Archives for category: Devotional

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Sometimes, it can feel and seem as though the wicked are triumphing. David said that he almost lost his footing when he saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:2).

Recent news stories of increased human wickedness could lead us to believe that virtue is a sentiment of the past and that our best days are behind us. But David reminds us that the prosperity of the wicked is only temporary (Psalm 73).  Additionally, goodness is not just reserved for a distant future. There is goodness in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13-14). There is goodness on Earth. Grace, kindness, peace, humanity still exist today!

For the past few weeks, I have been itching to write a series. In the past, I have written several, but recently I have not been able to find the time to commit to writing one.  However, the topic, “I am not a Slave,” has been resting on my heart for some time.  So, tonight, I figured I would give it a go.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery,” (Galatians 5:1, NIV).  In our fallen world, there are so many things in our lives that have come to take us captive.  War is constantly being waged against our freedom.  Fear, regret, pain, poverty, past failures or world systems are just a few of the strategies that the enemy employs to attempt to reel us into slavery.  Today, we will highlight one of the greatest enemies of freedom: The tongue.

“The tongue can bring death or life” (Proverbs 18:21, NLT).  In the beginning of time, God said, “Let there be light,” and so it was.  In just a few words, God spoke life into existence.  I believe that much our lives’ path is determined by the words we speak over ourselves.  Unfortunately, the perils of life have caused many of us to have suffered temporary, spiritually blindness and spiritual amnesia, which have manifested in our speech.  Our declarations have become influenced by our past and current circumstances.  We forget that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  We forget that the same God who delivered us from the valley of the shadow of death yesterday is the same God who, today, declares Jeremiah 29:11 over our lives: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’” (NIV).  In our amnesia and blindness, we have a tendency to decree failure over ourselves.  This altered state also allows us to tolerate the actions of those who speak words of destruction over our lives.  Unfortunately, we fail to realize that our negative words have the power to prophesy a yoke of bondage and slavery over our lives and our future.

Today, I decree that we are not slaves to our tongues.  We should recognize that our words are powerful.  They can shape how we, and others, respond to the world around us.  Our words can build up or they can tear down.  Today, I ask that we use foundational words that can positively impact our lives and the lives of generations to come.

Today, I pose a few hypothetical questions.  What if when we get to heaven we realize just how literal God was when he said, in Genesis, that He had given man dominion over the Earth?  What if when we get to heaven we realize just how many of our life outcomes were under the control of our prayers and our tongues?  What if we realize that our lives and the lives of others could have been dramatically changed by a simple declaration of our faith?  Would we do things differently now?  Would we declare more things in the name of Jesus?  We do know that nothing happens outside of God’s will, but what if much of our lack (e.g. spiritual, physical, emotional and financial) is due to a failure to ask—a failure to make a bold declaration?  What if many of our prayers confused begging for asking with belief (i.e. faith)?  I don’t recall the woman at the well begging Jesus to heal her.  She simply touched Him, and she knew that she was healed.  In fact, Jesus told her that her faith had made her well.   How about we hedge our bets here on Earth and start declaring things that be not as though they were.  What do we have to lose?

Your phone rings, and your heart flutters.  On the other end of the line is yet another bill collector making a futile attempt at debt collection.  There was a time when your phone rang incessantly, and you spent countless hours mentoring, inspiring and championing those on the other end.  You bore the burdens for countless many.  But where are they now?  Your spirit yearns for even just a few words of encouragement, as your days have been dark, and your cares have been many.

The silence is deafening.  Your well has run dry, and the takers have moved on to fertile springs.  Many would look at your circumstances and pity you as the one who once was.  I challenge you to see your situation through different lens.

Many people have a disproportionate amount of takers in their lives—self absorbed narcissists who think only of themselves.  Oftentimes, takers align themselves with givers because givers are typically selfless and seldom place requirements on takers.  However, times of trials are perfect opportunities to reassess and re-equilibrate dysfunctional relationships.  It is a time to sift the givers from the takers.

