Not Yet…

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

I have confessions and declarations to make ironically all because of the picture you see that accompanies this particular blog. To most who will see this “HOT” Donuts picture it will not carry much significance to you, if any at all. But to those from and around my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, it will mean a few good things.

Southern Maid Donuts is an institution in Shreveport; founded in 1937, they’ve been slanging (yes, slanging) “HOT” donuts to hungry patrons without any compromise to the original recipe. Most people I know love this place. I would recommend instead of sending flowers to your significant other, that if instead you came through with a box of Southern Maid, all would be forgiven as they look upon the glorious glaze. However, I have a confession to make, and maybe my confession will get my Shreveportian card revoked —I don’t like Southern Maid donuts (I do not like them Sam I am…wait that’s Dr. Seuss). I never have liked Southern Maid donuts, and I never will. I hated being a young kid in school when a teacher or a classmate’s parents would bring them to school as a “treat.” I say that to make sure it’s understood that my dislike of their donuts has nothing to do with my location over the past three and a half years or my travels(I’ve really never liked them). I do think Doughnut Vault in Chicago is the best spot for doughnuts, but we can agree to disagree- and the first time I ever walked in they were playing Nas “The world is yours” so there’s that. I also believe Young Jeezy is one of the top five greatest rappers of all time. I mean he gave us Thug Motivation 101, ayy.

 

With those things being divulged, I’m sure I have opinions that differ from the norm and some that people would consider downright loony. Nonetheless, the signage pictured above is important and is what this entire article is about.

 

As I was driving down I-20 east late one night, the sign was all lit up which for most of the followers of the religion of Southern Maid would mean it was time to turn in immediately to snag some “HOT” donuts, but for me it meant inspiration.  It’s amazing how God can use even the things we don’t care for to inspire us. I had a blog idea, and this idea would be centered around the lit up “HOT” sign. I’m sure there would’ve been some great ideas that followed, but as I was turning corners at a rapid pace, or maybe my normal pace for anyone who has ever ridden in a car with me (I had missed my first exit) I was disappointed because when I arrived the “HOT” sign was no longer lit.  I know for most that would mean tragedy, but for me it meant I had missed my opportunity. I missed out on my “cool” picture, and all the appreciation that would accompany my writing. But, as I was sitting in the parking lot, it hit me, I should still write, and I should take a picture of the unlit sign.  There would still be significance for someone, maybe even a deeper significance than if the sign was lit. So here we are.

 

The summary of the definition of reject is to refuse, but there is one definition that is more violent, and in my opinion the one that rejection most commonly feels like and that is to “spew out”, yes to spit out, to throw up, to have a physical reaction. There’s not one thing that feels good about rejection in the moment. It hurts, it makes you question everything, yourself, whatever or whoever spit you out, and of course it makes us question God.   The right kind of rejection can push you so deep into despair that you may even question if there is a God.  Rejection can cut so deep that I know of people who have tried to even take their own lives. However, the scripture that is tagged to this writing is by James, and he says to “count it all joy” when you fall into different trials. James sounds crazy, there’s nothing joyous about going through hardship, nothing pleasurable about rejection, but what if he was actually onto something?  What if he was basing it upon seeing that very theory tested out in the most gruesome of ways?

 

looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

 

If you’ve been rejected, congratulations! You’ve found yourself in good company. Oftentimes though, the rejection doesn’t mean you can’t have that, whatever your that is- a great job and career, a fruitful marriage, that home, that school acceptance, that child- it means you can’t have it yet. That rejection could be that you just weren’t prepared or qualified enough; the rejection could mean that it wasn’t prepared or qualified enough for you, but what I know it always means is Gods provision and protection.

 

That rejection wasn’t meant to destroy you, but to reshape you. It was meant for you to never depend on the acceptance of anyone or anything, to not allow anyone’s NO to determine your value. We could go through the long list of rejects and what they went on to accomplish, but I’d like to believe I’m not that cheesy. I mean how many times would you want hear that Michael Jordan got cut from his basketball team his freshman year, or that Steve Jobs got fired from Apple?

 

But what I do want to leave you with is this: at some point today, that Southern Maid sign will be lit again, and at some point in your life you will have come to a place of YES where there once was NO. Maybe your sign wasn’t lit at the right time, so that it would deter those who would be unable to stand with you to have to go somewhere else for their fix. Whatever the situation or circumstance just understand that it may not be a “never,” just a “not right now,” and that is all the hope you need to keep fighting and believing.

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Table For One

Anthony Bourdain was an Atheist.

 

I can’t remember the first time I saw Anthony Bourdain on TV. It was pre social media, so it wasn’t through a referenced post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and I doubt my top 8 on Myspace were gushing over the latest watch on the Travel Channel. What I do remember however is being taken to another place far away from Shreveport, Louisiana because of him. Here was this tall, skinny, white guy eating the most amazing dishes, with the most amazing people, traveling from place to place and yet a 14-year-old Lydell felt like I had met my long lost best friend. It wasn’t the food that drew me in, even though I love to eat. It wasn’t the exotic locales, even though I love to travel. It was the wonderment in which he did these things, his thirst for knowledge through people and his genuine belief that his story wasn’t the most important to tell. I am an adamant believer that everyone has a God-given purpose. Anthony Bourdain lived his purpose even though he didn’t believe in God. I prayed for Tony’s family and friends yesterday morning. I was heartbroken that I’d never get the chance to meet him, thank him, share a meal and debate with this genius of a man on the reality of God. I doubt I would’ve convinced him, but the man I got to know through his books and television over the last 16 years of my life definitely would’ve listened.

 

Anthony Bourdain was a friend

 

I haven’t written in months. I’ve had friends that have begged me to write, and over that time I’ve tried, but I just haven’t felt inspired, and truth be told I felt incompetent. I have pages of titles, notes, and half written posts that I’ve wanted to push out like a woman on the back end of a pregnancy who is just ready to be able to see her feet again when she looks down, but you can’t force inspiration just as much as you cant force a child out before it’s ready, and yet, here I am at 12:43 in the morning writing about a guy from New York that I never met in person. Life is tragically dope, isn’t it? Over the years more people have become fans of Tony’s through being on CNN to star in “Parts Unknown” and those episodes also being available on Netflix, and much like your favorite artist that you “discovered” before anyone else you always feel like the new fans never appreciate them fully because they didn’t know them before they became mainstream. I can sit back and laugh at the times I’ve been seated in an airport terminal waiting for a flight to look over and see a middle aged man or woman with one of his books and the surprise on their face when a young black man would spark up a conversation about my friend Tony. I had plenty of messages from my other friends this morning (the ones I’ve actually met in person) that sent out their condolences to me, because they knew I had lost someone who was a true inspiration to me and my philosophy in many ways on life. People are important, and the best way to get to know someone is over a meal.

 

Anthony Bourdain was a hero

 

I wonder often about my own life, the impact that I’ve had on others. I’ve read article after article about one of the great heroes of our time. People have written their perspective on what Bourdain meant to them. I wonder what people would say about me when I’m gone. I wouldn’t want the bad to be left out. I don’t wont anyone to overlook my flaws(and I’m sure there are those who gladly wouldn’t), without those flaws there wouldn’t be an appreciation for the things that God has done through my life that were of any positive importance. There’s beauty in the dirt. For every scar there’s a story that accompanies. My favorite people in history are seemingly terminally flawed and yet did more than those who are terminally pristine. Martin Luther King Jr. was a womanizer, King David was at times too. My heroes look like me. There’s beauty in the battles of life, the times that our war wounds leave us bloodied are meant to show that while we are created by and containers of an almighty God, are still very much human, prone to anger, jealousy, pride, loneliness, and the menu goes on. I’ve seen friends who have changed hundreds of lives and minds of people for the better lose their own mind because life at times can be as hard as an overcooked biscuit. I’ve heard and read the stories of people who laugh and smile everyday talk about how they’ve contemplated suicide. I always laugh when people talk about being Kings and Queens as if that is some sort of superpower. There’s a verse in the Bible written by the aforementioned David who was in fact a king, with an actual kingdom. His take on his kingliness:

As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.’  Psalms 103:13-14

DUST. The greatest thing a superhero can know about himself is that there is always a kryptonite that makes them human, a very weak human. How the knowledge of that weakness is handled and who that weakness is given to (And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”… 2 Corinthians 12:9determines our ability to function at a high level even in spite of ourselves.

