November 21, 2017

BLESSINGS – My One Word for The New Year – 2017

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)

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My sister, Allison, asked me in 2016 to choose one word that would be constant throughout the year, as an important life reminder, kind of like a New Year’s resolution. While many resolve to lose weight, I would choose to remind myself of a personal theme. For example, one might choose strength, courage, perseverance, education, kindness, service, or any other area of sought after reminders for one’s own betterment. One might choose one of these listed words as their intended purpose.

I did not choose a word in 2016, however after a long year of hardship and trials, I am reminded of the blessings in my life of what is good, even when circumstances around seem bad. My chosen word and therefore focused theme for 2017 is BLESSINGS.

I will do my utmost best to remember what is good in my life….to remember the blessings God has given me….not to forgot the obvious ways God continues to demonstrate His continual love and divine grace.

2016 did not go exactly according to plan or the way I expected it to go, but on a positive note, the year brought me closer to family in a new hometown city of Franklin, Tennessee, just south of Nashville, Tennessee. I married the love of my life, Lisa, with a wonderful small ceremony with family and close friends.

I experienced good in the midst of hardship. One must not forget there is still good to be had in the middle of adversity. Someone probably has it worse than what we are experiencing, even if we fail to recognize it.

The world is not ending. Perhaps it is just beginning. Perhaps change is not happening to us but rather for us. What we see as negative changes are, in fact, the positive factors changing us to be better people and even stronger followers of Christ.

We are beginning to be blessed rather than being burdened. Rather than seeing all the negatives in my own existence, I will rather focus on the positive….the good….the evident BLESSINGS before my very own eyes. I am blessed by the love, support, and kindness of others….sometimes more than I know. I am blessed rather than transgressed by awful moments. There is still good to be seen. In hardship, I must choose to recognize that good. Perhaps it is as simple as a choice on the matter.

Oh, I am blessed. Yes, I am very blessed. Happy New Year to you and your family! I sincerely desire that your one chosen word brings hope to you as my word, BLESSINGS, brings hope to me in 2017.

MAKE YOUR MARK TODAY! – not later, right now!

 

Are you bringing the passion?

Are you pursuing the matters of your heart?

Your parents provided for you. Your family goes to great lengths, so that you can be better than fifty percent.

Three things you have got to do to LEAVE your MARK on this EARTH –

  • Accept what you cannot change. Some things are just the way they are because they are. Stressing over what you cannot control becomes wasted energy.
  • Understand your time frame and realize the goal will take longer than you ever expect. Be patient, however long it takes. Do not live in your time frame. Live in God’s time frame.
  • The process requires commitment. Through the pain, through the suffering, through the clinical depression, trust the process. This third step is the most important of the listed three, because if you rush the process of your own character development, then you will fall short of your goals every time. Let the process take its course!

With these three steps are actively in your life, you will SUCCEED! You will leave your MARK! You will follow through until you CROSS THE FINISH LINE!

Make the choice. Make the decision. Live to appreciate the moment. Accept what is. Do not worry about the time frame. Learn from the process.

My Mom – if given a superhero identity, her name would be “CiCi, the Defender!”

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“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” -George Washington

Moms have a special place in the hearts of those they protect and defend, a son, more specifically.

For example, in my own life story, when attending a home Auburn game, my second year as a graduate student in 2009, my favorite team played West Virginia (WV) in a tsunami Saturday night game. Before the game, a drunk WV fan advanced towards me in a harmful stance after some exchanged innocent smack-talking. At five foot even, my mother, Diana Cartee, stood in front of me with a pointed finger towards the assailant, like a student suddenly in trouble in an elementary school classroom. That index finger waved in front of the drunk fan’s face with the tenacity of a tiger, and for some reason, he ran away in fear of my mother’s wrath.

It downpoured the entire first half of the game, with a given rain delay. My Mom stood the entire time in the student section, drenched in water, to spend time with her son, in an ever so stylish navy blue poncho. Now that is expressed love beyond measure….to cheer the Auburn Tigers onto victory with a historic win of historic memorable proportions.

To the displeasure of my relatives, including immediate family, I have seen my Mom get into fights with family when wronging her son and possibly even verbally taunting me. It is almost like a common emotion shared….when hurting, my Mom hurts for me and with me. When happy, my Mom is the first to celebrate with me when sad, the first to cry with me. When I am angry, my Mom’s mutual anger intensifies beyond the reaches of the famous Avenger superhero, the Hulk. Her green madness expands beyond superhuman strength. Her fight to avenge the weak, in my defense, is a powerful force! Like protecting her own children, she will do the same for her own grandchildren, Ayden and Brogan, to whom she is better known as CiCi. Yes, moms defend the weak when the weak, in our vulnerable state, are unable to defend ourselves.

