Being Brave With Yourself

We had a guest pastor at our church today. Scott Harris from Brooklake Church in Federal Way, Washington (just outside of Seattle) spoke and gave an inspiring sermon on courage. He started by mentioning the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware. The book is based on Ms. Ware’s years of work with terminal patients. Through her time with them, she’d ask them about any regrets they had in their life. The most common regret she found was, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Scott focused on that point and how so many of us live a life not true to ourselves, our dreams, or our convictions. He spoke on how the social norm is to be someone else in an effort to appease others. The message was simple: Lead Yourself Courageously. It’s time to stop living in fear and instead begin working our way through fear. He mentioned how, “the path to your greatest potential is straight through your greatest fear.”

Personally, Scott’s message struck a chord in my heart. It took me back to what I was feeling at the Ransomed Heart retreat last summer, and how I knew I needed to overcome my fears if I wanted to be great. It was a feeling I all to easily moved away from, settling back into what is comfortable and easy. I haven’t been living a life true to myself (not entirely at least), and I haven’t been moving in a direction driven by passion or purpose. I have a list of writing projects I want to complete, and that list hasn’t had anything crossed off it in a couple of years now. I have an ambition to step away from my 9-5 norm and into something significantly more rewarding, yet all I’ve done is proverbially window shop instead of going into the store. And for me, it’s not so much a fear of failing, but rather the fear of not knowing how to get there.

Scott used the story of David and Goliath as an example of how in stepping into courage, and placing our faith in God, that which seems impossible can be accomplished. David was not afraid not only because he knew he was capable, but also because he had complete faith in God. “The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” – 1 Samuel 17:37. It’s no surprise then the command, “Fear Not” is the most frequent command in all of scripture. This further supports the idea that  fear is the one common denominator we all share.

I strive every day to move towards that level of faith David displayed in slaying Goliath. It’s not an overnight thing, however. You don’t just wake up one morning feeling like David, confident in your ability to overcome incredible odds. Having unwavering faith requires a relationship with God. It’s a process in which we grow toward him, every day letting a little more of our earthly ideals go, and surrendering more and more to His grace and holiness. It’s an experience that takes us through the hard times so that we can celebrate the good times. It’s a movement in which we fall and fail, only to be forgiven and redeemed. It’s something with which I oftentimes struggle, but only because I fail to be courageous while succumbing to silly fears.

Scott went on to elaborate the following:

  1. Courage is established in an environment of uncertainty and fear
  2. Leadership is establish through courage, not talent or calling
  3. Courage is calculated, not careless

I believe these points to be true. I also believe it can be summarized in this way: Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the doing despite of it. As you look at the year ahead, what’s the one fear you’re going to walk into head on? What is the dream inside your heart into which you’re going to lean? How will you display your courage and be brave?

The Outlier (W@HBC Day 4)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 18

In statistics there are outliers. An observation that is well outside of the expected range of values in a study or experiment, and which is often discarded from the data set ( This weekend, it was very apparent the statistical norm for most men is a sense of fatherlessness in their lives. Dads that are absent because their careers are more important, or dads that are brutal and abusive, or dads that are literally not present.

This reality can be summed up in a story that was shared at the retreat by presenter Morgan Snyder. A nun at a men’s prison had some extra Mother’s Day cards in her office. As word of this got out around the prison, there was a mad rush by the prisoners to get a card for their respective moms. The demand was so great, the nun reached out to Hallmark, and the greeting card company sent her additional inventory so the prisoners could send cards to their mothers. As Father’s Day approached, the nun once again reached out to Hallmark in anticipation of the demand for cards. Unfortunately, not one of the prisoners chose to send out a Father’s Day card.

I cannot relate to that. I cannot imagine life with a father like that, a father that would make me want to have nothing to do with him. I do not understand how men choose to separate their hearts from their children, especially their sons. All children need love and guidance as they grow. I know the love I have for my own kids flows from the love I received from my parents. Their sacrifice, devotion, and attention. My father went out of his way to tell me he loved me, even to the point I didn’t want to hear it anymore.

I am an outlier at this retreat, and I am blessed.

But just as my dad continually told me he loved me, our spiritual father is continuously telling us how much He loves us, even when we’ve gotten to the point of no longer wanting to listen. Even when the weight of the world feels heavy on our shoulders, God is throwing His love at us.