 

Anthony Bourdain was all of us.

Every person who has watched or read his work has usually come away with the same thought “He has the best job in the world”. That statement is hard to disagree with, I mean he got paid to travel and eat. I would love to get paid to travel and eat. You would love to get paid to travel and eat. Most of us would want to be Anthony Bourdain, and yet the actual Anthony Bourdain struggled with being who he was. There’s a lesson in that, one being

……For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. Luke 12:48

Who we are supposed to be, what we are supposed to accomplish comes with a price tag. We should all be empathetic to every single person we come across because we have no idea the price they are paying on their journey of life to find and be who they are created to be. Don’t live your life for the popularity of others, live your life for the purpose of others. What you’ll find is that you will have become someone who others are inspired to write about as well.

Under Construction

For He knows our frame;

He remembers that we are dust.

Psalms 103:14

 

This article is for people who are frustrated with their current state. Jesus’ occupational background, besides, you know being the Savior of the world, was a carpenter—that is something we shouldn’t casually bypass. Christ specializes in the ability to see the discarded rocks that make up our own lives and is more than capable of being able to build something in us that is of great value. The materials that make up who we are don’t define the sum of the whole when put together by Jesus. We would all like our lives to be fully functional by the snap of our fingers, however the process of being built is where you find the artistry of God’s work and the true value that resides in us.

I had a friend visiting Chicago tell me they were proud of me, the irony of that comment is I am the most frustrated I’ve been in my entire life. They however are looking at what they see currently constructed and even though I know its not the finished product they have the vantage point to be able to know how much progress has actually been made. I wonder how many of us are so frustrated with where we are currently that we don’t take the time to be grateful that this project of our lives started with just a blueprint and from a blueprint to a bunch of tools and a mess to something that can be of value even if it’s not fully finished, however, I wonder also how many of us settle for a lessened version of ourselves solely because the process of being constructed is too heavy a task to willingly participate in. The irony is the work is being done for us, the difficulty is submitting to that which is being done.

Many people refuse to extract the greatness which has been deposited in them simply out of a poor self image. “Why would God want to use someone like me?” “Do you know where I come from?” etc., or others inability to see the value in what is being built. The beauty of God is that our past, present, or future mistakes don’t disqualify us from Him doing glorious things within our lives. He is greater than our doubt.

God called David knowing that David would murder a man after sleeping with that man’s wife. Jesus chose Peter and along their journey had to rebuke the devil out of him and redeem him after Peter denied that he ever knew Jesus (Peter also had a race issue, but that’s a blog for another day). Abraham is recognized as the father of faith, but was so fearful that on his initial journey he told his wife to tell the Egyptians that she was his sister to preserve his own life. Many greats of the Bible were being constructed along their journey to ultimately accomplish their purpose. In order to become like the greats we must be able to perceive the true blessing in constructive criticism. Anyone that would allow the building that is your life to remain faulty  is someone who shouldn’t be allowed within the premises. A critique isn’t a rejection, and a delay isn’t a deny.

 

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:4

 

Oftentimes the painstaking nature of the process is what causes us to abandon the whole project. We look for the cheaper way to somehow accomplish an expensive task. We aren’t interested in the price of patience. I’ve said this to a lot of people over the years and it’s appropriate with Thanksgiving approaching and it’s that “You can’t put a turkey in the microwave” (at least not a whole one…day after leftovers however, a completely different story) Some things just take time to reach its full potential and the greater the purpose the more time it will take. Sometimes just when you feel that you have neared completion God informs you that He plans to add another room, or maybe allows you to see that there is leak in a pipe that needs attending to. Our work is never finished because He steadily desires to work in us.

With that being said sometimes I, and I’d assume you as well want Him to leave us alone, we want to build our own thing or own way. Oftentimes the frustration of coming face to face with what you currently are and what you aspire to be is so daunting that it would seem more enjoyable to no longer be in the master craftsman’s hands. There’s a satisfaction guarantee to the work of Christ that makes the process worthwhile even though it seems challenging. Every single thing built on Him can withstand any test, whatever is built on anything other than that is bound to fall no matter how good it might look from the outside.

 

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”Matthew 7:25-27

 

It can be easy for us to become hasty in the appearance of our life looking good that we actually neglect to make sure our foundation is correct. Our life is to be inhabited by other people. People should be able to take a walk inside of our lives and feel blessed, encouraged, healed, considered, and related to. Those things can still take place even if you feel unfinished. Your strength isn’t in what you feel are your best qualities it is in whatever it is in your life that you’ve totally submitted to God. Don’t allow where someone else is to cause you to rush the very things that are meant to take time. Let your hope be in this

 

“that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; Philipians 1:6

 

I like to believe that Jesus was so remarkable at building things that they are still in tact somewhere today. I heard a quote a few months ago that was profound, “That which is tested can be trusted.” The true value of something is in its ability to withstand adverse conditions. Don’t view life’s seemingly unbearable weights as a sign that you’re cursed, choose to take the view that you are strong enough to be trusted with the weight of God’s calling on your life. Being “under” means to be in a position that is below, being under construction takes a special humility that acknowledges that we in ourselves don’t have the answers for what’s best. It also affirms to God that we trust Him with the thing that is most valuable to Him and us, our lives.

Fail in Love

Love never fails…

Love is actually incapable of failing. However the ugly truth that if it indeed has failed in my life or yours, it wasn’t Love. Maybe it was Love’s cousin “strong like” or even Love’s evil twin “lust” but it couldn’t have been Love. Love is a living and breathing “person” a Spirit that is God

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

People have chosen to make God out to be a lot of things, people have also chosen to make a god out of a lot of things, but if it doesn’t start and end with Love its not God. I came to a realization a few months ago that has begun to change my life and my perspective on my faith. If Jesus said the greatest commandment was this 37“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

 Then it is the lifeblood of my belief to understand what Love actually is. The question I then asked myself is … “Why aren’t I reading 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 every single day of my life. Because the harsh reality is if my “love” doesn’t look like the one described in those verses it is as fake as crabmeat at a Chinese buffet.

This is Love in all its painful glory:

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails…. ( 1 Corinthians 13:1-8)

These verses are the manifesto for Love in a sixty-six chapter Love story that is the Word of God. We have simplified this by using the tagline “Love God, Love People”, but the quantity of the command doesn’t negate the depth of the command. Truly loving anyone or anything is the most painfully rewarding thing you can do and there’s nothing simple about it. Love insists upon corresponding actions and that makes us all uncomfortable, truth is truth, but truth is power when there is a response “If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15)

 

If Love was an actor in Hollywood it has been consistently miscast for thousands of years. Love has become a villain to some and a downright nuisance to others. I believe that my own and others failure in Love can be traced back exclusively to our childhood upbringing and our experiences. The Love you will pursue is the Love you are in need of. That sounds like common sense, but its’ an extremely slippery slope when you factor in human error. For the child who was abused growing up, the Love they will seek is will be in the form of protection or security, but many times those who appear to offer that will be the very ones who continue the cycle of abuse. Through conversations with friends who are homosexual some of them have expressed to me one of the reasons for their decision to no longer have attraction to the opposite sex is because of being hurt in middle school or high school— so to avoid that hurt they chose to no longer put themselves in that position anymore.

