Chaos

a new perspective…

Silence and Chaosmany people seem to tackle the first of the year with this notion that everything is somehow going to be different but I can’ t help but wonder what different looked like at the end of the year. what percentage of these people with their new year’s resolutions and big prompts to change, are really changing?

i’m not sure how to approach this year. i don’t really believe in new year’s resolutions but i believe in changing your tactic or even your perspective to attain new results. it doesn’t have to be a long list that needs to be accomplished in three-hundred and sixty-five days but simply a shift in thought. going forward with this journey called life it is my desire to be more aggressive in my decision-making. i’m methodical and i like to think about details and look at an issue all angles but in the past this process often snow balled into an abyss of procrastination that has often gotten me into trouble.

if we could cut all the crap for a moment.

i don’t know what i want out of the future. i know that i don’t want to continue waking up and thinking about what i should be doing with my life. i don’t want to wonder if i’ve missed out on something by not making the right decisions or chasing the right opportunities. i know that i don’t want to judge people based upon their looks, personal characteristics or ideas. it is my desire to love without condition, to be more Christ-like with every move of my finger but it seems like i’m always falling short. if i can be honest for a moment sometimes i feel like Christians have it the hardest and i know it’s a lie but that’s how i feel.  all i want to do is serve my God and yet, here are all the stumbling blocks positioned in the perfect places for me to fall.

why can’t we say no to sin easier than it says yes to us? why won’t God simply take away my desire to do wrong in my heart and in my mind? why can’t i just simply live to love Him and love people without all of the in-between?

sometimes i feel as though after all the scriptures and all the sermons and all the words, i still feel lost in my faith and for me that’s a scary feeling. after all, we as men are the stewards, right? leading the flock and sheltering the lost? but what am i to do when i’m the one who feels lost, when i’m the one who needs the shelter? maybe i should simply say i want to grow deeper in my faith and with that will come all the answers to all the other questions or maybe i’m back here in two-thousand sixteen telling you about another year without a new perspective.

what does the “new year” mean to you?
what changes are you making?

turning thirty…

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I believe that somewhere in the past I was a birthday person, but I’m not very much of a birthday person anymore. I’m not sure if that is something that comes with ‘age’ or maybe its the realization of that you actually only have one ‘day of birth’ and the dates following that are only a reminder of your existence, or something like that. I thought that thirty would feel like some huge milestone. Like, I would be thirty and I’d be able to look back over all my accomplishments while sipping an over-priced latte and say, “all is well”. But that’s not how it turned out.

I’m thirty and I have a list of things to show for my twenties. The years that apart of me feels like I let go to waste waiting for my dreams to come to me as opposed to chasing them. I don’t intend on letting my thirties fall prey to the same condition. I’ll be more intent with the way I spend my time. I already know that my relationship with God is at the top of the list of things that need to be worked on. I haven’t been praying nearly like I should, it’s almost safe to say, I haven’t been praying. God hasn’t been at my center and I’ve been feeling off-balance because of it. I find myself listening to mainstream radio, becoming convicted by the lyric content  and turning on some CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). I find myself telling people I’ll pray for them and I never get around to officially praying for them so I’ll say a quick something in the car on my way to work. I pick up the Bible with the intent of reading but I set it down in another location and begin doing something else of less importance. It almost sounds like complacency but I’m not completely sure what the root of the problem is but I know that it starts with me.

But this post can’t feel completely doom and gloom because some beautiful things have come out of my twenties and I’d be remiss not to mention them. I was still trying to figure out who I was and where I wanted to go in life when I moved to Sevierville, TN to attend culinary school. I was young and ambitious and I knew that I needed to leave Oak Ridge if anything would ever happen for me. I loved living alone and having my own space to explore the details of who I am and what I wanted to be. I made some great friends along the way and I lost some friends along the way. Some people became estranged and that can feel a little overwhelming when I think about it but I try not to think about it.

