Finding Joy in Being Grateful for the Little Things

Earlier this last week I posted of how I sat at a coffee shop on a Friday night, which was a spot for me before the pandemic hit. I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to have life back to some normalcy. Saturday, our high school had an in-person graduation. It was hot, but it was worth it because last year, students did not receive an in-person graduation. They received a drive-thru graduation. If we learn anything from 2020, it should be gratefulness for the little things in life. Maybe, we can learn from the pandemic not to take for granted those activities that seemed mundane because without them, life really was mundane.

Scroll through any social media site and we can discover everyone complaining about someone or something in the world. Rarely do we discover people being grateful, and yet gratefulness improves our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. According to many scientific studies, gratitude improves our health in many ways. It connects us to our well-being because we are finding the good in life.

Finding the good in the trials of life confuses people. Angry and bitter people scream at those of us finding the silver lining in life’s dark spots on social media, and sometimes in real life. No matter how other people react to situations, it is our own decisions to find the good in life or the evil. What you look for is what you will find. Throughout the entirety of the pandemic, I had to find small things in life for which to be grateful. Not only did I maintain strong mental and emotional health, but I also gained spiritual health. Our faith grows when we decide to be grateful as we recognize what God is doing in our lives, and we refuse to focus on what is not happening.

Jesus tells the story of the ten lepers that he healed and how only one came back to thank him. That one leper was not only healed physically, but also emotionally and spiritually too. We have so much for which we can be grateful. It’s time we begin being thankful for all things in our lives.

On Tuesday, June 15th, Southern California will open and mandates for lockdowns for the pandemic will end. This day has been a long time coming, and it is not just the life of being normal, but not taking for granted of those activities we once enjoyed that will be reintroduced into our lives. Whether it is going to a movie theater, meeting a friend in a coffeeshop, going to a library, eating in a busy restaurant, going to a sports event, or an amusement park, or even church, we all can have a greater appreciation for those activities in our lives.

It is our choice. We can complain about 2020. We can degrade the leaders and politicians. For our health and the health of those around us, we can show appreciation for the life that we have and the life which we have gained after the pandemic. It is up to us to choose to be grateful. It is a choice that is healthy. A new day is here. May we choose to wake up each day grateful for the new day for which we get to live and discover how we can live each day to serve others. It’s so much better than complaining. Trust me, as I have walked the path of a complainer or better known as a whiner. Open up to the beauty in the world around you. Be careful. Once you see the beauty, you will never see that of which you complained.

Memorial Day and Sacrifice

My Great Uncle Elvy died during WW2. They were attacked off the shores of Germany. Experts are following the stories of all those who were lost and are trying to discover how he died. According to his shipmate who wrote my Great Grandmother, he was killed while shooting at the enemy, as they had just been attacked. The way his fellow soldier described my Great Uncle’s last action, it was as if he was in a war movie and after he took his last shot, he was shot off of the boat.

He was considered MIA for years. One of the soldiers said that he was there one moment, and when he turned around, he was gone and nowhere to be found. That gave a lot to our imaginations. History conservationists are working to have his headstone placed in Arlington National Cemetery to honor his ultimate sacrifice for his country. A country struggling to find its way, even today.

Nothing in this world is free. Someone has to pay for it somewhere. We all enjoy receiving free gifts, but we forget that someone had to pay for those gifts. Freedom comes with a price. The price costs some people everything. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. If he didn’t, we would have to be killed for every single wrongdoing we have committed. We cannot repay the ultimate sacrifice, but we can begin to live as if freedom is priceless.

We have soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom to live our lives on our physical land, and we have Jesus who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom to live our lives on our spiritual land. Now, it is our turn. We can make small sacrifices in order to create a big free world. If we just sacrifice little habits that destroy people, we will recognize freedom all around us.

We can recognize how our actions and words affect others. We can use our freedom to berate others or empower and encourage others. We have to decide which one will make a difference and make actual changes. If we do not like certain words or terms, then we do not use them, but we are gentle when we instruct others about those words. If we want the world to be a better place, we have to start with being better people. Each day we can choose to practice good habits and work to break a bad habit. That is how we make America better. That is how we represent Jesus better.