Moms rescue those who need rescuing in vulnerable mental states. At one point, in my life, when suffering from a down spell, I wanted a dog more than anything in the world to distract me from the hate of those who prejudicially judged my mental illness, including my own family members. Thus, I bought a purebred Boston Terrier who I just so happened to name King David. He was never given away. Because Mom loved me and noticed the heartache of her son (something other dumb family members could not recognize in their own ignorance), King David stayed with us for the majority of his lifetime, eight years in all.

Moms sacrifice. Moms give. Moms defend. Mother’s Day, as a single twenty-four-hour period, does not necessarily suffice to recognize the daily blessings a Mom brings to a son’s life. Sometimes you have to stop, like smelling roses, to see the impact made in continual service.

Nothing brings Moms more happiness than seeing their children and the spouses of their children enjoy life, and my Mom will do whatever it takes to assist her son and daughter with the challenges that come forward. She defends her children, no matter what the circumstances. That is just what my Mom does. It is natural to her. It is what makes her CiCi. It is what makes her Diana Cartee. It is what makes her a great Mom that other female counterparts could emulate and learn from….someone who loves and gives unconditionally.

Thank you, Mom, for your continual acts of kindness, especially for those who really need such acts in times of desperation.

Your son,

James L. Cartee III

Until the End of The Line – The bond of family that no force can break…. (Captain America’s Motto)!

“Then finish it….cause I’m with you til’ the end of the line.” –Steve Rogers, also known as Captain America, in the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014).

You will find the scene depicted here with the memorable quote. It would benefit you to watch this and truly understand the significance of my written words here.

I have learned the value of family relationships with a blunt reminder when two close loved ones died this past year….two grandparents fighting an incurable cancer. My father recently turned sixty years old with two grandchildren and Lord-willing, three more to eventually come. My grandfather (my father’s Dad) turned eighty-six. As I grow older, a natural hardship with life tends to be the loss of those precious to us, and more continue to pass with each new year forward.

My grandfather is James Louie Cartee Senior. My father is James Louie Cartee Junior. And my name is James Louie Cartee, the Third. I have never figured out where Louie came from; however I am grateful to still have these two men in my life….continually present to help me in any hardship that comes my way.

Many families break up. Many families fall apart. Again thankful, my mother and father never separated for any reason. That same observation is true with my sister who has now been married for slightly over ten years. While strong marriages last over time with a promised commitment to the mind, body, and soul, many fall apart for often various complicated reasons. Humans, by nature, are sometimes very selfish and even flakier when it comes to true commitment. Humans want the easy path, and therefore some people easily quit—no matter what the difficulty, always running away from their problems.

My father and grandfather never gave up on me, even when I failed to believe in myself. The same evident truth can be said of their commitment to marriage with one person.

I took the reality for granted that I could lean into others, family and friends. I never needed to ask the question if they would be there. I just always knew the answer. I’m with you til’ the end of the line.”

No matter what happens….no matter what conflict occurs….and no matter when I fall to my face, both men serve to stand at the front lines with me, side by side, hands held in unity.

While you really need to watch the two movies or read the comic books to understand my references in the video above, the scene illustrated represents the bond of family and solid friendships in my own personal circles. Captain America, known by his common name as Steve Rogers, refuses to fight once best friend, James Buchanan Barnes. Several years before in the 1940s (now modern day 2014), Barnes was experimented upon with a risky surgery to replace an amputated limb with a metal cast, super-strength arm. He was then tortured and brainwashed for several months to turn evil. He almost died due to previous war injuries. Fictionally he was cryonic-frozen, where his cells slowed to endure a lifespan much longer than any normal human being. Therefore he would resurface and fight Captain America seventy years later, from the historical time period of when their real friendship started.

Before I venture too far off the scene’s plot, The Winter Soldier was Rogers’ nemesis in this movie sequel. At the end of the movie, Rogers refuses to fight, even though he would probably have killed Barnes as a result of his combat skills. In previous battle sequences with the movie, as also hinted by the comic books, Captain America possessed a distinct fighting advantage over “Bucky” Barnes, the Winter Soldier. Rogers believes in the deeper good that still exists in Bucky Barnes. Some characters viewed Barnes as a lost cause who would never again return as his original self, the comrade who once fought by Rogers’ side and not against him.

