August 18, 2017

Dabo Swinney – The Miracle Worker, A Visit to Grandma’s House.

On Monday, my Grandmother was told that someone was coming to visit her. My uncle Ray kept teasing her, telling her that Elvis was that special visitor. Though Elvis was a “no show,” the person who DID make an appearance was Dabo Swinney, Clemson’s head football coach. Actually, he made more than an appearance. He made an impression. He made a memory. He gave my family encouragement and laughter. He gave his time, his story, his faith, and his affection. He was interactive, and he listened as much as he talked.

Now as an Alabama native, I seriously wonder if coaches within our state would do the same. I really am not sure what to think of Gene Chiziz anymore, fired head coach this past year of the Auburn University Tigers. Nick Saban seems consumed with his dynasty for yet another national championship year after year without notice of what transpires outside of a football stadium. And with Gus Malzaln, the new head football coach of Auburn, there have been no apparent gestures of this kind. You cannot help but like Dabo, even if you hate Clemson University (do remember to Love Thy Rival). He is just someone you want to pull for, an underdog living the dream to better influence lives like my Grandmother. After Dabo beat LSU in this year’s Atlanta Peach Bowl, fan or not, with his adverse background, you could not help but like the guy and be happy for him.     

My Dad wrote the following message regarding Dabo’s visit:

Every now and again someone acts in a way that helps restore my faith in humanity. If you have been on this earth long enough, you know what I am talking about. Additionally, you hear much about what’s “bad” in college athletics, and seldom do you hear about the “good.” Well, yesterday, I witnessed a wonderful meeting between a woman struggling to beat cancer (my mom) and a NCAA Division I head football coach (Dabo Swinney). Dabo took time out of his very busy schedule two days before national signing day to meet, encourage, and pray over Mom.

Mother has had to resume chemotherapy (after a two month reprieve) because of the renewed growth of the cancer. And while chemo is hard on her, she seems to be singularly focused on seeing her granddaughter (my sister’s daughter) get married in May. And while this is a worthy goal for her, we all felt that she needed a “boost.”

My brother, Ray, had seen on one of the Clemson University websites that head football coach, Dabo Swinney, had done some visitations to Clemson fans who were undergoing hospice. Ray thought that it would be a worthy endeavor to write Dabo about our Mom, what she was going through, and ask if he would be willing to pay her a visit.

**(Footnote: It’s important to note that Mom, like many in our family, is an avid Clemson University fan and loves football. Also, Mom and Dad make their home in Easley, SC, which is about 15 miles from Clemson, SC.

About 1-2 weeks after sending the letter, Ray received a call from Don Munson, Director of Creative Media Services, Clemson University. Don indicated that Dabo wanted to visit Mom, a date was set based on Dabo’s schedule, and the visit occurred yesterday at Mom & Dad’s home.

Ray, Susan (my sister), and I were in attendance when Dabo and Don arrived at my parents’ house. Mom knew someone was coming, but she had no idea of the mystery visitor’s identity. One hint that she was given was the fact that he was a Clemson fan. And lest any of you think that this was about a media event or publicity, nothing could be further from the truth. The only ones taking pictures were Susan and me. This WAS a very intimate meeting between Dabo and my mom. And while the rest of us did interact with Dabo, the focus was Mom, which was exactly what we wanted. Dabo loved on Mom, encouraged Mom, and prayed over Mom. His words and actions were both encouraging and inspiring. He was patient. Dabo wanted to know all about Mom’s illness, so he would know “how to pray.” He was personable, telling us stories about his wife and sister’s struggle with cancer. He told us about his mother and her struggles with scoliosis. His 30 minute visit turned into an hour and twenty minutes, and he didn’t seem to want to leave. He was gracious in every way, even with the signing of Clemson souvenirs for all of our family members.

I could go on for quite awhile about Dabo’s visit but will simply say, it was a wonderful memory that my family will cherish always. We will never be able to thank Dabo (& Don) enough for what we believed was a very timely visit with my Mom.

I ask that you continue to lift Mom up in prayer.

God Bless!
JimBo

My Friend Dave Wood from Lifeline Children’s Services – Orphan Sunday Series, Part 2

Orphan Sunday, occurring on November 4, 2012, is a national movement joined by churches all over the world though an organization known as The Christian Alliance for Orphans. These three upcoming blog entries introduce three dear friends I met through this Alliance with brief information about their respective organizations. My last entry highlighted Larry Bergeron of A Child’s Hope International.

