Archives for the month of: June, 2014

20140622_100201-1On Monday, February 17, 2014 I started a countdown to what I thought was going to be my emancipation.   I had two target dates. The first was March 28, the date of my very first production—What’s Your Status: An HIV Awareness Story. The second was May 5. In my heart, I believed that was the date that the tides of my life were going to change. However, May 5th came and went without much fanfare. In fact, the entire month of May was rather uneventful, yet, in my heart I felt I still needed to continue the countdown. As each day went by, I crossed it off my calendar. I was in unknown anticipation of something spectacular yet to come. It wasn’t until the end of this weekend that I realized what I was counting down to.

Before I continue, I must go off on a brief tangent. A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my uncle. We were discussing the topic of evangelism. Our discussion about sharing the gospel stemmed from an earlier conversation that I had with an acquaintance who had questioned me about Christianity and my relationship with Jesus. My acquaintance asked me whether I believed that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. My answer was simply, yes. Now, I say the word “simply” in gest because it wasn’t as simple as just saying yes. I have found that people who question the authenticity of Jesus have a hard time believing that He is the only way. Truthfully, if I were not a Christian, I too might have a hard time acknowledging the fact that someone that I didn’t believe in controlled my destiny—my fate—my eternity.   However, the fallacy of that argument is that belief does not precipitate truth. Whether or not someone choses to believe in a particular principle (or person) does not negate or validate the authenticity of the argument. Needless to say, I found the conversation with my acquaintance uncomfortable. I felt silently attacked. I felt judged. I couldn’t gage whether this individual’s questions were genuine interest or whether they were an attempt to be argumentative. Nonetheless, I answered the questions that were asked of me as best as I could. Even after the conversation was over, I still felt a little unsettled. I wondered whether I had said all the “right things” and whether I said them the “right way.”

I relayed my ambiguity about my conversation with my acquaintance to my uncle, and the very first thing that he said shook my core and resonated with my soul. My uncle reminded me that long before anyone talks to an individual about God, God has already revealed Himself to that person. In John 15:16, God said that we did not choose Him. He chose us. The second point that my uncle made was that no one, single person is ever responsible for the salvation of another. We all fall in line on a chain of messenger. Each person plays their specific role in delivering the message. Furthermore, God uses everything in and of the Earth to draw His creations closer to Himself. You see, it’s never about us. It’s always about Him. When we try to take on the role of conversion, we are placing way too much pressure on ourselves—pressure that God never intended for us to bear. The best way that many of us can share the Gospel of Christ is by sharing our lives and our stories. How we live and what we do should convey what we are trying to preach. People will seldom listen to our words if our actions fall short.

So that was my tangent. Back to the countdown. This past weekend, I finally realized that the thing that I had been subconsciously counting down to was the Vous Christian conference that I attended over the weekend. It was a life altering event. Thousands of young adults packed the Filmore Auditorium in Miami Beach, Florida and celebrated Jesus. In fact, they were blowing the roof off of that auditorium. It was spectacular. The preaching was great and the worship was amazing. As the weekend drew to a close, I realized that the reason that I had been counting down was that God was preparing my heart. He was drawing me to Himself. It’s great to know that even in 2014, God still choses me, and He also choses You!

Advertisements

I usually don’t post other people’s video, but I love this song. It exemplifies the power of God. “When Jesus says ‘yes,’ nobody can say ‘no.'” It’s true of what I believe and what the Bible says. No man can curse what God has blessed.  Check out my post from Feb 13, 2013.
https://thatnextlevelthinking.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/no-one-can-curse-what-god-has-blessed/

It’s that time of year. It’s time for a mid-year check in.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get amped up about the future on New Year’s Eve? At the beginning of the year, we feel as if anything is possible. We fill our journals with plans, resolutions and declarations. Unfortunately, somewhere around March, we start to lose fizzle. Our dreams and aspirations start to wane. That is why I think that it’s important to do a mid-year assessment—a mid-year check in. Look back at those New Year’s resolutions. Where are you now in comparison to where you said that you wanted to be? Revisiting your New Year’s goals will help to realign your focus and keeps your dreams and visions omnipresent.