Relationships should be reciprocal and edifying.  They should have additive value.  If the people in your life take disproportionately more than they give, move on!  Chances are, they probably aren’t your friend, at least not in the true sense of the word.  It is okay to say no.  It is okay to be protective of your mental and emotional stasis.   True friends understand that it’s not always about them.  They understand that you also have desires that need to be met and hurts that need to be nurtured.  True friends give as much as they take.  While giving and taking in healthy relationships might not always be in the same arenas, the actions ultimately balance out.  If you find that your needs are just not being met, it may be time to find some new friends.

For the past few evenings, God has been nudging my heart to read the Book of Job.  If you’ve ever read the Book of Job, then you know exactly why I wasn’t jumping at the bit to read it.  It’s not the most cheery book in the Bible.  However, tonight, I decided to hunker down and sludge through the 42 chapters.  After all, it was only 20 pages in my Bible.  I grabbed my Bible; snuggled under my covers and I began to read.  I never made it past the first chapter.

 

After just a few verses, I found myself angry with God, even doubting him.  The fact that God had allowed Satan to test Job was counterintuitive to me.  I was especially mad at the fact that God was even talking to Satan.  After all, the Bible said that God detested evil and stayed far from the proud and the wicked.  Well, Satan is definitely the embodiment of all things wicked and evil.  So, why was God even chatting with Satan?

 

As I was having my existential breakdown, I contemplated whether my questions grieved the Holy Spirit.  Surely, I could have skimmed past the verses that didn’t make sense to me and pretended that my uncertainty didn’t bother me.  But what sense did that make?  God knew my heart, so, there was no point of even pretending.  Additionally, my Type A personality couldn’t allow me to move forward.  As strange, or as wrong, as it may have been, God needed to make sense to me.  At the very least, His existence had to be consistent with who He says that He is because, at first glance, my image of God in the first chapter of Job, seemed anything but consistent with who the Bible says that God is.

 

In an effort to better understand the first chapter of Job, I meditated on the words found in Job 1:6: “One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the LORD, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them,” (NLT).  I asked God for revelation.  I earnestly wanted to understand the chapter.  Moreover, I earnestly wanted to understand God’s character.  Like Solomon, I prayed for wisdom, and God gave the following revelation:

 

According to Job 1:6, the members of the heavenly court, or angels, came and presented themselves before God, and the Accuser, Satan came with them.  The phrase “presented themselves before God” seemed to suggest that the angels, including Satan, had to give an account to God for their activities/actions.  Perhaps they were going before God for judgment.   There are several passages in the Bible that corroborate the notion that even angels are subject to judgment.  For example, in the New Testament, Paul stated that believers should exercise good judgment when attempting to resolve secular disputes as there will come a time when believers will not only judge the world, but they will also judge angels as well (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).  As a sidebar, I must note that the translation of the Greek word for judge is krino, which also means to rule or govern.  I digress.  Another example that indicates that angels are also subject to God’s judgment is 2 Peter 2:4. The passage reads: “For God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, in gloomy pits of darkness, where they are being held until the day of judgment,” (NLT).  Even Jude, the half bother of Jesus, weighed in on the topic by saying, “And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment,” (Jude 1:6, NLT).

 

The above passages support the notion that Satan presented to God in the book of Job, not as a peer or comrade, but as one who is subject to God’s authority.  In Job 1:7, God asks Satan, “Where have you come from?”  The question required Satan to give an account for his actions.  This is similar to when God asked Adam, “Where are you,” (Genesis 3:9, NLT)?  Considering that God is omniscient and omnipotent, we could conclude that God knew the answer in both cases. In both examples, God was not interested in unearthing the truth.  He was exposing their pride.  Proverbs 16:5 says, “The Lord detests the proud: they will surely be punished,” (NLT).  When God asked Satan about Job, God knew the status of Satan’s heart and that Satan had already set his sights on Job.  In fact, when God brought up Job’s name, Satan didn’t even flinch or pause.  He immediately knew exactly who God was talking about.  When God mentioned Job, Satan must have been ecstatic because he thought that he had finally found God’s Achilles’ heel.

