On The Surface

On The Surface

“It’s all good.”

All too often that phrase is espoused as a posture to deflect or avoid conflict. Rather than confront conflict and manage it, the passive route is taken because it is the easiest one to take.


I was raised a cradle Catholic. Born into a Catholic family, I was baptized at the age of one and I attended Catholic school from K-12. In the span of that time, I did it all with regards to Catholic traditions. Alter boy, lector, eucharistic minister; I was so involved in my faith my aunt was convinced I was on my way to seminary.

Then I went away to college, making the leap from living in a Cuban-American bubble in Miami to the jazzy streets of New Orleans. To say my time at Tulane University was a culture shock is an understatement. To say I made the most of my first experience living away from home would be even more so.

Part of the freedom that came with living on campus and being on my own was deciding for myself if I was going to make an effort to attend Mass on Sunday mornings. When your Saturday nights consist of Bourbon Street, beignets, and beer chasers, there’s not much other than sleep that makes the priority list for Sundays. You could say my first year in New Orleans was like a Will Hoge song. Although I did celebrate my faith on occasion, the consistency and intentionality was nothing compared to what I exercised in high school.

Fast-forward fifteen years. I was recently separated from my wife and trying to do the best I could in a co-parenting situation. My daughter had completed her first communion and now I was sitting through the Parish-mandated parent meeting – again – in preparation for my son’s sacramental experience. The person conducting the training/meeting told a story about how she recently had an argument with her husband, she realized she was in the wrong, and when she went to bed that night, she kept her back to her husband in order to, “save face.”

Save face.

It was as if a switch had been flipped in my head. All of a sudden I found myself looking around the room and coming to the realization I didn’t know anyone there. Sure, I had said hello to them in the pews and perhaps greeted them out of obligation at the local Publix, but I didn’t know anyone in that room. I had never invited anyone over for dinner. There was no sense of fellowship with any of the other parents. From my perspective, I was not in community with any of the people at my church.

Wait. What did she say? ‘Save face’?” I replayed that phrase over and over in my head. I tuned out everything else she said and focused on the egregious and theologically flawed idea that the best way to handle conflict with your spouse, especially when you’re at fault, is to not seek reconciliation and basically lie through omission. There we were sitting in the house of God, a God who grants us mercy and forgiveness when we don’t deserve either, and the message being conveyed was, “just pretend it’s all good.”

I left that day and never returned. For me, that was the day I stopped being Catholic.

Three years later I found myself re-married and walking through the doors of a non-denominational Christian church for the first time. It was a first step in finding a way for my wife, who was raised Southern Baptist, and me to celebrate our love of God together. I maintain in all that time I never had a crisis of faith but rather a crisis of church. And it was at that church that I learned it’s not about what I do (salvation through works), but rather what’s been done for me (we are saved by grace through faith).

It was there that my eyes were opened to what being a part of a church community meant. It was there that I learned the importance of participating in my faith and getting involved with the other members of my church. It was there that I truly learned the more we serve, the more we grow in Christ. It was there that I first experienced real, authentic, ugly, gritty, tear-jerking, uncomfortable, thought-provoking, heart-expanding relationships, all of them bookmarked by the love and grace of Christ.

Gone were the facades. Gone were the pretenses. Gone were the ideas that having it all together and ‘saving face’ were things to be celebrated. It wasn’t “all good,” but at the same time, the experiences and new relationships were all so very, very good.


We serve a real God who loves us and wants us to be joy-filled in all we do. Despite our pasts, in light of our flaws, and because of our imperfections, He loves us. And it’s been my experience the more honest we are with ourselves, the more we can really plug into a relationship with Him.

You see, once you accept that God cherishes you just the way you are, there’s no need to make others think you’re something you’re not. Once we pivot from doing things for our benefit to doing things for His glory, then can we say with confidence, “It’s all good.”

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.Galatians 1:10 NLT

 

Something Crazy?

Ever have one of those moments after doing something that leaves you questioning your sanity?

I’ve been on the fence about taking a next step in my faith journey, a step that would mean a significant time and financial commitment. For several months now I’ve been wrestling with the idea, going back and forth as to why I should or shouldn’t do it. Today, it all came to a head. I felt God nudge shove me and say, “Just do it already!” So I did.

This evening, I submitted an application for the TrinityQuest program at Trinity College. My goal is to learn more about God’s Word and, along the way, earn a degree I can use to transition out of corporate life and into a vocation of ministry.

In the application process, I was asked to submit a brief biography explaining how I came to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and why I want to attend Trinity. 750 words can be considered brief, right?

Below is a copy of the essay I submitted.

Hello. My name is child of the one true King.

Yes, I know that is a blatant rip-off of a Matthew West song, but it also happens to be true.

Over forty years ago, I, as an infant, was baptized by my God-parents and welcomed into the Catholic Church. I was raised in an “attend church every so often” household, one where God was present but not necessarily made a priority.

I attended Catholic school from Kindergarten through high school, doing my Catholic duty along the way. Altar boy, lector, Eucharistic minister, peer minister, Christian leader: I was happy to fill my extra-curricular time with work and activities related to my Catholic upbringing.

