Let’s Talk About It: Part II (1/10/2021)

This is part two of my social justice plead to the church entitled Let’s Talk About It. (If you haven’t already done so, stop now and read that one first.) I’m writing this because the lack of dialogue continues but this time I have questions.

What does MAGA really mean? At what point in American history are we trying to return to in order to be great again? Back when black and brown people stayed in their place, out of public schools, not “taking your jobs” (affirmative actions) and syphoning government assistance? Whatever you think it means, it has become a symbol of bigotry and oppression to the masses. Don’t believe me? Just google it and see if what comes up is something you want to be identified with. Face it, the MAGA hat is associated with white supremacy. It’s the new white hood and confederate flag but this time it was made in China.

Why isn’t flying the confederate flag considered treason? Quick history lesson. The south succeeded from the Union in rebellion because they didn’t want to give up their slaves. They formed their own state and created the rebel flag, better known as the confederate flag, as their symbol. The north and south fought a civil war and the south lost. The south is now part of the UNITED States of America. The south lost their attempt at souveignty. So why isn’t flying the confederate flag considered treason? Is it freedom of expression? But that right applies to the citizens in the United States of America. The same United States that the south didn’t want to be apart of because they didn’t believe all men were created equal. The irony is baffling. I’d like to take this opportunity to coin a new phrase, Selective Patriotism. Some people argue that the confederate flag is part of their heritage. What heritage is that? Rebellion? Slavery? Racism? Segregation? Jim Crow? Black servants cooking your food, catering to your every need, and wiping your children’s butts while their own families struggled to eat? Then walking home for miles everyday because they aren’t allowed to ride the bus and can’t afford a car. Yeah that doesn’t sound too great to me. If you want to preserve southern heritage eat cornbread with your greens, keep saying “y’all”, and teach your children to say “ma’am” and “sir.”

Why are social justice issues like racism, considered political? The treatment of citizens isn’t a political issue, its a moral and an ethical one. American rights say that all men are created equal. Treating people unfairly and unjustly is unethical and unAmerician by our own standards. That belief should be standard across the board and across party lines. I don’t know why this is still a thing in 2019!

I consider myself to be pro-black. Being pro-black doesn’t mean I hate white people or any other race because I don’t; far from it. I don’t believed black people are better than any other race, but we aren’t beneath any other race either. I’m actually writing this because I love white people and I’m tired of you making fools of yourselves, especially Christians on social media. However, I do hate your apathy. I hate your indifference towards what’s happening to your black and brown brothers and sisters. I’ll say it again. If we’re really one race, the human race, then why aren’t we all outraged when people are treated unfairly, regardless of the color of their skin? Why aren’t we all outraged when people of different races are judged by a different standard? Your apathy shows me that you don’t believe we’re the same and you actually do see color. I write this on the wake of the shooting in El Paso, TX. Yet again the white male shooter was apprehended alive while black men are shot dead on the mere suspicion of having a weapon. How many innocent people have to die before we agree on stricter gun laws?

C.S. Lewis brings up an interesting point in his book The Screwtape Letters. In the book the senior tempter gives his nephew some advice on how to trip up a young man in his Christianity. (Bonus note: If the enemy can’t stop you from becoming a Christian he will make you ineffective.) His advice was that it is okay for the young man to have love for others as long as it’s for people farther away from him. It’s ok for him to have love and compassion for people suffering in other countries but don’t allow him to have love for his neighbors and people in his own community. Having love for persecuted Christians on the other side of the globe but not the homeless man you pass on the way to work everyday is a work of the enemy. Let that sink in. I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about people everywhere but take care of home first. Be concerned about the injustices in your country first. Reach out and have compassion for people in your community first.

Can we please call a spade a spade? Sure, Donald Trump has done some things in favor of Christianity but he is far from being a godly man. Has the church lost its mind?! How can we praise the “good” he’s done and not condemn the blatenly racist and sexists statements he’s made while in office? That’s like picking and choosing which scriptures you want to believe. Just because God is using him doesn’t make him godly. That shows the power and goodness of God, not the man. God can literally use anybody or anything. Just ask Balaam. God spoke to him through a donkey. Literally a jackass!

I recently saw a post on Facebook that I was too outraged to even comment on. To make it worse it was being posted and shared by church folks! It was a black and white photo of children in a cotton field captioned “Poor children of all races picked cotton.” What in the ham sandwich is that supposed to mean!? Those children were picking cotton to help their families and I’m sure they were paid. Probably pennies but paid nonetheless. They were employed. They weren’t forced to work for free, whipped, ripped from their families, and raped like African slaves in America. There’s a huge difference between being a slave and being poor. And since when does pointing out one person’s unfortunate circumstances minimize or negate another’s pain? Please stop with the foolishness. Please. It’s sickening. What’s really sickening is that I have to point these atrocities out to people in the church. Followers of Christ. People who are supposed to be identifiable by their LOVE. And we wonder why our congregations are slimmer than cows in an Old Testament famine.

I write this to provide another perspective, do with it what you will. To quote Earl Nightingale, “This is America so every man has the right to be as wrong as he chooses.” Selah

Leaving the Glass Shop (1/3/2020)

It finally happened and I can hardly believe it. I finally landed a new job which means finally leaving the cafe. When I started as a server I had it in mind that this would be temporary. The cafe would keep me occupied and provide some income until I found another job. Finding another job was fairly easy. Getting hired was difficult. Temporary turned into 4 years. Yet though the vision tarry it shall surely come to pass. Leaving is a bittersweet feeling. It can be overwhelming when what you’ve prayed for finally comes to pass. The past 4 years of my life changed over night.

