October 20, 2017

My Dad – If given a superhero identity, his name would be “Captain Invincible!”

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I have been subject to witness several lame father figures in my lifetime, not my Dad. No, not my Dad! Simply said, and bragging about it, my Dad is my hero and the absolute best Dad in the world. In fact, some have often mentioned how they envied that I had a Dad, who continually played a part in my life, whereas their father took off on a permanent vacation where no one has any recollection of his presence, long to be forgotten.

Please know I also feel similar sentiments towards my Grandfather Cartee. He is a man of honor who often made his presence known at important life events and sometimes just showing up to spend time with me, for no specific reason at all, other than to see me.

Here are some reasons why I proclaim such a dignified title in honor of the man who has changed my life for the better in so many ways. He simply is, meaning my Dad shows up to the simple events. He attended my graduations from high school and the colleges I attended and sporting events when I was younger. In addition to my mother, he is the first to buy one of my books when I publish “yet one more.”

I do not consider fatherhood to be easy; however I do not think it is rocket science either. My father takes care of those he loves. When you love someone, one might argue it comes instinctively natural and easy to just do what a Dad does. With a family and wife in mind, you want to be a better person. You want to strive for greater, because you have someone depending on you as if your life depended on it, and more often than not, those lives do depend on your efforts for income.

Sometimes our greatest strengths are in our greatest efforts to fight for those we love. We try because we love. Dad loves me and my sister. He tries, He shows up. He is present. Sometimes that approach to simply be is the best way to be a great Dad and person of strength. I must admit that my father has done so in extraordinary ways, in ways that many other lacking fathers could learn from.

Sometimes all you have to do is watch the person you aspire to be like and follow their example. At least, as I am about to marry Lisa in October, that is what I am doing, while the thought of children is not in the so distant future.

My philosophy is simple here: I want to be an awesome father! I watch my Dad and do what he does. And if perplexed, I just ask him a thousand questions and follow his lead on what to do. In regards to his track record, he has rarely led me astray.

As we say in a southern manner of respect, if I had my Bud Light in hand, I would say, “Dad, this Bud’s for you! I love you, man, and thank you for everything you have done for our family, especially for me!”

If I could give my father a superhero title, it would be “Captain Invincible!” He is one of the most resilient men I have ever known. He rarely lets me down. And when needed, he is almost always there to support me, especially in regards to my mental illness. While no one is perfect, my father, as a Christian leader and servant, is about as close as any man I know can get!

The Engagement Story – James Cartee and Lisa Ciuffetelli

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Lisa and I originally met online through a dating website named OKCupid. We have had a blessed journey while getting to know each other in the last two years. There have certainly been some growing experiences up the point of our engagement. I will admit this truth – Lisa is the first and only woman I have ever dated who fought to keep our relationship healthy and intact. With a personal spiritual revelation, she always showed, in many ways, that she wanted to be with me!

In addition to her relationship with Jesus, her never-ending passion to become a better person is certainly one of her finest and most attractive qualities. Her strong will towards self-fulfillment therefore also inspires me to be a better man for her and a future family with children as a father.

Many people keep asking the story of our engagement. So I decided to write a blog entry about our Memorial Day weekend adventure.

Lisa arrived on a plane from Austin, Texas, where she currently resides, into Birmingham, Alabama at approximately 3:30 p.m. Lisa enjoys a good shopping experience. We had planned a photography session for Monday morning. Of course, we did what every couple does for an engagement photo session; we went shopping. I bought Lisa a jean skirt, a boutique green dress (the one in the pictures included in this blog entry), a formal navy blue dress, and a new pair of tan sandals. I wanted her to feel appreciated for all that she does to support me in my own goals and personal endeavors.

That Saturday evening, May 28, 2016, Lisa and I went to eat at Flemings Steakhouse, located in The Summit shopping mall, where I ate a shrimp and scallop delicacy with a Caesar salad and grilled asparagus. Lisa ordered tuna filets with a shared vanilla crème brulee. Of course, we also had some wine to top off a wonderful evening. We went home to watch a movie afterwards.

After a brisk walk the next morning in Homewood, Sunday, my sister, Allison, and Mom surprised Lisa by taking her to lunch and to get her nails done for the photography appointments, a manicure and a pedicure.

At approximately 5:00 p.m., I took Lisa to the Vulcan Statue Museum and Park – a landmark for the city of Birmingham, much like the Statue of Liberty in New York City. While Brendon Pinola, one of the best wedding photographers in Birmingham, took pictures from a distance of approximately 50-60 away, with the city skyline in the background, I specifically planned to propose to Lisa at sunset here at this location. I hired Brendon to shoot both this occasion and an engagement session the next Monday morning on Memorial Day. Lisa was unaware that Brendon would be shooting us in the distance with his zoom lens in addition to a brief photography session that evening in her new green dress and sandals.

We toured the museum and went to the top of the viewing tower to then eventually come back down. As I pretended that we needed to go over to the side of the park viewing platform for the best view of the city, I quickly bent down on one knee. Lisa nervously asked, “What are you doing?”

I replied, “I have been thinking about this question for a long time. Will you please marry me? Will you please be my wife?”

While Lisa hesitated for a few long seconds, I grew a little worried in anticipation. She whispered, “Yeeeesssss.” I breathed deeply in relief, thankful for the answer I had long hoped for. Even with all my planning and special treatment, Lisa was unaware this would be her long awaited weekend. She was crying almost uncontrollably. It was difficult for her to spew out an answer in the overwhelming feelings of the moment. She knew an engagement question was coming soon, just not this past Memorial Day.