As teens tend to do, I drifted away from church in college. The pace and workload of university life, coupled with giving into the indulgences of living in New Orleans – I attended Tulane university – lead me to exclude God from my life. I became a stereotypical Christmas and Easter Catholic, and that is where I stayed for the better part of 15 years.

During that decade and a half, I was married, had two children, eventually failed as a husband, and saw my marriage come to an end. I faced the darkest moments of my life, moments that found me chasing comfort at the bottom of a bottle and in the beds of strangers. Yet although I felt alone, I knew in my heart I was not alone. I knew through it all, God was calling me to course correct. He was calling me back into His love, His grace, and His protection.

One Sunday morning, I felt His voice stronger than ever. “Go to Mass. I need you there.” I randomly and reluctantly attended Mass at the nearest Catholic Church, and on that day I was introduced to the new Youth Minister that had just been hired. She convinced me to step up and volunteer in the youth ministry program, and it was that experience that started me on a path of redemption.

I would meet someone new, a woman who would challenge me to be a better person and a man of God. This woman would end up becoming my wife, and we would struggle at first to celebrate our faith together, she having been raised Baptist and I having been raised Catholic. Through God’s will, we were introduced to Relevant Church in Tampa. I would say through coincidence, but I’ve come to learn that coincidence is just God showing off.

For the two of us, we were not facing a crisis of faith so much as a crisis of church. At Relevant, we found the spiritual home we’d been seeking, and it’s been truly transformational for the both of us. We’ve taken part in growth groups that have allowed us to do life with others in our church community, and to truly grow our understanding of His Word. We’ve volunteered on our First Impressions team, happily greeting on Sunday mornings, and welcoming experienced and first time visitors alike with warm smiles and firm handshakes. And in the spring of 2013, my wife and I renewed our commitment to God by being baptized as adults.

It was during one of our growth groups, at a time when we were studying the book Greater by Pastor Steven Furtick, that I felt God compel me to move. I felt His calling in a way I hadn’t before, and I knew God was telling me to move in a direction of ministry. God blessed me with the talent of writing, and rather than continue to bury that talent out of fear, I’ve chosen to invest that talent in His Word by ministering to others through both my actions and my blog.

I know I still have a long way to go in my faith journey, but it’s a walk I take with a new found yearning to learn more about the loving direction God provides us through Scripture. It is for this reason I would like to attend Trinity College. I want to continue to grow in Christ and move on the path God has called me to take.

I am a child of the one true King, and I want to learn, grow, and Kingdom-build here on earth for His love and His glory.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Don’t Cry In Your Beer

I love advertising. When I was a kid, I dreamed about making commercials. I majored in Marketing at Tulane University because there was no option for obtaining an Advertising degree (although Loyola University right next door did offer Advertising as a degree *chagrin*).

If I ever were to pursue a Master’s degree, I would write my thesis on the concept that value cannot exist without human emotion. The concept of value is wholly dependent on an individual’s feelings. In fact, I would argue advertising and marketing are better suited as sub-sets of psychology than of business. After all, as a marketer, you’re attempting to key in on what will trigger a positive response in the consumer.

As an example, to my mom, a piece of cardboard measuring 2.5 by 3.5 inches with the picture of an athlete on it is basically worthless. To me, that 1984 Topps Dan Marino rookie card is priceless. Not only does it hold a market value that’s somewhere between $75 – $125, for me, it holds fond memories of my childhood. It takes me back to being in elementary school, sitting in the last row of the top section of the Orange Bowl, watching my beloved Dolphins take on the hated Jets.

What you consider valuable may differ from what I consider valuable, and the driving factor to that value is how we feel about a particular product or service. Savvy advertisers know this, and they do an excellent job tugging on your heart strings in order to better connect you to their product. I remember a Super Bowl ad for McDonald’s featuring pee-wee football. I remember holding back the tears as I watched because I played pee-wee football, and after every game, my dad would take me to McDonald’s. I was one of those little tykes in that ad, and McDonald’s became my fast-food restaurant of choice as a result.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love beer. I love the crispness of an ice-cold bottle of brew on a hot summer day when I’m working in the yard. I love experiencing new beers, from home brews to micro-brews to new products from the giant beer makers. I love going to a beer bar with 40+ draft options and needing to take 15 minutes to place my order. Beer is good (except for Coors Lite …… *bleh*).

I am particularly a fan of dark beers. I learned to drink dark beers by drinking Guinness, and even though I meander through the choices available – Left Hand Milk Stout is wonderful, BTW – I tend to end up back with Guinness. And that brings the conversation full circle. Not since the aforementioned McDonald’s ad have I seen a TV spot that literally moved me to tears. That is until I saw the newest spot for Guinness Beer. I will let you view and judge it for yourself, but I remember being mesmerized by the commercial the first time I saw it. It played on my emotions of competition, love of family, and character. It touched something inside me that resonated in my soul, and it reminded me that sometimes, an ad does more than just sell a product.

And the next time I’m at the bar, I will have Guinness and smile.