Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 5, 2020

Heartbroken for Our Nation

Our nation is currently caught in the teeth of a violent cultural storm that is ripping our societal fabric to shreds. The pandemic aside, the killing of George Floyd ignited expressions of collective outrage that morphed into rioting, looting, destruction, and more deaths.

Beyond that, Floyd’s death has forced us to address the ugly specter of racism. The anger is palpable as people cry out for the kind of America that Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of — a place where people are not judged “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

I too, long for that kind of America. Skin color often puts people at an unfair advantage or disadvantage. Judging a book by its cover often keeps us from reading some amazing stories. However, the content of our character levels the playing field. MLK understood that character, not skin color, reveals the heart of a person.

God has always been concerned about the heart of man.

Jesus warned that the heart can produce some really ugly behaviors like “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19). But He also illustrated how a person with a heart that breaks for what breaks God’s heart can make difference — as in the case of a good Samaritan who moved in the direction of a man in desperate need.

A broken heart is essential to fixing broken things.

Injustice and regarding others as anything less than those created in His image breaks the heart of God. Unless our heart is broken for what breaks God’s heart, we will fail to make a difference in our world. We must get in sync with the rhythm of His divine heartbeat.

When we truly get our heart in sync with His, then we can no longer remain the same. We cannot remain passive or uninvolved or complacent about what we see happening in our world. Instead we will reorder our priorities to reflect God’s passions and then intentionally spend ourselves on bringing healing to a world that is broken.

God hates injustice and the violation of the sanctity of human life. The anger of man, however, will not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20). While acts of injustice should disturb us and even enrage us, an angry heart will not heal the deep wounds that have resulted in so much painful division in our nation. We must do more than respond in anger to make a point. We must take wise steps to make a difference.

Each of us, regardless of the color of our skin, must ask God the same question. We must seek to understand what breaks His heart and how He can use us to play a role in promoting healing rather than creating more wounds. We must build and maintain bridges of love.

Asking God to break your heart for what breaks His is a dangerous prayer. When this prayer is answered it will change the way you look at and respond to what you see in the world. The answer to this prayer will turn your life upside down. But, that’s ok!

God uses those whose lives have been turned upside down to turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6) — essentially, to turn the world right side up and aligned with God’s purposes.

A heart that is in sync with God’s heart is reflected in a life that is willing to do more than talk a good game but that actually gets in the game. A broken heart will lead you to an honest examination of what steps you must take to respect and live in harmony with all people regardless of their pigmentation.

A broken heart will cause you to dig deeper, work harder, pray longer, go farther, and reach higher. A broken heart will not allow you to live selfishly — to consume everything solely on yourself and your personal interests. A broken heart will lead you to close the distance between yourself and those who are lost, hurting, disenfranchised, and in need.

The popular praise song “Hosanna” by Hillsong expresses the sentiment of what it means to ask God to break your heart:

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me

Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

Singing or saying these words is much easier than living them out. Asking God to break our heart for what breaks His must be more than an emotional exercise that does not result in any change in our lives.

Be warned: A person whose heart is truly broken for the things that break God’s heart will be inconvenienced in order to engage with hurting humanity. But, that’s ok! In the words of A.W. Tozer, the kingdom of God has always advanced at our inconvenience, never at our convenience.

God is looking for people with broken hearts who are willing to do whatever it takes to connect with a hurting world and to make a difference. Will you allow God to break your heart?

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | June 10, 2020

On Defunding the Police

The protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd continue to dominate the news. In major cities across the country, large crowds gather daily to express their collective outrage at the senseless death of an unarmed black man by Minneapolis police officers.

To express outrage at the death of Floyd in a peaceful manner is a responsible way for our nation to sigh and to grieve and to call attention to an injustice. Sadly, many of the protests have deteriorated into ugly expressions of anarchy that dishonor the death of George Floyd.

According to news reports, outsiders show up at demonstrations to agitate and stir up trouble. To make matters worse, opportunists also show up to loot and destroy. The toxic presence of these two groups has resulted in the wanton destruction of property and the loss of life.

Amid these ongoing protests, calls to defund police departments have grown increasingly loud. Activists who feel that reforms are not enough to address concerns about police are urging politicians to do more. Minneapolis, the city where Floyd took his final breath, is among the first cities to take steps toward defunding the police.

