Tag: #jamesgailliard

Life After Election Day

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Regardless of your race, gender or party registration we would all have to admit General Election 2016 has been contentious and divisive. Politics has truly brought out the worst in many people. Yet, the day after is inevitable and how shall we now live? I love Rocky Mount and rural Eastern North Carolina. My millennial son, unlike many his age, has decided to start his life here. My daughter is an eleventh grader at Nash-Early College High School. My 83 year-old mother enjoys her senior years here. My oldest son and my dad are both buried in Nash County. Our church has made a multi-million dollar investment to provide the city and region with an anchor asset to provide leadership in human, economic, and community development. So, my commitment to this area is undeniable. The question is, “What do we do next?” As a leader in this city, I am personally troubled and quite frankly convicted that I live in a more divisive city today than I did in 2005 when I arrived. We must change this unfortunate narrative. Like a family surrounded by well wishers, prayers, food, and support during a funeral, the day after will come when all that support is gone and they must learn how to move on. In a few days, the political signs will be pulled up, commercials will be replaced with the next advertisement, new junk mail will fill our mailboxes and life must go on. Here are some thoughts on moving on:

  • Respect the office. Disagree all you want with the President, Governor, Mayor, or Dog Catcher, but honor the office and the person in it. I am a Christian and we are taught scripturally to pray for and to respect those who govern over us. Our lack of civility in political discourse undermines the most powerful office in the world.
  • Reevaluate your allegiances. The last time I checked, when we pledged allegiance it was, “to the flag of the United States of America.” That means our allegiance is not to a party or even to politics, but rather to the best practices of the people in our community.
  • Recognize opponents are not enemies. Our enemies are unemployment, health disparity, crime, injustice, poverty NOT the guy across the street, the person sitting on the School Board, County Commissioner, or State House Representative who isn’t “of my party.” Our problems and issues require collective IQ and the engagement of people who think differently to ensure there is always a “self correcting” measurement in our policies.
  • Reprioritize character. Partisan political purposes should never cause us to abandon the importance of a leader’s character. If our community is to ever reach the height of her potential, it is necessary that we have the ability to admit wrong, even when it is a friend or someone of my ilk, class, race, or political party. Our vote to ignore character will outlive any Supreme Court Justice, HB2, income inequality, and regressive tax structures. ALL of us are wrong sometimes … just admit it and be willing to change.
  • Reconsider your spokesmen. Newsflash – Fox News nor MSNBC nor CNN live in the Twin Counties. Our worldview and our community view must be broader than the ramblings of self appointed spokespeople who have no dog to hunt in our local education, economies, or families.
  • Render solutions and not merely criticism. This is hard work, if you can get it. My family struggles to agree on what to have for dinner or what movie to watch and we actually love each other. Imagine making complex decisions in the public square. Nurture the art of compromise by beginning each discourse with your own solution, which becomes our “admission ticket” into the conversation.

As one of many leaders in this community, join me in making the Twin Counties better by agreeing to this or other basic rules of conduct after Election Day.

What are your thoughts on how we move on? As always, I welcome your feedback.

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.

Properly Defining “Pro-Life”

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The Declaration of Independence makes a bold and complicated value statement – “… with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 Life then becomes a matter of quality of living and not only the presence of a beating heart. Take a moment and Google the phrase “Pro-Life.” As you scroll through the images you will discover the images are almost entirely a “womb” issue and never a “world” issue. In other words, an entire segment of our society has been convinced that life only matters if I am a fetus in a womb and not a person in the world. Both define us as “Pro-Life.”

 I am a 10-point Pro-Life Progressive. I wish there were more of us. Most Pro-Life people are actually only 1-point Pro-Life Conservatives. I don’t think that warrants you enough points to pass the Pro-Life test. I have yet to come across a classroom in America where students with a 1 in 10 score (10%) ever received a passing grade.

