Does a Good Reputation Really Matter?

       It is not enough to say that you are a Christian.  It’s pretty simple that people only care about your Christianity with the fact that you act like a Christian. Going to church on Sunday and Wednesday does not designate you as a Christian. What designates you as a Christian is first that you have accepted Christ as your savior and the Lord of your life. But second to that is that you show the fruit of Christ. In Matthew 7:15-20, it says that they (people) will know you by your fruit. If you are not being fruitful in your life as a Christian then it is pointless to claim that you are a Christian. If someone cannot identify you as a follower of Christ, then there is something seriously wrong with this equation.

       Time after time, the prophet Daniel exhibited himself as a follower of God. He refused the idolized foods of the king’s court, he refused to bow to the king’s commands to revere the king as a god, and he focused on being all that God had for him to be. He wasn’t so much concerned with what others thought of him and this made his reputation not only exceptional with the people of the land but also made him favorable to the king. When you put God first, your reputation does not suffer. It may not seem favorable at the time but you will soon see that the favor of God will be upon you. In Matthew 6:33, it is written to “seek first the kingdom of God” and “then all these things will be added unto you.” If you see God first, the rest will fall into place.

Sara and I made a commitment several years ago that we would not live a life filled with debt.  We have sought His kingdom first on the finances that He has entrusted us with. Just before Christmas of 2010, we had decided that we wanted to get out of debt and needed to cut down more of our lifestyle. We continued to give and tithe according to what we had promised. However, things were still tight financially. I didn’t know how we were going to get gas that week much less Christmas for the girls but I know that our God is faithful. At some point, someone had placed a couple of gift cards in my mailbox at work and blessed us with enough for Christmas for our girls and gas for the next week. If you are faithful to put God first, He will be faithful to you. What does that have to do with reputation? If Sara and I had been stingy people who never gave and who put God last, God would not have put on the heart of that person who knew us to give us that gift.

The reputation that you have will cause you to reflect the glory of God.

The news is often plagued with people who are scheming and swindling other people. We see time after time the corruption of businesses and even in the government which has destroyed the reputation of those involved. You don’t hear much from those companies after the fact other than a negative reputation. In 1 Peter 3:12-16, it says; “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil. Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.”

With that said, God is watching over you right now whether you are doing what is right or not. However, He only will listen to the prayers of those who are doing right before Him. Not only will He hear the prayers of the righteous, but He will also be faithful to show the good reputation of that person. In Proverbs 3, it says in the Amplified that God will grant you “favor, high esteem, and a good name in the sight of God and of man.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, Paul wrote to the church that it should be the ambition of their lives to live a quiet life of minding their own business and working with their hands. Following that, it says “as a result, people who are not Christians will respect the way that you live, and you will not need to depend on others to meet your financial needs.” Your faithfulness to seek first God’s kingdom and to live a quiet life of authenticity will gain you a great reputation. In short, God is calling you to live an authentic life.

Our children are desiring to see us as fathers have a good reputation.  When passing on into eternity, what is the story of our lives going to be? How are we going to be remembered? There is a song by Sidewalk Prophets that talks about how they’d be remembered once they had faded into a memory.

“I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You”

What kind of reputation are you leaving behind? Is it one that matters?

Order yours today!

I’m Not Okay…and That’s Okay

 

In the circle that I am a part of I find that there are many people that will not admit that they are having a hard time in this life.  They will say phrases like “I am too blessed to be stressed” or “I am highly favored of the Lord” which are fine and dandy, but where’s the transparency? Where’s the authenticity? Where’s the honesty?

No one in their right mind is having a perfect day all of the time. There will never be a time where we have it all together and…that’s okay. We have to be okay with the fact that we don’t have it all together. If we did have it all together, what would be the point of Christ?

These past few months have been extremely difficult for me.  I know for my family, it certainly hasn’t been all peaches and cream. However, for me, it has been a roller coaster of emotions and frankly, there are days that I am not okay. There are days that I get tired of hoping. There are moments that I simply don’t want to dream anymore because what’s the point? Too transparent?

Maybe I am a little too transparent. But until we get to the point that we are transparent with ourselves, we will keep trying to be okay…when we are not okay and that’s okay. Why? When we admit that we are not okay, that gives room for God to work.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NASB

I have to remember this every day.  When I am weak, He is stronger. When I am down, He lifts me up. When I feel broken, He puts all the pieces back together. When I want to give up, He gives me hope. When I want to cry, he dries up the tears.

You see, I am not okay. And you know what? That’s okay.

Where Does Your Help Come From?

My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
Psalms 121:2

Many times, we fathers fail to rely on our Heavenly Father for our needs. We will work hours and hours of overtime, we will sell everything we have, and we will even go so far as to sell our time with God for our needs to be met. At times, we will rely more on the government more than we will rely on God because the government is more tangible. However, we have seen the failure and lack of integrity of the government in meeting the needs of the people. God is the one who provides for each and every one of His children.

I am a prosperity teacher. There. It’s out in the open and you can now put the stones away. I am not a name it and claim it, follower. I don’t believe that you can speak that Rolls Royce into existence. I don’t see that point in screaming at the devil. I don’t see the point of yelling out that you are blessed since you and I both already know you are blessed (see Deuteronomy 28 if you are in doubt…) I have to admit this though; you will never see me teach or talk about being poverty minded or thinking that being in poverty is of God. Let me explain.

I struggled for years with this thought that God blesses His people. I would see “those preachers” on television that would talk about being blessed and talk about being prosperous and I would laugh. I had a great sense of skepticism towards those types of people. Many of them would shout and scream out how blessed they were so I guess I could say that it was a turn-off. However, as I moved to St. Louis, I had a great longing for the things of God. I had always grown up in church but the church wasn’t working for me. I had been burned with the people of God. But, I decided to give it another try. So, I started attending a church with my then girlfriend (now awesome wife) and I was appalled.

Our preacher taught time and time again that we are blessed. He would say “I call you blessed” at the end of each message. “How could you say that I am blessed yet I have great lack?” It was a challenge to even want to tithe knowing that I was struggling.

Now, as a father, I couldn’t fathom my children going without. We don’t spoil them but we do make sure that their needs are met. If they need food, we feed them. If they need a doctor, we take them. Before I became a father, I didn’t really realize this fact. Men, God is wild about you. And here is the wild thing about our Father in Heaven; He wants to meet your needs and go far beyond what you could ever imagine.

I got this revelation one day while reading in Matthew 6. “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?” The birds of the air are taken care of by our Father…wouldn’t He do more than what He would do for a bird? Just in the next chapter, Jesus was speaking “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” If your child asked for a piece of bread, would you instead give him a piece of rock? No. Absolutely not! Why then would your Father in Heaven do that to you or I?

Right now, as I write this, Sara and I are in a dry spell in our finances. I should say that we have been for the last 6 years. We certainly can’t complain since there’s food on our table. However, we continue to have things come up time after time that robs us of any prosperity. Does this negate the Word of God? It does not. It only proves that God is going to come through because He cannot lie. At the end of the day, I have to go back to Psalms 121:1-2, “I look up to the mountains-does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and earth!” Our help comes from the Lord who made the earth. He owns a thousand cattle on a hill. And as Dave Ramsay would say “and He owns the hills too.”

Because I Said So

It’s that time of year, men.  The lunch bags are packed, the book bags are filled with papers and books, the mornings are filled with silence in our homes, etc. You know the drill?  You send your kid off to school to learn, to grow, and hopefully (by the grace of God) become great people of society. Something happens between the classroom and the bedroom.  Something happens between the school bus and the church bus.  Something occurs that we, as fathers, don’t always understand. Let me explain.

God has always given me this gift of talking.  I could get a brick wall saved just to get me to shut up.  I have always had a gift to teach and to lead. However, unbridled, these gifts have taken me to a whole new level of learning.  When I was younger in my school days, I was a talker. When I say that I was a talker, I don’t mean that I talked most of the time, I talked all the time. I have the report cards to prove it. They had check marks all across them for “excessive talking”. The teachers loved me and my parents loved me, but you know they were all thinking, “when will he ever be quiet?”

Now, God has a sense of humor.  A beautiful wife and three cutie pies later, I have found myself reaping what I have sown. I see now why people lose their hair at such a young age. As a father, I believe I have mastered the phrase “because I said so?!” I swore I would never stoop to that level but here we are at the end of our ropes and using the last bit of ammo we have.

Sometimes, I wonder if God feels that way about us as His children. I see where I keep beating my head on the brick wall of life just to find that He has already said it over and over again, “no.”  Nothing very spiritual about that but perhaps we are finding as fathers that we are connecting with the Father on a whole new level.  Perhaps He has told you no and it was because He said so. Sometimes we don’t need to know the why but that He is in control.  I often think about the things that He has shielded us from so that we won’t walk in fear or even be angry about.  How often does He keep us from knowing the many times that we could have been in great danger? How often has He left us with “unanswered” prayers?

I am reminded of the Garth Brooks song “Unanswered Prayers” and where he talks about the many times that he asked God to make this woman his wife only to find that God had someone better for him? I used to ponder what would have become of me if He had answered every prayer that I had with a “yes.” Who knows what kind of mess that I would have been in.  Because God’s greatest gifts are often unanswered prayers.

4 Ways to Overcoming the Death of a Dream

Most of the people who know me personally know that I have had a huge dream to own and operate a full serviced coffee shop to serve the community. This dream has been one that I have had for over 10 years and have diligently worked on to bring to life.  Over the past few months, circumstances have shown my wife and me that it is a dream that isn’t going to come to past…at least for now.

I have had to process the death of a dream and come to grips with it. It was strange, at first, coming to grips with the fact that I had to lay to rest something that I have lived a long portion of my life trying to obtain. I have a firm belief that dreams do not fully die. Sometimes, it is very hard in that regard because it keeps resurfacing, but we have to come to grips that until the right time this dream is not going to thrive.

As I processed this, I came to the realization that there were four ways that I handled the grief of this death.

1. Acknowledgement. The first thing I had to do was acknowledge that this dream was dead. Pretty harsh, isn’t it?  Though it is not my intention, it is very important that we acknowledge the fact that this dream is now dead on arrival and cannot be resuscitated. For now, this dream has to be put on the gurney and wheeled out of the emergency room.

2. Recognition. Recognize that this dream was a part of your life. It is so easy to break away from the emotion of the fact that you had a dream and this was a reality. It is easy to bury our emotions and say something along the lines of “that was a foolish dream from a childish wish.” Here’s the thing. If we believe that every time something that we are dreaming about dies on the table is a childish wish, we will never want to dream again. Some of the greatest minds watched most of their dreams fail before they obtained success.  Thomas Edison is one that I like to quote when the invention of the light bulb failed,  which is “I did not fail. I just found 10,000 ways that it didn’t work.” When your dream dies…you just found a way that it didn’t work.