This week, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council committed to dismantling its police department. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey prefers to make changes but not break up his city’s embattled police force. And so a new battle now rages over the best way to protect the public.

In its most literal sense, the movement to defund is simple. It means taking funding away from police forces, many of which are already underfunded. In its broader sense, the push to defund the police is about taking money away from police departments and reallocating those funds into social programs.

Advocates for defunding argue that dollars taken away from police will yield better results if invested in community initiatives that provide more opportunities for the poor and marginalized. This would result, they assert, in less crime. Others argue that funds can be used to help communities do a better job of policing themselves.

Passionate arguments will continue to be made on both sides of this divisive issue.

Those who argue that previous reforms intended to keep police in check have not worked point to the few bad apples in the bushel as proof. Bad apples, after all, are what make the sauce of savory news. Reforms, to be sure, are needed but seldom work as quickly, consistently, and effectively as these folks would like. So, toss out the entire bushel of apples.

Proponents of defunding the police also argue that reallocating funding to address other social needs would reduce crime. MDP150 is a Minneapolis-based initiative by organizers aiming to bring “meaningful structural change” to police in the city. This group believes that shifting money away from the police and toward social needs will eventually lead to “a place where people won’t need to rob banks.”

And then there are those who fear the chaos that would result from defunding the police. While poll numbers indicate that there is strong support for police reform, they also reveal that most Americans think that cutting back on police is a bad idea. Many, however, are hopeful that the death of George Floyd will lead to reforms that restrict choke holds and encourage the police to police each other when restraining a suspect.

Regardless of what you may think about the issue of defunding the police, there is one thing that is overlooked in this debate — the heart of man. Jeremiah, one of the pre-exilic Old Testament prophets to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, had this to say (17:9): “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Therein lies the real problem. The heart is deceitful and desperately sick.

This illness was demonstrated by a cop who showed no compassion to a restrained and unarmed man who was fighting to catch his breath.

This illness was also demonstrated when a 24 year-old black man killed David Dorn, a 77 year-old retired police captain who was protecting a shop during a violent night of protests in St. Louis. Dorn was also black.

One thing is certain, no amount of legislation, reforms, or funding can fix the human heart. Jeremiah was right. The heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately sick.” And a heart that is deceitful and sick is vulnerable to evil expressions and deeds.

Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19). We have seen the truth of Jesus’ words illustrated too many times to count over the past few weeks.

As a Christ-follower, I am convinced that the only remedy for a bad heart is a new heart.

Speaking to a nation in exile, the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel recorded these words of the Lord (36:26-27), “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

A person with a new heart is cleansed, forgiven, endowed with a new nature, and has a changed attitude toward sin. A person with a new heart recognizes the value of human life, all human life, regardless of pigmentation. A person with a new heart respects the dignity of others and does not act out of selfishness or empty conceit. A person with a new heart seeks to give rather than take life.

Funding or defunding the police will never lead us to “a place where people won’t need to rob banks” because you can’t fix a deceitful and sick heart with funding or defunding. William Golding’s 1954 novel “Lord of the Flies” is worth reading again in light of current cultural events. This story illustrates what can happen when hearts that are deceitful and desperately sick rule the day.

May we look to the only One who can fix what is broken within us.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 29, 2020

George Floyd’s Final Breath

George Floyd drew his final breath on Monday, May 25, in the presence of concerned bystanders. The 46 year-old black man was arrested by Minneapolis police officers who responded to a call from a shopkeeper about someone trying to pass a potentially counterfeit bill.

Police arrived and pulled Floyd out of his vehicle and cuffed his hands behind his back. This is where bystanders enter the picture. The cell phone video of the moments leading to Floyd’s death is disturbing.

Four police officers used restraint on an unarmed and handcuffed man that was beyond anything reasonable. Floyd lay face down on the street, in obvious pain and distress, while police officers held him down. One officer in particular placed his knee and the weight of his body on Floyd’s neck.

The cell phone video recorded Floyd repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.” Bystanders called out to the officers to show restraint. Their calls fell on deaf ears. The officer with his knee on Floyd’s neck never backed off. Seven minutes later, Floyd said, “I am about to die.”

And then, George Floyd drew his final breath and died. A person nearby remarked, “They just killed him.”