I met my beautiful wife in my twenties and we’ll just leave the whole fighting cancer thing out for now. But she’s on of the best things that ever happened to me and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel as though I deserve her. I left Sevierville and moved to Knoxville and then moved to Nashville, which I would say is the best thing I’ve ever done. I love Nashville and I love that it’s a city that breathes and inspires creatives of all types. I’m not sure what it is I want still? I’m not sure if I should sit down and make a list of pros and cons or if I should just keep doing what I’m doing until that moment of clairvoyance takes place.

All I think I know is that I want my thirties to be better than my twenties. I want to love people more and I want to be fearless in seeking friendships. I want to have meaningful connections with people beyond good mornings and hellos. I want to find people who will be invested in knowing me the way that I want to know them. I want to find a church home and begin to plan for our future as parents and productive members of our community. We bought a home this year and I want our neighbors to know us and I want them to know Christ if they don’t already. I want to begin leaving a carbon footprint that’s worthy of taking credit for. I desire to be more organized in my thoughts and not feel so overwhelmed when I have multiple tasks. I want to live with less stress and I don’t want to dispute mundane details. I want to take advantage of beautiful weather and go for walks and hikes and explore the beauty of living in Tennessee. I want to live with the intention that I’ll leave a mark of positivity on every one that I come in contact with–a mark that will leave them wanting more out of life as well.

I’m looking forward to my thirties and it is my prayer that God will bless me with the health and ambition to accomplish all these things. And during the process, I’ll continue to strengthen my relationship with Him. Be blessed and have a happy Sunday.

 

the broken parts…

Silence and Chaos, Abandon, Brokenness, Beauty, Tennessee, Christian Bloggers, Christianity,, Life, God, Photography, Moody photographyIf we were going to all agree on something–I think it would be safe to say that we are all human. We are all full of flaws and have things about ourselves that we wish we could fix, that we wish could be different, like someone else. We would agree that there are pieces of us that we don’t want other people to see, our broken parts, our battered and neglected pieces that keep us afraid from letting in the light.

We find comfort in darkness and we take pleasure in people only being able to see the bits and pieces that allow us to appear as though we have it all together. From those dark places we judge and criticize others for not appearing as cool as we’d like to portray ourselves. I’m guilty of this  daily but are you willing to admit that you’re guilty of this too? I’m not here to convict you only to help you become aware of just how human you really are.

I grew up in a Christian family and somewhat Christian environment and I say that with hesitation, because looking back I see that there were so many things taking place that God would never stand for. I’m wiser now and have obtained more knowledge as to what the love of God is–and how he wants us to live for HIM, and what that should look like from day to day. This portrait reminds me of all that brokenness I  harbor inside of me, all of the fragments, torn bits and pieces that I try to hide from you on a weekly basis. Those pieces that I’m trying to reveal through this blog and by taking baby steps in my daily life.

I sit with coffee in my hand, or in silence in my car and sometimes I stare at the ceiling why I lie in bed and think of my life. I think of what it may look like to other people through my words, actions and behaviors and if that portrayal is true. And if I had to be honest, I’d say it probably doesn’t. Sometimes I want to break a plate on the ground, take a photo and post it to Instagram with the caption. “today, was a shitty day and i want a do over.” But I resist because cursing isn’t of my nature and my pastor says that bitter & sweet don’t come from the same place. But that doesn’t change the fact that the broken plate I didn’t photograph is still the way I felt.

I want to talk with God, you know, literally talk to God in a one on one setting. I want to inquire as to why I have so many broken parts? Why can’t I just be the person he wants me to be without the trial and error? How come I can’t refuse the urge to curse, be negative and cynical every time I feel overwhelmed? I want to know why I struggle with addiction? Why can’t my father and I have an authentic relationship? Why does my mother feel the need to lean on me for support when I feel as though I have nothing left to give? Why can’t marriage be like the Hallmark movies? Why are we so hard to satisfy as people? Why is good never good enough?