One of my favorite books is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. If you’re not familiar with it, allow me to give you a brief synopsis. The main character is a shepherd boy named Santiago. His dream is to journey across the continents to see the pyramids in Egypt. He sells his flock to make his dream happen. Just one day into his journey he finds himself penniless and alone in a foreign country. He is hungry but has no money to buy food. He sees a glass shop and offers to polish the glass in exchange for food. Fast forward a bit, the shop owner is impressed with the boy so he decides to hire him. The boy agrees to work at the shop until he has enough money to buy more sheep and return to his life as a shepherd. The boy is smart and innovative. His ideas and work ethic quickly revive the dying shop. When the day comes for him to leave he has three options: stay at the shop, return to shepherding, or continue on the journey to see the pyramids. This is where my story picks up.

The cafe has been my own personal glass shop. It was there for me when I had no other means of earning an income. Like Santiago, I thrived at the glass shop. But also like the boy, working the the glass shop was not what I set out to do so I must go.

I’m embarking on a new stage in my journey of life. I got a job as a Project Manager at the local university. This is a completely new challenge for me but I’m up for it. I’m really enjoying it so far. It feels good to be a professional again. If this Alchemist parallel is correct, I can liken this next stage to crossing the desert. That’s kind of a scary thought if you’re familiar with the story. For Santiago, the toilsome journey through the desert turns out to be worth it. He found love and enlightenment in the dessert. My fingers are crossed.

Not only am I saying farewell to the cafe (a.k.a glass shop) I’m bringing this blog to a close. I feel like it’s time. All good things must come to an end. I finished grad school and I’m starting a new career. (Maybe I’ll start another blog called New Degree at 33.) It’s also the end of the year and the end of a decade. It’s a season of necessary endings and new beginnings. But I assure you, this is not the last you’ve heard of Colette Randall as a writer. This is only the end of the beginning. To all my followers, and my mom, thank you for supporting my work. Your views and comments made me feel validated as a writer. I also want to encourage you all to continue on your own personal journey. We all have one and it’s never too late embark on it. You just may need to take another route. With that said, I shall bid you farewell. May you never loose your Faith, sense of Adventure, or the importance of the Oxford Comma.

The Little Things (7/8/2019)

I recently got my hair cut by a stylist that I’ve never been to before. Talk about faith and adventure, but I was optimistic. Besides, its just hair. It’ll grow back. I was excitedly anticipating this cut because it’s been a while. Though my long curly locs are beautiful they can also be cumbersome. Not to mention the added heat of wearing a natural scarf every day in the middle of the Georgia summer. I can pull them up but at this length messy buns and ponytails are heavy.

Long story short the resulting cut was much shorter than I had anticipated. I’ve had my hair cut too short before. No big deal. It’ll grow back and my hair grows pretty quickly. I told myself I was okay and went on about my day. About 30 minutes later a wave of anxiety hit that I couldn’t shake. It felt like a combination of nervousness, fear, and a dash of paranoia. I sat in my car for a few minutes to determine if there was any potential threat nearby or if this was all in my head. I concluded that it was in my head. Where was this coming from? I should be happy. I was on my way to get a smoothie. I love smoothies. I was on vacation. Who doesn’t love vacation!? I just got my hair done…cut. My hair is cut. My hair is cut too short. My beautiful curls are gone. It’s too short. It’s too different. I wasn’t ready. I don’t like my hair.

Was I that upset about my hair? The answer was yes…and no. My hair was just a trigger. It was just another thing that wasn’t going according to my plan. I had plans for my vacation. I was going to work on the marketing for my Resigned at 29 merchandise. Specifically, I was going to start running internet ads so I can make some money. I was up late the night before reading blog after blog trying to figure out the best way to make that happen and essentially got nowhere. I was also supposed to draft a post but at that moment I didn’t have the inspiration. What if I don’t get the inspiration? I’m on vacation now but it’s back to the real world next week where finals are lurking. This class has been more difficult than I had anticipated. I wasn’t doing well and I was disappointed in myself. The class is on leadership. I plan on writing a book on leadership someday. I already have the title. But I’m doing poorly in this class so maybe I shouldn’t write this book. Maybe I can’t write this book. Why did I think I could write this book? I’m not qualified to write this book. Speaking of unqualified, the job I interviewed for hasn’t called me back yet. They think I’m unqualified too. I’ll never find a new job. My brain just reeled on and on and on. Each negative thought another rung on the anxiety ladder.

All of these thoughts represented emotions that I pushed aside and didn’t allow myself feel in the moment. Just like my haircut I told myself I was okay and kept it pushing. Being on vacation allowed me to slow down enough for everything else to catch up with me. The haircut was a reminder of all the other areas of unmet expectations and failed anticipations in my life. All seemingly little things but big things are made up of little things. Atoms and quarks matter. (Pun intended). Quantum physics is about a bunch of little things. When you put them together it forms a big thing so complex that the average person can’t comprehend it. Don’t sweat the small stuff but don’t ignore it either. Little things in a car can turn into major issues if they aren’t handled while they’re small. The same concept applies on a mental and emotional level; that’s how people blow head gaskets. I heard a psychologist say a while back that no one ever really “snaps.” Just because we don’t see the build-up doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Before I went on vacation I had someone ask me how I felt about something at work. I simply said, “I don’t have time to feel.” I realized how unhealthy that statement sounded but it was true and I couldn’t think of anything better to say. I took a few courses in Christian Counseling a few years ago. One of the most important take aways is that God gave us emotions for a reason, even the negative ones. Allow yourself the feel the emotion. Acknowledge it. Then let it go. Take care of emotions while they are small. When we suppress our emotions they tend to amplify. Like a child vying for your attention. The more you ignore them the more they act out. And like an unruly child, your unchecked emotions are annoying everyone around you.

