Crash The Chatterbox

My favorite author is Mitch Albom. He’s a brilliant sportswriter for the Detroit Free Press. He’s an even more brilliant storyteller. As a writer, he’s my idol.

Albom’s books have touched me in a way few others have. He’s endearing and wise, but in a way that is comfortable and unassuming. He’s never preachy although his stories, both fiction and non-fiction, carry wonderful and positive messages. He is an artist with words, and with them he weaves a masterpiece of narrative that captivates the mind and touches the heart. He’s great at what he does, and he makes me want to strive for greatness in what I do.

There’s is something to be said about inspirational people like Mitch Albom. They are true role models, and they make the world a better place by fostering in others a sense of positivity and optimism. As much as I aspire to write like Mitch Albom, that doesn’t compare to the inspiration and spiritual uplift I get from Steven Furtick.

Furtick is the founder and lead Pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition to being a dynamic speaker – his sermons are simply amazing – Furtick is also a New York Times Best Selling author. His first two books, Sun Stand Still and Greater, have played a significant role in changing my life for the better, and helping me to better understand and appreciate my faith journey.

So you can only imagine how I feel about receiving Furtick’s latest book Crash the Chatterbox. It released today (February 11) and I am so excited about diving into it. The book’s tagline says it all: Overpowering lies of insecurity, fear, condemnation, and discouragement with the promises of God.

I know I’ve been guilty of letting negative thoughts in my head divert me from where I’m meant to be, and the message of the book holds true to my belief that we’re all on a quest to walk both with God and toward God. Along the way, the devil makes every attempt to steer us away from our true direction. “You’re not good enough. No one will want to read your blog. Do you really think you can make a difference?” Those are lies and misconceptions we allow to seep into our thought processes and distract us from what His will is for us.

Walking in faith and obedience is a lot easier said than done. Uncertainty can be dizzying. Fear, if we let it, can be crippling.  It’s only when we tune out the noise and focus on His voice that we receive the clarity we need to move forward. I anticipate pouring over the pages of Furtick’s new book will bring greater clarity in my life and on my faith journey.

If you feel stuck in neutral and need some encouragement in terms of overcoming the negative thoughts you may have, I invite you to pick up a copy of Crash the Chatterbox. God wants you to be filled with joy, and the only thing keeping you from experiencing that is any doubt you possess that you can.

Crash the Chatterbox

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Friendly Friday – Kendall Lyons

Have you ever had a tough time explaining how you met someone? “Hey, how did you guys meet?” You stumble across um’s and awkward pauses until you figure out the best way to explain a peculiar story. That’s pretty much the case with my friend Kendall.

I had the great fortune of traveling to Colorado last summer to attend the Wild at Heart Boot Camp hosted by John Eldridge and his Ransomed Heart Ministries team. It was a great men’s retreat the opened my eyes to all types of new directions in my faith walk with Jesus, and allowed me to realize the warrior that lives in me, fighting everyday here on earth for the kingdom of God. It was four days of reflection, introspection, and fellowship with the hundreds of other men at the retreat.

In those moments of fellowship, we’d congregate around the fire, introducing ourselves and sharing life stories. I traveled to the retreat with my friend Jeff, and I told him I’d meet him down at the fire once I grabbed some stuff from our dormitory area. Upon my arrival, he peppered me with questions.

“Hey. Do you know this guy named cartoon daily?”

“Cartoon daily? His first name is cartoon?”

“No. That’s his Twitter handle. Cartoondaily ….. something.”

“What? What are you talking about.”

“I met this guy and he happened to mention he’s a blogger. I told him I was here with a buddy of mine who also is a blogger. I mentioned you’re danaCreative, and he said he knows you.”

“Wait. What? He said he knows me?”

“Yeah. Says he follows you on Twitter … or something like that.” (my friend Jeff was not very keen on the details that evening)

So after the sketchy conversation and upon returning home, I did some research and found @CartoonDaily1, better known as Kendall Lyons.

The Internet is a great tool. So much so that it allowed two complete strangers, both with a penchant for writing and a mutual love for Jesus Christ, to come together in a really unexplainable way. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Kendall in person, but we’ve interacted quite a bit since the retreat, and I am a fan of his work.

Kendall is a youth minister and a writer – he just released his book “22 Life Lessons for Personal Growth” – and a dedicated man of God. In addition, Kendall is a talented artist and self-proclaimed cartoon fanatic. I look forward to growing in this friendship with Kendall, and I smile knowing there is another warrior out there working hard to kingdom build here on earth.

You can find Kendall via his blog at KendallLyons.com. Please take a moment to check out Kendall’s animated mini-bio for Draw My Life. It’s excellent.

Happy Friday!

Stop Yelling At Me!

It is said God works in mysterious way. Lately, He hasn’t been so subtle.

I’ve been groping – to myself mostly – about my work situation. It’s un-fulfilling. The corporate culture where I work is ass-backwards. I have more apathy than I know what to do with. But here we are, at the start of a new calendar year. Sixteen and a half years with the same company. About to hit three years in my current position. And every year I do the same thing. I justify a lack of change on ‘flexible schedule’ and ‘convenience’, and then I double-down on the status quo.

And every year God reminds me this is not where He wants me to be. Every year he sends me signs and suggestions. He whispers in my ears and opens my eyes to new possibilities. Yet in the end, I ignore them all.

This past weekend, however, God was being loud and clear with his message to me. It started with a tweet on my Twitter stream. I didn’t save it, but it was something to the effect of, “Only you are responsible for the changes in your life.” Then, I read my daily devotional via YouVersion. This is from the Joyce Meyer: Promises for Your Everyday Life – a Daily Devotional:

“We are partners with God. His part is to give us ability and our part is to be responsible.

Responsibility means ‘to respond to the ability we have.’ An irresponsible person wants God to do everything while he does nothing except follow his feelings.

God cares for you, but He won’t do your part. He enables you to do it, but let me emphasize that He won’t do it for you! I dare you to stand firm, take responsibility and begin working with God to have the blessed life He’s planned for you.”

Then last night, I was channel surfing and came across the Samuel L. Jackson movie The Samaritan (you know …. ’cause God has a sense of humor and throws me a curve ball via a movie with a Biblical name). The movie ends with this quote, “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you keep on being what you’ve always been. Nothing changes unless you make it change. I know what it sounds like, but every morning when I wake up, I think about what that really means. Nothing changes unless you make it change.”

I guess I need to find the strength and the courage to take my fingers out of my ears, let go of my comfort zone, and make that change.

Stop Yelling

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 (Dictionary.com). 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)

Outlier

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