I met Dave Wood, the Vice President and International Director of Lifeline Children’s Services, briefly at Summit 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky, and I think we had an instant connection through our comedian-like routines. While serious in both our advocacy efforts for the orphan, the joy of Christ is evident through both our hearts with our laughs and smiles to encourage those we are around. Many in the Lifeline alumni and staff network mistakenly think I look like Herbie Newell, the Executive Director of this adoption ministry, however after meditation and prayer, I really believe my heart and personality resembles that of Dave. I still imagine the day we work together in director-position nonprofit ministry peacemaker roles. Perhaps then we will really through the power of God provide a healthy home for every child in the world, all 147 million of them. It is in fact possible! Sometimes you just in fact have to believe in yourself and your eternal cause and vision!

Dave and I have that big faith that this dream of fate could really happen. We both write. You will notice one of my favorite pieces by Dave in this blog entry, entitled Lifeline. I believe the piece will touch your heart. We both like to laugh and goof off. We both live with an eternal mindset. I hope that as Dave reads this he does not mind my comparison, but he is indeed the kind of person you hope to emulate and be like.

Dave has long had it on his heart to publish a book. Well, I believe it is time we encourage and push him to get there. It is not a matter of whether his material is great enough. It certainly is that and more! I believe in the preaching of the Hip Hop preacher, Eric Thomas. Now is the fourth quarter. Publishing books and advocating for orphans is not easy. If it was, everyone would do it! Let’s pray, push, and press Dave to publish his book through accountability. That is indeed on my list of goals in 2013. So be looking out for one of my favorite people’s writing, Dave Wood! His is book is coming because I believe in his hard work, his real hard work. When you want to be successful as much as you want to breathe, then you will be successful. Eric Thomas informs us to “not talk about it but to be about it.”

LIFELINE!

by Dave Wood on Monday, September 5, 2011 at 12:28am •

Oh darkness lies entrenched within my heart
Fears, like ocean waves flood over my soul
Drowning in the abyss of a sea that is all mine
These black storms have left me without hope
I’m a sinking ship that is listing and all alone
So desperate this very moment for a lifeline
But in this churning flood there is not a lifeline
Only sorrow upon sorrows drowning my heart
The rising sea billows have washed over any hope
Speechless and unattended I am a mortified soul
And though I hear the cries of others I am alone
A vanquished life with nothing left that is mine
I do remember a time when things were mine
There was no thought and no need of a lifeline
I sometimes felt lonely but never really alone
There wasn’t yet a broken and battered heart
The future was still unknown to my naive soul
Back then my tomorrow’s were filled with hope
Skies were clear and a bright magnificent hope
As if a postcard that said the world was mine
The warmth of the sun was peace to my soul
The gentle breeze upon my sails a steady lifeline
Calm waters brought comfort and gave me heart
Too taken to realize I was enjoying this bliss alone
Then one day an unexpected storm cloud rose up alone
This tempest would only grow overtaking all my hope
A fierce head wind pushing against my anchored heart
Waves of thunder burst threatening all that is mine
An ominous beast and not even a compass for a lifeline
Lightning strikes illuminating the hidden dread in my soul
The ship that carried me has now abandoned my soul
Broken into pieces an orphan castaway that is all alone
Longing through tears to be thrown a life saving lifeline
Looking for a brilliant lighthouse to point the way home
All that I ever dreamed for was a family that was mine
To be rescued from this storm and save my dying heart
Oh what my sad soul would give for such an abiding hope
No longer alone and fully loved by parents that are mine
A family is my only lifeline and the sole desire of my heart

Sestina Poem
Copyright © 2011 Dave Wood

I am fired up, pumped up, and motivated to know Dave and his family. He changes lives through his written words, his speaking, his traveling, and his role in ministry. There is something extremely satisfying about living for others, instead of living for retirement. Dave just gets that idea. Dave works at a ministry headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama known as Lifeline Children’s Services where I believe he will complete his journey in faith perhaps until the day he dies. Dave lives for others and has often dedicated his valuable time to point me in a positive direction through mutual discussion and belief in each other. I believe in Lifeline! I believe in Dave! And I believe together one day we just might live with a fourth quarter mentality to push all barriers to publish our books and save orphans. Now is the time to change lives of the youth we work with, and while in different ministries with different purposes, Dave continues to change the lives of thousands. Admire him. Know him. And support his ministry!

