Ask for Help

When I went back to Cincinnati, Ohio this last Christmas, I walked around my former college campus that is now closed thinking, “Why didn’t they ask for help?” I reminisced of all the good times that Cincinnati Christian University (Cincinnati Bible College) held for me. The incredible friendships that were built there have lasted a lifetime and the knowledge that we gained turned into wisdom in our adult years of life and ministry. Now the school is closed and all I could wonder is why didn’t they ask for help. It’s easy for me to look on the outside and ask that, but when I really begin to reflect, I have to ask myself the same thing, “Why didn’t I ask for help?”

 

Last weekend was Valentine’s Day weekend. I don’t hate the holiday, but I have not had good experiences with it either. I would like to sit back and blame all the wrongs that the guys did to me. I have done that for too long and it doesn’t fix anything. I looked back after walking the campus of Cincinnati Christian University and realized that in my life, when I needed to ask for help, I didn’t. My arrogance and ignorance caused me to fail in relationships and I sat in depression blaming the guys and blaming others who helped cause the failure and never looked inside and wondered what I could do. Now that I’m older, I realize that I need to ask for help.

 

Asking for help is difficult. It’s difficult because we have to admit that we are not as great as we think we are. Humility is a key component in life that we all need to attain and realize that it is a necessity of life. Throughout time, people have claimed that asking for help is a weakness, but it’s actually a strength. When we ask for help, we gain wisdom that we don’t naturally have. No one is knowledgeable about everything, so we have to ask those with more knowledge, wisdom, and life experience in order to be able to succeed.

 

Asking for help gives us direction. Once I discovered to ask for help, I realized that I have a direction and a purpose to continue to move forward. So many people are stuck in their past failures that they cannot even look in the direction that is in front of them much less begin to move forward. I know because I was stuck in the early 2000’s, but once I was forced to go in a new direction in life, I could only look forward and I was forced to ask for help every step of the way, which is why I was able not just survive or thrive.

 

Asking for help involves other people. My pastor, Erwin McManus, says that we need people to grow as humans and he is absolutely correct. We must work with others in order to accomplish our goals. No one is an island to themselves. When we are an island, we fail. If we ask for help, people know that we are struggling and then they reach out and begin to care.

 

Asking for help is scriptural. People in the Bible had to ask for help when they were in trouble. Most of the time, God intervened with sending them a person to do their work. In order for society to become better and humanity to begin behaving like humans, we need to rely on each other for help in areas that we are not experts at doing. We may do our one part really well, but imagined what could happen if we involved others with our endeavors. The first way to involve others is to ask for help. Cincinnati Christian University forgot that they were not an island. They had a strong base of humans that supported them. I forgot when I was younger that in order to have a relationship, I needed to engage in relationships that were healthy beyond the one person I was dating. It all begins with asking for help. May we all ask for help this week.

The Mirror or the Window?

When I look into the mirror, I see my own reflection. I use the mirror for applying make-up and doing my hair. I look to see if my hair is frizzy or parted in the wrong place. For my make-up, I look to see if it is smeared. When I look out of a window, I see how other people are living their lives and how they look. There is nothing I can do to change or fix their appearance or actions. They are outside. I am inside with my mirror. With a mirror, I have to look introspectively. I can see my own flaws and mistakes. With a window, I look on the outside and I can see the mistakes and flaws of others. What matters is where my focus is, so I can change the one on the inside.

 

In 2007, I took the time to look introspectively into myself and discover why specific events occurred in my life. At first, I looked out of the window and blamed others for my failures, but that did not heal me; it only made the whole situation worse. Once I took the time to look introspectively into my own life, I realized that I am the only person that I can change and fix. In the past thirteen years, I have been a better influence for others, as I have changed my perspective and attitude. I have tried to fix my own sins, flaws, and mistakes.  The result has been remarkable with others around me.

 

Once I decided to look into the mirror and change and fix myself, those outside of the window began to change. Some people actually did change and became better people because they too decided to work on their own issues and look into a mirror. Some people may not have changed, but since my perspective about them changed, I realized that they have their own reasons and can rationalize them, even if I vehemently disagree with their ideas on life. The point is I cannot change or fix them, and I need to stop looking out of the window and stay focused on the mirror and change and fix the one person that I can, me.

 

It’s easy to look out of the window and change and fix everyone else. It’s easy because if we just yell and scream at them, then we believe we have done our part. We can listen to them and even give them rational advice, but in the end, they are the only ones that can make a decision to change.

 

It’s difficult to look into the mirror and look introspectively in ourselves and change or fix what we need to do in our own lives. It’s difficult but it is so worth it. It’s difficult and worth it because we realize that we can make our own choices in life and respond to the ones that others do that hurt us. It’s difficult because we are the only ones that can fix our own mistakes, flaws, and sins, which also means we have to admit that we have the flaws and sins, and no one wants to do that, but it is necessary.