Maybe, you have some questions for God burning in your heart? I’d love to hear what they are and how are you currently dealing with the broken pieces of you?

Holidays…

If you were to ask me how I feel about the holidays, I wouldn’t know where to begin. It’s honestly a love-hate relationship at its finest. Years ago, I too would’ve swooned at the thought of changing leaves, chilly weather that required the wrapping of scarves and the rolling in warm blankets. But life has changed drastically since that time. My parents got a divorce that took a lot out of me mentally and emotionally. I assisted my wife in the fighting of cancer for the first two years of our marriage. And there were so many other internal stir-abouts that I was continually struggling with that were pushed to the back-burner.

Every year we begin planning our holiday season with whose houses we are going to first? Though this is always a no-brainer because my family is no longer on time and does not plan properly. This year my wife’s family came in from Florida, Missouri & Arizona. It’s the first time in a while that they’ve all been in one place together for the holidays. It was indeed fun for the first couple of days and then of course with any family time, the charm begins to wear off and you’re longing to be back to normal again. Entertaining guests is such a monster of its own, especially when 24 people are involved. But anymore, I look forward to spending more time with my in-laws than with my own family.

It breaks my heart to see those words materialize but it’s the truth. I called my mom to ask what they’re plans were? She said they were on their way to eat and then try to leave and go shopping for the early Black Friday sales by four o’clock. Well, what you should know is that it was already ten minutes after two when I called. So naturally, I wasn’t going to drive 40 minutes from my in-laws to my mom’s house to rush through a meal that should be savored and enjoyed. So I suggested that we come by on Friday after they were done shopping and just heat up the leftovers and have a more personal Thanksgiving that didn’t require speed eating.

My wife and I arrived a little after three-thirty to my mom’s house. We walk up the blue steps to the front porch, knock on the door and hear it unlock. There is no one behind it but there is soapy residue left behind on the doorknob and we are greeted by no one. No warm hugs and kisses, nor the warm aroma of turkey and spices that I encountered yesterday morning. Moments later, my mom proceeds to walk down the hallway in her pajamas with a blanket in hand. She walks over to the couch, which I presume is where she plans take residence. She drops off the blanket and comes over to give us a hug, and at this very moment I was screaming on the inside. In that moment, I felt like an abandoned child in a shopping cart waiting for someone to pick me up and save me from the hurt of neglect I was feeling. In that moment I wanted to be anywhere else but “home”. She proceeded to tell me that they didn’t get back in from shopping until 2 a.m. Meanwhile here comes my sister down the hall in a similar get-up and the same complacency as if we didn’t take a four and a half hour trip to spend the holiday with them.

I walked in to the kitchen to see that yesterday’s leftovers were set out on top of the stove but they were lacking warmth. Well, that’s because it was cold. Any-who, I asked. “Where is Christopher?.” (my brother) And he was with my dad, which is the typical because my mom can only handle my dad in small doses because he cheated on her. So eight years later, we still haven’t learned how to be civil for the sake of our kids.

We sat in the living room with many awkward silences and nothing really to discuss. My mom, sister and now my brother are all on some form of antidepressant. This has been a slow downward spiral over the last several of years. And my tear ducts have run dry over the severity of changes my family has gone through in what seems to be such a short period of time.

I’m continually falling to my knees in my prayer over these circumstances and I can’t always say that I come to God with the most sincerity. I find my flesh to be doubting whether or not he’s working in their hearts anymore. I know that sounds awful but I give you truth. I don’t know how to be a disciple to them anymore. I don’t know how to save them. And there is never a day that  goes by where I don’t question their eternal fate and how I will have played a role in it.

 

 

New Year…New Mind?

