December 17, 2017

My Grandmother, Dot Cartee, In Passing and In Memory….The poem that shakes the southland!!!

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Over ten years ago, I wrote this message to my Grandmother Cartee (my father’s mother), who died late last night, February, 27, 2014. I will be writing about her memory over the next several days, but I believe this poem will serve as a reminder of how I remember her, as a college student and even now as a real world working adult.

To My GrandMa:
A Valentine’s Message!!!
February 14, 2003

Grandmother, you must know how special you are to me.
Your Christ-like desire to serve is what I love to see.
My back is starting to itch; can you scratch it?
I am getting so skinny; as Grandfather says, my jeans no longer fit.
But that’s okay; some don’t understand my own style.
Today I hope this rhyme sure makes you smile.
I have love to encourage; I love to see happiness in others.
I guess that is a quality that Grandsons inherit from Grandmothers.
Prayers to God, and his blessings He sends.
With my Grandmother, there never seems to be an end…
Cooking real good food, doing some laundry, getting some rest.
With love and support, I will always pass life’s long test.
More patient than perhaps I will ever be;
Thank you for being the person you are, and thank you for loving me.
Prayers I send to heaven, and let me tell you God will talk.
In His presence, I am starting to learn and walk.
Learning from his standards, learning from your ways,
Love thy neighbor as thyself; my name is James. My name is not Ray.
Common mistakes and common miscallings;
I know that you are there to catch me if I am falling.
To have my Grandparents still around, many would say this is not fair.
For me, I know you truly care.
Me and the man that I am are just about all I have to give.
With God’s love, I continue to live.
Through me, His blessings continue to be bestowed.
Every day I am taught, and every day I grow.
Only through Christ, sufficient Grace He gives so much of.
I hope through these Valentine words and actions that you know…
It is the person that you are that I love.

Your Grandson,
James III

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Keep A Balanced Perspective – How do you see the world? This week? Yourself?

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

It is very easy in this world to become discouraged, by the loss of a job, loved one, or perhaps a new car in an accident. I think we most truly grow when circumstances are not what we would consider ideal. You must know and believe with faith and a hard work ethic that your down moment will turn up eventually. I found this to be true in past times when I thought the rough path of the road less traveled would never end, and eventually situations turned around.

This week I encountered two individuals in God-size moments that reminded me to keep my perspective. One moment I sat in my car at a traffic light, and as I looked to the left, I saw a man in a wheelchair inching up an inclined sidewalk with all his might and effort, each forearm pulling the wheels one slow mini step at a time. The previous day I easily jogged up that same small hill. I suddenly realized how I felt that I had to exercise instead of that I got to, with the blessing and privilege of my ability to walk. My moment stood still with the perspective shock factor of true gratefulness.

I currently live in midtown Atlanta and consistently interact with my apartment complex groundskeeper who at times possesses mentally what I often think of as a less-than-desirable job. When we ask each other, “How you doing,” with our usual pass-by chat, he constantly says, “I am glad to have work and pay my bills.” His perspective always seems in the right place, as he picks up trash and performs light yard work. And some moments I will witness him at the entrance with a dog mascot costume and sign, waving at possible tenants, to rent a unit where I live, and he appears content with his sidewalk advertisement performances.

The other day this same man complimented my truck, a 1998 Chevrolet S-10 extended cab. While there really remains nothing wrong with what I drive, I often wish I drove a nicer, more up-to-date car instead. It almost sounded as if he wanted my truck, again sparking another enlightening moment that I have a car when many in Atlanta continue forward with dependence on public transportation.

If you listen and look for the Holy Spirit this week, you might also experience three moments where perspective hits you in the face. What you worried about with your daily checklist will and might suddenly appear as insignificant as it really is.

This motivational speaker, whose nickname calls for ETtheHipHopPreacher, presents a simple message with his segment series, “Thank God It’s Monday,” which illustrates that with each Monday morning, we wake up with a fresh beginning for a new week. You start again fresh to pursue something perhaps greater than yourself. Contrary to live-for-the-weekend syndrome,   Eric Thomas views movement at the first stages of a race as the most exciting. He will challenge you to believe and achieve dreams with the right perspective if you follow his advice. I know many of his words inspire, and strike me like arrows in the tender spots of my heart. I encourage you to watch at least one video. You will then want to charge the battlefield after eight minutes of fresh breathe with this talented speaker! He puts everything in perspective!

