Category: Family

Another Lesson on The Loss of a Son on His Birthday

img_2741  295953_212664595460700_549802247_n  img_2759Today, my oldest son, Kyol would have been thirty years old had he lived.  Life has a way of surprising us and not every surprise do we want. I never fathomed that the child I held on his first birthday and watched grow into a man and father would I also preach his funeral and help cover his body in a grave. I wrote this blog on the anniversary of his death and either on that day or his birthday chose to repost it as a reminder of how fragile life is.

I decided to begin adding a life lesson each year so that this post might be a living memorial to my son. I hope as you read it, it will bring you life and encouragement. I am learning that death has a way of making clear who your companions are. Sorrow, Bitterness, Regret, Un-forgiveness, Guilt, Jealousy, Envy and Failure are NOT my companions and never let it be said they are yours regardless of what life serves you up or what hand you get dealt.

Should Have isn’t a very good family member

In every family there are some distant relatives that often get far too much notoriety and respect in the family. They seem to show up on the front row of every funeral service. They rarely show up for the family reunion and certainly not for Sunday dinner or a wedding. They are absent from the family portrait. Their names are, “Should Have”, “Could Have” and “Would Have.” They won’t call when you are sick and won’t take time off from work to spend a day with Grandmom. But they will cry the hardest and scream the loudest when those opportunities are no longer possible. Make a decision to live in such a way that their testimony will not be the loudest in the end. Do something today that you have been putting off. Create a “bucket list” and start

It’s a short life

The first and obvious lesson is that life is shorter than we realize. Who doesn’t know this, right? But in actuality few of us live like this is indeed the case. Take it from a dad who has preached his son’s funeral, committed his body to the ground, pronounced the benediction and helped cover the grave with dirt – You don’t have time for some of what you are doing. You don’t have time to argue. You don’t have time to be bitter. You don’t have time to be jealous. You don’t have time to be petty. You don’t have time to work all the time. You don’t have time to not say, “I love you.” You don’t have time to live someone else’s life. You don’t have time to act like you don’t love when you really do. You don’t have time to be unforgiving. Be more selective with how you spend everyday and with whom you spend it because you don’t have time to waste.

Sorrow keeps showing up

Sorrow has a lot of faces (guilt, anger, confusion, regret, loneliness) and for all those people that tell you, “It’s going to get better”, well – THEY LIED. It doesn’t get better. It doesn’t go away. What will happen is that God will show you over and over again the separate miracles that are a result of your sorrow. These miracles won’t ever replace the sorrow but they will give you something more life giving to focus on and you should do exactly that – focus on those separate miracles and stop waiting for the sorrow to check out.

Strength is available

The truth is sometimes a contradiction. Here is the truth. “We are always and at the same time stronger than we realize and not as strong as we thought yet always as strong as we need to be.”  – G. Allow me to give you permission to just be you. Forget trying to be strong. Just be you. The notion of, “when I am stronger then I will….” is a myth. Strength is added as we go. As you go back to your life, your job, your children, your dreams, God will provide you the strength you need.

Sight can’t be selective

The first time I saw my son was moments from his birth. father_and_sonTen fingers, ten toes, healthy and quite perfect. The last time I saw my son was in a body bag with a charred body, only recognizable by his dad. I have no regrets in unzipping that body bag, after having been warned that I would never forget what I was about to look at. Rather what I would never forget is what I said to my brother who stood there with me. Three words – “That’s my son!” These glimpses or views of my son reminded me of life and how we should NOT see people. Too often we see people in terms of events and not in terms of humanity and relationship. We see the greatest successes or greatest failures in a person’s life and then use those events to define them. Remember King David in the Bible? We define him in terms of Goliath (success) or Bathsheba (failure). But in between those events was the real man – “a man after God’s own heart.” It is the memory of the “in-betweens” that we find life and joy. Stop viewing people from the lens of birth and death because God always sees us as his child.

 

God’s sovereignty is a guarantee

God is still God and He is still a good God. I wouldn’t want his job. I can barely hold my little world together so it hardly seems feasible to question He who has the whole world in His hands. When I consider the totality of life, I must confess, “God is still totally awesome.”

Perhaps, you can add to my experience and even help me or others. What lessons have you learned during your greatest loss?

I welcome your feedback.