3. Grieve. Your dream just died. You have acknowledged and recognized that your dream is gone. Now, it is time to grieve. Grieve. Cry. Let it out. I know, it is weird and unorthodox. When you grieve, you give yourself time to heal from the death of this dream. Don’t make any decisions during this step. Why? When we grieve, our brain doesn’t work. We are emotional and logic doesn’t compute.

4. Move Forward. Now, it is the time to move forward. It is time to move on. Does this mean that your dream will never come to the past? No. It just means that you have properly buried this dream and there’s always an opportunity to resurrect it, but until then, it is time to move forward. As a doctor in our church says, “Do the next right thing.” It is time to do the next right thing.

       As you do these four things, you will come out on the other side a better person and a happier person. Why? Because you have given yourself a process to go through in order to move past your dream not coming to past…yet.

What are your thoughts? What process did I miss that you thought should be included? Comment in the section below!

A Father’s Love

“Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love
A secret that my daddy said was just between us
He said daddies don’t just love their children every now and then
It’s a love without end, amen”
George Strait – Love Without End, Amen 1990

I was sitting on the couch the one day, watching and listening to Maleah, my oldest daughter, playing in the corner. She inevitable ends up with toys all over the house and in this case, she ended up at the end of the couch next to the china hutch. She had a toy she was playing with and began to laugh and talk so I moved to the end to see what she was up to. She had her back to me, so she had no clue that I was watching her explore. This was the vision that God gave me in that moment. A father’s love is not exemplified by the money he spends nor the things he has. His love is not primarily portrayed where anyone sees it. Mostly, a father’s love is seeing in the secret while he is watching his children explore. It’s a time that we don’t see, hear, or even know that this love is being performed. It’s the purest love because no one knows that it is happening. God’s love is the same at times. When we don’t even think about it, God is watching us and it is at that time that we don’t see it. It may seem cheesy, sure, but at the same time we should look over our shoulders and glance up to Heaven to say, “Daddy, I love you, too.”

Hone Your Craft before You Lose It

“If you don’t use it, you lose it.” – Unknown

I recently had a conversation with an employee of an employment placement company.  This company specializes in putting people to work in the job that they are looking for. We struck up a conversation about resumes and I mentioned in my previous life, I could put together a great resume for anyone that would grab them a job. The only problem with now is that I haven’t done it in over a decade. The old adage “if you don’t use it, you lose it” rings true in this situation because now I couldn’t get myself an amazing job with my resume.

It is no different in the current climate that you are in. If you don’t use the skills and the abilities that you have honed, you will lose it.  Just like in typing. If I only typed every few months or years, I wouldn’t be able to get over the 30 WPM mark. However, now that I type often, I can break 70 WPM pretty easily.  Another example would be in playing the piano. If I only played once a year, I wouldn’t be a very good pianist. However, if I honed that skill and practiced daily, I would be able to play a pretty good piece of music.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book Outliers that it takes over “10,000 hours to perfect to achieve mastery in a field.” Most people want to see great success after working five minutes in a field. I love how Dave Ramsey puts it when he talks on the radio, “It took me 15 years of hard work to become an overnight success.”  If you hone your craft, perfect what you do, and make strides in becoming better every day, you are sure to be successful.

What are you doing today to hone your craft?

 

A Trip Worth Missing Out

I found myself several years ago at a weird spot in my life. As busy as I can be as a father, student, and employee, I feel no guilt. Now, let me be clear. I don’t mean that I didn’t feel guilty before. When I first took my first class in college while being married, I felt tremendous guilt. My wife is a stay at home mom that doesn’t leave the house very often. Not that she doesn’t want to leave, but that she’d be crazy too with three kids underfoot where ever she goes. All under 8. Just Sayin’.

But when I would go to school, I would feel that I would be getting out of the house and a ticket from being at home with the kids. I didn’t believe that but I had that thought from time to time and then I would feel guilty. Then one day, I came across this;

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 8:1

If there is one thing that I know, Satan loves to make you feel guilty about anything. If I had not gone to school, I would feel guilty for bettering myself. If I go to school, I leave my wife and kids to fend for themselves, what kind of father am I? See how quickly that the enemy turns it around?

I used to feel guilty about everything. I struggled with this up until that point. I still have to fight it. I have to argue with the enemy and his tactic to feel guilty for doing anything other than what “I should be doing.”

I implore you to drop the guilt. It does your family no good to feel guilty. Sara caught Maleah at this point recently. Maleah is learning all kinds of great things this year in school. However, when she struggles, she apologizes. “I’m sorry..” If she messes up with a question, “I’m sorry…” Why are you sorry? Did you intentionally mess up the answer? No! Why are we as fathers feeling guilty either? Do we intentionally ignore our families?

Friend, I want to encourage you as a dad, do yourself a favor and drop the guilt. Move forward. Ask God for forgiveness if you have to. But move on. He’s ready for you too. Are you?

4 Departments of a Self-Employed Rock Star

 “It is one thing doing what you love for a living. It is another thing doing what you love with love”
― Rasheed Ogunlaru
         While switching careers may seem to be a bed of roses to some, the path to self-employment can be a muddy one.  Jumping from a secure, balanced job into the landmine of self-employment can be quite frightening. Before pulling the trigger on becoming your own boss, it is important that you know what “departments” to set up in your daily operations to keep all things ready for action.  Having a plan is so important because, without a plan, you will find yourself banging your head on a brick wall.  Here are 4 areas that I recognized when launching A Howell Solution and to be honest, I know for a fact that there will be things that I don’t touch.  Feel free to add it in the comments if I miss it!
1. You are your own HR Department. Most of the time, you won’t be hiring right away for your home business. Typically, you will be your own employee and you will need to be sure that you have your 1099 in order and any other documents available. These documents will include each individual job title and description, W-2 forms,  and Employee Handbook. This will not only keep you out of tax problems, but it will help you to be efficient. You can get a of this type of help through the Small Business Association.
2. You are your own IT Department. You can’t dial the extension to another individual. You are the one who will troubleshoot your computer issues and make things work when they do not want to. It is important to have people lined up to help you with this. Typically, you can go to YouTube and locate different videos to help you with the smaller issues. In addition, there are many local colleges that offer basic computer classes that will help you with the most common problematic issues. There are many small businesses that will charge a nominal fee and will fix it for you. This can get pricey. Be sure you get someone you trust on this one.
3. You are your own Finance Department. You can’t call an extension and have someone process a refund or give a duplicate receipt. The great thing is that you do have amazing software programs that cost little to nothing for you to use.  Quick Books is probably the most common and Fresh Books is becoming more popular by the day.  You want to have a great accounting professional to help you with the nit and gritty of taxes and balancing the books.
4.  You are your own Customer Service Department.  You can’t forward a call or have a representative of your company respond to feedback. You are Customer Service. It is good to have great responses lined up in order to respond to Customer Service issues. Don’t merely have them – stick by them! Customer Service is not just about how great you are with your customers, but it is about how you are consistent that you are with them. Have your process ready! Dale Carnegie has a great resource for free to help you with this called Quick Tips for Outstanding Customer Service.  You can always outsource this – I don’t recommend it. Customer Service is the face, voice, and ears of your brand.
These are just basic and I know that I have missed some of them. Comment below the ones I missed if you have any!

With Great Resignation

Resignation. When you see that word, what comes to mind? Quitting. Giving up. Taking a job and… well, you get it. After a while, the thought comes to mind as a father, as a husband, as an employee, as a child of God to resign and give it all up. Sometimes, we get to the point where we are completely overwhelmed with life and have thoughts like this, “if I give it all up then I can be just like everyone else…mediocre.”  For some, mediocrity is a way of life and they know no different. You and I are called as Godly Daddies to be above and beyond average and mediocre.

Another definition of resignation is acknowledgment. In Proverbs 3, Solomon wrote to advise us “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge  Him and He will direct your path” (Paraphrase mine). Imagine if you and I took a moment to have a resignation of the fact that God is completely and ultimately in control of every single situation that we are in. It’s a testimony to our children that if we can let God have it then it is settled for this season that He has already finished it. In the Word of God, it says that He knows the end from the beginning. I love how God knew already this situation that you’re fretting over…and He’s not shocked. What? How can a loving God…well, that’s what I hear? Here’s the thing though (just as a side note)- we are so quick to blame God for the trials in the world yet we kick Him out of everything we do. Come again? How often do you let God into your life to make decisions? How often do you allow God to give you wisdom before saying something? It is amazing that we point our finger at Him when all the things that go wrong in the world happen yet we don’t give Him the courtesy to do so.

God knows the end from the beginning. When we acknowledge that, we can resign ourselves to the fact that He is the ultimate Godly Daddy. He is the One who knows how to resolve the situation and to bring it to light. As I close this quick thought, I want to bring a great scripture to remembrance to you:

“Be Still….and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalms 46:10 (ASV)

God is so confident in Himself…He already knows that He will be exalted in the earth and among the nations. That’s how confident that you and I should be in Him as we resign and acknowledge Him!

Is Your Trust In The Famine or the Feast?

 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT

In the difficult times, it is truly hard to be reminded Who is our Provider. When the bills come in and the money goes out and the names are changed to protect the ignorant, I find it hard to believe that God has provided for every single need. There are times we have to place our hands in the air and just say, “Thank you God that You know what is going on and that you have a plan in place for it.” For Sara and me, it has been difficult for us in this area. Our marriage has been awesome and has been filled with many blessings. However, people are not aware of the financial blows we have had in over a decade of marriage. We weren’t drowning in debt when we got married, but we weren’t swimming in the vault of cash either.

I don’t pretend to have all of the answers when it comes to God.  I love the saying, “Results May Vary” because, in our lives, it certainly has varied.  Many people know that six months after we were married, I lost my job and we were stranded in Memphis after a trip with no money because my car quit. I can remember my dear bride in tears worried that we were not going to get home. I remember the Lord saying to “tell no one.” I remember being frustrated with God and asking why were these things happening because being the man of the house, I should be able to least provide for my family. Of course, when you are in the middle of the field and it’s storming, you can’t see the growth of the seed beneath your feet.

Feast or Famine

Shortly before we got married, God dealt with me on giving. I hadn’t been much of a giver with exception of material things. I wouldn’t mind giving someone a piece of gum or a pencil if need be. I began to see that the Lord had a law in place in the area of giving. I also saw that the enemy had an attack in place in the order of giving. Many would say, “We are not under law.” Friend, you are always under a law. The law of gravity says what goes up must come down. The law of the land states that if you speed, you get a ticket (unless you are a smooth talker or great at getting out of it). The law of the land states to steal will land you in jail. Just as the law of the land, God’s word tell us if we give it is given back to us (see Luke 6:38) which is the law of sowing and reaping.

The Lord began to teach me that in order to reap a harvest; I had to begin planting seeds in my life.

