Tag: #RockyMount

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.