That Moment When God Reminds You…

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A good life is like a fantastic roller coaster. High peaks slowly creep, and the anticipation is scary-exciting. Then, the rush of the downhill race takes your breath away. Life throws a few speedy curves into the ride for good measure. The truly great coasters will even surprise you with quick peaks and valleys in succession, just to add witty surprise to the experience. Then, in a blink…it’s all over.

A mediocre life is like a drive along a dessert highway. The asphalt is slightly bumpy and quite often the anticipation stems from a need to arrive at the destination. The scenery is dull. The road is straight and yields no surprising twists or turns. The journey is so mundane, it seems to take several lifetimes before the end arrives.

The thing about life is, it’s often a combination of both the good and the mediocre. We experience the highs of the hilltops at times, but we also endure the lows of the valleys: the success of a promotion and the grief of a lost loved-one; that first kiss, and that first bee-sting; the triumph of broken spiritual chains, and the deflation of facing personal weak faith.

It’s the duality of life. Hills and valleys. Highs and lows. Ups and downs. It never stops. But one constant is true.

God’s always there.

I know, it may not always seem like it and some might have a genuine right to argue against my claim. There are real monsters in the world. There are tragedies everywhere. And sometimes, things don’t exactly have to be earth-shattering to bring you down from the hilltop. Sometimes, it’s just a series of little things subtly chipping away at your joy and confidence.

But, God is still there, too.

I believed God had given me specific talents, uniquely crafted for me. Sure…anyone could do what I can do. But no one could do it exactly the way I can. Surely, He had to have given me these talents for a reason. It’s a high point, when you realize your purpose.

But as the years continued to roll by, I didn’t seem to recognize any forward movement with my talents. My gifts just didn’t appear to make any difference in my life, or the lives of others. Despite the countless encouraging scriptures of faith, I really struggled to continue believing my apparent gifts were from God. More and more, I started to believe they were a product of my own design and that I was now wasting time with them. Where I’d once vehemently believed God had spoken those gifts into my heart, I was suddenly contemplating giving them up.

Friday morning, I was ready to stop writing altogether. And then…Friday evening came.

My home church–River of Life–hosted an outpouring service, and despite my secret decision to pack up my pens and journals, I came to church expecting to see God move in the lives of my church family members. The church was alive with the sounds of praise and worship, and the presence of the Holy Spirit was heavy in the sanctuary. For almost two hours, we sang and prayed, before my Pastor took to the pulpit.

Pastor Eddie launched into intercessory prayer; boldly praying for folks to receive the blessing of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The place was electric! As he prayed, and pronounced blessings of healing for people he didn’t know personally, I simply basked in the presence of the Lord, watching the Spirit work through the lives of my church family and visitors alike. And then, something unexpected happened.

He called my name. Pastor Eddie called my name, and caught my eye.

“I don’t normally call people out,” he announced, “but the Lord wants you to know, don’t quit on your gifts. Brother don’t quit on your gifts.”

I broke. I lost strength and fell to ground. He could not have possibly known that very morning, I’d decided to stop writing. My Pastor had no idea what I had been struggling with since the beginning of the new year. He couldn’t have known I’d given up hope. There could be only one explanation.

God was still there. He was…He is…still watching me. He knows my name, and He knows my heart. And on that Friday, among so many different people coming to Him with their own issues–looking to be set free–He took the time to speak to me in a way that could not possibly be mistaken for anything other than what it was: miraculous.

I was completely undone. At some point, my wife came to my side and held on to me as every ounce of guilt and shame poured out through hot tears and naked sobs. When composure returned, it came with a renewed sense of purpose. With that purpose came freedom. I have no idea what God wants me to write, but He told me not to give up. I have faith in Him. I’m riding the hilltop.