Now, it’s not just a money thing but a heart thing. To give just to get is pointless. If you give to meet a need having the confident assurance of the return on your investment, then that is something totally different. The rich man was not denied entry into heaven because he didn’t give his money and processions; it was because his money and processions became his god. He relied on the harvest instead of the one who provided the seed and rain for the harvest.

God began to work on my heart in the area of giving in 2006. I moved from Memphis to St. Louis because I had a “feeling” that God was moving me. At that time, I had no real knowledge of the Holy Spirit but I knew I was home when I pulled into St. Louis. I had taken a job at a well-known university in the area and had secured my home near the Lambert International Airport. This is important so follow along. My wife and I had been dating for a short period of time and were getting ready to get married in a few months when the Lord began to change my heart on giving to the church. I never was a big giver like I mentioned either but I had knowledge of Malachi 3 where the Lord called the people thieves for withholding the tithe. I began tithing after that message. Not out of fear but out of respect for the Lord and what was truly His. That week three major events happened. I know, this is where I tell you that I ended up getting the biggest raise of my life, a new car, and a Rolex. This could not be farther from the truth.

At some point during the next few days, my tires were going bad on my car. I was driving down I-270 on my way to my part-time job and my tire blew. No big deal, I got it fixed and moved on. The next night I had gone shopping to pick up some groceries and someone followed me home. I thought nothing of it. I came out the next morning and my car had been broken into with contents missing. A few days later, I found myself outside again with yet the other tire on my car flat.

I know that this is to be encouraging to you but I need to be sure that you don’t get fooled into thinking that whenever you give your money to the church that things don’t happen. I hear a lot of well-meaning teachers of the word of God who says things like “you’ll never have problems if you tithe.” It’s not the truth. If it were, then I wouldn’t have had these things happen. My point is this; was this my ordeal or God’s? God owns it all and if He wants it working properly or whatever, He will take care of it. He will give me wisdom. In this famine, I found that God will supply all my needs according to His riches, not mine.

Over the next several years I watched my wife and I struggle. Most people would have given up by the time this was written after all the mess we had to happen to us. We had to decide that our seed was worth the harvest. We have seen time and time again God comes through in our lives in so many areas. We heard God in this area and knew He wanted us to trust Him in feast or famine.

In the season that we are in, we are waiting for that harvest to come in. We have sowed many a seed and thought that this could be the bumper crop that we have been waiting on to catapult our dream into reality. I recall being in the worship service at church and we took up an offering for the cameras in our church. This isn’t something of the ordinary for our Pastor to have this happen so I know it had to be from the Lord. At some point in this season, we both complained to the Lord about always giving and not receiving the full blessing. In this service, the Lord spoke to me in response to this complaint; “I provide seed to the one who sows. Don’t grow weary in doing what is right for in the due season, at that appropriate time, you will reap a harvest if you faint not. The farmer is always planting his seed. He doesn’t plant the seeds just once. He is constantly planting his seeds because he expects consistent years of harvesting.” The point of this is if you aren’t going to trust God in the famine – you’re not going to trust Him through the feast.”

What are you doing today to inch closer to trusting God in the famine?

God Doesn’t Keep a Report Card

I have three beautiful girls that are always learning and growing into new phases in their lives. At the time of this writing, Our girls are out of school for the summer and will be starting school in August again. As they begin to go into their respective grades, it always reminds me that there are going to be papers coming home, report cards to be reviewed, and meetings to go to. Each of our girls is bright and I know we will have no problem with their report cards. I do know, with their personality that we have to consistently work on this one thing; the love of a father is not contingent on whether you do good or bad.

Let that last phrase sink in for a moment. I will take a drink of my coffee just so you have a moment to let it sink in….

Alright, now that you have let it sink in let us move forward. God’s love is not contingent on whether you are a good or bad person. In Romans 5:8 (NIV) “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That statement alone reflects God’s love for the world and not just for the Christian. When I think about that, I am led to John 3:16-17 that says “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” God sent His Son while we were still sinners!

I had this revelation after a moment in my life where I felt completely condemned. It was really stupid of me to feel the way I felt yet I did. I was led to Hebrews 10:17-18 where Paul was writing about the prophecy of Christ and the fulfillment; ” Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” This is a powerful statement. Once Christ died for the sins of the world…it was done! I will not go to heaven and have God with a checklist of things I have or have not done. The sacrifice was made, the blood paid the price, and God does not remember your sins anymore! This doesn’t give you a license to sin but gives you a license of grace when you fall into sin. It doesn’t give you permission to willingly go against God’s word but when you are found in that place and ask for God’s help, He will give it to you! Your sins He remembers them no more! You can’t read that without wanting to shout no matter what denomination you are in.

As a father, I have to constantly remind myself of this truth. When any of my girls “fall short of the line”, I can’t keep bringing it up after it has been addressed. Just as our Heavenly Father, I have to drop it and let it go once it has been addressed. I have to “remember it no more.” The good thing about this revelation is this; it releases me from the pressure of keeping a record of wrongs. It releases me from having to follow up and keep following up and… You get the picture.

Our love for our children doesn’t change because of what they do or do not do. The love of a parent isn’t contingent on the report indicators. It is because we love them for them just being them.

Freedom is never Free

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 
– Declaration of Independence 4 July 1776

There were 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  These men knew the weight of what they were doing. They knew the gravity that was to be held by their decision to break ties with England and become the nation that we live in today.  I often wondered what went through the mind of these 56 men when they signed their death warrant to the King. I believe that they felt in their heart that this was the right thing to do and that someone had to have the nerve to do it.

These men would give up their freedom so that this nation would embrace freedom. The Declaration of Independence was one of the most controversial documents in the history of the country. This document would expose the true feelings of the colonist of America towards the King and his policies. To go against the King of England was to go to your death. Wow. These men decided that their lives were worth losing over this nation’s freedom.

Today, we have men and women in the armed forces that fight for that very freedom on a daily basis. Today, I salute them and give gratitude for their bravery.

Have a great Independence Day!

Knit Together

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Psalms 139:13

It was a cold March morning when we had Olivia in Belleville, Illinois.  The grandparents had come and gone and it was a quiet evening for us as we sat in the hospital room.  I enjoyed watching Sara cuddling Olivia before we would lay her down.  Olivia would be snuggled into Sara like they have been life long buddies. I often wonder if before we were born, if God held us to His chest and embraced us.  I wonder that because so often when a baby is born, the only thing to get them to be calm or quiet is to lay them on your chest and cuddle them up close to you.  In Psalms 139:19, the psalmist David wrote “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” I marvel at the love of God for His creation.  In awe, I sit here and think of how we are comforted by God and His embrace.  The trust and love we have just through the simple embrace of the Father.  In Psalms 22:9, we read “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast.”  There’s a time that after you and I leave the womb that we loose trust in the Father that knew us and knit us.  I am eager to get back to where I completely trust in Him who knit me together in my mother’s womb.  To embrace Him once again.  To understand that when He carefully put me together, He had every ounce of me put together to serve Him.

How to Not Get Someone to Buy Into You

“And if you insist on continuing to make assumptions about my character, I’ll advise you only this: assume you will always be wrong.”
Tahereh Mafi

We all know what assume spells. It is one of the ways that you can kill your business and fast. I recently received an email that went along the lines of assuming that I didn’t want their product or service because it wasn’t my preferred way to learn or think. Can I be real transparent? It took everything in my power to not spout off an email to the company and drop my own thoughts in capital letters. However, I chose to use this opportunity to help you, my client, to not make similar mistakes just as this poor soul did along with others that I have encountered.

  1. Misspelling your potential client’s name. Have you ever gotten a letter in the mail or an email that had your name chopped to bits? Is it too much to ask for someone who is filling out these things to check out Google or White Pages for Heaven’s sake? If you are unsure on how to spell someone’s name – please refrain from sending correspondence. It will kill your relationship with your perspective client.
  2. Sending a form email and failing to remove the form default. I had this happen recently in an email from a person who wanted to create a website for our business. Needless to say that their credibility just dropped a few points. If you can’t remove the form defaults, I am seriously questioning your process.
  3. Sending an email shaming them for not buying your course and/or product. I received an email following a decline for a webinar course that was, in not so many words, assuming that I did not want because it wasn’t my style. I know it is a marketing ploy. I know that it is not personal. However, one sure-fire way to get me off your mailing list is to make assessments like that. Nothing personal.
  4. Assuming that you know your client’s reason for not buying your course and/or product….without asking them. Your customer/client is your bread and butter. Your lifeline. Your hope in difficult times. When you make a claim without the facts, it is detrimental. The purpose, in my view, of a client-business relationship, is just that, it is a relationship between you and that customer.  When you assume, you break the trust of that client.

As you begin to build your clientele, it is important to not forget that they are human. When you fail to realize that they have a story – you will be doomed to lose that business from them.

When Dad Prays

“Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.”
Psalms 5:3 NLT

I am truly blessed with three little prayer warriors. I was working on dishes one night when I heard Joanna say “Ouch! I hurt my knee.” Without a beat, Olivia walks over “Thank you, Jesus, for healing Joanna in Jesus Name Amen.” What you may not know is that at that time my Olivia is only 1 and my Joanna is 3. Yeah, I am proud of my kids. All three of my children have learned at an early age about prayer and its effects.

Where does this come into play with when I pray? The great thing about it is that their mother is a prayer warrior. Wait.  Where does this come into play for when I pray? There is something that you need to know.  I struggled with prayer.  To me, it was a duty more than a conversation with God. Not only that, I found myself praying with a spirit of skepticism. I prayed to the ceiling and wanted a result from something or someone that I had no relationship with. There’s my confession of the day.

I found later in life that my relationship with God is not God’s issue, it’s mine.  It is my fault if the disconnect occurs, not God. God didn’t decide one day “I don’t want to talk to Will so I am going to ignore him.” That is not in the character of God. In fact, when we sin, God, doesn’t leave us.

“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5 NLT

God is by your side through thick and thin.  When I pray, I am reminded that the Author of our lives is right beside me.  I have to remind myself even when I am going through my everyday life, God is speaking to me. “Will, have you have gone off the deep end? God doesn’t talk to people.”

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27 NLT

When I pray, I know that God hears me. God is listening to His people.  I am inspired by God because He doesn’t hold a grudge or fault against you when you come to Him (see James 1:5).  He is ready.  What does this have to do with “When Daddy Prays?” Because when daddy is in prayer, the heavens are moved, Jesus is interceding, God is listening, the doors of heaven are opened, the cries of the people are entering into the throne room of Heaven, and God is responding.  Friend, if you aren’t communicating with the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Almighty God, then you are missing out on a great conversation. This is a conversation that you will not be interrupted, you will not be challenged on your heart, nor will there be a dial tone because of a hang-up.  God is listening to you.