 

For me I can trace my failures in Love directly from today back to my childhood. My parents are amazing and have always been there for me, but in my house we didn’t express Love through words or physical touch. I can count on two hands the times I can remember hugging my mother. (This isn’t an indictment against my wonderful parents by any means, but yet the means to illustrate truth). When I got to high school the person who I looked up to the most and took me under their wing taught me how to get what I was in lack of (because they had been in lack of it as well) So I learned how to talk to women, how to selfishly manipulate for my own physical gain which only increased once I got to the campus of LSU. I learned how to get everything I wanted mostly physical or financial without having to give anything of myself…or so I thought. The rare times (maybe twice) that I actually thought I had found “the one” was based mainly upon an insecure sub conscious need to be approved by others based upon the beauty of said “one”.

 

Thankfully God has done miraculous work in my life and I’m able to recognize my failings, but I am human and a work in progress and there are times through this process that I have reverted to my old nature and have indeed hurt others even though my intention wasn’t to do so. To some Jesus might be a cool idea, but to me he’s my Salvation, my saving grace, the miracle worker who has constantly filled the holes of Love that I desperately needed. I need Jesus to Love and there isn’t any way around that for me. Sometimes we “love” others based upon a selfish need to receive Love. Jesus never gave Love out of a need for it because He knew He was Loved and approved by The Father. So His Love was perfectly true and genuine, it needed no reciprocation. We have failed at Love whenever we give any positive emotion based upon the recipient returning some form of it back to us. Remember, Love doesn’t seek its own. A failure in Love can also be rooted in our ability to want to “fix” someone, and sometimes we give up on people when they don’t get “ fixed” fast enough for us. We even get angry if the “fixing” ends up benefitting someone else, remember… Love suffers long. Al Green asked the question “How do you mend a broken heart”…. Jesus, Al…. Jesus.

 

Today’s world is screaming at the top of its lungs for Love. It’s evident in any news broadcast you watch, any Facebook post you read, and any movement that is seeking validity. It’s amazing that the answer lies within those who are supposed to have it… people are searching for what can only be found in God, and only lived out when it comes from God

12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. ( 1 John 4:12)

God is Love and Jesus is the manifestation of that Love:

9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:9-11)

There is a consistency in Christ’s Love for us that is phenomenal. It is a love that isn’t cheapened by my lack of understanding and application. He shoulders the load and the only thing I have to do is receive it—but the kicker is upon receiving it I must then accept the responsibility of giving it to those who seemingly don’t deserve it because newsflash I didn’t deserve it either. And here is the part that sucks, I get no credit for loving those that love me

32“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. ( Luke 6:32).

The test to see if Love is working inside of me is if I am allowing Jesus to work in me to the point where I have given up and now I Love every single person… even the person who has betrayed me, even the child molester, even the greedy preacher, even the New Orleans Saints…even the Alabama Crimson Tide, I know it hurts.

 

My hope is that everyone will receive some freedom from anything that has held us back from Love. We have no excuse to maneuver around Love. There is no magic dust that can get sprinkled over you no one time prayer will do it and listening to Drake complain about Love definitely wont do it. What will do it is the realization of this very scripture and the sacrifice that was made by Jesus for us

13Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13)

We must all get from Failing in Love to Love falling on us, every single day.

 

On Purpose

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;…..” – God

I was born on a Monday, October 24th, in Shreveport, Louisiana. It’s also the same date that the music artist “Drake” was born, so that’s has become a fun fact. I, like most people love celebrating my birthday; it is another realization to the fact that God still has me here on this earth for a divine purpose. The last time you blew out the candles on your birthday cake, did you take the time to realize that very breath was breathed into you by the Creator? You are a container of a God breathed purpose walking this earth, a purpose that is just as much a reality as the very air we breath, a purpose so real that your enemy wants to kill, steal, and destroy you just because you’re a carrier of it.

I was on a bus yesterday in Chicago headed to meet a friend. About 10 minutes into the ride I got a tap on my shoulder and was posed a question about the tattoos I have which cover my lower right arm.

“Romans 5:20, Do you believe that? Are you a Christian?”

The man who posed these questions happened to be a 38 year old member of the “Latin Kings”, a notorious Hispanic street gang that originated right here in Chicago. He began to talk to me like we were the only people on the bus. He told me about how his dad is a Christian and wants him to do better, how he was on his way to go terrorize some of his enemies and seeing the scriptures on my arm shook him up. As I was nearing my stop I asked him what his goal was in life.

“To kill as many of my enemies as possible before I die.”

Typing that sobers me. I’m saddened and angered that we focus so much on the wrong things that we forget that we are in a battle not against people, but the enemy who is manipulating, deceiving, and destroying purposes inside of God’s people. My only response as I was frozen in the moment:

“GOD HAS A PURPOSE FOR YOUR LIFE.”

Immediately his eyes lit up like he had never heard that before, but then his response was one that showed that even an initial seed of hope could only bring him out of his reality for a moment

“God sure is taking a long time to show it…”

I’ve wondered about my life purpose since I was 5 years old, so this form of thinking is nothing new to me. Even the story of my birth is a miracle in itself (you’ll have to ask my mother for the full story). I’m sure if most of you asked your parents about the circumstances surrounding your birth it would force you to realize that God specifically intended for another piece of Him to arrive on this earth, and that piece is you. There is no such thing as an accident breathing on this earth. That’s why October 24th is important to me, and why all other birthdates are just as important. God saw every obstacle you would face, and the things that can and would hinder your purpose before you were born, and knew that only He could be the one to give you the ability to deal with it and flourish despite those obstacles. You are here on purpose as a purpose. We aren’t responsible for every unfortunate circumstance that surrounds our lives, but we are responsible for overcoming them. Ultimately I’m 900 miles away from home and everything I know because I believe God has a specific purpose for me here in this city of millions and I’m writing to you because I believe he has one for you.

Let’s take a look at one of the most purpose driven men to walk this earth the first great outcast from Bethlehem, David. I know you’ve all heard of the story of David and Goliath the ultimate underdog story, one which catapulted David into legendary status and put his purpose on a platform. David was sent by his father to bring his brothers some food and get a recap of how everything was going in town. Twitter would’ve been much more efficient, but I think the Wi-Fi was down in Bethlehem that day, so they had to make due. The Israelites were at a standstill with the Philistine army because of their fear of Goliath. David’s sole job was to venture into town, drop off supplies, and find out what the status of the battle was. Keep in mind, David didn’t ask to go into town. He was sent. That’s not to say David didn’t want to go, it’s just that it wasn’t his idea. He was being obedient to his dad. So as David was gathering information, he begins to realize his purpose for being there was far greater than bringing some cheesy bread to the troops.

David was born to defeat God’s enemies. That was God’s purpose for him. David was finally in the right proximity for him to tap into the inner purpose that he was made for. However, there is always an obstacle between you and your destiny even when you’re in proper position. Eliab, his oldest brother, heard that David had plans to take down Goliath, and he was not happy about it. He spews his disdain soon after,

 

“Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” –1 Samuel 17:28

Eliab knew a flaw in his brother. God knew a purpose that was greater than the flaw. God knew of David’s pride, but He also knew that when David was pushed out of the corner and into the ring, that David’s purpose would explode onto the scene. I want everyone reading to know this: God knows everything you’ve been through. He knows everything you’re going through. If you’re still here, it means He’s waiting to perform His purpose in your life. The only prerequisite to purpose is obedience. You don’t have to be perfect to do something great. You don’t have to wait on anyone to give you a quality check to do something extraordinary. You don’t even have to be ashamed for asking God to do great things through you. God isn’t waiting for you to live perfect to be used, He is waiting for you to live purposed and you can only get those purposes from Him.