Floyd had moved to Minneapolis from Houston’s Third Ward in search of work and a better life. I have spent lots of time in that part of Houston over the past fifteen years. I have friends in the Third Ward who knew Floyd — and liked him.

Many who personally knew Floyd in Minneapolis also liked him and spoke kindly about this man they regarded as a gentle giant.

As for the phone call about a potentially counterfeit bill, the phone call that set things in motion, I know that I would never be able to distinguish a counterfeit bill from a real one. And if I unwittingly pulled a counterfeit bill from my wallet to pay for something, I would probably get the benefit of the doubt — but not so for Floyd.

What disturbs me most about the video is the unwillingness of the police officer to give Floyd the benefit of the doubt when he cried out repeatedly that he could not breathe. While Floyd’s protests moved bystanders to desperately plead on his behalf, the officer remained stoic and unresponsive, making it increasingly difficult for Floyd to breathe.

Floyd’s cry is a metaphor for what racism, violence, and an unwillingness to give a hurting human being the benefit of the doubt can do. These are things that suffocate people and make it difficult for them to breathe. And a foot or a knee on the neck of another is the ultimate expression of exercising power over those who can do little to help themselves.

What happened to Floyd should disturb us all in a profound way. When we allow racism, violence, and disregard for the sanctity of human life to have a place in our hearts, we become guilty of choking the life out of others — just like the officers responsible for Floyd’s death. And when we tolerate these things in our society, sooner or later it will become difficult for us to breathe.

God hates racism and violence and attitudes that disparage others. As a Christ-follower, I must not and will not tolerate what God hates. I want to see others as Christ sees them — as members of the same human race and those who are equally valuable in the eyes of God. I want for my actions to breathe life into others rather than make it difficult for them to breathe.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” May justice indeed be served in regard to the senseless death of George Floyd.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 24, 2020

24 Melancholy Notes

Felipe Garcia WW1 Seated
My grandfather, Felipe Garcia, was the first to tell me stories about the military. He served as a Sergeant Major in the First World War. My grandfather was instrumental in encouraging Hispanics from South Texas to enlist to serve their country. His contributions to the war effort are recorded in some books about the involvement of Hispanics in the First World War.

Today, my grandfather’s military uniform is on permanent display in the museum in my hometown of Mission, Texas. My grandfather was proud of his military service and always modeled what it means to have a high regard for those who fight to protect our freedoms.

Throughout his life, my grandfather remained active in his local veterans’ post and maintained a deep respect for those who serve in the military. His three sons served in the military and his only daughter married a career Navy officer. He was proud of each of them.

Although I did register for the draft near the end of the Vietnam War, I never served in the military. Like my grandfather, however, I have always had a high regard and abiding gratitude for those who died to protect our freedoms.

In my early years of high school, I accepted an invitation from a veterans’ organization to play Taps at the funeral of a young man from McAllen who had been killed in Vietnam. As the moment approached for me to sound the twenty-four melancholy notes of what is the most recognizable military bugle call, I was gripped by a great sense of responsibility.

Sounding Taps is indeed a great responsibility. In the words of US Air Force bugler Jari Villanueva, “Sounding Taps is the most sacred duty a bugler can perform.” He is right! After that day, I was invited to play Taps at military funerals many times throughout my high school years.

The origin of Taps dates back to the Civil War. In the days before field radios and wireless communication, military leaders depended on bugle calls to guide the movement of their men in battle. Union General Daniel Butterfield had bugle calls composed that his men would recognize as distinctly theirs in the heat of battle.

Not satisfied with the bugle tune that signaled his men to extinguish lights and go to bed, Butterfield worked with his bugler to modify the tune that we now know as Taps. Although never intended to be a funeral ballad, it was first played at a military funeral during the Civil War. Finally in 1891, the year my grandfather was born, Taps was recognized in a military manual as a key component of a military funeral.

Today, Taps is played at least twenty times per day at Arlington National Cemetery, every evening at US military bases around the world, and countless times at military funerals and memorial services. The tune has become a part of our national conscience. No other notes can evoke such emotion from brothers-in-arms and family and friends at a funeral than the twenty-four haunting notes of Taps.

In the words of Oliver Willcox Norton, General Butterfield’s brigade bugler, “There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate in the music of this wonderful call. Its strains are melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate in the air.”

