CTRL+Z

CTRL+Z

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

If you could redo one moment in your life, what would it be and why?
How would it change who you are now?


I’m a technology geek. It’s partly a result of working in IT for the last twenty-two years. If you’re not familiar with the keyboard command that is the title of this post, CTRL+Z is how you ‘undo’ a command on most computer applications.

Copied and pasted text into the wrong section of your term paper? CTRL+Z. Deleted the wrong graphic from the presentation that’s due in ninety minutes? CTRL+Z. Realized you applied the wrong formula to your financial spreadsheet? Well, CTRL+Z won’t help you there, but whiskey will.

ctrlz

But in all seriousness, today’s prompt is asking what moment in my life I’d most like to CTRL+Z. I wrote last week that I do not believe in the concept of no regrets. Regrets are healthful experiences that, when you step back and look at the fabric of life, allow us to progress as a civilization. I know that’s a weighty statement, but it’s one I find to be true.

There is nothing wrong with making a mistake so long as we learn from it, and in my life I have made many mistakes and I have lots of regrets. Not every mistake has lead to a Disney-esque lesson learned, and not every regret has been life-altering in the direction of betterment. Still, when I look at the road map of decisions that have brought me to where I am today, I see some glaring moments at which I could’ve been better, as well as some ‘what if’ bubbles that rob me of sleep from time to time.

To deliberately sound cliché, I wouldn’t change any of it.

I am experiencing my current life because of God’s divine grace, and because of the decisions, both good and bad, I made over the years. The pattern being; when I was prayerful and surrendered my burdens to Christ, I was blessed with good decision making. In those times I stepped away from God and tried to do life on my own terms, the bonehead moments were plentiful.

Yet our human nature, one that is sinful and proud, which by extension makes us innately greedy for comfort and ease, enjoys harping on those times in our past that slowly eat away at us. It’s the enemy whispering in our ear, “if only” or “what if.” We can’t undo the past, but God can undo our sins. In fact, He already has through His son Jesus Christ. All we have to do is ask Him to forgive us.

So as easy as it would be to say I wish I could undo that time in my life when I had an affair that cost me my first marriage, I use that experience in order to be a better husband in my current marriage. When I think about how I wish I would have been less hard on my kids, I allow myself to feel pride at how wonderful and respectful my children, now young adults, are. That homeless person I ignored on the street out of some meritless sense of fear? I let it serve as a reminder that fear is not from God and that I should be a badass like Jesus was.

If we could undo those moments that make us feel pain and regret, how could we possibly grow as human beings? And if we had no pain and regret, how could we appreciate the beauty that is the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We put too much focus on the CTRL+Z when we should be putting all our effort into the CTRL+S.


nablopomo

Persevering Through Him and For Him

Persevering Through Him and For Him

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

Which one of the Beatitudes is most meaningful to you and why? 


In the spirit of full disclosure, this is not the prompt for November 7 for #NaBloPoMo16. Today’s prompt (What was your worst Thanksgiving food fail?) was a bit on the yawn side, so my wife Lee and I decided to go with our own prompt for our blog posts.

Lee and I started on our respective faith walks together back in 2009. One week after getting married, we began attending Relevant Church in Tampa. Relevant has been our home ever since, and I cannot properly express how much each of us have grown over the last seven years.

Walking in faith and with Christ has transformed our lives. It’s changed the way we give, the way we vacation, and it’s most definitely changed the way we plan for the future (Lee and I hope to transition to full-time mission work in the next three to four years). As someone whose been blogging since 2004, my faith has also changed the way I write.

So it was no surprise when Lee suggested we write about the Beatitudes. Writing in a non-secular arena has become second nature to both of us, and it allows us to explore our relationship with Christ from a different perspective. It’s one thing to share your faith story with someone verbally. After all, we all speak in rough draft. But when you’re writing, you have the ability to edit, research, ponder, and – when you’re really stuck – delete.

delete-button

I love writing about my faith, and I see it as a part of my current vocation. I view it as an opportunity to use the gift God has given me as a writer to bring glory to Him and to bring others closer to Christ. I can only pray that someone who is seeking His love and mercy may stumble across my blog and use it as a vehicle to grow closer to God.

But written ministry is not always about ‘Likes’ and positive feedback in the comments section. There is an inherent risk of not applying sound theology in my work. There is a risk of alienating someone because my understanding and belief in Scripture contradicts their personal worldview. From a broader perspective, there is always a risk in sharing Christ with others because there are so many questions people may have, so many arguments skeptics may make, and so many allusions cynics may cast. In layman’s terms, it ain’t always easy.

It’s not supposed to be easy.

We are called to press forward in faith. We are called not only to step, but to leap out of our comfort zones for the benefits of others. We’re called to go out on a limb for Christ because he suffered and died on a limb for us.

Dealing with people who for whatever reasons reject God and belief and religion can, at best, be awkward and clumsy. At worst, it can be downright painful. As an example, my wife and I struggled to answer this simple question early in our faith walk:

“You mean if I live a good life and am a good person, that’s not enough to get into Heaven?”