Paul says this in 2 Timothy 1:9, “’Who [God] has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.’” Do you understand how integral you are to do something that God wants to be done in the earth? YOU are important!

The circumstances that you’ve encountered in your life were all a preparation for the manifestation of God’s power. What you’ve seen, what you’ve heard, even the most painful of memories you’ve experienced were meant to develop you not deaden you. Don’t harden yourself because of the enemies attack; take joy in knowing you’re still here and one obedient decision from changing your life’s destiny and the destiny of those around you. What will the “-“ between your birth and death mean? Will it symbolize the time wasted worrying, the parties you went to, the relationship you finally got. Or, will it symbolize a time that God’s purposes were seen in the earth?

There is something alive inside of you that is ready to come forth. I see people all the time that are running in circles chasing after things in life that aren’t meant to be caught. A majority of the world is living the aimless life, God’s intention is the purposeful life. The idea that God has gifted you with a purpose should cause you to run to every situation in which you can partner with Him. If God couldn’t use it you shouldn’t be doing it. If you aren’t sure of what your purpose is all you have to do is ask God. You might not hear an audible answer, but you will begin to see that you continue to be put in situations where the gift inside of you comes out. When people begin to question how the things in your life have begun to change for the better your reply will be that it was no accident, it was ON PURPOSE!

All Aboard

Here in Chicago the train system is pretty great. You have these different lines(red, blue, green, purple, pink, brown..etc) that all take you to different areas of the city. It’s convenient just not always time efficient, but neither is being stuck in traffic for 30 minutes. The most amazing thing about public transportation is the people watching that you can do. I mean it’s one thing to people watch on a college campus, or in an airport, but the people watching takes on a whole new meaning in a city of over 6 million. The most ironic thing about the public transportation in a city like Chicago is that on one stop you could be sitting next to a homeless man who has a brown sack in his hand covering up a beer, and the very next stop on the very same bus or train be sitting next to a lawyer who just won the biggest case of his career.

For the first time since I’ve been here I heard the conductor say “all aboard” as the train was getting ready to shut its doors to depart for its multiple destinations. “All aboard” is essentially the last call for those who are planning to get on this particular train. In other words “get your butt on the train because it’s getting ready to roll with or without you.” It’s an alert to all those that it’s time to go. If you are too far away to do a running jump onto a train(like I have on several occasions) you will be on the outside wanting in waiting on the next train. On any given day there are hundreds of thousands of people on a train or bus, all heading to different destinations, but on the same mode of transportation to get there. Some are headed to work, some to a shelter, some to a late lunch, and some are headed home, some could be on their way to a doctor’s appointment they’ve been dreading for weeks and some are getting ready to head to a happy hour.

The life that takes place on the train made me think about God and His purposes and plans for us and how important it is that we are getting on board with where he is planning to take us, and also why it is so vital that we understand how important it is to not allow our own slowness or fear to keep us from heading to our destiny. Sometimes I think we underestimate and undervalue the privilege that we have to actually follow Jesus and have an intimate relationship with God.

For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them. (Luke 10:24).

 

      I sometimes feel because of the abundant grace we have received and the freedom we can operate in we sometimes forget the absolute miracle that is being able to experience God’s presence and have the Holy Spirit dwell in us and ultimately guide us. There are many reasons why so many never make it to the destination that God willed for them. We would all say sin would be the first and biggest reasons to which so many never make it to the destination and I wouldn’t argue with that. The bible states in Romans 14 that anything not done in faith is sin, and ultimately in order to follow God you have to have faith that He is God and ultimately has the best plan for your life.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Our inability to correctly diagnose our faith levels is what causes us to run out of patience on the journey God has given us. We are in a constant battle between what we want and ultimately being on board with what God wants. You want the relationship that continues to break your heart, God is showing you to leave the relationship based on the fact that it keeps breaking your heart. You want to go be a missionary in Africa, God is wanting you to be a missionary in your own city first. You want to eat pizza for lunch, God moves on the heart of one of your co- workers to offer you a salad that she made. Thank God for the times that we wanted to go one way, but His grace stood in the way!

 

A man’s heart plans his way: but the LORD directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

 

Some from the outside looking in would say that is God infringing on our free will, I’ll cut the theological explanation and just say “Thank You God!” The best plan of action however isn’t to be the stubborn man or woman that God has to continually chase down because you are always insisting on your on own way. You you might not have as much grace extended to you as say a Jonah who spent nights in the belly of a whale all because he didn’t want to go where God wanted him to go.

I wonder what the man healed by Jesus in Mark 5 would think of some of us who insist on our own way and sacrifice following the Lord. Here you have the famed story of Jesus healing this man who had been possessed by many demons hence the name that was given “Legion”. Jesus commands the unclean spirits to come out and this man that people knew to be out of his mind and untamable, who also cried loud and cut himself was now sitting by Jesus after being healed in clothes and in his right mind. Well for whatever reason this scared the people more that this man was healed than it did when he was insane and they pleaded with the Healer to leave their region. The verses 18-19 in Mark 5 is where the real action is though. Jesus is getting onto the boat and the recently healed man begs him to be with him.

However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” (Mark 5:19)

 

Jesus refused the man’s request to go where He was going. Sounds pretty harsh and unlike the Jesus that we would like to believe could never say no to anyone. But Jesus could not hinder another man’s destiny even if it means giving brief disappointment. Jesus commissioned the man with something extremely valuable…. a purpose! Now what if the healed man said to Jesus, “No! If I can’t go with you I’m not going to tell anyone about you!” or what if he forced his way onto the boat and Peter had to come chop off another ear. (Peter was probably hoping for the latter). If the man would’ve done that he would’ve missed his “train” and praise God he didn’t because in the following verse you get this:

And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled. (Mark 5:20)

It doesn’t even matter if what you want to do is a great plan. If its’ not a God plan then you will be missing out on the destination that you were created to arrive at here on this earth, not just eternally in heaven.

Here we have the even more famed story of the rich young ruler who comes to Jesus wanting to know how to inherit eternal life. Being rich and young would cause me to assume that he had familiarity with inheritance and probably had received one himself. The rich young ruler wants to know how could he position himself to receive eternal life from Jesus. As as you see through their initial exchange not only was he rich, young, and powerful, but he also seems like an honorable young man, sounds like a perfect candidate for eternal life. Jesus, like only He can, goes through the external and gets internal, he poses a “heart commission” to the RYR :

Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 10:21).

Go your way, sell all that you have accumulated. Boom, hammer dropped. I’m sure that wasn’t what the he was expecting, I mean why would he have to give up what he would consider one of his best attributes: his riches! the Bible tells us in verse 22 that he went away sorrowful because he had great possessions, but here is the thing that gets most of us. We come looking for an answer from the Lord, but we don’t like the ones he usually gives. It’s mind boggling. I’m almost certain that the RYR stopped listening after “sell whatever you have,” because Jesus tells him about treasure in heaven and offers him the opportunity to actually follow Him up close and personal—the same opportunity that our friend the artist formally known as demon possessed was denied. In essence the RYR decided to pass up eternal life because his life here was just too good, or maybe he was planning on going and buying those brand new sandals that were dropping later that week. I wonder how many of us pass up the train ticket Jesus is offering only because we don’t want to give up the control of driving our own car or having to deal with people that we have no interest in. The RYR chose to not get on board with Jesus and surrender because of his greater desire to follow behind Jesus in his original Ferrari(the actual horse on the logo) and not give up anything. The ugly truth is that most of us want to follow Jesus we just don’t want to give up what we’ve obtained to do it.

