My Second Half

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I’m not much of a sports fanatic. Occasionally, I’ll watch a basketball game (haven’t been interested in my Pistons since the 2004 squad disbanded); maybe even a football game (my Lions–nevermind). The second half is usually the turning point for a lot of teams who find themselves falling behind. It’s the time to refocus on the mission; to rally the individual players into a single unit, with the singular purpose of winning the game.

If we look at life as the ultimate game, then why shouldn’t we treat the second half the same way? Six months after my 45th birthday, I’m really looking back on the first half of my life, and taking stock of where I am. I’m also regrouping to plan on the second half.

For discussion purposes, we’re going to assume that I’ll live to be 90 years old. If I live longer than that…we’ll say I was granted that “1UP” life. You gamers know what I’m talking about. Anyway, I digress.

Did you know that many people deal with bouts of depression right around age 45? Of course you did. That’s where the term “Midlife Crisis” comes into play. Instead of replaying self-appointed shortcomings and failures in my personal game, I’d like to look at the lessons learned and accomplishments achieved. Successes and failures in life really boil down to perspective. It’s all in the way you look at things, that determine your attitude.

In my first half, I saw my wife and kids grow; wrote and published a book; wrote, produced and published music; and (most importantly) gained a relationship with Jesus. Unfortunately, I found myself running life’s hamster wheel for more years than I care to count. Because of that, there are regrets of experiences I wish I could have given my family. But, I’m a firm believer in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

I have been called, according to his purpose. I have faith in that knowledge, so I know that the good and bad plays of my first half will only strengthen my gameplay in the second half. Someone might ask, “Enn, how do you plan to play your second half? What are you going to do different than the first two quarters of the game? Some might think your play pattern is set.” Well, that’s a great question.

If I take up the mantle of “coach” for a second, let’s pretend we’re in the locker room regrouping. My personal talents, attributes and dreams represent my offense, defense and special-teams factions of the squad. These are some things I might say to my team.

  1. In the second half, we need to go out there and gel. I can replay moments (during the first half) when offense and defense worked independently of one another, and each totally ignored special teams. Sometimes, my talents operated without the use of my attributes. I can’t follow my dreams if talents and attributes aren’t lining up. People who continue to fall prey to this, often look back on life with regret.
  2. We’ve got to execute. I’ve got all of these ideas in my head. My problem is putting action to those ideas. I’ll give you a prime example: A few years ago, I put together an instrumental album on Bandcamp and Noisetrade called, “Takin’ It Back To The Oldschool“. Now, if you know me personally, you know I love old school hip hop and actually produce my own music. I had the great idea of producing instrumentals incorporating that old school hip hop sound. Then I would reach out to old school artists like Will Smith, MC Lyte, Rakim, KRS-One, etc. to get them to flow new rhymes over these tracks. The problem was…I executed as far as producing the instrumentals and never reached out to the artists. Flash forward to 2017: Will Smith, DJ Jazzy Jeff ft. Biz Markie and Slick Rick drop a video for Will’s song, “So Fresh“. Jeff and Will executed their idea fully. I only partially executed. Partial execution doesn’t score points in a game.
  3. We’ve got to defend. Listen, the older I grow, the louder the voice of doubt screams in my head. It reminds me that other people have the same ideas and better resources. It reminds me that I’m not as young and adventurous as I once was. It wants me to doubt God’s ultimate plan for my life. It reminds me that I don’t even know what that plan looks like! I can gel as a team, and execute to score all the points in the world. But, if I can’t defend against the opposing team’s attacks, I still lose the game. In my personal game, Satan is the coach of the opposing team. He has no problem with trying to thwart my plans and frustrate my faith. He’s frustrated my writing in the past. He’s frustrated my dreaming. He’s kept me running that hamster wheel for far too long, under the guise of “This is just how life works. Accept it and keep running“. As a Christian, I know he’s a liar. That truth doesn’t make his attacks any easier to block. So, in the second half of the game–my game–I need to step up my defense. My relationship with the Lord has to continue to grow. His word; His time; my prayers; His will for my life. This is my defense against the opposing team. At the end of the game, I want to be able to say what the Apostle Paul said to Timothy:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Gel, execute, defend. These are the tactics for my second half. Maybe you’re in a season of life when you’re looking backward instead of moving forward. Maybe midlife has you questioning where you go from here. Maybe you just need to take a breather and refocus, friend. It’s never too late to refocus your efforts, or repurpose your God-given gifts. Make your second half count.

