My Second Half

Standard

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.

 

 

 

Minas

Standard

I love the parable in Luke 19:11-27. It’s so fitting for life today. I’ll give you a minute to go ahead and read it…

*elevator music plays in the background*

Ah! Okay, so God is the king in this parable. The disgruntled servants represent humanity. People don’t naturally choose to follow the Lord, for any one of many reasons:

  • There is no God
  • God’s too strict; he’s got too many rules and regulations
  • Following God is boring; the bible is boring
  • I don’t have time to devote to him

God blesses everyone with talents. Some may not easily recognize their God-given gifts, but we all have something we are born with. Sports superstars are blessed with athleticism; law enforcement officers are blessed with protective instincts; extraordinary musicians are blessed with the musical ear.

Even ordinary people are blessed with gifts. There’s that one friend who is always upbeat, no matter the situation, blessed with the gift of encouragement. There’s the neighborhood comedian who’s always good for a laugh, blessed with the gift of high spirits. There’s the congregation grandmother, who always cooks a meal for someone in need without ever being asked to do so—how does she always seem to know—blessed with the gift of hospitality. We all are born with a gift.

In the parable, the lord charged his servants with the task of putting their individual talents (or minas) to work so that, upon his return, his investment would yield increase. Like the servants in this parable, we are charged with the task of putting our talents to work for the Lord; we are expected to advance his kingdom.

Colossians 3:23-24 says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”

The first faithful servant, in the parable, increased his lord’s mina investment tenfold. Likewise, the second faithful servant increased his mina fivefold. I liken these two servants to a modern-day CHH artist—that’s Christian Hip Hop for you squares—with a ministry of 10,000 following believers, and a small-town preacher with a thriving congregation of 200 faithful members. Both the artist and the preacher began as God haters. But…they submitted to the Lord, discovered and accepted their given talents, and put them to work to further the kingdom of God. Both work hard, constantly mindful of God.

But the parable also displays an example in the lazy servant. This unfaithful accepted his talent and knew the character of his lord. Yet he willfully chose to do absolutely nothing with the talent. Even more disturbing, was his logic behind his loathsome behavior. He simply figured there was no point in even trying to put the talent to work!

This is where Colossians 3:25 turns a corner and says, “But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.”

In our modern society, particularly in the entertainment industry, many people recognize their God-given talents, but blatantly choose to use them in ways contradictory to God’s intended purposes. Then, there are those who recognize their talents, but squander them by doing nothing at all. In the parable, the two faithful servants were rewarded double their efforts, while the lazy servant was stripped of the little he was originally given.

Where do you fall within this parable? When you look at your life today, can you see the hand of God blessing your faithful efforts? I’m not talking about material possessions. Are you reaching people in your day-to-day living? Can you openly live the Christian life in public, and see God’s favor manifest in your walk? Or…does it seem as if even the little bit you have is in danger of being stripped away? Does it feel like no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to catch a break? Can you even acknowledge God?

What are your talents, my friend? If you recognize them, are you using them to advance God’s kingdom? Many people read this famous parable and erroneously think its core message is about money.

“If God gives you $10, go out and turn it into $100, in the name of Jesus. Then watch him bless you with more. Wooo!”

No. This parable is about using the talent God has given you to go out and spread his kingdom, in whatever you do. If you find yourself struggling through a valley, let me encourage you to first seek the Lord. Through prayer, ask him to reveal your God-given talents. Then put those talents to use, in a way that will honor him. Only he can guide you through it. And his timing is always perfect, so don’t be discouraged.

Remember, in the parable , none of the servants liked the lord to begin with. But, the faithful submitted, remained true and were richly blessed later. Because of their integrity, their minas were multiplied. This isn’t just a story, friend. This is life.