Lessons on The Loss of a Son

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This time last year I received that phone call that every parent dreads and while other parents were preparing for graduation, proms, weddings and family reunions, I was preparing for a funeral. My 27-year-old son, Kyol had died in a car accident along with two other promising young men. Since that day, I have talked very little about it. I have talked very little about it because what do you say anyway, because it won’t change anything, because you don’t want to be made to feel like a victim and my personal favorite, because there’s something deep inside that isn’t quite ready to give up on the thought that this is all just a sick joke and any moment your child will come walking through the door. Well, of course I know Kyol isn’t coming back but I am learning a lot about life and about myself. I thought sharing some of what I am learning would help someone else as they go through the difficulties and even tragedies of their life. There are many lessons, but here are five.

It’s a short life

The first and obvious lesson is that life is shorter than we realize. Who doesn’t know this, right? But in actuality few of us live like this is indeed the case. Take it from a dad who has preached his son’s funeral, committed his body to the ground, pronounced the benediction and helped cover the grave with dirt – You don’t have time for some of what you are doing. You don’t have time to argue. You don’t have time to be bitter. You don’t have time to be jealous. You don’t have time to be petty. You don’t have time to work all the time. You don’t have time to not say, “I love you.” You don’t have time to live someone else’s life. You don’t have time to act like you don’t love when you really do. You don’t have time to be unforgiving. Be more selective with how you spend everyday and with whom you spend it because you don’t have time to waste.

Sorrow keeps showing up

Sorrow has a lot of faces (guilt, anger, confusion, regret, loneliness) and for all those people that tell you, “It’s going to get better”, well – THEY LIED. It doesn’t get better. It doesn’t go away. What will happen is that God will show you over and over again the separate miracles that are a result of your sorrow. These miracles won’t ever replace the sorrow but they will give you something more life giving to focus on and you should do exactly that – focus on those separate miracles and stop waiting for the sorrow to check out.

Strength is available

The truth is sometimes a contradiction. Here is the truth. “We are always and at the same time stronger than we realize and not as strong as we thought yet always as strong as we need to be.”  – G. Allow me to give you permission to just be you. Forget trying to be strong. Just be you. The notion of, “when I am stronger then I will….” is a myth. Strength is added as we go. As you go back to your life, your job, your children, your dreams, God will provide you the strength you need.

Sight can’t be selective

The first time I saw my son was moments from his birth. father_and_sonTen fingers, ten toes, healthy and quite perfect. The last time I saw my son was in a body bag with a charred body, only recognizable by his dad. I have no regrets in unzipping that body bag, after having been warned that I would never forget what I was about to look at. Rather what I would never forget is what I said to my brother who stood there with me. Three words – “That’s my son!” These glimpses or views of my son reminded me of life and how we should NOT see people. Too often we see people in terms of events and not in terms of humanity and relationship. We see the greatest successes or greatest failures in a person’s life and then use those events to define them. Remember King David in the Bible? We define him in terms of Goliath (success) or Bathsheba (failure). But in between those events was the real man – “a man after God’s own heart.” It is the memory of the “in-betweens” that we find life and joy. Stop viewing people from the lens of birth and death because God always sees us as his child.

God’s sovereignty is a guarantee

God is still God and He is still a good God. I wouldn’t want his job. I can barely hold my little world together so it hardly seems feasible to question He who has the whole world in His hands. When I consider the totality of life, I must confess, “God is still totally awesome.”

Perhaps, you can add to my experience and even help me or others. What lessons have you learned during your greatest loss?

I welcome your feedback.

15 Life Lessons from the movie, Frozen

Recently we sat down as a family and again watched the movie, Frozen. This time we specifically watched with the intent of blogging about what the movie taught us about life. Before we share our list, let me say it is a great movie. Even the teenage boy in the clan enjoyed it. It’s a reminder for me as a dad that we aren’t too old to learn and our children have a lot to teach. Let me also encourage you to do things with your children. Engage them in constructive conversation and enjoy them as the amazing gift they are from God. Here’s our list:

Lesson #1 – The mind can be changed but the heart is not as easily persuaded.

That’s pretty much a direct quote from the movie after Elsa accidentally harms Anna and their parents take her to the trolls for a remedy. In life it’s much easier to teach principles than to repair hearts so we must guard each other’s hearts and not be careless with our words or actions.

Lesson #2 – Fear is your enemy.

Elsa was so fearful of hurting someone again with her gift that it never occurred to her that it could be used for great good and enjoyment. It reminds us that fear cannot be the driver by which we make our decisions. We do not gain control of our lives until we let the fears go.

Lesson #3 – Don’t conceal.