This leads us into our final example. Jesus is leaving or should I say being kicked out of this a Samaritan village and is headed ultimately to Jerusalem. That’s what I love about Jesus, He is always headed somewhere. When you follow Jesus you will always be headed somewhere even if it means being still. As Jesus is on His journey someone offers to follow Jesus wherever He goes and here we go again, but this time a few will join in on their desire to follow the Master. Jesus tells the first person that this life isn’t going to be hotels and room service. Then He turns to another who was close by and urges them to follow Him. and His excuse was to first let Him go bury his father, Jesus gives back what most would consider a hard answer

 

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60).

 This was more so a spiritual proclamation than a natural one, and one that can be applied to our own lives…I wonder how many of us are missing our train because we are too preoccupied with “dead” things—whether it be people or problems, relationships or work. What if your destiny was not being held up by you, but your desire to bring something with you that is not supposed to go where you’re going. I wonder how many of us have experienced the other hindrances to our destiny because of “delays” that we didn’t have to go through. (that loud amen you just heard was the children of Israel in agreement.) The next contestant on the game show “I’ll follow you Lord” offers up his excuse without even being asked by Jesus. I guess he saw what had happened to his counterparts before him and decided to save Jesus the hassle of reading his mind….And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” (Luke 9:61).

 

I want everyone to understand it is not that God has an issue against family, it is that God has an issue with you choosing anything over Him. Some would argue that this seems like an unfair proposition, but I would say the unfair proposition is that Jesus came to the earth to give His life for many who would never choose to accept it. His mercy is unfair,. But O’ how grateful I am that it is. When you decide to let God conduct your journey you will never end up with less than you started with.

 

       Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:28-30).

 

The lie of the enemy is that the journey costs too much, That it would be more beneficial and fulfilling to follow your own way. That thought is what has continued to cost more people way more than what they were willing to give up. Being on board with the Father will always lead you to purpose. You will have plenty of chances to get off at stops along the way, but I urge you to stay on board. Even when it feels like you’re moving at a snail’s pace stay on board. Stay on board and you will make it to the destiny of your life that you could’ve never brought yourself too. ALL ABOARD it’s your time!

Lost at SEE

As some of you know I moved to Chicago a month ago. I’m amazed by how much God has shown me in my time here: the people he has put me in contact with and the provision I’ve witnessed since I’ve been here. You might also believe that I’ve also forgotten how to spell, but I promise you I didn’t. You’ll see…

If I had a word for this season of my life it would be “perspective.” I’m learning how important it is to have my vision constantly aided and the means by which I see adjusted, altered, and influenced by God. I believe that sometimes we can be doing great things for God physically while not seeing what He is trying to do for us spiritually. I’m sure most of you have heard the saying “Can’t see the forest for the trees.” I’ll save the deep summary because all it means is your perspective is limited. I know that in our attempt to be great men and women of faith—great at your occupation, studies, marriage, or parenting—we can get so focused on the details that we forget to actually live and in effect we see things incorrectly because of life’s circumstances. We become robotic in our relationship with God where our daily bible reading has become as much a religious routine as it is time spent just enjoying God’s presence. We got on the boat by faith, we stepped out of the boat by faith, but like Peter when we started walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-36) we got distracted by the details and in effect we became “Lost at See”.

 

SEE- a: to form a mental picture of

         b: to perceive the meaning or importance of

         c: to be aware of

         d: to imagine as a possibility

 

All of the above definitions of the word SEE lead us into some fun yet challenging territory. Everyone has heard the statement before “What you see is what you get” and has probably used it to justify what you’re doing or plan on doing so that no one can say that you didn’t warn them in advance for not meeting higher expectations. This statement rings true even spiritually. The problem is so many times we aren’t seeing things the way God sees them or desires for us to see and we continue to get exactly what our natural sight allows us to expect. Somehow one way or another it always comes back to FAITH. Ultimately that is what God is producing in us. The more we are able to see through His lenses the more we will be able to fulfill our purpose on this earth.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said this “One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.” What I believe Exupéry is expressing is that our ability to perceive anything of value can’t be seen with just our natural sight. God could very well be trying to accomplish the greatest miracle in your life to date, but you’re missing the eternal value because of your limited perspective.

There aren’t many examples that are more profound than the prophet Elisha assisting his servant with his near-sightedness.

And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”

So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15-17).

  I love the fact that the servant can see, but Elisha prays for his eyes to be open. He saw a reality, but he wasn’t seeing the truth. It’s like if I took you to go view an old run down building and I asked you, “what do you see?” You would tell me “I see an old run down building.” However, if I had knowledge that inside of that building was a million dollars I wouldn’t see an old run down building; I would see life changing possibilities, financial security, and the ability to change the lives of others. I wonder how many of us are improperly judging ourselves and others based on a limited perspective. I wonder how much more empathy we are in need of when we see people who look like an old run down building, but yet God knows there is millions of dollars inside. I wonder how many people we see on a daily basis, and our limited perspective keeps us from seeing them as God does. We could be jealous of someone based on what we see them exhibit, but inside and on a deeper level they could have contemplated suicide the night before and the enemy has used your jealousy to misdirect you from praying for them or asking them to lunch.

If you have become down on yourself for the way you have been seeing things don’t worry there’s always hope. Even a great prophet needed some help seeing correctly.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Here we have an example of how even the greatest set of spiritual ears still needs vision correction for their natural eyes. Samuel is being challenged by God to not choose the next king based on what He sees, but rather what God sees. Our ability to make decisions worthy of being celebrated comes from our ability to see with the eyes God does; And not only just seeing things as He does, but also looking at what He looks at. In order to operate under the correct guidance you need to pay daily visits to the Guidance counselor. One of the direct routes to favor from God is to recognize our blindness and to not be like the Pharisees who could see only naturally thus rejecting one of the very things Jesus came specifically to do

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

Because He has anointed Me

To preach the gospel to the poor;

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives

AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed; (Luke 4:18)

It doesn’t matter if you hear from God as Samuel did or you refuse to hear from the one whom God sent like the Pharisees, your ability to not become stranded at SEE will result from seeing with your spiritual eyes and not the two beautiful ones that made the your boyfriend or girlfriend ask you out on a date.

The key to not being lost is communication with the one who sees all. You need to pray that you will be able to see each situation the way God wants you to see it so that you can be able to walk in what he has for you.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Any Which Way…?

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Last week I let you guys know how much I appreciate you, (and I do) but this week I need to let you know that we are FAMILY now. I’ve let you into my thoughts, into my world, and into my views and now you can sit anywhere you wish. Open up the fridge (Only open it though. I don’t even let my family eat my food.) and make yourself at home and let’s make this family even bigger this week.

To my very aware family members, you’ll notice something a little different this week involving the title. The past six blogs I’ve written have all been two word titles: “Ask Yourself,” “Not Fair,” “Separation Anxiety,” “Creative Control,” “Texting & Driving,” and “Free Indeed.” As a matter of fact, every title has been pretty cut, dry, and absolute. However, this week is completely different. First *gasp* there are THREE words! Second, there’s a question mark. Now it’s time to question the thought process we sometimes adapt in our battle of getting to the other side; and that is the thought process that “any which way will do.”

I had no plans of finishing this blog this week. I had actually planned out my procrastination (you have to be a next level procrastinator to do that), but I believe the Lord had other plans. This morning He began to speak to me about some things that will make this post come alive in your world today.