 Unfortunately the vocabulary of morality and ethics can be taken hostage by a denomination, race, political party, or ideology and only released when the terms of a single issue are satisfied. In our day, “Pro-Life” is that single issue.  The problem is that single issue comprises far more than the hostage takers have been honest about.  At a minimum, life should be inclusive and not exclusive.  I find it hard to believe any of us would think that God is more or less concerned about one life over another.  Yet, there seems to be a sentiment in our nation that some lives matter while others do not.  Pro-Life is at a minimum a ten-point issue. Before you put the label on, let’s assess whether the label is indeed true.  Here is the list:

  1.  Pro-Life people support a livable wage.  Wages received should enable the employee to meet their needs and the employer to make respectful profit. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 10 million people classified as the working poor.  These are men and women unable to meet basic human needs while working a minimum of 27 hours per week. This has resulted in a shrinking middle class as 1% of the population owns 90% of the wealth. No wonder over 15 million children live in poverty in our nation. In recent years in North Carolina, all income growth accrued to the top 1% of wage earners.
  2. Pro-Life people support policies that are not oppressive to any people group. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, it costs on average $31,000 per year to house an inmate within our Justice System. Many programs have been proven to lower recidivism, yet our State Legislatures consistently fail to fund programs aimed at expungement and fresh start opportunities for those who have criminal records. These programs cost on average $12-$13,000 annually.  In North Carolina, there are 37,000 people in prison and 87,000 on probation.  By funding programs to prevent prison re-entry, taxpayers would save nearly $2 million annually for every 100 participants.  It hardly seems “fiscally conservative” to spend an extra $18,000 per year to incarcerate someone when funding programs aimed at re-entry prevention would prevent them from returning to prison.
  3.  Pro-Life people support gender equality.  Women still earned considerably less than men for performance of the same job with the same education, background, and training.  Most estimates suggest that it will take at minimum until 2059 for this to change.  Really?  Another forty years? Considering that 40% of all homes with children under 18 years of age are headed by women as the primary breadwinner, it is not hard to see why this is a “Life issue.”  If you take issue with this, then consider how well you would be able to provide for your family with only 56-70% of your current income.
  4.  Pro-Life people support immigration reform.  Almost every major economic study suggests that the U.S. economy grows faster as a result of immigration and whether we want to admit it or not, even undocumented immigrants improve our economy.  But beyond the numbers, is it not against good sense to prohibit a pathway to citizenship?  Allow me to remind my fellow Christians that we worship a Jesus that was an undocumented immigrant whose family fled to Egypt seeking asylum from the mass genocide of male children.  When people of the world are fleeing poverty, violence, and oppression or just seeking a better life, it is anti-American and anti-Bible to deny them opportunity.  Fortunately for us, we serve a God who was pro immigration and allowed Jesus to escape King Herod so that one day he might die on a cross and be raised with all power to justify us.
  5. Pro-Life people support universal access to healthcare.  This is a complicated issue.  But it is simply un-American to have life expectancy dictated by zip code and not genetic code.  At the very least, there must be access and affordability for all people. 
  6. Pro-Life people can say, “Black Lives Matter.”  Why?  Well, because they do.  I find myself perplexed that anyone has made this statement into meaning that other lives don’t matter.  Not even the lack of organization of the movement and the delayed timing of its inception warrants ignoring the message. When Evangelical churches sponsor “Sanctity of Life Sunday”, it doesn’t mean they are anti-Senior Citizens.  It simply means there are those that are hurting, victimized, and voiceless that deserve protecting. If any other group of people had the skewed statistics regarding police brutality and violence, I would be advocating for that group of people also. May we never forget the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller – “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
  7. Pro-Life people support increased funding to public and higher education. Studies have consistently shown a direct link between poverty and education. There is no more effective method of social and economic mobility and advancement than education.  In my opinion, there may be no greater long term investment in the lives of our children than a comprehensive Pre-School system to ensure every child be given a fair start.
  8. Pro-Life people are Anti-Abortion.  I don’t know that I have ever met anyone who claimed to be “Pro-Abortion.”  I am unapologetically, Anti-Abortion. Every year in America, nearly 1 million babies are reported aborted.  The issue becomes how we do a better job at prevention.  I do not think the answer lies in overturning Roe vs. Wade.  The precedent standard in Constitutional Law makes this unlikely.  The “Pro-Choice” side of the argument is equally disingenuous.  Life begins at conception.  A fetus is a life.  You make your position weaker when you aren’t honest about this.  If the law saved, there would be no murder.  Theologically and doctrinally, we know the law cannot save us. God has always been and will always be a God of choice. He doesn’t make us do anything.  He has a preferred will and a permitted will. Yes, the preference is for life but he permits us to make our own choices. Deuteronomy 30:19 places “life” and “choice” in the same verse – I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life”.  The answer lies in the promotion of marriage, adoption services, the reduction in teenage pregnancy and greater education regarding abstinence, and the link between poverty and single parenting. While we may disagree on the legality of abortion, it is likely we agree that abortion is not something any of us would like to see.  Perhaps we should all work together to reduce it.
  9. Pro-Life people aren’t scared of the National Rifle Association (NRA).  The presence of military grade weapons and assault rifles in our communities is criminal. This was never the intent of the 2nd Amendment. Our unwillingness as a nation to challenge the lobbyists and activists on this issue shows a fundamental cowardice, lack of integrity, and no regard for life.  It is a fear tactic to suggest there is a movement to take gun ownership from the hands of law-abiding people.  There is not.  However, owning them with no oversight and accountability is equally irresponsible.  Any weapon, in any home, should be licensed, registered, and titled.  This simple step would help track the movement of weapons in our country.
  10. Pro-Life people have problems with capital punishment.  Admittedly, I struggle with knowing that violent, heinous, and ruthless predators get to live while family and friends mourn their victims for a lifetime.  But any district attorney, defense attorney, or prosecuting attorney would be forced to confess that our capital punishment system lacks any consistency regarding how this highest penalty is metered out.  Statistics prove the death penalty is clearly biased against poor people and people of color.  The last time I checked, being poor or of color was not a crime in our nation.  May we never forget that not everyone who dies by execution was guilty – Jesus is proof.