 

Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Luke 6:41 (NIV) Jesus knew that it is easier for us to see the flaws and sins of others than it is for us to see our own. He knows our hearts. When we do not want to see our own sins and flaws, we look at others so we do not have to confess our own sin. Jesus is right. We need to look at ourselves and not others.

 

I see all the political posts and all the guilt shaming that people do on social media. I see so many people, both Christians and non-Christians pointing out the flaws in others and never pointing out their own flaws. If we all could just work on that one person that we can truly change, the world around us would become so much better. It all starts with looking introspectively and looking into the mirror and not out the window.

Life is Precious

 

With the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and the seven others in the tragic helicopter crash last week, we are reminded that life is too precious to waste on frivolous things. We are reminded that we can exercise, eat healthy, live with strong morals, be careful in every way, and yet, life can end. For me, it was a reminder that I must live every day with purpose and serve others in order to make an impact and a difference in the life of someone else.

 

It’s easy to just live life and fall into a routine to just exist. I know because I’ve done for far too long. Once I decided to pursue dreams in order to pursue others, I realized that I had time in my life and time should not be wasted. Ironically, Kobe Bryant lived his life with a motto not to waste time, but to live every moment with purpose and pursue greatness. He did not always succeed at that because no one does, but to have it as a motto and a daily goal helps us all to remember that we cannot take life for granted.

 

It’s easy to hold a grudge and not forgive. It takes strength and maturity to forgive someone. It releases us from being chained to our past and to bitterness, which is not a fun way to live, but it is the easy route because so many people live in this manner. If forgiveness was easy, everyone would do it. No one would reprimand people for sharing stories of forgiveness if it were so easy. Anything in life that is easy is not worth keeping. Doing what is difficult in life is worth it and it creates an urgency in us to realize that the preciousness of life must be protected.

 

It’s easy to give up on what we love or what we want in life. So many times, we work hard at what we want to accomplish or receive in life and because it gets arduous, we give up because we feel like it is too much for us to reach. Having been disappointed with many areas in life, I have reminded myself not to give up because the process will teach us so much while we endure all the trials and the end goal will be so much more rewarding.

 

Whatever we do in life, we must remember that we are given a life and that life is precious. What we do with that life is up to us. We cannot sit back and blame others for the situation that we are currently living. Others may have had an impact on us, but how we respond to that impact depends on us. It does not depend on what others have done to us. When we take ownership of our lives and create lives that are valuable with purpose. Life is precious. We do not know when life will end, but we can make the most of every day that we are alive and live it to the fullest.

 

It took me a long time to discover that wasting time is a sin and it’s one of which I struggle, but I attempt every day to make something purposeful. If we start with one area in our lives, it can grow into other areas. I grew up in the church and I understand that I need to be ready for the afterlife for when I die. With Jesus in my life, I know that I will see him face to face when this life on earth is complete. What I didn’t know was that every day on earth was valuable and important. I took most days for granted and as if I had all the time in the world, but we don’t. Let’s all work to make every day precious and influence the lives of others around us so that they can see Jesus in us. The most important part of our lives is that others see Jesus in us. It’s not that they see our politics or our thoughts or even our favorite parts of life, but that when they see us, they see Jesus. I want to live my life that others see Jesus. It is within that goal that I must live every day with purpose. May 2020 be the year of purpose and no day taken for granted.

Let Them Laugh

Recently, I have read books and listened to pastors who have confirmed ideas that I have had about Christianity all my life. People would laugh at my ideas and comments. “That will never happen,” is a phrase that I have heard more times in my life than I can count. I have begun to realize that as I am getting older, I wish I had listened to my ideas and words and not worry about those who laugh. Let them laugh.

We hear all the inspirational stories of people who have had it difficult either financially, or physically, or mentally, and how they overcame their challenges, including people taunting and/or discouraging them. Those are great stories to read, but when I have finished reading those stories, I have had to step up and face reality again. It is not just that incredible successful people have super powers. They have powers, but they are ones that we can all attain. They have the powers of resilience, determination, and motivation.

 

Resilience. It comes when we refuse to allow those who insult, criticize, or mock us to determine what we do or what we say. When we are pushed up against the wall and feel like we do not have any strength, we dig down deep and push away from all the jealousy, arrogance, and hatred and pursue our goals and dreams. Joseph, the son of Isaac, in the Old Testament had resilience. Every time an obstacle came into his life, he bounced back and thrived. He refused to allow his enemies to have power over him. Resilience gives you power and control and takes it away from those who have hurt you or have tried to hold you back. Resilient people refuse to allow human beings to have so much power or control over them that they turn from what is good.