I cannot fathom living in a country without freedom but in order to have that freedom for everyone, I may have to sacrifice some choices in order for others to be free. I can sacrifice time and resources so others can also enjoy the freedom that all humans deserve.

Memorial Day is a time to remember and reflect of why those men and women sacrificed everything for our freedom. Let us reflect and let us make a choice to honor their lives with respecting our freedom and not taking advantage of their freedom or the freedom that Jesus gives us from sin. Our small sacrifices can make small differences that when added together, can create a better country. We can do better, and we must.

To Mask or Not to Mask, That is the Question

In the beginning of the pandemic, the CDC said, “No, please don’t buy masks. The health care workers need them.” Then, we were told, “Okay, there are enough masks for you to purchase. You should wear them when out of your house.” Then we were told, “You must wear them outside of your house. In fact, some of you need to wear them inside of your house.” It is now fifteen months later. The CDC says, “Fully vaccinated people do not have to wear masks, indoors or outdoors, unless the state says otherwise.” The state says, “Wear masks where it is posted to wear them. Wait, we’re California, wear them.” I now may understand the political debate of a disease. Well, I sort of get it.

Masks. They have been a political debate on social media for the past fifteen months. I’m not debating them. I have cute ones that I buy at the bargain table at the Disney Store. Masks. We all wear them, whether we put them on physically or not, and most people are unaware how their masks have become ingrained in them and have become a part of who they are.

Characters in horror stories wear masks to hide their identity when they commit a crime. Then, when they take their masks off, they live a normal life. Their counterparts are superheroes. Some of our superheroes wear masks, especially when they are doing their jobs to save the world. I do like some superhero movies and television shows. I have noticed that with both groups, DC and Marvel, the superheroes that wear the masks want to hide their identity because they want to hide their power. We live in a society that wants us to hide our power and our identity. It’s strange because most people will tell you the opposite, but trust me, hiding is safer but not healthier or better for the whole of the community.

Safe. We all have lived a year of safety. We lived inside our homes. We went to work and school at home. We wore face masks when we left our homes and entered businesses. (In Los Angeles, it was mandated. For the rest of the country, you may not understand that.) A mask gives us safety to hide. I was able to hide my facial expressions, except for the occasional eyeroll. Masks allow us to hide our true identity and not allow others see who we really are. We hide behind our political pundits, our human spiritual leaders, news media, books, social media, television shows, and movies. Just like the superheroes and villains who wear masks who do not want their enemies to know their identity, we do not want people to see who we are because then they will see our true identity, and we are uncomfortable with people seeing the truth, both the good and the bad. The truth will set us free, even if we endure judgement.

Trust. We have been told to wear a mask not just because we can receive the virus, but because we can give it. If we think it’s not that bad to give it to someone else, we do not realize the damage that we do to others. When we have broken trust, we damage the people around us, and we do not always realize the damage that has been done. For the past year, we have had to go places and trust that people were not sick in the environment in which we were. The question begs to be asked if we can be trusted too. If people do not trust others to do the right thing, then they have a right to believe that when they see us, they do not trust us to do the right thing. We not only have to build trust for others, but to be trustworthy toward others.

Disease. We were told to wear a mask so we will not get a disease. Some people said that we were contaminating ourselves with the dirt in our masks. Yep, we wear masks to cover up the dirt in our lives. We look one way on the outside and our inner selves is full of greed, wrath, jealousy, and other sins. If people were to observe our sins, they would judge us. If people were to see our sins, they would gossip. The problem comes when we no longer see our own sins because of our masks and behave as if the sin is now an extra limb on our body not realizing that it is the damage that we are doing to ourselves and others around us.

Faith. Whether we wear a physical mask or not is not even close to the point. We need to tear off the masks that we hide behind to cover-up our sins and reveal to the world how we as imperfect Christians are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. We have to have faith in Jesus and the church that we can live a full life without the masks. It is without masks that we reveal the love of Jesus to others. Our masks may not be visible, but they are recognized. Many people can see when Christians are wearing a mask as they say one thing and do another.

Masks. We all wear them. Some people wear a mask of insecurity. Others wear a mask of fear. Some wear a mask of all of their agendas. Some wear a mask of knowledge. Some wear a mask of power. May we remove our masks and reveal our real identity, as the world is waiting for us to rise and be on the side of humanity. The world needs love, grace, mercy, and peace now more than ever. The only way we can share those qualities is when we are authentic in our faith and in our true identity. May we live a life without the invisible masks and reveal ourselves to others to reveal the love of Jesus.