Elsa had an unusual gift that allowed her to freeze anything. She spent much of her life in isolation and when in public, wearing gloves. We must embrace what God has given us and not hide our true selves. Do you!

Lesson #4 – Shutting people out doesn’t make the situation any better.

In the movie, Elsa and Anna grew up with no interaction, even after the death of their parents. The isolation was so severe that the gates to the palace were never opened. This did not change anything but rather gave a false sense of security and created the illusion that all was well. In life when we choose to not talk about issues, not address concerns or to otherwise ignore people and problems, we have done nothing to bring us closer to a solution. Let people in! Open up the gates!

Lesson #5 – There are both snowmen and snow monsters in all of us.

When Elsa finally “let it go”, she found that she had in her the capacity to make both good and bad. She made Olaf who was the pleasant playing companion of her childhood but then to protect her made a snow monster. We too have good and bad, pretty and ugly within us. We must endeavor to not bring out the worse in another person and to be mindful that when pushed there is something raging inside of all of us.

Lesson #6 – Love is putting someone else’s needs before your own.

Just as she is about to die, Anna jumps in front of a sword that Hans is swinging with the hopes of killing her sister, Elsa. There will be moments in all our life where we don’t get to go first. Live with an “others first” perspective!

Lesson #7 – Love conquers all.

In the final analysis there was very little, if anything, that love didn’t fix. Love actually thawed the frozen heart of Anna. Love will turn winter to summer and night to day. None of us are discerning enough to know who the conduit of that love will be. It could be where you least expect it!

Lesson #8 – Some people are worth melting for.

This was a quote from the snowman, Olaf. Although he required freezing temperatures to remain alive, he was willing to start a fire to keep Anna warm when in time of need. This reminds us of the self-sacrificing nature of life and our responsibility to place others before ourselves.

Lesson #9 – Time will tell.

At the coronation of her sister, the Queen (Elsa), Anna meets Hans and by the end of the evening they were “in love” and discussing marriage. Eventually his heart and evil ways were revealed. True love must be tested over time and can only be revealed in the midst of varying circumstances and situations. Give it time!

Lesson #10 – Even the craziest dreams can come true.

Olaf desperately wanted to experience summer. This was a ridiculous dream for a snowman. He pictured himself on the beach, in the heat, tanning and doing a multiplicity of other things “in summer.” In the final analysis, Elsa provided him with his own personal snow cloud so he wouldn’t turn into a puddle. Dreams do come true!

Lesson #11 – Don’t be fooled by appearances.

When Kristoff takes Anna and Olaf to his “family”, they think he is crazy because they appear to be a bunch of stones. Eventually they come to life and are revealed to be trolls. These trolls offer both great love and wisdom. What looks like a rock might actually be our greatest blessing so be careful in judging.

Lesson #12 – Sometimes things just don’t work out.

Like in life, people have their own agendas and sometimes those agendas are contradictory to ours, so inevitable things can’t always work out for everyone all the time. The Duke of Weselton and Hans both found this to be true.

Lesson #13 – Fixer-uppers can be a legitimate option.

The trolls sang a song about Kristoff being a “fixer-upper.” Aren’t we all? Don’t we all have some rough spots and unattractive attributes that require some attention and repairing? Don’t look for the perfect person. First, they don’t exist and second if they did exist they would want another perfect person, which would disqualify all of us.

Lesson #14 – There’s nothing wrong with being special.

Elsa was “special.” She was a “special” child. Her parents really never learned how to embrace her and to help her most. Our society is filled with children that are also special. Children with autism, cerebral palsy, deafness, Down syndrome, epilepsy, mental retardation, spinal bifida and other development disorders. We must learn to best support and love them thru these challenges and not be embarrassed or ashamed of them.

Lesson #15 – Family matters.

The life of Elsa and Anna changed drastically following the death of their parents and in the end these two sisters needed each other. One family can change an entire community!

 

What lesson do you connect most with? Do you have a lesson you would like to add? We welcome your feedback.