In his refusal to fight back, Captain America falls to the water as the helicarrier plunges to its destruction. Unconscious, a metal arm reaches to rescue Rogers before drowning. The plot infers that The Winter Soldier can still do good and act honorably, no matter the evil committed or the brainwashing with memories erased.

That is also the bond of a grandfather, father, and son, all whom share the same bloodline and the same name that understands commitment with renewed faith. I never ask for help because of the men I know both these individuals to be. I know that each of us would and will always say, “I’m with you til’ the end of the line.”

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Let It Go! – The Spiral of No Control

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I wrote this poem as I asked myself three questions. I often struggle to let God take control of my life. I want to do things on my own initiative, even though I rarely have control over what occurs around me. With the obvious answers to these listed questions, it becomes apparent that our future is undetermined. Today must be enjoyed because the present is all we have. The moment, now on this day, is what matters most. The future lies beyond our reach. Therefore, without stressing too much over little things, it only makes sense to let go and wait for God to drive the steering wheel in the direction He will have us go. This mentality makes life a lot easier with less worries. Enjoy the poem of this related theme below, titled Spiral of No Control.

 

Spiral of No Control

Can I control it?

No, it was beyond me.

Did I cause it?

No, the cause I could not foresee.

Can I cure it?

No, illness sometimes just comes to be.

If the answer remains “No,”

Give the matter to God

And be certain to know

That we must just let it go.

3/28/16

RISE, (Insert Your Name Here), RISE! (with Post-Easter-Thoughts)

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Do we take Easter seriously beyond the Sunday we celebrate the holiday? I think often times we forget that the remembrance of Easter should occur on a daily basis for all Christians. The resurrection defines us for who we are in relationship with Jesus.

I once heard a minister say, “When you fall down, the only direction to go is up.” When we lie on our backs, the only way to move is upwards. Sometimes it becomes a matter of what you decide to do when experiencing a valley, rather than a mountain top adventure. Our inclination to perform makes matters worse, rather than giving our circumstances to God. We try to control the situation on our own volition.

The resurrection gives us the power to rise again. Easter is not just another holiday reminder to attend Sunday School in the latest spring fashion wardrobe with clothes purchased from Gap or JCrew.  It is a time to realize our greatest difficulties are overcome by the authority of Jesus Christ when He broke all barriers to be crucified and risen again.

We become more than our own strength through His Sacrifice. Turbulent dark trials then show a glimmer of hope in the light. With our backs pressed against the wall, we remember that nothing can stand against us because Jesus stands for us.

Resurrect. Rise. And remember that Easter gives us the aptitude to overcome any obstacle through the potential of the Holy Spirit.

The best news of the Christian gospel is that the supremely glorious Creator of the universe has acted in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection to remove every obstacle between us and himself so that we may find everlasting joy in seeing and savoring his infinite beauty. -John Piper

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Nicaragua Pictures….visual storytelling demonstrates the Glory of God!

Mission Trip to Nicaragua with Hope Missions, August 2015 – Why write? – When you can see the story in the eyes of a visual storyteller….

“Sometimes I arrive just when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter.” -Ansel Adams

*Please know these photographs are the sole work and craftsmanship of James L. Cartee, III, under copyright for usage solely by him and Cartee Communications, unless granted permission to another entity.

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Why run the race? Because you and I strive for more….

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20160121_145941In the New Year of 2016, I wanted to resolve something that I had not done before and that I knew would take personal sacrifice, possibly even some temporary pain. In a momentary glimpse of inspiration, I decided I would participate in ten half-marathons and two full marathons….twelve total races….for twelve months of the year….one race a month on average. Sometimes I wonder just how buzzed I was when deciding, sane or not, to approach this new standard of excellence.

In the pictures above, I have nine medals out of the twelve races I have completed that were full and/or half marathons combined in my lifetime. In one calendar year, I am attempting to do the same feat with what I have done will all years passed. Then perhaps, as the sign says, “Nothing worth having comes easy.” While we cannot see the immediate returns now, glory comes at the end of a race with the finish line in sight.

Why did I choose to do this? In many ways, I can control progress with my training. I can get up early and go to the gym. I sometimes become frustrated with goals I set that never seem reachable – getting a job one actually cares about, dating the girl you think is in your dreams, becoming filthy rich, reaching peaceful nirvana with God where fears no longer seem present, etc. I wanted something that seemed achievable and doable but that also necessitated an opportunity cost, that mainly being time and finances invested.

I can control participating in competitive races, and I like that. It is measurable. Completed or not completed, that is the only question here.