Are you Pro-Life or do you just wear the label?

 

My Editorial on the Threat to our Local Schools in Rocky Mount, NC

 

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This blog is an independent, informational, and intellectual view of the current threat to the Nash Rocky Mount Public School system. As a politically unaffiliated, bi-racial pastor to over 3,000 people (including 1,100 K-12 children active in Nash Rocky Mount Public Schools), I am quite vested in this issue. As is the case with most political decisions, it is easy for the emotion of any subject to veer us away from sound decisions that are in the best interest of all involved.

 Taxes and The Common Good

Everyday as Americans and North Carolinians, our property, sales and utility taxes are used to fund programs, services, institutions, and infrastructure that we either benefit from directly or indirectly. Nash County residents may not directly benefit from the funding formula that supplements the education of children living in Edgecombe County, but do benefit indirectly as there is a link between education and job creation for a region.

  • I have yet to make a call to 911 or to use ambulance services since I have lived here, as I am certain many of you reading this also have not, yet millions of tax dollars are earmarked for these vital emergency services.
  • Most of my books are electronic, so I never go to the public library, yet taxes are used for this critical public institution.
  • There are many residents of Nash County who have never used the highways or buildings their taxes help build.
  • There are retirees who have never had a child in the school system, yet a portion of their taxes and utilities are used to supplement the funding of our school system.

I doubt the Nash County Commissioners who are aggressively asking for a “fairness of funding” want to establish a precedent of an “al-a-carte” taxation system where we all get to direct our taxes only to the services from which we directly benefit and away from those which we indirectly benefit.

It seems that a reminder of our origin as a nation is appropriate. The manifesto on American Capitalism is Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations”, where he explained that human involvement in economics is to “advance the interests of the society.” To follow this new ideology being espoused by the Nash County Commissioners would mean the GI Bill that enabled 10 million Americans to receive housing and education benefits would have never been funded. Anything that is good and necessary for a civilized society to thrive, like public education, is good for us all.

Collateral Damage

The removal of 1,800 children from the Nash Rocky Mount Public School system has a potential consequence for which none of us, particularly the Nash County Commissioners, are prepared. Eighteen hundred children equates to over 10% of the current NRMPS system. Any businessperson will tell you that reducing any institutional capacity by 10+ % results in a ripple effect and like throwing a pebble in the water you never know how many ripples will be created. Here are some potential ripples:

  • Reduction of Title I, II, and III Federal Funding. It has been wrongly communicated by the Nash County Commissioners, “the funding will follow the students.” This is only partially true. The funding is both volume and percent weighted. Funding will follow, but it will be much smaller funding. There will also be a delay in this smaller funding as it is awarded in blocks of 24 – 30 months, so services will need to be offered to children without any funding being immediately available. This funding effects direct services of children as well as professional development of teachers. The anticipated loss to the remaining NRMPS system could be as high as $10 million annually. This is a classic example of voting against one’s own interests as all the remaining children will live in Nash County and this will create a net loss to the very system they claim to represent.
  • Loss of Existing Jobs. Reducing the capacity of NRMPS will require re-organization and the inevitable loss of jobs to teachers and support staff. In laymen’s terms, every 10 students create a job. The simple math of the impending legislation by Representative Jeff Collins (at the request of the Nash County Commissioners) could easily result in the loss of 180 jobs. It seems our elected officials could better use their time creating jobs and not removing jobs. The argument that those teachers would simply move to the Edgecombe County School System is implausible as there are still over 50 licensed teacher vacancies within that system and for many teachers living in Spring Hope, Middlesex, and Bailey, it would be just as close to drive to a school in Wake County as it would some schools within Edgecombe County.
  • Loss of Support to Teachers and Staff. Aside from being a pastor I do not know of a more difficult profession than teaching. We as a community should be actively advocating for our teachers in the classroom and the principals and staff that support this vital public institution. Instead, our Commissioners are deliberately creating an environment that is filled with contention and division rather than support and encouragement. Everyone cares about job security and high morale and our teachers deserve no less.
  • Loss of New Jobs. Education along with Transportation, Health, Leisure, Quality of Life, Taxes, and Housing remain major recruitment tools for new companies and emerging economies. Dismantling our school system will greatly harm our efforts in attracting new companies and in establishing the “twin counties” as a “bedroom” community for those working in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. This inability to bring new companies and firms to our community will hinder our ability to expand our tax base and to produce an even greater economic impact to our region.
  • Re-classification of Athletic Programs. Rocky Mount Senior High alone will likely lose 400-450 students. This loss to the ADM (Average Daily Membership) will result in less competitive athletics and a loss of college scholarships for countless young people for whom sports remain a viable opportunity for a secure future due to a potential change in division status.
  • School Closing. There has been no study conducted by the Nash County Commissioners ensuring there would be no school closings as elected officials are not generally trained in the logistics and technicalities in the actual running of a school system. Conventional wisdom at least forces us to consider that by reducing the NRMPS by 1,800 students, it may not be financially feasible to continue operations at the same level. This is particularly the case since the NRMPS system is experiencing a five-year decline in enrollment with a proven history that reduced capacity results in school closings. An educated guess based upon school size and location would deduce that Northern Nash High School could possibly close due to this legislation.
  • The Children. It is said that often we leave the best for last. Who is advocating for our children? Yes, as North Carolinians, ALL the children are OUR children. We are a community. We are a region. When I moved here from Philadelphia 11 years ago, I was introduced to the “twin counties.” What a way to treat your twin! 1,800 children moving out of NRMPS is more children than Alleghany, Camden, Gates, Graham, Clay, and Washington County Schools have enrollment. This is equivalent to an entirely new and different school system being created with no plan, no structure, and no infrastructure. It is setting ALL of OUR kids up to fail as the remaining NRMPS kids will be faced with the sobering reality that it was their parents who stripped down the ability of the NRMPS system to meet the categorical needs of the children in programs like IB, AP, AIG and ESL. The education of our children should be a collective concern. We must endeavor to provide every child in our region and our state with every opportunity to advance and to actively contribute back to society.

I invite all of us to use our heart and our brain as we make decisions. My heart is for ALL of our children and my brain tells me the loss of 180 jobs, the net loss of millions of dollars to our school system, the potential closing of a school, and the loss of college athletic scholarships is hardly worth the savings we as Nash County residents will realize. It is my hope an agreement will be reached but despite the outcome, we should all agree that no group of people should be allowed to play politics with our children.

As always, 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.

The Round Table Interview with Dr. Robert Smith

Welcome to The Round Table. At the Round Table I share interviews with prominent personalities in various industries and disciplines to provide an “electronic convocation” where information and inspiration is imparted. At the Round Table in this episode is Dr. Robert Smith, Jr., Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, Al. Enjoy the interview. i welcome your feedback.

Why Time Matters

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I have noticed with increasing regularity our innate disregard for time. It is evidenced by medical practitioners who make us wait way beyond an appointment time, people that show up late for appointments, children with consistent lateness to school, leaders who begin meetings late, churches who start programs beyond the time advertised, church goers showing up late for church or those who are always “running late.”