Learning As I Teach

My class just finished reading the novel, Al-American Boys. It is written by two authors. One is black and the other is white, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. I picked the book. Yes, I have students read the classics, but I also try to introduce them to literature that is current, seeing how that is what I also read. I want students to enjoy reading, not just do what we did “back in my day.” It’s not about “my day.” It’s about their lives and to give them an understanding that books are beautiful. The book was written in 2015 and is about racial injustice. The lessons are immense, and each character has to choose what to do or not do with the racial injustice in their own community and an incident that occurred to one of the students in their own school. All they have to do is choose.

First, let me address the fact that we as Christians cannot deny that the sin of racism does not exist. I live in the huge and diverse city of Los Angeles and racism exists here. If it exists here, then I cannot stick my head in the sand and claim that it does not exist in smaller communities in America. It does. We do not always see it. As a teacher, I have recognized that it exists in the education system. (It is way beyond what we teach in history. The education system is built on racist practices, but that is for another blog.) I have voiced my claims and instead of applause, I am pelted with verbal assaults and justification for the racist methods in the education system. Whether or not racism exists is not the question. What we, the Christian community and the church will do with that knowledge is what will move us forward or backward.

Just like the characters in the book, we all have a choice. We can choose not to care. We can claim that it is not my problem, which I have done and have repented. We can claim that it is easier and better to walk away from the discussion and focus on what we need to do in our lives. I have done that too, but it is not right, and I have repented. I did not watch the Oscars, but I heard the speech of Tyler Perry who called us to meet in the middle because in the middle is where we have a conversation. I think he’s been reading my other blogs because I have recognized that it is in the middle that we can understand those who think and live differently than ourselves.

We have to admit we do not know everything. I wish I knew everything about everything and everyone, but I am not that person on Twitter. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) I do not know everything about life. If I did, I would not struggle. I would already know the answers. Maybe that is why God does not allow us to know everything about everything and everyone. He wants us to find the answers. God is that way. He gives us the tools and we need to use them. Before anyone says that is horrible and that is not a loving God, I will tell you it is exactly what a loving God does. It is what any good teacher does. A good teacher desires for his or her students to discover the answers, not just give the students the answers. Once we admit we are not all-knowing, we will be able to see someone else’s point of view. We will be able to understand that which we have not experienced.

We have to listen. I understand that listening to the media can be exhausting and many of the stories in the media do not contain the truth. We need to develop relationships with people who will speak truth into our lives with love and grace. We need to listen to them and to their stories. Listening can also come in the form of reading. This young adult novel that we read in class revealed attitudes that people I know and I, myself have possessed. Listening to my voice in a novel of a character that is not on the “good guy” side is difficult, but hearing the truth is helpful. It is where change begins. Having heard the truth, I now will go into a new direction with change.

We have to change. If we do not change, we do not grow. Sunday April 25, 2020 was the tenth anniversary of our church’s first gathering on Hollywood Blvd. The street has not been the same since then, but the beauty of that gathering is that those of us who were there came from another location of our church. We were told we were moving the Sunday before Easter. We had a one week’s notice. For my friends who work in ministry, you know that is a miracle! People moved with joy and celebration. We drove out of the way of our connivence to bring the light of Jesus to a dark street. Change is difficult. Change is not fun, but it is necessary. No one is asking us to move to a new community. We are just being asked to change from seeing life through our own perspective and to see life from the perspective of others. That small change can make a great difference.

The times are changing. If we do not change with them, then we will become irrelevant, and we will struggle to represent the love of Jesus. We need to represent the love Jesus has to our communities in which we live, to everyone in them. There is so much to be done. Our churches need to recognize that segregation on Sunday mornings in diverse communities must end. Our families need to recognize that some of their beliefs have been passed to their children and it affects other children. We just have to start. One of the main characters in the book wanted to do something. He learned he just had to start with his own words and thoughts. God gave us minds and hearts. May our words and thoughts represent the love of God instead of our political beliefs, our generational beliefs, or any other beliefs that cloud our minds and blind our souls. I know that I will make a commitment to learn, listen, and change in order to love.