The Truth about Sex

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I Pastor a wonderful group of people in Rocky Mount, NC. One of the things I love about pastoring where I do is the appetite our members have for the truths contained in the Bible. If we look around it is very obvious by newspapers, television shows and music lyrics that truth is weaning in popularity. If truth were a person I can imagine her walking around homeless while trying door after door of people’s hearts, marriages and homes, finding no one to let her in. I can see Truth sitting in board meetings of major corporations being outvoted again by the board members of Greed and Personal Agenda. There Truth is again after having received her notice for jury duty being ignored while verdicts are rendered and guilty people go free and innocent people get convicted. Then there is the monthly trip to local, state and federal government agencies where Truth just doesn’t have a large enough lobbying check to even get a meeting with the right person. But there can be no greater frustration for Truth than her sitting in the pews of many of our churches on Sunday to never even be acknowledged as a visitor in church. I’m sure Truth has even tried to join but we just don’t accept members like her. We’d much rather have Mr. Politically Correct, Ms. Popular Opinion and Dr. I Know It All as members of our churches. Once again Truth is walking around our society in sincere desire of someone to give her some attention.

Every Sunday I preach in the pulpit at Word Tabernacle Church it is my desire that Truth gets a fair hearing. To that end I began this year preaching and teaching through the Ten Commandments. This past Sunday we were reminded that we should not commit adultery. Whether it is pre-marital sex, fornication, adultery, pornography, homosexuality or lust God says we should not do that. Let me share a few truths regarding sexual intimacy.

Sex comes with a purpose. Water and sun are probably two of the greatest natural gifts God has ever given us. But when exposed to either inappropriately or excessively they both can be damaging. Most of us know someone who has drowned or been sun burnt. When someone buys you a pair of socks as a gift, it is understood that they don’t go on your head. That doesn’t make it a bad gift but is does make it a gift with a very specific purpose. God’s intent for sex was two-fold: propagation and pleasure. As long as we use it appropriately we will be ensured of both, but if we abuse the gift we will expose ourselves to unnecessary consequences and sorrows. This makes sense to me. If God established sexual relations between a married man and a married woman so that they can have more children and enjoy each other then physical relations between same sex people would obviously be considered an inappropriate use of the gift. If the purpose of something doesn’t matter, I often wonder why those who are in support of same sex unions don’t show up at marches and boycotts with shoes on their heads and hats on their feet?

Sex comes with principles. Sex is a gift. It is a gift that wasn’t created by society but rather the Sovereign. As a result God still gets to establish the rules. Most of us drive on highways to travel to buy food, clothing, attend school, work or church. We are forbidden (by law) to travel East in a Westbound lane or to drive the car from the rear passenger seat. These principles are good and are meant for our safety and to ensure our enjoyment. I am personally very convicted regarding how physical intimacy is being portrayed in front of us. I went through an informal exercise regarding the television shows I watch most frequently and in most situations physical intimacy is being portrayed in direct opposition to how God designed it. Generally we see couples that are same sex, unmarried or just “kickin’ it” and rarely loving examples of a man and a woman who are married. Please don’t hear me say that we should not enjoy the entertainment that we do but we must be careful that we do not allow the media to form our morality. A great example of this is probably the most popular show on television, “Scandal.” Yes, I admit it is engaging television and yes she wears some bad clothes and some hot coats and the themes are riveting. But we must recognize that it is entirely possible to be well educated, well connected, powerful and a “fixer” without sleeping with another woman’s husband.

Sex must be protected. We should maintain and manage the relationships God has given us. As singles we must respect ourselves enough and other people’s relationships enough to have a high standard regarding our physical intimacy. Married people must be committed in the relationship they are in. One of the best ways to protect this wonderful gift God has given us is by establishing ourselves spiritually, intellectually and emotionally with someone before we are physical with them.

This is my truth regarding sex. What is yours?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sounds I will never forget

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The human hearing process is quite interesting. Hearing occurs as sound enters the outer ear canal and causes vibrations of the tympanic membrane. It requires the synchronized functions of the outer, middle and inner ear. I am not an Otolaryngologist nor do I play one on television so in no way is this blog a scientific or medical treatise on the anatomy and physiology of the human ear. Quite to the contrary it is an emotional and social response to a perfunctory process that occurs so many times in a day none of us can count it.

One of the things I love about being a preacher is the sound of the response to preaching. I love hearing the myriad of responses that inevitably echo through the room “Preach Pastor”, “I know that’s right”, “You’re preaching well, Sir”, “Go ahead, G”.  Those are sounds I will never forget.

Then there are times when conviction, introspection and self-evaluation produce no sound. Those moments when fear, doubt, confusion and shock grip us like a choke hold around the neck. I know this sound well it is called, silence. That is a sound I will never forget.

Then there is the sound of infectious, contagious laughter where the stomach begins to ache and the eyes begin to water. That sound when all the problems of this world are momentarily and certainly temporarily muted from our minds. The sound of joy, happiness, laughter. That’s a sound I will never forget.