More than 300 years ago, François Fénelon, a 17th century cleric, understood the value of time. He wrote, “Time is precious, but we do not know yet how precious it really is. We will only know when we are no longer able to take advantage of it…. Liberal and generous in every way, God in the wise economy of his providence teaches us how we should be prudent about the proper use of time. He never gives us two moments at the same time. He never gives us a second moment without taking away the first. And he never grants us that second moment without holding the third one in his hand, leaving us completely uncertain as to whether we will have it.” A.W. Tozer wrote, “Time is a resource that is nonrenewable and nontransferable. You cannot store it, slow it up, hold it up, divide it up or give it up. You can’t hoard it up or save it for a rainy day–when it’s lost it’s unrecoverable. When you kill time, remember that it has no resurrection.”

Time is precious and our most valuable commodity. Yet, as important as it is we seem to have a consistent disrespect for it. We use expressions like, “I’m just killing time” or “I’m just wasting time.” It is not until we are talking about time ending that we begin to quantify it, which is when we begin to say things like, “His days are numbered.” In all actuality our days have always been numbered. Literally every day, hour and minute of our lives should be numbered.

Ask a student who has failed a grade how important a year is; a mother giving birth to a premature baby how important a month is; a businessman whose flight was delayed how important an hour is; a man who had a heart attack requiring CPR how important a minute is; a person barely missing a head-on collision how important a second is or an Olympic athlete missing a gold medal how important a millisecond is.

Time matters because:

  1. It is a proof I live with principles. Time comes from God. It is a gift. It is so much of a gift that we call the very moment we are living in a “present.” A person who wastes time is wasting or not caring for a gift. If we can’t be trusted with time it can be easily argued that we can’t be trusted with money, gifts or opportunities. Being chronically late may be saying, “I can’t be trusted.” When we schedule an appointment we are establishing an opportunity to show that we are capable of doing what we say we will do. When I say, “I will meet you at 3:00 pm” and we show up at 3:15 pm it may be saying, “Don’t believe what I say.”
  1. It is proof I want to see progress. There can be no progress as long as we procrastinate. As we learn to live in the moment it becomes a catalyst to propel us into greater things in the future. The best predictor about tomorrow is my management, stewardship and decisions today.
  1. It is proof of how I see people. People are the prize and they should matter to us enough to give them our time, be on time and give us undivided time. When we give someone our time we are saying, “You matter to me because I am giving you what I can never be given back.” There will always be something else to do, somewhere else to be, an email or text message to check or a Facebook status to “like.”
  1. It is proof I have priorities. Saying, “Yes” to an activity, meeting or commitment is also saying “No” to another. Our calendar is a statement that we will not allow the moment to crowd out the important and that we are not victimized by the “tyranny of the urgent.” Priorities will always be scheduled and when they are we don’t miss those appointments because we have already determined it to be important to us. We don’t just miss dinner with the family, miss church, miss a meeting or miss a rehearsal but rather have chosen to not see it as a priority.
  1. It is proof I am clear on my purpose. When we are certain of what our God given assignment is we are less likely to accept meaningless and unproductive invitations. Our activities and commitments should strengthen and support our ultimate goals.
  1. It is proof that I am planning. Technically we don’t manage time we only manage ourselves. Stop saying, “I don’t have enough time” because we have as much as everyone else. Instead of starting with tasks, start with time allotments and plan what is needful and impactful for your life. Plan to be with God. Plan to be with family. Plan to be happy. Plan to finish school. Plan to retire. Plan to go to the doctor. Plan to take a vacation. Plan to sleep in. When we don’t plan for ourselves others are happy to do it for us and that can lead to a rather unfulfilling life.

God the provider of our time best communicates the urgency and importance of our time. Psalm 90:4 tells us, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” A “watch” was equivalent to three hours. If normal life expectancy is 70 years (Psalm 90:10) and a thousand years equals three hours, we find the following:

70 yrs. x 3 hrs. /1000 yrs. x 60 min/hr. = 12.6 min = 12 min 36 sec. So the next time you are late remember we only have 12 minutes and 36 seconds anyway.

Don’t let a life end waiting on you.