In an earthly sense, I may be an outlier because I was given an amazing dad. But in the spiritual sense, we are all given the gift of God’s love and grace. We just need to open our hearts to our Father’s calling.

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:4-5 (NLT)


The Gift of Sexuality (W@HBC Day 3)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 17

My journey through infidelity began with my desire to feel like a man. I realize now that in my younger days, I accepted the agreement from Satan that I was not a man. I accepted his lie that I could find my manhood in the arms of women who found me desirable.

Part of the enemy’s deceit was making me feel bored and neglected in my first marriage. It’s amazing what you can justify when you’re lead to think you deserve more. Satan set the scene and placed in my life a series of women who gave me attention, excitement, and the thrill of sexual desire. It all culminated with me falling head over heels for another woman and engaging in a long-term affair with her, all the while maintaining the double life of devoted husband and father.

I was all in with my feelings. I was having my cake and eating it too. Just when I thought I had everything I wanted, a plan to live happily ever after with my ‘soul mate’, I had everything taken out from underneath me. My marriage ended and soon thereafter so did the affair. I had been played by Satan, and through my selfishness, recklessness, and straight-up stupidity, I had given the enemy a victory over God.

I was lost.

In that time of darkness and desperation, I succumbed further to Satan’s destructive plan by finding comfort in the arms ofwoman after woman. As I look back on that time, my shame lies not so much in my whoreish behavior as it does in the pain, hurt, and disgust I inflicted on those women. They offered themselves to me, and I vandalized their trust and intimacy.

It took a long time for me to emerge from that period in my life. It was through God’s grace and the help of the angel He sent me that I was able to painfully move out of that darkness. The first step was overcoming my own self-loathing and learning to forgive myself.

What I’ve learned and realized this weekend is that my sexuality is a gift from God, and it is my job to protect and cherish that gift. It is my responsibility to reject the ideas from the enemy that attempt to taint and spoil that gift. Lust, impulse, stray desire; they are all ploys that I consciously reject.

God is a romantic, and He wants me to enjoy the intimacy I share with my wife. He’s given me a partner with whom I can connect in mind, spirit, and body. He’s opened my eyes to the truth that a lifetime of completeness is so much more beautiful than a couple of minutes of sinful indulgence. As a man, I need to ensure I protect this gift of sexuality and celebrate the beauty of my wife, who is, after all, a reflection of God’s image.

“Oh, how beautiful you are! How pleasing, my love, how full of delights! You are slender like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters of fruit. I said, “I will climb the palm tree and take hold of its fruit.” May your breasts be like grape clusters, and the fragrance of your breath like apples. May your kisses be as exciting as the best wine, flowing gently over lips and teeth.” -Song of Solomon 7:6-9

Chekirov Talantbek
Deep Emotion by Chekirov Talantbek

Risk With A Purpose (W@HBC Day 3)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 17

This weekend has been filled with inspirational stories of men. Warriors, athletes, leaders, innovators. As I took in the stories of these great and inspirational men, I wondered to myself where and how I fit in that mix, if I do at all.

In 2004 I took up writing as a hobby. Actually, I took it up because it was a more healthful alternative to the drinking I was doing to deal with the pain in my life at the time. My marriage in shambles and my father recently deceased, it was very easy to find comfort at the bottom of a bottle or eight of beer. So writing became my outlet, and I’ve been fortunate to see it turn into something very positive and constructive in my life. I’ve taken on several writing projects since then. I self-published two short novels, had my writing featured in both my local newspaper and a compilation book, and I have nearly 600 blog posts following my timid and awkwardly horrible first post. Yet through it all, I’ve found myself afraid to take the next step forward with my writing.

This afternoon’s session was about risk-taking. We discussed the difference between risk for no reason and risk for good. In summary, it was the difference between immature thrill seeking and laying it on the line for the greater good. I really don’t know where I fall on that spectrum except to say that as I grow older, my propensity to play it safe increases.

As to where I fall in the mix of inspirational and heroic men, I found the answer not in the chaos of a war field or in the roar of a capacity-filled stadium. I found it not in the applause of an auditorium nor in the quorum of a corporate board room. Rather, I found my answer in the serenity of sitting on a porch, pen in hand, as I overlooked the majesty of the mountains. As nature kissed my ears with the melodic rustling of aspen tree leaves, I came to the realization some of the most important, heroic, inspirational, and valiant people in the history of the world were writers. Four in particular came to mind: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

I am not saying I fancy myself the author of the next Gospel. Rather, as I rediscovered and reaffirmed yesterday, I am a writer. I need to renounce my fears and timidity. I need to step out of my comfort zone. I need to take a risk.