Listen and learn, readers, through this video! My hat is off to Dave and his lifetime of lifeline desires and ministries!

 

I WILL FIND you on my KNEES – First Day! New Transition!

“All I can is that John and I wanted more than anything to follow God’s will for us and our family. We had a holy fear of acting outside God’s will, so we agreed to pray that He would show us what that was.” – Kelly Rosati in her book, Wait No More (John is her husband).

I started my new job at the Southern Territorial Headquarters today, and I find myself refreshed by other like-minded people who tick like I do, focused on Jesus as believers in a collective group for Kingdom-building mindsets. After orientation, I found a card from someone in my office with the mention that she would be praying for me this week as I transition into this new career. I have long dreamed of a job that I do not beat myself up and over to drag out of bed to get by, simply for a paycheck. I feel awakened and encouraged to do this job and rise as I encourage others with a meaningful purpose for something bigger than myself. As many say, knock on wood, I may have found something in that passion area of public relations where I campaign and market for a cause I believe in. I find it mind-boggling (“Am I really here in Mid-Town Atlanta?”), a little nerve-racking (new job, new city, and knowing no one), and exciting (“Wow, this could potentially become something amazing!). All the thoughts combine mutually for a few hours of lost sleep and doubts creeping into my mind.

The decision to be and move to Atlanta is now made, and I am not looking back! I am a new creation with a new opportunity with individuals that obviously believe in my abilities to lead, create, and build the face of a reputable organization to the southern youth of America. In the midst of hardship and economic uncertainty, this generation could use more Jesus in any capacity. And I am glad to bring that message of hope to anyone through creative communications.

I keep thinking, “How did I get here?” I prayed to God, sometimes loudly stuck in the stagnancy of survival and routine with a Thank-God-Its-Friday job rather than Thank-God-Its-Monday job. With this phrase, I mean I want to be so excited to get back into the office I cannot hold or hide my excitement for what I love doing. I admit that I need to spend more time with God in His Presence, praying in thankfulness, reading the Word, and believing in the requests I make like this new position, PRAYERS ANSWERED!

Another analytic wonder is the blessings shown to me in a new full time opportunity of epic proportions and another part time opportunity possibly coming behind it. What further astounds me is the support and belief of my family. My father and mother have done everything, and I mean EVERYTHING to transition, to believe, to push, to inspire, and to encourage me with this move to a new city with a new career direction. While we have sometimes not always seen each other eye to eye on my own mental adversities, I owe my success with this new adventure to them just as much as I do God. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

I believe when you find God on your knees, God explodes blessings and favor into your life. Now please understand I do not just mean the routine legalistic bedside manner prayer. “God, please do this. Please be with this person. Please help me to sleep well. Please help me to be promoted. Please help me to pass this test even thought I never studied.”…..I mean when you really get down on your knees and say, “Okay, I am not sure where you have me or how you will have me, but here I am. Here are my true passions. Please place me appropriately where you will call me to obey you in line with these passions.” When you seek God with sincerity, He will answer your prayers with that same sincerity.

Like Kari Job says in the following song, I will find you on my knees! When you truly want something in change for God’s Kingdom, find it on your knees. Ask. And like me currently in shock, God will call you by name! I guarantee it! My life serves as living proof.

NOW IS THE TIME TO RISE! GREATNESS IS UPON YOU! ….my own rise in down times.

Ephesians 5:13-14 (NIV)

But everything
exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes
a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Have you ever sat in your cubicle wondering to God, “When will my time come to rise and fulfill my passions’? The battle of everyday survival floats around bills paid and the suppression of dreams. With the unwise decisions of leaders in this country, opportunity for young professionals appears dwindling! …the truth is it is!

I applied for at least four hundred jobs before something of true dreamlike essences patiently prevailed. I skimmed all over the country for hope where my day-to-day existence became more than routine. It became dreamlike. Eventually the monsoon rolled where the hard work snowballed. Each day brought a new surprise and phone call from a prospective life-changing moment. I am also almost complete with a three hundred page manuscript of my first major memoir, each chapter edited seven-ten times, a two year project in the making.

I faced the largest challenges and adversity when I felt no motion in my life, no momentum towards a given goal in my mind. I incline to feel the least motivated in life when I see no growth, no movement forward. At this moment in my life I never measure life monetarily as a single Christian but instead through growth to reach a level of leadership unprecedented by all before me. It is those who are most motivated who continue to do what they need to, even when they do not feel that motivation emotionally, or simply “just don’t feel like it.”

