My Brothers

They say insult is the language of intimacy among men, and there is truth to that. Still, there remains a sense of hesitation and reservation when it comes to men expressing their love for other men.

A couple of years ago, I put my thoughts on this subject together in a poem. I was reminded of that today when a friend of mine shared the new video for NEEDTOBREATHE‘s song Brother. The video is fantastic, but I prefer this recording from a live performance just a little bit better. I truly shows the amazing experience that is NTB live.

To my brothers: Thank you all for being mentors, inspiration, pillars, and safety nets in my life. It goes unsaid all too often, but know with bedrock certainty that I love you.

Brotherhood

You answered the phone when I called late that night
You had my back when I got caught in that fight
You helped me up all those times I fell
You guided me out of my personal hell

It’s strange how strangers can come together
And for this circumstance we are both better … off
Both as individuals and as men
And through it all we’d both do it again

We don’t share DNA, we don’t even share a name
Yet through it all, you’re my brother all the same
We live our lives and go about our separate day to day
But I’m with you, brother, every step of the way

Our kids come together and they play
And we hope that their kids will do the same one day
We watch some football and have some beer
We talk about life and those things we fear

We’ve redefined what it means to be family
‘Cause you and I don’t share a branch on a tree
Yet we share an unspoken love that bonds like no other
A bond that can only be defined as that of a brother

It’s in the lyrics of a classic tune
It’s in the games we watch on Saturday afternoon
It’s in the motorcycles rides that take us away
It’s in all those bar tabs you decided to pay
It’s our respective better halves keeping us straight
It’s knowing because of them we’re able to be great
It’s in keeping perspective every time we compete
It’s in living a life that is full and complete

We don’t share DNA, we don’t even share a name
Yet through it all, you’re my brother all the same
We live our lives and go about our separate day to day
But I’m with you, brother, every step of the way

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That’s The Spirit

This past week, Lee and I were very blessed to have been able to volunteer as part of this year’s home rehab project through Relevant Church. The overall effort was seven days of sweat-producing, muscle pain inducing, rain soaking work. Lee and I were able to pitch in four days last week, and it started with Day 1: the demo day.

Immediately following the second service at church on April 27, a team of volunteers headed over to the project site. Before we left, however, our Pastor Paul Wirth gave us a pep talk and high-level instructions about the effort. Included in his collection of Do’s and Don’ts were the words, “We’re even going to need someone to be our dumpster diver and make sure all the trash and debris remains manageable.”

That is where is got funny.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been able to win a ……. discussion ….. with the Holy Spirit. As soon as Paul mentioned the thing about managing the dumpsters, the Holy Spirit spoke to me.

“He’s talking about you, dude.”

“What? Umm….no.”

“Yep. He needs you in the trash.”

“But I don’t want to be in the trash.”

“That’s nice, but that’s where you’re going.”

“No. Why? Why me? Someone else can do it.”

“That may be so, but you know you’re the best suited for it.”

“Why? Because my dad was a janitor?”

“Partly. But also because you can organize. Because you’re creative. Because you can effectively maximize the available space. And because that is where He wants you to be.”

“So you’re saying all those hours in college I spent playing Tetris were preparing me for this moment?”

“Why do you think He provided you a Gameboy while you were at school.”

“Touché.”

There may have been some creative liberties in my retelling of the dialogue between myself and the Holy Ghost, but you get the idea. Some people call it hunches. Others, gut feeling. The band NEEDTOBREATHE refer to it lyrically as, “the little voice I heard, it’s just a whisper that sounded like a scream.”

To me, God’s message comes as an instantaneous thought and then develops into a conversation. Sometimes they’re very easy to understand and obey. Other times, I wrestle with them. I forget my own humanity and think I can barter and negotiate with God. In the end, He never steers me wrong and He always provides.

So the next time you find yourself in a dilemma, awkward situation, or just being asked to do something you wouldn’t normally want to do, take a second to hear what He is telling you. For me, I found the treasure of giving on top of that big pile of trash.

Trash Man

 

“So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” -James 2:17 NLT

Reflections and Projections: A Look Back and Ahead

I don’t want this to be another typical New Year’s Day blog, full of resolutions forgotten by February or empty promises I make to myself. I also don’t want this to be a long diatribe year-in-review of 2013, either.

So, instead, I think I am just going to use this post as a sort of mental scrapbook for all the awesome things Lee and I were able to share in 2013, and as a wish-list of what we want to do in 2014. The central theme: gratitude. Yes, Lee and I had some tough moments last year, but they all pail in comparison to the plethora of blessings we were given.

So as we look forward to the year ahead, most of us with the clean-slate optimism of “this is my year to be great”, keep in mind the following:

  • You ARE great.
  • There is no such thing as perfection. All we can hope to do is be better today than we were yesterday.
  • “Be happy in the moment. That’s enough. Each moment is all we need. Not more.” – Mother Teresa

2013 Gratitude List

My Kids
  • Natalie’s continued success with club and middle school soccer
  • Daniel’s participation in Odyssey of the Mind and Math Bowl
  • Daniel attending Camp Gilead and Busch Gardens Camp
  • Chaperoning Natalie to Howl O’Scream
  • Kids spending the week with us over the summer and then again while their mom was traveling
  • Cheering on Wiregrass High School girls basketball with Natalie
  • Their overall good health and well being
Church / Faith
Music Concerts
Friends
  • My 40th birthday celebration
  • Beer nights with the guys
  • Weddings (Patricia & Adam, Tracey & Matt, Leslie Ann & Graham, Stacey & Sanjay)
  • Leigh S. moving back to Florida
  • Dinner nights (Jeff & Ellen, George & Ashley, Stephen & Lindsey, Warren & Gwen, Mark & Renee, Alyson & Tom, Jamie & Jamey, Jeff & Lindsey)
  • Super Bowl and college football parties
  • East coast trips to Casa de Smith
Lee

I am probably overlooking several events and people, and for that I am sorry. I guess it’s a good problem to have when your life is so full of blessings that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

As for 2014, Lee and I have some very lofty financial and lifestyle goals. We want to reduce debt by sticking to a strict budget, and also lose weight by trying the Fast Metabolism Diet. Both will take a serious amount of discipline and determination, but they work hand-in-hand given we spent about three times as much going out to dinner in 2013 than we did on groceries.