But I have good news! For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. What I mean is little things have the power to produce big positive results too. Fact: Amazon started in a garage…with dial-up internet (pause for dramatic effect). The Bible says not to despise small beginnings. I’ve said it before, even a single drop in a lake will still make ripples. I have to remind myself of this truth when things don’t seem to be taking off as quickly as I’d like. Just because Resigned at 29 doesn’t seem to be making ripples doesn’t mean it won’t. This is just the beginning. And if this isn’t the thing, its the thing that will lead me to the thing. I can have confidence in this because I know all things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose [Romans 8:28]. I’m writing this to encourage you as I encourage myself. In this so called game of life, take the time to feel then get back on the field. Selah

Nightvision (5/8/2019)

I’ve been wanting to write about my current stage in life because it feels intense and pivotal, but I find it difficult to express in words so this is my best effort. Honestly, my emotions are up and down daily, sometimes hourly or even from situation to situation. At times I feel extremely frustrated to the point of anger and can’t pin-point a single cause or trigger. It’s just life in general. I thought I’d be further along by now. But here I am; no husband, no kids, no boyfriend, no BMW, no 6-figure job, no jet-set lifestyle, no 10k followers on Instagram, nothing that resembles the world’s view of success. The frustration comes because I feel like I have all the tools in my toolbox but can’t seem to build. I look around at other people who seem to be doing more with less and at a younger age. I resigned from my previous job because I felt like God wanted me to. Trust me, I have no regrets about resigning but I thought surely something bigger and better would have come my way by now. This June marks 4 years since my resignation. Really I’m just tired of the struggle and I can’t see any relief on the horizon.

Another reason I was having trouble writing about this stage is that I try to have some positive inspirational conclusion to my posts but I don’t have one because my story isn’t over yet. Snow White is still asleep, Cinderella is still a peasant, <insert superhero’s name> hasn’t discovered his/her powers, and the water hasn’t turned to wine. My pastor recently preached a message that changed my perspective. She talked about how you don’t have to have this Hallmark ending to your story to tell it. Progress is still a testimony and telling it helps you persevere to the expected end. So here we are.

I also know that sometimes people just need a story they can identify with to know they are not alone. (One of the enemy’s tactics is isolation.) In my heart of hearts I know there will be a good positive conclusion to this season, even if I can’t see it yet. That’s the essence of faith; the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen [Hebrews 11:1]. If I could see it, it wouldn’t be faith. I’ve been reading “Crushing” by T.D. Jakes. This book is seriously speaking my life. Truth be told, I’m tired of this crushing stage and I want out. At the same time I know that what I truly want, my heart’s desire, is on the other side of the crushing and there’s no way around it. I must endure this “light affliction.”

My garage has become my place of solace. Judge not. I find it so peaceful to come home from work and just sit in my car in the garage in the pitch black silence (with the car off of course.) When I first started sitting there, with the garage door closed behind me and headlights off, it was so dark I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. That was fascinating to me. It’s not scary because I know I’m in a safe place. It’s my garage and no one has access to it but me. There’s no need to be afraid of the dark when you carry light. After a few months of this routine of relaxing in my garage, I realized that my eyes are adjusting to the darkness. Where I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face before, I can now make out the outline of the door and the paint cans on the shelf in front of me.

I realized this was a reflection of my life. I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel but my eyes are adjusting to my current darkness. I’m implementing what I’m learning about being a manager at work and actually seeing results and feeling more confident. I was inspired and convicted by a quote from Sarah Jakes Roberts, “I have a lot to learn but I also have the capacity to learn it.” That’s exactly how I feel about being a manager so I’m making the effort to learn. I’ve also upgraded my blog to a website and attached an online store. Resigned at 29 is now a brand. It’s still dark but I’m making out the outline of success while I’m here.

About a year or so ago, I heard an interview with the rapper Lecrae where he said something enlightening. His words seemed profound at the time but I didn’t truly grasp the magnitude of them until recently. He was commenting on a rough, crushing season of his life. He said he felt like he was drowning, but after some time it was like he grew gills. Out of Lecrae’s crushing came the album that’s been sustaining me in my crushing season, All Things Work Together. An album, a declaration, and a promise.

God allows trials to come into our lives not to harm us but to bring something out of us that we didn’t know we had. I’ve known that for years. I’m familiar with the book of James but reading it and living it are two very different experiences. It makes me think of Paul when he says that he’s learned to be content. I think Paul was talking about growing gills when you’re drowning, wings when you’re falling, or even pseudo night vision when life gets dark. Instead of changing the situation, sometimes God changes you. Even in dark seasons of life, if you get still and silent God can develop something in you that you didn’t know you had or were even capable of; like night vision or gills. I’m not saying I’m a superhero or anything, at least not yet, fingers crossed, but I do know that God can do some super things in some seemingly unnatural places.

Kingdom ROI (3/30/2019)

I was on the phone with a friend while she was taking care of an unexpected expense. This expense was not only unexpected, it was quite hefty. Needless to say, this was a blow to her finances. I was feeling kind of helpless on the phone. If I had the money I would have given it to her, no doubt. But I don’t so I can’t. Over the next few days, this situation kept coming to mind. Then I remember the account in the book of Acts when Peter and John were approached by a beggar outside of the temple. Their response was, “Gold and silver I have not, but what I have I give to thee.” Then they healed the man through the power of Christ. They didn’t have money but they had power and authority over sickness and diseases. Stacks on deck, I have not, but do have some biblical truths and a knowledge and that is what I shall give to thee. As I was writing her a letter to go along with two books on finances by Joseph Capps, I realized my stationary was too small and this message was too large. So I decided to make it my next blog.