Recommended Reading

3 Keys in Overcoming a Critic

“To escape criticismdo nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” —Elbert Hubbard

One of the things that I am sure of in life is this; not every person is going to like what you have to say. For certain, there will be those who will troll your page, leave negative comments on your Facebook page, put negative reviews on Amazon about you, and the list could go on forever. Here’s the thing, if you stand back and allow yourself to be paralyzed by what other people say, you will never accomplish anything worth talking about. What if Albert Einstein had listened to his math teacher or if Michael Jordan listened to his basketball coach?

Over the years I have seen amazing people simply give up because of what their critics said. I know I have withdrawn for that very reason. However, I have asked these 3 questions to know if a push back is really worth the energy to engage.

  1. Is it True? That’s a question I ask if I hear push back. Is what the opposition says true? My response to that question determines if it is worth the fight.
  2. Am I wrong? Most of the time when I ask myself this question, the answer is no. I have admitted when I was and retracted if it warrants it. However, there will be critics that believe with every fiber of their being that you are wrong and they are right. Unfortunately, the sky isn’t always blue and the grass isn’t always green.
  3. Can I fix it? This question comes on the heels of something that has been broken and I have either the option to fix it or let it go. If I cannot fix it, there is no point in me spending precious time and energy on it. If I can fix it and make it right, it is my duty to do so.

I know. These are very simple. That is the whole point of this little exercise. Most of the situations that we have pushed back from are something that is just that simple to overcome.

How are you answering those questions in your situation today?

Shout out on Facebook, Twitter, or below!

Parents Do Not Always Understand…

“I don’t think that we’re meant to understand it all the time. I think that sometimes we just have to have faith.”
Nicholas Sparks

Just when you think that Murphy couldn’t do any more damage, he decides to side swipe you. You just can’t seem to get a break, yet there’s complete peace about what is going on all around you. I have heard it best put this way; “chaotic peace.” Recently, this is where we found ourselves. It seems like we can’t escape this cycle that never ends. But I know one thing that is for sure is that He never ends either.

Perhaps, I should start from the reason that I decided to write this. For ten years, Sara and I have seen some of the weirdest things happen in our lives. We have had car trouble, house issues, health woes, financial hardships, etc.  One may bring up the fact that we are tithers and according to Malachi 3, the one who devours is rebuked for our sake. It would be easy to question God and wonder. It would probably be even easier to doubt than it would be to know in faith that God has taken care of it all.

In a previous post, I referenced the time where I came to God and made the statement that I just simply did not understand. God’s response in my heart was that He did not call me to understand, but to trust Him.

The response honestly took me off guard.  Aren’t we, as human beings, designed to understand all things and learn them? Then I recalled a scripture that I have always remembered since I was a child. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” In some translations, it reads “and He will make it plain and straight.”  Our trust is not in the government nor people, our trust is not in ourselves or our own ability to provide, but our trust is in Him.

 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13 NLT

This is one of the most quoted scriptures that you will find in the Christian vernacular. The problem with this is that we find ourselves reading it as I can do everything. The intention of this passage was not that we can do everything, but that we rely on Christ’s strength to do everything.  I am so grateful that during these trials that we are seeking our true Provider. Our trust is the ultimate Father. I believe it’s so important that our children see that our trust is in God regardless if we understand or not. When they become older, our hope is that they will trust Him. Sure, it would be easier for you or me to automatically go into the woe-is-me mode. I will tell you one last thing before I leave you and it’s found in Ephesians 6:13;

“Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].”

Having done all that you can possibly do that the crisis demands…stand. Stand firm. Don’t quit. Press into what God has in store for you and not what the enemy tries to throw at you. Regardless of your understanding or lack thereof – stand! 

Thoughtful Tuesday | 06/13/2017 | Perseverance

 

The past five months have been the hardest for Sara and me. Sometimes, it is difficult to feel like we can overcome. However, through perseverance, I believe we will. Click to watch the video!

 

 

You Have Been Set Up

May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”                                                                                                                                             Psalms 20:4

           Have you ever caught yourself thinking, There has to be more than life than just this!?” There are so many different periods of time in our lives that we are thinking just that.  In my religious days, I could never imagine God having something great planned for me; not only great but something important.  I, like many other people, had settled into a mindset of mediocrity.  A sure fire way to kill a dream is mediocrity. Mediocrity means to be mediocre which is defined as of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate.” The only problem with that is that God doesn’t call us to be mediocre.  In 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV), Peter wrote that you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  You can’t be mediocre and be called to the royal priesthood.  

          God already has something big planned for your life.  He didn’t set you up to be the same, old, average Joe.  If He did choose you to be ordinary, He would not have created you with the gifts that are buried deep within you.  You may be wondering “what gifts?”   In Jeremiah 29:11, which is one of the most quoted verses in the Christian circle, we find the prophet was being spoken over, just as yourself, For I know the plans I have for you” says the Lord. “There are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. God did not say, “I have a plan for Suzy but not for you.  Sorry, you have the short end of the stick.  You get to sit in the last pew in heaven.  Don’t forget to bring your hanky.”  No!  God has a plan set up for you.  He has set you up to succeed! 

          Jeremiah was a young man at this time and he worried about what people thought of him being so young.  God wasn’t concerned about his youthfulness.  It was no surprise to God that Jeremiah was not qualified by man’s standards.  As a matter of fact, in 1 Corinthians 1:27, Paul wrote that [No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.”   God is not impressed by Ph.D., MD, BA, MA, or whatever degree could fall into this category.  Peter was a fisherman, Matthew was a tax collector, David was a shepherd, Mary was just an average girl, and the list goes on.  God uses ordinary people to carry out his extraordinary plan.

       You may be wondering; how do I live this life of success?  God’s promises are “yes” and “amen.” In Psalms 37, we read that The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.  Once I was young, and now I am old.  Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.” If you live a godly life, you will receive the direction of our Holy God and you will never lack. God already knows that you are going to fail, that’s where grace comes into play.  But many individuals misunderstand the word “lack” with being without money or things.  In Philippians 4, it says that God will meet ALL your needs. Are you on the streets?  Are you dying of starvation?  He is meeting your needs and He has birthed a plan in your heart.  He has prepared you for a time such as this.  He has begun the work and is faithful to complete it. He has set you up for success.

           God is not surprised by who He chose to do His work.  In the word, it talks about how God searched all over the face of the earth, looking for someone to do the work.  All you have to do is follow the word.  In the next few verses that you and I read, I want you to ask God to clear the air because so many have perverted this scripture, taken it out of context, and even have removed it from doctrine;

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.  You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God:  Your towns and your fields will be blessed.  Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed.  Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed.  Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.  “The Lord will conquer your enemies when they attack you. They will attack you from one direction, but they will scatter from you in seven!  “The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.  “If you obey the commands of the Lord your God and walk in his ways, the Lord will establish you as his holy people as he swore he would do.  Then all the nations of the world will see that you are a people claimed by the Lord, and they will stand in awe of you.   “The Lord will give you prosperity in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, blessing you with many children, numerous livestock, and abundant crops.   The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do. You will lend to many nations, but you will never need to borrow from them.  If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom.  You must not turn away from any of the commands I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship them. Deuteronomy 28:1-14 NLT

          Let’s focus on what Gods condition on being bless was.  He said that “if you fully obey.”  We are not created to occasionally obey the word of God.  Yes, we live by grace.  However, read it again.  If you fully obey….” We serve a God of unconditional love but of conditional blessings.  We are the same way for our children.  “If you obey, there will be more blessings.”  God is calling you and me to raise our standards of living and quit living a mediocre life.  I have heard time and time again; if you want to be a millionaire, study and do what millionaires do.  In other words, don’t take financial advice from a broke person.  

           I don’t think that it can be said enough that God has set you up to succeed.  Using His word, His principles, and prayer, you can and will succeed.

When I Fear

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Nelson Mandela

The year 2012 was one of the  worst years on record for our family and we just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. You know about those, I am sure. At one point, our van was completely disabled and I just totaled my car, we were having trouble making ends meet, the food was on the table but it was kept to a minimum because we were trying to get the van repaired. I remember the day like it was yesterday where Sara and I sat on the couch in our living room in tears because we were exhausted from all the mess that had been going on. She was folding laundry and I had just got done meeting with the guy who was fixing our van (I should say the 2nd guy who “fixed” our van).  At this point, I completely felt useless as a husband and a father. Most men can relate that you feel that you are the provider of the family and it rests on your shoulders but when you can’t provide the necessities of life and the sky keeps falling on you, you tend to see yourself as a failure.

It was here that I had to fight the spirit of fear and inadequacy. As a man, I began to fear my importance in our family and the reason why we were here. I seriously began to wonder if I had “missed God” in what we were doing in our lives. There was a sense of “what’s next” in our house and we were sinking. God really began to minister to me during this time. It was a great thing that He had a wonderful woman who was my support because I don’t know how I would have managed to get through this without her.  God started showing me in His word that He’s the One that I have to trust and not the money or the job.

My prayer to the Lord at the time was “I just don’t understand” followed by the usual rant about how we were givers and we tithe, etc. I remember clearly the Lord speaking into my heart and reminding me of this scripture.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

And without missing a beat, I heard in my heart “I have not called you to understand, but I have called you to trust.”  Man. That spoke volumes as a father to me. The Ultimate Godly Father asked me to trust Him.

One weekend we took the girls roller skating with the church.  None of our kids have ever done this and we thought it would be great for them to interact with other kids their age. I took Maleah and Joanna out onto the rink and without missing a beat, they fell down. Joanna completely wasn’t thrilled with it. Maleah, on the other hand, is the type that loves to learn, wanted to go out and try more. All the way, my hands were in front of her to keep her from falling. I told her that if she fell, to grab me and she would be fine. She fell at least a dozen and then some more times. But she never forgot that I was there waiting to catch her when she fell. By the end of the night, she was skating on her own, not like Tanya Harding but skating nonetheless. Joanna, on the other hand, was afraid to do it. We found out that they have special skating shoes for ones her age and we got her a pair. I remember the look on her face when I first put her down. At first, she wasn’t going to do it. With instruction, the fear began to leave her face as she realized that with help, she could, in fact, do it. For the next two hours, Joanna was on her own skating with these special skates. I could only imagine what would have happened if Joanna had decided that because of her first experience with skates that she would never skate again.

Dad and Mom, I see you out there concerned about how things are going to work out in your circumstance. There’s a wolf at the door and you see no way to get it away. I want to encourage you to “trust in the Lord with all of your heart” today. Not with just some of your heart but all of your heart. He’s got it.

5 Ways to Honor Your Customers

The Customer is not always right.

When I typed that for the first time, I knew that I might get a bit of a backlash from it. We have, as a culture, been trained to read the following as truth; “The Customer Is Always Right.”  Unfortunately, this is not always true. Sadly, I have seen enough YouTube videos showing quite the opposite. However, we don’t have to pull of those up. All we have to do is have a few moments of common sense.