 

As Satan roamed the Earthy, he must have noticed how the angels, who are at God’s command, fawned over Job.  In fact, in his accusation against God, Satan said, “… Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is!  But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face,” (Job 1:10-11, NLT)!

 

In allowing Job to be tested, God was exposing Satan’s pride.  He knew that Job was indeed faithful and that Job would not be tested beyond his limit.  Scripture tells us that God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we could bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

 

As I attempted to conclude my studies, my reading took me back to Jude.  Verse nine was of particular interest.  It read: “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you,” (NIV)!  The verse reminded me that judgment belongs to God and God alone.  To further understand the verse, I went on a quest to find out more about the archangel Michael.  My search brought me to Daniel 10.

 

In Daniel 10, the prophet Daniel had been praying and fasting to God for an answer to a vision that he had been given.  After 21 days, an angel appeared to Daniel and advised him that that the answers that he sought had been delayed because he, the angel, had been held up by a spiritual battle that both he and Michael were still involved in.  The angel replied, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince,” (Daniel 10:20-21, NIV).

 

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” (KJV).  Both the verses in Daniel and Ephesians remind us that there are things of this world that we do not understand and cannot explain.  There are battles and wars being wages in the spiritual realm that are beyond the scope of our comprehension.

 

In the Book of Job, Job’s spirit waned.  He eventually questioned God about the calamity he faced.  God’s answer was similar to the conclusion that we just drew.  There are things of this Earth that are simply inexplicable.  We just have to trust God and stand on his word.  “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires,” (Hebrews 4:12, NLT).  Like Daniel, we should take comfort in knowing that Word of God has power to break strongholds.  According to 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” (NIV).

 

Seldom do I use my blog as a platform to jump on my soapbox.  Typically, I try to inspire.  However, there are times when I also try to provoke thought by presenting an alternative point of view.

A few nights ago, I watched a story on the local, evening news about a robbery and a possible assault in an upscale neighborhood.  Both the neighbors AND the reporter were incensed, and even offended, that crime had infiltrated, what the reporter described as a “swanky” community.  I found the coverage and commentary perplexing, and frankly, a bit scary.  It is asinine, and prideful, that people should expect, and in some cases, desire that crime be marginalized to neighborhoods with lower socioeconomic statuses.  There is no community that is impenetrable to crime.  There is no community that exists in isolation.  In fact, isolationism is the antithesis of personal security and safety, and it typically stems from the most degenerative human vices:  pride, greed and hate.

Pride and greed tell us that we can never have enough and that only we alone deserve to have it all.  The concept of “survival of the fittest” may work in the animal kingdom, but it is not beneficial for human communities.  Here is the problem.  When we create skewed supply and demand systems, where only a few are equipped to succeed, we create marginalization.  Marginalization oftentimes creates desperation.  When people are backed into a corner, and their propensity for success is truncated, they often resort to crime.  When we create communities where destitution and desperation is prevalent, we do not get to retreat to our ivory towers, throw up the moat and hope that the insurgents relent.  Behaviors and mindsets that are being bred and developed in the adjacent communities will infiltrate.

There are those who will argue that each person is responsible for his or her action and that destiny is determined by an individual’s choice.  I would argue that while that argument might be true to some extent, such conjecture is a fallacy.  Again, we do not live in isolation.  To make the argument of “to each his own” is try to absolve ourselves of our social responsibilities.  In society, and in communities, we have a responsibility to more that just our families and ourselves.