I like Norton’s description of the beauty of the twenty-four melancholy notes that we know as Taps. Just as the echo of the tune lingers in the heart long after the bugler has stopped playing, so does the legacy of the fallen linger.

On this Memorial Day may we remember with gratitude the bravery of those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy. We remain the land of the free because of the brave.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 19, 2020

Remembering Ravi Zacharias

Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias died at his home in Atlanta this morning after a brief battle with a rare form of cancer. He was 74.

Born in India, Ravi was a skeptic. He came to faith in Christ in a hospital in New Delhi after a failed suicide attempt at the age of 17. While recovering, Ravi heard seven words from the Gospel of John that changed the trajectory of his life: “Because I live, you also will live” (14:19).

Ravi surrendered his life to Christ and said that if he emerged from the hospital, he would leave no stone unturned in his pursuit of truth. His obituary notes that once Ravi “found the truth of the gospel, his passion for sharing it burned bright until the very end.”

Later reflecting on his decision to follow Christ, Ravi wrote:

“I came to Him because I did not know which way to turn. I have remained with Him because there is no other way I wish to turn. I came to Him longing for something I did not have. I remain with Him because I have something I will not trade. I came to Him a stranger. I remain with Him in the most intimate of friendships. I came to Him unsure about the future. I remain with Him certain about my destiny.”

When he was a boy, Ravi’s mother took him to a local palm reader who told him, “Looking at your future, Ravi Baba, you will not travel far or very much in your life,” he declared. “That’s what the lines on your hand tell me. There is no future for you abroad.”

Perhaps that might have been the case had Ravi not come to faith in Christ. But, Jesus changes everything, and He did so for Ravi. After coming to faith in Christ, Ravi began his itinerant preaching ministry in India, growing in his reputation as a brilliant speaker and apologist.

At the age of 37, at the invitation of Billy Graham, Ravi preached to the inaugural International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam in 1983. That meeting launched Ravi into the international spotlight where he quickly gained a reputation as one of the foremost defenders of Christianity’s intellectual credibility.

In 1984, Ravi founded Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), with the mission of “helping the thinker believe and the believer think.” The goal of his organization is “to touch both the heart and the intellect of the thinkers and influencers in society by tackling some of the toughest questions about faith and providing thoughtful answers.” In addition to his speaking ministry, Ravi’s books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide and have been translated into over a dozen languages.

Ravi extended his ministry through his weekly radio program, “Let My People Think.” He explored issues such as the credibility of the Christian message and the Bible, the weakness of modern intellectual movements, and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Today, Ravi’s radio program is syndicated to over 2,000 stations in 32 countries and has also been downloaded 15.6 million times as a podcast over the last year.

What I admired most about Ravi was the way in which he engaged with skeptics, atheists, and those who embraced other worldviews. He lived the words of 1 Peter 3:15, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

Ravi was always a gentleman when engaged in debates with the world’s leading skeptics. His family said: “He saw the objections and questions of others not as something to be rebuffed, but as a cry of the heart that had to be answered. People weren’t logical problems waiting to be solved; they were people who needed the person of Christ.”

There is a lot that we can learn from Ravi. He was a brilliant man. But beyond that, he was a passionate and devoted follower of Christ who loved and cared deeply about the spiritual welfare of others. To his final day, he was actively speaking about Jesus with his caretakers. And before he drew his final breath, he said, “But ‘tis enough that Christ knows all, and I shall be with Him.”

Thank you, Ravi. Death has not silenced your voice. In the words of the Psalmist (30:9), your dust will continue to tell the world of God’s faithfulness.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 12, 2020

The Shooting of Ahmaud Arbery

Ahmaud Arbery left his home for the last time on Sunday, February 23, never to return. Arbery, a 25 year-old black man was out for a jog just outside the port city of Brunswick when he was confronted by Gregory McMichael and his son Travis.

The father and son pursued Arbery because they suspected he was responsible for recent burglaries in the area, although police records indicate that only one burglary had taken place.

McMichael and his son followed Arbery in their pick-up truck in an attempt to make a citizen’s arrest. The 34 year-old Travis confronted Arbery, a scuffle broke out, followed by three shotgun blasts that ended Arbery’s life.