The genesis of this blog happened about two weeks ago. It was late at night around 11:30 and I was going to get a birthday card for my sister who was turning 17 later in the week. (I was going out of town on her birthday, and that was the only reason why I’d actually be getting a card like a regular human being on time and not a few hours before.) I pulled into Wal-Mart and I approached the “entrance.” However, I approached the “entrance” from the “exit” doors first. As I took another step, the “entrance” door opened not even a second after the “exit” door. And there I was in the middle of the toughest decision I had made in the past five minutes. No one around… no one would see…I could save myself a few steps and walk through the exit door. It was closer and more convenient. And who doesn’t like a good shortcut? After a few seconds of thought I decided against the short cut and though I’d just go through the door that is marked ENTER. Obviously some of you are laughing right now because it really wasn’t that big of a deal. Both doors would’ve gotten me into Wal-Mart. It was late and no one was coming in or out at that time but me. It didn’t matter if I chose the door I was supposed to walk through because my situation was not dictating it. I strolled into Wal-Mart and not any sooner than I made it past the first cash registers, it hit me. In life, we will always be faced with the option of the easier way and the right way. (Notice I said easier because that’s how it is usually translated into our minds.) However, most of the time the “easier” way is the flat out wrong way. In that moment I truly feel like God spoke to me that there is always going to be more than one way to get somewhere, but there will always be a right way and a wrong way. See, your situation can’t tell you which way to choose; otherwise you will end up choosing the more convenient way more times than not. But why do we choose any which way, but the right one? Why is it even important which way we choose? And what does it take to be a person that gets to your “other side” the right way?

I was having a conversation at my barber shop while I was getting a haircut earlier this month. (For my brothers and sisters reading this that aren’t black: the most important conversations are held in the barbershop. Fact of life.) The guy I was speaking with was in his late 20’s. He was telling me about how he grew up in church and that he doesn’t necessarily believe in Christianity anymore. He proceeded to tell me how he was on a journey to uncover the truth and obtain more knowledge about our ancestry and how that relates to the Bible (which I am all for might I add). We began to discuss a myriad of topics, and I believe that the Lord really gave me some wisdom with the things I was sharing. The conversation was concluded by something I still smile at to this day and even while I write this. He was impressed by what I had to say in my backing of JESUS, my personal testimony, and my faith. But he, sadly, still wasn’t fully persuaded. He told me that he respected the journey I was on and that he was on his own as well. Then our friend then said to me, “There’s more than one way to get to this barber shop. You could go this way or you could take that way.” And he was absolutely correct. One of the pretty cool things about Shreveport is that there are multiple ways to get to a place. I appreciate that, especially whenever I come back from a big city. But in a split second I know the Lord dropped a wisdom bomb in my spirit, and I said, “You’re right there are many ways to get to the shop, but only one door to get in.” Boom. Drop the mic. Exit stage left like Randy Watson on Coming to America (for my brothers and sisters who aren’t black…well, nevermind). The excitement that I felt inward didn’t look like the peace and calmness I was exhibiting outward. You couldn’t hear a pin drop in the shop until our friend and my barber said, “That’s good.” In the barbershop world, silence and a “that’s good” is like winning an Oscar. See family, we live in a peculiar time now. More so now than ever, everybody is looking for their own personal way to get to God. But JESUS clearly states:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)

Notice Jesus didn’t say TO Him; He said THROUGH Him. Plenty came TO Jesus and never went a step further. THROUGH Him intimates the passing through and being changed. If you believe in God that’s your faith. If you believe Jesus is your way to the Father, then that’s your trust.

That leads us into the meat of this blog, and that is the difference between Faith & Trust. See, in order to be a person who chooses God’s way over your own way, you have to be able to TRUST Jesus. I believe that many believers (and even non-believers for that matter) have always joined the two hand in hand. It’s like Peanut Butter & Jelly, they just go together, but they are nothing alike. (Once again, only open my fridge. Don’t take anything.) Now obviously Faith and Trust have a lot more in common than PB&J, but they aren’t the same thing.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith is a noun; it’s what we have. I have Faith in God. I believe that He is the only God. I believe that He is Elohim (Creator) that’s my substance. Substance in the Greek just means “firm foundation.” My life is based upon the firm foundation that God is real and that there is a heaven and hell. If Faith is a matte black Range Rover sport(my dream car), then Trust is the V-8 engine that makes the car go!

Trust is a verb.

Trust is what we do with our Faith. Faith is believing that God Is; Trust is believing that God does!

The reason why it’s so easy for us to trust in our own way is because, good or bad, we know we will see immediate results. Our issue with being able to operate in full-on trust in God is that He is always up to something new in our lives. He knows old ways won’t produce new fruit, but the new way is always His.

 “Do not remember the former things,

 Nor consider the things of old.

 Behold, I will do a new thing,

 Now it shall spring forth;

 Shall you not know it?

 I will even make a road in the wilderness

 And rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Let’s travel even further in our Faith/Truth journey with an example: If I have FAITH that Pizza Hut has a good stuffed crust pizza, then I TRUST that the delivery man will bring me my pizza in 30 minutes. If you don’t trust the delivery man will bring it to you in 30 minutes, (or an hour and 30 minutes for that matter) then you will put your trust in a person who can get the pizza to you quicker: yourself. If I can’t trust the delivery man, I know I’ll trust me. You’re still getting a pizza from Pizza Hut though because you have FAITH! But now the carrier by which you get your pizza has changed based on what you TRUST. So many times it’s hard for us to exercise trust in our relationship with the Lord because trust involves patience in what God is doing. If we don’t have strong enough faith that He is capable of doing what we are asking of Him, then we will put our trust in ourselves and in our ability to do.

And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, (2 Corinthians 3:4-5)

The greatest lessons that I’ve learned over the past few months is that I could be smack dab (that’s the Shreveport in me, or maybe the Judy Smith in me) in the middle of my own way believing that I am actually doing God some type of service. You want to know how you can find out if the things you’re doing are His way or not: when you no longer ask Him how to do something and the only counsel that matters is you, yourself, and you (didn’t come out as well as me, myself, and I). That’s when you begin to do things that only take your ability. Newsflash: “you ain’t got the answers Sway!” And when you start believing you have the answers is when you end up in the middle of nowhere. I told a close friend last year, “A dead end is still a dead end no matter if its 50 feet ahead of you or 50 miles ahead of you.” It doesn’t matter how successful your way has been. If it’s not His way, you will eventually face its dead end. The reason I trust in God is because I have seen him make a way out of no way in my life time after time.

I had a college student ask me the other day to give them solid proof that God is real. He wanted to be given an answer that wasn’t “faith-based.” He wanted “facts.” (First off, any answer a believer gives will be faith based, but I let that slide.) I responded to his question by saying, “I can’t tell him why God or Jesus is real for him, but I can tell you why they are real to me. My life was in shambles. I was lost. I was broken. I was destitute. I was addicted to gambling, drugs, (Yes, all my stoner friends. Weed is a drug.) and women. I had known about God my entire life. I grew up in church and went to a Christian school, but when I went away to college I lost His way and found my own. In 2011 I finally decided that I was actually going to believe in who He was and my life has never been the same since! I told him that that no facts or bible verses would make him believe; but only faith can make him believe. I’ve yet to get a response from my young college friend.  Maybe it wasn’t the answer he was looking for; or maybe my answer backed him into a corner where he would have to examine himself. All I know is this:

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread. (Proverbs 37:23)

That’s why David is my boy! No one can ever dispute personal experience. I’ve actually been to En Gedi, where David was hiding out from Saul. The only way to have that kind of bold testimony of the Lord can only be by forsaking our way to follow His. I don’t want to hear anyone’s story about how they made it; but I am all ears for anyone’s story about how God delivered them. His way isn’t always smooth. But His way is always right. The truth task of our walk with Christ isn’t in our ability to move necessarily, but in our ability to move out of His way so that He can get in ours. So many times we want God to bless what we are doing, but we don’t want Him to interrupt our path. Instead of continuing in the mindset that “any which way” will do; develop the mindset that “any which way” He leads I’ll go!

