My life-savior

Some of my best memories of Portugal took place on a beach. If there is one thing I miss the most is gazing at the ocean and its vastness. I loved feeling the cool and gentle breeze of the coastal line welcoming each morning as a new beginning. But it was later in the day that the real magic would take place; when the horizon served as a canvas for a beautiful sunset. To experience both in one day would be a blessing. I can appreciate it more now than I did before. Maybe it’s because I can recognize the dangers of the water more clearly. In my life I’ve experienced the thrill of waves that engulfed me in joy and pain.

Swimming with my Dad

I was born a surprise. At 50 my Dad was looking forward to slower days and calmer times. I didn’t necessarily change his plans but he still compromised in certain moments. Going to the beach would always provide the right opportunity to bond. It would change as I got older but the memories remain. As a little child I remember holding his hands with trust. His palms were rugged and I believed he could stand it all.

I can recall being as young as 7 and my Dad would place me on his shoulders and he would jump in the water. He would challenge the waves as an authoritative figure. In the water, despite his age, he was the fittest and most courageous man around. I remember holding on to his shoulders while he swam far, far away; to a point where the beach looked like miles in the distance. I remember being scared. He could sense it and he would say: “Don’t worry son. I’m here. I’m not going to let you go.”

As I got older our relationship changed. My Dad was from a generation oppressed by the Portguese dictatorship. You didn’t ask heart sinking questions; you didn’t interrogate decisions that were one-sided; you didn’t share the deepest areas of your soul. With no one else to open up to, the reality of a dark world came crashing down on me; like an ocean’s wave.

It is hard to even write words that express the chasm created in our relationship. We still spoke about the mundane and I respected his leadership at home. But it wasn’t the same. I was growing up and ready to face the waters myself. I just know I couldn’t do it on my own. But that is how I felt; alone because he choose to not enter the water with me. 

Swimming with a Father

The beautiful part of this story comes from knowing that a sunset is most enjoyable with others by your side. Next to me were brothers and sisters who embraced me just as I was and spoke of the one who will always go in the water with you; the one whose hands are not just rugged but also… pierced.

The introduction to Jesus wasn’t formal. The reality is that He was there all along: when others belittled me; when so-called friends questioned my faith; when my eartly father choose not to come in the water with me. Instead, Jesus entered the ocean by my side. 

A cross stands in the place where He washed me clean. A beacon of light that inspired a song I would play to my wife and children. A song that still provides hope to anyone getting beaten by the waves.

When the waves come crashing down, when my face hits the ground.
I will need something strong; a right above all wrongs.
And I say God, you are my God.
And you’ll always be true, my life-savior is you.
Jesus, Jesus, come rescue me.
Jesus, Jesus, come set me free.

I heard a gentle voice, above all life’s noise.
My savior was calling me and I was rescue from life’s see.
And I said God, you are my God.
And you’ve always been true, my life-savior is you.
Jesus, Jesus, you came and rescued me.
Jesus, Jesus, you came and set me free.

David Marques, 2002

Jesus was and is my life-savior. The one who goes in the water with you; the one who withstands the weight of the waves; the one whose words remain true even in the darkest of storms…

“Don’t worry son. I’m here. I’m not going to let you go.”


Living on Mission

It’s not easy to be intentional but I try. Often I see myself caught up in the distractions of this world that I forget my sense of presence in the moment. To live this way is to miss out. A greater purpose makes all little things add up. All you have to do is look at the people who have found direction in life to recognize their meaning goes beyond what they have experienced and is reflected in their every interaction. They are on a mission and in the process living life to the fullest. Deep inside we all long for it; we were made for something bigger than ourselves. And there is inspiration when we witness someone like that. My inspiration comes from an American girl.

Everything has purpose, clocks tell you time, trains take you to places. I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured if the entire world was one big machine… I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.