If the customer calls in and tells you that the sky is green…either there’s a tornado nearby or the customer is indeed wrong. If the customer writes you a letter stating that the world is flat, by default you would be agreeing with what scientists and world travelers debunked centuries ago. With just a few keys picked on the computer keyboard, I have debunked the myth that the customer is always right. Let all the Customer Service Specialists rejoice!

Now, let me follow up with this; The Customer should always be honored. What I mean by that is this; the customer has the right to question and bring up their concerns and you have a job/responsibility to help resolve that to the best of the ability that you have granted by your employer. Here are five tips to show honor to your customers;

1. Listen. For over 20 years, I have been in a customer service position. One of the things that I have learned over those years is that it is important to listen. When you read that, you may be thinking just about the words that they are speaking. I am actually talking a little deeper than that. There is always an underlying issue and you don’t have to be a psychologist to figure it out.

2. Respond with Empathy. Show them you care. You don’t have to pull out the stops to do this. All you have to do is speak with kindness, respond with the appropriate verbiage, and walk the walk through your voice tones.

3. Offer a Solution. One thing that I have learned is this; don’t say “that’s not my job.”  Offer a solution regardless of your position. If you know that the product they are looking for is not offered through you but through another company, offer them the solution to go to that company and get it. I can recall many times that we would get phone calls about other books and music. Though we did not carry them, I knew exactly where the customer could get them. It may not be recognized by your leadership, but it will be recognized by the important people; your customer.

4. Show kindness with your actions. The previous applies here as well. Take the initiative to make the situation right…with kindness. No smirk or snide remarks are needed. Go above and beyond. I can recall a time where a customer received the wrong material. Most businesses would require that the customer returns the product. I did not and replaced the order at no charge with quick shipping. Most customers aren’t out to stick it to the man. They are trying to get their merchandise and/or service.

5. End the conversation (written or verbal) with grace. It is really that simple. End the conversation with grace. End the conversation with a polite attitude of gratitude.

There is a whole conglomerate of books, websites, ideas, etc. that will teach on this topic of honoring your customers. However, it is important that you know this fact; “Though the customer is not always right; they are always to be honored.” If you can get that down, your customers will feel like a million bucks!

To Forget Is To Fail

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana

Today, many of you who read this will go out and BBQ, celebrate the day off or watch some great sports on TV. There will be some who will party like its 1999. There will be a few that will wake up and find that today is just another, ordinary Monday morning. However, there are those that will wake up this morning on a cot in the desert of Mosul or in the war-torn countries in the Middle East. Some will wake up on a ship in the Gulf while many will wake up on a base in Germany. Then there are the bodies of those who fought many years ago for our freedom and yes, even the unknown soldier’s tomb will have a wreath laid upon it. There will be those that will somberly remember their family members to whom they said their final goodbye not so long ago.

Today, as you go out, don’t feel guilty about enjoying that freedom. Go out and thank God above that there are those to whom went before you in battle and sacrificed theirs for yours. I love the quote in the beginning of this piece. Why? It is so easy to forget the lessons that we have learned upon fighting for that very freedom – both good and bad. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and remember all of those to whom went before us.

Are You Inclusive or Exclusive?

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Matthew 25:37-40

In a society that boasts of groups of people being all inclusive and accepting of all people, I have found the hypocrisy of this statement in so many circles. When I thought of this article, I was thinking strictly of the church body. However, I see it in all circles from school groups to church groups. There used to be a time where we would sit on the front porch and wave at people as they passed by. We used to pull off to the side of the road to help a fellow man or when we heard of a need, we simply met it with no fear of retribution.

As we talk the talk, are we walking the walk? Are we really taking that extra mile that the Bible talks about? Are we giving of ourselves to the least of these? I know, I may be stepping on a lot of toes. I can only speak on my own experience of the inclusive versus the exclusive groups. In a day where people are more involved in their clicks, we have to be careful not to exclude people, especially within the church body.

There is a great emphasis on the church body on doing “outreach” in the community. The problem with that is that we will find it more difficult reaching outside the church walls if we have not reached within. What I mean by that is, if you are part of a church body that has segments in it where only certain people are accepted in that group, you cannot expect to reach outside the body to bring people in that toxic environment. It will only confirm their belief about the church being judgemental and full of hypocrites.

My challenge to every group is to first reach within your church, your community, your class, your _________, to the least of these. Once you have become inclusive, only then will we see a true revival in our communities.

Jockularity Jockularity

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”
Proverbs 17:22a

With all that goes on in life, it is good to laugh. And coffee is a good cure-all. Enjoy!
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When The Well Runs Dry

 “Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.”
General George Patton
This month marks the three months of being unemployed.  Honestly, I never thought that I would be in the position and that I would wait for the new doors to open. It is a fact that the job market is not like it was 10 years ago when I last was in transition.  There are many great jobs available, however, they require a ton of experience and education to match. I am in that strange spot that so many people my age are in. We don’t have the experience that we need in order to get the experience we need but we cannot get the experience that we need…and the cycle goes on. It is a strange spot to be in. I know that many can attest from these dreaded words – “you lack the experience necessary to fill this position.”
I have applied for many different positions only to come up dry.  So what do you do when the well dries up? Right now, I am learning the art of patience.  Not that I am perfect at it – more times than not, I have questioned this situation. I have had to work on the art of forgiveness and peace. In the moments that I can be at peace and full of forgiveness, I feel that I conquer the world. Unfortunately, the opposite is true when I feel that I can’t move forward. It gets harder with time, however, I know that in the end, it will all work out for good.
When the well dries up, all I can do is wait. In that time of waiting, I have to practice three things to keep my heart at peace;
1. Watch my Mouth.  Anyone who knows me can attest that I can be pretty negative with my words. If not careful, I can talk myself into a dark situation and out of hope. In Proverbs 18:21, King Solomon wrote: “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”  The words I speak have the power to either create life or death. The same goes each person when the wells dry up.
2. Watch my Heart.   In Proverbs 4:23, King Solomon wrote: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  It is real easy to let the issues that have caused this circumstance to guide my heart into places that it should not go.  If I am not careful, I can allow my heart to dictate my mind where to go.
3. Watch my Mind.  Ever have a moment where your mind goes a hundred miles a minute? If I am not careful, my mind can certainly take me places that are very difficult to overcome. When you have unlimited time, so to speak, you have plenty of time to think. If you aren’t watching what you are thinking about, you can end up losing it.  The best thing to do is replace as much of the negative garbage with positive. I am not talking about some new age theology. What I am suggesting is that we take the thoughts out that are not adding to our lives and replace them with life-giving thoughts.
When the well dries up, we must take the opportunity to allow our mouth, heart, and mind to align with God’s word.
What can you or I do to get through the times of dryness?
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God’s Stamp of Approval

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
                                                                                                                    Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

It’s so easy today to get all wrapped up with who’s who in the world.  From the “greatest” actors in the world to the hottest news of politics, we find ourselves bombarded with negativity resting on our shoulders.  My prayer for you is this; that you know simply that God approves of you. You probably are thinking, “I already know that.  Of course God loves me, what’s that got to do with me right now.”  It’s a revelation that I had the other day while studying for a new message.  We are so engulfed with the fact that Jesus died for us and our sins are washed away but do we really know how much God really loves us?  Do we have any clue to what He was saying when He placed Jesus on the cross?

In Jeremiah 1:5, the prophet declares that “before I (God) formed you in the womb I knew [and] approved of you [as My chosen instrument], and before you were born I separated and set you apart, consecrating you.” God didn’t just pull you out from under a cabbage patch and say, “Here go! ” Then pat you on the back and wish you the best of luck.  No, God approved you. He put His stamp of approval on you.  He accepted you before you even were thought of by the ones who had you.  The Almighty God took a moment in time to get to know you and prepared you for a purpose, for a reason God has placed you in this moment in time.

Imagine this; a Captain of a ship sets the course of the ship.  Before he even gets onto the ship, he has a plan for that particular ship and its destination.  If the ship veers off course, then it’s not doing what the Captain wants it to do and he will redirect the ship onto the right course.  God is the same way.  He set a course for your life; He set a way for you to live.  Now when you get off course, He places people in your life to help you get back on course or He speaks to your spirit.  Before He sets you to sail, God already approved your course and knew the plan for that course (see Jeremiah 29:11).

It’s so simple but it’s so profound, God approves of you.  The psalmist David wrote that “Although my father and my mother have forsaken me, yet the Lord will take me up [adopt me as His child].”(Psalms 27:10) and “I was cast upon You from my very birth; from my mother’s womb You have been my God. (Psalms 22:10).  How amazing is it that God, in our very birth, prepared our calling, prepared our mission, knew already what we were going to do.  If you had a bad year, or a bad life, know this; God loves you more than you could ever imagine.

5 Ways to Refill After Burnout

“Burnout is a way of telling you that your form of activism was perhaps not very full circle.”
– Gloria Steinem

Last year, I encountered somet hing that was a bit different. Most men wouldn’t admit it out loud to their wives or even their friends but they lose steam or they will lose their joy. After eight hours of work, following their dreams and the vision that God has given to them, after the kids are in bed, after the supper is eaten…. men lose steam. I had this happen to me after Sara and I had been married for a while and had had our children. I was going to work, driving in traffic for an hour, dealing with stress (or not dealing), driving home in traffic for an hour, coming home to three girls under three, noise, chaos, dinner, baths, church, business….you get the point. I was overwhelmed! The positive side to this is that my wife took note and did all that she could do. But it wasn’t her responsibility to keep me happy. It was mine and mine alone. It was here at this moment that God put this in my heart “What happens when Daddy runs out of gas?”

Friend, that’s exactly where I was at. I had no gas. I had no energy. I had no ambition. All I wanted to do was go somewhere and sleep. So I had to come to the point where I asked “what happens when there’s nothing left to give and the reserves have been dwindled to a mere drop? What happens when Dad is running on fumes?

I wasn’t sure how I would address this or even how I would approach it. I felt that the Lord was directing me to address this subject head on. It’s a messy subject unlike many that men face. Dad’s all across this great nation decided one day to quit. Why? There’s no gas in their tank. These are a few things that I have worked out and found success. You may do something totally different. You may think this is completely idiotic. Hey, I am not the one whose out of gas and reading this on empty?

1. Get in the Word. It’s religious. I know that some of you will look at that and say, “I know that but with what time?” You find it. You make it. The Word of God is your life line. The Word of God is your direction. When you don’t know what to do, go to God and He will give it to you (James 1:5). Without the Word, you will run out of gas.

2. Get alone. Most men won’t admit it but they are overwhelmed with being a father. We are truly equipped to be the men of God that we are called to be. However, there are times when a father needs to get alone. Go out for a walk for an hour or so. Work on a fun project. Go to the library or the coffee shop. Get out. Get alone for a brief period of time. Sometimes a fifteen minute break will completely refresh you for the net trial.