I need to put myself out there as a writer, sharing my stories and experiences, because I believe that is where God is directing me to go.

The Writer

Who Am I? (W@HBC Day 2)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 16

Another struggle discussed this weekend is the struggle men face with identity. Oftentimes men allow their inhibitions, fears, and past failures to define who they are. In reflecting on this item, the following is a list of truths about myself. Consider this my personal Vision Statement.

  • I am Gil Gonzalez
  • I am a child of God
  • I am His humble servant
  • I am a follower of God’s beloved son Jesus Christ, my Lord and savior
  • I am a redeemed man, a sinner once broken and ashamed, now rebuilt through God’s amazing grace
  • I am the father of two young adults whom I firmly believe will greatly contribute to global betterment in all they do
  • I am a husband to an amazing woman, whose heart is as great as the ocean
  • I am a son to a loving and generous mother
  • I am the living memory of a hard working and devoted father
  • I am a man, still evolving, still learning, and still growing
  • I am a journeyman walking in faith with Jesus in my heart and with the Holy Spirit lighting the path ahead of me
  • I am a fighter, at constant battle with an enemy that is relentless, deceiving, and hell-bent on distracting my soul
  • I am a vessel for God’s message, proclaiming His word via all that I do, all that I say, and all that I believe
  • I am a writer, called to use my gifts to help create betterment in the lives of others

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” -Matthew 7:7-8

My Struggle (W@HBC Day 2)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 16

There is a lot of struggle at the core of the Wild at Heart Boot Camp. Much of that struggle deals with the issue of masculine abandonment from father to son. John Eldredge makes the following statement: Only masculinity can bestow masculinity. Even Jesus received this validation from his Father when he was baptized in the Jordan River.

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:17 (NIV)

The struggle I face is somewhat the opposite. One of the many blessings I’ve always maintained in my heart is that my father, as flawed as he was, always gave me love and validation. My dad was a short-tempered alcoholic, and even when he got sober – sober because his doctor told him, “You can keep drinking and die in six months, or you can stop drinking right now and watch your kids grow up” – my father always set the bar very high for my brother and me.

My dad pushed me to excel, but he never hesitated to tell me he loved me. I’ve sat and pondered, and I cannot recall a moment when my dad ever told me he was disappointed with me. Coming from a man who was abandoned by his own father at the age of fourteen, the fact my dad’s heart overflowed with love towards me is nothing short of a miracle.

As I wrote in the eulogy for my father, I can only hope to be half the dad to my kids as my father was to me. I look at the relationship I share with my son, and I pray that I am bestowing on my son the same love and validation my father gave to me. I like to think I am doing a good job, but I am also terrified that I will somehow mess up along the way. My journey with Christ is as much about setting true both my children’s hearts as it is about setting true my own.

ESPN personality Colin Cowherd says that once your kids get to the age of about thirteen or fourteen, you pretty much stop being a parent and you’re basically a consultant. Teens and pre-teens are going to do what they want, and I pray the foundation my ex-wife and I have laid out, along with the amazing job my wife has done in her role as step-mom, will allow my children to make good and sound decisions in their lives.

Going forward, I hope I can ‘consult’ for my children by living a life they wish to model. I hope to live a life centered in God’s love, rooted in His truth, and reflective of His amazing grace towards everyone. By being the best Christ follower I can be, I know I am doing what I can to be the best father I can be.


Dan & Me

Alone With God (W@HBC Day 2)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 16

I felt safe. Hidden away from where anyone could see me. My legs crossed, my back resting against a plank of wood that makes up one of the walls of the play house in which I sat. Wood and sheet metal haphazardly thrown together to give the feel of a lone outpost on the frontier of the wild west. It was my refuge for my exercise in solitude, for my display of discipline in silence.

Just me alone with my thoughts, a pen an paper in my hands to help capture some of the better ones. And I was eight years old again. Free to dream big and to long for adventure. I’d stare at the daunting mountain and I’d puff out my chest. “I’m not afraid of you,” I’d tell it. “There’s nothing I can’t do.”