I recently read an article about the push to end the free-lunch program.  It reminded me of how short-sighted we can sometime be.  Oftentimes, budget cuts are targeted at programs that support those who have the biggest need and the smallest voice.  I would venture to guess that many of the decision makers are probably far-removed from the desperation that many program recipients face.  Here is the honest truth.  There will always be those who try to beat the system and slip through the cracks.  Cheaters will always exist, and yes, we should have efficient checks and balances in place.  However, do we punish those in need for the actions of a few?  If the answer of societal obligation is not appealing, then self preservation might strike a cord.  When people in these “swanky” communities invests in individuals from disenfranchised communities, crime actually decreases because people then feel as though they have options.  When individuals’ options are increased, so is their sense of purpose.  When people have viable options, and they have something to live for and to look forward to, they are less likely to jeopardize that by committing crimes.  The problem is there are people in our culture that have a pauper’s mentality.  They believe that supplies are limited and if shared, might cut into their portion.  There are also those who have an even more sinister mentality.   Their mentality is one of hatred, which is reflected in their actions.  Both of those mentalities have excluded the grace and goodness of God.  According to Jeremiah 29:11, God stated that he has a plan to give us hope and a future.  God’s plan to prosper us asserts that heaven’s supplies are not limited and are not governed by scarcity.

Ultimately, as earthly cohabitants, we all have a responsibility to take care of each other.  If nothing else, at the VERY LEAST, we have a responsibility to ourselves and to our families.  Who know, by investing in others, we could very well end up sparing ourselves and our families from being accosted by the career criminal who dropped out of primary school because he couldn’t concentration on his lesson due to hunger-induced confusion.  We never know.  Life is filled with very many ironies!

 

 

Whenever most prospective dental students interview for placement into the dental schools of their choice, they usually cite their desire to “help people” as their motivation for pursuing a career in dentistry.  So, why have so many non-dentists entered into the profession?  Is it their altruistic desire to “help people,” or is it something a bit more self-serving?

The average person reading this article might initially be unsympathetic to the plight of the dentist, as some in the general population have liken dentists to used-car salesmen.  Sorry.  No offense to used-car salesmen.  Several commentaries about the profession have asserted the position that many people feel that most dentists overcharge, and as a result, they have a mistrust of dentists.  Oftentimes, that mistrust usually originates from misinformation, and sometimes, misrepresentation of information from the individuals’ insurance companies and human resources managers.  However, that’s another topic entirely.

To completely understand any argument made on behalf of the dentist, it’s important to understand the dentists’ perspective.  To begin, the cost of dental education has skyrocketed over the past few decades.  According The America Dental Education Association (ADEA), the average debt for graduating dental students, based on a survey of the class of 2016, is $261,149.  However, based on the average cost of dental school tuition, I believe that number should be a lot higher.  Listed below is a compilation of the tuitions for a few schools in major metropolitan areas.  The amounts stated are solely tuition, unless otherwise stated, and does not include additional fees, including instrument fees, states/local fees, books fees or living expenses.

University State In-State Tuition Per Year Out-of-State Tuition Per Year
LECOM School of Dental Medicine Florida $49,700
Nova Southeastern University College of Dentistry Florida $62,350
University of Maryland School of Dentistry Maryland $17,681.50 $32,864.50
University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry Mississippi $26,800 Not provided on website
Columbia University College of Dental Medicine New York $72,378
New York University College of Dentistry New York $72,904
Boston University Henry M Goldman School of Dentistry Massachusetts $72,000
University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry California $43,278.37 (*tuition and total mandatory fees)
The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio Texas $24,150 (tuition only)

$38,446 (tuition and fees)

*Tuition rates are cited from the College/University websites

Keep in mind that these aggregate costs, which, in many cases, are upwards of a quarter of a million dollars, are solely for dental school tuition.  These moneys do not include tuition affiliated with other undergraduate or post-baccalaureate degrees or certificate programs that individuals might have sought in preparation for admission into these colleges.  Additionally, the tuitions do not include the additional costs associated with specialty programs that could take an additional two to six years, depending on the specialty program.  That in itself is egregious!  What’s even more egregious is that many graduating dentist are being squeezed from both ends-going in and coming out.  That brings me to the argument against corporate dentistry.