3. Get away. Several years ago, I had gone through a rough time and I was battling a darkness that was out of this world. I found myself doubting and I couldn’t hear God. I told my wife that I needed to get away. Away we went camping for a night. I recognized that I needed some time away from the kids and home to get my mind wrapped around the important things. Don’t get me wrong men, our children are very important to us. However, we need a few moments away from the business of raising children. After the 18 years that they are on this earth and move out, you don’t want to find yourself looking at your wife and say “who are you?” I needed my woman which leads to my next point…

4. Tell your spouse your needs. We as men aren’t built for communication. No shock there. But often we shut down at pivotal moments when we have a need to be met. We close off because are prideful or we don’t want to put our spouse out. I struggled with this in the first few years of our marriage and still at times find myself putting my needs on the back burner. The only problem with this is that it closes communication and it also causes resentment. God put those needs (sexual and non sexual) in men so that there can be a relationship and communication.

5. Forsake Not The Assembly. Men are notorious for staying home from church and leaving behind the wife to be the spiritual head. Honestly men, this is absolutely absurd. When you act as the spiritual head, you gain a lot of the strength that you need to get through the tough times in your life. Start small.

These things do not just apply to men, but they apply to women as well.  As we operate our homes, our businesses, and other things in our lives, we just need a refill so we can be the best person that we can be!

Is Longevity Killing Your Career?

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
– Albert Einstein

If you have been following our journey for any length of time, it is no surprise that I would be writing about my departure in one fashion or another.

As I have begun to unpack the last nine years, this question came to mind:  Did longevity kill my career? With the previous company, I had dedicated nearly a decade of my life to this company with no growth. Time and time again, I would hear that it’s not about your tenure that you get promoted or get transferred from within. There was no real rhyme or reason to the promotion scale aside from the cynical thought; “it’s all about who you know.” I would do everything that I was asked to the best of my ability and still to no avail. Honestly, I was getting frustrated with seeing people being promoted from within that were with the company about 1/3 of the time that I had been. In days past, it was all about the tenure of the person that helped catapult them to success. Here are some thoughts that some feel about longevity’

  1. Longevity shows that you are content.
  2. Longevity shows that your loyal – regardless of what’s going on around you
  3. Longevity shows that you aren’t going anywhere soon.

These are good things, right? I have found that though it may be a good thing, it is detrimental to any hope of advancement after a certain period of time. Please realize that this is my opinion, however, in my experience it is good to look at the situation and decide to ask the question;  when do you to know if longevity is killing your career? You have been at your job for 3-5 years with no advancement. This is a great thought by one of my co-dreamers;

“Are you getting new experiences each year you stay OR are you merely getting the same experience every year? 5 years worth of experiences versus the same experience for 5 years.”
– Jane A. Tuttle, Ed.D

I have to agree with Jane’s assessment. With that in mind, this is a great time to ask yourself a question; why am I here? It all boils down to that very question. WHY? If you don’t know why it is time to evaluate the vitality of your career.  I want to leave you with this; is longevity killing my career?

 

This is an excerpt from my new book UnPack: Life Lessons from an Unemployed Rock Star!

Special Edition

I had a profound epiphany day while working in a local coffee shop. I had lost my job a few weeks prior and the pressure was on to get something in the pipeline. 
This was that “something” which I needed.

I learned a lot in the short time I was there. One of my favorite things was making espresso shots. In order to get a shot, you had to pull it. You would put the grounded coffee in the espresso portafilter and stamp it. If you fail to stamp it, the espresso was weak and oily. 

However, when you apply that pressure from the stamp – the perfect shot happens!
In 2 Corinthians 2:9, Paul made the following statement;

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”

If God allowed Paul the relief he asked for, we may not have the fruit from that labor. While we’re being pressed, it’s important to know that great things come from pressure!

I will leave you with this from James 1:2-4;

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
May God use the pressure in your life to pull the perfect shot!

It Is Finished – Moving Past the Past to Grab Hold of the Future

 

As a parent, we have a lot of opportunities to teach our children patience and trust. Either that or they teach us that patience and trust. I will say either way, we learn that at the end of the day, God has it all at hand and He will complete the work He started. The other day, Maleah was having a full fledged meltdown. When she’s tired, the world is against her in her eyes. She apparently was tired because everyone and everything was wrong in the world. There was a point where she wanted to finish a project and had asked Sara to help her with it. Sara let her know that it was already done. Maleah started throwing this big fit that she needed to get it done. Sara tried to reason with her that it had already been finished.

It drove home the point for me. So often we, as believers, strive to be perfect for God and to work for our salvation. The problem is that it has already been finished. In Hebrews 10:14, we read “For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.” When you and I decide that we want to work it out on our own, we are in essence telling Christ that His sacrifice and blood were not enough for our redemption so that means it is all up to us. Friend, if Jesus died for your sins there is no point in going around the mountain over and over again to get His approval that you are forgiven.

Today, I want to encourage you to take this lesson and go with it. YOU cannot do enough to make it right with God. HE makes it right; YOU make the decision to follow HIM. He’s not surprised with your shortcomings as a parent, as an employee, as a Christian, or as a man/woman.

Having the Grace to Let Go

 

I can remember as a child that I loved to take apart my toys. Whether it be something simple like a Hot Wheel or something complicated like the remote control car. Never knowing if I would ever get it back to what it was created for, I would look inside and be inquisitive. I guess all boys are that way. We like to find out for ourselves how something works or how something is built. We desire to be a creator of something or an inventor of something, it is a right to passage for us. It’s the same thing with life. We try to take apart our finances to see what is being done incorrectly or we separate our marriages to decide who really is at fault. We find ourselves so often wanting these miracles and yet we are not willing to work for it or even trust God for it. We have all these needs and desires but you refuse to ask. Instead you complain and whine about what you don’t have.

Sounds pretty harsh, but we end up treating God like a genie instead of God. You don’t rub a bottle and out pops God with three wishes for you. He’s not into wishing. In Matthew, Jesus said to ask and you shall receive not beg and you shall get. There is always balance to the Word of God. This is not a name it or claim it gospel nor is it a prosperity gospel. You can’t call out into the heavens that you have a million dollars and a Rolls Royce. However, you can’t walk through this life with the mentality of if I don’t expect it then I won’t be disappointed if I don’t get it. So many of us, myself included, want deliverance but we won’t let the shackles fall off of us. We won’t let the ball and chain break and I don’t mean your wives men. You have to leave the problem; you have to leave the situation to God. He says to “cast your whole cares” not some of them. Many of us decide to carry around the ball and chain and wonder why we are so tired all the time. We carry the burden of our lives around like bricks on our backs and we wonder why we are always in pain and always sick. We want to rest but we don’t trust God to give us that rest. We want wisdom and yet we aren’t quiet enough to receive it and when we are, we ignore it and call it the devil. We give the devil way too much credit. Many times, our worst enemy is ourselves. We think way too much, we talk way too much; sometimes we just need to chill and see what God is going to do. When you have a bill that is sitting there that you don’t have the money to pay for, worrying about it will not pay it off. Sometimes we just need to sit and wait on God. There again is balance. If you are not working, then you don’t eat (see 2 Thessalonians 3:10).

God’s not going to bless you if you are blatantly dishonest and lazy. I was reminded of a story of a father and his son. The son brought his toy that was broken to his father to fix. The father took the toy and began to work on it. While he was working on it, the boy climbed up and tried to help. The father would place a tool on the toy and the boy would put his hands in the middle trying to help him fix it. Soon, the father sat the boy down and handed him the toy. “It’s still broken” the boy exclaimed. The father looked at him and said, “You seem to know how to fix it better than I so I will let you work on it now.” The son was confused about the whole scenario. “But Dad, I don’t know how to fix it.” The father took the toy back and said, “Then let me fix it.” What is the moral of this story? The Father wants to fix your problems. But He can’t fix them if your little hands keep getting in the way. In short, let God be God. Don’t try to fix what God is trying to fix.

Finally, cast your whole care on Him. God wants you to rest and not carry the burden of it all. Jesus died so that your life would be full of abundance and blessings. We often over analyze our situations when God is simply calling us to “be still” and know that He is God. God wants you to trust in Him for your rest. Trust in God for that rest, let Him be your peace, and your life will never be the same. I thank God that He has placed that desire in me to rest in His care and not worry about the trials around me.

Today, what are you going to do to let go?

The Key To Answered Prayers – It’s Not What You May Think

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
-Martin Luther

The other day, I was reading about prayer and was reading in Luke 11 where Jesus was teaching the people how to pray. In this teaching, he told them a story regarding a man who was in need who went to his neighbor and asked for help. The neighbor was inconvenienced and didn’t want to get up. In verse 8, Jesus said a powerful statement; “But I tell you this though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

The phrase shameless persistence is what stuck out to me. I read the note out of my study bible and it reads “Persistence, or boldness, in prayer overcomes our insensitivity, not God’s. To practice persistence does more to change our heart and mind than his, and it helps understand and express the intensity of our need. Persistence in prayer helps us recognize God’s work.”

The question often asked is “If God honors our persistence, then why does it take so long for it to come to pass?” Daniel experienced this in Daniel 10 when he had been praying for the nation. In fact, he prayed and fasted for 21 days before an answer came. The angel of the Lord appeared to Daniel and said in verse 12 “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels came up to help me and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. Now I am here to explain…”

Just prior to that, the messenger told Daniel this in verse 11; “And the man said to me, ‘Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.’” You are so important to God and He values your prayers. In Chapter 9, Gabriel said to Daniel in verse 22, ‘Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying, a command was given.” What a powerful statement! At the very moment that Daniel began praying….a command was given! It wasn’t what he did or who he was but the fact that he began praying and the command was given. That’s how much our God thinks of His kids. Just after, Gabriele said, “and now, I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God.” Again, God found that Daniel was precious to Him.

Daniel wasn’t just anyone special. As we read in Luke 18:1-8, Jesus told a story of a widow woman who came to the judge and asked for justice from her enemy. The judge refused to listen to her case and ignored her. However, the widow woman didn’t give up. She went again and again to the judge asking for this justice to be made on her behalf. What was his response? “I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see she gets justice because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!” Jesus didn’t stop here. He went further to show how God views this type of prayer. “Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to His chosen people who cry out to him day and night?”

There are many of us that are pursuing God and pressing into something that we feel in our spirit that God is going to do. The enemy will make you feel shame in asking and asking and asking and asking…donot stop pressing into what you know God wants to do in your life. Don’t give up. Keep praying. It’s effective and powerful.

How to Unplug and Live to Tell About It

Turn off your email; turn off your phone; disconnect from the Internet; figure out a way to set limits so you can concentrate when you need to, and disengage when you need to. Technology is a good servant but a bad master. – Gretchen Rubin

Have you ever found yourself at a place where you are completely? There are many times in my life, my career, and my dreams, etc., that I felt completely overloaded to the point to where I needed to disconnect from everyone and everything. Once this happened, I began to search what caused me to overload and I found one thing in particular.  I found myself juggling too many things at one time expecting myself in my Superman cape to fly everywhere to conquer every demon known out there.