It never seems to amaze me that every year after the gluttony has pursued. The Waste Management plant is overflowing with Santa-stamped wrapping paper and you’re trying to figure out when to return Grandma’s ugly sweater. That we find ourselves creating another list, one that is very reminiscent of the one that’d fallen into the night stand waste basket last year. Yes, once again. Here we are, swearing by our double chins that we will eat things we love in moderation, that we’ll visit the family more, volunteer at the local shelter or church, maybe even give a pint of blood. But why won’t we just be more realistic with ourselves about what it is we can achieve.
We as humans are such flawed specimen and every year the suicide rates, depression meds, and therapy appointments never cease to exist. But did you ever think that maybe if we were to tackle our lives in a more realistic, and simplistic format that maybe we wouldn’t endure such hardships. If we just vowed something as attainable as learning five new neighbors in our community, being genuine when asking someone “how they are doing?”, asking your spouse or kids “how can I become a better father, mother, husband, wife, lover or friend?” Not just being a Christian at church or with church members but also at work and in everyday life. Something I’ve struggled with is being a Christian of convenience. You know what I’m talking about. I have so many opportunities to shine bright for God and many times I fail. Only because before a previous conversation took place where I’m given the opportunity to speak of my faith. I was just ragging on how lazy my boss is, or how I’m tired or how I’m in much need of R&R. All in a tone that never spoke to my faith in Jesus. And then, all of a sudden the conversation takes a turn and I’m back to, how good God is and I’m recommending local churches and podcasts to listen to.
I no longer want to be that person. My New Year’s objective is to simply Love God at all times. Not just when I’m in need. But in my happy moments as well as my moments of desperation. I want to love people as a whole. I want to be less judgemental and have a genuine interest in the lives around me. This year I want to Love people in a way I haven’t before due to my sinful nature. I want to make God famous through my optimistic attitude and seek him through prayer when I feel myself going astray. I want to become less, so He can become more.

Are we disconnected?

Is anyone else frustrated with the fact that we don’t talk to people any more? What ever happened to the days when you could have simple dialogue with someone in the elevator or in the line at the grocery store? These moments rarely exist without people thinking you’re a freak and whipping out their iPhone 10 in order to ignore conversation. It’s crazy when you think about it. We’d rather tweet, facebook, and text over having a physical encounter with anyone in order to connect. I notice everyday, kids don’t know how to speak to people. It’s because their parents in conjunction with society has taught them how to communicate in an alternate format.

Is that God’s plan for us? To simply live out our lives never getting involved in the lives of one another because we don’t know each other. I mean, why is our being friends contingent upon whether your kids in my kids class, now we’re in the same small group, we work at the same place. Is that really what God intended when he spoke about ‘loving thy neighbor as you love thy self’? I think we’re in desperate need of a wake up call if we aren’t willing to step outside of what is comfortable to us and make friends with strangers. We were designed for community. We are designed to hold each other accountable for living a life pleasing to God. A life bearing the burdens of our neighbors, and strangers alike. Even as I sit here and write this I am just as guilty as the next but I want to change. I want to be different. I want to be part of a community of believers that care about others more than themselves.

Scripture References:
Acts 2:42-47
Galatians 6:2
1 Peter: 4:9
Philippians 2:4

Sunday’s Best

You can’t wear that to church! You are no stranger to this phrase if you grew up in an African American household; or that of stern parenting.  You might have heard this phrase quite often. Or your church attire might have been picked out for you the night before and ironed. (Thank God for the dryer!) Either way I find myself often shocked or uneasy by what people choose to wear to worship on Sunday’s. I was taught that you wear the best you have to  God’s House in obedience to what the Bible say’s about modesty or simply out of respect for a God who died for you to have eternal life.

Now, I’m often conflicted with several things:

1.What is dressed up to me, may not be dressed up to you.
2.How much skin is too much skin?
3.Are hats appropriate or do they deter one’s focus?
4.Is it okay to dress up for Sunday service but not Wednesday night?
5.Well should we always be dressed up since Praising God in one way or another should always be taking place?