As a teacher, I taught the book. As any good teacher, I was also a student and the book, and my students taught me. We only hear the negative about our young generation. Those of us who work with them see the potential of greatness that Generation Z possess and could bring to our country. In order to go forward, we must learn from yesterday. Yesterday, we had an ideal that we created from our own perspective. May we begin today to see life through the lens of those who walk a different path than us, so that the future will be greatly impacted. If we see the need, then we will go forward. If we remain blind, we will stay stuck and die. The church must move forward. Let us all take our role.

Thank you to the authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely for their beautiful book, All American Boys.

A Year Ago

A year ago, we were sent home from work for two weeks or possibly three. When I went to the grocery store that evening to get food for two weeks, the shelves were empty. The entire produce section was empty. I don’t think people knew that fresh vegetables and fruit have a short lifespan. Toilet paper was like buying gold because it was nowhere to be found. That makes sense because the grocery store shelves were empty.

I love being outside of my home. I have sat in coffee shops to grade papers and to write. We were sent home to stay home. Restaurants and coffee shops were closing. Our churches would all have to be online. I would have to work while actually being at home. I thought I could grade papers and watch the college basketball tournament. Then, they cancelled the basketball tournament. I knew then that life would change and some old habits would be just that, old.

Los Angeles is one of the last cities in America to reopen. This week for the first time in a year, we will be able to dine indoors, go to the gym indoors, and go to an indoor movie theater. I have become appreciative of the little things in life. I have become appreciative of my home and family. This last year has not been easy, but we never learn when the tasks are easy, and there were some valuable lessons that we should have learned in this last year, but if we want life to be easy and catered to our own desires, we might miss them.

Lesson #1: We need to think of others over ourselves. I may not like wearing a mask, but I don’t wear it for me, but for those around me who truly fear this virus. Screaming in their face, even on social media, that they are wrong and stupid is not helpful. In fact, it’s wrong and not Christ-like. We need to also take care of our elderly…all of us. We need to look out for our neighbors and not hoard. That’s all part of putting others over ourselves. It’s not that we don’t love ourselves. Once we love ourselves, we are able to love others, even those that think and believe differently than us.

Lesson #2: Homeschooling is not as easy as everyone thinks. If you are a parent, student, teacher, or person with children who did not have to do any type of distance learning, you have no idea what the struggle is. (If that is you, refer back to #1.)  I honestly thought I would love to teach online, until I actually had to do it. Maybe I would enjoy teaching kids who are used to being homeschooled, have Wi-Fi and will have their cameras on at all times, but Zoom School is horrible. I am a proponent for equity in education. Along with social promotion, Zoom School is another inequity for our most vulnerable students who need equity in education. So, to my friends who have homeschooled their children and succeeded, you are part of my list of heroes.

Lesson #3: Taking walks around our neighborhoods can be a great experience. While on walks, I have prayed, discovered solutions to my problems, and met people from my neighborhood. Even in the city, I have discovered God’s beauty in his creation with some fabulous sunsets. God’s creation is all around us. We just have to take the time to recognize it.

Lesson #4: Art is essential. Whether our art consists of actual painting, drawing, writing, singing, or playing an instrument, or if it is in the form of movies, television, or books, cooking, baking, knitting, or sewing, art is an essential when we are locked in our homes. Many people did not just sit back and watch art that was made, but actually created art and are beginning to see the fruits of their labor. As God is our creator, we can deduct that he is a creator of art and proponent for us to create and enjoy art.

Lesson #5: Church is not a building. Church is a body of believers that gather together, whether they are in an official building or not. We do not GO to church. We ARE the church and we GO to the world and bring the church to the world, even if going means we go virtually. Believe it or not, the church stepped up while most people were complaining on social media about politics. One church in Los Angeles, (Dream Center) stepped up and made sure that all of the students in the school district of Los Angeles, that serves over 600,000 students, had meals that they would miss because of school closures. They also provided supplies to families because the stores were empty. Churches served and most were unknown because most of us were more concerned of arguing whether or not the virus was real or not. Maybe, the church should be less concerned about politics and become more visible in the community and step up to serve the needs of the community. Then we will all discover that the church is not a building and is essential to the community.