Hugo Cabret, Hugo (the movie)

When I was 17 I met this group of people who changed my life. In it was a girl that would laugh with fervor and cry with deep sorrow. She was real and she caught my eye in a room full of noise. Maybe it was because she had a beautiful smile. Or maybe it was because she could reach out and touch you every time you glanced at her brown eyes. I met her the day she arrived but it seemed she had been there for years. That might have been because no one was a stranger to her. When you approached her she would always give you undivided attention. She knew the rhythm needed for each moment and with each interaction it was clear she was there for a reason. I wanted to know why.

A mission gives meaning to life

I don’t remember the winter of 2000 being extremely cold. My heart was warm during that time. The girl who moved from a country of movie stars and popular trends was anything but artificial. She had now become a friend and with each conversation it was clear her charisma came from a life balanced through joy and heartache.

Her youth had been filled with beautiful memories but it had strokes of dark paint. As we shared about our life experiences she told me the reason she left home was to flee a corrupted environment that stole her innocence.

Maybe that’s why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn’t able to do what it was meant to do… Maybe it’s the same with people. If you lose your purpose… it’s like you are broken.

Hugo Cabret, Hugo (the movie)

Outside the pews of her Sunday morning worship were gatherings of a promiscuous youth who looked for easy prey. She was a victim like so many others… but even this couldn’t take away her beauty. What might have seemed like an easy escape actually became an unknown release of unlimited power. She didn’t know then but when she embarked on the decision to serve as a missionary she was saying yes to a story of redemption for herself and for others.

A mission is bigger than any setback

Over the next few months the girl who quickly grabbed my heart suddenly attracted the disregard of my family. What started as a friendship soon became a love story bound to be challenged. Having travelled across the ocean to serve selflessly her quest was not seen as noble enough for an older generation who questioned everything on the side of suspicion. Instead of regarded for her internal beauty she was questioned by her outer looks. A blow to her self-esteem that only a higher calling could help her overcome.

By that time her mission was my own. Every frustration, disappointment or challenge to our love made the path clearer for us. We married in the spring of 2003 knowing fully well that the bumps along the road were part of our story. A story that might not fit a book perfectly but that would hopefully inspire others to live fully.

Hugo: I’m sorry it’s broken.
Mr. Méliés: No it’s not. It worked perfectly!

Hugo (the movie)

A mission creates legacy

Over the years I saw this girl become a woman in every sense of the word. She is now a wife and a mother but most importantly she remains a missionary.

What I witnessed was beauty regenerating from ashes. Her body was bruised from physical and emotional wounds. Some might consider it bad luck. I would say they were a burnt offering to a God who gives purpose despite circumstances. A God who uses broken vessels to share his unending love. A true God.

My American girl showed forgiveness, kindness and compassion no matter what she went through.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34-35

Courtney continues to inspire me today. As she meets with others in our community or outside the country, she is steadfast in her purpose to love others. Whether she is volunteering at our children’s school or encouraging neighbors at our local gym, she recognizes the mission in every moment. She is not perfect and that is probably what makes her even more beautiful. Her vulnerability and willingness to tell her story is what makes life real.

Together we claim our mission to share the love of God in the simple yet meaningful moments of life.

You can read more about my wife’s story on her blog.

Fear and Hope

This year Courtney and I spent our Valentine’s Day evening watching a documentary titled In Light of Eternity. It may not seem like the most romantic thing to do, especially when your wife isn’t fond of movies or TV time, but this experience was different. As I continue to feel a strong pull to remain intentional in my pursuit for purpose the narrative spoke to both of us and questioned our plans. We were reminded that selflessness is the key to fulfillment. A truth that made February 14 more meaningful. But the challenge to live this way goes beyond marriage or any other relationship. It serves a higher calling and is greater than one day or one year; it is a life-long commitment. A purpose that moves in action. All these thoughts hit me like a train when I read the opening quote:

Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but succeeding in life at things that don’t really matter.