As I’ve mentioned in my blogs many times before, resigning from my engineering job and accepting a job at a ministry came with a significant pay cut. In this time I’ve learned how to trust God with my finances along with other areas of my life. I haven’t quite mastered this but I’m making progress. I’ve been practicing the First Fruits lifestyle and tithing for years. God has been faithful, but I still wasn’t seeing the dramatic results that the Bible says are possible.

What most people don’t realize is that there are 4 types of giving in the Bible (First Fruits, the tithe, offerings, and alms). Each type of giving has a different motivation, purpose, and return on investment. People don’t see their giving “working” because we often mix up these types of giving. For Tithes are to be paid to the church for its upkeep. Alms are given to the poor. Offerings are gifts to God motivated by love. I know people don’t think the church needs money but the church has to pay to keep the lights on just like you do.  You can’t give your tithe to a homeless shelter, that would make it alms and in the ledger book of heaven, it shows that you have not paid your tithes. Therefore you can’t withdraw the blessings from that account because you have not made your deposits.  Don’t worry about the pastor putting your hard earned tithe money towards his gator boot fund. You do your part and let God handle dishonest clergy. Don’t let Him cause you both in disobedience. 

Feel free to fact check me on this. It’s foolish to believe everything you read, especially on the internet. People with good intentions will give you bad information. Besides these are just a few examples and there is much more to learn. This is just a snowflake on the tip of the iceberg.

I know all of this because I’m blessed to be at a church that teaches it. But it wasn’t until last spring that I discovered where I was missing it. I was neglecting my return on investment! Every single verse in the bible that talks about giving also comes with a subsequent blessing. I thought I was being a “cheerful giver” by not expecting something in return. I was dead wrong! If I truly believe God is good, and He’s faithful, why did I not expect Him to make good on these promises too? God wants us to expect our blessing from our giving.  I realized it was foolish to even give without expecting.

ROI on First Fruits: the blessing will rest on your home. (Ezekiel 44:30)

ROI on Tithes: windows of heaven opened and blessing poured out on you. (Malachi 3:10-11)

ROI on Offerings: you’ll reap in proportion to what you sew and all grace will abound towards you. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

ROI on Alms: to the measure in which you give it will be given back to you. (Luke 6:38)

The Holy Spirit reminded me of a situation with an acquaintance that happened a few years ago. She asked me to pick her up from work and I agreed to do it. No sweat off my back, but she failed to tell me what time. When I texted her to find out what time she assumed I wasn’t coming and called someone else. She never responded to my text but I showed up at her job anyway around the time I thought she got off. Sure enough, she was standing outside but she wasn’t waiting on me. She thought I wasn’t coming. I was surprised and offended that she didn’t think I would make good on my word to pick her up. (Even if she didn’t do her part by giving me a time.) What kind of person does she think I am? Does she not know my character better than that? Haven’t I been faithful in the past? Then I realized that’s how God must feel when we don’t expect Him to come through on His promises.

The next mistake I was making was with my tithes. I consistently paid my tithes but it usually wasn’t the first transaction I made with my money.  Giving the first of your increase is a condition for paying tithes. I realized that I had no excuse to not pay it first. It’s not like I had to saddle up a donkey and make a trek to the temple. I know when I get paid and between online banking and church apps, I had no excuse. On top of that, I work at the church and literally walk pass the offering box several times a day. Now I cheerfully pay my tithes first.

Along with paying my tithes, I make a payment on my First Fruits offering. Each time I set aside money and dedicate it as First Fruits, I’m planting seeds. The way we do First Fruits at my church is we make a pledge in the spring and pay that amount by the end of the year. I realized I don’t have to  finish paying the full amount before those seeds start producing. The process begins when one single seed ($1) is planted. 

One day I was looking at my yard and noticed how fast and how much the grass has grown. We had several days of rain that week and I had a revelation. More water allows seeds to grow faster, taller, and more luscious. I could help my seed grow and produce faster by watering it more and more often. So whenever I have a few extra bucks or whenever I even think about it, I make an offering to water my First Fruits seed. I reasoned within myself that it’s better to water the seeds in the ground before planting more seed, lest they all shrivel up and die.

This isn’t Prosperity gospel, sowing and reaping are universal laws that will work for you if you work with them. This blog is by no means all inclusive.  There is much much more to learn and hopefully I’ve peaked your interest enough to do your own research because the abundant life not only possible, it waiting for you.

First Steps First (3/13/2019)

I recently took a step and ordered business cards. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time. I was gifted a beautifully engraved card case about a year ago that I take out of the box and just hold from time to time even though it was empty. Each time I would sit down to order some cards I’d be stumped about what to put on it, not to mentioned the overwhelming decision of choosing a design. What is my business? What’s my title? Do I really want my personal cell number on a card that could literally end up anywhere? Should I invest in a second line with no potential callers? These cards would be the first symbol of my brand so this was kind of a big deal…to me at least. My dream is to be a public speaker and author. Maybe even host a daytime show like The View or The Talk. But I’m not there yet so it felt presumptuous to put “speaker” or “writer” on my card without having done any paying gigs.

One day I had the revelation that if I want to be a public speaker the public needs to know about it. I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Jesus and Jollof, and they said that victory requires vulnerability. I felt like they were speaking directly to me and I heard it loud and clear.

