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!

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

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

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