I cannot describe the sudden drive in my life or where it came from. However when I tasted a sweet notion of success and saw God’s work in my life, I wanted it all the more. I realized that many individuals, including me, wait to rise up. We can wait forever for things to look up, to feel better, or to achieve the dream constantly on our heart. NOW IS THE TIME TO RISE! We fail more than we succeed, but with each failure we step closer to success. As I tasted success with a recent life victory, then the failures faded into the background. We cannot forget the sweet tastes that come with a new job, an upper level graduation day, our firstborn child, our wedding day, or in my case, a first major book contract. Those successes push us to yearn for more, but not for ourselves, but rather for God’s Glory.

LATER IS NOT THE TIME! NOW IS! When you doubt where to start, just go! When I cannot think of a blog entry or chapter to write, the best strategy begins with just starting. Eventually while maybe not at first, meaningful words flow.

If you are like me, I am tired of sitting on the sidelines. NOW IS THE TIME TO RISE! ….not tomorrow but today, starting with simple progression through small steps. We bring world change one small step at a time until the snowball launches down the ski slope. On the 400th job application, we get that interview offer we want. And then we feel the rise and crave to rise in the moment this very day.

Through Christ, we are truly risen! With our personal resurrection, we already live in the light through salvation. Now with each blessed day, rise with me! Rise together! Rise up! Now is the time to rise! And with Christ, it is up to you! Do not procrastinate. Do not quit. Do not put the project down. Rise to become more and reach your fullest potential! …for that is the only place where God truly will have us!

Believe inspirational speaker, Eric Thomas, when you realize GREATNESS IS UPON YOU! This video WILL FIRE YOU UP! He coincidentally happens to be speaking to the Auburn football team. WAR EAGLE!

An Old Poem Published – Libby’s Goodbye

I wrote this poem as a “Good-Bye” to a girl who at one time rocked my world for a very short period where our time together seemed like time standing still. Unfortunately with circumstances beyond my control, it just did not work out. Libby had a good heart and saw the best in me, past my faults, a quality many in today’s society lack the ability to do. This poem will be included in my soon-to-be-contract-signed book, Charismania.

This poem also reminds me of another girl I recently pursued. While less traumatic than Libby, many of the details correlate on many just the same as before. I guess we travel through some repetitive seasons once in 2007 and now in 2012 with another girl.

