Wednesday, December 1, 2010

So this is Christmas

John Lennon wrote a little song called “ Happy Christmas” in 1971, and I like the lyrics. Now, while I appreciate the Beatles, I am not the biggest fan. And though most of Lennon’s later songs were a little too “hippie” for me, this song resonates with me. The song goes:

And so this is Christmas

For weak and for strong

For rich and the poor ones

The world is so wrong

I put a challenging question on a few social networking sites this week and got an interesting response. The question: “Was Jesus born to free us from sin and enslave us in consumer debt because of his birthday? It started a debate on the date of Jesus’ actual birthday rather than the larger issue of debt as a result of the holiday. I think it’s because many people are not willing to curtail their spending.

I honestly don’t believe that it’s Jesus’ goal for people to amass large amounts of consumer debt in His name. The reality is that in this economy people don’t have the money to spend a large amount of money on gifts, but as the black Friday rush indicates, most people will continue with Christmas as usual. To that I agree with Lennon in that the world is so wrong.

Many people could get no Christmas presents under their trees, and it would not affect their standard of living one bit. We don’t need others to charge up their credit cards in an effort to make us feel more loved by them. So this is Christmas? Most people can barely remember what they got last year for Christmas, not to mention who gave it to them.

It is a shame that we have reduced this holiday to such a low state. This is the one time a year that the world turns their attention to Christ. Why not make this season about Him and not about regret or guilt over spending money we don’t have, for gifts people don’t need. That does not mean that we can’t give gifts because Jesus was the greatest present the world has ever known. But, how about giving what we can, and making no excuses for what we can’t. Let’s make Christmas about Jesus.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

So Thankful (the poem)

I’m thankful for my life

I’m thankful for my wife

I’m thankful for my son and how he fought for life

I’m thankful for the good

And even for the bad

I’m thankful for the lessons some of which I wish I never had

I’m thankful for the God’s grace

I’m thankful for His love

Through which the race I run is guided from above

I’m thankful for dad, a man I never knew

Had to learn to be a man here without you

I’m thankful for my mom, who tried to hold me down

Cause daddy played the record, bumped it, and skip town

I’m thankful for the days, back when we were so poor

Don’t got all I want, but much more than before

I’m thankful for my family those who I love so much

When days away I long to see and feel your touch

Especially for my wife, my one, my side, my heart

Please God through death only shall we part

My handsome little son, who brings me so much joy

God’s not done with daddy baby miracle boy

I’m thankful for my friends, those who care and pray

I hope my life encourages to seize the day

I’m thankful for my future, the things yet come to pass

The dreams, the plans, the more of what life eternal has

I’m thankful for all you, reading this even now

I pray thankfulness in you would always much abound

So thankful!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Football Lessons

Think on this…I love football. I have played the game as long as I can remember. My family has a history of producing great players and I have two cousins that went to the NFL and more that could have. I played all the way through high school and made an intentional decision not to play in college, although I was recruited and could have done well. After college I played flag football and coached my team to 2 league championships. I am even now the coach of my wife’s women’s team. I LOVE FOOTBALL! It played such a pivotal role in my character development and I was reminded of one area recently. That is, my resilience.

It was my freshman year and we had an amazing team. Not everyone on the team was a “superstar”, but the handful we had should have led us to an undefeated season. I was one of the few. But, during a scrimmage I dislocated my thumb and was out for 4 weeks. My friend Damon (who is no longer with us) had a disagreement with the coach and quit. The week I returned to play, the guys holding things together Mike R., Derrick C., and Jamie F. decided to skip a practice and they were ineligible to play. So, I was maybe one of 2 stars left, and I was a little rusty and outfitted with a soft cast on my arm. It didn’t help that we were playing the only team that could beat us, our hated rivals, Florence.

I made up my mind that it was up to me to win the game. Once the game started, I GOT POUNDED! Our main play was, hand the ball to Damian and watch him get his head knocked off. It seemed like everyone on the team had given up. Well, that sent me into a rage. I would get knocked down, and would jump back up, “Hit me harder”. I refused to give in. I argued with my team, the coaches, and the players on the other side. My coaches begged me to keep my composure, but I was not having it. There was no way I was going to let the other team beat me. We lost 44 to nothing. But, at the end of the game all the coaches from Florence shook my hand and told me how impressed they were, with my play. It was a moral victory, but a horrible loss, the only one we would suffer that season.

The lesson was worth the beating. I discovered that the harder the odds were against me, the tougher I became. It would serve as a theme for my life. When I was not accepted to college, I fought hard to get in and even earned better grades than I had in my life. When I was told that my wife was too good for me (I tend to agree), I worked to make myself a man that would be worthy of her. When my son was born with a brain injury, Daddy stepped in and fought for his son. I didn’t know any scripture at that point in my life, but God revealing one in me. “If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.” Proverbs 24:10 Football showed me how to not fail under pressure. So, no matter what you are going through, don’t quit. No matter how hard the challenge, don’t give up. Others will need your strength…Just a thought.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

China (The People)

Think on this…The crowning jewel of my trip in China apart from some of the most flavorful food I have eaten in my life was the amazing people. Once again nothing in China is, as it seems. I was anticipating a feeling of oppression and control. But, the Chinese people have many more freedoms than we would ever imagine. Outside of all the Asian people and architecture things felt mostly like anywhere here in the states. Conversation was similar to that here, although as a foreigner we were told to avoid the 3 Ts Tibet, Taiwan, and the Tiananmen Square incident. There is a major since that change is in the air and the country is becoming more modern and western.