 

 

 

Only One of Perfection

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Romans 3:23 (NIV)“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

Do you know how much pressure we impose on ourselves by trying to live a life of perfection? Oh c’mon. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, you uber Christian, you. Everyday, we struggle against the earthly desires we crave, while trying to uphold our Christian duties. Duties; as in works. You’re not convinced you’re one of them? Fine. Let me give some examples of what we tend to do. Check out my fancy-shmancy color coding:

“Christians should really stay away from ‘Harry Potter’ movies, because they promote demon worship and witchcraft. We can finish this conversation later, after I return from watching “Solo”.

Yep: an actual statement made by one of God’s children. Here’s another one.

“You let your kid listen to that ‘Kendrick Lamar’ crap? My kid only listens to ‘Bizzle’ and ‘Sevin’. Yeah, they drop ‘Nigga’ in their lyrics too, but they’re promoting Jesus by speaking the language of their folks.”

Yes, actual statement. I really can’t make this stuff up. Here’s one more for you.

“I give to the needy every chance I get. We have to give to the less fortunate. It’s in the bible, you know.”

“What about that homeless guy we saw Downtown?”

“Oh, he probably just wanted money for drugs or something.”

That was an actual conversation.

Sometimes I think we try too hard to adhere to rituals and rules, and forget that at the end of the day we’re all just people prone to fall short of God’s standard. In our quest to be perfect, we often come off as judgemental and hypocritical. If that’s the way we present ourselves in front of unbelievers, why would they want to follow us? 

I tend to get caught up in ritual practices, too. Sometimes, I cross the line between following the Lord and I going off the deep end, in my own quest to earn His favor. I reason to myself, “This is what God wants me to do, so I’ll do it and prove myself perfect in His eyes.” Now, no one is going to admit that’s what we do, but it’s the truth of who we are. We try to live super Holy lives despite partaking in straight-up pagan and carnal activities. 

Did you NOT know Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th? Did you also NOT know that the December 25th celebration was originally a pagan feast, we Christians adopted? We need to cut out all the Pharisee acts, and just live life to the best of our abilities. Celebrate the birth of our Lord, absolutely. But don’t judge the family that doesn’t celebrate Christmas as being sacrilegious! That’s their choice. Let God sort that out, in His timing. 

Let me say this: God knows our hearts and He knows our flaws. It was because of His love for us, despite our failed nature, that He sent the only one of perfection–that’s His son, Jesus–to die sacrificially for our sins. We can’t earn Salvation through any acts of super Christianity. Salvation is a free gift of God, through faith in His son Jesus Christ. 

I am a God fearing, flawed man. Everyday–every single day–I mess up one of God’s Old Testament laws. There is no way I could ever live up to any of them. That’s why I love Jesus. He knew me before I was born. He knew what kind of a failure Christian I would become. In that knowledge, He still said, “Father, I’ll go down and take one for the team. Ennis is going to be out there someday. I need to do this for him.” 

In His perfection, Jesus chose to become a living sacrifice so that I personally would be set free to live my life for Him, complete with my everyday failures. I could never repay Him for that! I can’t mimic His perfection!

I see Christians get mad over Donald Trump tweets. I see Christians hate on each other, over clothing. I see Christians judging other Christians who show love to Muslims. I see Christians judging others over music, food, even the type of car one drives. 