Thank God It’s Monday! – Season 4, Episode 1 (by Eric Thomas)

Thank God It’s Monday! – Season 4, Episode 2 (by Eric Thomas)

Thank God It’s Monday! – Season 4, Episode 3 (by Eric Thomas)

Thank God It’s Monday! – Season 4, Episode 4 (by Eric Thomas)

JOEY BERRIOS – A Super Bowl Champion Testimony and Story – STICK TO THE PLAN!

This is an interview I conducted with Joey Berrios, now a Software Quality Assurance Analyst for  Greenway Medical Technologies. He recently married Kelsi Rebecca Berrios, and expects his firstborn child, Jacqueline Fae Berrios, to deliver this spring. With personal stories I know in depth, Joey marks the example of diligence to stick to a plan, accomplish goals, and overcome adversity from humble beginnings. I brought attention to some of his journey through the blog because like me, I knew his story would touch and inspire many of you who face adverse times right now. We all tend to pull for the underdog. Joey represents that kind of success story that should be in one of those Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul books. Read. Listen. And learn with interest and intrigue.

Q: Do you remember anything from living overseas? Was this a happy time for your family?

My family moved to Naples, Italy because that is where the Air Force sent my father in late 1984.

I remember going to the harbor with my mother. We would purchase ice cream from a street vendor nearby and watch the boats come in/out of port. I vaguely remember eating dinner at a few restaurants. I used to chase lizards that would run up and down our balcony when I went outside to play. The beach that was nearby was dirty and not really good for children to visit. I remember one of my birthdays and playing with some fellow kids we knew through other Air Force families. I was 3, almost 4, when we returned to the United States. I remember sitting and reading Disney books at the airport in Italy and looking out the window of the plane, asking my mother what trees were since I had never seen anything like them.

My mom had a difficult time adjusting to living so far away from her family. There were many events that happened while we were overseas that almost caused us to be evacuated from the country and return to the United States. Military Police frequently came by and kept the families updated on things and we practically had to have a bag packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

When we arrived in Italy, my parents had ordered furniture for our new apartment. Unfortunately, when the ship arrived, everything was destroyed. I had to sleep in a suit case since I had no crib. We only had a small heater that my parents setup to keep me warm. They chose to bare the cold and be uncomfortable.

When we returned to the United States, my mother kissed the ground and thanked God she was back home. She said being in Italy for three years took ten off of her life.

Q: How long did it take you to graduate from Auburn University with your Bachelor’s degree?

7 ½ years.

Note: At one point, Joey suffered clinical depression while in college, and therefore his grades suffered from many extenuating circumstances beyond his control. His two brothers, mother, and father moved into his studio apartment at one point as mentioned in the next questions. While growing up and once even on his own, his family often resided in one week hotels, wondering whether there would be food to eat or where next week’s rent money could come from.  

Q: Please describe in detail the circumstances when you family lived in your studio apartment at Auburn.

It was 4th of July in 2007. I called my mom to see how their holiday weekend was going and she told me things weren’t good. They had run into a financial snafu and had no money. She asked me if they could stay with me for a few days and figure things out.

Q: How long did that time last?

9 months.

Q: Were you able to focus on school then?

My mother made things difficult for me to be in the apartment, all 300 square feet of it, so I holed up in my office at work and practically lived out of it.

Q: When you wanted to quit (if you ever did want to), what motivated you to continue?

I didn’t want to end up like my parents. My dad worked two jobs to keep a roof over my head, clothes to wear, food to eat, and basic survival needs. I got some things I wanted on Christmas and my birthday, but overall it was always tough and sometimes I don’t know how we got by when we did.

When my step-dad came into the picture and my brothers were born, that changed everything and added many dynamics I wasn’t ready or prepared to take on but had to anyway. I remember how much I hated being torn in so many directions: forced to be a father, husband, son, and brother against my wishes but a man does what he has to do in order to survive, even when it’s difficult. My life story isn’t original by any means.