Libby’s Goodbye

When things don’t exactly go your way,
Asking God to let them do so is often what people pray.
The other night I got an email with one phrase that tore my heart.
My hopes in something anew were torn apart.
I had a sunset evening to express myself,
But because of fear, I put my strong feelings on the shelf.
All the signs led to interest N. B. would say,
And my heart is incomplete at the end of the day.
I didn’t get a chance, and that was my own fault.
Every time I see you, the baby inside me does a summersault.
Your presence in the same room as myself makes me feel alive.
The burst within my heart feels like the explosion of a beehive.
With thoughts of your Grace and my regrets, I lie awake at night.
In your soul and spirit for life, I see the Lord’s light.
An extra perk is that I notice you are a gorgeous sight.
On Folly Beach staring at the ocean, wishing you were there felt so right.
Returning into a place and town that I have come to love,
God sent some unsettling news from above:
“I’m dating a young man that I’m completely head over heels for.”
On my heart slammed a knife and a door.
Jets will continue to fly, and eagles will continue to soar.
I yearn to get to know you more.
Jealousy to be with you is a root of many sins,
But once more, I am only one of many men.
Through a thousand thorn bushes my heart will go,
Through hundreds of hills and mountains of snow,
I must learn to have faith in God and trust in Him I know.
Because of you if you are even aware, in Him I continue to grow.
Told that dating or a relationship would not happen for awhile,
I thought I had more time to sprint my mile.
The lesson: Don’t hesitate to act!
I’m extremely sorrowful because of that life lesson and fact.
At this point in time, there is nothing that I wouldn’t do
If I knew that it would create happiness within you.
To hold your hand in a Hero movie and make a memorable first kiss,
This is an adventure that for right now I must miss.
Whether dreams come true or a friendship becomes a fable,
My feelings are now known. They are on the table.
Who knows what will happen with the story?
But I don’t care as long as I give God the glory.
Through all my being, moments, and strife,
God is my refuge. He is the center of my life.
No matter what happens…I will always be here.
I may wallow in self-pity or shed one of many a tear.
For my heart is hurting to now be by your side.
Sometimes one must not be selfish and therefore in himself hide.
I am cocky, confident, and I have much pride.
I will do my best to not let that stand in the way of your story and lifelong ride.
I have recently learned that the center of any relationship is communication.
Openness, sincerity, and honesty can make a friendship and inspiration.
Thirty seconds with you creates inside of me a lovely, spine tingling sensation,
But our lack of communication has generated a broken  heart
For the possibility of a close relation.
Someone else stole the dance,
And I didn’t even get a fair chance.
Reluctant to give me your time,
I was cut off long before I ever wrote this rhyme.
Perhaps you were fearful of the God-filled passion that lives within me,
But honestly, my heart and that passion was something
With which you took no time to analyze and see.
I want to be your friend.
As a true friend, I am there until the very end.
Does your boyfriend have that passion to live?
Does he have the will to unconditionally give?
Does he have direction and know what he wants?
Does he aimlessly search through life as a routine and have no crazy stunts?
Without a shadow of a doubt, does he care for you with all his being?
When he looks into your eyes, does he honestly know what he is seeing?
I must learn to leave you be and just let go
Because being with you is something that will probably never happen;
This I now know.
I drew this picture of what you described to me
Before you hooked up and him you were with.
If I gave it to someone else,
It would not be for that other and in itself become a myth.
My talent for art in this piece I hope that you like.
Back to the beach soon I might soon go to reflect and hike.
Your uniqueness makes desires for one to become a better man
Through which God reveals himself and his intimate individual plan.
Staring at the specs of stars and the visibly white moon,
I hope to see God’s blessing even more in your life very soon.
With you, I would love to just hang out,
But this may be all I can give
Because of the hurt you have caused without a doubt.
Although for me this may be crappy and sound somewhat sappy,
I will do my best to serve you and do whatever makes you happy.

JLC iii, 2/23/2007

DO NOT BE A FLAKE! Abide others’ time as your own!

Now I would like to comment that my family recently has supported me more than perhaps ever before. My sister, brother-in-law, mother, and father continually stand by and behind me no matter what the circumstances; however outside of family, many have disappointed me and let me down. Some are not as fortunate as me with such a supportive and caring family. For that I am extremely grateful. Please also realize that I am not picking on one gender over the other. This blog entry pertains to men just as much as it does women.

My request remains easy: DO NOT BE A FLAKE! There are enough people in today’s society that let others down. Specifically with family and friends, I am agitated with those who no longer take their word seriously. They continually cancel plans or provide lame excuses for why they cannot make it to whatever they said they would.

The solution here is also simple: Do not commit to something if you cannot do it! The following verse from the Bible simplifies this idea even further:

 “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37 (NIV)

I remain continually confused and frustrated on how many individuals truly struggle with this Biblical principle. I admit at a time early in college I used to overcommit myself. I was afraid to say, “No,” however I quickly realized that overbooking myself led to a miserable existence. Working towards the commitment of relationship requires hard work especially if you are married or have children. Many hide behind their families as excuses for backing out. I cannot tell you how many times someone tells me they need to spend time with a significant other after already committing to do something with me, a group, or others. I hope when I marry my wife, she allows me to live outside of our house with an occasional night on my own or with close guy friends. I think sometimes you should take a stand in a commitment you make. When someone pleads for you to back out on your plans, stick by your brother or sister you already made original plans with.

I challenge you: DO NOT BE A FLAKE! Decide to be a committed friend, or simply do not take on more meaningful relationships. Your unbalance of time exhausts and wastes the time of those who etched out blocks in their own schedule to spend time with you. When someone plans to spend time with you only for you to back out, does that truly honor God?

It further disheartens me when leaders fail to abide and manage their time with appointments and commitments to their followers. I especially see this with spiritual leaders who feel anointed in their higher status the stage brings each Sunday morning. A leader is no more important in the eyes of God than their followers, and it becomes discouraging when leaders see things differently than this perspective. None of us are higher than another.

I really mean to write a blunt honest entry to challenge you in your spiritual walk. The more you disappoint and back out of your commitments, supposed friends lose faith in you, and you lose credibility. I lost friendships because I put forth much more effort than others to stay in contact or spend time with. I got tired of chasing those friends. Are there things that come up sometimes? Sure life happens. But does this excuse every single time you cancel if this is a disease in your life? Eventually it tires others, and before you know it, no one will take your word for what is because you can never keep it.

