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Sunday, January 13, 2013

A new year = a renewed focus

1 John 2:7 "Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard." 

 We all enjoy the coming of a new year. It gives us a reason to celebrate life. That's why many of us party on New Year's Eve. A new calendar year becomes a fresh start. Many people become goal-oriented around this time of year. Promises of weight loss push us to join exercise gyms and count calories. Financially we strive to save more money and spend less. To improve our professional lives, we return to college, enroll in graduate school, and strategize our careers. However, the beginning of the new year does not mean that everything should be new.

I mean that if we are creating new goals year after year, what does that say about our previous goals? Did we accomplish them? If we did reach them, then why do we establish the same new goals every year?

During my teaching tenure, my goal was to meet my students where they were academically, and gradually raise their astuteness. Thus, I created a pattern within my lesson planning. Referencing Bloom's Taxonomy, there are different tiers of learning that are developed upon each tier. For example, a student learning about the Civil War is entry-level knowledge. Creating a play based on the Civil War requires a higher skill. Thus, I argue that we need to stop creating new goals every new year. 

Instead, we should push our goals to higher levels. Simple goals deserve complexity. For example, let's assume you possess a goal of losing five pounds. After reaching this goal, it should be heightened with taking cooking classes to eat healthier, jogging one mile every other day, buying organic foods weekly, etc.

A Chosen Path

Spartacus is driven by his purpose in life, which, pushes him beyond humanly limits and expectations.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Proverbs 3:6 - In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. 

   I am a huge fan of the Starz network drama series Spartacus. During their escape from slavery, Spartacus and his fellow gladiators had an important decision to make. Having just killed their slave master (Lentulus Batiatus) and several key Roman leaders, they were free of bondage and servitude. They could leave Rome and try to rebuild the lives they previously enjoyed or they could join Spartacus. By joining Spartacus, they would be risking their lives to free other slaves and have to share food and living quarters with strangers. As Robert Frost romanticized, there arrives a time in each of our lives where we must choose a path to take. Despite their better judgment, many of the former slaves decided to join Spartacus in his cause.

   For us in modern society, that complicated decision may be between having children or traveling the world, attending law school or joining Teach for America, or dropping out of college or signing a recording contract. Regardless of the specifics, we all arrive at this point in our respective lives. As difficult as these decisions are, looking back, things work themselves out. We cringe change, but some how, some way, we adjust. We stay in jobs too long out of the fear of uncertainty. We stay in careers too long because of our fear of instability. We accept the status quo (I don't) because we fear being outcasted or criticized. 

   I challenge you to face your fears. Our lives are predestined by God. We were all created with purpose. Thus, we should live purposeful lives. Pray, meditate, participate in fellowship, and learn about God. Establishing a strong relationship with our Creator may en graph a spirit of prosperity, success, purpose, favor, entrepreneurship, and more. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Falling for Christ, I owe it to my brother Corey (part 2) - Commitment

Me, Big Wood, Matt Vasgersian, Corey, and Shady (in Detroit, MI)

“I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” - Robert Frost

"That is why your death is going to be so sad... You've never fully committed to anything." - Bishop T.D. Jakes
What is commitment? According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, commitment is defined as "an agreement or pledge to do something in the future; something pledged; the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled." 

When the circumstances of life become difficult, people disappear. Marriages are not long term, because we don't understand commitment.  Commitment is only realized through reciprocity. Do you give as good as you receive? Do you understand that any relationship requires reciprocity? To be committed to your dreams and goals is a relationship. It's a relationship that you have to constantly add to. 

Think of a relationship as if it's a front lawn of grass. If you don't water this grass, remove harmful materials from it, and feed it with the proper resources, that grass will die. Likewise, any relationship that lacks the proper attention and care will diminish. That's why many of us don't reach our full apex. That's why people talk about becoming this or becoming that, only to fall short years later.

The bible talks about commitment. 
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices... 
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize...  
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  

Commitment is unusual in our society. When my best friend Corey found Christ, he realized that he had to fully emerge himself in God to reach his personal and professional apex. That required him to lose some friends. He stopped hanging around people who were negative, evil, and promiscuous.  He tried to persuade many of his friends (including myself) to develop spiritually. He did this as a high school student in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee for many teens is all about sex, parties, alcohol, and drugs. Corey fought against that status quo. 

Why aren't we more committed?

  • It is costly. True commitment is an investment. To reach your apex in any area of your life, you have to invest everything. That means your time, energy, soul, body, money, and faith. 
  • It requires patience. In a technology-savvy society, we are able to obtain many things within a press of the button. As great as technology is, we have become impatient people. To reach the apex of your success, you must be able to delay gratification. Thus, if you need to go back to school to retrain for a specific career, that will take time. There are no shortcuts to holistic success.