Throwback

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Eric looked around the cozy 7-feet by 7-feet booth. The white gypsum board walls behind and around him were covered by black squares of sound deadening foam. The overhead lighting was dimmed just enough to set a “chill” mood. In that moment—the calm before the storm—he was glad they’d decided to install the LED lighting bank recessed into the low ceiling. The air inside the new booth was still rich with the intermingled smells of newly-laid carpet and spray paint. Three feet in front of him, the neon green graffiti-tag painted along the bottom half-wall underneath the see-through Plexiglas window read, “Cut It ‘Till It Bleeds the Music”. Eric glanced out beyond the window and flashed a quick thumbs up, before settling his hand on top of the left deck’s 7-inch diameter steel platter of his Pioneer DJ controller. His right hand instinctively gravitated to the mixer’s crossfader and slid the smooth knob right. Eric clicked the crossfader—between thumb and middle finger—and simultaneously flicked his left wrist back and forth; two quick jabs. Underneath his hand, the platter skipped in time, filling his ears with the beautiful sound of chirp-scratch. He grinned and leaned toward the microphone setup left of the controller.

“I’m good here boys.”

“Alright E. We’re rolling.” Jerry’s voice resonated inside Eric’s oversized studio-headphones. “Take me back, bro. I need to feel it, not just hear it.”

“Word. Like ’89 summertime backyard Bar-B-Ques and Faygo red.”

Eric tapped the “Play” key, below the deck-2 platter. A 4/4 House Music beat instantly blared through the headphones, at 120 beats per minute. The bump was infectious.

My body may be middle-aged and slightly pudgy, he thought, but I still know how to two-step.

Eric glanced up at his Macbook Pro laptop perched on its stand above his DJ controller. He smiled at the camera image reflected back. Purple Adidas track suit; purple vintage Kangol hat flipped backwards; Gazelle-sunglasses—all bobbing to the beat. He looked down at the left white shell-toe of his classic Adidas, tapping in sync with the music. His kids hated his apparel, but his wife loved it. She said his style reminded her of their high-school days. To some, he might have stepped right out of a 1980s time-warp. But to brother-E, a nickname his brothers had dubbed him two decades ago, tonight he was simply the DJ.

On the opposite side of the Plexiglas window, the new Engineer studio was on full jam as the two soundboard operators and six spectators swayed with the beat. The music pumped crystal clear through dual 15-inch diameter Mackie-brand studio loudspeakers setup on the carpeted floor; each on either side of a brand new 32-channel Behringer studio-mixer, permanently fastened to a smooth cherrywood table pushed against the opposite side of the DJ-booth’s Plexiglas half-wall. Sound deadening foam attached to the white-walls and ceiling of the 7-feet by 12-feet Engineer studio left no echo; just crisp music thumping in the currently cramped space.

The side door next to Jerry—Eric’s twin brother and lead sound engineer—suddenly flung open. Marcus stepped over the threshold of the packed Engineer room, bobbing and dancing. Despite his thinning hairline and salt-n-pepper goatee, he moved with youthful fluidity.

“Shut the door lil brother,” Jerry yelled over the loud music.

“Dang!” Marcus squealed. “That’s ‘Blow Your House Down—A Guy Named Gerald.’ Ain’t heard this one in a minute, bro. Eric really opened up with a classic banger. He’s not messin’ around tonight. Goin’ straight for the jugular!”

Zeek, a young protégé engineer-in-training seated to Jerry’s right, looked up from the studio-mixer’s volume-knobs and pushed his horn-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose, through his unkempt dreadlocks. He glanced left and slapped his dad—Marcus—a high-five behind uncle Jerry’s nodding head.

“Pop’s,” Zeek yelled, “what’s the name of this old-school joint, again?”

Jerry and Marcus exchanged agitated looks, before the brothers set their stone gazes on Zeek.

“Boy,” Jerry yelled, “get your scrawny lil’ butt out of my new seat—”

“In fact,” Marcus shifted a thumb toward the door, “get out of this studio. How you gonna become a sound engineer when you don’t even know the music? Beat it, and take all six of your young Thundercat friends with you!”

“But pops—”

“Out.” Marcus yelled. “Tell your momma I’m gonna be home late. Me and your uncles got work to do.”

“Nephew,” Jerry said, “you’ve got to be a student of the music first, before you sit down and start pushing buttons.” He smacked the teenaged boy across the butt, as Zeek walked out behind his entourage.

“Yes sir, uncle Jerry.”

As the side door slammed shut, the music dimmed. Eric’s low voice rumbled through the studio speakers.