There are many people who have survived tragedies and life changing events, and their will to live kept them alive. Despite whatever scars they bare and baggage they carry, they continue to survive and carry on as they did previously. Those are the things that kept me going. No matter how hard it was or what tragedy I faced, no matter how many times circumstances tried to beat and break me down, I continued to push forward with everything I had within me so I could one day cross the finish line. Like Jesus carrying the cross, being beaten and tortured all the way to his execution, I too carried my cross and gave it everything I had. Winners never quit and quitters never win.

Q: How did you meet James Cartee?

I met James in the summer of 2008 during the Industrial Design summer studio.

Q: What most do you respect about James?

His love for God and wanting to be a better Christian. I think James is a unique guy and someone I’m happy to call my friend.

Q: Why do you consider your motto “to stick to the plan” as something everyone can aspire to?

I was going through a rough patch at Auburn and ended up driving my GPA into the ground. I was sent to Catherine Cater hall where they have specialized advisers who work with students who are on academic warning, suspension, and 2nd suspension. The idea is that they work with you and try to find out what’s the underlying cause for your struggle. They also help you find your “path” and provide all of the resources necessary to facilitate your success, whatever that may be.

My adviser, Jenn Harrison, made a little sign that said, “Stick to the Plan” and printed it off. She told me to tape it somewhere I would see it every day as a reminder that I have a plan and am progressively working towards it, even if it’s not at the speed I’d like it to move. I once heard, “A mouse will eat an elephant if you give it enough time.” That’s how life is: a giant elephant that can be consumed but not all in one sitting. Patience is a virtue we all struggle with but once you can semi-master it, tasks become water rolling off of your back like a duck.

Q: What is/was the hardest challenge you have ever faced?

I think one of the biggest challenges I face is being content/happy with what I have and not being impatient for things to “turn around” so I can be “on par” with everyone else. I grew up not having much and seeing what everyone else had made me wonder why I had to do without those things. I feel restless in my pursuit to overcome the place I was born into, which is better than probably 30% of the world (if not more) but somehow that isn’t good enough. It’s a hunger I can’t seem to satisfy, no matter how hard I try because I’m always wanting more. I don’t know if there will ever be a point in my life where I am satisfied with what I have because I know there’s something better out there waiting for me. Being content feels more like accepting defeat than appreciating what God has provided. If people who have very little to no modern convenience can be happy, why can’t I?

JC (Interviewer): I would probably say the strongest spiritual characteristic of Joey’s personality is his heart. He will help anyone in need if he can within reasonable understanding.

Q: What within you pulls you to help friends and perhaps even those less fortunate than yourself?

The life I lived growing up, the injustices I faced from my mother, the types of people I have come across as an adult, the wrongs I have experienced, the hurt I’ve endured, and the mistakes I can’t take back are all things that have shown me what life is like. There are a lot of bad things in life but equally as many good; however, I tend to hold onto the bad more so than the good because it keeps me alive. It reminds me of what NOT to say, do, or become. It’s the cross that I have been given to bear.

I didn’t choose to take on this task; however I think it chose me. God will present you with many trials and tribulations. He will push you until you are on the brink of fracturing into a million pieces. He will load your plate up until you think you don’t have room for another morsel, but it’s all in good intention.

And because of these personal insights, I desire to be the best friend a person can have. I know what it feels like to be let down. If I can help it, I do not want to be that person.

If you would like to reach Joey Berrios for any reason, including but not limited to freelance HTML coding projects and ministry interviews, his email is josephberrios84@gmail.com. He welcomes a good challenge to support his new family and further pursue his dreams to provide as a new father.

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!

 

My Friend Larry Bergeron from A Child’s Hope International – Orphan Sunday Series, Part 1

 

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (NKJV)

Orphan Sunday, occuring on November 4, 2012, is a national movement joined by churches all over the world usually 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.

I met Larry Bergeron briefly at Summit 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky. Larry introduced to me his vitamin formula that sufficientlys feed thousands of orphans and fatherless children all over the world. He graciously gave me a sample of his formula package. Larry and I connected through a supernatural love for the orphan and stayed constantly in touch through our mutual love for writing. I sent Larry a copy of my twenty three poem collection, Veintitres: From the Beginning (First Edition), and he was touched so much by a specific poem in the book, What I Don’t Deserve, listed below, enough to then publish it in his own book and biography memoir.