I think (and this is just my opinion) we ought to get on with the business of focusing on our own personal relationships with Jesus, as opposed to following rituals and judging others who may not live up to our standards. That’s why I like Romans 3:23. It reminds me that we all fall short of God’s Holy standards. Who am I to judge someone else, as I’m enjoying Sevin lyrics,on my way to watch a Star Wars flick and eat cheese Ballpark Franks with my gay cousin. Did I mention I was wearing my anti-Trump T-Shirt to the movie theater? 

You hate me right now, don’t you uber Christian conservative?

Jesus loves you.   

Nick Lawson-Thoughts On Life

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Today, I have the pleasure of sharing something special, family. Nick Lawson is a young man, from my home church, who recently discovered his knack for writing. He’s finding his voice and sharing his feelings on the Lord. I wanted to give young Nick the opportunity to share his writing voice with regular people, who would appreciate the fact that not all of today’s youth are headed down the dark path. Show some love for a youngster, taking his first solo steps in the walk of Christianity.


 Thought On Life

by Nick Lawson

  1. The Lord steals the problems from you
  2. The Lord kills the old man
  3. The Lord destroys the sin we have created

All you have to do is let him in. All YOU have to do is let…him…in. When the Lord steals our problems, he replaces them with happiness and joy. When he kills the old man, he brings life to the new holy man. When he destroys our sin, he builds a reset button for us. When we start over, as a new man (a new us), we will always face some problems. But, if you have God before you, who can stop you?

When you’re facing a problem pray; Pray; PRAY! Pray for the Lord to steal the problem from you, and replace it with happiness. Most people leave God because of a problem. I know: I did, myself. But, if I would have prayed like the Bible says to, I would have been fine.

If we would just give our problems to God, we would be so much stronger. Not only would we be stronger, we would be stronger in Christ our Lord and God our father. I’m not saying all our problems will instantly go away just like that. I’m saying have faith, because that faith will go farther than you can all by yourself. Trust in the Lord and you will be so much better off.

Following God will not be easy at all. No. the devil will use everything, and I mean everything. He will use so-called friends, family, drugs, money; everything! He will even turn your best friend against you if that will make you turn away from God. The devil fights dirty. But if YOU give it all to God, who can stand before you? The devil is already defeated, and he was thousands of years ago. So, like the movie Frozen, let it go people! It can’t hold you back anymore! And, the Lord will love you always. Amen and amen.


 

 

 

Change In Plans

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When I was a (relatively) young man, my life was naively charted toward easy success; so I thought. Instead of following tried and true methods of disciplined and consistent progression, I decided to magically become the exception to the rules. I didn’t need a plan . It was just going to happen someday. In hindsight, I was lazy; smart…but lazy. When you’re young, you’re invincible and time waits for you.

I’m a bit older now, and constantly face the consequences of my youthful mistakes. I can live with that, when I’m the only one effected by choices of my past. We all owe a debt, and time will always collect because it has a long memory. But…what’s hard to swallow is when I see the choices of my past burden my family. They deserve so much more than I can give them today. While I believe everything happens for a reason, in God’s economy, sometimes it’s really hard to fight off the demons of your past when you know things might have turned out different if you’d made better choices.

Let me digress here. Right now, my family and I are sitting on top of a hill. God’s been really good to us in providing for our needs and a few wants as well. For now, the valley is behind and below us. Lately, my prayers have been specifically for God’s wisdom. The best way for me to be a great dad and husband is to follow the Lord’s guidance in all things. That takes a great deal of wisdom to avoid repeating mistakes of the past. So, with that said, I am reminded of past choices made strictly in my flesh which led to unfortunate consequences.

I see youngsters of the Millennial age making some of the same mistakes I’ve made in the past. I just want to help them do better; stop them from chasing the same rabbit I’ve pursued year before, if I can.

“Stay in school; get an education,” I want to say.

“Don’t rush into love. You’ve got plenty of time to do it the right way,” I need to warn.