“Yo, where’d the kids go? I need them to test out the music. That’s my target audience, right there.”

Jerry punched a blinking button on the mixer. “No. You don’t. You’ve got your brothers.”

“Heh, the three musketeers,” Marcus laughed, “back in the saddles!”

“Three musketeers, back in the saddles,” Eric said, looking at his two brothers behind the window. “Bar-B-Ques and Faygo red?”

“Bar-B-Ques—” Jerry started.

“And Faygo red, big brothers!” Marcus yelled.

“Word. Marc, we’re gonna do it like we used to, back then.” Eric punched the play button on deck-2. The music slowly ground to a halt.

“What’ve you got in mind?” Jerry asked, over the studio PA system.

Inside the DJ booth, Eric’s fingers worked feverishly over the laptop’s touch pad. Scrolling. Sifting. Searching, until he found it. Marcus’ all-time favorite song.

“Let’s get this throwback session going, boys,” Eric said into the booth’s microphone. “We ready to record?”

“No dry run, bro?” Marcus asked; Jerry still holding down the PA button.

“Nah, we’re good. ‘Blow Your House Down’ was the dry run.”

“Alright, E,” Jerry announced. “I’m gonna say it again: Take me back, bro. I need to feel it, not just hear it.” Jerry turned toward Marcus. “Rollin’ lil brother?”

“Sound’s recording’. Once you start the feed, we’re good to go. Drop it when you’re ready, E.”

Jerry released the PA button and spun his black leather swivel chair toward a Microsoft ergo keyboard sitting next to the studio mixer. As he typed, a 24-inch flat-screen monitor mounted to the wall, just left of the Plexiglas window, flashed to life displaying a Windows wallpaper logo—cartooned, purple-themed graffiti—of DJ Brother-E standing beside a vintage boombox. Jerry tapped the “Enter” key. The screen suddenly displayed two live video feeds; one beside the other. The left feed showed a Facebook-Live video of the adjoining DJ booth; its camera lens seemingly trained on the entire little room, from a ceiling corner, over the laptop and DJ table. The right feed was a close-up video of Eric—the laptop camera—wringing his hands together; eager to get started. Jerry typed.

“Going live in 3, 2, 1…” he said. He wheeled the chair over to the mixer, and depressed the blinking PA button again.

“We’re live, E. Bring it.” Jerry released the button, and punched Marcus in the left shoulder.

Inside the DJ booth, Eric nodded at the tiny Go-Pro camera mounted in the right corner of the low ceiling, then tapped a button labeled “Sample 1” on the DJ controller. Instantly, his headphones lit up with a voice over tag he’d used for every DJ set ever recorded over the last 20 years.

“Brother-E is on the Beat!”

Eric leaned into the microphone. “Yeah, yeah, yeah party people! You know what it is, and you know who it is. It’s ya man, brother-E, comin’ to you live and direct from the new headquarters. That’s right, after months of renovating, and bouncing between satellite locations, I’ve finally landed in my new home studio. This maiden voyage episode of ‘Brother-E on the Beat’ is executively produced by Jerry Smith, mixed by Marcus Smith, with yours truly manning the ones-n-twos. You know how we do it. House Music is life; one hour strong to get your dance, jog, or workout on! Tonight, I’m takin’ y’all back on a lil journey through the old school, strictly for my Generation-X family. Nothing but them classics, yo! In fact, we’re gonna kick this thing off with an eternal anthem. This is the ‘Jungle Brothers—I’ll House You.’ Let’s go to work people! Brother-E is on the beat!”

Eric tapped the “Play” key under the deck-2 platter, and glanced up through the window to see Marcus pump two fists in the air. Jerry pointed back at Eric through the window. His toothy grin was all the confirmation Eric needed; signifying tonight’s session would be epic.

Inside the Engineer room, “♪ Girl I’ll house You; girl I’ll house you; girl I’ll house you; you in my hut now… ♪” blared through the loudspeakers. The highs, crisp; the mids, sharp; the lows explosive. Marcus’ teeth seemed to rattle in his skull. He loved every moment of it, allowing the music to awaken memories of family parties in the backyard of Ma and Pop’s old house; his brothers manning the turntables and old mixer, while he handed over vinyl records when needed.