Free Indeed

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” C.S. LEWIS

I just want to tell you that I appreciate you. Yes, you. Whoever you are that may be reading this blog at this time: I write for you. I try to give you something that I feel God gives me. I never want someone to read my blogs and feel like they wasted their time because I understand how valuable it is. I want to take you on a journey. And I want to help you get to your “Other Side.” With that said, buckle your seatbelts…or unbuckle them. The choice is yours.

If I was to write about anything other than FREEDOM right now I wouldn’t have very much to write. See, over the last few days, I have been consumed with what freedom really means. This leads to the questions: “have I been living free?” and “why are Christians so apprehensive and downright petrified to experience the amazing freedom that has been given to us through Jesus?”
It has amazed me at how much I’ve come to the realization of the fact that I don’t know if I’ve been operating in one of the very things Jesus came to give me and you. And that’s freedom. This is not just freedom to not sin after you become a Christian in order for no one judge you or think that you’re not close to the Lord (secret tip: they are gonna judge you regardless); but this is freedom to live with grace, joy, love, and without fear.

I know this blog is going to make some people angry because the talks of freedom always do. Just ask Jesus.
In Luke 4 Jesus is posted up in the synagogue in Nazareth. He begins to read from Isaiah and two times in his reading he references liberty. Once he speaks to proclaim liberty to the captives and again to set at liberty those who are oppressed. You would think that those statements would get a standing ovation and keys to the city, but if you read down you would see that the people were filled with wrath. The people were so filled with wrath that they forced him to the cliff of a hill so that they could throw him off. Now, I’ve been to this very mountain in Nazareth, (which is called Mt. Precipice) and I can tell you by looking down from the cliff that these people were sure that the fall would send Jesus to His death. However, Jesus (being Jesus and all) passed through their midst and went on his way. (Because He will never force freedom on anyone). Why does even the thought of being free make people so angry? It’s amazing what time does. I guess the saying is true that it really does heal all. Take Martin Luther King Jr. for instance: he is now all anyone wants to bring up whenever people today may be acting out and protesting a little too aggressively for their own personal liking. Some now make him the posterboy of peace as if everyone during the civil rights movement were just so happy to see ol’ Martin preaching, marching, and protesting “peacefully.” Sadly, today people are choosing to gloss over the fact that there was still persecution and imprisonment that accompanied those “peaceful” protests. (I don’t think it’s very peaceful getting a water hose sprayed at you that is powerful enough to pin you to a brick wall or to have dogs sent to savagely attack you.) That Dr.King was constantly living under death threats to him and his family and was eventually assassinated. This was all because although Martin Luther King Jr. saw that his people weren’t slaves anymore, he knew they still weren’t FREE(Freedom has everything to do with our ability to experience everything something has to offer). Freedom always comes with a fight. Fortunately for us as believers Jesus won the fight and has given us the ABILITY to be free.I emphasize ability because it means: since Jesus won the fight, we are ABLE to do the same. (This isn’t like Mario World where you eventually beat the game and now there’s nothing left to accomplish. This is like a sports team; after you win the championship you will have to eventually defend your championship the following season.) As long as you’re here on earth there will be an enemy that will oppose the freedom that you have chosen to obtain. I like to call this the “Opportunity of Opposition.” The more successful your team is, the more games you have, the more opportunities to play. This is because once the regular season has ended, (if you have qualified) you will enter into the post season or “playoffs.” So now you have more opportunities to play against an opponent for the ultimate goal: the championship.
-Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it .(1 Corinthians 9:24)

Without opposition there can be no way to determine if you are what you claim to be or for that matter what anyone else claims you to be. Only defeating your opponent settles the matter. You might be in a place in your life right now on your journey to the other side and you’re just beat up by life. Maybe you’ve become frustrated at God and maybe even resentful. Maybe you’re wondering why it seems like attack upon attack is happening! I’m letting you know right now that it means God is ready to make you a champion! He is allowing the stage to be set so that all can see you the way He sees you! He is giving you opportunities to defeat the enemy and settle things in your life! This way the enemy will have no foot to stand on when he brings accusations your way! God is trying to prove you faithful!
-But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).

One of the greatest examples of this is from the Old Testament, and his name is Job. Satan sought out someone that he knew God had his hand on. God allowed Satan to throw is his worst at Job…all because God knew that what was in Job would eventually be proven! God believes in you because He created you. He believes in you because Jesus put His life on the line for you to live in you!
-You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.(1 John 4:4) FIGHT ON!

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free INDEED. (John 8:36)

The next question that has to be addressed is “Are you in fact living in the indeed?”
INDEED:
1: without any question
2: in reality
3: all things considered; as a matter of fact

This is where the hostility from others comes in. If you’re only living to not sin then you have placed yourself in bondage. You will not be able to operate in the faith that it will take to do the amazing, challenging, and downright awesome things that God has called you to do and experience if you are enslaved to sin. -Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)

See, being timid and being faithful go together about as well as taco bell hot sauce and anything else other than taco bell food (I’ve still yet to figure out how that is). As former New York Jets coach Herman Edwards once famously said during a postgame press conference, “You play to win the game!” If you are only living to not sin then you are not playing to win…you’re just playing so you won’t lose. And there is a huge difference between the two.

Pharisees in Jesus’ day thought their righteousness was in their pompous ability to uphold the law. They perceived that they were free, which is why they were so angered at the very thing Jesus came to do (to set people free from the condemnation of the law). See, before Jesus hits them with the very famous John 8:36, there was a back-and-forth where the delusions of the Jews can be seen clear as saran wrap. Jesus is talking about truth and being set free and the Jew’s response was boasting about their father Abraham and the fact that they had never been in bondage to anyone. Wow! They were so blind to their lack of freedom that they couldn’t even recognize that the children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt for hundreds of years. Not to mention the Chaldeans, Arameans, Moabites, Babylonians and Ammonites in 2Kings 24, and the fact that they were even at that time under Roman rule! In the words of the old MTV show Diary: “You think you know (freedom), but you have no idea.” It’s sad that many mistake comfortability with being free, and the fact is that there are many today who are blind to their own imprisonment. You can be comfortably in chains. Jesus has set you free without question or debate it is INDEED! You don’t have to walk on thin ice; you can run righteously! And because of grace, when you tire or fall you are able to get right back up!
-For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again. (Proverbs 24:16).

The picture that accompanies the blog this week is a picture I took while I was in the Art District in Chicago 2 years ago. The picture was profound to me then and it’s downright revelation to me now. In the painting there is a man in a suit literally holding onto two things that couldn’t be more opposite. He is holding onto clouds that are seemingly ready to sweep him aerially into the sky (or how I would like for us to see it: into his destiny where endless possibilities await.) The only issue (and a big issue at that) is that the same rope that is connecting him to the clouds is also, unfortunately, connecting him to a mountain. Now, in the painting it’s hard to determine if he is trying to bring the rock with him or if he wants to be free of the rock and he just doesn’t have the right tools to cut loose from his earthly attachment.
First off lets congratulate our friend in the painting for making it to the top of the mountain! We have no idea what it took for him to get there. And the fact that he even made it in a suit.. that’s my kinda swag right there (maybe it’s a Tom Ford suit). I’m looking at the picture right now wishing that I could give him a knife or some scissors to cut the half of the rope that attaches him to the very thing he has already defeated! Of course I could get deep with you and say maybe he should speak to his mountain, but I won’t do that. I can’t give him the knife to be free, but I can give it to you! And you can give it to someone else!
This is the time for me to say these things:
There is a difference between being free and being reckless.
Freedom is the ability to have a choice and choose the right(eous) one without fear or bondage. Freedom is the ability to defeat the temptation of sin that has enslaved you.
Freedom is not an excuse to be irresponsible, but our advantage to live with joy.
You can’t be anxious and free at the same time.
You can’t be fearful and free at the same time.
You can’t be enjoying and living in sin and free at the same time (even though you are exercising your freedom to choose).
Freedom has no attachment with anything that would hold you down.
Freedom always propels you forward and changes the outlook of what you see and do. This is why animals aren’t made to be in the zoo; they were created to do what animals do and that is whatever the Creator set for them to be able to do! Likewise, we aren’t made to be caged in by religion or tradition or someone else’s perception of what is right for you. We were created to live free! Free of sin…free of shame…free of insecurities…free of regret! Your relationship with Jesus will cause you to do things that will pit your faith vs. your fears. Every time you choose faith you will be operating in the “indeed” of freedom. And every time you begin to operate freely you will entice the anger of those whose own imprisonment will have been challenged by your freedom. There’s nothing more tragic then a bird that can’t fly (or hilarious if you’ve ever seen the movie Rio). The only thing I can think of more tragic than that is a Christian that is fearful and not free. Figure out what’s holding you back and defeat it with the tools that you have been given through the Word of God. Free people do indeed free people. So free yourself and free someone else! You feel that weight off of your shoulders now…. It’s time for you to do what you’ve been put here to do. So find an excuse to be FREE!

