November 21, 2017

Dreams Require Sacrifice – Make a list! Make it happen!

Luke 1:37 (NKJV)

“For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Last week I took some time to travel and awaken in the presence of a best friend – we went to Canada and Washington State on a shoestring budget. I told my travel mate when I got back to Atlanta, things were on to be different! The search for success is now a personal matter.

I am a list-driven personality. I intend to follow through on that list.

In a previous entry, I wrote that I wanted another Masters degree, a new job I care about, to lose several pounds with an in-shape mentality, to do my very best to achieve a book contract, to meet the girl of my dreams, etc.

I applied to that graduate program this week. I promised my agent to have another book proposal by the first week of August. I applied to more jobs than any week since December. I worked out every day, even though hard because of my out-of-shape conditions. And well, I always flirt with a pretty girl, especially if they love Jesus.

When you make a list of driven dreams to succeed, at some point, you must make a decision to do whatever it takes, whenever, and however you can to make it happen. I tire of complacency and desire for greater things to come.

These are some principles with supported inspirational segments that now play fresh in my mind for success. Let’s do this!

FIRST, FIND SOMETHING YOU WANT AS BAD AS YOU WANT TO BREATHE!

SECOND, FIND SUPPORT IN COMMUNITY!

THIRD, SACRIFICE!

FOURTH, HARD WORK IS THE NEW NORMAL!

The Back Wax Nightmare….perhaps this is how Christ felt.

This past I made the brilliant decision of making an appointment for a Brazilian back wax for my shoulders and entire body backside. For someone who recreationally never participated in such torturous ways, I walked away in wonderment of what I originally was truly thinking. I think I was temporarily insane.

After breaking several bones in many other memorable incidents, this pain excruciated a new threshold unlike anything I ever felt before. The beautiful Brazilian assistant never relented to permit my lungs the relaxation to catch a breath of fresh air. I will experience nightmares of the scratching tear sound of skin layers rip off my body with sticky hot wax for quite some time.

While perhaps not your ideal mental image to recollect with my own back wax session, the experience reminded me of the suffrage Christ experienced. Please understand I am in no way hinting that a Brazilian back wax remotely compares to the pain experienced in magnitude to the crucifixion of Christ.

It does however remotely remind me of the pain he suffered. The skin and outer layers of blood, tissue, and organs ripped off his back with one whip lash slash after another. Like myself, I can only imagine Jesus thinking, “When will this process stop? When will the last lash come? When will God’s angels show up for my protection? My God….my God….why have you forsaken me?”

In suffrage, we all at some points feel those questions in pain at some point. I believe in our short tenures of these pinpointed hurts we must fall into the resurrection of Jesus Christ. God knows our pain, even when we buy the services of a body Brazilian back wax. In human form, God feels you because once he walked the journey as Jesus on the dust of this earth as we do.

Remember the grace and connection of the crucifix, and be grateful. For there is hope in the Lord and the sacrifice of His Son. Never forget the ultimate demonstration in love that our heavenly Father gave us because his act to save our sins is truly worth rejoicing over.

And one more final piece of advice: If you happen to have a lot of hair, never partake in a Brazilian body wax if you truly can avoid it!

These hilarious videos will give an idea of the pain I endured this past week, especially for guys who might consider this brilliantly stupid idea.

Can I Get a Break, God? A inspired reminder through a friend’s story of heartache….

I met Fredric Gray at The Florida Christian Writers Conference in March of this year at 2:15 am EST in the morning when he woke me up in the criminal offense of breaking down my conference center hotel room door. Mark Hancock, director of the conference, forgot to instruct me that my con roommate would wonderfully disrupt my dream of meeting Tinker Bell in a fantasized REM slumber that I, James Cartee, would soon change the world. While surrounded in the Floridian swamp lands, I thought a serial killer banged on my door. After an unexpected wake up call so early in the morning, I thought I might soon kill Mr. Fredric Gray that early morning.

I soon realized that Fredric was no felony offender with a belly laugh that would do God proud. He profusely apologized, and when I finally awoke, I came back to my senses that his encouragement would further boost my writing career forward for higher heights.

Fredric’s example in Christ would further illustrate the peacemaker resemblance of Christ to rejoice in tragedy. His natural inclination keeps me motivated in down times when I seem to hourly ask God, “Can you please give me a break already?” People like Fredric remind me that in times of good and bad we bring Glory to God, even if we do not want to. That should innately become the response of any believer. His message posted on Facebook below still resonates with me even 10 days later.

