Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The dangers of outgrowing yourself

"Don't get too grown for your britches." As a kid, I heard that line from my parents a lot, but I didn't quite understand it. Their words never really sank in through my "hard head" until I was an adult, and to this day, I still have to recall this bit of wisdom in certain times. Back then, it wasn't just my parents that drilled me with this truth because my neighbors and every other adult who cared made sure to let me know. In my opinion, one of the biggest problems that I'm seeing in today's world is that most of us are so focused on ourselves instead of others that we're starting to outgrow our own "britches" and our selfishness and conceit is slowly destroying the things we are trying to build.

Granted, most people, especially self absorbed people, never want to hear that their own egos are hurting them. There is no better example of this self-destructive behavior than the "self-made" man or woman. Just the term "self-made" gives me visions of a grown person throwing a tantrum about what they've built, what they've done, the success they've had, what they're not going to do, and if someone doesn't like what they're saying, they're willing to "take their ball and go home". The "self-made" people are quick to "toot their own horn" while successfully ignoring and denying the contributions of every other person beside and behind them that helped push them to success.

The "self-made" attitude only leads to an unfortunate and unnecessary outcome...solitude. See, alone time is great to get away from the maddening crowd and recharging your batteries, but solitude is putting yourself on an island away from anyone who could help you. A tree needs the sun, water, dirt, and carbon dioxide to live and to grow. If you take away one of those elements, the tree will ultimately die, and just like a tree, the more people you take away from one person, the less chance they have to grow, until they face an inevitable end...death. Even if that death is just in the figurative sense, the dreams, desire, and future success of the "self-made" individual die without people watering and illuminating them.

One thing that is almost as cancerous to success as abandoning outside assistance is having the wrong kind of people around you. No person is right 100% of the time, but if you are surrounded with the kind of people that put you on a pedestal, and acquiesce to your every word, then your growth is again stunted. When a tree is growing in an undesired way, it becomes necessary to prune the tree so that it can properly grow. And in the same fashion, when our words or actions are detrimental to our desired outcome we need people around us who are willing to "prune" or talk to us to let us know that we're straying off course. These yes men aren't willing to do that for us which can only lead to wild and overgrown egos.

The last problem that can only destroy us is that in our pursuit to become a better version of ourselves, we become people that are foreign to everyone that knows us. Self-improvement is a great and necessary thing, but in a world of plastic surgery and fake personas, many of us do anything we can to be someone we're not. Speaking from my own experience, I've tried to create images of myself that I thought others wanted to see, and I've even gone so far as to create an entirely different life than my own online. I eventually had to come to the sober truth that living lies and running from who you are only causes you to lose yourself. The more time you spend trying to reinvent yourself, the more time you'll spend trying to "get in touch" with this new you. You were born with an unique personality and you were raised in a certain environment; and since this can never be changed, instead of reinvention, seek to improve yourself.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My testimony & the 2011 New Hope Summer revival

Wednesday through Friday night of this week, my church has had a revival and I feel moved to talk about it. The title of the sermon on Wednesday was "Their eyes were watching God", Thursday's sermon title was "Waiting without worrying" and tonight's sermon was titled, "I got the victory".

All three nights dealt with 2 Chronicles chapter 20. In this chapter, Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah learned that 3 nations(the Moabites, the Ammonites, and others beside the Amonites) were coming against him to battle him. After finding out about this, Jehoshaphat gathered all the people of Judah in the house of the Lord to fast and to pray together to ask the Lord what they needed to do in the midst of this impending battle.

After they prayed and waited on God, the spirit of the Lord fell upon Jahaziel, and the Lord spoke through Jahaziel, "Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not your's, but God's." In verse 17, still speaking through Jahaziel, God says, "Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you."

The words alone from the Bible are enough to make me happy about the power of God, but the preacher spiritually set the church on fire Wednesday through Friday, and by Friday night, a few were slain in the Spirit. I know I'm not doing this revival justice because the true power and gift of God's word was being in the sanctuary listening to this revival. One point that really stuck in my head from tonight's message was an anecdote. The preacher talked about a new phone system in his church and on the phones, there's a button labeled "ICM callback". Whenever the preacher calls another line in another office of the church and that line is busy, all he has to do is press "ICM callback" and the phone will keep calling that line until there's an answer. Bringing it around to us and God, whenever we pray to God and we don't get an answer to our prayers, we can keep praying until we get an answer from Him.

Now, on to my testimony. In 1995, my dad passed. There are 2 reasons I had to smile at his funeral. One, he had the chance to see me go to college, and two, some of the last words I said to him was, "I love you." To this day, I still think about him, but I've been blessed to have good men in my church and the father of a best friend, to be in my life, and these are men that I love and respect like a father.

