Monday, April 30, 2012

The Hunger Games: Don't Starve In Safety

A couple of weeks ago I saw the movie The Hunger Games and I loved it. After watching the movie I decided to purchase the book and found that the book is even better than the movie. I was instantly hooked into the story line and could barely put the book down. Without giving too much of the storyline away, the book chronicles the life of a girl who lives in the country of Panem in district 12. Every year Panem, made up of 12 districts, chooses two people from each district to enter into the Hunger Games. The person who wins the Hunger Games inherits a better life, at least for the moment, and no longer faces the stress of finding food to feed their family (hence the name The Hunger Games).

As I was reading the book, a line captured me and really caused me to do some “theological reflection” J. Katniss Everdeen, the main character in the book, and her friend Gale were envisioning life without the watchful eye of District 12’s officials. They were dreaming of what freedom would look like. But before the conversation could get too far and freedom seem within reach, they both cancelled out any thoughts of leaving the safety of the district. Even though this District is a place where there is great famine and the officials rule with iron fists, the occupants would rather live in bondage than possess freedom. Katniss puts it this way, “District Twelve. Where you can starve to death in safety...”   

Reading this quote I thought about times in my own life when I resisted the promises of freedom for fear that I wouldn’t survive and couldn’t embrace the comforts of safety. I thought about those times when I was possibly choosing spiritual or emotional starvation over taking the risk and going for what I sensed would lead to a better situation. For some of us starving in safety could be remaining in an unhealthy relationship for the sake of being connected to someone else. For others starving in safety could be sticking with a dead-end job for the sake of paying bills (and we do have to pay our bills) instead of taking the risk and starting the business we’ve always dreamed about. Sometimes choosing to starve in safety could be not implementing that ministry idea for fear of what others may think.

But, let me just say that choosing to stay in places of safety that are not build to nourish and maintain you can only lead to one thing…STARVATION! How do we continue grow as individuals and servants of God if we are not willing to take some risk and be dissatisfied with the starvation that can come with staying in safe places? We have to take some risk and decide that starving in safety is not an option. We must go after our dreams and goals and step out on faith (in God’s timing). We must relinquish the impoverished mentality that starvation creates and possess a mindset that welcomes freedom. Stay Hungry…HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT!      

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cheer Not!

Recently the NBA league has been buzzing over the actions of the L.A. Lakers Power Forward Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest) who sent a vicious elbow towards the head of Oklahoma City Thunder’s Guard James Harden. After making a thunderous dunk to close in on Oklahoma City’s score, Metta came down from the goal in an elaborate celebration that led to the injury of Harden and his (Metta’s) ejection from the game. Even after much debate about whether or not Metta’s elbow to Harden’s head was intentional, Metta was punished with a 7 game suspension causing him to miss the first half of the playoffs. Metta’s overly excessive celebration of his own score may cost him one thing that all NBA players attempt to reach, the playoffs. If the L.A. Lakers don’t make it pass the first four games of the playoffs, Metta may have seen his last days in the 2011-2012 NBA season. His poor decisions led to his early departure.

WARNING!!! Excessive celebration over your abilities and gifts and poor decisions on how to use them can lead to your early departure. It’s not about Metta deciding to have a celebration after a good shot, but it is more about the manner in which he chooses to do so that leads to his early departure from the game. How often do we see this played out in the entertainment arena particularly, and in life in general? Many people start to get puffed up concerning their gifts and abilities and pride, narcissism, and egos start to develop. They become so busy celebrating themselves and pushing their own agendas that their excessive celebration leads to their early departure. There is nothing wrong with encouraging ourselves and patting ourselves on the back when we do a good job (for this feeds our healthy self-esteem), but always putting self first and excessively celebrating our accomplishments may come with its own ditches that if we are not careful can become our home after our early departures. Watch how you celebrate your accomplishments and don’t do so at the expense of others; for doing so can lead to your early departure.   

Monday, April 23, 2012

Move without the Ball

One of my favorite sports to watch is NBA basketball (GO CELTICS!). I love the physicality of it. I love the excitement of it. I love how entertaining it is. But, most of all I love the strategy of it. One of my favorite players is Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics. While Ray is near the end of his career, he still stands as one of the top players in the league. Ray currently holds the record for the most 3-pointers ever made in the NBA. But, what I love most about Ray’s game is not that he can shoot the 3-ball with accuracy, but that Ray knows and understands how to move without the ball.