Why do you think time matters? I welcome your feedback

The “WELLS” we drink from

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Wells are not something we think about because we have ample clean water in this modern day culture of ours.

A well is basically a hole that has been drilled, bored or dug into the ground to access water. One of the first steps in establishing a healthy community is to ensure access to clean water. This clean water is necessary for drinking, sanitation and for irrigation. This requires someone dig a well, the people use the well and the well be protected from contamination and blockage. But my real interest in wells is not so much scientific or geological as it is metaphorical. I would have to credit former Morehouse College President Dr. Robert Franklin as the one who first got me thinking about wells when he established the expectations that all Morehouse Men must meet. Even in our daily conversations we subconsciously place a lot of emphasis on wells.

“All’s WELL that ends WELL”

“He’s alive and WELL”

“Leave WELL enough alone”

If we are going to do WELL, be WELL, represent WELL and finish WELL then someone is going to need to dig some WELLS, drink from those WELLS and maintain those WELLS. The Dominican priest and theologian Gustavo Gutierrez was correct when he said, “We Drink From Our Own Wells.” Could it be that our society is not healthy because one of the first steps to being healthy is clean water and in this modern culture of digital media, entertainment and influence we have begun ignoring our wells? I guess it is indeed true that “you never miss your water until your WELL runs dry.” What wells am I referring to?

Well ENGAGED – We must become more active and involved in our community and in the lives of our families. A lack of parenting coupled with complacency must be two of the more pressing issues of our day. When parents allow television programming to engage their child more than they do, there is a problem with the well. Television actually changes the way the brain develops, shortens attention span and even changes brain chemistry. Despite the digital craze around learning there is still no substitute for a caring adult in the life of a child.

Well EDUCATED – It is a “type of salvation.” No, education can’t get me to heaven but is sure makes the trip around earth a lot easier. The world is changing and we must keep pace. Education is vital to advance contributions to civic, political and community life. Education is necessary for its role in advancing social justice and to open the worlds of cultural and artistic excellence. Being well educated means being well read. It is too much we need to learn to ever have gaps of idle time. We should always have a book with us. Until we, as a society, value conjugating the verb “ to be” as valuable as running a touch down, dunking a basketball or gyrating on stage then the water of a respectful, balanced society will not flow.

Well EMPLOYED – Work will always be a tool for life fulfillment. I am grateful for the work ethic instilled in me by my parents. It is this work ethic that breaks the spirit of entitlement and ensures that we contribute to our surroundings. Everyone should be required to do something in the place they dwell in. If everyone in the home benefits from the environment then each person should have a definite, measurable and active role to play while there. It is dangerous to raise children who will become adults with an unrealistic, unmerited expectation of a favorable outcome at the hands of someone else. Watch how easy it is for a person to eat your food and leave the plate on the table or to walk past something on the floor or to leave a bed unmade.

Well ENTRUSTED – Integrity is always going to be en vogue. Whatever we do we should do it well and to the best of our ability. We should finish what we start; return things where we got them; pay back the money we borrow; keep our promises; be punctual; not allow circumstance to dictate our behavior; and just learn to show up.

Well EXPOSED – There is more to life than the family, county, city or school I grew up a part of. Until we learn to value experiences more than things we will forever be stuck in a shallow world that only the least desirable fish swim in. Exposure, especially through travel is a means of personal development and aids us in both appreciating where we come from while simultaneously creating in us a desire for better.

Well EXPRESSED – Before people really know us all they can do is see us and hear us, so self-expression through our wardrobe and our words become paramount. We have always worn clothes so I guess this well has just become contaminated and is evidenced when pajamas are worn in public; underclothes are readily displayed; sunglasses are worn inside; women abandon dresses and men disdain a blazer and tie. Compare the attire and apparel of the college students sitting at the Woolworth counter in 1960 to protest segregation and the college student of today or the clothing worn while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge bridge-crossing compared to clothing today while just crossing the street sagging-pants

Our words are representing us no better. We must be well spoken and strive for meaningful and valuable conversation learning how to effectively communicate our complex emotions and ideas.