Many individuals affiliated with corporate dental franchises have not assumed any of the risks associated with the profession.  However, they are gainfully partaking in the monetary rewards.  One of the unfortunate sides of corporate dentistry is that some companies do not pay their associates a traditional salary.  Many dentists are compensated based on commission or a “draw,” which could essentially be compared to a pay advanced loan.  For example, if a company agrees to compensate an individual at a rate of $100/day and that individual only earns $80, the company will pay the individual the $100 and the individual will be in the hole for $20, which would be taken from the next pay day, assuming that the individual’s production is above the stated production goal.   The problem with that form of compensation is that, as time progresses, it could become dicey and convoluted, especially when third-party payers are involved.  Imagine trying to keep track of a year’s worth of earnings.

Aside from tuition, there are several financial obligations associated with the dental profession.  Initial state licensure could cost several thousand dollars and require periodic renewal.  Malpractice insurance is also a fundamental part of any dentist’s armamentarium.  Additionally, most dentists participate in routine, continuing education courses to maintain their license and advance their knowledge.  To be fair, many corporate dental practices do assume the cost of providing malpractice insurance coverage and continuing education costs.  However, these companies do have a disproportionate advantage over individuals who have made a sacrificial commitment to the profession.  Sole proprietorship, which is one of several reasons why many have chosen a career in dentistry over medicine, is being threatened, if not obliterated, by corporate dentistry.  Individuals who are saddled by six-figure debt might not be financially prepared or able to compete in the marketplace.

Speaking of marketplace, many Internet sites have ranked dentistry as one of the highest paying profession with starting salaries of over $100,000.  In addition to the private practice arena, the profession of dentistry does offer a variety of areas of practice, including academia, federally qualified health centers and research facilities, just to name a few.  However, the prevalence of those additional opportunities does not change the fact that corporate dental companies have dramatically impacted and influenced the private sector of dentistry.   Additionally, a six-figure salary scaled against and even larger six-figure debt might be more of a risk than a reward for some.  In fact, the larger the salary, the larger the tax implications and the smaller the adjusted gross income, which could make repayment of student loans an overwhelming obstacle to the dentist’s success and independence.

So, where does that leave the fate of the profession?  The truth is, corporate dentistry is hear to stay, and it is not the only variable impacting the dental profession, as evidence by the increasing dental school tuition rates.  These additional variables, which also include the impending burst of the student loan bubble, are multifactorial and beyond the scope of this article.  Nonetheless, corporate dental practices are growing at a rapid pace.  However, that growth could be brought to a screeching halt in the near future.  Life is a balance of risks and rewards, and if future practitioners determine that the risks are greater than the rewards, there could be a decline in the dental school matriculation rate, and hence, the amount of people entering the profession.  I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Historically, there has always been a subset of the population who has considered money to be a god.  However, in more recent times, society has experienced the progression of money from demigod to supreme being.  In the infamous words of Wu-Tang Clan, “Cash rules everything around me.” Or does it?

 

In today’s culture, money seems to be the ultimate common denominator.  In many cases, it is the pivotal driving force for decision making.  Most people consult their money before they consult their God, family or friends.  Money motivates us.  It drives us.  It seduces us.  The truth is, there is nothing inherently wrong with money.  Money is the world’s currency.  Our capitalistic society is based on commerce, which is ultimately an exchange of goods and money.   The problem occurs when we place the value of money above all else.

 

In the new rat-race normal, big business has become the new big brother.  Its presence is ubiquitous, and its reach extends far beyond the bottom line to the bottom of our wallets.  The concept of enough is unquantifiable and insatiable.  It’s not enough for everyone to have his or her own piece of the pie.  Somehow, many in our society have subscribed to the misguided notion that we all cannot win.  Just look at the level of greed on Wall Street.  Economic goals are moving targets.  The cry for more has become a daily anthem.  The almighty dollar has become the alpha and the omega for many.