It reminded me of a time in scripture when a well-known prophet had a nervous breakdown. Perhaps not a nervous breakdown but a complete overload of what was before him.  In I Kings 19, Elijah had just completed kicking the butt of the prophets of Baal. I don’t know if it is theologically correct to include butt in this, however I am writing this and am not always theologically correct so enjoy. Shortly after, the queen threatened his life and he ran for the hills. There wasn’t much warning to the queen’s threat and we don’t really know the full logistics of how the message got to Elijah.  All we know is that he turned tail and ran. It seems odd that he would turn so quickly. Upon his running, he declared that he wanted God to take him out. Great. The man of the hour was chickening out as he was running for the hills. It seems odd that the man who whipped 450 prophets was afraid of one woman. There could be a whole slew of sermons based on this but I will be neutral and keep focus on this one thing.

The question is; why did Elijah completely wig out over the thought of one woman coming after him to kill him? Elijah was totally worn out. Once he had used up all his energy to kick the tails of 450 prophets he had no energy left to fight. When he ran to the hills, God sent food and water down to Elijah and required him to rest. Why? He had to be fully rested in order to accomplish the task at hand.

God knew already that Elijah was completely worn out from fighting. God knew that he (Elijah) needed a few moments to gather himself up and rest. How so? God knew the frailty of man when he wrote the 10 commandments with one of them being honor the Sabbath. All men love that commandment…especially during sports season.

Exhausted, Elijah needed time to recuperate before he handled the next battle in his life. Each one of us men is like Elijah. We need time to recuperate. We need time to rest. Now, I am not saying everyday you tell your Godly Mom that you are going to hang out in the hammock because you need time to “recuperate”. What I am saying that you do need set aside time to stop and rest. You need to put down your I pad, your laptop, your phone, your work, your “fill in the blank here”, and rest. You don’t have to spend four hours a day resting. God doesn’t instruct that at all. However, He does tell us that we need a day to rest and recharge our cells.  God is calling you, friend, to unplug. There is a time that you need to stop and reflect on His word, rest, and recharge your batteries.

Here are four ways to unplug to increase your rest…and live to tell about it.

Turn off your phone. Yes. I wrote that here. Why? Because I am guilty of it. It is easy for me to check my email at 10 o’clock at night when I should be resting.

Turn off your mind. Easier said than done. What I have had to do is to turn off my work two hours from the time I go bed. If I do that, my mind isn’t working and I am rest.

Run away. No, seriously, run away. Before or after work, take 30 minutes to go to a coffee shop or somewhere that you can just sit.

Take a nap. This one was the biggest struggle for me. However, I know that my mind is not any good if I am running on fumes. There were times that I would nap for a few minutes at my car at lunch and that would be enough to get a recharge.

Just before writing this, I laid down to take a 2 hour nap. Did I feel condemned because I know that we have a few things that need to be done? No. Why? They will be there when I wake up. I don’t make a habit of taking a nap every day. However, your body will tell you… “If you don’t stop…I will.” A little while after waking up, I had a revelation of this that I am writing you. Let it be a fresh thought for you.

How To Leave A Legacy Worth Having Without Selling Your Soul

“If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” Dave Ramsey

In the fall of 2004, I found myself in a place of “security.” I had a beautiful truck, a decent paying job, friends, and freedom. I moved into a pretty decent apartment in Memphis and I was ready to conquer the world. That was until I was not expecting to be fired in the middle of the month of December. I had accumulated a lot of debt at that time and had no means to pay it. At one point, I worked three jobs and paid as much as I could to get it all taken care of. I had always told myself “I’ll charge it to the card and pay it off at the end of the month.” The old saying “the road to ruin was paved with good intentions” was the motto at this point in my life. I knew that it wouldn’t all be good when at the end of the month if I had a job.

Less than 6 months later I found myself at the Shelby County Court House filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy and living back with my parents. I had always been the and now I had to face the music of my poor decisions. The shackles and chains of this bankruptcy haunted me for many years after it happened.

I met my beautiful wife to be in 2006 after I moved to St. Louis to start my life over. I have always tried to be open and honest about my past with anyone to whom I had relationship with. I was met with a lot of grace and mercy regarding this past from her and her parents. At this point, I had not incurred anymore debt; however we weren’t doing anything to attack it after we got married. It wasn’t until 2008 that I finally listened to a well-known expert on money that the borrower was truly a slave to the lender. I truly became a slave to those of whom I owned money to.

Sara and I began the journey of freedom in 2008. We found ourselves with nearly $14,000 in debt from my student loans (FYI…Student Loans are not able to be bankrupted unless you’re dead.) To you, that may scoff and say “I wish I only owe that much.” But for a couple who had only been married a short time with one child on the way and an income below poverty leave; this was impossible. Then we decided to throw a wrench into the gear. Sara was pregnant with our 2nd child and we made the decision for her to come home full-time. We knew that God was telling us to make this move that made absolutely no sense and we received a lot of opposition.

The Word tells us if we honor God, He will honor us. At this point, we had made little headway on paying off this debt and we were burning out quick.  In July of 2011, I found myself at a crisis. Our lives could have been a country song with all the stuff that was happening.  At this time, I had a major car accident which totaled my transportation to get me to work every day while at the same time the head gasket blew on our van that carried my kids around. We began to ask where was God in the midst of this. We could not understand why if we gave our tithes and blessed others that we would have to go through this. We just could not seem to get a break.

We had vowed to never have a car payment again and we were in deep trouble.  After a few months with nothing seeming to come from the Lord, we got a check for a sum of money that would allow us to buy a car. It wouldn’t be anything fancy but it would be something that I could afford to buy. With that, I was on a search for another vehicle.

I just wasn’t finding something that would settle. I wasn’t snooty about it but I wanted a decent car. I finally put something on Facebook and I got a lead. “We have a car if you want to buy it. I will send you some pictures. ” This was the ugliest car I had seen. However, I know how God works so I went to look at it. Long story short, I fell in love with this car. Ugly and all. I also got a super deal on it. So super that the money that was given to us covered the car and when I got home, I got online to check our balance on one of the loans and I had enough to pay the loan in full. What? God used that to do what?

My point is, if you let God do His job, He will relieve you of bondage. He will release you from slavery. What happened next was even more of a miracle. We received another check 4 months later and that paid off all of the other debt. If you honor God, He will honor you.

Why tell you all this? What does this have to do with leaving a legacy without selling your soul?I want to encourage you leave a legacy of greatness to your children.  When you have the shackles and chains around you of debt, you have less that you can use to put into the Kingdom of God. If you are in bondage to debt, you have less that you can invest in your savings and in the future of your children’s education.

Friend, I want to see you succeed! Get ready to break off the shackles and the chains of debt! Once you do, you will begin to save money for a legacy for your children not have to sell your soul in the process.

Let your light shine brighter for men!

How to Put Fear in its Place

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” Mark Twain

Recently, I read Jon Acuff’s book Start which is a New York Times Best Seller that tackles the issue of staying average and moving into awesome. It’s easy for us to stay average as fathers. When we get up in the morning, it is much easier to pop something in the toaster and run out the door than to sit down and spend time in the Word. It is easier to run through the day living mediocre and never changing than to make an effort to become a better father, husband, employee, etc. Right now, I am at that place. I looked at myself in the mirror recently and said that I don’t want to be that parent that sits on the couch and watches television all day. I don’t want to be the man who says “maybe tomorrow.” I don’t want to ever stop growing as a father, as a husband, as a leader, etc.

Right now, I am at a place where I am seeing our dreams potentially come to pass. It is here I am reminded of what Paul said in I Corinthians 16:9, Paul had arrived in Corinth and was teaching the word of God. He made a bold statement that forever changed the paradigm of my thinking. Has anyone ever told you that if God is in it then it will be easy? Paul found this to be untrue. “For a wide door of opportunity for effectual (service) has opened to me (there, a great promising one), and (there are) many adversaries.” Paul was getting ready to unleash some great things from God and it was not going to be easy for him.

I am there. I see great things that are great opportunities for my family. However, there are days of great opposition whether it be people or finances or whatever the case may be, there is a great opposition to you bringing your family higher. Jon’s subtitle for his book is “punching fear in the face.” In that, he talks about the different voices that we hear as people of vision. Fathers hear the same voices when leading their families. His suggestion, which I agree with, is to write those voices down. His theory is that fear is an invisible foe and once it is brought to sight, it isn’t as big as it seems to be. Often, we find that those voices are lies and we have to debunk those lies. We have to question those lies. As fathers, we are facing a great challenge in coming up higher with our families, in our careers, and in our dreams. Let me encourage you today to keep your eye on the prize, debunk the lies, and get ready to see God move on your wildest dreams!

Jon Acuff is a New York Times Best Selling Author, Speaker, father of two , and a husband of one. Jon is currently working on a new chapter in his life. You can follow him at www.jonacuff.me .

Proving God | When Giving Up Is Almost an Option

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
Galatians 6:9

I remember saying that time and time again as a young person in the faith. I always made excuses on giving money in the offering whether it be that there be an important event coming up or “I didn’t have it.” I came to a cross road in my walk with God in 2006 while I was starting over in life.

Fresh out of bankruptcy I moved to Saint Louis, Missouri where I began my life as a file room clerk at Washington University. I didn’t have a lot but that was alright with me because it was better than nothing. Everything seemed to fall into place for me while I was getting settled in my new apartment in North County. Shortly after my move, I started dating my wife to be and we attended the church that she grew up in and every Sunday there would be a teaching on tithing. It would honestly bother me because I started to feel like most people feel when they hear the teacher get up and talk about it; it’s always about the money.

I decided one day to challenge God on this principle. Every time the message was given, it was always given with Malachi 3 where the people of Israel were challenged to test God on their giving. As I began this journey, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect but what happened next changed my perspective on it. In the first week of my tithing; I blew out two tires within days and my car was broken into. That’s not encouraging for a new tither, but I was determined to see God move on this principle.

Let’s fast forward seven years later to today. At the time of this writing, my income hasn’t gone up substantially. I haven’t seen a new BMW plop down in front of me. I haven’t had a gold watch fall into my lap. I haven’t received promotions and increases like many of my brothers and sisters in Christ claim will happen when I tithe. Wait, don’t shut me down yet…I have a point. In Psalms, David wrote “I was young and now I am old yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.” Sara and I have never lacked anything that we need. We do not have a fancy house or fancy cars but we have a home that is warm in the winter and cool in the summer, we have money in the bank for a rainy day, we have children that are healthy, and no debt besides our home.