“It’s perfectly okay to let people know you don’t know. You don’t always have to be right, especially when you’re wrong,” I want them to understand.

“Don’t waste your time on silly. Time is relentless and will someday run out. What you do to make a difference, with the time you have, is all that really matters.” A lot of today’s kids need to hear that message. This idea of Y.O.L.O. is a farce.

“God is real. Jesus is alive. The Holy Spirit is still working today. Don’t let anyone convince you of anything otherwise.” The world is making real progress in convincing our youth that God is for the weak-minded. Our kids need to know better. We have to teach them.

That detour took a little longer than I anticipated, but it was good to get that out because it’s what I’m feelin’ what now. So, the consequences of decisions made in the flesh have long lasting repercussions. As I grow older and (hopefully) move closer to God, I see how blind and naive choices devoid of God’s wisdom have dictated the course of my life. But God is still good, and patient with me. I realize he’s always been there for me, through every misguided decision and ridiculous choice. He never let me fall beyond a certain point.

I think that once you see his presence in your life, from past to present–and you recognize the things he’s brought you through–you have a change in perspective. Maybe, you even have a change in plans. What once seemed so clear for insane reasons, now appears exactly how it is and was from the beginning: crazy. And what once seemed boring and square, is now the only path you really want to be on, because it’s truth.

 

*always*

Right Where I Am

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Hey family! Can you see me? Did you enjoy the music of Beach Dreamin’? Yeah man! It’s not just about the writing with this guy, here. Occasionally, I’ll do something musically creative. I’ve got a gooey soft spot for House Music so, there ya go.

Right now, I’m sitting in my dimly lit study. Miles Davis’, “Kind Of Blue” sets the tone via my iPod, while I peck at the keys of my laptop. It’s a laid back kind of Friday. For a short while, we’ve got money in the bank account, food on the table, the car’s still hanging on, and nothing is broken in the house–except my Windows Vista desktop tower–that can’t be easily fixed. A man’s gotta learn to appreciate the small respites of life. There are pauses in battle.

This past week has shown me a lot of what we chase after, in a never-ending pursuit of happiness. I saw a Facebook feature article of 9 famous rappers who claimed to be rich, when they were dead broke. A couple of guys on the list spent time in jail for tax evasion to the tune of over 1 million dollars each. Another claimed bankruptcy and pleaded with the judge that he couldn’t afford to pay 5 hundred dollars a month for child support. I recall one of his albums going platinum a decade ago. Money…

I recalled a feature on a few celebrities who had committed suicide, and were now worshipped as martyrs by scores of adoring fans unable to let go. I saw another Facebook video that featured some current big-name stars having candid interviews about the price of fame and the resulting depression that accompanies the isolation of superstardom. Fame…

Why do we hate God so much, that we choose to look for a sense of satisfaction found nowhere else but in his presence? Why is it so hard for us to accept the gift of his grace and mercy, and the reality that his love is sufficient enough to give us real and lasting peace? Why do we continue to chase after money and fame–on any level–believing those mirages to be the answer to the void we’re all born with?

We are born with a void. At some point in the lives of everyone, its presence becomes apparent. Thus begins the chase; the pursuit…for happiness. Some folks turn to sex, some to drugs, some to occupations, some to thrills. Millionaires deal with it just as the poor experience it. Powerful men of diplomacy search for something they can’t identify, just as a faceless patron lost in a sea of followers yearns for a plug to fill the void of her heart. All the while, the answer surrounds us.

JESUS

Tonight, I’m far from claiming financial independency. On Monday, I’ve got to wake up and clock in just like everyone else. I’m nobody special in the world; just another uninteresting face among many. You might walk by me on the street, and not even recognize that you’ve just recently read something I’ve written. But…tonight…I’ve got peace. I know that Jesus, has filled–and is continuing to fill–the void I was born with, because I asked him into my heart.

I’m not preparing to go tear up the club, or get turnt up, or skirt chase. No sir, on this Friday evening, I’m spending my time writing and basking in the presence of the Lord. I’m thanking him for the little victories and the covered necessities. I’m cool…right where I am.