Determination. Those who succeed have tried one million ways to reach their goals. They worked until they found that one strategy that took them to the top. We never read about all their failures. We are only privileged to their successes. We have to be determined to allow God to work in our lives and not give up when we fail or when life has trials. It means we keep going when the going feels like it is just flying down the hill of a roller coaster that lands in a dumpster. We continue on the ride and climb out of the dumpster of life and walk up the stairs on the roller coaster. (As a person who fears heights, I know that roller coasters have these.) We cannot give up on our goals or dreams, whether we are young or old, rich or poor, educated, or not educated, or whatever excuse we use. We have to go beyond the lies we have believed about ourselves in our entire lives and let people know the truth that shines within us.

Motivation. The reason why people succeed is that they have an end goal and they have a reason that motivates them to achieve that end goal. If our end goal is life affirming and aligned with the will of God, then it will create in us an urgency to fulfill it. If it is revenge, it will create anger and bitterness in our souls that will begin to be revealed by all of those who surround us, which will lead to them alienating us or infuriating us more. We must be motivated to reach our goals and dreams, and that requires us to forgive our enemies and push forward with what we need to do and not dwell on the past hurts that have motivated us toward anger and bitterness. Super heroes all have motivation to do the right thing in order to make the world a better place. What motivates us will be revealed in the end result.

By no means am I an expert on goals and dreams, but I have discovered that for far too long I have listened to the wrong voices in my life. I have allowed the laughter of others to hold me back from my dreams and goals. To those who still laugh, go ahead and laugh. I have more important work to be done. It is urgent. I will keep going no matter what obstacles get thrown in my way. I am determined to complete it, and motivated that what is aligned with the will of God is laughed at by those who do not know God or do not know God’s will. May the year of 2020 be a year for all of us to push away the blurriness of those who do not support us and see clearly in order for us to make a difference in the world around us, even when people laugh at us. Those same people who laugh today, are the same ones applauding the works and words that have been created by those at which they laughed, tomorrow.

New Year’s Goals and Resolutions

Many people make resolutions, or new goals, for the new year. In the beginning, we all are good at keeping our resolutions or goals. The gyms are packed with people fulfilling their goals to be healthier and workout. People like me are writing diligently or cleaning their homes and getting organized. Then, somewhere between the first week and February, we fall back into our old habits. A few years ago, I felt challenged and kept two resolutions or goals and have not stopped ever since. Looking back, I realize a few differences that I created that became habits.

 

So, my goals or resolutions came because a pastor said, “No one ever keeps their resolutions.” Don’t tell me that. I revert back to my “I’ll show you” attitude and I do it. So, that year I committed to writing every single day. I also decided that I needed to have a daily devotional every single day. That was five years ago. The habit continues to exist. I look back at what I did and I realize that I set up some rules.

 

First, if I did miss a day, I would continue the next day and not beat myself up for it. I haven’t been as successful with my gym goals. I try to commit to going to the gym at least three times a week. I don’t always make it three times a week, so I start over the next week. I don’t beat myself up over it, which I think is key to accomplishing any goal.

 

Next, I create small increments to my goals. The first year I wrote every day. It has always been writing that was explicit for my goals in writing like my book or screenplays. It was not writing for lists or even journaling. The small increments were connected to my schedule. The weekends always get more writing time than the weekdays. It has become such a habit that I don’t know how to go a day without writing. Writer’s block has become obsolete.

 

Small increments can be sub goals to get your bigger goals. I know experts say that’s how you reach your goals, but it’s true. Small increments to larger goals are ones that help you remember why you are doing what you are doing. They are not always easier to achieve, but they are just one element of what needs to be done for your goal to be attained. It’s why many people quit with their goals after one month. We may want to lose weight and we set one big goal, but without those smaller increment goals, we struggle to maintain our big goal.

 

Accountability. I told others what I was doing. It is not only for support of keeping my goal, but to remind myself. I would tell people in the middle of the year, I still am keeping my crazy goal to write every single day this year. When people would ask what do I write, they would then ask when do I write. I would tell them that I write every day because I had learned from the expert writers like Stephen King that the best writers write every single day. By the middle of the year, I realized that a habit was developing.

 

Being consistent. I have become consistent when I write. Whether it is first thing in the morning or right when I get home, it is easier for me to reach my goals when I have a consistent time of doing what I have set to do.

 

Having goals makes you realize if it is really your passion or just a wild dream. Early on in that first year of writing every day, I recognized how much I loved to write and how much I had to say. It wasn’t a goal that was just for a year. It has become a habit to do until I no longer have the passion or the capability to write.

 

In Philippians 3:14, Paul states, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ. Jesus.” (NIV) The prize is to be in the presence of Jesus. To remain in his presence, the goal of speaking and listening to Him daily has guided me to be in His presence even in the trials of life.

