It’s About Prevention

My son is fifteen years old and he just started his sophomore year in high school. This year he will attend school with one less classmate. You see, back in June, Tovonna Holton, who was also fifteen and also preparing for her second year of high school, took her own life. Tovonna lived a quarter-mile down the street from my son.

Suicide creates a profound impact, whether directly or tangentially. And although the circumstances surrounding Tovonna’s death are in debate – did she take her life because of cyber-bullying, or was it because of domestic issues in her home – the end result is the same. A young girl struggling with pressure and crisis in her life took a handgun and killed herself.

Crisis can feel insurmountable. It can be overwhelming. When left solely on the shoulders of an individual, it can be tragic.


Two years ago, our friend Susie took her life. I can honestly say things haven’t felt the same since. But we don’t just let it end there, with the grief and the “what if’s”. We take the pain and the anguish and the heartache, and we channel it in hopes that no one else ever has to feel those same emotions.

That’s the thing about suicide; it is 100% preventable.

On Wednesday, August 31, The RITZ Ybor is hosting Beer and Bowties Tampa Bay, a fundraising event from which all proceeds go to suicide prevention and awareness. The team that founded Beer and Bowties have partnered with the Tampa Bay Crisis Center in order to bring people together to strip away the taboos that surround the conversations of suicide and shed light on the epidemic that claimed over forty thousand American lives in 2014*.


The mission of the Tampa Bay Crisis Center is to ensure that no one in our community has to face crisis alone, and awareness is critical in curbing the suicide rate in our country. Knowing there are people and organizations that are willing to help is the difference between someone choosing to end it all and someone taking that first step towards getting better.

I encourage you to join us on August 31 in the hopes of having an effect in the life of someone struggling with crisis and confusion. If not, I trust this post serves as a reminder of the resources that are available to those contemplating suicide. Remember, 2-1-1 is a free, 24/7 helpline that connects individuals to essential health and human services.

Whether it’s someone with whom you work, attend school, or who lives just down the street, we all have a role to play in helping prevent suicide.



*Source: Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

Click here to see video by Vox regarding the impact of guns on suicide.

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.”


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

102/365 Wednesday Workspace

On Wednesdays I tutor at Booker T. Washington Elementary in Tampa. It’s part of an outreach program put together by Relevant Church. Although the program has been in place for a couple of years now, this is my first year being a part of it.

What kept me from being involved before was a matter of logistics. Living in New Tampa and working in Temple Terrace, there was no way I could get down to the Ybor ditrict of Tampa on my lunch break, work with a student for an hour, and get back to work within a reasonable time frame. I would have to take half the day off if I tried to do that.

But God has His way of providing a solution, and the happy medium to my logistical issue was to have me work from my church on Wednesdays. The church is only 5 minutes from the school, and since I have the capability of telecommuting with my current job, working from my church is really no different than working from home (except I can’t hang around all day in my PJ’s at church).

So come hump day, I give up my cozy office chair for a bar stool and large counter top. And when I think of my kid at BTW and how his face lights up when he sees me, it’s all totally worth it.

Wednesday Urbana 01/52

So, in an effort to keep the creative juices flowing, and given the fact the tutoring program in which I participate brings me down to Ybor City in Tampa once a week, I’ve decided to borrow from my wife’s Wordless Wednesday idea and post a picture once a week. I plan to take the picture in urban settings – most likely in the Ybor City area – and manipulate it with one of several photo-effect applications I have on my phone. Quick, simple, and a hacky attempt to be artsy (which pretty much sums up me as a person).

So with out further adieu, I present to you my first contribution to Wednesday Urbana.