After the actual question of the hour and our first photo session with Brendon, we went to eat at The Village Tavern, where my Mom, sister, Allison, and five other mutual close friends waited to surprise Lisa in celebration of the occasion when we arrived at the restaurant. Three mutual friends drove all the way from Atlanta, Georgia to Birmingham, Alabama just for the dinner and then back in the same evening. While I cannot remember what Lisa ate, I order and relished a fresh trout fillet, lightly breaded and fried in bourbon sauce.

After a late dinner, I was exhausted. I had spent the previous two weeks planning Lisa’s visit. We were not quite in the mood to go out further to another bar restaurant to extend the party. Instead we chose to relax and watch another movie at my apartment.

The next morning we met Brendon for our second engagement photography session, continuing with more Birmingham landmarks, including Morris Avenue, The Peanut Depot, the Rotary Trail, and Railroad Park.

In addition to celebrating the event with close friends and family, the photos with Brendon presented a frozen moment in time. We recorded the special moment for just Lisa and I. Our eyes locked both in shock of the moment but also assurance we had each found our soul mate. Sharing the photo sessions was probably my favorite part of the experience, especially when Brendon was so cleverly able to catch the moment when I actually proposed to Lisa.

I look forward to spending the rest of my life with Lisa Ciuffetelli, soon to be Mrs. James L. Cartee, III!

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*Special thanks to professional photos were taken by Brendon Pinola of Brendon Pinola Photography. He is a great photography if you seek such services.

Family Is All That Matters! The journey more than the destination…#ONE

Yes, Brogan Lyle is asleep in the water raft with his father, Bryan. Is that not hilarious? I think many in today’s crazy busy world could learn from the peace of a baby’s sleep, without a care in the world, naturally trusting in the arms of his father.

In the last week, on a semester’s break with my teaching job, I took some personal time to enjoy my family, and I admit the break came at the most appropriate right time in a season of weariness. In the midst of constant struggles that produce incessant stress, rest comes handy. I literally made it a point to not push myself to the extreme, with any personal projects I constantly balance with several acts.

I took real time to reexamine life and really ask God, “Am I living in your will? Am I doing your will? Am I pursuing the right things?” The short reprieve proved to rejuvenate the perseverant soul I carry.

As I spent more and more personal time with blood family, the apparent importance of family became all the more visible. I take my family for granted every day, as I just assume they will always be around. As two grandparents battle terminal cancer, nothing could be further from the truth.

God reminded me that the destination of a finish line always appears shiny, but those around us in the journey to the finish really matter most, not the destination itself. If no one celebrates with you at the end of you race, then what’s the point? If all your life you pursued materialistic stuff for fulfillment in a life all alone, that sounds pretty lame to me.

Surround yourself with a community of love, family and friends. When life presents unbearable challenges, lean into the love of those who care about you. There in that spot of vulnerability, you will find fulfillment with the eternal relationships that surround you in every corner, with shoulders to lean and cry on.

Psalm 127:3-5 (MSG)

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.

If you die tomorrow, what will you remember? What does Tim McGraw think?

If you die tomorrow, what will you remember? Worries? Troubles with your life? Or final memories with friends, family, and other loved ones?

I am currently on a cordial visit to Auburn University for a possible new career opportunity that might additionally compliment my ambitions to become a published book author. I thoroughly enjoy my time back in the Plains, where I ask my fellow Auburn comrade, fan, and best friend, Caleb Rotton, the meaning to all of life’s greatest ministries and questions. Just tonight over a brew and bacon cheese fries at the Outback, I asked the question that enters all our minds at some point during the work week, “If you die tomorrow, what will you remember?”

And he responds, “Nothing. I will be dead.” While obviously insightful, that is not the ideal answer I exactly hoped for.

As illustrated in the previous entry, I recently attended the Florida Christian Writers Conference where I met new connections and contacts beyond my wildest dreams with doors and blessings that continue to flow forward with God’s fresh air in my sails. I then spent five days with my Dad on a father-son vacation in Daytona Beach, Florida. In addition to putt putt tournaments, walks and jogs on the beach, sling shot carnival rides, lighthouses, and the best seafood money can buy, the memories of flirting with a beautiful bartender (with my father’s efforts to “connect” us) still sing through my own sensory recall of recent remembrances.

As also mentioned with Caleb, we ate a luxurious meal at The Outback tonight, a restaurant I rarely frequent a visit to given the expense of their prices.

If I die late tonight or tomorrow, I am not going to remember the job hunt, the next draft of a book proposal, or even the papers I need to grade in the college courses I teach. I will remember the amazing writers I met at the conference in the beautiful lakeside country of Floridian scenes and the much needed personal one-on-one time with both my father and best friend. I will remember the final blog entry inputted here to remind you of what matters in life beyond the ordinary.

It is the relational moments in our favorite places that matter, at the beach, Christian-like-minded gatherings, the Daytona 500, or Auburn, Alabama, a place I still consider home on many levels. These heaven-like moments I will take with me to the afterlife. The worries and to-do lists will probably be the last thing on my spiritual mind when I meet Jesus face-to-face for an angelic home welcome to sit at His right hand. I hope a parade and hug from Jesus also await me. All the tedious other-things pass away in the doldrums of day-to-day existence.

With unforeseen adversity and losing a life dear to me at the end of last year, God reminded me to keep this perspective, a heavenly mindset. All the tedious details take care of themselves in obedience to remain faithful in the small tasks of each day. God will take care of the rest. And so I ask the question to you and myself once more, “What will you remember if you die tomorrow?”

I am so fortunate to have run across this Christian lesson and sermon with this very same message entailed. While there is no extensive videographer special effect here, I believe the clip is worth five to ten minutes of your time if you find that fresh breath is rarely experienced in your day-to-day walk with Jesus. It further solidifies my approach to life given in this blog entry.

Enjoy and remember what it truly important to live like you were dying.

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.

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)