D.L. Moody

Suddenly it became personal and the questions circled my head: What am I doing today that won’t matter tomorrow, next year or 50 years from now? What am I pursuing that won’t make a difference in my life or the life of the people I love? What am I afraid of that I know I need to do?

Fear can paralyze a man and strip him of any potential good he could bring to the world. I’ve felt that fear before.

Fear in the form of a nightmare

When I was kid I remember having nightmares when I watched something scary. It wasn’t a sure occurrence but when it would happen I would sweat and shiver with suspense until I woke up. Heart pounding but relieved. The fear was not knowing if it was real.

As an adult I’ve experienced some nightmares but one has stuck with me. It comes and goes, and it expresses a fear that is real. It normally starts like this…

Driving an old car through the night on an open road with open fields on one side and scattered trees on the other. I am all alone and it is silent. The car stops as I approach an old pole with a street light shining a few feet ahead of me. The image moves from a first person view to a panoramic angle of the car, the road and the trees. I don’t know why the car stops but suddenly I get out to find myself walking towards the brighter side of the road with a cinematic view still playing. I’m no longer seeing things as if I’m the one in the dream; at this moment I’m simply a spectator watching attentively to see what happens. I walk pass the pole but don’t seem to make any progress. It gets darker and I continue to walk. By now I see myself running and looking back only to see that I’m still at the same distance from the light pole and the car. I run the other direction and the same happens. No progress. The image fades with me just standing in the middle of the road. Stuck in this reality with no where to go.

I believe much of this nightmare comes from the fear of failure. A fear that freezes you. Disabling you to no movement. I know for me this fear encompasses much of my professional life and the obsession with a successful career. But it is greater than just work; it’s about living a life that matters and making sure every decision, every step, every action aligns with my plans. For some people it is easy to read this and simply say “snap out of it.” The problem is that fear raises doubts in our own abilities and formulas. Fear is the real reason we feel stuck.

Fighting fear with hope

In August I will celebrate 12 years living in the United States. It seems like it was yesterday that Courtney and I arrived on a warm Florida night with little more than the clothes on our backs, ready to start a new life. That day was exhilarating. We were a young couple making decisions with no regard to fear. Yes Courtney’s parents would embrace our move and help us during the first few months but there was little certainty on what would happen next. No jobs. No cars. No friends. And no real concrete plans. We just knew we were meant to make the move across the ocean to a town we really didn’t know much about. Our driving force wasn’t courage. We simply had hope.

Fear gives us a reason not to try; Hope gives us the courage not to listen.

Bob Goff

I believe the only way to fight fear is to have hope. Courage is simply an expression. An emotion that took place in our hearts and made us move. The real antidote to fear is to experience hope.

Hope-filled purpose

I still carry that hope that made me move to a new country over a decade ago. It is fulfilling to look back at that memory and see the blessings that have come from that decision. The real catalyst was the word of God that propelled us to see our decisions in light of… eternity. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it.

The nostalgia of that time doesn’t negate my increasing responsibilities. It just reminds me that over time my dreams have become personal-life plans. I think that is why I don’t dream much anymore. I want to experience that hope-filled life again. I want to live with enough faith and courage where my actions aren’t just based on certainty but embrace risk as an opportunity for God to show up. Hope looks for a better way; a better future. I want to live that way; with a life that matters and have it reflected in my marriage, my parenting, and even in my career.

In the end our hope provides direction and meaning.

And HOPE does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:5

In the end our hope provides clarity in our purpose.

My pursuit for purpose

I wish I could write this post with enough confidence to see the road ahead ever so clearly. More than the ability to express thoughts it would be a sign that I knew exactly where I was going. My focus on a theme of purpose has made me evaluate my life and the decisions I’ve made. I see myself searching for significance and not just aimlessly wandering. But it’s hard. There is intentionality in purpose and when I look back at my journey so far I see where I’ve made some contributions: conscious moments where I placed stakes on the ground that will one day serve as mile markers on the map of my legacy. I want the same for my future. Taking each step with trust. Unafraid of the road ahead. But where am I going and how am I going to get there? 