I compromised and added “blogger” to the card instead of “writer.” It was also a step for me to call myself a “blogger.” Yes, I write a blog but am I good enough to call myself a blogger? It’s not like I have thousands of followers or even a hundred at this point. I started blogging in June of 2015 when I resigned from my full time job. I was off to a good start, posting regularly, but fear stopped me and my blog went silent for over a year. An inspiring message from Elevation Church encouraged me to resurrect it. I was afraid that I didn’t have enough creativity to sustain it, after all, I didn’t even consider myself to be a writer. The words “I’m a writer,” still feels funny in my mouth but taste sweet, like the awkwardness of pomegranate arils. What if my best words have already been written and no one has even read them? FORO, fear of running out, was a real fear for me when it comes to speaking too. What if I gave my best material away in a blog for free? If I keep doing that how can I ever expect to get paid as a speaker? On the other hand, how can I expect to expand my audience if I’m too afraid to tell people that I write. Even if my best words have already been written, how many other speakers, writers, poets, and artists peddle the same words everywhere they go for years? If Earth, Wind, and Fire played a concert today people would still want to hear September.

So I put on my big girl pants and ordered some business cards. Colette Randall the blogger and speaker. When I finish my degree in December I plan on adding MBA on there. I’ve earned those letters behind my name so why not show them off too. (I’m considering changing my title on LikedIn to “Renaissance Woman” because I do it all.)

When the cards came in they weren’t exactly how I envisioned them. The font was too small and faint. I was talking to my best friend about how I was slightly disappointed in how the cards came out after I had put so much into them. Her response was simple. “You took the first step, fine tuning is next.” Somehow I felt like we were talking about more than business card design. My best friend has a knack for dropping gems like that. If anyone were to eves drop on our conversations, they would probably get saved, healed, delivered, and a master’s degree.

Taking the first step sounds easy enough but not when you’re an over thinker like me. I tend to get caught up trying to figure out step six before I even take step one. In this life of uncertainty I’m learning to dial it back and focus on the actions I can take in the present. I also have to stop beating myself up for actions I felt I should have taken in the past. God is with us in the here and now. We don’t have to figure out the right steps to get to Him. I also have to trust the fact that He’s big enough to get me where I need to be when I need to be there. His plans account for my mistakes and His timing is perfect. I’m almost positive I’ve written these words before but faith is an ongoing process.

“We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.”-Proverbs ‭16:33‬ ‭

I find this verse to be comforting and encouraging. It’s comforting because the outcome is not up to me. I’m only responsible for taking action. You can’t throw the dice if you never picked them up to start with. Once you have them in hand you have to have enough courage to cast them. The point is you have to make a move to get to where you want to be. No need to wait until you have an audience to take that first step. First steps tend to be clunky and uncoordinated anyway. Don’t let that stop you from progressing. Your gait won’t get any smoother if you don’t keep taking steps. Any musician can tell you that you have to play an instrument in order to tune it. I also realized that looking for validation is futile and a waste of time. How can you expect people to validate what they haven’t experienced? And very few people are astute enough to see your potential. Start taking steps and show them and yourself just what you’re made of.

Reaching for the Top (2/28/2019)

As I was perusing a used bookstore a while ago when a particular book caught my eye. Truth be told I wasn’t exactly perusing, I was on a mission. I’m the type of person that can walk into the mall or Walmart and get exactly what I came for and not even stop to look at anything else. My relationship with bookstores is the complete opposite. After a long stressful day at work, I may find myself in the bookstore doing lines of literature. This day I was looking for a specific book. I recently finished reading The Alchemist and was so inspired that I wanted to add a copy to my home library.

I found the book I was looking for and did a satisfactory amount of browsing but I couldn’t walk out the door without the other book that caught my attention. It was almost as if it was beckoning me to take it home. It was super thick and I was already in the middle of at least two other books (story of my life). I felt compelled to purchase it anyway, so I did. The book happened to be Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I’ve heard of it but I wasn’t familiar with the plot at all. Months had passed before I had the opportunity to crack it open but it was worth the wait. Reading before bed usually puts me to sleep but Atlas Shrugged has the opposite effect. The text has a tendency to hold me captive through either intrigue or annoyance and I end up staying awake well past my bedtime having poignant discussions with my stuffed companions.

The book contains several themes and philosophical concepts that I find thought-provoking. Some I agree with, others, not so much, but all worth contemplating. Even though I disagree with some of the philosophical concepts I appreciate the thought the author put into it. I’m all about a well crafted argument even if you are wrong. This book has a delicate balance of business, philosophy, politics, and relationships that any thinker would appreciate (if you have the patience to endure 1000 pages of size 7 font). Reading Atlas Shrugged actually solidified my decision to go to business school.

One of the concepts that provoked the writing of this blog is something that I’m calling “intellectual obligation.” I’m defining this as the obligation to achieve to the level of one’s aptitude. Better yet, reach the altitude of your aptitude on whatever mountain you find yourself on. Anything less would be doing a disservice to yourself, your family, your community, and your God. God gave you your abilities and intellect for a reason. Use them. Simply put, if you can do better then do better. Don’t succumb to the seduction of mediocrity. Others don’t because they can’t. They may try to pull you down because you can but don’t let them!

I was talking with my best friend as she was putting together her portfolio for her Ed. Leadership degree. She was considering taking some things out because her portfolio was more robust than her colleague’s. She felt like an overachiever; like she was “doing too much.” But I encouraged her to keep it all in there. She worked hard and earned the credentials, experience, and accolades to back up every item in that portfolio so she should use them. The other person may not have as much material in his/her portfolio because he/she doesn’t have experience, credentials, etc. You can’t showcase what you don’t have and you shouldn’t shy away if you do have it. Ecclesiastes 3 says there’s a time for every thing. For her, this was a time to toot thine own horn.