Well ESTABLISHED – This means we must become grounded enough and stable enough to be able to give back to our society. Whether we are a Jew embracing the Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תיקון עולם) meaning “repairing the world” or “perfecting the world; “ A Muslim paying Zakat (a proportion of surplus wealth which must be given on a yearly basis to poor and the needy) and voluntary charity; or A Christian loving our neighbor as ourselves and being our brothers keeper we all have a personal responsibility to be keepers of the wells that other people will drink from. When we are mindful of the wells we are digging and the wells we are drinking from I would imagine we could all say, “It is WELL with my soul.”

What WELLS would you add to my list to ensure our society remain healthy? I welcome your feedback.

The Economic Impact of The Church

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I have often said, “everyone in the community will not belong to our church but our church does belong to everyone in our community.” I believe many churches feel this same way. This “giving back to our community” philosophy gives us our meaning for existence and forges a wonderful collaboration with the Faith community, families, Firms and Foundations. This collaboration or intersection between church and city, the sacred and secular results in a real economic value that has been empirically measured for the past 25 years and was the impetus behind the creation of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. For example, large churches increase property values –According to a large study (tracking over 5000 houses), houses within a half-mile of a large church generally experience a 6.27% increase in property value. A church with over 1500 attendees could easily draw 40 new families to relocate – especially so when a demographically young church moves into a city with below average home costs. (Carroll, Clauretie & Jensen), Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics – University of Nevada in Las Vegas. Churches are statistically proven to decrease crime rates – particularly decreasing levels of assault, burglary, larceny (Bainbridge 1989), as well as drug use (Fagan 2006).

How is this tangible economic value realized? Well, cities are filled with people. These people must navigate their way through a web of careers, relationships and life experiences. It is much easier to navigate when support services are available. As people navigate through life the needs will be vast and varied – marriages will need saving, children will need teaching, teenagers will need tutoring, suicides will need averting and fathers will need mentoring. When these needs are met an “economic halo effect” is the result. What’s it worth to keep a father active in a child’s life anyway? The economic thinking is rather quite linear. If a man stops supporting his children, the mother becomes the primary provider for the family. Statistically, the need to use subsidies or government services is greatly increased. Services like before school programs, day care and after school programs become more essential. Depending on the nature of the father’s absence (i.e. divorce, imprisonment, death), his children, particularly boys, will need counseling or the aid of government services to become productive and contributing members of society. Without these support services, the children may likely fall into a criminal lifestyle which produces an economic strain on the community. Additionally, the diminished income resulting from the father’s absence could mean that as the children graduate high school and pursue college or trade schools, they must incur greater debt to finance their education. This increased debt will result in less local purchasing power which add up to real tangible dollars taken away from the community. Of course, there is an option. The church could intervene by offering programs and services to avert that father’s absence. Dr. Ram Cnaan, Professor and Director of the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research of The University of Pennsylvania has done extensive research on this topic and his research has concluded a rather startling outcome – “When measured in terms of dollars and cents, churches provide greater economic benefit and health to the community per capita than any other business or industry.”

Examples of how this economic benefit is generated:

  • Weddings
  • Funerals
  • Baptisms
  • Artistic performances
  • Charter Schools
  • Counseling programs
  • Operating budgets
  • Salaries of staff and wages for building repairs (roofers, plumbers, electricians, etc.)
  • The monetary value of goods that the market does not price
  • Rehabilitation
  • Responsible parenting
  • Neighborhood pride
  • Social service delivery
  • Playgrounds
  • Recreation space
  • Volunteer hours
  • Preventing suicide
  • Helping people gain employment
  • Crime prevention and re-entry
  • Ending drug and alcohol dependence
  • Enhancing health
  • Preventive health
  • Teaching pro-social values to children
  • Teaching youth civic behavior
  • Naturalization assistance
  • Caring for the elderly
  • Preventing divorce
  • Ending abusive relationships
  • Job training programs
  • Community development corporations
  • Businesses incubation

As local churches work more in tandem with the community around it, it becomes clear that congregations are not insular clubs that are unconcerned about the rest of a community but rather assets that benefit the community significantly and are therefore worthy of support.

The contributions of local congregations benefit individuals, local business; the community at large and local governments and by taking a quantitative approach the economic impact of the local church is clearly seen. So, for every dollar given, donation received, offering provided, rezoning application approved, variance on a building permit granted, and foundation grant given thank you for helping us fund the needed programs and services that create a quality of life for all our residents.

What economic impact do you see local churches providing? I welcome your feedback.