 

What I Don’t Deserve

 

What I don’t deserve you give me with each breath that I take.
What I don’t deserve is your never-changing love that echoes through all eternity
And cradles me with a hundred blessings every morning that I wake.

What I don’t deserve you give me without hesitation.
What I don’t deserve is my passion that you push to the limits
And the fire that burns within my heart intense with inspiration.

What I don’t deserve is your love that I cannot dare to fully comprehend.
What I don’t deserve is the gift you sent to change the histories of all mankind forever
And pay the debt of so many hearts to mend.

What I don’t deserve are the blessings you lay upon me in the measurements of time.
What I don’t deserve is the continuance of happy thoughts that always seem to be present
And the ladders of tribulation you strengthen me to finish in the life that I climb.

What I don’t deserve is the Spirit who intercedes on my behalf in the midst of my guilt-driven shame.
What I don’t deserve is the extravagance of a Kingdom that I will enter
And the open arms waiting when you call me by my heavenly name.

JLC iii, 2/6/07

 

Larry kindly quoted my published poem in his published book, Journey to the Fatherless, where Larry pours his heart out to readers with faith, logic, and powerful emotions to view childrens’ suffrage as he and I do. You see Larry’s inner spirit pours passions onto those around him. I noticed that Spirit-filled aura about him the first time I met him.

This biography information was taken from the A Child’s Hope International website:

Larry’s story was more turbulent as he was an agnostic for many years of his adult life. He earned three degrees in electronic engineering, twelve patents, spoke at international conferences, wrote numerous journal articles and published one book on digital communications.

Several have cursed his pioneer work in the development of voice mail systems which are so prevalent today. As he climbed the corporate ladder, becoming a vice president for a large, well known American company, his agnostic views and attack on the veracity of the Bible were frequent. He was driven by power, prominence and prestige – and money. As many know first hand, the drive for success can be a destructive force and it was for him as well.

Although wealthy and successful (by the standards of many), there was a growing sense of emptiness in his life. As he strove for even more power, he was becoming more of an angry person at the same time. He viewed Christianity as a crutch for weak people and cursed those who would try and reason with him. About 20 years ago, through a strange and fortunate set of “circumstances”, he eventually stopped running from the Hound of Heaven and gave his life to Jesus Christ.

Like so many of us in our journey for Christ, God grabbed Larry through his love, grace, and mercy. Eventually Larry could not run away from the plan God had for his life to touch thousands that live without. And so he formed with the full support of his wife, A Child’s Hope International, where he now serves as the Executive Director. Larry gave God everything, potentially what could have culminated into thousands of dollars. Now that is what I call a warrior of Christ! I encourage you as a reader of my blog possibly buy his book and visit the website of his organization and cause. As I know Larry, you will also get to know the hero I have come to love and respect. Here’s to you Larry for your deeds and your ministry!

You may learn more about Larry’s organization at the following website: http://www.achildshopeintl.org/HomePage.html

If you would like to more about Larry’s book, Journey to the Fatherless, for possible purchse, then the following website is available: http://www.journeytothefatherless.com/

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.

A True Hero’s Welcome and Response – a continuation from the last entry!

Gary Sneider responded to my last blog entry with his own time in the message listed below in this continuation for churches to step forward in action, not just empty words. I get all sorts of feedback with my blog, but you will find that Gary’s response required time and some meticulous attention, something that might also attribute to his character in this ministry. Sometimes I find myself too tired to respond to emails with the attention they many times deserve, like the example Gary sets here.

Sneider expresses his educated thoughts on why churches fail to engage the cause of the fatherless, beyond my simple assertion of laziness. His years of experience become evident in his insight and logic to this lack of attention churches give to save God’s children. You could consider his words more graceful and gracious than my own.

Gary Scheider is the Founder and President of Every Orphan’s Hope, dedicating his life to the fatherless in the country of Zambia. The Christian Alliance for Orphans recognizes Gary as the originator of the Orphan Sunday, a movement that brings awareness for orphans around the world on a joint coordinated Sunday in November, this year on the 4th day of the month, the first Sunday. Orphan Sunday in Zambia seems glorious! The attached photo is an orphan who attended the event at Woodlands Stadium, Lusaka, Zambia. There were 68 churches participating, and they transported 1,864 children to the event (a huge expense for so many impoverished churches). Quite frankly I have never heard of an event that occurred in the United States on this magnitude where churches covered the costs of orphans to come together in a national venue like this.

