October 20, 2017

“I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they come from.” A Motto from Captain America that will change your life!

At the end of this video, listen to the line that makes this blog post powerful for those who step on the little guys (or little girls)!

 

 “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.” Psalm 82:3 (NLT)

I have watched the movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, more times than I can count, and the main character and superhero, Captain Steve Rogers, never backs down from a bully and fight, sometimes at his own detriment, saying “I can do this all day.” He keeps getting back up time and time again even with blood spewing down his shirt out of his mouth, depicted as the fool who will not go down without fighting time and time again. I admire his-never-back-down attitude.

Rogers constantly seeks to serve his country in the allied war against Germany. He continues to be denied by doctors to pass the military physical (so he can inevitably go to war), using several fake names and home states in the process. His small stature eventually transforms into the muscle-bound Captain America, and his dreams come forward to go to war. When finally successful to attain an approved appointment with the health clearing exam to join the military, a doctor behind the super soldier campaign asks Rogers, “So you want to kill Nazis?” He then responds admirably, “I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they come from.” Through a series of tests at boot camp, Rogers takes risks for the “little guys,” the underdog you cannot help but root for as an audience member.

My cowriter and close friend, Tim the Upbeat Retired Guy, believes that I write too critically of others in my life sometimes on this blog and then in my book, One Flight Short of a Cuckoo’s Nest. I must personally admit I have never really liked bullies (guys and girls included). I do not really care where that bully comes from. I am not one to give a free pass to any leader who uses authority to push other people around. The range includes all kinds of individuals from all walks of life, politicians, academic institutional deans, stewards, and presidents, and perhaps even spotlight ministers. Like Captain Rogers, I am not looking to hurt anyone or ruin someone’s reputation. I will simply not tolerate those who bully others around.

An example in my life comes to mind: While in high school, I wrestled on the 2000 Alabama State High School 6A Championship team. Our team grew close in extraordinary ways, and we really had each others’ backs, all for one, and one for all! When one person stood in trouble or in the line of fire, we all did. No one messed with our girlfriends or with each one of us. We especially had no tolerance for a guy disrespecting or bullying a girl. There is just no room for that on my watch! While in the hall one day, one of my best and closest friends, Elizabeth Sanders, was picked on and degraded verbally by her boyfriend, Patrick, at her locker, whispering condescending comments into her ear while she frowned to the point of tears. Her boyfriend was a real jerk, and I never really liked him anyway. In fact, had I been the man I am now, I would have asked Elizabeth out when she was single. I told her boyfriend to back off and stand down. My good friend, brother in Christ, and wrestling team mate, Jonathan Dobberman, stood there by my side when I faced Patrick. Patrick responded, “Who is going to make me?” I said, “Me and my wrestling army!” That was the end of the conversation. He walked away, and with a grateful hug for me around my shoulders and slight smile on her face, Elizabeth quietly said, “Thank you!” What can I say? Some of us have bigger mouths than others. And Patrick even later that day apologized. Those who stand for what is right often reap the rewards (and sometimes the costs) for doing so.

Where am I going here? Scripturally as soldiers and warriors of Christ, we are not meant to back down for a just cause as men of God. We are meant to defend the cause of the orphan, the disabled, the widow, the homeless, and those who cannot stand up for themselves in any way.

I recently have dwelled on yesterday’s excuses, reasoning, and mind doubts of why I so often lack to take action today, not against bullies, but moving forward with life. Yesterday is gone and so are those excuses!

We excuse ourselves from the hard struggles, challenges, adversities, and tasks in life and remain okay with that. Well, I am not okay with a subpar existence, and I will never be okay with a bully. While words written hurt the bully who takes action, the narrative of God’s soldiers triumph every time. When you play the political game to drown one who suffers, I cannot simply stand by and let that go. I will write. I will fight. And I will speak out.

I don’t want to kill or hurt anyone. I just don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they come from.

The-First-Avenger -Captain-America-movie-poster-(2011)-picture-MOV_f134343e_b

Hope in The One Who Comes Next – Poetry by James Cartee

This photograph is just one of many taken in Peru and other areas of South America by creator of this blog, James Cartee. His work is available for view and purchase at the following website: www.jamescartee.smugmug.com

 

Hope in The One Who Comes Next – Poetry by James Cartee

I miss the sound of you
That strikes my heart.
Strings play beautiful symphony music
At the steps of your pace.
I never won with a crush
On the playground
With a wild imagination.
You would not have me
At the end of my pursuit in the chase.
I lost without remorse
For in my heart
I gave it my absolute all;
I gave it my absolute best.
I stand proud today hopeful
In the one who comes next.

With continual struggle of stagnancy
In a new home I loathe,
Even three years after last contact
Through mutual good byes,
You stand and serve
In frequent mindful imagery.
In transition as a partner in presence,
I dream you would alleviate my fallen feelings.
I was wrong to expect such from God
And from you in circumstances beyond control.
Somehow I still feel you lost,
But many choose to play it safe
Without running the risk to take ministry
To a newfound level for thousands.
I shock and shine others in unseen ways
With outgoing boldness unlike most people.
I cannot fathom a lifetime without
Service towards a higher purpose.
We serve in an army of light
For the salvation of the lost,
The plight of the fatherless,
And the next coming of The Christ.
You poisoned me with false words,
And I fell into the bear trap
Of an abyss with no end.
I imagined in a message from God
What would never be.
If only you saw what I see,
Then hearts connect for eternity.
It no longer matters what you want
Because together we serve God
In His timing, in His ways,
And to the very end of our earthly days.
You missed the journey,
And now I gallop into the sunset
With my White Knight,
Unstoppable alone until the end comes.

I miss the sound of you
That strikes my heart.
Strings play beautiful symphony music
At the steps of your pace.
I never won with a crush
On the playground
With a wild imagination.
You would not have me
At the end of my pursuit in the chase.
I lost without remorse
For in my heart
I gave it my absolute all;
I gave it my absolute best.
I stand proud today hopeful
In the one who comes next.

JLC iii, 11/9/12

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.

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.

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!

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)