Yesterday, I pursued the pages of my journal and was reminded of the declarations that I made at the beginning of the year. Few were complete.   Some were in process, and an even greater number were not even started. Truthfully, I had even forgotten about some of them. I had a few “oh yeah” moment when I read through some of my goals. What about you? What were your New Year’s resolutions? What things did you want to accomplish? Please know that it’s not too late to pick up where you left off. Dust yourself off and start over. If you have been trudging along, keep plowing.   James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him,”(NIV). There is also encouragement found in Galatians 6:9, which says that “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” (NIV).   The key here is: Do not give up. Revive those dreams. Dust off those goal, and keep it moving!

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will crush your spirit, break your heart and demolish your dreams. For those of you who have ever heard that old childhood adage, you know that isn’t quite how the saying goes. In fact, that playground saying taught us, as children, that words are meaningless and non-impactful. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Words ARE powerful. They mold and shape us. It was with words that God created the heavens and the earth. Words have the ability to create and destroy. That is why it is so hard to escape the clutches of words, particularly negative criticisms.

When trying to overcome the aftermath of criticism with positivity, the ratio is seldom 1:1. Rarely, do we reverse the effects of one incident of spoken negativity with only one kind word. Oftentimes, the antidote for the venomous sting of harsh words is a superfluous amount of positive affirmations. Our human nature has a natural proclivity to negativity. We would sooner believe the worse about ourselves (and others) before subscribing to a kinder truth. Why do we accept harsh words as true, and why do we deliver them as fact? One of the best answers to that question came to me from a quote in Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s book “The Great Gatsby:”

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Many of us are like Tom and Daisy. We are careless and reckless, particularly with our words. We go through life regurgitating our unstrained thoughts on our unsuspecting victims and then we retreat into our ignorance, our wealth, and in some cases, our apologies. We hide behind popular colloquialism like, “I keep it real” or “I call it as I see it.” Here’s a truth: We don’t just get to impose our “truths” on others. We don’t have a right to just say what we feel—uncensored, unadulterated and unfiltered. Our words should edify and administer grace to those hearing it (Ephesians 4:29). It should not cause people to retreat into despair and desperation. We should also note that not everyone is equipped or called to deliver criticism. Criticism that is truly meant to correct should be delivered with love and with consideration given to the appropriate timing. Like they say, “timing is everything.” Constructive criticism should also be devoid of hatred, pride and/or malice. In other words, it should come from a good place.

In a perfect world, people would have tact and decorum. But our world, and the people in it, are far from perfect. So what can you do to disarm the sting of hurtful words? Below are my top ten ways.

  1. Know who God is!
  2. Know who you are! Know that everyone on this earth, including you, was made on purpose and for a purpose. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
  3. Know that you are not perfect, and that’s okay. Know that it is okay to be human.
  4. Know that not every criticism is a personal attack. Sometimes, other people have issues that have nothing to do with you.
  5. Learn to be introspective. Sometimes, you have to learn to look deeper at yourself. Even criticisms that come from a negative place might have some merit. Weigh the message and the source. Apply what’s applicable and discard the rest. The person you are today should always strive to be better than yesterday’s version.
  6. Know that you cannot please everybody. Strive to be your best, but know that some people will always be disappointed.
  7. Learn to laugh at yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  8. Learn to laugh at others. Don’t always take people too seriously.
  9. Develop relationships with people who will keep you morally, spiritually and personally accountable.
  10. Don’t just wait for others to affirm you, compliment yourself. Sometimes, you have to learn how to encourage yourself.

ThatNextLevelThinking

The other day, I was contemplating an important decision. During my deliberation, I got to the point where I was more concerned about the players involved than I was the decision itself. Suddenly, it dawned on me that oftentimes, we shortchange ourselves by giving other people too much credit in and over our lives. God reminded me that no man has control over me. Whatever God has ordained in my life WILL come to fruition. Later that day I became impassioned by the topic, so much so that I poured out my thoughts on paper. The result is this poem called Le Go! I was goofing offing with Microsoft Movie Maker earlier and came up with the above video. Enjoy.