Navigating the course of the economic labyrinth is exhausting.  Oftentimes, financial resolutions often boil down to a battle of stamina.  Many company policies are intentionally designed to fatigue the consumer.  The hamster wheel approach to problem resolution frustrates most people into financial surrender.  Fortunately, money is not a God.  God is God, and He still sits on the throne.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal,” (Matthew 6:19, KJV).  If we allow money to become our gods, then what recourse do we have when our money fails us? Money will fail us.  It’s not a matter of if.  It’s a matter of when.

Last year, I read a story about a Chinese man, who five years prior, had buried his entire life’s savings.  About a year ago, when he and his family dug up the buried money, they discovered that insects had eaten through most of the man’s cash.  Fortunately, the local bank was able to exchange the salvageable bills, which accounted for approximately half of his savings.  Although this man’s story had some what of a happy ending, what about those who weren’t so fortunate?  What about those who have lost all of their financial wealth and have nothing else to turn to?  What do they do?

Jesus was not oblivious to the value of money in the world’s economic structure (Matthew 17:24-27).  He acknowledged that there was some value to subscribing to the laws of the land.  However, he also asserted that monetary gain should not be the foundation on which we stand.  Wealth and fortune are fleeting.  Life should be built on more stable foundations.  There are things in this life that money cannot buy.  Money cannot buy happiness, freedom, respect or love.  In fact, money is often the cause of strife.  If we rest our hope and dreams on wealth, we will always face chronic disappointment.

About a year ago, I read an interesting post from one of my friends on Facebook.  He said that when we die and go to heaven, we will realize just how many things about God we actually got wrong.  I couldn’t agree more.  There is not a single person alive who gets it 100 percent right at all times.  For most of us who identify ourselves as Christians, we try to live a life reflective of who we believe Jesus has called us to be.  However, we are shackled by our imperfections.  We have imperfect actions, thoughts and reasoning abilities, which even impact the way we interpret the Bible.  Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”

When it comes to interpreting the Bible, I believe that it is impossible to completely comprehend God’s word solely through scholastic measures. Spiritual discernment and revelation is also needed.  Additionally, I also believe that our relationship with God is an intimate one.  While Biblical truths are absolutes, there will be times when our Biblical interpretation will be based on our discernment and personal relationship with God.  With that said, here’s a cute funny story.

Sometimes, we forget that God knows just how imperfect we are.  In our pride, we try to camouflage our shortcomings.  We fail to realize that it’s during our most vulnerable moments when God can really reassure us of who He is.  The story of Gideon reminds us of just that.

In the story of Gideon, God had given Gideon a specific assignment.  However, in his humanness, Gideon doubted God, and he asked God for a sign to reassure him that he had heard him correctly.

36Then Gideon said to God, ‘If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, 37prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.’ 38And that is just what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water,” (Judges 6:36-38, NLT).

Twice Gideon asked for a sign, and twice God obliged him.  God did not chasten or chastise him.

Oftentimes, we feel as though we have to be perfect before God, and that is not the case.  The story of Gideon shows that it’s okay to ask God for confirmation.  I am not saying that we should have a lot system approach to God.  What I am saying is that God is sensitive to our humanness. With that said, here is the cute, funny story:

A few moons ago, I was experiencing a tumultuous season.  Although there seemed to be no immediate resolution to my situation, I felt as though the Spirit of God was reminding me that everything was going to be okay.  However, I wasn’t sure whether I could trust the voice in my heart because everything around seemed far from okay.

One night, as I laid awake trying to figure out the solution to all my woes, God laid the story of Gideon on my heart.  As I read the passages in the middle of the night, I was moved by Gideon’s humility.  In that moment I decided to ask God for my own sign.  I figured if He did it for Gideon, He could do it for me.  A part of me felt silly.