We also plan/hope to take Lee’s nephew to Cancun when he graduates from high school in May, and then travel back to Mexico in the late summer to visit my family in Puebla and spread my father’s ashes in his hometown. It will be 10 years in September that my father passed away.

Personally, I want to ensure one post to my blog per day. That’s not to say I will be writing every day. Rather, I want to make sure I add something – be it a written post, a photo, a funny YouTube video: something – to my blog every day.

Through it all, Lee and I know that God will direct us where He wants us to go. I know my faith walk saw amazing growth in 2013, and I pray that it continues to expand in this new year. I wish you all the best with your goals, dreams, and ambitions for this year.

“For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

Blessings

127/365 Somewhere More Familiar

The music family weekend continued as Lee and I trekked from Sarasota to West Palm Beach for SunFest. Well, not so much for SunFest as it was for NEEDTOBREATHE. Even though we’d seen them just last week at Rock by the Sea, we jumped at the opportunity to see them live again. Every show is amazing, and every show is a spiritual experience because of their music.

Besides, it also gave us an opportunity to once again take in a magical experience with our super-awesome friends.

Keeping My Eyes Open

Random Writers: Write about a new beginning in your life.

I recently told a friend of mine, “Pain is when we look at God’s will through human eyes.”

As I look back on the event of my life that lead me here today, the vast majority of them occurring in the 2004 – 2005 timeframe, it’s clear to see that every new beginning was preceded by a moment of pain or crisis.

There are so many metaphors and analogies bouncing around in my head right now, it would probably take me hours to write them all down. Still, they all can be summarized with a simple formula.

Pain + Time = New

Yes, it really is that simple.

Pain (or disappointment or crisis or burden) plus the time you spend experiencing it, learning from it, and healing as a result, equate to new beginnings and new opportunities.

True, there are some opportunities that came my way either as a result of hard work, sheer determination, or dumb luck. But the moments in my life that I can honestly qualify as new beginnings all stem from an event that was not fun to go through.

I feel I’ve always lived my life as an open book, and those who know me also know my story. For me, I will always have the one life event that served as the BIG domino that fell and set in motion all the other dominoes that make up my life journey.

Here’s my story, from right to left.

I live my life surrounded by my core group of friends. These are the people whom I trust and whose opinions I value the most. They serve as my gauge as to how I am doing and whether I am doing it right. When I think about that inner circle, I am still amazed at how I came to meet and know those individuals.

We met through our mutual love for music. Specifically, the music of Sister Hazel. The genesis of how we came together was a beach weekend the band put together back in 2006 in South Carolina. It was an event called the Hazelnut Hang, and it was an event that has proven to change my life.

What lead me to go to that event was dinner conversation with my girlfriend at the time – Lee, who is now my wife – and our mutual friend. Our friend was going through a tough time so Lee and I decided to take her out for a bite and be there for her. In the course of conversation, our friend mentioned her mother’s house in South Carolina which sparked the idea of going to the Sister Hazel event.

Lee and I became exclusive in January 2006 following a very tumultuous 2005 in which Lee would learn to open her eyes to the idea of something new only to find me continuing to struggle with the idea of letting go of something old. That something old came to a head in December of 2005.

That was the moment of the big domino.

It’s evident to me, as I trace back the key moments of my life, that I would not be where I am today had the door I had so desperately wanted to run through back in 2005 not been slammed shut in my face. I could not see where I am today through those tears I was shedding that painful December evening over six years ago, yet here I am nonetheless.

I’ve learned that in those darkest and most painful of times, we must have faith that a new light will clear the darkness, and a new path will be revealed. It’s not any kind of easy and everyone learns that lesson at their own pace and in their own way, if ever at all.

Another band that has been influential to me in my life journey is NEEDTOBREATHE, and they have a song that succinctly sums up my life events from 2005. It is what Lee was trying to tell me all along that year. What I didn’t know back then, which is clearer to me now, is that I needed to keep my eyes open. What I also failed to see is that God was directing me every step of the way.

Yes, I believe everything happens for a reason – His reason – and I believe coincidence is our human way of interpreting God’s will. And yes, pain is when we look at God’s will with our human eyes. Instead of allowing the pain to govern our experience, we should remind ourselves that with time and with faith in God, the new beginnings in our lives will be realized.

081/365 Jesus Calling

Today was a day in which God kept talking to me through other people. Via email, via text, via Twitter, and, most directly, via my growth group through church. If I were to summarize it, I’d say it was Jesus calling me to do His will and to guide me down the path He’s chosen.

I am not sure if I am ready for that challenge, but everything He’s put in my life recently has positioned me to be ready; to let go and let God. We’ll see where this new adventure takes me, but wherever it is, I am sure I will find myself in the Valley of Tomorrow.

“I never second-guessed the little voice I heard. It’s just a whisper that sounded like a scream.” –NEEDTOBREATHE