The case remained stagnant and did not get much attention outside of Brunswick for almost two months. McMichael and his son remained free throughout that period. Two district attorneys described the actions of the father and son as perfectly legal.

And then, a 36-second video emerged last week that thrust the case into the national spotlight, emboldened calls for justice, and resulted in the arrest of McMichael and his son on charges of aggravated assault and murder.

Tom Durden, the district attorney for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, will present the case to a grand jury as soon as shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted and a grand jury can be empaneled. The grand jury will listen to the evidence and then decide whether charges against McMichael and his son are merited.

In the meantime, Arbery’s family grieves what many regard as a senseless death. The McMichael men have their own supporters who applaud them for protecting their neighborhood. And a young man will live on only in the memories of family, friends, and those outraged by the events that robbed him of his life. No winners!

Bad things happen when we fail to see others clearly.

The Gospel of Mark (8:22-26) records an occasion when Jesus healed a blind man. He laid hands on him and then asked the man if he could see anything. The man replied that he could see men, but they looked like trees walking about — an indication that his sight was blurry. Jesus laid His hands on the man’s eyes a second time and, as a result, the man could see everything clearly.

Jesus could have healed the blind man with one touch but instead chose to heal him in two stages — perhaps a reminder that insight often comes slowly.

McMichael and his son failed to see Arbery clearly and consequently, perhaps unwittingly, robbed him of his life. Arbery was unarmed and posed no threat. Had they waited on law enforcement officials the story likely would have had a different outcome.

As a former law enforcement officer, the elder McMichael should have known that in any confrontation there is always the potential for things to go wrong. In this case they did and a young man is dead and McMichael and his son are behind bars.

It is now up to a grand jury to decide where things go from here.

When we fail to see others clearly we are in danger of acting on assumptions that may be wrong and may result in harming others. The events surrounding Arbery’s death have reminded me that I need to ask the Lord daily to touch my eyes a second time lest I fail to see people clearly.

I hope you will join me in praying for the family of Ahmaud Arbery and the McMichael family as well. And let’s pray that the grand jury will see things clearly and that justice will do her work.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 27, 2020

I Am Weary of Masks

Like so many others, I am longing for the day when the Coronavirus season is behind us and we are no longer required to wear masks and gloves. That day will come. In the meantime, I will continue to wear my PPE and err on the side of caution. I also believe that a little humor does the heart good, so I had to write a little poem about this season of wearing masks.

Zorro wore a mask
The Lone Ranger, too
Their real identities
Nobody knew

They battled and fought
With swashbuckling flair
With a Hi Ho Silver
Echoing through the air

They tirelessly fought
Against foes that were strong
They defeated them all
And righted their wrongs

But at the end of the day
When their work was complete
Did they take off their masks
When they sat down to eat?

Or did they wear them to sleep
All through the night
In case they had to wake up
To resume the fight

I don’t know the answers
I don’t have a clue
But my personal mask
Feels like it’s stuck on with glue

I am weary of wearing it
Day in and day out
I want to rip it off
With a joyful shout

But alas for today
And also tomorrow
I will wear my mask
And hide my frustration and sorrow

And long for the day
When all masks melt away
And I can sip through a straw
Without a mask in the way

Note: Humor aside, please exercise caution and be careful out there!

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 30, 2020

Find New Ways to Grow

The Coronavirus has punched the planet in the gut. Initially a regional concern, it did not take long for the virus to make its way stealthily from the epicenter to our own neighborhoods. This tiny little virus has disrupted the rotation of the planet in ways we could never have imagined.

For the time being, we are down for the count and must shelter in place as part of a global strategy to flatten the curve. Shelter in place directives have impacted just about everyone in the world in one way or another.

Businesses, schools, families, and churches have had to find creative ways to do what they have always done in this season when the way in which they have always done things will no longer work. We have all had to find new ways to grow and to stay connected with customers, students, neighbors, and parishioners.

Last week I traveled to Muldoon, Texas to do a memorial service for a dear friend’s mother. Muldoon is so small that were it not for the city limit sign you would never know you had entered and passed through town. On my way to the cemetery I stopped to take a pic of a fallen tree in front of a church building.