Hawaii Praise

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Ephesians 3:20 (NIRV) – “God is able to do far more than we could ever ask for or imagine. He does everything by his power that is working in us.”

My buddy Dan just sent a photo of his vacation in Hawaii. He’s standing atop a green peak, in a tank-top, shorts and shades, yelling at the powder blue sky. In the background, I see a green expanse of flatland far below. The crystal blue ocean pans out to the left. Dan’s about to get married in August, so he took this time to spend a few days with a military buddy, in the beautiful Hawaiian atmosphere.

As I study the picture, I’m genuinely happy for my young friend. As a young engineer, he’s worked extremely hard and avoided some of life’s more precarious pitfalls. He deserves a vacation every once in awhile. Why not Hawaii?

I was just finishing up reading Ephesians chapter 3 (during my lunch break in cubetown), when the photo came through on my cell phone. A wide grin stretched across my face, as I texted him back, “YES!!!”.

Then I thought, “Man, I will never be able to do something like that, in my lifetime.”

I was immediately convicted by those condemning words. What do I really believe about God and his omnipotent power? What did I just finish reading? If I truly believe the Spirit of God dwells within me, why would I ever doubt his ability to take my family farther than we could possibly imagine?

If it is within his plan for my life, the Lord can do anything, take me anywhere and affect change through anyone, using me as one of his many instruments. That’s what the apostle Paul was teaching the Ephesians. We tend to think in the 3 dimensional realm of our current circumstances at any given moment. Those circumstances often dictate what the outcome will look like. But how many of us know that God is not–nor will he ever be–confined by 3 dimensions?  His dimensional scope defies physics, economics, logic(s) and any other “ics” we can come up with.

Dan, I’m gonna need you to mark that spot on the hilltop. Someday, I’ll make it there, if the Lord is willing to have me go do his work in Hawaii. When the camera snaps, my voice will be lifted high in praise to God, for making the seemingly impossible miraculously possible.

Step By Step

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“It only takes one step to start. That’s what he told me. Seemed simple enough. So…why can’t I find momentum?”

You’re not ready yet.

“I thought I was. A man can only take so much, before something gives.”

I know. I understand. It takes time, and a real commitment. Unfortunately, many people choose to go the other way.

“But, the prayer was the first step, right? I mean, I feel like I’m not so…alone…anymore.”

It was. You’re not. But, it can’t stop there. I have so much more in store for you. The plans I have for you, are to give you a hope and a future you can’t even begin to imagine. But, you have to willingly choose to go deeper.

“Pastor says that all the time. I never really understood what it meant. Go deeper, how? He told me one step would change my life.”

And it has. Now that you have a new life, you need to lay down the old one. Part of doing that is getting to know me. I don’t want you to simply know my name. I want you to get to know me intimately. That’s going deeper.

“How do I do that exactly? You’re not going to tell me I need to throw out all of my music, ditch all of my friends, relinquish my intelligence and start meditating all day, are you?”

HA! That’s funny. No, nothing like that. I want you to get close to my Word. Don’t fear it anymore. Learn from it. It’s me. In time, you’ll find me throughout its entirety. I’ve always been there. I’ll always be there. I AM.

“You are—”

I AM.

“What’s that mean?”

It means from the beginning to the end, I will always be. Since you’ve called, and I came, I will never leave you. I will fight for you, but I will not compete for your love. You have to willingly choose.

“What’s the choice I have to make? Why can’t you just come into my life and add good things to what I already have? Why does there have to be a choice?”

I know it seems hard at first. Maybe even unfair. But it has to be this way. Light and darkness can’t coexist. You have to choose between the life I offer and the life behind you.

“So…no middle ground? No compromise?”

No. But I promise you this: though the road may get rough, I’ll always walk it with you; one step at a time. Soon enough, you’ll find that the music you loved, some of the friends you cherished, even your former way of thinking will seem flawed compared to what I will show you.