View original post

“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences,” (Proverbs 18:21, NLT).

Oftentimes, we forget just how much power our spoken declarations have over our lives. Recently, I read a story about an athlete who, as a child, told his mother, who had been affected by breast cancer at the time, that he would purchase a pink Cadillac with pink rims for her when he “grew up.” Years later, he was able to fulfill that promise. A few years prior to that story, I heard about a famous actress who, as a child, had promised to buy her mom a diamond ring when she became rich and famous. She too was able to fulfill her childhood promise to her mother. I doubt that as children either of those two individuals knew that they were “prophesying” over their lives. Impregnated in that young girl’s promise to her mother was the declaration that she was going to become a famous actress. The reflection of those two stories made me think of my own life. There have been times where I too have spoken in “jest,” and my “declarations” have come to fruition.

Today, I want to challenge all of us to prophesy over our lives. We need to go back to the days of our childlike faith—a time where we thought any and everything was possible. We need to speak over our lives and declare and proclaim our futures.  We need to live in bold faith like Abraham did.

16 So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. 17 That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.”This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.

18 Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” 19 And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. 23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God, (Roman 4:16-20, NLT).

It’s so amazing how our past experiences shape who we are. While my career as a journalist, can be summarized by a summer beat reporter position and periodic freelance assignments, I still remember my early experiences that shaped my journalism training. One of my favorite projects was a semester-long assignment in one of my upper level journalism courses where each student in the class was assigned to a different city in Miami-Dade County. My city was El Portal, which I had never even heard of prior to that class. We each had to pick a random house in our assigned city and find out as much as we could about the homeowner based solely on public records. It’s amazing how so much of what we assume to be our private affairs is actually public record. Driver’s License, marriage/divorce licenses/certificates, death/birth certificates and property tax information are all public records. Now, I must state that my assignment was prior to the frequent availability of online public access websites.  Back then, there was an awful lot of leg work involved.  I actually had to know which jurisdiction my city belonged.  I needed to know where to look. Today, I could probably have access to someone in Juno, Alaska.  Now, you just need to know how to turn on a computer (or in some cases, use a phone). That brings me to today’s topic—privacy.

One of my favorite books of all-time is 1984. George Orwell’s classic, which was published in 1948, was far advanced for its time. For anyone who has ever read the book, it is a foreshadowing of modern society. Big brother is watching. Both in the book and today’s culture, there is no assumption of privacy. Just type in anyone’s name into an Internet query, and you could find out almost everything there is to know about them, AND their families. While I can understand the argument that the government requires access to gathered information to maintain the safety of its citizens and the Republic. I cannot understand why the average citizen should have access to that information. The argument of personal, individual safety is invalid. It’s also reflective of our entitlement generation—we have a right to (fill in the blank). Such thinking is actually dangerous. Whenever a society has more rights than responsibility, disaster is eminent. More often, I think the access to “public” information places private citizens in danger. Today’s carte blanche access to “public” information places personal information in nefarious hands. For example, a potential stalker/killer now has unlimited access to his prey. While I don’t have any statistics, and I have only seen one Lifetime movie to support what I am about to say, however, I would be willing to bet the farm that access to personal information provided by Internet search companies have played a contributory role in individuals’ demise and death.

 

I have often wondered how come there isn’t a public outcry, or better yet, a governmental crackdown on these Internet search companies. Maybe there is a slippery slope of greasy palms that impedes efficacious regulation. Maybe we are so distracted “selling” our information ourselves on Facebook and Instagram. Again, we started this discussion by stating that governmental access to “public” information is for the safety of the Republic. But how safe is the Republic when even our enemies have access to our territory and our citizens?

Think Outside the Box

That Next Level Thinking–Sometimes, we just have to learn to think outside the box! Follow me on Instagram @thatnextlevelthinking