Well, that’s fine and dandy for you Will but I am up to my ears in debt and I can’t afford to keep the lights on!” I remember those days. This message isn’t for the millionaire. This message is for the dad who has been struggling with three jobs and hasn’t had a decent paycheck. This is for the mom who  is trying to get his children fed. This message is for the person who has been struggling to get his mortgage paid for.

Friend, this is to encourage you that there is light at the end of the tunnel. This is to encourage you that if you don’t quit there will be a harvest!. This is to encourage you that when you get that pink slip or that red letter on your door to focus not on the paper but on the Provider! Don’t you give up because some man told you that you would never make it! Don’t you quit because you get some kind of notice on your door because you didn’t have the money at the time to pay it! Don’t you quit because some voice is telling you lies and filling you with negativity! No! You push in and press into what God has for you! I am not saying God is going to send you a BMW but what I am saying is that My God WILL Supply ALL your needs! In Matthew 6, Jesus said that if you being fathers who are evil will provide food for your children how much more will your Heavenly Father provide for you? That will preach on its own right there! God is in the business of providing!

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5 Habits of an Unemployed Rock Star

 

Have you recently found yourself unemployed? Whatever the reason for your departure, you have entered in the new world of endless hours and countless opportunities. It is easy to get home from the initial meeting and throw in the towel in life. Perhaps just giving up is an option. The only problem with that is…you’re a rock star and rock stars don’t quit. So what do you do now that you are an Unemployed Rock Star? I have five keys that I am finding that works in my life as I go through this journey.

  1. Read. I found myself at a place where I didn’t want to read. Why? I have the gift of cynicism. You know – why try if it is going to fail anyway, right? Reading helps jog the mind into activity and also grows the knowledge of the person who is reading. When you read while you are unemployed, you are more likely to get out of any funk that you are in.
  2. Stay on Schedule. I was tempted at one point to just stay in bed and not get up until noon. I didn’t want to be on a schedule because I had just spent the last twenty years doing just that. If that is the case, why did I stay on a schedule? It gave me purpose. That’s right, I am not just aimlessly floating around the universe. Keeping on a schedule will help you in your job hunt too and self-employment endeavors as well.
  3. Stay Active. Who doesn’t like to sit around all day and binge watch the season of their favorite shows? This may be okay for a day or so, but like lobster to the rich…it will get old. Its important that you get up and get out. Make a plan to walk. Make a plan to run if you can. Make a plan to move off the couch and into the office to look for a job. Simple steps to staying active will help you become even more the rock star that you already are.
  4. Keep LookingThere are millions of jobs out there that you don’t qualify for. There are thousands of companies that are not looking for you. Here’s the kicker – YOU HAVE CHOICES! That means, you can keep looking until you land that amazing opportunity that you have been looking for.
  5. Don’t Give Up Hope. This might be the most important part of this piece. Why? When you have looked and looked over and over again for a job, it is easy to get depressed. It is easy to get discouraged. I have been there! You can’t give up hope. Too many people need you. I don’t mean your family and friends – they are important. I mean the world needs you. Why? Rock stars don’t get to where they are by themselves. They have a community that knows their potential.

Okay. Now you have 5 ways to set in a great habit. What are you going to do next?

5 Facts About President’s That You May Not Know

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

In light of today being President’s Day, I could not go without acknowledging some interesting facts about the nation’s highest office. I, for one, am a huge supporter of the office of the President of the United States. Though we may all disagree with the way they may do things, our heart is to pray for them.

Here are 5 facts that you may not know about the highest office in the land.

5. John F. Kennedy was an avid golfer…and he was good at it.

4.Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826. The 50th anniversary of the United States independence from Britain was a day that was celebrated in the known country. The excitement was most likely contagious. Two of the founding fathers of this nation shared the same date of passing from this life to the next. These two men were fierce opponents politically and best of friends.

3. John Quincy Adams was the 6th President and the only one to have served politically after being President.  He was the son of John Adams and a man who lived a life hard at work for the American people. After leaving office, he was the U.S. Representative from Massachusetts.

 

2. Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th President of the United States making him the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms.

1. George Washington was an honorary citizen of France.  Because of his “writings and courage served the cause of liberty” French cause, he was awarded this honor. He did, however, never visited France.

5 Ways To Stand Out Above the Crowd

“The Lord does not look at the things men look at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

Have you ever felt like you were lost in obscurity? Maybe you stepped into a position that you didn’t believe that you were fully equipped for. Perhaps there was a time when you knew that you would be an amazing candidate for a position but found yourself lost in the shuffle of other candidates. This is the perfect time to take a moment to prepare yourself to stand out. I don’t mean that you need to be obnoxious or petty. What I am saying is that perhaps it is time for you rise up above the competition and get at it.

I know – sounds like I am making a sales pitch for a self-help book. Certainly, that is not the case…or is it? The Bible – which I lean on for instruction- is a self-help book. It is a guide to help you get through the tough times and to celebrate in the good times. There are multiple ways that you can stand out in the eyes of God and man.

1 – Be a person of integrity. To me, this is a dying art. How often do we hear someone say something that is completely untrue? Do you know the name of a person that is habitually late for everything? I can attest to both of these ideas. If you are a person of integrity – you will certainly stand out in today’s society.

2- Be a person who is genuine. It is hard to believe that I have to mention that, however, it’s true. Do you know someone that is completely fake? Yes – someone, who is one way here yet at home they are another way!

3- Be a hard worker.  Seriously? It is true. When others seem to work less, working hard is noticeable and you will surely stand out.

4- Be fearless. What I mean about this is that it is vital that you are confident towards your leader.  A leader, a true one, does not want someone groveling to them. They do not want someone who is constantly fearful of asking questions or taking initiative. Take the first step and be fearless.

5- Be Smart. I certainly would hope that you wouldn’t want to be dumb. Obviously, if you are reading a blog on this – you are not dumb. What I am saying, however, is to be smart. Read. Learn.Grow. Don’t limit yourself by your position or by your pay grade. I hear this phrase often and want to scream – “that’s above my pay grade.” You are right! And you will always stay at that pay grade!

“Be abnormal; being normal is too predictable for your brand.”
– Bernard Kelvin Clive

Your life is your brand. Every place you go, every person that you run into, every face you see; each area of your life is a brand. I love the above quote because it shows that in order to stand out – you have to be abnormal. So…go and be abnormal!

He Who Is Faithful

 

“It is amazing. The simple the knowledge that God is faithful. He is not faithless. He is faith-full, meaning He is full of faith. He is not One who leaves us hanging in the balance, yet He is the One who helps us to become more than we could ever imagine. When we are weak, He makes us stronger.”

Those words above are great, awesome words. They might even inspire you and bring you to a place of hope. Let me be transparent with you for just a moment. Eight years ago, I might have written those words and spoke those words, but I have not always lived out those words. I was rattled with anxiety, fear, worry, etc. I often wondered if TV cameras were following me around to get ideas for the show Monk. This show is based around a detective who is OCD and had fears about every single thing. That was me. There was a perpetual recording device that was replaying every single action that I had ever done in my life (good and bad) and it wore me out watching it.
I still battled with this recorder from time to time. I often wonder if it will ever truly go away. As a parent, I have had to be careful with this. It is easy for you and me as parents to replay every single action to our children that they have done wrong. It’s even easier to for us to keep account of it until the end of all eternity. We will bring it up just make a point. We will use it like a wet noodle making sure that our every single thought revolved around it.

Here’s the thing that I had to learn about that recorder as a parent; it does me no good to have it on. I believe that if we turned off the recorder that our children would have a better life. They wouldn’t wonder if we were mad at them. They wouldn’t coward back in fear because they did something wrong. Now, I don’t want it to be an instrument to condone sin, that’s not it at all. But it does mean that my kids will not have to go along in life wondering if Dad remembers something that I did 25 years ago. I know people that live that way and they wonder why they are sick all the time because their bodies are on replay mode all the time. Turn the tape player off, Dad. It’s time to unwind. It’s time to relax. It’s time to quit trying to find the rewind button. It’s time to move forward. I have to work on this too, friend. It’s not something that comes naturally. It is something that comes from the Holy Spirit to help.

“I am the Lord, and I do not change.” Malachi 3:6

Something that I am steadily learning as a new job seeker is that I have to put my trust fully in the faithful God. I can’t sit here and just say it. I have to believe it and live it. While I am looking I am having to trust Him to direct me. It has not been easy. As a matter of fact this morning before I typed this I had anxiety roll up on me. Not creep. Roll. By the scripture that is helping me right this seconds is the one above “I am the Lord, and I do not change.” Though we waver….He does not.

Find trust in the One who is Faithful. The picture in this post is a photo of our mailbox full of bills that I just paid. Two things could happen here. I could rise up in fear because I just dropped that amount of money into the mail. Or I could be excited and relieved that the One who is faithful…paid for them all.

Don’t Settle

 

“There is no passion to be found playing small in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
– Nelson Mandela

Recently, I lost my day job. For nearly ten years, I woke up at 4:30 am and drove to what I believed would be my forever job, my ending career, only to find out the contrary. I woke up on normal Monday morning to find that I would be coming home in a not so normal way. At first, I was hurt. Later, I realized something that was unusual. I found myself in a position that I had not been in for a long time and that I something new – choices! 

Many people began to recommend new jobs, calling connections for me, and encouraging me throughout this process. A well meaning relative said in regards to any job opportunities that came up “put your hand to anything and God will honor it.” The only problem with that statement is this – it is false. I know – hear me out on this. If you do not use wisdom and settle for just anything that comes across your path then you haven’t accomplished anything. You are simply settling.

Sunday, I picked up an application for a fast food place. I started to fill it out but I had a hesitation. The question came up in my heart – am I settling? Now, I am not saying that you should hold out until you lose everything. I am just saying that you should not settle for a job that you know that you are going to hate or lose your soul over. Don’t settle for just anything. Ask for direction and wisdom. Move forward on what you believe is your next opportunity.

 

 

Kindle Your Gift

“I recall your sincere faith that was alive first in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am sure is in you. Because of this I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
                                                                                                                   2 Timothy 1:5-7

Can I be completely honest? Okay, it’s pretty clear that I am brutally honest at times, but can I have the permission to be frank? Humor me with what I am going to share with you today about what I think about our future – it is exactly how you want it to be. You cannot desire success and not follow the life style to get you there. You cannot bum out of life and waste your gifting expecting success. You have to kindle that gift that is in you.

I know that it is easy to become cynical when it comes to hearing this thought. For nearly ten years, I believed this and saw no results in it. Unfortunately, there are people in this world that don’t want you to succeed no matter how hard you try. At the end of the day, I would rather kindle my gift with the hope of something better than believe that nothing better will ever occur in life.

Now, in previous articles, I have talked about taking your future into your own hands so I won’t bore you with that. However, I want to encourage you to find your gift and kindle it. Find that thing, that activity, or whatever you want to call it and cultivate it. You were created for more. You were created to thrive. So go. Thrive!