“What could I pray for,” I thought.  “What sign could I ask for, and what was the confirmation that I was looking for?”

I wanted to ask for a sign that I could not blame on mere coincidence.  I wanted my sign to confirm the words that were whispered in my heart.  After a few minutes of deliberation, I had finally come up with one, and it had to do with birds and my patio.

My entire back patio, with the exception of a small hole at the top where the squirrels had once used the mesh as a makeshift trampoline, is enclosed by a screen. That night, I prayed that if by morning, a bird had fallen through the hole and landed in the patio that would be my confirmation that everything would be okay.  A part of me felt silly for making such an arbitrary prayer request. Nonetheless, the first thing I did the next morning was check the patio.  There was no bird.  Secretly, I was disappointed.  More than that, I felt even more silly, but then a funny thing happened.  Later that day, I was watching television on the sofa when something caught my eye.  Hopping around in the patio was this guy:20150811_142611

I couldn’t contain my excitement.  I just know my circumstances were about to change.  I just knew that the breakthrough that I was praying for was about to take place.  But it didn’t.  A few weeks had passed and nothing had changed.  My circumstances were still the same.  But even though I felt silly, I couldn’t resist the urge to ask for another sign.  This time I asked God to send a different kind of bird.  When I awoke that morning, I had resigned to the fact that I had officially lost my mind. Then I heard a loud thud on my roof.  I ran to the living room and peer outside, and this is what I saw:

20160205_164121

I know many are probably thinking that these are all coincidences, but to me, they are the miracles that I had prayed for.  I wish I could say that my circumstances changed that day.  They didn’t.  Though my circumstances hadn’t change,  I had.  That day, I had gotten the confirmation that I needed.

A lot of life is about perception and what we chose to believe.  Oftentimes, our beliefs and our miracle coincide within the same space in our minds.  Though I might not have seen a physical change that day, I did receive a peace that surpasses all understanding.  I also learned that I didn’t have to be afraid to show God my humanness.  I also learned that He was not afraid to meet me where I am.  Perhaps He could meet you where you are too.

Sometimes, I wonder whether hard work, drive and ambition are dying virtues—extinguished—buried somewhere along with chivalry, good manners and decorum.  Our social media culture has created the expectation of overnight success and instant stardom.  A few decades ago, people were trying to keep up with the Jones.  Now, it seems as if most people are trying to keep up with the Kardashians.  Once upon a time, resumes were reflective compilations of tenacity, hard work and dedication, a stark contrast to today’s Internet culture where opportunities are heavily reliant on self aggrandizement and even, self deprecation.  Followers equal dollars.

 

Here is my question:  If everyone is off becoming an Internet super star, who’s actually learning and training to become our next leaders—our doctors, our lawyers, our teachers, our philosophers or our politicians?  Where are the new, future world changers?  I’m not saying that the next visionary cannot be discovered behind a computer screen.  What I am saying is that there is a low probability that ALL our future leaders will be discovered on YouTube.  The sobering fact is that many of us are going to have to put in a little elbow grease in order to achieve success.

 

The pursuit of celebrity is nothing new. The over-the-top lifestyles that are oftentimes depicted in movies, magazines and television can be alluring, but there is a cost.  You are either going to pay in time or in kind.  Oftentimes, shortcuts are more expensive in the long run because nothing is ever truly free.  The question is: Are you willing to pay the associated price?

 

I think we need to go back to a time where we revered the people in our communities—people whom we actually know and have seen the results of their tireless efforts.  The unsung heroes in our families and our neighborhoods are often the ones who are making the most difference in our society.  They should be the ones whom we celebrate.

 

Fame and fortune should never be terminal goals because as independent virtues, they are both inherently valueless.  They should be deemed as conduits for change—a means to an end.  To whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48).