I don’t know what you’re struggling with right now, at this very moment friend. But I can say this with fresh confidence: God sees you. He knows where you are, and knows exactly what you’re going through. I know life is hard sometimes, and it becomes easy to lose sight of what’s true; what’s good. Despite my struggles, I think the best thing I could have done was to go into that outpouring service with expectancy. I had no idea what I was looking for. I just wanted to be in His presence. And maybe–just maybe–that’s all you need. You just need to be in the Lord’s presence. You seek Him, even in your struggles, and I promise you He will find you; not that you’ve ever been lost to Him. I lost my youngest son once. It was a nightmare. I don’t wanna talk about it. But God never loses His real children. He’s always there. Sometimes, He just wants us to come to Him; to seek His presence.

So don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t quit. I believe He’s rooting for you. You just have to keep on believing…

 

 

*always*

Hey! No Take-Backs!

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We all know that one person (somewhere in our circle) constantly obsessing over, “Man, if I could go back and do it over again,” or “If I could go back in time and make better decisions”. Well guess what? You can’t! Hey, there are no take-backs in life!

Last night, my wife and I watched a movie and I heard a particularly clever anecdote. The main protagonist’s boss said to her, “You know, my grandfather had a saying: ‘Life is like a coin. You can spend it on anything you want, but you can only spend it once.'” That was good, and gave me pause to consider how much time we spend dwelling in the past when things don’t go our way.

What’s the point of brooding over setbacks? Time travel is not a reality, so we need to keep on pushing forward despite our obstacles. Can you imagine where we’d be today if both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates stopped forward movement because they couldn’t reach beyond past failures? Yikes! I might be pecking away on a manual typewriter right now.

So, on this 2nd day of the New Year of 2016, I challenge you to leave your past behind. I don’t care if you tried something and bombed spectacularly. Remember the lesson learned, but leave the failure behind. Go forth my child, and conquer!

That is all. Happy Saturday, friends.

Keep On Keepin’ On

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"Dear Ennis,
Thank you so much for your submission. Unfortunately I don't feel I'm the appropriate agent to represent your work as the story just isn't right for me.
I'm sure another agent will feel differently, and with the vast array of opinions in the industry, I wish you the best in finding the right representation.
Thanks again for thinking of me.
All best,
Elana"
Rejection number 28. Here’s another…
"Mr. Smith,
Thank you for giving The **** Agency the opportunity to review this project. Unfortunately it is not right for us at this time. Please understand that our opinion is but one and another agent may feel differently.
Danielle ****
Literary Assistant
The **** Agency"

Yeah, so far you all feel the same. That was rejection number 29. How about this one…

"Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, I don't feel I'm the right agent for your work but I wish you success in all your publishing endeavors.
Sincerely,
Ginger ****
Executive Vice President"

That was rejection number 30. Out of a total list of 62 queried literary agencies between the months of September through December, I have received 30 rejections on my book. Why share these failures? Why draw attention to what might be viewed as evidence of a dream that should be laid to pasture? Why not just quit and focus on something else?

Because quitting is exactly what the enemy expects me to do.

I read a true testimony of a cop who wrote a book and queried 90 literary agents, before someone believed in his story. 90 agents. 91 was the magic number.

Famed director Spike Lee won a student Academy Award for one of his very first films, while attending film school. He figured Hollywood was poised to come knocking on his door. But once he figured out no one in the industry cared about his local award, he put his nose to the grindstone and hustled his craft. This year, he received an honorary Oscar.

Stephen King worked odd jobs doing everything from teaching to dry cleaning. And then one day, his agent called to inform him that “Carrie” had just sold for $400,000 dollars.

I am a writer. I don’t care what anyone else thinks or says, because I’m here to tell you that I’m a darned good writer. The rest of the world is simply going to have to catch up with what I already know to be true. So, while the rejection letters keep on coming in, I will stand firm in my belief and passionate about my craft.

You should too. Whatever it is that you do passionately, do not allow the world to take it away from you. Stand firm and keep pressing on. It won’t be long before the world figures out what you already know to be true: when it comes to your craft, you’re a bad muthaf*****!

Keep on keepin’ on.

Looks like I just received rejection number 31.