Often times utilizing your abilities will cause you to be of service to others. We’re all looking for purpose in life anyway, right? There’s your answer. You’re welcome. (Forget the therapist bill and hit my cash app.) It’s really not up to us to decide who deserves our gift and who doesn’t. Your gift doesn’t belong to you anyway. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is a conversion between God and Job. Job is complaining about his life when God says, “Where were you when I hung the stars in the sky?” God is basically saying “I’ve done all the hard work. I’m the one who created the universe and everything in it. I’m the one who gave you everything you have? What right do you have to complain?” It would be rude and ungrateful of us not to use our gifts to the fullest. It always makes me feel good when I buy someone a gift and they use it all the time. It makes me want to give them more. We are made in the image of God so I have a sneaky suspicion that He feels the same way. When we use the gifts He gives us to the fullest it makes Him want to give us more because He knows the gift won’t be wasted.

I was at work one day and I needed to get some containers from a higher shelf. The task of pulling out the step ladder seemed so daunting at the time. A coworker noticed my despair and offered his assistance. I was thankful for the offer but wasn’t feeling too optimistic since he isn’t much taller than me, if at all. Noticing my skepticism, he assured me he could reach it because God blessed him with long arms to compensate for his height. To my astonishment, he reached up and got the containers down for me with ease. Just because people are about the same stature or even have the same background doesn’t mean they have the same abilities. Don’t assess your abilities or limitations based on what you see in those around you.

Don’t hold back because no one around you is striving to do better. In my head that should be more motivation. I don’t like doing things everyone else is doing. It took me years to finally get my MBA simply because all the other engineers in the office were doing it. It finally occurred to me that not having an MBA while everyone else does is not serving me at all anyway. I was only limiting myself. I have all the means to be successful in an MBA program and it would help my career; even as a cafe manager, blogger, and an aspiring speaker.

As I said before, you have the obligation to achieve to the level of your aptitude in whatever arena you find yourself in currently. If you’re not where you want to be, go ahead and conquer your current mountain so you’ll be ready for the next one. Even if it’s not the mountain of your dreams, do it anyway. Climbing disciplines your character and refines your skills. Strive to operate at the highest level of your abilities. The key word being your abilities, no one else’s. In doing so you may find out that God has blessed you with long arms too.

Let’s Talk About It (2/7/2019)

The contents of this blog has been burning in me for quite some time now, two years or more. This is a topic that I’m passionate about but didn’t have an outlet or the courage to speak on it, until now. I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to have this dialogue but it has yet to come so I guess I’ll start it. I may not have a platform but I do have a keyboard, so let’s talk about it.

Where shall I start? Let’s start at the beginning. At birth. Better yet, before birth. I’m talking about pro-life versus pro-choice. Both campaigns have their flaws. Subheading pro-choice as “a woman’s right to choose” is a bit misleading and pulls on the strings of fear. Fear that a woman will have no say over her own body which isn’t true. Many conservative Christians stand firmly on pro-life stance as if that’s the only issue in the world. As if that’s the only issue God cares about and will base their entire political and moral opinion on that one thing. Everything else gets a pass. Proverbs 6:16-19 clearly states that there are 7 things the Lord hates. If we are really standing for righteousness we should condemn all and commit none; no sin having more weight than another. But this is my biggest grievance, if we’re going to be pro-life we need to be pro-life for the whole life. Many pro-lifers care nothing about #BlackLivesMatter. So at what age is it ok not to care about a life anymore? Tamir Rice was 12. Trayvon Martin was 17. Mike Brown was 18. Freddie Gray was 25. Sandra Bland was 28. Philandro Castile was 32. Shall I go on? Because I can. And that’s a problem. That is why we kneel.

Which brings me to my next point. It still baffles me that people find kneeling for the national anthem offensive. It’s a peaceful protest which is necessary and lawful in America. For people to project this diatribe of “You’re disrespecting the military that protects your freedom.” Now don’t have an opinion! Don’t have compassion! Just get out on that field and entertain me cause that’s what we pay you to do! Dance, puppet dance! What these people fail to realize that the players are kneeling for freedom. That freedom is the freedom to kneel. That freedom is the freedom to protest peacefully. So to not exercise that freedom wouldn’t that mean the military fought in vain? That seems more disrespectful to me. They are kneeling for liberty and justice for ALL and the bent knee is a reminder that that’s still not the reality in America. It’s the modern day Civil Rights Movement. Some people disagree with the act of kneeling at the beginning of a football game. They don’t believe it’s the right way to protest nor is it the time or the place. My question to you is what to do, when, how, and who should do it? How do you bring national attention to a national problem? Why is it inappropriate for football players to be concerned with issues that affect their communities especially when they are in a position to make a difference? I strongly believe anyone with a platform should use it for the greater good and that’s exactly what they are doing. We should be applauding and supporting them instead of spewing hate speech and racial slurs.

Just because someone kneels doesn’t mean they hate America, or the military, or that they are ungrateful for the land we live in. Personally, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else and I do consider myself to be patriotic; but I’m a Christian first. Christians are supposed to love first. Too many people are focused on the “what” and neglecting the “why.” So let’s talk about it. We kneel because innocent people, specifically black people, are being killed by the same people that are sworn to serve and protect them. And yes I said innocent and I know there are people out there who use the cop-out “but we don’t know the whole story.” We know enough. None of these individuals were armed or dangerous. We know the shots were fired from behind. We know he was just a child. We’ve seen the videos. We have enough evidence. Ironically all of the mass shooters (who didn’t kill themselves) who have shown themselves to be armed and dangerous have been detained alive. Coincidentally they are all white. Shocker. Yet a traffic stop struck so much fear in the officer’s heart that he had no other choice than to open fire. Something is terribly wrong with that. If an officer says he feared for his life and therefore couldn’t de-escalate the situation, he is in the wrong profession. Period.