“And what’s that? I’m already bad off. Giving up all the good stuff in my life is going to gain what?”

My peace.

“Peace.”

My peace; a peace you’ve never known but have always yearned for. You already feel a small portion of it.

“How do you know?”

We’re talking.

“-”

Yes. Let that sink in for a moment.

“Jesus—it feels weird to speak your name out loud.”

I know it does, at first. Don’t be ashamed.

“Jesus, I want to try to get to know you better. Will you help me?”

Absolutely. Now, we’re walking together.

 

* Jeremiah 29:11*

Faith’s Challenge

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Believing For Greater Things In 2016 is the vision of River Of Life Assembly Of God church (Belleville, Mi.) this year. We are taking to heart, “faith the size of a mustard seed”, and believing that this will be a year of awesome praise reports, phenomenal testimonies and evidences of God’s movement in the lives of individual families, as well as the body of our church. God moves mountains for people, by faith.

We all harbor dreams. Some are small, while others are the size of 747 airplanes. I think the disconnect between witnessing some dreams fulfilled and others deferred lies in the strength of one’s faith. Sure, God won’t answer every prayer we toss up willy-nilly; I get that. But, I also believe that some prayers are just waiting to be answered. God simply wants to know if we will believe, by faith, for their fruition. That’s just my opinion. Dreams are often sideswiped by our perception of reality’s boundaries.

Logic challenges faith. My best friend is one of the smartest guys I know. He’s always been an overachiever, from the time we were 9 years old, right up into our 40s. When Eric sets his mind to a task, it’s done, before the first stroke of his hand. Someone possessing that type of drive would have no problem believing for greater things, right?

Wrong.

Eric, knows the intricate boundaries of reality so well, that his own understanding sometimes limits his ability to focus on God’s omnipotent power. He has a difficult time spiritually proclaiming, “Lord, I don’t know how you’re gonna do it, but I’m believing you can and will do it for me, simply because you love me.” It’s a heart thing, friends. It’s not enough to simply speak the words. You have to believe it in your heart. That’s faith. It challenges the culture and reality as we know it.

Honestly, I think that was God’s intention all along. Most times, faith defies logic. We’ve seen the shows or heard the reports of doctors who have declared statements such as, “I don’t understand how this happened. Medically, it makes no sense. Someone must be watching over you.” I’ll bet that in many of those instances, if we were able to go back and see everything, we would find prayer warriors believing by faith on behalf of the miracle recipient.

Did you just flinch when I said that? I saw you. You know who I’m talking to.

That’s the problem with doubt. It leaves little room for faith to do what it’s meant to do. Did you know that Jesus returned to his own home country, and was unable to perform miracles–except to lay hands on a few sick people–because of their lack of faith? That fascinates me! The bible says, in Mark 6:6 that he marveled because of their unbelief. Jesus Christ marveled at the unbelief of the people! That actually makes me wonder how many times I personally threw away blessings from the LORD, because of my own unbelief due to lack of faith. Think about it for a moment. I really don’t care if you’re a believer or not. For one brief moment, I dare you to force yourself to think about this statement:

“What if I actually believe it can happen, for once?”

You can insert whatever you like for “it” to make it personal. Just do it. Ask the question, and seriously think on it. Two bible verses that help me to constantly put faith into perspective are these:

Psalm 37:4 (ESV)- “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

and

Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)- “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD guides his steps.”

Faith challenges us to ignore our surrounding circumstances and trust God to do what seems impossible. Today, I challenge you to pick one dream; one prayer; one desire; one choice and focus on it, no matter how impossible its obtainability may seem. Then…I dare you to start believing that God can accomplish it for you.

Guarantee

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Luke 2:20 (NIRV) – “The shepherds returned. They gave glory and praise to God. Everything they had seen and heard was just as they had been told.”