In one of the up close moments during a game, the camera spotted Ray giving a young player some advice; Ray told him “don’t watch the offense, watch the defense.” Ray had mastered this skill throughout his career. Watching the defense informed how Ray moved around the court to get to the best spot to shoot his sharp 3-pointer. If you ever watch Ray Allen play you’ll notice that he never stops moving on the court. He does a great job at moving around the court without having the ball in his hand. But, he is not moving just for the sake of moving, instead while he’s moving he’s watching the defense and waiting for his opportunity to affect the offense.   

In my opinion, Ray Allen teaches us a valuable lesson about accomplishing our goals in life. Sometimes we’re too busy watching the offense when we should be focuses on the defense. Sometimes we’re too busy looking for our opportunities and next big moments (our offense) that we forget to strategically move through the opposition (defense) so that it does not shut down our offense when the time is right. Studying the defense gives Ray and us the ability to know and find the gaping holes within a defense so that our offense will flourish.

One thing about Ray Allen is that he trusts Rajon Rondo (the point guard for the Celtics). Rondo’s job is to distribute the ball to the shooters. Allen is sure that if he keeps moving through the defense and moving without the ball, Rondo will find him in the right spot at the right time giving Ray the best opportunity to run the best offense. Trust that God knows where you are and knows where to find you and if you keep moving through the defense, without the ball, God will bless you with those opportunities to run the best offense for God’s kingdom. Learn how to move without the ball!   

Friday, April 20, 2012

Power - Responsibility = Defeat

Growing up as a kid I looooooved the Power Rangers. I mean I was emphatically in love with them. Whenever the show would come on I would sit in Indian style in front of the TV and dare anyone to say anything to me while the Power Rangers were on (this was a serious addiction). What captivated me the most, and probably a million other kids growing during the Power Rangers era, was that they were cool and made all the rules. They defied gravity, possessed divine like powers, and always conquered their enemy. They were in control! They had everything a kid growing up watching them would want; friends, popularity, and power.

They were led by their hologram depicted leader Zordon who often taught them how to survive in the face of danger. But most importantly Zordon taught them how to use their powers and how to use them responsibly; now, as an adult, that’s what I remember most about the Power Rangers. They were cool and had power, but they never lorded over people or intimidated others with it. The saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility”, and truer words have never been spoken. How we use the power we possess is important. We are not given power to make ourselves feel bigger than we should; rather, we are given power with the hopes that we will empower others. For Christians, God expects us to use the power that is in our possession responsibly and for the good of humanity. If our power only benefits us and with it we lack a sense of responsibility, then our demise is inevitable. Power is less about ruling over people and more about responsibly leading and empowering people to reach their highest potential. Will you possess power responsibly, or will you be defeated by it?      

Monday, April 16, 2012

Don't Look and Not See!

Have you ever heard someone say, “You are so busy looking that you cannot see”? I have, and I’ve always found this quote or old saying somewhat interesting. It wasn’t until recently that I really understood how someone can be looking and not seeing. As a person in ministry I have experienced the anxiousness of looking for God in everything and in every situation. I’ve dealt with the delayed God-given dreams coming to pass, and nervously seeking for the fruition of divine visions. I have been guilty of so desperately seeking the next move of God that I miss what God is already doing in my present. How often do we do this?!

I hear so often of people in the church, in particular in a lesser role than that of the Senior Pastor, wanting to use their gifts in capacities that are not readily available to them yet. These people spend more time looking for an opportunity to use their gifts; rather than seeing the opportunities to hone their gifts that are already present. As a young clergy person I completely understand wanting to use your gifts and be utilize, but I am a firm believer of what my Pastor has literally nailed to my cerebral cortex, YOUR GIFT WILL MAKE ROOM FOR YOU!   

How much time do we waste looking for the next opportunity that we don’t see the ones that are right in front of us? Perhaps you are looking to start a new business venture and it is not coming to pass as you would hope. I would suggest seeing the opportunities that are around you that would help you ultimately reach that goal, but also help you to hone your skills while in the process. If you are looking for a new position on your job, I would suggest seeing the prospects and the minute things that others miss in your company and begin to work on those and essentially enhance your company from where you are. If you are in ministry and desire to use your gifts more, I would suggest not looking to use every opportunity as a chance to display what you think your great gift is; rather, seek out and see the opportunities to serve your congregation from where you are and your gift will began to make room for you. DON’T LOOK AND NOT SEE!          

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Let It Shift!

I love to read…this is probably obvious to some :) and I love to take in new information. One of the things that I do frequently is read blogs. There is one blog in particular that I read almost religiously. The blogger of this blog is a woman who is well established in the academy as well as the world of writing. Not long ago she decided that she would no longer consistently update her blog as she wanted to use the time for something else. She further stated that she would only post if there was something worth saying, but she was taking the pressure off of herself by not committing to consistently post in the future (as a blogger I understand this).