We kneel because our legal system has failed us. Now I know Trayvon Martin wasn’t shot by the police but his case was a slap in the face and a fail for the legal system. I remember the moment when the verdict was delivered. I remember feeling my heart drop. I remember feeling upset, confused, and powerless. His killer was a known menace yet served no time. Another thing the Lord hates, uneven weights and measures; present-day injustice.

Back to the issue at hand. What should we do about those ungrateful, UnAmerican players who would dare to kneel during the national anthem? I have the perfect solution. Give them one more chance to stand when the music plays. If they don’t, heat the furnace for 4 times the normal heat and throw them in! But make sure you stand back lest the flames consume you too.

I can’t help to think that the Jesus I serve would be more concerned by an innocent life taken, infant or adult, then by our response to a song and a piece of waving fabric. The anthem and the flag are just symbols. If you’re not careful symbols become idols. We forget that Jesus wasn’t in the military. He didn’t lay down His life for Americans. He laid down His life because of His love for the whole world. Even migrants traveling in a caravan.

The way people, especially Christian people, God-fearing Jesus-loving people, talk about these migrants is absurd. Ironically these are the same people that frequent Mexican restaurants. Go figure. Do people even think about the things they say and do before choosing a stance or publicly stating an opinion? These migrants aren’t fierce gangbangers with kilos of cocaine and rocket launchers. They literally have children strapped to their backs and all of their belongings in a grocery bag. There are many places in the Bible where the Lord condemns the ill-treatment of foreigners. Have we considered the notion that we could be praying to the same God every night? For God so loved the WORLD. You’re right, maybe they aren’t all Christians. That’s even better. No need to raise money for missions anymore. The mission field has come to us! Won’t He do it!

If you haven’t caught on by now the underlying subject of this blog is racism. I know that’s such a difficult subject for many people but we need to talk about it. Before Jesus healed or delivered anyone in the Bible He first acknowledged their condition. If we want to reach people for Christ we have to recognize their situation first. Think about the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well. I don’t think Jesus would have been as effective if He jumped straight to living water. The woman needed to know He first saw her thirst.

Ignoring the racism issue isn’t going to make it go away. Personally, I believe the ultimate racism is not acknowledging or showing concern for the plight of another race. Too me that’s the equivalent of being a lukewarm Christian who’s fate is to be spewed from the mouth of God. Not recognizing that white privilege is a real thing is along those same lines. I know some white people don’t want to be villainized just because of their skin color. I understand why you’re upset. It must be terrible for someone to judge you by your skin color alone. To that I say, if you don’t want to be seen as a villain, make a hero move. Yes, white privilege is real. Own it and use it to make a difference for someone else. Become a white ally. Simply reading this blog with an open mind and having a conversation with your black and brown friends is a start. Do more listening than talking. Seek to understand rather than to defend. If you don’t have any black or brown friends, that’s an even bigger problem.

I hear rhetoric that among Christians that there is only one race, the human race. That may be true in the spirit but we’re still here on the Earth. Consider this, Jesus didn’t stop being Jewish during His time on earth. What’s really being said is, “put down your race and culture and pick up the white one…I mean the right one.” Stop with the “I don’t see color” mess. It makes no sense and no one is buying it. My brown skin was fearfully and wonderfully made for me by my Creator and I love it. I don’t want you to ignore it, just don’t treat me differently because of it. It’s no secret that white is the default race in America which in of itself really isn’t a problem. It’s the unspoken belief that anything contrary should be laid down at the foot of the cross is what we have to contend with. Let me repeat and reiterate for the people in the back. Jesus was not a white Evangelical or even American! He laid down His life for the sake of the whole world, not the Western Hemisphere. If we don’t have this global mindset I question if we’ve truly grasped the message of the gospel at all. Now if we really practiced what we preached and laid down our race and became one race we would ALL be outraged when an innocent person was murdered unjustly or treated unfairly regardless of race, creed, or color. Let that sink in.

I know many people will be upset, surprised, appalled, and maybe even offended this blog and that’s fine as long as you learned something. My aim isn’t to offend but to enlighten. Not to infuriate but to educate. After all, the gospel is offensive too. Most people I know personally don’t mean any harm and commit these racial offenses out of ignorance. (Some may call it willful ignorance but that’s not for me to judge. That’s between them and the Lord). If this blog struck something in you, write me a comment and let’s talk about it.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. -Micah 6:8 NLT

Don’t Fill Up on Bread (1/30/2019)

I love going out to eat, especially with friends. What I don’t love is that time period between ordering and receiving my meal. During this time most of us keep our stomachs and mouths occupied by munching on bread. If you aren’t careful, you won’t have enough room left for your entree. Of course, you can get a to-go box but the leftovers are never as good as a fresh meal. And if you’re like me there’s a 50/50 chance that that box will get left on the table anyway. This time on earth is the metaphorical equivalent to a restaurant outing. We’re munching on the pleasures of this life while we wait to experience the good stuff that is eternal life in heaven.

The key to not filling up on bread is self-control and reminding yourself of the delicious meal to come. The best part about this spiritual meal ahead is that it’s already paid for whether you decide to partake and enjoy it or not. Jesus has already paid the ultimate price but you have to accept His invitation to come and dine.