Overall, we learned that we need to love God (nature), love others, and ourselves. Love. Love is what we hopefully learned is what the world needs. We don’t need all the junk we discuss on social media, but we need love. We need the kind of love that Jesus has. For those of us who have it, we need to share it. For this next year, let us show this love and see where we are in a year from now.

For the Love of Books

In the 1980s, when I was in high school, we had a list of books that we were not allowed to read. They were banned. The church or the conservative right had banned them, as they deemed them inappropriate either for subject material or what they deemed to have inappropriate language. Many of those who banned them never read those books, but those same people thought that they needed to control what I put into my mind, so that I would think properly, which is how they think. It doesn’t work that way. It makes us curious as to why it is banned and it makes us angry that we are being forced to think a certain way.

Fast forward to the 1990s and the explosion of Harry Potter. Again, the church deemed this book inappropriate because of its content. The book did not suffer in sales; it exploded with more sales. Dear Church, we should have noticed in the 1990s that a shift was occurring in our culture, but we didn’t. We were too focused on trying to control everything that everyone does or thinks. It doesn’t work that way. It makes people angry and plot revenge.

It is now 2021 and those young people that the church tried to control their thoughts and actions are adults. They are now trying to control our thoughts and actions with cancelling what they deem inappropriate. I’m not saying they are wrong, but since I have grown away from other people controlling me, I find it disheartening. The conservative right is screaming about what cancel culture is cancelling, but when you start trying to control others, it will boomerang out of control.

As a Christian, I do not want to force people to come to Jesus. Jesus invites people to Him. If a person chooses to follow Jesus, then he or she will allow Jesus to work in their life and not try to please the person who forced them to come to Jesus. The same goes with our moral laws. I cannot force anyone to follow the values in my life. I cannot fix or change anyone. I can inspire others to make the best choices to have a great life, and with my age and years of experience, I hope and pray that they will make the right choices, but I cannot force them. Therein lies the problem. 

Christians are angry that life is changing and that some people in our country are deeming products, including books, inappropriate. They are forcing us to believe and think a certain way. They are only doing what the church did first. How many Christians made it public why they were cancelling Netflix? Now, the tables have turned with Dr. Seuss, and the conservative right are angry. (By the way, I get it. The publishing company took six books out of print because they were inappropriate and Dr. Seuss is not cancelled. I just had to be graphic. They do this to a thousand books a day. For everyone that wrote that on their social media posts, thanks for the continual discouragement for a writer.) What we start, someone has to finish. Maybe, the Church should lead the way and stop cancelling. I wish we would.

Art is subjective. What one person deems inappropriate in art, another person sees the depth of the meaning of it. What one person calls cheesy, another person sees it as the greatest work of art ever. Since art is subjective, we must be understanding that maybe, just maybe, we do not know everything and just reading a passage from the book out of context could be extremely dangerous, and it happens all the time. The Bible gets taken out of context all the time from both Christians and non-Christians.

It is from books that I have gained an understanding of life that is different from mine. It is from books that I discovered the truth of the inequity in education that is occurring in the twenty-first century. I have come to understand the importance of helping people in need because I have read incredible stories in books. I have understood a culture different from mine because I have read incredible stories in books. I have understood what is racist to do or say because of incredible books in the nonfiction department. Some of these books have been deemed inappropriate by people either inside of the church and even those outside of the church. People who do not read, should not have a say to what happens to books, which means we need to read more. Christians need to be readers.

There are a couple of books that I would deem inappropriate because of my beliefs, but I cannot demand that they get banned or even just taken out print. Why? Then they will come for the books that I love, including the Bible. It is time we start having conversations. Books can start the conversations, but they cannot be the final word in the conversation. We have to have real conversations with real people, not on social media. You know what? We’ll still get different perspectives because that is how God created all of us to be. He created all of us to think and choose for ourselves.

What if the church stopped trying to control people and became a place for people to heal? My conclusion would be that we would be overflowing with Christians in our society. We do not need to control, fix, or change people. We need to pray for people to come to Jesus and allow Jesus, who is much mightier than a human being, do the changing in their lives. I bet He’ll do a much better job.