James,

I appreciate your passion for serving the fatherless and hope your efforts as a State Orphan Sunday coordinator motivates many to get involved!

I’m getting ready to celebrate Orphan Sunday in Zambia with the CAFO team. They’re here shooting the movie Zambia’s Gift To The World – Orphan Sunday. We’ve had an amazing week and please join us in prayer as tomorrow is Zambia’s Orphan Sunday.

Why do churches fail to step up for the orphan?

(1) Experience. It has not been their experience to see hundreds or thousands of impoverished, abandoned, lonely, abused and neglected children. They’ve not taken time to understand the plight of the orphan. They’ve never met an orphan. Out of sight, out of mind.

(2) Education. Until a person has searched the scriptures and understood the Father’s heart-revelation throughout scripture, they don’t have a clear picture of God’s compassionate call for his people to care for the orphan. They’ve not understood the promises and commands of God and the compassion of Christ for the orphan.

(3) Connection. Who was the first person God raised from the dead? It was a nameless orphan, the child of a nameless widow from Zarephath (1 Kings 17). Who was the first person Jesus raised from the dead? A nameless orphan boy, the son of a nameless widow from the town of Nain. We all know Lazarus’ story. He has sisters. Mary and Martha loved him and grieved his loss. But the nameless orphans who were the first to be raised from the dead, their stories remain largely unknown. Same miracle of God, but who can relate to nameless orphans and widows, there’s no connection.

(4) Cost. There is a cost to follow Jesus. To care for the orphan is costly on all measurable levels. The church must be ready to embrace the cost of following Jesus to the point of raising orphaned children to life, as their own, in whatever form that takes; adoption, foster care, or global orphan care.

I try at all costs not to give “Orphan Statistics”. Honestly, the number of breast cancer patients doesn’t connect me to the millions of women suffering breast cancer. But one story about Mary, whose brother and mother loved her…you get my point.

Rebecca was the mother of Mary, David and Michael. At birth, she chose their names carefully. In choosing their names, she envisioned their future, before she knew their personalities, she began shaping their character, their dreams and their lives simply by the rich Biblical heritage of their names. 12 years later, as Rebecca lay on her bed terminally ill with HIV/AIDS, Mary, David and Michael stood helpless by her side. Rebecca called her church elders and she called upon the God of Mary, David and Michael to care for her children. She would not live to see the promise of her children’s future fulfilled. The only one she could entrust their future to was the God of the Bible and the Body of Christ in her community, there was no family alive to care for her children. As she slipped into the arms of her heavenly Father. She trusted the arms of the Father’s Son would wrap around her children and bless them…and He did! He did, because God’s people understood the Father’s heart and the compassion of his Son and they were by Mary’s bed and assured her, we will take your children and do our best to see God’s promise for their lives fulfilled.

Today, the promise of Mary, David and Michael’s lives are a powerful testimony of the faith of a mother, Rebecca and a body of Believers who understood the Father’s heart and responded sacrificially to the compassionate cause of Christ.

James, continue your heroic effort to help the Church understand and engage with the cause of Christ on behalf of the orphaned!

Blessings,

Gary

The Call From the Orphan – God’s Heart! Why Do Churches Hesitate to Rise Up?

I once heard Chris Hodges, Senior Pastor of Church of the Highlands, ask his 15,000 member congregation, “Do you know why some people are gay? I think I figured this paradigm out.” We all sat on the edge of our seats with the expectation of some Scripture revelation, the secret this long debated question about to be answered. Hodges continued, “I think it is because they are lazy.” The building audience erupted into laughter at his proclamation. He asserted that a relationship with the same sex was much easier than one with the opposite gender. I must agree that my guy friends and I never fight! I really cannot remember the last time I fought with a guy, seriously. I admit that a relationship with a significant female other is real hard work. I understand Hodges’ logic on some unusual levels. After his awkward moment of humor, Hodges began his Sunday sermon.