The fallen tree in Muldoon reminded me of another fallen tree I had encountered on one of my treks into the Texas Hill Country in the 1980’s. When I returned home from Muldoon, I revisited what I had journaled after my Hill Country trek more than 30 years ago. I offer it here again in the hope that it will provide some encouragement to find new ways to grow during this unprecedented season that has knocked a lot of folks down.

This is what I recorded in my journal about perseverance and finding new ways to grow:

I first encountered the fallen tree on one of my treks into the Texas Hill Country in the early 1980’s. I had no way of knowing exactly when or how it had fallen. But there it was, lying on its side with its massive arms reaching up to heaven. I stood in silence before the fallen giant trying to imagine the great force that had weakened its grasp and brought it crashing to the rocky ground.

This imposing tree that had once stood upright was determined to live. This was a tree to be admired and respected. It had experienced a calamity that altered its posture but it did not stop growing. The evidence was there before me — branches that defiantly reached skyward with leaves gently shimmering in the breeze. This tree refused to give up. Instead, it found new ways to grow.

The Psalmist declared that all things are God’s servants (Psalm 119:91). And indeed, the fallen tree rendered a noble service to God as it silently taught me the meaning of perseverance. Over the ten years that I visited the tree my own life was struck by numerous storms.

There were times when I wondered about my future and whether it was worth staying in the fight. There were times when I felt too weak to raise my arms and periods when I labored to exhaustion without the refreshment of an encouraging word. There were even moments when I actually entertained thoughts of doing something else, anything else. And, more than once I was the only guest at my own pity party! On those occasions God would remind me of the tree — and the tree’s upraised branches would point me to God.

God used the fallen tree to remind me that giving up is not an option, regardless of how severe the blow. There are always new and creative ways to grow. The tree also reminded me that failure never has to be final and defeat never has to be devastating. Those who have experienced and survived failure can attest to the fact that some of life’s greatest lessons are learned when we are lying helplessly on our backs.

A change in posture often gives us a new and uncommon perspective. The great thing about getting knocked down is that we are forced to look up. So, I am grateful that a hike through the Texas Hill Country introduced me to a new friend — the fallen tree. Of the countless trees I have hiked past in the Texas Hill Country, none stand taller than this tree.

Disappointments, defeats, and disasters are no respecters of persons. When we least expect it our lives can be struck hard by disastrous reverses that leave us disoriented or send us crashing to the ground. When we are struck and stunned by life’s blows we can either stay down or find new ways to grow. I prefer the latter.

Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you get knocked to the ground.

• Uncertainties will come. Be prepared!

• Life is not fair. Accept it!

• You will get knocked down. Deal with it!

• If you can get back up — do it!

• If you can’t get back up — find a new way to grow!

• Above all, never give up. Dust yourself off and press on!

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 25, 2020

The SignOut Co Podcast

Daniel Thornton had his earliest adventures in Katy — back in the days when Katy was much smaller and rice fields seemed to stretch to the horizon. His family’s home at the edge of town was the perfect base camp for boyhood exploration. This is the context in which Daniel cultivated a heart for adventure.

Daniel enjoyed athletics throughout his school years. Beyond school sports, Daniel continued to look for ways to engage with the great outdoors. As an adult, he refuses to allow busyness to crowd adventure out of his life. Instead, he continues to look for ways to get outdoors with family and friends.

Several years after graduating from college, Daniel reunited with Russ Johnston, an old school friend, who is a kindred spirit in regard to adventuring. Together, Daniel and Russ co-founded The SignOut Company. “Sign out,” Daniel explains, “is a term that usually signifies the end of something. The end of one thing is always the opportunity to start something else.”

SignOut Co. is the perfect company name for two guys who love adventure. Their brand “is about telling a new story, pursuing a new direction, chasing a passion.” Their website features cool outdoor clothing. One of the best things they do is donate a portion of their proceeds to Elijah Rising, an organization committed to battling human trafficking.

Daniel is the host of the SignOut Podcast, a platform designed to interview individuals who are pursuing their passion. I am a subscriber to Daniel’s podcast and enjoy listening to cool stories shared by folks who live adventurously. You can listen to the SignOut Podcast directly from their website or subscribe to it on iTunes, Stitcher, Podbean, or Google.

Daniel recently invited me to share my story on the SignOut Podcast. As someone who shares Daniel’s heart for adventure, it was a fun opportunity to answer questions about where my adventures have taken me. I hope that you will carve out some time to listen to this interview entitled Omar Garcia | A Life of Adventure.