So, our fifth child went to be with God. Heather called me on Wednesday night on my way to our church Bible study and told me she was bleeding a little bit, kind of like the spotting that so many pregnant women experience, but a little worse. She convinced me not to come home, and things got better. When it continued Thursday, we called our midwife and she came over Thursday night with concerns of her own. She scheduled us for an ultrasound for Friday. At this point the bleeding really wasn’t that bad.

But Heather woke me up at 4am telling me she felt like she was giving birth. It all was so surreal. I was part in empathy mode, and part denial. She kept telling me, “this is it. we are losing our baby.” I just didn’t want to believe it, even though I knew it could happen.

About 5am, she labored the baby, along with a whole lot of blood out. It was very hard for us. Well, it was hard for me. I think she was having a harder time before, and I had a much harder time afterward.

She continued to bleed for short time, and we prayed and went to bed. She said the most encouraging thing to me. She casually, and warmly, said “this is our first baby that is with God.” I never thought of it until she said it, but I found it SUPER-ENCOURAGING!

As that thought guided me while going to sleep, all I could think about were people that lost their children, either through miscarriage or after they were born.

While working, Heather called me on my cell phone around 9am telling me that she was bleeding badly. I came home and helped her, and almost ended up taking her to the ER.

Noelani and Maleia just kept bawling their eyes out, in ways I have never seem them do so. Malachi and Amairah were oblivious. In the midst of crying, Maleia, cute as can be, held up both of her hands and said, “we don’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl!”

Because of that, Heather and I had already named our baby a gender neutral name. When Maleia said that, we were happy to tell her the baby’s name–Noah Christian.

Noah means rest, or repose (often with God), and Christian is a reminder of how we get to be with our baby again one day.

So, I have tons of work to do, and many messages to respond to, and we have kind of let discipline go out the window for now. But we have been praying a lot, and having unforgettable conversations with our children. Heather has needed to be on bedrest, just like a woman who gave birth and is at risk of losing more blood.

So, I just wanted to share this. If you read this far, thanks for reading.

Noah Christian Gray.

Yeah, a gift from God.

Fredric Gray, 4/6/13

I wrote the following poem in response to Fredric’s testimony in the midst of tragic events. This poem will more than likely become published in my next poetry book with thirty-three poems and photographs.

Noah Christian, The Journey Home

Our loved one
Our lost son
That nothing remains undone
For Noah Christian
Traveled the journey home
Solace knowing
He passed not alone
Settled into the arms
With our Loving Sheppard
He sleeps well
As our gift from God
Surreal in the state
Felt as a prevailing reality
We live to worship
In the tragedy of loss
To know better yet to come
Children cry
To never forget
Always miss
The sibling never known
But always remembered
Noah at the meaning of rest
Another challenge
Another test to faith
Grace present in a bled state
Loss pours into grief
Perhaps with some relief
In the heart of the matter
To know our loved one
Our lost son
That nothing remains undone
For Noah Christian
Traveled the journey home

JLC iii, 4/9/13

While inspired with words of my own from the life of Noah Christian, through Fredric Gray, this song by Jason Mraz further motivates believers in Christ why we cannot give up on the dreams before us. Like Fredric’s example to glorify God no matter the circumstances, we press forward to inspire those around us in our examples.

Re(Engage) with Christ….K(no)w Pain, K(no)w Gain

I think by now in the year if you are anything like me, you might feel a little discouragement because you might be falling short of those New Year’s resolutions (before so fired up about those same resolutions). We often make our resolutions to better ourselves, thus circumventing the person who can make those things for us, Jesus.

When angry, disappointed, and frustrated, I will often give God the cold shoulder, but thankfully in this season, I have pursued with quite the opposite attitude, recently coming to God in devotion, prayer, and even praise. I have tried to re(engage) my relationship with Christ. I do not feel that this would be the same as a “rebirth” or “recommitted relationship.” Sometimes I do not even know what those terms mean because once in a relationship-always in a relationship-tends to be my outlook. God does not take away salvation because you have been a bad boy or bad girl. Quite the opposite, once in the family of God, I believe we are always in the family of God.

I simply mean to realign ourselves with the Grace of God, to refocus, and to come back to Him to where we know we need to be for everyday continuance.

Many times in my life I have felt like the comic above where God sits and listens with no response to my pleadings, busy on Twitter I suppose. I think no matter how we feel, God is there, and we must re(engage) with God even in the down times. Re(engage) with conversation, asking Him to deliver us with whatever may trouble us.