We have to stop with cancelling, and banning. They will come for you. When they do, remember, you could have read about it somewhere. May we pick up books this week that will cause us to think. May we read stories through the eyes of those who deem it inappropriate, and then maybe, we will begin to understand that other people have different beliefs and thoughts than us. It is my hope and prayer that my students will have access to all books. It is my desire that they can read and understand all books, but that is a very different subject for a different blog.

Look for and Become a Helper

Mr. Rodgers was known for saying to children that in a tragedy, look for the helpers. This last week the nation looked on in horror at the tragedy that occurred in Texas. Many people tweeted about all the politicians, both good and bad. People even went to social media and reminded people the importance of voting. You know what? When my power is out in below freezing temperatures and my water is out or pipes burst and flood my home, I don’t need a vote. Voting is good, but much more needs to be done, and Texans did the much more this last week. Texans stepped up and became helpers to one another.

Many Texans brought people together in their homes if they had generators and could keep their house warm. Individual plumbers went to homes and fixed broken pipes for free. People gave out money for other people to have enough cash in the grocery stores. A church in Austin has opened up its doors as a food pantry. They may not have running water, but they have donations of food, diapers, and bottled water. Neighbors checked on neighbors. Let us not forget the owner of the mattress store who opened up his store to shelter 300 people with food, warm dry clothes, and a comfortable place to rest.

I wonder if Mr. Rodgers told children to look for helpers in a tragedy because he hoped one day they would become the helpers. No one who is helping someone in a tragedy stops and asks that person for whom they voted or are concerned with their religious beliefs or their ethnicity. In a tragedy, we are all humans at that point and our differences are pushed aside, which is why it is so important that many of us take a break from just typing our opinions on social media and begin getting to work. People have been working and serving since the beginning of the pandemic. When we serve, we do not have time to criticize or cancel people on social media. In fact, we begin to choose what we do on social media and our mental state becomes healthier.

When we serve others, we forget about our own struggles, if even just for a few hours. I remember serving in New Orleans six months after Hurricane Katrina hit. Many places did not have power. We gutted homes. We fixed up a church to be a dormitory that would house volunteers in the summer. It was a week where I didn’t think of myself. For one whole week, I focused on the needs of others and remembered the blessings that God had given me.

It almost sounds like a selfish reason to serve to get mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy, but serving others is not just about the other person. It is about using our voice, our hands, our talents and gifts for the good of others. Serving others makes our souls healthier. It is what makes us human again.

In the movie, Beauty and the Beast, those living in the castle wanted to be human again so they could serve. Even in their states of not being human, they did everything they could to serve. Their lives were not complete because the prince gave them praise, but because they were able to serve. Our lives become complete when we serve others.

With the pandemic and many places closed in Los Angeles, I had to discover ways to serve others. Whether it is a text message, a phone call, or writing an encouraging post on social media or giving money and supplies, serving others is always beneficial to our overall health. Maybe it is why so many in the medical field do not get as sick physically as those of us outside of the medical field. In any of our workplaces, once we see our jobs as places of service, we become mentally and emotionally healthier.

So, as we pray and think about solutions for those in Texas, we can also discover ways we can serve those in our own communities. Many people may not be able to give of their finances, but all of us can give of our time. When we fully open again as a country, we will notice there are changes. There will be changes because people served. If we notice that our communities are not better, then it will be time that we roll up our sleeves and get to work. It’s the Texan way. It’s the American way. More importantly, it’s the humankind way. Let’s not just look for the helpers, let us be the helpers.

You Are Who You Support

I saw the Twitter post, “Who you support is who you are,” and even though it was referring to a political pundit with a clear agenda to insult and create division, I saw it as an opportunity that since it was not given context, to take it to a place in which it was not intended. When we drop statements without full context and our desire is to hurt, we open doors for people to find empowerment instead of insults. It is how I am deciding to do 2021.

If who I support is who I am, then I am a 2020 World Series Champion, a five-time college basketball champion, a college basketball coach with over a thousand wins, and I am an All-Valley karate champion with a dojo with the best name. I have never played on a sports team or taken any sports lessons, but if someone on Twitter is going to drop the claim that I am who I support, then I am claiming the greatness of those I support without doing anything, which is the exact opposite of who I support.