But even I did not believe those words. The world of adventure and excitement and discovery lay just outside the walls of my fort, but as along as I was inside the fort, I was safe. Safety equates to comfort. Comfort equates to complacency, and complacency is the sin in which I’ve been indulging for some time now.

He (Adam) replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” – Genesis 3:10 (NLT)

I don’t believe God wants me to be complaisant. I don’t believe God wants me to sit back and just watch from the sidelines. Through my experiences, God has deconstructed my notions of church, faith, and religion. In rebuilding me, He has reset my understanding of what it means to believe in Him.

He crafted me, much in the same way a wood worker crafts a model boat, putting together the scraps of my former self into something new and useful. Then, he gently placed me on the waters of His will and gave me a nudge.

I can look back now and see how far I’ve come. I can also look ahead and see how much further I’ve yet to go. I do not know the destination, and to a large extent the destination does not matter. What does matter is that I know I am not afraid. What is important is the relationship I keep with God as I progress through my journey.

God never waivers. He will not fail me. I, however, will undoubtedly fail Him. I will lose sight of my direction. Distraction, routine, boredom; all these things will drive me to give credence to the enemy’s whispers and suggestions.

There is an eternity of truth in the old saying “To err is human, to forgive divine.” I am human. I will fail. I will trip up along the way, but I will not stay down. I know that with every step I take, God is there with me. God see’s into my heart, and He will always lift me back up. God wants me to succeed. He wants me to experience joy. He is my biggest fan.

God is also the truth. He is the one constant on which we all can rely. If I hope to be the father I want to be, if I expect to be the husband I want to be, and if I plan to be the son to my mother I desperately long to be, then I need to begin by placing my faith in God and letting His truth and His will lead me.

“The worst thing that can happen to you is for the counterfeit to work.” –Craig McConnel/RHM

Fort Gil

A Sudden Realization (W@HBC Day 1)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 15

It’s the first day of my men’s retreats in Fraser, Colorado, and John Eldredge himself is hosting the first session. There was a little fan-girl squeal inside of me as he walked to the front of the presentation room. There stood a man that was a key domino in not only making my relationship with my wife Lee survive, but also in helping me return to God. Without getting into specifics, I can say I would not be at this retreat is not for the encouragement of my wife.

In John’s session, he tasked us with an exercise. “Name your favorite movie and explain why.” The ‘what’ part was very easy for me. I enjoy doing top-of-mind awareness exercises in my head, and for some time now, the answer to the question of “favorite movie” has been Field of Dreams.

Before I continue, it’s important to note I came to this retreat because I felt compelled by God to attend. I can’t explain the ‘why’ except to say it’s as if God invited me to a surprise party and I have to wait to see what the surprise is. I know God is calling me in a new direction, away from the corporate monotony in which I find myself. But as to where He’s leading me, I have no clue.

I began to answer the second part of the exercise question. ‘Why’. Why is Field of Dreams my favorite movie? I always used to think it was because I shared a connection through that movie with my dad. I love it because of the ending, where the main character Ray meets a younger version of his father and Ray asks him if he wants to have a catch. It’s because of that scene I was unable to watch the film for some time after my father passed away (8 years to be exact). The emotion of that scene is powerful, and just thinking about it make my eyes swell.

I put pen to paper and began to answer the question. “Because of Ray’s confidence in the voice he hears. He has faith and he has courage. Courage to risk everything, to give up everything for what he feels he is called to do. ”

I looked up from my notepad and then back down again. Did I just write that? Where did that answer come from? What the …. ? I’d never looked at Field of Dreams that way before. I’ve seen the movie a thousand times and it has never spoken to me in that way until today. Until I was prompted by John Eldredge to answer the question ‘Why?’. Until I was prompted by God to answer the question, “Why are you here at this retreat?”.

I call moments like these Godsmack moments, and this one was very clear to me. God’s surprise party is about me finding the courage to follow His calling for me. To stop ignoring that little voice that is telling me to go forward and to be great.

In Field of Dreams, the voice Ray keeps hearing says, “If you build it, he will come.” What I keep hearing God whisper in my ear is, “I have built you, now go on.” I just need to find my courage and strength to obey.

“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” -Psalm 119:32 (NIV)