 

Right after the birth of Jesus, God sent an angel to visit shepherds, in a nearby field. This angel announced the birth of Christ and the proof of his own word. Once he departed, the shepherds visited the place where they were told the baby had been born, and found him exactly where the angel said he’d be.

Through the prophet Samuel, God told David he would be king of Israel, while he was yet a boy. Years later, he claimed the throne and united the two kingdoms. In the book of Joshua, God told the children of Israel that the city of Jericho had been delivered into their hands, before they had been instructed to march around the stronghold. By faith, Joshua led his army to claim the city, just as the Lord said it would happen.

God keeps his promises. It may take a day; a week; a year; maybe a decade, but the Lord is definitely a promise keeper. If he says it, you can rest assured it will be done. The bible is chalked full of examples of God keeping his word.

If the Lord has promised you something, remember this: his word is a guarantee.

 

*always*

The Blessed Victory Into The New Year

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In January of 2014, I said a prayer. Unfortunately I don’t remember the words verbatim, but the gist of it was something like this:

“Lord, let this be the year of ‘The Blessed Victory‘ for my life. May this be the year of breakthrough, prosperity, easy living, and happiness for my family and I.”

After I made that prayer, I got the sense of God answering me. “Okay,” He said. “‘The Year of Blessed Victory’ it is; trust me.”

I once heard someone say, if you really wanna hear God laugh, just tell him what your plans are. I tell you that, just in case you don’t know who God is. He’s all powerful, omnipotent (look it up in the dictionary, kids), kind yet jealous, gentle yet firm, fiercely loving and he’s got a sense of humor.

When I made my plans through that New Year prayer, I had a different perspective on what I actually wanted the year to look like, than the way it actually progressed. In short, 2014 turned out to be the toughest year for my family and I to endure. In fact, I believe it’s been the end of a stretch that began seven years ago, after my Mom passed away from Cancer. I was so mad at the Lord for taking her away. Despite my anger, he called me to him anyway.

Coming to the Lord wasn’t easy because of the lifestyle I wasn’t exactly ready to give up, but he was patient with me. In time, I began to follow him, but I had a lifetime of baggage to unload through the process. In the Christian community, we believe life progresses in seasons. There are seasons of prosperity, season of peace, even seasons of sorrow, loss and sadness. Sometimes those seasons might last a few months, or they can stretch out for a few years. That’s just life: one gigantic roller coaster. My season just so happen to last seven years, during which time, God allowed all sorts of trials to test my faith in him and my resolve in allowing my life to be changed by the truth of his word. The first six years were a culmination of painful lessons and miraculous blessings. God, knowing that I was still a baby Christian, walked me through, holding my hand. But, there comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to find out what he’s truly made of and what he really believes in.

2014 put my faith to the test in ways, I might not have been able to handle in previous years. God will never give you any more than you can handle, but he’ll allow it get awfully uncomfortable, to build and sharpen your faith. I learned true humility. I’ve learned that it is not a sign of weakness to cry out to the Lord in front of your kids. I’ve learned how to pray the God for the miraculous and the mundane. I’ve learned that…there really is a difference between the world of the faithful believer and the world of the non-believer.

I want to spend just a moment on that point, if I may. This is so very important. There was a time when I thought being Christian meant you simply added the words of the bible to the life you already have; that every once in a while, you needed to throw in a “praise Jesus” after a couple of words, just to let people know where you stood regarding religion; that every once in awhile, you needed to go to church, just to get that emotional pick-me-up, from an entertaining pastor. But overall, you really didn’t have to change who you already were. You simply needed to add to it, like learning a new craft. Afterall, we all live in the same world, right?

I could not have been any more wrong. Contrary to popular secular belief, Christianity is not brainwashing. The Lord Jesus knew exactly what he was telling his disciples when he charged them to take up their cross daily, and follow him. Parents, the culture of today is in direct conflict with the teachings of God’s Holy word. Everything about our culture is in direct defiance to what the Lord had intended life to be like.