 

The best thing I discovered with my goals was that each day was new. Even if you have already broken your goals or resolutions, you can start over every single day. Habits are created. Bad habits are difficult to break but they are broken when we create new habits. Each day is present for you to create a new habit or part of one and to begin to break a bad habit. It’s a new year. Every day is a new day. We can all start with a new and healthy habit. Once we do, we make a small difference in the world that can create a world that is better for us all.

 

 

20/20 Vision for 2020

As the year comes to a close, we all get to look back on the year and reminisce of what happened that was life changing, both good and bad. Every year starts with new hope to have a fresh start. As the year progresses, most of us experience the good, bad, and the ugly for an entire year. We can’t relive the past, but we can learn from it, and we must use that knowledge to push forward in the future. That’s what this trip to Cincinnati taught me.

 

My Alma Mater, Cincinnati Christian University (Cincinnati Bible College) has closed its doors as of December 20, 2019. As I walked around my campus on my first day here this weekend and took photos, all I could think of was how much that university poured into my life. Every place has its flaws. I had my own failures and failed relationships, but I tried to learn and am still learning from them. As I walked, I could not help but to keep saying, “Why didn’t they ask for help?” Whether it was financially, or advice with extra curricular activities, I wish they had asked for help from all kinds of people and institutions. Pride leads to a fall.

 

Then, I thought of how many tangled up situations I find myself and wonder why I didn’t ask for help. I have plenty of resources to seek to ask for help, and yet many times my pride keeps me from asking. This next year, I’m learning from my past and I will seek help and advice from all kinds of people and institutions in order to keep growing because pride leads to a fall.

 

This last summer, I visited my hometown, Daytona Beach, Florida. Although I am now a tourist there, I reflected on my life growing up in that little city. So much has changed in my hometown. My high school is gone and a new building takes its place with a statue honoring the man who gave money to rebuild it, the NBA star, Vince Carter. The town grew up with new stores and restaurants. I grew up too.

 

When I lived in Florida, I chose to believe the lies that others said about me and to me. I chose to listen to the wrong voices giving me bad advice and had to remember the right voices many years later. I blamed other people for my bad choices. I will take with me in the future to listen to the right voices when I seek the help and advice. I will not live with rules and regulations, but with a freedom that Christ gives me in my life.

 

As sad as it is that my college has closed, it’s refreshing to know that many of my college friends are still walking with Jesus and leading others to Him. Christianity is not dying. It’s growing and with growth comes change. Those of us who use a 20/20 vision will be able to lead the people who live in our current generation to Jesus. We will have learned from our past to push forward into the future.

 

Whatever this year, 2019, has thrown at you, looking back and being reflective gives direction for both the good and the bad. So much has happened in one year. I know that a decade is passing. I’m choosing to take one moment at a time. I can look back at the past and reflect to grow and be present with wisdom and bring that into the future to make the world a better place. I hope we all choose to reflect and then use that reflection for growth and change. I hope we can step into the future with humility and wisdom. May the reflection of the past give us 20/20 vision for the present and the future.

Lights of Christmas

I know that many of the Christmas traditions are rooted in pagan festivities hundreds of years ago. I see this as Christians took the festivities and created a holy day to celebrate the birth of Jesus. One of the elements of the festivities that Christians have attained are the lights. Jesus is the light that brightens our darkened world. In fact, a light guided the Magi to Jesus. Christmas lights represent the light that Jesus brings to the world. He brought that light from the moment he entered our world.

 

Jesus is the light of the world. As a light, he shows us the way to life that is full of peace. We can have peace in turbulent times with Jesus. He gives us light to see the way all the way to the end of any trial. We must take our focus off of the problem and focus on Christ in order to see the light.

 

In the most difficult times in life, light shines through with wisdom from people in our lives. We may not always accept or like the wisdom, but when we look back and reflect, we realize that the wisdom was a guide to our way out of the situation. Light shines on a darkened path and we can choose to follow the light or to stay in the darkness.

 

Jesus does not force any of us to follow Him. He allows all of us to choose our path and to choose how to follow Him. People demand that we do specific tasks. Those people are not Jesus. Jesus just asks us to come to Him, and Jesus allows us to come to Him at any moment in our lives and receive the light, even when we have been engulfed in the darkness.

 

One of the best parts of Jesus being the light is that no matter how far into the darkness of sin and our own evil choices, Jesus desires for us to come to Him. In fact, He is waiting for us, and when He sees us, like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, he runs to meet us. In this Christmas season and into the New Year, may we walk in the light of Jesus and guide others to walk with us in the light to meet Jesus, so they can walk away from darkness and into the light of Jesus. It all starts with small lights, just like the star that only the Magi noticed. May we all notice the light of Jesus.