Here’s a snippet from a girl who’s friends brought to her attention the attire she chose to wear from day to day & to church. But this definitely doesn’t exclude men from the topic…

“My friends aptly nicknamed me ‘Scantily.’ When choosing what to wear I thought only of what would flatter me, what would bring more attention my way, and what most resembled the clothes I saw on models or other stylish women. I wanted to be accepted and admired for what I wore. I enjoyed my attire, the undue attention I received, and the way it stimulated my feelings.”

-C.J. Mahaney (church member interview)

I actually found myself falling into this slump of jeans and t-shirt as acceptable attire when we moved to Nashville. After realizing that most churches are trying to appeal to a wider demographic here by coining themselves as contemporary and accepting of all. Well, yes we should be accepting of all because I’m not naive to the fact that everyone’s wardrobe is limited due to financial situations.

Now, there will be some of you who will think:
Is this really that important?
I mean, shouldn’t we just be thankful that people are in church? Well, who’s the authority on Church fashion?
This is why I left the church in the first place.

And I really feel as though it should be common sense, but I’d be a fool. But anyways to wrap this up. All I’m saying is those of us that can afford to. Are typically dressing nicer to go to work, date-night, concerts, dinner or a family event than we do to Praise the one true God. When you take that last glance in the mirror, ask yourself, is my appearance worthy to be in the presence of Jesus?
Just think about.

Here are some Bible verses & Blogs on the topic I found to assist:

Is Modesty an Issue in the Church today? by John Piper
Modesty: God, My Heart, and Clothes (pt. 1) by C.J. Mahaney
Modesty to Kids by Julie Sanders
1 Timothy 2:3–10
1 Timothy 2:9
1 John 2:15

Reckless Christians

I knew that would grab you’re attention, but there’s more to it than just the immediate shock you feel. I know you thought I was going to insult you or maybe not you, but someone else. I don’t where I’m going with that but anyways. This past Sunday, Pete Wilson, the Pastor of Cross Point Church, in Nashville, TN;  interviewed Kay Warren. The wife of Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California and author of the #1 New York Times Best Seller; Purpose Driven Life.

In short, this interview broke me down, because it changed the way I view the world. I mean, Kay spoke about the hurting people around with so much passion that you found yourself on the verge of tears. (Yes, I’m a man and I cry) Christians are supposed to be reaching these people, but fall short due to our own selfish indiscretions.

I mean from the way we approach people who aren’t in our social stature, those struggling with illness, lifestyle choices, foreign religious groups etc. I was astounded to realize that I’m guilty of not “jumping off the precipice” for my God. And in that moment when Kay said those words, I was ashamed. And I was angry. And disgusted. All because I have passed along so many people to Hell in fear of stepping outside of my comfort zone.In fear of what telling people about Jesus Christ might do to me. How it might disrupt my life. The cynicism, judgement, ostracism, it might bring and render me uncomfortable or insecure.

This interview Blessed my life and My Prayer is that it will do the same for you.

Kay Warren/Pete Wilson Interview

Chick-fil-A

Do you eat Tyson frozen products? Buy arts and crafts at Hobby Lobby? or even grab a short skirt, glittery socks and a blazer from Forever 21 now and again. Well, then you have already supported commercial companies who also share the same Christian or religious foundations that other faith-based companies such as Chick-fil-A share.

In this feature I won’t throw bible verses at you or tell you anyone’s going to hell. I’m just simply stating that it is incredible things we as a nation focus on. When there are so many other issues impacting our world of greater magnitude and substance. Furthermore when is demonizing Christians going to stop becoming the thing? Not only Christians , but isn’t anyone allowed to state how they feel about a political issue without being labeled as intolerant, Republican, Democrat, bigot, sell-out etc. Since when do we have to agree with each other in order to love each other. When at the end of the day isn’t that what it all comes down to? Spreading the gospel in hopes that someone can be made new and given everlasting life. I think we often forget the reason for which we were created. And I’ll be the first to tell you that it isn’t for the phrase.

“to eat, or not to eat?”…a chicken sandwich.