The bassline kicked so hard, Eric could feel the vibrations emanating from the Engineer studio rumble through the DJ-booth floor; in perfect time with the music blaring through his headphones. As he bobbed with the beat, knobs on the controller were adjusted, buttons were pushed and level-meters jumped between green and orange hues with each beat-kick. Eric looked into the laptop camera and pointed at the lens, then back to himself before spreading his arms wide, while bouncing to the beat; playing to his live-stream audience. A tally app in the top left corner of the screen displayed 3,021 and climbing already. Thirty seconds into the set, his faithful audience was savoring the music. It was a good start. Three minutes into the first track, his virtual audience had doubled.

In the Engineer studio, Jerry punched the PA button. The music blasting through the loudspeakers momentarily died, as he spoke.

“E, I’m gonna need some of that Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley, bro. The requests are rollin’ in already.”

Jerry released the button and the music roared through the loudspeakers again. He spun toward the flat-screen monitor. The Facebook-Live feed still streamed live video of Eric commanding the DJ controller and dancing. Below the image, a steady stream of viewer comments scrolled upscreen. He saw Eric flash a thumbs up toward the Plexiglas window, before hunkering close to the laptop. On the close-up feed, Jerry watched as Eric’s fingers flew across the touchpad. The live-recording elapsed time stamp read 3:24-minutes. Jerry knew his brother would transition into the next song within 20 seconds. He glanced at Marcus bobbing in the next seat. Their younger brother had always been Eric’s number one fan since the beginning.

“He hasn’t lost a step in 20 years, has he Marc?” Jerry yelled over the music.

Marcus looked at Jerry. “What?!” he yelled.

Jerry leaned closer to Marcus. “I said, he hasn’t lost a step in 20 years!”

“Oh! Naw, he hasn’t! You know in 20 years, all three of us will be deaf, by the time you guys are 65 and I’m 62, right?” Marcus leaned closer and punched Jerry in the right shoulder.

Jerry nodded and fist-bumped his little brother, before turning back to the board. Over the loudspeakers, a beat juggle scratched over the music and then his favorite track blended in seamlessly. Jerry closed his eyes, smiled wide and felt the music transport his heart back to a time when they were simply the three Smith brothers, with no cares in the world; just the music between them.

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Eric was in the zone. The Jungle Brothers track was midway through its pace and he was setting up to transition into “Royal House—Can You Party”. Suddenly, Jerry’s voice interrupted the groove blaring through his headphones.

“E, I’m gonna need some of that Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley, bro. The requests are rollin’ in already.”

Eric glanced through the Plexiglas window to flash a thumbs up at Jerry, who was already staring at the studio’s flat-screen monitor. That impromptu request would alter his set a little, but not much. He knew his twin brother’s favorite track and simply needed to drop it into the set, as his second track for the night. Eric’s fingers navigated the laptop touchpad flawlessly. He methodically scrolled through Serato DJ digital crates until he found the prize: “Jack Your Body” by Steve “Silk” Hurley. He dropped the track into deck-1and thumbed the pitch knob, raising its tempo to 120 beats per minute. As the main track continued to dominate his ears, Eric closed his eyes and pushed the deck-1 “Cue” button then began to manipulate the deck-1 platter using the tips of his middle and ring-fingers. His left ear registered the new track, while his right ear registered the original track now entering the bridge of the song. He played with the two songs until the beats were precisely where he wanted them. Eric opened his eyes and punched the “Cue” button again, then set his right middle-finger and thumb on the cross-fader held wide open, right. The original track blared through both ears. He looked up through the window and saw his brothers immersed in conversation. While holding the deck-1 platter in place, Eric punched the deck-1 “Play” button, then returned his right hand to the cross-fader. He clicked the cross-fader and simultaneously wrist-flicked the left platter. The new track beat-juggled in perfect time with the Jungle Brothers track—two half beats; two quarter beats—and then…

“JACK! Jack; jack; jack, jack, jack…” echoed over the original track.

Eric slid the cross-fader left toward the mixer’s middle position and let the dual beats of both tracks ride together in perfect sync. He slowly spun the deck-2 Bass equalizer knob counter-clockwise, and lowered the deck-2 volume effectively fading out the first song. Onscreen, the tally app suddenly exploded from 6, 567 viewers to 8, 982 with the new track blended. DJ Brother-E’s throwback set was shaping up to be one for the books, and his fans loved every minute of his set. For 56 minutes straight, he took his audience back in time on a musical journey. As he DJed, Eric remembered a time when he and his brothers cared for nothing but the music. It wasn’t even about the crowds, the fans nor the prestige tied to their skills. It was only about their love for the music. For the moment, that time was once again…right now.

~ END ~

 

For my man…Bro. E

Calling All Wordsmiths!

