have an Amazon fulfillment center just outside of Tampa, there are certain items we can have delivered the same day. Still, we often forget Amazon Prime Video is included as part of the membership.

prime

Normally we’ll look for new releases of movies we missed in the theater. This time, however, we went off the board and picked something different.

And when I say different, I mean really different.

The movie was The Lobster starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz. It’s about … how can I explain it?

I’ll just copy the synopsis from the IMDB page.

In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.

Let’s just say writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos was toking on some pretty awesome weed when he put together this screenplay. There really is no other way to explain it.

lobster

Although it was utterly bizarre, Lee and I shared some really good laughs, and at the end of the day, that’s what’s most important. Today I am thankful for these happy, little accidents that I get to experience with my wife. I know they’re a huge part of what makes us us.

Project Gratitude – Behind the Scenes

Project Gratitude – Behind the Scenes

Last year, my wife Lee and I were designated (also read as ‘volunteered’) to be the Mission Team coordinators for our church. Part of the reason is because I participated in three mission trips since January of 2015 and Lee participated in four. Also, Lee and I plan to transition to full-time mission work in the next several years, so managing the logistics and financials for our church’s mission work is good on-the-job training.

OJT

I wish I could say the preparation and planning is a true team effort, but that would not be fair to Lee. She’s the brains AND mental brawn that makes everything come together.

Lee has been the person working with our point of contact at SCORE, International making sure contracts are signed, medical release forms are submitted, etc. She was also the person coordinating with the facility director in the Dominican Republic regarding the supplies we’ll need on site for the project work. Lee has established a process for coordinating with our church’s finance director to ensure everything gets paid. Lee even took the time and booked every flight for every individual taking part in the trips.

Lee's happy plays is managing chaos.
Lee’s happy plays is managing chaos.

As an added wrinkle, we’re sending supplies down to the D.R. in advance of our trip. Lee figured out the process for working with a freight forwarder, establishing our church as a designated shipper with that company, and making sure everything was in order for pickup by the shipping company. As a result, our table saws and work benches are now on their way to Santo Domingo.

Although we still have some final details to complete, it’s no exaggeration to say these trips would not be happening if not for the diligence and hard work of my wife. My role in all of this has been supporting at best, and although I know there are a ton of little things that happened today for which I am grateful, I have to reserve today’s post for the gratitude I have for my wife. She is my friend, my partner, my confidant, my guide, and so much more.

I have this line I like to use when describing my wife. I am nothing without her and everything because of her. I thank God for the blessing it is to be married to such a wonderful woman.

glee

Project Gratitude – Spot On

Project Gratitude – Spot On

At the core of Gil 2.0 – the post-divorce, get life back on track Gil that emerged in 2006 – is music. Specifically, live music. There is something uniquely special about being at a concert, especially if you share that experience with those you love.

But when I can’t be in the audience, I love to put on a good song and let it take me to a particular place and time in my life. This evening, as I was driving home from dropping my son off at his Parkour class, I had a craving for nostalgia. I opened my Spotify app, looked up U2, and listened to the song ‘One‘ as I drove home. It was an escape.

Music on demand is amazing technology, and today I am grateful for my Spotify (and other music listening apps I frequent). To be able to think of a song you want to listen to and then easily listen to it is quite awesome.

Spotify

I am also thankful for the time I got to spend with Daniel before his class. We normally don’t spend much time together throughout the week, so being able to hang out with him and take him on in a game of FIFA on the PlayStation was a lot of fun. He played as Argentina and I played as Mexico. The games ended in a 2-2 draw.

FIFA 16

Once I got home, Lee and I lounged as we caught up on some of the TV shows on our DVR (I think we all should be thankful every day for DVR’s!). And even though the magic of the DVR is that you can skip through the commercials, there is this one commercial for Hulu with a very catchy song, and I had been trying for some time to figure out what song is used in the ad. I paused the commercial, grabbed my phone, and launched the ‘Sound Search’ app by Google. Turns out the tune is ‘Dust My Shoulders Off’ by Jane Zhang. Today I am grateful for the technology that bring such simple joy to my life, and for what is, perhaps, my new favorite song.