DO NOT BE A FLAKE! Because if you are a flake, then without honor, a flake you will be in your own failure to keep your word and commitments you make to both friends and family. Let your No’s be No’s and your Yes’s be Yes’s. That sounds easy enough to me!

This video on commitment adds another level to your faith with deep challenges. Fulfill your commitment to friends, family, and God by keeping your word to those most important in your life, your relationships. Give your heart, and give your commitments the follow-though individuals deserve!

Perception – Reality versus Imaginary? Where do you live?

 

It has been a long time since I saw the movie, High Fidelity, but I do love this scene once recollected as it relates to the fantasy versus realism of relationships. Americans get caught up in their imaginations of what an ideal relationship quantifies often without the realization that the ideal factor is Christ. Through a focus on Christ, only then will harmony become realized. We have all fallen into the trap of love or like where we visualize in a false dream what role someone will fill as a certain something. These internal thoughts often mislead. A person must reciprocate feelings and often times they will fail to fill the shoes of the perfect vision you imagined in your mind. American Pop Culture falls into this trap because we tell ourselves that our lives are all about us. Things are easy. And everything will go exactly as I planned it or expected. There is nothing farther from the truth.

My advice is simple here: FIND someone who lives in reality and appreciates it in the simple things! Find someone who WANTS you!

Many times we pursue those who have a sense of entitlement, too good to extend a chance to the common man or woman. I do not know about you, but after thirty years of often pointless pursuits, I want to make someone feel wanted as they make me feel wanted. The real perception of another person comes true with a genuine sincerity towards all walks of life. With keen observation, each of us can feel a cynic, a narcissist, a self-righteous person, or someone who looks down upon those who actually live inside the fire of a pursuit.

Leave those types in their own imaginary worlds. Pursue reality in the perception that honest believers in Christ illustrate. Some in their own immature ways will at least for this time’s sake fail to extend the chance Jesus gives to all. Their own sense of self denies you any possibility of a chance at your dream or fantasy. And reality brings us back down to earth. Those who lack the ability to dream will not succumb to the belief of another person’s dream. In fact they will look down upon your dream caught up in the reality of whom and what they consider best only for themselves. A selfish insight blockades the potential for a servant’s insight for an eternal mindset.

Sometimes in the pursuit of reality we eventually discover what our imaginations dreamed of since the beginning of prayers and hopes as it pertains to love. The girl or guy you imagined in the crush or a high school or college cognitive photograph becomes the person you envisioned several years later down the road. You focused on the right things, and God rewarded the pursuit of integrity by bringing together both reality and fantasy in an ideal match made by heaven just for you.

Surround yourself with those who want you, and then Hunter Hayes’ lyrics here will ring true in his hit song “Wanted.” No imagine feeling like this!

 

Can we make the wrong decision? Probably not in God’s Plan for our lives…

Today in all our prosperity calls for ministry, preachers talk more about the blessings, fulfillment of dreams, and good fortune cookies in pledges for purpose-driven lives. Please understand in my sarcasm I believe individuals should follow the desires of their hearts, but life happens. Things remain hard for most normal people unless born into luxury or the reputation of a successful mother or father who paves the way for a career. Most of us are not so lucky.

Our crashing economy no longer assists the situation because jobs we actually want remain sparse. Our present day political leaders make excuses and bad decisions that hurt the ability to attain a dream job we want to wake up each morning for. It has taken me almost two years after graduating with a reputable Master’s degree to have a choice of pursuing a career of genuine interest. I honestly underestimated how hard life would be after spending over six years pursuing an advanced education. While I initiate the work ethic, many want those dreams for free, handed to them, without putting forth the work ethic or trying their very best to get whatever it is they really want. Life does not work like that. That is like asking God to win the lottery without buying a lottery ticket. Faith requires action to actually ask and then move forward with each step to accomplish whatever it is you seek. The snowball effect takes time. With each focused step forward, the ball eventually gains momentum to roll downhill with a built reputation.

I recently decided to believe again with a few sudden unexpected setbacks. Sometimes you must just do. With no explanations and no excuses, choose to move forward, and once deciding to do so, never look back on the past and what previously hindered those dreams.