Mapping my purpose from dreams

I had a great childhood. It wasn’t perfect but that is normal. I was brought up in a very sheltered environment where protection was a form of love. That was my reality but it didn’t keep me from dreaming. Like most kids my imagination was limitless. I wanted to change the world. Dreams do that to you. Especially when you are a child. Adults don’t get it.

Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince.

When you grow-up the world makes you selfish. Maybe it’s because at some point we all fall down and get bruised. We experience rejection. Our thoughts, views and ideas become filtered by the reaction of others. It was that way for me. Acceptance became more important than my dreams and so I adjusted. I adjusted to peers who bullied their views on me; and I adjusted to family who was too afraid to fly… and so I let them trim my wings. But at some point our dreams come out. Our experiences catapult our child-like thoughts back to the forefront of our minds. We remember… we had wings. In those moments we dream we can fly again.

You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.

J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan.

The world will cloud some of our views but when we see our dreams for what they are we see they run deeper than the superficial.  I knew I wanted to connect with others. I knew I wanted to tell stories. I just didn’t know how it would happen. Maybe it just starts with my own story.

Seeking direction from personal experiences

If there was one thing that was clear to me growing up, it was school. Study hard, get good grades and climb the academical ladder. This path had one simple direction: all the way to college. And while questions about the future did come up, for the most part, life was straight forward. But I can recall moments that shaped me to who I am today. These were moments that had a clear impact on my view of the world. They also made the journey more clear.

My first moment was as a 5 year-old who stuck at home embraced the beautiful storylines of American television as his own. And by beautiful storylines I mean the lives of Bayside High in the hit show Saved by the Bell. Yes that was the show that introduced me to the English language and American culture. I learned a new language by watching TV and somehow I knew I would use this new skill someway, somehow.

My second moment came shortly after joining middle-school and establishing confidence in my bilingual skills. They were proven successful by teachers but not so popular on the playground. In the classroom I was seen as blessed while outside it felt more like a curse. My first experience with bullying came from people who actually felt more secure in belittling someone because of their ability to do something they couldn’t. I didn’t know then but I know now that all of us experience brokenness and instead of hiding from it, freedom actually comes from embracing it.

My most shape defining moment was as a teenager when I happened to meet this group of Americans who started playing soccer every Saturday morning at our local futebol field. I remember candidly how I went to play with some friends but they happened to meet somewhere else. Instead this other group was there. Some old and some young but all friendly. They welcomed me and invited me to play. In that place my previous moments collided. Here I was in my hometown speaking English; embraced and accepted like never before. It all made sense in that moment.

There was a reason why I experienced what I did in my youth. This group of people were real and accepted me as I was. Most importantly they introduced me to a Savior who put me back together again. A Savior who helped me stand up when I needed too. A Savior who opened my heart to real love.

Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice.

Bob Goff, Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

I don’t know where I would have been if it wasn’t for the love I experience with Jesus and His family. I finally found true meaning for purpose and these experiences provided direction for my life.

Walking by faith and not by sight… with courage… and love

My last year of college brought a mixture of confidence and uneasy. In the months leading up to my final exams I recall seeing the future as a foggy path. Even as a positive person with strong faith there was so much uncertainty now. College had been my first answered prayer and it fit my childhood plan. Until then life had been clear but now… I didn’t know what was next. In times like these faith is truly believing in the unseen. Faith requires courage. It also helps to have someone provide perspective along the way. I found that with my best friend and made her my wife.

If there was a moment that made me stronger it was getting married in college. I stood against culture and family when I took Courtney as my bride. If faith requires courage, love makes you courageous. I needed both in my role as a leader for my family. And whether it was a matter of where I was going to work or where we were going to live, the questions stopped fazing me because my faith was proved with blessings. That memory is a good reminder now.