Please take a moment to visit the SignOut Co online and look at their merchandise. And remember that anything you buy will also help in the fight against human trafficking in the greater Houston area.

The late naturalist John Muir said, “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” That’s good advice. I encourage you to SignOut, find a dirt path, and pursue adventure.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 22, 2020

Find the Upside of Downtime

We are living through an unprecedented period in the history of the human race. Who could have imagined that a virus would force the population of the entire planet into some measure of quarantine. The current Covid-19 social distancing measures have undoubtedly interrupted the rhythm of our respective lives.

Social distancing is more accurately physical distancing — something that is hard for most of us. Having to stay home is tough. Perhaps the worst part of it all is dealing with some degree of boredom. After all, there is only so much binge watching or game playing or other stuff that distracts us that we can do to pass the time.

Downtime can result in boredom and boredom scares a lot of people. That’s why we always keep our prescriptions of anti-boredom filled. These pills keep us in constant motion and engagement. Staying busy, we have found, is the most common antidote to boredom. As long as we can keep doing and going and engaging then we can keep boredom at bay.

For many, the current social distancing measures have resulted in financial strain and worry due to job loss or furloughing. For all of us, we must mark time, pass the time, and patiently wait until the planet returns to its normal rotation. So, what can we do to embrace the boredom and make the most of the forced downtime that we all must endure?

Here is my personal list of some of the intentional things I am doing to find the upside of downtime:

Read | I am reading. These days have given me the opportunity to read and to absorb new material and ideas while dealing with less distractions. Turning off the television and instead turning the page of a book is a great way to redeem the time.

Reflect | Reflection is one of the things that easily gets crowded out when I find myself as busy as a bird in a hurricane. However, the current slower-paced season has provided me with time to think deeply about things, especially Scripture, so that I can in turn live wisely.

Research | In addition to my blogs, I maintain my Bible Teaching Notes website. I try to do exegetical research on selected Scripture passages on a regular basis. I have more time to do that now.

Return | The current slower pace of life has given give me the opportunity to return to or to revisit back-burner ideas. Because the work of our missions ministry is so extensive, I like to map my thoughts to consider different scenarios for particular initiatives. These visual mind maps are helpful in considering how to move some of these initiatives to the front burner.

Record | I am very intentional about holding myself accountable for thinking deeply about something of importance every day and recording my thoughts. Some of these thoughts become blog material. Others remain in my personal journals. But regardless, the current season of downtime offers good opportunities for reflecting and recording personal thoughts.

Reach | I am in constant contact with our local ministry partners. I try to text or call many of them daily to stay abreast of what is happening and how we can help them to be more effective in assisting people in need. In some cases this means leaving the house to purchase food or to deliver necessary items.

Rejoice | It’s easy to complain about any and every thing during downtimes, but it does not do any good. I prefer to find something to rejoice about. This is a great time to send encouraging notes and texts to others or to check on neighbors. Doing this is helping me to stay focused on how God uses the kindness of others to bless and sustain me.

Rest | I have found this to be a good time for me to embrace silence and solitude and to use these quieter moments to remember all the ways in which God has blessed me. This kind of rest and reflection can revitalize and refresh us.

Release | Trusting God is the best antidote to the anxiety of the day. This season of downtime is giving me opportunities to release anxieties and commit my cares to the Lord. Psalm 46:10 tells us to “Be still” — literally “let your hands drop” in order to “know He is God.” Sadly, we often miss out on much that God wants us to know about Him when we complain because we are stuck in the mire of downtime. When things slow down, learn to let your hands drop so that you don’t miss out on what God wants to teach you about Himself.

Resharpen | Ecclesiastes 10:10 cautions us, “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.” When I was in Boy Scouts I learned the importance of taking the time to sharpen my axe. Life’s downtimes provide the best opportunities for us to “sharpen the edge” so that we can be even more effective when the pace of life picks up once again.

Responsibility | I remind myself daily that I am ultimately responsible for what I do with and in this season of downtime. Each of us can choose to do nothing, to cast blame on others, to lament that we have nothing to do, or take the initiative to redeem the time. As for me, I choose to make the most of the opportunity to grow in new ways by looking for the upside of downtime. I hope you will too.

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