The Chinese people are exceedingly sweet. I didn’t see one unfriendly face as I endeavored to get out amongst the people. I had the opportunity to visit street markets and by the street food (okay I am trying not to talk about the food), I went through the subway, I spent time on a college campus, and I visited 3 churches. I had an authentic Chinese experience, but all things were consistent, the people are the highlight of the country.

I visited two schools while there. One was the 4th ranked college in China and the other was a smaller less prestigious one. The top ranked school was much larger and you could tell that this was some of the best students the country had to offer. The students were really smart and their English was as good as mine. They were the future of the country and they felt the pressure from both their families and their nation. The second group of students really grabbed my heart, as they were most likely ones who didn’t test as well and they didn’t carry the same sense of confidence. Both sets of students were very knowledgeable about the world and they seemed to not necessarily embrace the leading parties philosophy.

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Trick or Treat

Think on this…we don’t celebrate All Hallows Eve or Halloween. We understand its origins and it’s not something we endorse. We don’t judge people, or even Christians who do; it’s just not our thing. There are no ghouls and goblins on our door, or scarecrows in our yard. But, we do give out candy to the neighborhood children. I know that it might seem slightly contradictory, but read on to get a better glimpse into our reasoning. Think about it, when else will children from all over the neighborhood come to our door? So we see it as a chance to love on those in our community.

When I was a child I remember trick or treating. I am from a small town where many of the homes are right next to one another, that provides for great candy collection. We would forgo the traditional plastic bags or buckets, because bag snatching was a big thing and they simply could not hold all of the goodies we would collect. I would come home with a pillowcase full of candy that would take us hours to sort. The one thing I remember vividly was the homes that would give us the best candy. To this day I still see one house in particular. I am in my 30’s and I still remember a good Halloween house. Someone had an impact on my life because they gave me candy! That is crazy, but my point exactly.

We believe whole-heartedly that we are to touch the live of those around us. To be honest, it’s a bit creepy for a grown man to strike up conversation with children. So, now that we are the cool candy house both our neighbors and their children know who we are, that we care, and we are safe. We didn’t go cheap on them, we gave out full size candy, and it caused a ruckus. After our house kids were saying, “full sized” in the street. One young lady said, “You’re my new best friend”. Now that we are BFFs maybe they will read the scripture card we attached. I know that some would argue the pagan nature of the holiday and I would agree and simply remind you of the pagan nature of our Christmas trees and Yule Logs (look it up). We are not opposed to using this holiday to touch the lives of our neighbors. The Bible says, I became like a person weak in faith to win those who are weak in faith. I have become everything to everyone in order to save at least some of them.” 1 Cor. 9:22 The alternative is to hide in our home making a statement nobody will ever hear…Just a thought.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

China (The Country)

Think on this…Many people have been asking about my recent trip to China. I figured I would explain my insights through a few blogs. I do understand the interest people have in that country as very few ever visits this mysterious land. It made sense that the first thing we were told was that nothing in China is, as it seems. I found that to be the theme of my time there.

The purpose of my trip was to learn how I might send students there to teach conversational English to Chinese students. I must admit much of the allure was the opportunity to visit the country. Yes, I always love the chance to touch the live of college students. After all I am the College Impact guy. It’s become a life’s work, but the thought that I could be in a country many people will never see was a big deal.

When I hit the ground in China I was a bit overwhelmed. I am used to being a minority here in the states, but 1 in 1.6 billion is very different. People would stand a few feet away from me and just stare. I was polite and said, “nǐ hǎo” and they responded with hello and would continue looking at me. This was not rudeness on their part it was simply many of them had never seen a black person before. It is an all-Asian world so a black person in their context is just an oddity…

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Change the World

Think on this…Last week was intense and filled with opportunities to make a difference in this world. I think we wrestle with such a lofty goal as changing the world because we see both the greatness of that ambition and the weakness of our own humanity. I believe that this is natural and honest although not the most spiritual response. God has high expectations for us His people, and we will not see the full expansion of His kingdom in the earth unless we choose to follow Him into His prescribed future.

You see I have led a hip-hop environment called Destinations, geared toward reaching urban young adults for almost 10 years now. We have a history of having provocative shows with titles like Naked, Blow, Safeword. We have pushed the boundaries so much that even our more progressive church is a little freaked out at times. We had an idea recently to have a show that married our usual evangelistic focus with a cause. We decided to focus on child sex trafficking. With eighty million children being trafficked for sex, this was more than needed.

We decided to partner with both local and international sex slavery organizations to increase our level of impact. Well this thing took off, and this little event that has had mostly been a local movement got a lot of attention. I was on a national radio broadcast, and we had two media outlets at the event to cover the story. We raised money for a local project as over four hundred new girls are trafficked in Georgia a month, and we raised funds to make a difference in Asia…