Does this same statement apply to churches that ignore the cause of the fatherless (in addition to the widow, the poor, the diseased, the underprivileged, and so on)? Are church leaders and passive congregational members lazy? Most will claim that the temptation to fall into complacency in Pop Culture Christianity is easy. How many people genuinely volunteer and serve in capacities outside of a Saturday Southern football tailgate? In my opinion with where I worked in the past two years (not the Salvation Army headquarters), most settle for each night’s schedule of sitcoms and sporting events on ESPN. Many don’t do anything outside of family and watching television for the local community and international relief. Even my own family is guilty of this epidemic on several accords. We conduct ourselves according to convenience.

I serve as the current Christian Alliance for Orphans State Coordinator for Orphan Sunday. I am responsible year round for gearing and managing events, seminars, discussion panels, and anything related to the cause of the fatherless, even radio interviews. We specifically focus on Orphan Sunday, November 4, with a concentration for a national and international movement where thousands come together for one day to stand for the orphan. The Christian Alliance for Orphans stands as a joint coalition of over one hundred organizations who commit themselves to save every orphan for the sole sake of God’s Glory. We were after all adopted by our Heavenly Father!

Recently I approached several churches in the Greater Birmingham metropolitan about participating on Orphan Sunday, November 4th. Between last year (2011) and this year (2012) with this annual celebration in advocacy for the orphan, I definitely received more “No’s” than “Yes’s,” sometimes even with simple requests for orphan-focused prayers, still to receive another “No.”  I even had ministers commit to events this year with their given word without following through, some things I worked hard on through my own free time through volunteering, only with nowhere to implement my hard work.  A great example of someone who fights for the orphan is Jon Walden, Executive Director and on air personality for Revocation Radio, a nonprofit radio station who plays Christian music that honors God, healthy for the ears of youthful listeners (as opposed to the cussing of gangster rap or any other colorful music).  Jon is interviewing five individuals over the air with leaders from five different orphan-related organizations. Walden remains busy with public appearances, youth rallies, a family, and his own mission with his nonprofit ventures. He makes the extra effort for the sake of ministry, not excusing the assistance with his own busyness with life responsibilities. Many could learn from his diligence for all the causes he stands for simply for the sake of Christ. Nothing more else motivates him so. Jon Walden rises to the challenge, and I wonder if other nonchalant ministerial leaders will do the same.

Another example to emulate as a country is Rwanda who seeks to eradicate orphanages, YES, THERE WILL BE NO MORE FATHERLESS in the next twenty years within this country! I mean no disrespect to this country or any other African country, but in the eyes of western politics, this is a third world entity. Countries with much more economical means stand still while those less fortunate pave the way for something many should have initiated a long time ago! Leaders in Rwanda have risen together as The Church to train citizens within their country to raise orphans. Rwanda does not ship their troubles to other countries. Internally they seek to improve as a country within their own borders. Nothing wrong exists with international adoption; however I am inspired when a country heals an epidemic for the fatherless at home, for example our failing foster care systems, which we still have yet to remedy in the United States.

While hosting events is not necessary with commitments, fighting and caring for the orphan worldwide is not an option. In fact, God commands it through His Biblical Word. For those of us who lack initiative, reference the following Scriptures:

Isaiah 1:17 (NIV)

“Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.”

James 1:27 (NIV)

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Exodus 22:22-24 (NIV)

“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.”

John 14:18 (NIV)

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Psalm 82:3 (NIV)

“Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.”

I think the question remains worthwhile to consider: Are leaders in ministry too lazy to fight for the cause of the orphan? The blessing and burden to carry the cause cannot fall solely on those who actually rise to acknowledge the world’s fatherless. The rise for change is not easy. Anything for the sake of Christ will never be easy. But leaders like Jon Walden step up to play for eternal reasons often beyond those who live more on earth than in heaven with human indulgence. I grow tired of fighting without the support of local church leaders. I challenge the next time a door opens for church leaders to rise, instead of offering lame excuses for why this conflicts with a year round sermon scheduled series, year after year ignoring our call to solve the problems of this world. If Rwanda can, I am confident any United States congregation can as well. It is time to stop the laziness and to work hard for God’s Glory. Together we can and together we will fight for the fatherless and end the orphan epidemic. It is not impossible! It is very doable! And if you make the decision to lead and take a stand, God will honor our hard work for His Heavenly Heart.