Some of us are living this life here on earth filling up on bread. Of course, the bread is tasty but it’s nothing compared to what’s to come. I’ve been guilty of using the phrase YOLO knowing that this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is another life to live if you exercise self-control and don’t fill up on the bread of this life. For those who hold out, there is a great feast to come. The marriage feast reserved for the Bride of Christ.

The many different entrees, cuisines, dishes, courses in the world is a representation of the many different paths and callings in life that we experience here on earth. Tastebuds are your gifts, talents, and abilities. Trying to order off someone else’s menu will have you upset and unsatisfied. As for me, I’m living that bento box life; dabbling in a little bit of everything.

When it comes to the metaphorical meal of life, some of us Christians are displaying some terrible table manners. Talking loud in judgment, chewing on untruths with your mouth open, condemning your neighbor for not having his napkin in his lap while you have sauce smeared on your face because you clearly don’t know how to use yours, and we all know your pious self just stopped drinking out of the finger bowl yesterday. The Bible says it’s better to have vegetables with someone you love than meat with someone you hate. Maybe that’s why vegetarian and veganism are on the rise and church attendance is on the low. We must do better brothers and sisters.

I wrote this piece because I’m going through a personal battle where I’m navigating through God’s will and selfish ambition. Of course, I have dreams, goals, and aspirations for this life but I can’t get discouraged if I don’t see them happening now. There is another life to live and what I do with my life on earth matters. Don’t fill up on bread.

When I feel myself becoming envious of others carelessly filling up on bread and spreading on lavish amounts of butter while I’m feeling the hunger pangs of this life I remember the wise words of Lauryn Hill directing me to the 73rd Psalm. If all you want in life is bread, all you’ll get is bread. But to he who endures till the end, the Feast of the Bridegroom awaits you and the reward of eternal life.

Glasses (9/30/2017)

A little boy came into the cafe the other day and he was wearing his glasses on his forehead. A coworker commented, “I don’t think he likes his glasses.” The boy was little, around 4 years old. I don’t want to say he was cross-eyed but you could look at him and tell he has trouble seeing, yet he refused to wear his glasses. My thought was, “how silly is that?” Why doesn’t he want to see clearly? That’s usually my thought when people don’t want to wear their glasses or deny the fact that they need them. I never understood why people were ok with not seeing clearly. You may be able to see well enough but there is so much more out there that you’re missing.

This is how the world is as a whole, especially now. People are refusing to wear glasses. People are content with their blurry way of seeing the world. Maybe it’s because that’s what they are used to. Maybe wearing glasses is uncomfortable.  Even now eyewear has become a fashion accessory but people are more interested in looking good than seeing well. Glasses also clear up perspective. Example, two visually impaired people can look at the same letter on an eye chart and call it two different things. Once they both take a look through a corrective lens they can agree that the letter is, in fact, a P. That’s not something that can be argued or debated. Letters are letters regardless of race, religion, or culture. But we refuse to look through the glasses of the gospel so the arguments continue. Everyone needs glasses but the prescription is not universal. Some of us are near sited, others far sited, both to varying degrees. Wearing the glasses of the gospel reveals truth to everyone. Being “woke” doesn’t mean you still don’t need to wear glasses.

Some of us are wearing glasses that are out of date. Our prescription has changed and we don’t even know it.  One doctor’s appointment isn’t enough. Those routine checkups are so necessary. Frames may look different or out of date but the lenses stay the same. Some of us don’t understand or appreciate the value of glasses and thus don’t take care of them like we should. Either our glasses never get cleaned or they get cleaned with any old rag or rough paper towel. Isn’t it odd how you can wear glasses for hours and never touch your face yet smudges magically appear? Just like smudges and dust from the world around you adhere to your glasses, the dirt and dust of this world sticks to your soul distorting your vision without any help from you. It’s your responsibility to keep your glasses clean.

Like the little boy, some of us are wearing glasses on our foreheads because we think just having them is good enough. Attending churches where we don’t actually believe what’s being preached or refusing to be doers of the Word and live changed lives because we like blurry lines. We’re used to blurry lines. Blurry lines are less offensive. No need to get rid of the sin in your life if your eyes aren’t good enough to see it anyway.

I always use inclusive pronouns in my blogs because I’m including myself in the finger-pointing.  I’m guilty too. There have been times when I refused to see something for what it really was. This happens more often and more recent than I care to blog about. Refusing to see the bump in the road won’t keep you from hitting it, or from busting a tire when you do. Sometimes we don’t want to see situations or people for what they really are because it is ugly, or worse, will require us to take action or responsibility. Sometimes it’s disappointing or disheartening. With the current state of the world, I have to remind myself of the sovereignty of God just to make it through the day!

The little boy’s glasses were within reach; less than 2 inches from his eyes yet he refused to use them. The solution to our sight problem is right there within our grasp also but so many of us refuse to accept Him.  Like the little boy’s glasses, ours are paid for. The boy’s parents likely paid for his glasses because he can’t afford them. Our Heavenly Father has paid for our glasses because we certainly could never afford them. We could never afford the price Jesus paid. I don’t know anything about that little boy aside from his rejection of glasses. I don’t know if he is a good little boy or a terror. Either way, I’m sure his parents didn’t take that into consideration before deciding to purchase him glasses. They bought them because he needed them, not because he deserved them. That’s love. While we were yet sinners, God sent His only son to die on the cross because we need Him, not because we deserve Him. That’s love.

The ultimate eye exam is right here on the horizon. Only those with corrected vision will pass, everyone else will be left behind. This eye doctor never closes, doesn’t require appointments, and makes house calls. Simply believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and watch your vision start to clear.

…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. – Romans 10:9 [NKJV]