“I love you.” That sound originating from the mouth of those we most care for, need and desire to share our lives. When life begins to smack us and circumstances refuse to release us this sound convinces us that we can bear it, believe for the best while going through it, and certainly endure it. That’s a sound I will never forget.

This past week I heard two more sounds that I will never forget. As I sat in my church office I heard the sound of multiple gunshots ringing out so close it was as if it were directly over my head. This was not a single shot of an innocent person protecting their home and their rights. Nor was this the shot from a police officer Glock or 9mm as they carried out their pivotal function in our society. This was the sound of hatred; the sound of criminality; the sound of disrespect for life; the sound of poor public policy; the sound of poverty; the sound of the power of wealthy lobbying; the sound of neglect; the sound of ignorance; the sound of miseducation; the sound of personal agenda; the sound of exploitation; the sound of materialism, the sound of violence; the sound of idolatry. Pop, pop pop, pop pop pop, pop. Just as I assumed the sound had ended, there was another. That’s a sound I will never forget.

Bullets don’t have names inscribed on them and although I never heard the sound of the bullet whistling through the air it would eventually have its trajectory slowed and its path altered as it found a detour in the bone, flesh and cranial matter of a 12 year old boy. This is a sound I will never forget. The sound of innocence meeting violence; the sound of exercise engaging evil; the sound of grace languishing to disgrace; the sound of the self fulfillment of rap music lyrics, “I came, I saw, I conquered, I shot you down. Your brain have no conscious, what you do now?” the sound of childhood colliding with corruption; the sound of forgetting how to talk; the sound of gasping for a breath; the sound of clinging to life; the sound of desperation; the sound of helplessness; the sound of confusion; the sound of chaos. These are sounds I will never forget.

What sound do you really hear when you hear gunshots? A new sound is needed. A sound that is greater; a sound that is longer lasting; a sound more prominent; a sound louder than the loudest and softer than the softest. The time has come for us to release a new sound in our communities. A sound that will ring glorious in the ears of our God and is proven to be for the common good. A sound of prayer, unity, forgiveness, justice and cooperation.

May we be reminded today that the sounds of our lives differ from moment to moment. May we be mindful of the sounds we can control – those we speak and those we chose to hear because some sounds will be those you never forget.

What sounds currently occupy and saturate your life and what sound are you forcing other people to live with? I welcome your feedback and responses.

Welcome to my Blog

ImageGet ready for a riot to be started in your heart and head. This blog will produce on its promise to give insight on a range of topics, namely politics, personal & business development, race & religion, leadership, family & marriage and church growth.  These insights will encourage, excite and instigate a fire in you to do something, think something and feel something.

 Although there are thousands of blogs on the internet I write from what I call “down the middle.” Most bloggers write from a predetermined angle – black, white, conservative, liberal, republican, democratic, evangelical, charismatic. And eventually they are going to give you the “company line” and you will immediately know this is not their conviction but the safe way to keep endorsements, please advertisers, keep people ignorant and keep from doing their own research. I allow each issue to stand on it’s own merit and to speak for itself. I do this in four ways:

  1. Inspirational. This blog will provoke the best in you to come forward.
  2. Independent. This blog is from a pure direction because left and right are too far from the truth on any issue.
  3. Informational. I will write on issues that matter and not to impress with pointless data and statistics.
  4. Intellectual. I will assume you have a brain and you like using it for yourself and don’t need anyone else to do your thinking for you.

You will find that I like symbols so the “I4” symbol is the best way of giving a graphic to this process. So get ready for insight that incites so that we might start a riot. In the months ahead paraphernalia will be available with our brand and mottos.

Every week I will write one blog to summarize what I preached that week at the church I pastor in Rocky Mount, NC. I am grateful to share truth with the members of Word Tabernacle Church every week and now with you.

Additionally I will write each week at least one additional blog on some subject of interest to you and the people in your inner circle. I will provide you with book and movie reviews, commentary on historical and current events, interviews with national personalities and a listing of resources to meet a variety of interests.

I will write from the perspective of a bi-racial Christian father with strong convictions and a vested interest in seeing lives improved. I understand something about God’s grace and believe in second chances. I am a veracious reader and host a call in radio program that deals specifically with the issues facing us today.

I welcome your feedback on anything I write and thank you in advance for sharing my thoughts with others and perhaps these thoughts might become yours. Enjoy the blog.