For we walk by faith and not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7

It’s amazing to think that 12 years have passed since my college days. So much has changed since my youth. Our family has grown, we have changed countries and my career has evolved. But somehow the future still seems foggy at times. I know my purpose as a husband and a father. But I also know there is more. Something bigger. I believe the formula to finding our meaning lies within our Dreams, Experiences, Faith, Courage and Love.

I don’t have all the answers or know all that I will find along the way, but my journey continues… 

Choosing purpose

How would you answer this question: What do you want to be remembered for? Did I get your attention, because it always gets mine. Few questions make me tremble as much as this one. To respond I have to imagine the future but also reference the present – what I do today will impact the legacy I create. I think that is why so many people make new years’ resolutions. We see our flaws, our inconsistencies, our shortcomings and recognize the need to change; the need to improve the future version of ourselves. My daughter’s resolution is to create more snow flake decorations in 2017 than 2016. My thoughts of a new year’s resolution are more complicated. But it is hard to zero in on that one thing when there is so much we are involved in. That is always my struggle, which is why I create themes that provide broader opportunities for me to focus. Some people call it their yearly word. For 2017 I’m focusing on Purpose.

Recently a friend of mine told me I tend to look so intently at the big picture that I miss the little areas of progress. I never saw myself as a control-freak and most people would never describe me that way but I do tend to approach things from a macro perspective. Honestly I think it’s because I want to make sure I’m making all the right moves. It helps me at work but not so much in life. It leads to many frustrations. The fear of missing out on something is probably the biggest catalyst. I think that is why I need to focus on Purpose more than ever.

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In the last few years I experienced some of the deepest growth by going through a mixture of joy and pain. I can smile when I think of my 13 years of marriage, the small group we hosted in our home and the opportunity to officiate our friends wedding. But the gut wrenching feeling is real when I recall relationships that didn’t work out or simply faded despite our desire for more. The balance of these feelings provide perspective and meaning to my life. Between the good and the bad, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I learned more about myself and God through it all. If anything, I want to recognize the little moments more and be fully in.

These feelings make me think of Joseph. In the Old Testament Joseph is described as a dreamer who envisions himself leading his family and the nations. His brothers despised him and in an act of anger and jealousy they sell him as a slave while telling their father he was killed by wild animals. The moral of the story is that God is in control and his purpose will be fulfilled. We see this when Joseph ascends to power in Egypt, is reunited with his family and helps the nations survive a period of famine. This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible and there is one passage that always catches my attention. In Genesis 50:20, when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, he says:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

While my story is not as complex as the life of Joseph I think we all experience moments where our plans seem small and fall to a greater power. Ultimately I don’t think it mattered how Joseph fulfilled his purpose, just as long it was honorable to God. I think that is the same with us. God cares more about our purpose than He does about our plans. Plans are more personal and tend to be self-serving. A purpose is greater than us; our desires, our needs and out wants. A purpose tends to look out for others first. To understand the impact of our actions and fulfill it with intentionality that recognizes each moment.

If 2016 was a year where I found comfort in my voice, I want 2017 to be the year where I speak with more confidence in the purpose I have. 

The best Christmas gift

In my home the days after Christmas are spent cleaning up so we can enjoy our new presents. This year was no different. The inside decorations have been put away and as I look around there is very little evidence that our home was recently a winter wonderland packed with the magic of Christmas. Except for maybe the presents. New gifts always serve as reference points for this season. Most of us are either enjoying our new gifts or… thinking of exchanging them. My children love theirs… until something newer comes along. But I don’t think they are alone in these feelings; I go through the same emotions. I believe that is the reality of the human heart.

This is not a minimalist approach. I know the new shiny object will eventually fade. Soon what I was so excited about was just something new that I wanted to experience – a new toy, new gadget, new tools, new clothes, you name it. A new gift grows old and dusty as other things catch our eye and rob our attention. That is why my focus this year was different.