I am happy to report that I have thus far completed two half-marathons in January and now February with a full scheduled in March. I am on track to fulfill my original goal, or at least one-quarter the way there.

I do not pretend to possess the best advice on what you should resolve in your own life. However it does not need to be revolved around January and a New Year’s holiday. It should be now. You make a decision and do it. Resolutions to life are really not any more complicated than just that premise. You change that which you decide to change, or you don’t. Pick something within reach and within reason.

Chances are each of us will not be a millionaire overnight, but chances are we can exercise, fast something for God, write a blog, or do something daily, weekly, or monthly that our heart desires to change – something small, something measurable, and something you are proud of. Go for it! What do you have to lose?

 

Without Sadness, There Would Be No Joy (A lesson from Pixar’s Inside Out)

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INSIDE OUT

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While I will not divulge a spoilage alert with the most recent Pixar film just released, Inside Out, the cartoon reminds viewers of a significant truth. Life inevitably involves grief, disappointment, discouragement, depression, and sadness. Those are certainly some recent feelings that touched my heart, where joy and therefore happiness seemed remote. Let’s just say – I am not in a place I would prefer to be with constant reminders of stagnancy, confident I am capable of so much more than an ordinary, monotonous routine. Some individuals on this Texan island seem okay with complacency in a routine of boredom….something I cannot settle for.

The reality before us is that joy cannot exist without its counterpart, sadness. We would not know what true joy is without our own down points of the blues. Sadness gives humans the necessary understanding of what it feels like to be happy. Each emotion cannot exist without the other. How many times have you cried, exhibiting the emotion of sadness, only to realize you feel better after the tears flowed? The sadness, in this instance, led to a brief feeling of happiness and relief to follow, with a deep breathe.

The movie, Inside Out, illustrates the tale of practiced human emotions that operate as characters within the mind of an eleven-year-old young girl, who first plays a child in the plot line, named Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias).  Each feeling engages the expression through a central tower in our brain, shaped like the Seattle Space Needle, each emotion that fictionally plays the given character role. Sadness is Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith). Joy is Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler). Anger is Anger (voiced by Lewis Black). Disgust is Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling), for example when Riley sees broccoli and refuses to eat it, until her parents play airplane. And so on, and so forth, with other relevant characters who each portray the relevant given sensation.

The other characters look up to Joy to keep Riley positive, with smiles moving forward. Life circumstances change, and as humans experience, Joy cannot always play the main role in our lives. Sadness becomes key to exploring and understanding happiness, so that realistically we are sad at times.

In other words, the down times make humans further appreciate the good times with true gratefulness. Without divulging more of the movie’s insights into the human psychology, I recommend seeing it to be reminded of the lesson that strikes obvious for all of us – the role that emotions play in our life journey.

Sometimes we must be sad before we can be happy….before we become Joy. We all want to play the character of Joy and understandably so. However, sometimes Sadness becomes the hero when our own sadness leads to the happiness we have long been seeking to feel.

And simply said, sadness often leads to our eventual greatest moments of happiness. If you feel sad, please believe Joy will eventually arrive just around the corner. Depression realizes defeat in the awakening of a new dawn.

As teammates, rather than contradictory forces against each other, the emotional characters, both Joy and Sadness interact to shape our personalities as they are. Joy cannot exist without Sadness and Sadness cannot exist without Joy. Both emotions together lead to happiness.

The two following clips definitely illustrate the humorous difference in personalities between the Inside Out characters of Joy and Sadness. Smile and enjoy.

Progress, Not Perfection Leads to Success – KEEP moving FORWARD!

By February of our New Year’s resolution plan and goals, we realize we are not perfect in the pursuit to overcome and define our new inner ambitions and lifestyle we hoped for on January 1st. We feel ashamed when we cannot perform at our preconceived absolute best. Responsibilities set in. Bills need to be paid. And the family still needs caring. To resolve any improvement in the everyday routine calls for baby steps….easy and small wins….before charging the battle field in longer strides.

It is not just absolute perfection that brings change. Rather the force behind habitual development is progress seen in a positive outlook – praising the positives of achievement over the negatives of falling short of short-term unrealistic greatness. The reality of change for our own betterment necessitates a persistent time frame. One day and moment at a time growth occurs.

Our baby steps become longer, farther, and easier with each day that passes, as we cannot lose vision of the master plan we accomplish by the end of the year. Your progress hinges on realistic outcomes to improve slowly, moment by moment, over time. It requires hard work, real hard work. Momentum snow balls with continued breakthroughs. In finality with forward perspectives, progress matters more than perfection.

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