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Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV) – “A man’s heart plans his way; But the LORD directs his steps.”

I love to write. For those of you who actually follow my blog, this year may not have proven that to be a true statement given the infrequent number of times I’ve actually posted content. See, that’s part of my challenge in doing the thing I claim to love: inconsistency. I can think of a million different distractions to keep me away from the keyboard. But, in the end it all boils down to being consistent and purposeful.

I have a gift. Not everyone can sit down and crank out a couple hundred words to draw a reader into a personal connection. I can do that. Sometimes I do it well; sometimes, not so much. The gift can only get better with increased usage.

When I first started this blog a few years ago, I didn’t really have a plan for it. The thought was, “I’ll just use this as my internet space to put down a few thoughts here and there. If anyone follows me; great! If no one follows me; no big deal.” There was no set goal or focused direction for my blog, so it comes as no surprise when I learn that after a few years of internet space, roughly 120 followers stick by my side. It’s easy to let my pride tell me folks down follow because folks don’t get me. But that’s not the case.

I am a Wordsmith. My subject of choice is the LORD. As I sit here at the keyboard on November 14th, 2017 (at 5:35pm if you really want to get specific), I’m admitting that I want more readers to discover my gift. Not just that. I want more readers to hear what I have to say about God, His Kingdom, what it means to me and what it can mean to them, from my perspective based on my experiences. I have a limited number of followers because I haven’t actually thought about what direction I want my blog to follow. I haven’t come up with a plan.

My good friend Gus once said, “E, you’re fiction is really good. But, I think your non-fiction writing is what will get people to follow you. That’s what really touches people.” Even when that was said, I didn’t take the time to really think about it.

Recently, my friend Cassy asked, “Do you want to turn your writing into something full time, or are you just doing it as a hobby?” At the time, I couldn’t really sit and think about it, so I put it off. As I sit here thinking on it now, I think I would like to see my gift make room for a full time position in my life. I think in order to make that happen, I need to admit out loud that I have a plan to become a professional writer.

Proverbs 16:9 is my favorite proverb. I like the idea of God planting something in my heart; something that I desire to do. Then He orders my steps to see it accomplished. Does God want me to become a successful author? I have no idea. I believe he wants me to write for Him. Whether I become successful or not really doesn’t matter much as long as I’m fulfilling my purpose. I think that purpose is to write for Him and His kingdom. To that end, I want to have more readers.

I have to choose to be consistent with my posting. Consistency increases my chances of reaching more readers, and gaining more followers. The more folks read my blog, the more people I have an opportunity to share the gospel with. There are only seven weeks left in 2017. I’d like to end this year, and transition into the new year strong. I’m going to make a decision (right now) to post something at least once a week. Fiction or non-fiction doesn’t matter right now. I simply have to purposefully write and get back into the swing of truly loving what I do.

I’m going to challenge some of my fellow Wordsmith’s to dig deep and finish the year strong. Let’s share some great stories, inspirational blog posts, and encouraging words between us and with new followers. Are you up for the challenge Cary, Lindsay, Doug,  and Sheldon (just to name a few)? I’m calling all Wordsmith’s! Let’s finish 2017 strong in our craft.

 

Get To It!

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You ever sit down at the keyboard, fired up to write, only to discover you’ve got nothing? It’s like a cruel joke, isn’t it? When the block lands square on top of your creativity, it feels like you have no option but to submit, pack it all up and try again tomorrow. But…if I may, let me offer you a bit of advice, wordsmith:

WRITE ANYWAY!

Yeah, that’s right: write anyway. I don’t care if you write a simple two or three line paragraph about the fact that you have nothing to write about. Write anyway. I’ve discovered that when I limit my writing to the times that I’m really feeling inspired, my craft suffers.

Last year, I made up a simple calendar printed on a sheet of 8.5″x11″ paper. I taped it to the side of my dresser. Each time I wrote a blog post or an article, that day was colored in with a yellow highlighter. At the end of the year, you wanna know what I discovered? In 365 days, I had written less than a third postings as there are days in the year! Folks, that was less than 122 blog posts and diary entries for the entire year! If I plan to grow and flourish in my craft, I simply have to write more.

I once wrote, “Writers write”. Hmmm…maybe it was more like, “Writers gotta write”. I think you get the point. We need to exercise our ability regularly, just like a body builder works out constantly. Creativity is, after all, a perishable skill. You use it or you lose it.

C’mon! What are you still scrolling for?! Get busy! Tell me about your second day of the new year! I just blew through 300 words to make a point. Start writing about anything wordsmiths!