The perfect gift is still available

As I’ve grown older I’ve experience more joy in giving than receiving. Maybe it’s because I’ve realized there is really nothing that truly satisfies my need. But it’s also because there is true fulfillment in seeing someone unwrapping a gift that makes your heart jump with anticipation and joy. This intentional perspective also allowed me to experience the true meaning for the season: the birth of a savior.

Jesus was quoted in the Book of Acts with one of the most popular sayings:

It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

It is only fitting that the God of the Universe would gives us a glimpse of true joy by giving His only son as payment for our redemption. The gift of salvation wasn’t just a saying that could catch our attention like a celebrity tweet. No, the gift of salvation came in the form of a man who would die for all humanity.

Christmas is not a beginning, but a becoming. Christ was not created; He came. God sent God to rescue us.”

David Mathis (Desiring God)

The best gift of Christmas is always fulfilling and never grows old. It’s a gift available to all.

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Follow me on Instagram for my #postittoencourage

If you were left disappointed with what you received, or have grown bored with what you unwrapped from under your tree, know this: the gift of Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving. It won’t make life perfect but it will give you perspective and purpose – allowing you to see others around you while helping you prioritize on what is important. In truth it is the gift of never-ending love and everlasting joy.

My Thanksgiving Day Message – Obrigado

It came and it is gone. Thanksgiving Day arrived with the promise of great family memories and beautiful celebrations. Not to mention some great food. For many this holiday brings mixed emotions but for me it is simply my favorite time of the year. And while I know I won’t be the only one posting about the meaning of the day I would like to share my own perspective; especially as a Portuguese living in America (as a reminder, we did not have pilgrims in my country so… I can relate… as a pilgrim). Doing it a day after highlights the importance of the day.

Where Thanksgiving stands (literally and more)

Tucked in the middle of summer and winter, warm weather and freezing temperatures, Thanksgiving Day provides a balance to the second half of a year. For many of us (me included) the end of summer can be crazy with increased work trips, back-to-school realities and overall busyness. We long for the Holidays and the break it gives. Christmas brings us peace and the New Year gives us all a reset button. But then the rollercoaster of what life is seems to resume again; sometimes with different twists; always with highs and lows. That is why Thanksgiving Day is so essential. I’m reminded throughout the year of how much I need the feeling of gratitude to permeate the right attitude towards what is unfolding in front of me. In fact it makes me look at me less and look at others more.

In my own language

This month my house has been filled with Portuguese words as my mom visited us for 2 weeks. And like any grandmother (or vóvó for Portuguese), our children were showered with a love that offered lots of presents and sweet treats. As we try to teach our children to be grateful one Portuguese word stood out: Obrigado. In Portuguese that means Thank you. But this word has a much deeper meaning. The word can also be used to express debt or obliged. In many ways true thankfulness means exactly that: I’m in debt to you for all you have done for me.

This message has been written after a Thanksgiving Day filled with precious moments that highlight this reality in my life: I am blessed. As I hear the stories of Portugal my Mom carries with her I’m given a perspective that shows me how certain decisions in my journey have allowed me to experience life to the fullest. As I enjoy time with my American family I’m reminded of how they received me as one of their own and embraced my differences as something to cherish. I’m thankful to God for how He continues to shape me; not giving up on me but instead filling me with His grace and mercy. I want to be reminded of that daily and not just one day a year.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. 

His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

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For that I say OBRIGADO!


The power of vulnerability and how I am finding my voice

I believe in the power of vulnerability. This is probably one of the reasons why I blog. It is not about how smart or wise I am as much as it is about admitting my mistakes and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Still, there are some things we keep to ourselves. And if anything, the hard parts of life that we’re willing to let out we only admit and share with the people closest to us. Our so called “circle of trust.” We do this to avoid judgement. And so we hide in a shell with fear of what others might think. Yes, vulnerability can be used against us but it should not be concealed by fear or limited by an audience. The true power of vulnerability is on full display when we accept our situation, our experience, and share freely.