Lee and I knew what the right answer is (it’s no, by the way*), but we didn’t know how to properly communicate it. We weren’t well versed in Scripture (we still aren’t really; it’s a daily process), and we fumbled our way through a conversation that quickly evolved into an argument. It was uncomfortable and unpleasant, and at the end of it all we lost a friendship. Still, we knew in our hearts we wanted to/needed to stay true to His Word, and we used that experience as a foundation to work and be better prepared for the next tough question that was sure to come.

In the three and a half years since that moment, I like to think we’ve stayed true to that commitment. So when I read the Beatitudes and get to the eighth and final one – Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven – it strikes a chord in my heart. Part of evangelizing the Word God is giving the love and then taking the lumps others may give in return.

It’s not supposed to be easy, but it does get a little easier every time.

 

*I firmly believe it is only through faith in Jesus Christ that we are granted salvation. This is repeated throughout Scripture.
     John 3:16
     John 14:6
Acts 16:30-31
Romans 6:23
Romans 10:9-10
Ephesians 2:8-9


nablopomo

Learning to Let It Go (Repost)

Learning to Let It Go (Repost)

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

What is the greatest discovery you have ever made?

The following is a re-post of my blog entry from October of 2011.

“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.

expectations

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.

let-it-go

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.


nablopomo

Six Strings and a Smile

Tonight is an abbreviated post for #NaBloPoMo16, primarily because we spent the evening at our friends’ house for a home concert. At the helm of the acoustic guitar was Justin Moore (no, not that one). Justin is the frontman of Ingram Hill, an amazing and underappreciated band out of Memphis, Tennessee . 

I’ve written before about the blessing that is my music family, and to be here on this 68 degree night in Tampa watching Justin perform is amazing. I am so blessed to surround myself with such amazing friends who share a fervent passion for live music. 

Life us definitely good. 

The Gap of Imperfection

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

Which fall shows should totally be canceled already?


I looked at the prompt for today’s post and immediately dismissed it as boring and uninteresting. Who cares about what other people think about TV shows? There couldn’t be a more useless topic about which to discuss, let alone write.

So in the midst of my, “what the *bleep* do I write about now?” mental moment, I picked up a book I keep on my desk, opened it to a random page, and let the gods of the blogosphere direct me on my writing journey this evening.

The book is called 642 Things to Write About, a collection of writing prompts I picked up from the sale table at Barnes & Noble a couple of years ago. The topic to which I was serendipitously led is “A conversation you regret never having.”


One of the weirdest moments in my life was when I came to view my father as my peer. I think I was about twenty-two years old, and we were on the phone just talking about stuff, the way you would with a good friend. The formality I carried in my eyes as a child was gone. I no longer looked at my dad with the “I have to respect him or else” perspective that rightfully dominated my youth. Instead, it was a pleasure speaking to him about soccer and power tools and just life in general. It was also a coming of age moment for me, and I remember that moment as a pivotal one which marked my development as a man in the eyes of my father.

To provide some better context, my father was forty years-old when I was born. I had no appreciation for how old he was relative to the dads of other kids my age until I got to college. Whereas the fathers of my peers were established in their careers and still spry and lively, my father was approaching retirement age by the time I graduated from college.

It came to me all of the sudden, in a flash, the understanding of all my father – and mother – did for my brother and me to provide us with housing, food, and an education. We were, by textbook standards, poor growing up. My parents’ household income in the 80’s was below $20k per year. Still, my brother and I attended Catholic school from Kindergarten through 12th grade, and my parents managed to provide for us while my brother was off at Purdue and I was at Tulane. Don’t ask me how they did it, but they did.

So there I was, on the phone with the man that used to be my dad, but was now my peer and best friend. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t discuss with my dad. There wasn’t a topic that was off limits or out of bounds. Obviously, he knew everything about me since the day I was born, and I quickly grew to understand and appreciate why it was everyone who knew my dad seemed to like him so much. My father was funny, witty, and clever. More importantly, he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He was the first to offer up help, and despite his many, many flaws, he was the man towards which everyone seemed to gravitate.

My dad told me many things in my lifetime. He was a constant fountain of wisdom, direction, and encouragement. I can say with absolute certainty there was one phrase my father never uttered to me; “Son, I am disappointed in you.” I was a straight-A student growing up. I was a scholar athlete. Not only did I excel in the classroom, I excelled on the field as well. He was at every little league football game and at every track meet. Even my physical traits came from his side of the family. I’m not saying I was his favorite, but I was his favorite.

There’s a clear and obvious reason I never heard my father say, “Son, I am disappointed in you.” It’s because I lied to him on his deathbed.

In 2002, my father was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a type of Cancer brought on by exposure to Asbestos. At that time, I didn’t know he’d only have two more years to live. At that time, he didn’t know I was several months into having an affair.

My dad was rather humble, but there was one thing he touted and in which he took pride more than anything else; he loved my mom with all he had. My dad would tell me stories about when he first met my mom, and how being married to her changed his life. And he would always wrap up his stories with the phrase, “and I never cheated on your mother.” Apparently, in his younger days, my dad bore a resemblance to Elvis Presley and had several women come on to him after he was married. He took pride in turning them down and preserving the solemn oath he took when he pledged his love to my mom.