Some lecture that you must fulfill God’s specific calling for your life; however our journey brings forth options to pursue many. I do not believe that there is absolutely only one thing God meant for you to do with your life. God provided believers with the freedom of choice to choose our fate. Many of us are destined to change lives on an international frontier, but again most in life walk through without an absolute positive direction in God’s plan for their lives. Sometimes the best decision made involves stepping forward in faith to follow the flow of life. If God provides you with an epiphany, listen and obediently follow your heart, but it is okay if like many normal people you rarely have such divine moments. And I also believe it is okay if you choose to live an ordinary normal life, if content with the quiet choice to provide for a family and glorify God. There is nothing wrong with a decision to enjoy the simple things in life. Some aspire to rise to lead the multitudes for God’s Kingdom. And some choose to follow through with the basics of life with a contentious routine. On many occasions the simple choices and things in life brings about that most fulfillment. And perhaps the realization to enjoy the present moment makes everything else in life worthwhile, deciding to make the most of the cards God dealt.

A Great Night with Great Friends – A Night of Gratefulness. Do you have the blessings of relationship?

Sunset in Redondo Beach, California, May 2012

My personal reflection in the horse eye, another shot also taken in California. May 2012

On Thursday night, the Samford after Sundown program displayed completed photos and assignments of both me and the other students in the program, rewarding those who received the program certificate this semester and past year. You could consider it the graduation of the program. The photographs above were shown on display at the review in representation of my work.   

I found the experience joyful because my father and two very close friends, Taylor Brandum and Jude Ross, showed up to support me. Yes, I enjoyed the creativity expressed in many excellent works shown by all the beginner, intermediate, and expert photographers, but my visible support system uplifted me with feelings of thankfulness. Jude attended The Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. He experiences and expresses gifts of the Holy Spirit unlike any person I have ever met. His wisdom, friendship, and general humorous personality brings joy to all those around him. Taylor is another character in his own world. He reminds me of Tigger from the popular cartoon, Winnie the Pooh. His energy never diminishes, and he smiles without hesitation. I am surprised his smiles have not stuck in a permanent position like The Joker the Batman cartoons, comic books, and movies. Jude and Taylor are just those types of guys that everyone wants to surround themselves with. Their presence spreads good feelings to those they are around because of their positive, fun outlooks on life.

When I experienced some down times in life about two years ago, I will never forget when Taylor took me on our ride through the Miracle Mile, cruising the Summit Shopping Mall Boulevard to check out girls, something teenagers do, not thirty year old men. If unfamiliar with Birmingham, you may not realize the specific store locations here, but you will soon laugh from the imagery of the adventure depicted. When you make a round trip from the Barnes and Noble and then back to the Toys-R-Us along the side walk of the outdoor shopping mall, essentially one lap, it equals approximately one mile. We drove at about three-five miles per hour, driving people crazy behind us because of the slow speed, sometimes causing them to yell, cuss, and beat on their steering wheel. Of course, it was hilarious to both of us! Girls sitting at the ZOE’s restaurant laughed each time we drove by in our admiration for their physical beauty, eventually causing us to stop the car, park, and meet them with their inquiry: “What exactly are you doing?” On another instance, Taylor even stepped out of the car to speak with one girl about her choice of jeans from his favorite store on the Miracle Mile. Apparently, they bought, liked, and wore the same jeans. We stepped into the Coconut’s Music Store where Taylor proceeded to blow through a plastic horn like a large trumpet in a parade. The sound rang through the store louder than the music on the speakers in this actual music store. Of course, I almost feel over onto the ground in laughter. This is just the kind of guy Taylor is without an outgoing personality and tall, blonde-haired physique. For reasons that still baffle me, girls flock to his attention, and I mean beautiful girls! Maybe it is just his love for the Lord and genuine ability to smile all the time no matter what the circumstances.

These are the kind of friends that make life worth the walk of fellowship with others in Christ’s name. We went out to eat at Okinawa Sushi and Japanese Grill on Lakeshore Parkway near Samford University (where the photography review occurred). While eating, Jude could not stop sneezing. A cute blonde girl (named Nicole) drinking wine and eating dinner with her mother kept asking Jude if he was okay. I believe she flirted with all of us dressed up in our white shirts, black pants, and dress shoes. I mean how often do you come across three eligible bachelors and studs. While not intending to, we looked like three white men in black with a new movie that would leap over the Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones saga. Men in Black 4 (MIB4)….I kind of rather like the sound of that! We talked about our latest crushes and the frustrations that often come with such pursuits of the female gender and college football…..you know the usual guy talk over dinner.