Even though I have known for some time that she would no longer consistently update the blog, I still anxiously visit it looking for a new post hoping to catch a glimpse of what might be on her mind. This week I found myself checking this blog everyday hoping for something new although she had not posted something new since 2010. I finally asked myself, ‘Why do you continue to revisit what you know has come to an end?’ I thought about the many times I’d cleaved to things that I knew where over and had run its course. When the weather changes and the seasons shift I am always guilty of holding on to my favorite season, winter. I don’t know why, but I always have a difficult time shifting from winter to spring even though I know that the seasons must shift in order for the earth to continue to produce. While this blog that I read religiously in the past had produced much fruit in my life and was good for the moment, it really was time for me to move on. It was time for me to begin to explore new possibilities in my own thinking and develop my own ideals about life. So here’s a note to all: if the seasons are shifting don’t resist; shift with it because there is always something greater ahead. What are you holding on to?  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thinking Equals Thanking!!!

Last night during one of our GROWTH group sessions at church, we shared openly about the dark moments, or what we were calling ‘Good Friday’ moments, that we had experienced in our lives. Some shared about family deaths, sicknesses, unemployment and underemployment, etc. As we all shared our Good Friday moments we remembered how grave some of our situations seemed at the time yet we were compelled to realize that we were present to testify about them. Somehow as the conversation continued to spur we began one by one to move our conversation towards what we were calling our “Resurrection” seasons. One of the questions raised in the group stated, ‘What resurrection celebrations have come about in your life as a result of a Good Friday situations?” This was a relevant question.

As we pondered on that question the morale of the group began to shift. We quickly began to realize that our Good Friday moments often lead to a blessing that enhanced our faith, deepen our relationship with God, or simply helped us to later minister to others who were going through the same or a similar situation. The more we thought about things the more we were thankful for the experience and even more so for the results of the experience. While we acknowledge that the pain of the experience was real, we all had to confess that the joy of our resurrection seasons far out weighted the pains of our Good Fridays. I encourage you today to allow your thinking (your reflections of the past) to lead to thanking God for the reality of your present (YOU’RE STILL HERE) and the possibilities within your future. God Bless!      

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Life Without You...

Have you ever met someone that you were smitten by? This person could have been a lover, a friend, a long distance relative, etc. whoever they were you made an instant connection and knew that life wouldn’t be the same if you did not have them there. The more you got to know them, the more you realized your commonalities. The more you got to know them, the more you wanted to get to know them. The more you hung around them, the better your perspective of life grew. Life just made sense when they were around.

The same applies to our purpose and vision in life. When you find your life’s purpose and begin to cultivate a vision for it, the excitement can be overwhelming. You think to yourself, “How did I ever get through life without this.” You think, “Oh the POSSIBILITIES!” You remark, “I must make it my life’s work to see this through.” That’s passion! You wake up in the morning thinking about your purpose. You go to bed at night wondering how you can sharpen your vision. That’s passion! Your purpose becomes like that lover you had, or that best friend you linked with, or even that long distance relative that you reconnected with…life without it become unimaginable.

If you do know your life’s purpose or have a vision for your life, GREAT! Keep working at it. If you have no clue what your purpose is, that’s okay too there is still time. Try locating your passion and thinking of the things you like to do and would often do for free or without notoriety…this may be your purpose. Once you find your purpose or if you already possess knowledge of it, hold on tight, pursue it with passion, let it possess you, and life with it will never be the same. 

 Just a thought…

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When The Path Is Unclear...

No matter how old you are or how much experience you possess in a certain area everyone encounters a season where things appear to be a little unclear. I can remember traveling on the highway one day when the fog was especially thick. I could only see maybe 2 or 3 feet in front of me. I thought about pulling over and waiting it out, but I wanted to make it to my destination in a timely manner. Instead of pulling over and waiting for however long it would have taken for the road to clear, I simply slowed down and paced myself. I did not speed through the area because the fog caused my vision to be somewhat distorted. Before I knew it, I’d cleared the foggy area and could now see further and was able to pick up speed. I realized that had I pulled over on the road I would have been stuck in the foggy area and would have taken longer to make it to a clearer climate and ultimately taken longer to make it to my destination.

So I encourage you today keep moving at a steady pace even when the path is not clear. Just put one foot in front of the other and keep walking. The thing about traveling down a foggy road is that the more you take your time and move at a steady pace the closer you get to your destination and the clearer things become. If God has given you a desire, vision, or called you to a specific purpose and the path to get there doesn’t seem clear, just pace yourself. The path will become clearer as you keep moving. Stopping where you are because of an unclear path may only cause you to be delayed in getting to your destination. KEEP MOVING!!!