Being a sports fan or a fan of a movie series or television series is much different than being an elite athlete or a talented actor, writer, director, or producer. Many people today claim greatness without actually getting off their couches and doing something. They hide behind their computer screens and post on social media as if they are changing the world one post at a time. These same people also are great at pointing out the flaws of those who achieve greatness. What they do not know or understand, is that in order to be great, you have to fail. For those of us who support greatness, we have supported those who are great in their failures.

In order to be great, you have to get off of the couch and act. In order to fail, we have to attempt something great and recognize what we need to do to make that feat great. In other words, in order to be great, we have to fail. Greatness does not come to us overnight. It is a lifelong thread of failures. Many great people have failed and today, social media loves to post their failures, but at least they did something. It’s easy to sit back and criticize. It’s difficult to get up and do something brave and great, but it must be done and it will be done. If we do not get up and do the great deed, someone else will, and we will flounder in our apathy.

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. Some people will support a certain team or player. Others will support a commercial. Whether we support a team or not, the outcome will not be because of our support. Whether we support a product or not, the product will be advertised for millions to see during this event. So, whether we support people or not, we are not who we support because our support cannot change what someone does or does not do.

As I trod through this life I want to attempt feats of greatness. I will fail. You know what? It’s fine that people will throw their insults at me with my failures because at least I got up off the couch and did something. I refuse to remain apathetic. I want to do great feats that make a difference in this world. If it is through my writing, or speaking, or teaching, I hope I make great strides as I take on the disciplines that my great sports teams and television show has.

Let us all rise and take risks and do great feats to make a difference in this world. No political person is going to change and save us. Great feats come from ordinary people doing extraordinary deeds that make a difference. Will we fail? Absolutely. As we fail, we will learn from our failures as it is the only way we will be great.

So, my support for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Duke Blue Devils basketball team, and the television show Cobra Kai are here to stay. Yes, even with Duke’s abysmal season this year, I’m still faithful. Faithfulness leads to greatness. I will learn from these great organizations and apply their great habits to my life. Go ahead Social Media people and judge. I choose to live, act, and strive for greatness. I hope others will join me because it’s more fun than sitting on my computer and bashing those of us who are making the attempts to be great and learn from every failure we make along the way.

Hiding Behind Our Screens of Perfection

I have heroes. My heroes are unlike superheroes. My heroes have flaws and sins and make mistakes; however, their greatness far outshines their flaws, except on social media. Recently, a hero of mine was attacked for not having the perfect words after a disappointing moment in his life. I do not worship this hero, but I do respect him. Twitter went a flutter because of the words he spewed. He’s a great coach. He is the only coach in college basketball to have over 1,000 wins. He’s written a book on leadership. His super power is his leadership skills that inspires his players to win. He’s not a perfect human being. In fact, his words were not that degrading, but when perfect people look for a flaw, they will attack whatever we do or say as it was the worst thing in the world, and their flaws and sins are never revealed. Therein lies the problem.

When we are so focused on pointing out the flaws and sins of others, we hide our own sins and flaws. I know because I have done that most of my Christian life. With social media, it has become much easier to hide. We hide behind our screens and present a perfect life. if we do have a flaw or make a mistake, we cover it up with pointing out the flaws of someone else. If someone else looks horrible, our own flaws do not look so bad. It is a bad choice and one that most of us make, especially on social media.

There are people in the Bible that made this same choice. They are the Pharisees and other religious leaders. They would walk around and point out the flaws of other people, while at the same time committing the same sins or wrongs that their victims would never think of committing. I would love to demean this kind of perfection, but I cannot because I have done the exact same thing. We all hide so that people will not think less of us. in reality, those who think highly of us would like to see how we handle those mistakes and flaws.

To be fair, no one wants to read anyone’s own sins or flaws on social media. We do want to see the good. We can all decide for ourselves when a person with some fame says something if the words are evil or not. We do not need thousands of people to inform us of how horrible someone is. I do not want to see the bad in people. I know my heroes and their flaws. That’s why they are my heroes. I know how they have overcome their flaws and risen above them to accomplish the great feats that they have done.

The reason why people want to expose the flaws of those who have accomplished amazing feats is because they believe that if they bring others down, it will build them up. Maybe they cannot act in a film or coach a basketball team, but they can fold their laundry. Sorry, but when we point out the flaws of others who are using their gifts and talents to the fullest, we are revealing that we have yet to accomplish the fullness of our gifts and talents, including myself.