‘A conversation you regret never having’. I think it’s obvious where you see this blog post going.

As I saw chemotherapy reduce my father to – quite literally – half the man he used to be, I buried my burden deep inside my heart. As I stayed with him during his final days and saw him drift in and out of lucidity, the morphine shielding him from the pain but also robbing me of the precious time left with my father, I made the conscious decision to not bear my soul to my dad, to not be honest with my best friend.

I hid in my own shame because I couldn’t bear the thought of my father being disappointed in me. I was thirty-one years old, my father was near death, and all I could think about was protecting my feigned innocence.

Do I regret never having that conversation with my father? I do. Every fucking day I do.


In 2011, I finally had that conversation with my father. It was in the form of a submission for a the Florida Writer’s Association collection of stories told exclusively in dialogue format. My submission was selected for the book, appropriately titled “Let’s Talk.” More importantly, it helped put at ease the weight of never having told my dad about my infidelity. Although I wish I could go back and have that conversation with him, I know he’s in Heaven looking down at me, knowing and understanding what it is I went through, as well as the growth I’ve experienced since then. And in my heart, despite all my many, many flaws, I know he’s still proud of me.


nablopomo

Frankly, My Dear …..

Frankly, My Dear …..

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

If you could be completely honest with no regrets, what would you say and to whom?


As a Christ follower, I do not believe in the concept of no regrets. Regrets are essential to keep us grounded and connected to all human beings with whom we interact. In the same way our nervous system protects our bodies (the feeling of heat helps keep us from being burned), I believe the ability to feel regret mirrors that function for our souls. Regret requires us to be critical and thoughtful with our actions and decision making so as to not hurt others or even ourselves.

All that being said, I am torn at the question in today’s prompt. I immediately think about the darkest time in my life, and how I would react then versus how I would react now if given the opportunity to confront face the person whom I hold held responsible.

Bobby Cox
Thinking of you *used* to make me want to go full-on Bobby Cox.

Being eleven years removed from my personal rock-bottom, and having lived a wonderful, God-restored life since then, I’ve been able to both grant and receive forgiveness and, for the most part, not look back. Still, there is something healthy – in a cathartic kinda’ way – to go through the motions in my mind of lashing out at those who’ve hurt me.

Still, in the end, His instructions as dictated by His word always ring true. As a result, I think my exercise for this prompt goes something like this.


“I’ve been waiting a long time to tell you this to your face. I haven’t seen you since you hurt me, and now it’s my turn to do the same!”

Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. – Luke 6:28

“You looked me in the eyes and told me time and time again that you would be there for me. And when push came to shove, you weren’t.”

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. – Colossians 3:13

“I gave up everything for you. I changed my whole life for you. I made you my priority above everything else.”

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. – Matthew 6:33

“We were perfect together and you ruined everything!”

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 8:6

“You left me there, all alone and by myself. You left me there shattered, and you didn’t even look back.”

Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. – Psalms 30:2


The moral of the story is clear. For every angry, hate-filled, vitriolic, driven-by-revenge tongue lashing the devil urges us to deliver, God has already provided His response to us via Scripture.

We pick and choose what we say and what we reveal to whom according to our human sensibilities, but because God sees all and God knows all, we have no choice but to be completely honest with Him. When we surrender our pain to God and allow ourselves to operate in forgiveness of others, we can rest assured we’re on the path of truly living a life with no regrets.

revenge


nablopomo

Pain, Ink.

Pain, Ink.

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

When was the last time you did something brave? What happened?


I like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but I am by no means one of those adrenaline junkies that get a thrill from enduring grueling and painful conditions. For the most part, I embrace my lazy side and you can usually find me on the corner of comfy and cozy. So it took focused determination to pull the trigger on an idea I’ve had brewing in my mind for …. well years.

My wife and I are planning to transition to full time mission work in the 2019 – 2020 time frame. We’ve participated in several short-term missions with our church, and our hearts are in dedicating ourselves to serving God with all we have. One of our favorite memories is being in the Dominican Republic with our pastor who has the story of King David tattooed on both his arms. Who knew permanent ink on skin could be a tool to evangelize the word of God?

Pastor Paul Wirth
Pastor Paul Wirth

As we prepare for our third visit to the D.R. in January, I wanted to take a page from my pastor’s playbook and wear my faith on my sleeve as well. So tonight, while basically all of America was watching Game 7 of the World Series, I was sitting in a chair at my friend’s tattoo shop getting my first (and second) ever tattoos.

I’ll admit, brave perhaps is not the most appropriate word to describe my decision, but it’s not something into which I entered lightly. There was the uncertainty of how painful actually getting a tattoo would be. There was the concern of how they would come out. There was a touch of anxiety at the thought of eventually showing them to my mom. There were a lot of hurdles, mostly mental, I had to clear to bite the bullet and get inked.

…but in the end, I remembered that fear is not from God, and after all He’s done for me, wearing my faith for everyone to see and using the talents of my friend and tattoo artist Shawn to help share Christ with others is the least I can do for Him. I guess if I really think about it, there was nothing to be scared about at all.

20161102_223401


nablopomo