I wasn’t introduced to this concept until later in life and so for many of you cringing at this idea I simply ask that you continue to read. Believe me when I say this is not easy. As I type these words there is a part of me that is uncomfortable. Seriously. But I still believe I should share.

Why should we be vulnerable?

If we are truly honest with ourselves we can all recognize that we are messed up and less than perfect. We’ve all been hurt by something or someone. For some of us even our circumstances and environment have damaged our sense of perspective. Broken. That is how I would define it.

Our instincts are to fight the pain and adjust. Adapt. Sometimes we do this by avoiding the things, people or places that remind us of our brokenness. Most times we put on the fake-it-until-you-make-it mode that has been subtly engrained in us. You know what I’m talking about. We were enrolled into this mindset at an early age and now we’re instructors of the fallacy. “Get over it” or “You shouldn’t feel this way” are all well intended but don’t address the issue. That is why vulnerability is so liberating.

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Indeed, if life and pain go hand-in-hand then vulnerability provides the calibration needed to measure both. To acknowledge a struggle or a painful memory to the point of sharing is to choose freedom. By doing this we can approach the future with hope. And when we do this we recognize that the freedom we experience is available to others . It is also the recognition that our story has power to impact the lives of people around us.

I often find myself looking at Jesus and the Bible as a compass for my own journey. In the case of vulnerability I see it best displayed when his followers accepted their shortcomings and simply acknowledged their place in God’s story. Paul was a great example of vulnerability. Yes, Jesus accepted him and provided him a purpose that ultimately changed his life. But not everyone was as welcoming. I just don’t think God’s story would be as beautiful without Paul’s past – the one who persecuted and killed Christians. It creates authenticity and it is the same with our story.

True vulnerability weights in the balance of opportunity. To have an impact we must recognize when to share our story, knowing that is is just a piece of something much larger. But instead of moved by fear we must share with courage knowing that our message can bring freedom to us and hope to others.

Finding my voice by being vulnerable

Growing up my dream was to tell stories that would inspire others. Look deep into the character of a human being and reveal the secrets behind his or her achievements. I first started looking at the historical figures of my own country – The Conquistadores. It later morphed into a passion for sports. The images I wrote in my mind came to life as I hoped for them to be my story. But it never happened. Yes, I experienced moments that still play like a Forrest Gump movie: in the midst of historical events I was somewhere in the story, just not center-stage. But then again, that was okay. The problem is that is distorted my voice.

Through the years I was told to conform and so did my narrative. It is no wonder I ended up looking at the corporate world as my new platform and public relations as the skill to master. The spin doctor in me recognized the way a message needed to be shaped, only to feel the brokenness harder to hide. It wasn’t until a youth group welcomed me in to their midst that I could feel comfortable in myself; my own skin. I was finally able to tell my real story.

Through the years I’ve never felt perfect or as the main cast member but I have felt whole. I might not have the craziest of stories but my life still includes frustrations, regrets and pain. No, it is not all loom and gloom but I am now just as comfortable with the dark side as I am with bright side of my story. There is no need to spin that.

In my life…

I experienced great loving parents as well as parents that didn’t accept my bride as the love of my life.

I created great friendships but was hurt by deceiving company.

I spoke with authority for others but shrieked when bullied.

I have lead with confidence but experienced the pain of demotion.

I loved well in public but failed in private.

In recognizing my shortcomings I have been able to be truer to myself and become a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better son, a better brother, a better worker, a better leader and a better friend.

And besides findings my place in the story, I have found my voice.

The Sabbath

Sunday was a good day. It might have seemed like any other Sunday but it wasn’t. It was special because for the first time in a long time my family and I relaxed. We relaxed because we truly took the Sabbath for what it means: a time to rest and a time to connect; with God and with each other. We fulfilled God’s command (Exodus 16:23)

This is what the Lord has commanded: Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord

and experienced His rest (Hebrews 4:9-10)

There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

When I first heard about it

A few years ago a friend of mine told me about how him and his family would take Sunday as a day of rest. While it seemed good at first my mind immediately took me back to all the tasks I would need to fulfill and how “wasting” 24 hours was unacceptable. I mean, how could I do all that I wanted to do with one less day of the week?