Personally seek to feel the CALL of the ORPHAN through this video about Orphan Sunday, 2012! We are adopted! God never abandoned us! And we should never abandon them, the fatherless!

Orphan Sunday 2012 from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Do we overcomplicate things in our lives? Or know someone who does? Best Strategy: Simplify!

While these comics are funny, they illustrate why many of us need to simplify things. My own life examples below demonstrate how over-complicating matters make life all the more frustrating and perhaps even comical as well.

This past week I took on a carpentry project with my father. He originally claimed that the chore was a simple three screws to seal a crack between roof tiles and a gutter affected by recent storms in Alabama. Three screws turned into a four day project and several hours to screw in almost every gutter half way around the house and replace gutter guards that appear more difficult to snap on than opening a beer without a twist off cap. All I did was hold the ladder for ten hours until dark on two days after my normal nine hour day at the online college where I work. And the odd coincidence remains that my father seeks to sell the house once I move out in a month to go to Atlanta for a new job. I am not entirely convinced our new buyers will climb to the mountain tops of our roofs to admire our gutter handiwork.

My grandfather brings similar habits to the table where my father inherited his own time management skills. A fifteen minute project turns between five to six hours when errands to home depot require the right tools to buy. My grandfather has Zoysiagrass that requires meticulous attention to keep healthy in extreme heat. While visiting both he and my grandmother this past summer, he hired a staff member at the Smithfield’s Golf Course to pull out ALL the weeds and Fescue grass in his yard without the appropriate spray that kills those types of grass within a week, in addition with a request for me to volunteer on this pointless pursuit of grass ecstasy. To measure the struggle here was that the more weeds and Fescue grass covered the yard far more so than Zoysia. The yard was impossible to save according to the grass management technician of the country club hired by my grandfather to uproot each weed without “hurting the good grass.”

On another occasion, my grandfather decided he wanted to pressure water spray a small section of his driveway which discolored the concrete from the rest of the pavement. That small mistake turned into a two day project pressure water spraying two driveways, sidewalks, and then sealing the concrete with mops….yes, mops! Please do not ask! Of course, what was planned and promised as a chill restful weekend turned into a sweat shop in one hundred degree weather for both me and my father.

While I am grateful to assist my father and grandfather for all they have done for me, I believe they often complicate simple tasks just to stay busy for the sake of busy. When individuals retire, they suddenly possess time for projects that when working full time probably would never become necessary, as they often are, not necessary for such perfectionist ways. As many managers in my workplace state, “Work smarter, not harder!”

Another example in my own life to illustrate the observations expressed here. Working two jobs while studying for finals in graduate school filled every minute of every day with a rare possibility of reaching more than six hours of sleep by chance. I did not have time to procrastinate, goof off, or do busy work for the sake to consume time. While I applied myself as best I could, my goal was to get a ninety in each class, which was an A and essentially the same thing as a hundred. And I graduated with a balanced life and a 4.0 GPA from graduate school. The approach proved effective with the best of results. Another almost daily example includes my books and blog entries. I write and then proofread over time, but a message presented at 90-95% perfection is better than that message never being shown to the world.

Most tasks we do can always be better done. In thirty years, I truly try my best to not waste time because time is my most precious resource, limited in abundance. Things in life are already difficult without making them more difficult than they need to be. Next time you take on a gargantuan project consider if it is worth the time you sacrifice to do the things you really enjoy. Sometimes as I discovered with the recent experienced examples, time becomes wasted with only a result of exhaustion with other more important items left unattended without making the most of time available. As I move to a new city and job opportunity, I really am trying to remain cognizant of making the most of my time to become as successful as possible getting the job done as necessary without overextending myself with unnecessary extras. That is the nature of today’s society and technology. Unless retired, Millennials lack the time to rise professionally when consumed with the tediousness of pursuing busy just to be busy.

Do not overcomplicate things in life. Simplify and do what needs to be done. Pursue your best in the areas of your life that really matter….family, friends, relationships, heart, and dreams!

I highly respect Joyce Meyer and her words of advice through her writing and inspirational talks to Christians like myself who seek to simplify life. I believe you will find the following two video talks insightful on how to simplify daily life and the responsibilities we each have.

 

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!