As we enter the second month of the year 2021, I have decided to revisit my goals for the New Year. I want to be better. I want to do better. I want to work on me and improve myself. It will start with not judging others for their flaws and working on my gifts and talents. Once I focus on me, I do not have time or energy to focus on others. I want to inspire others and have others inspire me. I know everyone is flawed, but I am going to choose to see the good in others. February is the month of love. Maybe we can begin to show and give love and then we will be open to receive it.

Run Away or Stay?

There are two major responses to fear. We either fight or take flight. For most of my life I have been the person to take flight. If trouble was brewing, I ran away. If I sensed that if I stayed where I was that I would encounter hardships, I ran. Unfortunately, I did not run from relationships in which I should have run the moment I saw a red flag. I did not run from unhealthy workplaces. I would always run from that which I could face and fight. I ran because I was afraid that people would be disappointed in me. I always stayed when I could not fight because I was afraid of what people would think if I took flight. I had to learn to fight or flight with God not with people’s opinions.

It has taken maturity and strength to recognize when I should stay and when I should take flight. It has also taken the fact that I have purposely surrounded myself with Christians who believe that we must stay where we are needed the most to present the Gospel and not hide in our little Christian caves. Most of my life, I have hidden in that Christian cave, even as I have lived in Los Angeles, California. Those Christian caves can be built anywhere, and they are very dangerous to our faith. I know because I recognized that when I crawled out of it.

When I resided in the Christian cave, I was unaware of the negative influence that I had become for Christ. It was never my intention to exclude people or to make people feel inferior because they did not believe in Christ or did not reside in the Christian cave with me, but it is exactly what had occurred. Throughout my Christian life, I was encouraged to reside in the Christian cave because people believed that those who were outside of it would influence me to walk away from Christ. The irony is that it was from within the cave that my faith waivered.

Within the cave, I received criticism and a list of rules that I had to abide by in order to thrive as a Christian. It is within the cave that I believed the term to become a “better Christian.” I have recently recoiled from that term to become a better human being and represent Christ. Christianity is not a competition, so I don’t know what a “better” Christian looks like. As a Christian, I am to replicate the attitude and actions of Christ, not of a person. Unfortunately, it took me years to recognize that much of my Christian beliefs were built on people that I thought were “better” Christians, instead of my faith being built on Christ who is the best.

So, I stepped out of the cave and entered a world where I need to influence people. I am always learning how to speak both in-person and online. I am trying to have intelligent conversations with people with whom I disagree. I don’t want to run away from those who do not believe in Jesus. I do not want to run away from those who vote differently from me. I do not want to run away from those who may commit immoral acts that I have not committed, but have committed my fair share of immoral acts with my own sins.  I want to stay and fight the good fight of faith.

In recent weeks, I have recognized that people who are Christians want to run into caves. Some caves are filled with Christians. Some caves are filled with people who are Christians and because they voted differently than those in the other cave, they feel that they are superior to them and refuse to communicate with them. Both caves are filled with “better” Christians. I have been in both caves, and I no longer reside in a cave. I am out among the people. I have discovered that we all want great things for our country, our states, our cities, our communities, and our churches.

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:18) Jesus said. “Go.” He did not say stay separate. Some of us need to gently and in love teach how to represent Christ well. We can only do that with humility and confess our own mistakes and sins. We need to lead and not run away. Others of us, need to stop running away from social media sites that do not have just “Christian” values, but sites that need Christians to stay and encourage others. We just may need to be aware of how we say our words of truth in love and realize that Jesus is so much bigger and better than any political figure or political party or agenda.

It is my hope and desire that for the first time in a long time, Christians will stop running away. Christians please stay and fight the good fight. “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” Christians have run away from Hollywood and scream that it is immoral. Christians have run away from large cities and claim that they are evil. Christians have run away from public schools and universities and claim that they are void of God. Christians let us stand together and not make another mistake. Let us stay on social media where Jesus is needed. We have all sinned. No sin is greater. It is time we love those whose sins are different than our own. Be love. Be the light. Let us come out of the caves and stop running and stay. It won’t be easy, comfortable, or safe, but it will be well done.