When my body reminded me of it

It became less of a theory and more of a must when after weeks of long hours in the office my body broke down. I was tired and literally aching; mentally and physically. I wanted to wake up early and stay up late; I had things to do but I couldn’t muster the energy to do it all. My body was telling me to slow down.

When it all made sense

It’s been 3 years since I had that experience and I remember how Courtney and I decided to stop scheduling activities on Sundays. Since then we’ve created great memories with long walks, backyard games and some heartfelt conversations. I  can look back and see how much I needed to have taken each weekend as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy what was most important to me.

Spending time with God solidified it all

But if I was to point to the one thing that made Sunday worthwhile it was my renewed time with God. In fact that is the whole purpose of the Sabbath: to spend time with the creator and provider of all that I’m surrounded with. I’m not talking about just attending church; we’ve always done that. I’m talking about waking up with a desire to spend time with God. To learn about His love for us; His plan and purpose for our lives. To have the whole family join in as we read scripture and listen to God’s story.

It also provides a better perspective on the week ahead

Ultimately, spending time with God and my family while experiencing true rest provides me a better outlook for the week ahead. My work emphasis is less on the challenges and more on what I get to do. It becomes easier to see work for what it truly is: worship. Not a consuming list of tasks but joyful activities that praise my God and support my family. I’m able to look at my time with others as an opportunity to be light and bring value to any interaction. Ultimately, the Sabbath provides rest and replenishment.

Have you ever observed a Sabbath? Maybe you work on Sunday and you need to do it during another day of the week. My encouragement to you is that you take the time to immerse yourself in God’s word with a day free of appointments or to-do’s.

The case for leadership

The following blog post was based on an initial article I wrote for Marketplace Matters. I’m honored to serve along side other Christ-followers who find purpose in their work and recognize the true meaning of leadership.

It is fair to say that we will all read a book or an article, at least once in our lifetime, on the topic of leadership. In fact, bookstores and libraries are packed with them. Leadership is a timeless theme that grabs the heart and soul of every man, woman or child. We’ve all heard the stories of leaders who took initiative to achieve greatness. Deep inside, our inspiration is fueled by a desire to do something bigger than ourselves. I believe that desire was placed inside each one of us by our Creator. God has called us to lead.

My experience shows me that leadership is multifaceted. It comes in different shapes and sizes. That is the blessing. Whether in business, ministry, at school or in the home, we’ve all been given a platform from which to lead. Leadership is more than just a position or a role; it goes beyond influence. Leadership is the ability to achieve objectives in a process that generates development in yourself and the people around you. Which is why we read books, attend conferences and meet with mentors. We want to lead but we too know that we need other leaders in our lives. Ultimately, leaders are followers too. We look for people wise, more knowledgable and experienced than us to show us what the path of life looks like up ahead. I think that is why God placed Proverbs 27:17 in the heart of Solomon. The wisest man of that time knew the benefits of others in our lives.

As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens  another.

The call in all of us

Through all the realities that I’ve been exposed I’ve learned my biggest contribution will always be in preparing the leaders of the future. I can do that at work or at home. My most precious opportunity is with my three children. They are all different; unique. Each one with specific traits that make their personalities shine in different situations. And I encourage each of them to be a leader in their own way. Yes, I teach them lessons that will help them be effective and understand the environment around them, but I allow them to be themselves. My oldest, Caden, is creative and I can see him be flexible and open to the perspective of others. Blake, my middle child, is strong willed and I can seem him encourage and motivate a group to achieve a goal. My little girl, Ava, is sweet and I can see her balance high expectations with compassion.

We all have been called to be leaders and we will all leave a legacy. What kind of legacy will your leadership leave?