Then, in 1997, I was in a single car collision (that I caused) that was so bad that you couldn't tell the front of the car from the back of the car. I was knocked unconscious and life-flighted to a nearby hospital. After I awoke hours later, the doctor told me that I came to the hospital looking like I had been scalped by an Indian. I really had been busted till the white meat in my head was showing. But by the grace of God, and the prayers of many family members and friends, I'm alive and I'm smiling.

There's also been 2 occasions where my mom has been in the hospital for a serious medical issue. The last time was a couple of months ago, and it was so bad that she actually said to me, "I don't want to live anymore." These aren't words you want to hear from anyone you love, but the first thing I did on this occasion is the same thing I've done in most situations I'm not equipped to handle, I prayed(hard). And just like every other situation, God came through with an answer, and I'm happy to say that my mom is back on her feet, and doing almost all of the same things she was doing before. Driving is the only thing she isn't doing yet, and that's only because I want her to take her time before she starts again.

I say all of this to say that when I was growing up, I used to watch the people in the church clap their hands, shout, cry, dance, or run up and down the aisles, and I would wonder, "What got into them?". After all the things I've been through and everything I've seen, I've changed my tune. Nowadays, I look at the people who are sitting in church stone silent, and I wonder, "Maybe the word hasn't hit them like it's hitting everybody else, and maybe they haven't been given a reason to praise God yet." But all I know is that after all the reasons I've been given to praise God, I want to share my testimony just to let you know that He's still performing miracles on a daily basis.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


No, I am not rich
I haven't been to the finest schools
Nor do I have expensive cars, boats or other toys
Plus I've eaten more crap than anyone should ever have to
And I have failed more times than three

But from my failures, lessons were taught
Plus my losses have made me stronger
Like warriors sharpen their swords, I hone my resolve
And through living righteously, I can walk with my head held high
Now from my blood, sweat, and tears, I emerge...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

$Free Speech$

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Read the above words carefully and after you reread them, give them a minute to let them soak in. This one run-on sentence is the First Amendment in all of its glory. This one sentence protects every American's right to say whatever is on their mind to say, but sometimes, there are certain misconceptions that come in interpreting this sentence.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The simple fact is that while I am a practicing Christian, I shouldn't have to worry about a Catholic, a Muslim, or even an atheist imposing on my right to practice my beliefs at my church, I must also show the same tolerance to a person of another religion as well. Free speech and tolerance are two way streets and are not meant just for the "popular" or for the "most easily tolerated".

"...the right of the people to peaceably assemble." Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said that, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." We all have the freedom of speech, but we are also all bound to peaceably use that freedom of speech. You and I are safe to say whatever we please unless a war of words becomes a physical war.

There's one final detail, but this is the most important one...everyone's speech is free, but there is a cost for us to use that freedom. While we are justified under the laws of the government to speak our minds, the words that come out of our mouths all come with a consequence or a reward. When you tell your boss how you really feel about them, you can either get a raise or you can get fired. Whether you tell your significant other the truth or lies, what happens to your relationship is a direct result of your "free" speech.

The bottom line is that it's always easier to censor yourself instead of having to apologize for your words after the fact. Keep this in mind while you're exercising your "free" speech.

Friday, March 4, 2011

What you cry is oppression, I call laziness

By now, most of you have probably heard rumblings of this CNN article, and it inspired me to write this blog. The first thing I thought about after reading this is the history of the United States. This country was founded by European settlers who drove out Native Americans from their land and into reservations, and the land was worked by African slaves. I'm not mentioning this in hopes of inciting racial hatred; I say this to point out one simple fact that a friend on Twitter mentioned, "The U.S. was built for white people to succeed."

White people have long been afforded the opportunity to be as successful as they wanted to be, and have had the luxury of getting that success largely by the color of their skin if so chose to attain success that way. Now we live in a time where the race truly does go to the swift and not to one with the certain skin color. I remember a time when some of my own brothers and sisters would cry about "the man holding us down" or "we can't get a break because of the system".

The truth is that although racism still overtly and covertly exists, the oppression behind that racism has long been defeated. Just as assuredly that there's a white person somewhere still calling black people niggers, there's a black person somewhere still calling white people devils. The fact is that we all have the ability to rise above any racial hatred and ignorance simply by the work we are willing to do. For anyone who feels "racially oppressed" in this day and age, you are only being lazy and rather than work to rise above your current status, you choose to cry in the hopes of being given what you should be working for.