These are two of the most positive guys I know in their relationships and walks with the Lord. I open up and get real with these guys. While I tend to be overly serious at times, they goof off the entire time, realizing the true joy God brings into our lives. These are the type of friends worth pursuing in life, those who guide and advise with future colossal decisions, those who uplift you when you are down, and those who you just want to be around because of the joy in their hearts. I could not and will not meet better friends than this. I am grateful to know these two guys and so glad they came out to support me on the night of my photography review at Samford University.

At the end of dinner, we briefly prayed out in the parking lot over some of the challenges and hopes we talked about over dinner. To pray with such believers illustrates the connection we have through Christ. I hope as the reader you are able to connect with such men of faith. I am glad, fortunate, and blessed to know both Taylor and Jude who both believed in me at times when I did not even believe in myself.

Freedom in Christ – Experience It! Believe in the Infinite Power and Love of God! Do you believe?

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Mathew 6:25-27 (NIV)

Now I know this is a verse most remain familiar with; however it assists me to believe that Christ in Me shuns and evaporates all worries away. If God takes care of the birds of the air, he will surely take care of us. Honestly in self-reflection, I ask both you and myself: Do we add value to our lives with worries in the nag it tears down on our minds?

I become exhausted when I think about such things. The Law of Attraction simply premises that negative thoughts lead to negative thoughts or positive thoughts lead to positive thoughts. That observation is both Biblical and true. As Tinker Bell pleads with Peter Pan to fly on the way to Never Never Land, “Think Happy Thoughts, Peter.” Think happy thoughts, indeed, we should. Perhaps that is the calling of us as Christians to spread the joy of Christ through positive thinking.

Do you ever feel weighed down by worries, concerns, problems, challenges, troubles, or adversity? Recently I have felt more anxiety than usual. I believe decisions are coming where I will change lives just as much as others’ lives will change my own. Constant change is necessary for those who seek growth and constant improvement for every area of their life, but it can also become nerve-racking as well.

I also feel the negativity of others bringing us down sometimes as well. No matter what you do or say, some always combat you in defensiveness or think of something bad to say no matter what the situation, maybe even just in regular conversation. I find this observation especially interesting when you try to grow closer to someone, only for them to turn you away with a protective survival mode like attitude. I understand protecting your heart when another hurts you, but when you hurt those who care about you because of another person’s past actions, you distance yourself from what could potentially turn into a very good relationship, friendship, or possibly an eternal life partner. I know we all have encountered people of this nature.

I believe the simple truth is that we find freedom only through Christ as believers. It often comes to down to simply kneeing before Christ bedside with the request for freedom. Believe when you ask that God relieve of your worries that he will. Really all we have to do is let go and believe the request that we make. Christ will care for you! Christ will have you! Christ will love you! I listed four principles that have changed my life and will continue to do so as I focus on a year of Christ, change, growth, and movement forward for dream sake.

1.) Focus on today and only today.
2.) Believe that good things will happen again.
3.) Surround yourself with positive, faith-building relationships.
4.) Realize God’s Infinite Power and Love.

The same chapter in Mathew mentioned at the beginning of this blog entry ends on this note:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Mathew 6:34 (NIV)

When we focus on today and the responsibilities of each hour now, we live in the present where future moments live and stay in the future without blocking the work of God we are destined to achieve. The Enemy will say, tempt, or do anything to keep us off track from achieving our purpose-filled, driven commission. If you believe and realize God’s Infinite Power and Love, you and I together will become unstoppable in any endeavor we attempt to pursue and successfully surmount. Bring it! We are to go down and get down with God’s business to save souls, orphans, widows, and anyone that needs service in His Name. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him FOREVER!

Someone told me recently, “God is pleased with you right now. You do not need to publish books, plant churches, and start nonprofits for God to notice your goodness. For you live in Him, and because he is good, so are you!” Now that simple reminder of truth speaks to my heart as it perhaps does you. Remember to think positively about such thoughts in forever-inclined-eternal-mindsets to realize that God is the most powerful advocate who works for your behalf. He loves us all more than we can humanly understand or imagine!

Let’s end on an amazing passage from The Message Bible. Read, refresh, and become inspired!

“It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.” Ephesians 2:1-6 (The Message)