What’s Your Motivation?

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Every few years, I find a new song (or playlist of songs) to usher my mind into the Wordsmith’s Closet; that secret place every writer enters when it’s time to get serious. For me, silence is not always golden, you see. I need music to help my mind concentrate just enough to relax and allow words to form written photos and sentences to form scenes.

Years ago, when I began writing, “Cannon in D” and “Fantasia on Greensleeves” were my tried and true tracks, often played on heavy rotation repeat while I churned paragraphs to pages. Over the years, I’ve taken to listening to Enya’s “Aniron“, Daft Punk’s “Solar Sailer” and Bobby McFerrin’s “Brief Eternity” to make the surrounding walls fall away and open the air into blank creativity, where the scenery is a mingle of the music and my imagination. Music moves me. People often ask, “How do you write some of your scenes?” It’s the music that motivates me.

2017 is here writers. Time to get serious. What motivates you? If you haven’t been motivated yet, what are you waiting for?

The Story of US (Prelude)

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Everyone has a story to tell. As long as we live and breathe, we are someone’s story: God’s. Perhaps you live a life of nonstop adventure, where every event is a celebration. Or, like many of us, maybe you live a simple life of Monday-Friday workdays, grocery store shopping and weekend Netflix. Maybe you’re the life of every party, or maybe you constantly fly under the popularity radar and that’s just the way you like it. No matter where you may fall on the “interest” scale, rest assured: you have a story to tell.

My wife and I just celebrated our 15th year of marriage, this past August. We are the parents of 5 children, ages 10 to 24. For the most part, we live seemingly normal lives of carpooling, school days, work days and church. We don’t drink alcohol. We’re non-smokers. We don’t party hard on the weekends. We haven’t experienced a genuine family vacation…ever. We drive a 10 year old Dodge Grand Caravan and a two year old Ford Fiesta. Together, our large family cram into a three bedroom home with one bathroom. Uh, did I mention that there are three women in the family? One bathroom can be quite challenging at times. On the surface our lives may seem dull, simply existing one day at a time. Perfectly harmless.

But then, you don’t really know us, do you?

You might not believe some of the things we’ve experienced individually and together. You might be shocked to discover that addictions and abuses have affected our family in ways that might end other relationships, if not for the grace of the Lord. You might deny the fact that Misty and I can each truthfully say, “I might not be here, if it weren’t for God”. You may even question the validity of our Christianity after discovering some of the things we’ve done, and continue to struggle with.

For years, we’ve tried to bury a past that would have left us a broken and splintered family. Some mistakes of our youth continue to resonate in our present. Past deeds haunt and hinder our future. But we know today that the God we serve can, and often does, grant us his grace and mercy. He supplies for our needs and also makes a way for us to break through. The more we grow in the Lord, the more I see the time approaching, where we will face our past together and share our stories with the world.

People are hurting. Individuals and couples alike are facing difficult situations daily; carrying secret pain that cannot be reconciled no matter how hard they may try. Our time to share is now. We want people to know, no matter how dark your situation may look, God can restore. God is the healer. Through him, all things are possible, especially redemption. I know personally.

This October, we’re stepping out on faith. Together, Misty and I will begin the journey of writing our story, in the hopes that it may one day inspire and encourage others who may be going through some of the experiences we’ve endured together. It will be painful, because it means facing demons, answering hard questions all while reaffirming our forgiveness of one another. No one is beyond God’s grace and mercy.If he continues to restore and strengthen us, just maybe our story will encourage someone out there to seek his face. We’re ready to share. Are you ready to experience our story?

 

Check It Twice

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Hi family. I wanted to drop a quick note before I head off to bed. Throughout the day, my phone pinged letting me know folks were reading my recent posts. That’s really encouraging to know the content touches lives. At the end of the day, I finally had an opportunity to go back and read the latest post from this morning. Oh man, was I horrified!

I had so many typos and run-ons throughout that post, it was ridiculous! How am I supposed to be taken seriously if I let grammar slip past the radar? Despite the grammatical and structural infractions, a few of my friends still “liked” the post. I appreciate the support, and in the future I intend to give you a better a product.

So, for any new aspiring writers out there, let me urge you to spell check, sentence-structure check and fine-tooth comb check your work before publishing it. Your audience may be forgiving, but minor infractions could make the difference between you attracting some attention versus a lot of attention. When it comes to sharing our craft, we want to attract A LOT of attention for the all the right reasons, so be sure to proof before you publish. That’s my public service announcement for the evening. Hope it helps.

Goodnight family.

 

*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.