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*