Oddly, enough I have found comfort and motivation in Christian rap, particularly with the song below, “Up Down,” by The Ambassador, with the simple theme that down moments leads to an up moment and an up moment leads to a down moment. If a down moment, the only direction to truly go is up. Eventually the upswing will come again. Listen to the song. Find some comfort and bounce your shoulders a little bit.

I recently bought an overly priced Nike workout shirt that titled, “K(no)w Pain, K(no)w Gain.” I think in those down moments that we realize that with no pain in the discipline of Christ, that there may in fact be no gain. And these moments are where many mature in their faith, K(no)w this truth. We know pain comes before the gain of an up time delivers. It is just a matter that we re(engage) Christ if we gave up our pursuit of Him and realize an up time is bound to come in our faithfulness. We know and believe upwards is coming in our engagement with the relationship we have in Him.

 

HOMELESS and FORTUNATE – YOU have NO IDEA! PHOTO TESTIMONIES!

Recently I volunteered with the blessing to serve three homeless communities each under three different bridges in the North Druid Hills area of the Atlanta, Georgia metropolitan. It still overwhelms me to think the following: that each bridge I drive over in Atlanta more than likely covers a collective of homeless individuals who gather around a fire for warmth. In sociology we understand why those of commonality often coexist with one another in struggle – these pictures bring a new perspective to that point of observation.Homeless Men in Ministry, Serving Homeless

Our team preps to carry and deliver both blankets and packed lunches to these three communities. We really just wanted to spend time with those on the street, reminding them of God’s Love.

Christian Service for the Homeless

Our teams meet and bond even for a Kodak moment. Despite very different stories, we bond and converse in common beliefs and value systems.

Intentional Listening to the sorrow of a story

Jimmy poured out his soul because he was recently denied treatment at a local healthcare facility for both cancer and cataracts in both eyes. Katelyn expresses a deep care for homeless ministries, and as you view in her eyes and gestures (struggling with her own tears), her heart breaks at the story of a man crying for God’s guidance and assistance. Jimmy had a hard time breathing because he cried through the entire expression of his own story, without pausing for the intake of air.

Service to those serving

Even while we listen to stories like Jimmy’s, Mayor Joe reminds us also of God’s Love. While we came to show the expression of God’s affections, even those we sought to serve served us in their own ways as well. Katelyn looks to feel a little better consoled by a new friend, even after witnessing Jimmy’s life fight through his touching words. It is evident Mayor Joe leads the clan here.

The Mayor Lives

Mayor Joe lives a clean life without the abuse of drugs, a struggle many fail to endure with spiritual warfare on the darkness of the streets. He leads this under-the-bridge community as each individual confides and welcomes outsiders such as ourselves. The community NEVER embraces those who partake in drugs. In fact, they run those type of individuals with such addictions out from underneath this bridge. The love of Christ fights in extraordinary ways and in extraordinary places, resisting evil ways of the Enemy.

Jesus Shirt - Every Where You Want Him to Be

Benjamin (his American given name) decided he wanted my “Jesus: He’s Everywhere You Want Him to Be” shirt (a Visa credit card shirt advertisement spinoff). Instantly, upon viewing of my shirt, he pointed and asked for it. What could I do? I took the shirt off and gave it to him! The same request with one of Benjamin’s friends before happened with my jacket. So I gave the jacket away as well. Benjamin somehow managed to voyage from Thailand to the United States, and with his limited English, expressed a hard time finding work, but of all I met, he showed the light of Christ with his smiles and many, many thank you’s in a powerful way.

Our God Reigns.

Many of the homeless expressed that they lived in paradise under the bridge with geese, otters, and other creatures of God lived among them “on the beach.” Their view of their own predicaments lined up so freshly in my own mind. Here you will see Benjamin and Lacy feeding the geese with what little food they did have. Benjamin smiles BIG!

The Joy of Benjamin

Before we leave, Benjamin hugs all of us one more time with last minute photo poses. Again his joy lingers upon all of us!

I only gave a glimpse of this day through this blog entry and a change in perspective on what Christmas should really mean for all of us, which remains so graciously bestowed with so many amazing blessings. These individuals bath and even sometimes drink out of the stream underneath this bridge after urinating in or around it. The see their bridge as a home and shelter from the weather and seem to understand a sense of community under “Mayor Joe’s bridge” better than many families do.

When I get down with sudden circumstances in my life, I sometimes think of my new friends under the bridge. Sometimes I just look at these pictures to realize and understand just how awesome our God is, even in places we least expect to see His Light Shine the most bright.

The promises of God for those who serve in this way are very clear in the Bible!

Isaiah 58:10 (MSG)

A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.