How many times have you seen a homeless person, and immediately felt the urge to be someplace else? How many times have you seen a wicked celebrity fall from the grace of Hollywood, and thought, “Well, they had it coming anyway.” That’s the world we live in. It’s different than the world God wanted us to be in. The two simply can’t coexist because a house divided cannot stand. A person who is both compassionate and cold at the same time, will always have to deal with some form of torment. You have to be one or the other.

There really are worlds within the world. If you’re not careful about what you’re following, you may find yourself walking through a season of sorrow longer than you’d like. And so it was for me, and my family. On the surface, we may have all looked like we had everything together. But we struggled this past year in ways that would amaze some of our friends and family. There were days, we prayed for the gas tank to make it another few days. There were days of choosing to pay a bill to keep the electricity on for another 10 days, or eating. There were times when fasting wasn’t really on purpose. Your kids eat before you do.

I doubted my writing ability. When you need to make a living, you turn to what you know how to do first. When that doesn’t offer enough, you start to dream. When you dream, you learn to start praying. But, when your prayers go unanswered, you find yourself tested. I was tested a lot this year. In the passed, there were people I could call on for physical help, or secret stashes I could dip into. Not this time. This was the season to believe or not believe.

Somewhere I heard, “To get what you’ve never had, you have to do what you’ve never done.” Now, that saying could go in many different routes. Sure you could brandish a piece and go out and rob someone. No thanks. In my case, I did something I never saw myself as capable of doing on a somewhat long-term basis. I fasted for 21 days. I won’t go into detail with that, because the honor and glory is not mine to be had. All praise is given to the Lord for walking me through that very difficult time, because in the midst of it, I found out what true joy in the Lord looks like. At the end of that period, nothing happened.

Or did it?

In the late November, I got a word from the Lord while I slept.

“Your season is over, son.”

That’s it. I really didn’t think much about it, until I recalled my daughter giving her heart to God in September. That was a huge deal, and though she fights her own personal struggle against the influences of the world, I know who’s walking beside her. There were a few other miraculous occurrences; things that might be explained logically to anyone else. But to my wife and I, we recognized God’s hand working in our lives. And then, on the 19th of this month, God showed up and reminded me of the promise he made back in January.

Despite my doubts on the effectiveness of my writing, I continue to write. I don’t know how to shut it off, so failure is never an option where my writing is concerned. Faithwriters and Xulon Press must be in agreeance because they sent an email to me, announcing that I had just won a publishing package for a book I’ve only written one chapter for! That, my friends, is the blessed victory. It could mean absolutely nothing to anyone who just happened to click on this story, purely for entertainment. But, to me and my wife, it is the beginning of something new and great; something that was promised by the Lord himself.

When I look back on the trials and challenges of not only 2014, but the last seven years, I understand that God needed to take me through some things in order to get me to a place where I would willingly lean on him alone. That’s a good thing, you see. I’m selfish, self-centered, judgmental and sometimes cruel without him in my life. I had to get to a place where I could honestly admit those traits exist within me. But, with him leading me, I am the opposite of them all.

You see that gauge I picked up? It topped out at just over 120. Let’s say the 200 mark is the tipping point between my faith in the Lord and going back to a life without him. It’s a pressure gauge, you see. It tells you just how much you can take before you quit and go back to a life devoid of God’s presence. Now, look at that needle again. Over seven years, that’s how close I came to giving up. I was more than half way there. But God knew me better than I did. He always cheered me on, while I struggled to believe in him through the hard times.

“C’mon son, just a little more. You’ve got this, and I’m still here with you.”

I wouldn’t change a thing. The road ahead is still littered with trash I have to walk through, but I know God is with me. I know he’ll make a way. I know his promises are faithful and true. I know that when times get tough, he will never leave me as long as I believe in him.

The promise of the blessed victory happened, and I didn’t see it coming. 2015 is going to be an exciting year for my family and I. So let me ask you, friend. What are you believing in these days, and what are your expectations for the New Year?