Texting & Driving

Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established. PROVERBS 4:25

One of the most basic tenants of Christian belief is “God has a plan for every single life.” Some of you just read the previous statement and said to yourself, ”After taking 3 months off from writing, that’s all he has?” I promise you this: if you stick with me on this one, this post might be the most beneficial and profound one yet. A plan is a blueprint. Whether that plan be of a building, a car, or in the arena of sports, a plan takes preparation. In sports, a “gameplan” is developed by coaches on how their team will specifically attack another team. You need someone who is able to understand the dimensions of what it will take in order for a plan to become a finished product and serve its purpose. To clarify, a plan and a purpose aren’t the same thing. In reference to a blueprint being a plan, a purpose would be the realization of the blueprint. Most plans are written out, but in order for the plan to fulfill its purpose someone will have to execute on what they’ve been given. God has a plan and a purpose for your life. A purpose is solely given by Him. The plan is a partnership between the two.

I have a confession. I am a habitual texter & driver and it’s a problem. There have been times when I’ve headed towards a destination only to look up at the road when I’ve arrived at the place I was headed to. My texting and driving has definitely not gone without my fair share of scares or warnings. I believe that God has mercifully given me chances to stop, but, honestly, it’s a struggle and most times I drive I still have the habit to text. In order to get to the root of “MY” problem (all though I’m sure most of you reading this are guilty of this same problem), the most important question that needs to be asked is, “Why?”
Why do I feel that whatever is on my phone at that moment is ultimately of more importance than my life?
Whether it be sending a text message, checking ESPN, reading a great article on USA today, or even worse: scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, why can’t I choose to keep my eyes on the road?

What’s best for myself and those around me is to focus on the road ahead of me. There are multiple reasons that we choose to text and drive, but one of the most dominant is that we feel as if we have mastered not only our car but the roads we are traveling. It’s like walking around your house at night you don’t need any light to help guide you because you know the layout of your surroundings even better than the person who built the place. You can make it to the bathroom or, if you’re like me, to the refrigerator because you know where you are and also where you’re going (we will get back to this). Back to “MY” problem. When I’m in my car with my head down, focused on something as unimportant as someone’s “selfie” or their repost of some motivational social media guru giving the best relationship advice that can fit inside the dimensions of a Instagram formatted box, I’ve put myself in position to be unprepared for whats ahead of me. In situations like this we are unable to react to any situation that might occur in an instant or even to my demise.

I’ll tell you the two times when I don’t text & drive.
The first: When I’m in an unfamiliar city. When I’m in a different city (or any city other than Shreveport or Baton Rouge that I haven’t spent a chunk of time in) I have to focus while driving because it’s a new land, I’m not used to the drivers, I don’t fully know how to get to where I’m going, and I need all the help of my navigation app that I can get in order to keep my focus as a driver to get to my destination safely. And that’s such a beautiful picture of God! He has a plan to take us to new places; places that you’re unfamiliar with; amazing places that we’ve never seen or experienced before. Also uncomfortable places. And in order to flourish in these environments you will need His guidance to make it. You will also need to have your undivided attention on the road, or in this case, “His plan” which unfortunately, is not the easiest road to travel. God will purposely get you out of what you’re accustomed to just so you won’t be able to rely on yourself. He wants you to get to places in your life that only He can be given the glory for once you arrive, and He wants you to get there alive!
The second scenario when I don’t “trive” (new slang for text & drive ) is the presence of a storm. When the weather is bad I know that now I’m in a position to be at the mercy of the elements. I now have to focus because I am no longer in control. I have to put two hands on the wheel and if it’s dark outside my eyes are no longer following just the road, but even the lines on the road as well. Attention to detail is now my ally. Even though I would normally know the way, the rain has put me in a position to have to revert back to the most basic aspects of driving. I hope you guys can see another beautiful attribute of God now through that: His protection. We get so frustrated and depressed when the storms of life come, but God uses the storms to protect you!!! See, the enemy would love for you to go on with your life oblivious to the fact that your situations will change abruptly. He knows you’re not focused and you’re getting ready to get in a wreck. But God can change the elements to get your attention in order for you to focus on Him intensely. In the moments of your most intense storms don’t be frustrated by the fog of not seeing anything else, but delight in the fact that you can only see whats directly ahead of you: HIM.

(Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.Psalms 37:4)

I was having a conversation with a close friend yesterday and we were discussing these things and it hit me, during our conversation, that the storm actually makes you a better driver. Wow! What the enemy intends for you in order to destroy you is “chaos.” But God can use that same “chaos” to make you better than you were prior to the adverse circumstance you’re in.

(But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Genesis 50:20)

So many times we get frustrated when things become insensible to us, but let me help us all out in whatever situations you might be currently facing: God isn’t trying to make sense out of your situation..He’s trying to make faith.
Following Gods plan and putting your faith in His purpose are two completely separate matters and will take very different approaches mentally. Sometimes we believe that there is something owed to us for the miles we have accrued on our personal journeys. We can be led to think that it is our right to get to a specific place, so let me reiterate: God doesn’t owe us anything. A destination is an opportunity, not a guarantee. The infatuation with the comfortable has always been the Achilles heel of Christians and people in general for that matter. God isn’t trying to mold you into a better version of YOU along the way; He’s trying to mold you into JESUS. And there is no comfortable process for that to take place. (But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18).

I wonder how many of us are currently driving our way into a 10 car pile up that we have no idea is coming because we are fixated with distractions and fail to keep our eyes on Jesus. (Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:5-6)

The Lord spoke to me a few years back and told me to keep my focus on Him and He would place everything I needed in my path and would do abundant things for me. I’m telling you that my excitement of that moment has been tempered by the difficulty at times of doing just that: Focusing on Him. It seems that as humans we all suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder in one way or another because what might not be a distraction for me might be the super bowl of distractions to you and vice versa. We can even get distracted by seemingly good things and attempts to be productive.(But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:40-42).

Ask yourself at the end of every day, “Did I choose the better thing?” Somedays you will be proud of your answer and sometimes you won’t. Some days you’ll even spend making giant leaps of faith only to falter along the way and succumb to distraction. Take it from Peter, its hard. (And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31).

I believe Jesus was saying, ”Peter why did you become distracted?” The beauty in Peters peril towards the end of his water walking was something that I hope we never lose sight of: Jesus is not willing that any of us should perish because our moments of distraction. He has always given me his hand to pull me out of any moments of failure in my life to reach into the wreckage that I’ve experienced in order to save me time after time ( I hope you sang the song in your head while you were reading that the same way I did while typing it). Take heart! There is hope for the distracted and there’s a cure for the figurative texters and drivers in life. Slow down. Jesus doesn’t want to take the wheel. He wants us to learn how to drive the car!