The bottom line is that in these United States, racism still exists, but there is no more oppression, so get over yourself, and get on with the work you need to do in order to achieve success...or get passed by.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Coach of the Year

Coach of the Year - In my opinion, the coach of the year award should go to the man that exemplifies the year's best cerebral assassin. The coach that can somehow make almost any undrafted player look like elite talent just by the system that coach uses. The coach of the year is the one that best motivated his roster to see beyond their shortcomings and pitfalls and rise to victory on any given Sunday. This cerebral assassin not only commands respect from all of his players, but has earned their respect as well. In saying all of this, I don't believe that Bill Belichick should have been the 2010 Coach of the Year.

Steve Spagnuolo - I know what you're saying, "Why should a coach whose team didn't even make the playoffs be Coach of the Year?". In Spagnuolo's first year of coaching, his lowly Rams went 1-15 & the only bright spot was RB Steven Jackson. In his second year, Spagnuolo has managed to motivate his team to win 6 more games and lest we forget, if it wasn't for a week 17 loss to the Seahawks, his Rams would have been in the playoffs. Just to point out facts, my favorite coach, Jimmy Johnson went 1-15 his first year and then 7-9 the following season. Two seasons later, he led the Cowboys to the Super Bowl 2 years in a row. I know it could just be coincidence, but I think Spagnuolo's work deserved an opportunity for him to be the Coach of the Year.

Raheem Morris - It's great that Raheem came in 2nd place in the voting, but he earned the right to be the 2010 Coach of the Year. In 2 years of coaching the Buccaneers, he's turned his team around from a 3-13 bottom feeder to a 10-6 team that actually made the NFC South a competitive 3 way division. But even the numbers aren't the best part of Morris's credentials. The 53 men on the Tampa Bay roster do not just play for the team, they play for their coach, Raheem Morris. Morris treats his players like men, expects them to behave like men, and in turn, they give him the respect any man would give another man.

Todd Haley - Haley is another example of a young coach who in his sophomore coaching season, has turned his team from losers(4-12 in 2009) to winners(10-6 and 1st place in their division). It will be interesting to see how the offense will operate in the absence of Charlie Weiss, but in 2010, Haley proved to be motivating enough and smart enough to be the 2010 Coach of the Year.

Rex Ryan - At the start of the season, many "pundits" wondered if LaDanian Tomlinson was washed up. Tomlinson rushed for almost 200 more yards than he did last season. Seven of the Jets' games were decided by 5 points or less and they only won 3 of those battles. Throughout most of the year, fans(myself included) and many "pundits" went from saying, "Mark Sanchez sucks.", or "The Jets really need a new QB." to "Mark Sanchez is improving.". Here's the kicker, it wasn't that Sanchez did his best Rocky impersonation and L.T. didn't find the fountain of youth, but the Jets did have the rock solid support of their heavyweight coach, Rex Ryan. Ryan did more than just motivate his team to an 11-5 record and a wildcard playoff spot. He pushed his team's buttons until they knew they were worthy of greatness as they beat the likes of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive weeks. On top of that, the Jets did more than just respect Rex Ryan; the entire team adopted his brash persona and I have no doubt that next year the 53 man Rex roster will be back even better than this year.

Lovie Smith - Who coached the Chicago Bears to not only become the NFC North champs, and not just to the NFC Championship, but to an 11-5 regular season record which is their best record in 4 years...Lovie Smith. Also, in my opinion, Lovie Smith is the kind of coach that will be the first one to take the blame when his team loses and the first person to shower the glory of a victory on his players instead of himself.

Mike McCarthy - The Green Bay Packers have always had to deal with injuries just like any other football team, but rarely do other teams do what the Packers have done. With 16 players currently on injured reserve, Green Bay has found the depth and testicular fortitude to not only go 10-6 in the regular season and secure a wildcard playoff spot, but they have won 3 consecutive road playoff games to make it to the Super Bowl which is the first time in 13 years. The Packers do owe their depth to the GM, but the master motivator on the sidelines who has willed the team to their victories has been Mike McCarthy.

Mike Tomlin - I don't even like the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it's unfathomable to me how anyone could not have voted Mike Tomlin the 2010 Coach of the Year. Check the man's pedigree. In the 4 years that he's been head coach, the Steelers have gone to the Super Bowl twice. For those who say, "He just inherited Bill Cowher's team.", ask Jim Caldwell how easy it is to get the same success from the same group of guys you "inherit" from another coach. In 2010, Pittsburgh only had 3 losses, 2 of those losses were by 5 points or less and the 3 teams that beat them all made it to the playoffs. In other words, Tomlin's team doesn't lose any game they're "supposed to win". Check youtube for Mike Tomlin's rant. You won't find it. I'm sure Tomlin has disagreements with his players at times, and he may fuss or even yell at them, but Tomlin does something every great coach should do, he keeps it "in house".