Stretching Your View

In our daily world, most of us have become use to seeing the same ole visual images caped in different clothing:

 

  • The same tribal office work colleagues in dressed different apparel
  • The same neighborhood that transitions in different seasons of the year
  • The same apparel of clothing we have in our closet, but we mix and match them according to the weather
  • The same usual routes we drive around our neighborhoods, yet we may drive different streets when road construction impedes our way
  • The same summer visits with family and friends
  • The same summer vacation destinations

 

Yet very few of us will desire frequent changes in life.  I heard a church sermon some years ago and the topic was “Do You want to be a Pioneer or a Settler?”  Here are some key highlights I remember from this sermon:

 

  • Pioneers are pacesetters; they pave the way for others and find themselves often exploring new territories
  • Settlers’ mission are to reach a point and stay at the place forever

 

Early in my adult life, I once had the belief that I would “settle down” and: (1) earn a formal education; (2) become satisfied with a level of wealth; (3) get married and have children; (4) work a traditional 8 to 5 job with benefits and meager vacation days.  I accomplished at least three of the above four ‘settled’ objectives.

 

But later in my life, I always wanted something much better.  I didn’t know exactly what it was specifically, but I always attempted to stretch my view….my mental view that is.

 

Stretching your mental view causes you to:

 

  • Think harder
  • React faster/often to issues stirring in your heart
  • Question or Challenge the Status Quo
  • Pray even more
  • Question the law of humanity
  • Have a sense of understanding the world a little bit better

 

Traveling around the world excites me, especially when wanting to meet new people!  Having simple conversations with others allow me to become better as a listener.  The sound waves and pitch patterns of various human voices echoing through my ear canal creates a hunger for knowledge and understanding.

 

I believe the opposite of ‘not’ wanting to stretch your mental view can lead to:

 

  • Stagnation
  • An unwillingness to learn, which can close your mind to an ever changing world
  • Isolation
  • Being Argumentative

 

Because I have such a passion for making a different in my world, I found several ways to “Stretch My View”

Local View

Global View

  Take in a new ethnic restaurant

See an independent film

Take a foreign language class

Help at a refugee crisis center

Study world history/cultures

  Travel to a different vacation spot each year

Have dinner in a home of locals

Sign up for global affairs events

Go on a short-term mission trip!

Let’s go people and do some good!

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The Microcosm of Birthing New Ideas for a Grieving Community

Last week I attended a piloted event co-sponsored by the United Way of Metro Atlanta and the Atlanta Promise Neighborhood Initiative.  The gathering was exclusive to adult men from the community and its purpose was to discuss ways on improving our neighborhoods.  The initiative is funded by the U.S. Department of Education which seeks to improve the educational achievement and healthy development of underserved children and families in northwest Atlanta.

Close to twenty men from all backgrounds, careers, and various generations came together with a feeling to take action that night.  As we assembled together at a day care center for an evening of food, fellowship and fatherhood, we kept the focus on Child Education.

The moderator of the evening distributed a United Way’s Fatherhood Café Newsletter; the main article opened up like this…

“Fathers and other male role models who are consistently involved in their children’s lives help them grow up with a strong sense of self, a feeling of security and other positive characteristics.  Research by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that children benefit from their father’s involvement in their schools.  Male involvement has a distinct and independent influence on a child’s success.  When a father (or other male figure) is actively involved in school, their children:

  • Learn more
  • Have fewer discipline problems
  • Perform better in school
  • Exhibit healthier behaviors
  • Take part in extracurricular activities
  • Enjoy school more
  • Model positive adult male behavior
  • Show an increase in problem solving skills”

For me, it was helpful to hear what was on the hearts of each brother.  The pressures of work, family expectations, finances, spiritual direction, and other challenges were all earnestly expressed.  It’s interesting that we all felt something common among ourselves – it was the future and outlook of our kids.  The court verdict of the George Zimmerman trial and the recent murderous crimes made by African-American teenagers highlighted in the front pages of national news are heart-wrenching and troublesome.  It became more obvious that these situations stem from the breakdown of the family.

Through the course two hours, we supported the idea of doing more in a child’s education.  And since we were meeting in a day care center, it was a good start to volunteer our time by reading books to the toddlers, helping them with their work curriculum and interacting with them through songs.

One of the men in the room recited a statement that appealed to us.  He said “We need to prevent the transfer of our kids from the school yard to the prison yard!”  I extend my own thoughts by stating that our kids shouldn’t meet the graveyard too!  Also, my hope is that we prevent our kids from being locked-out from educational and job advances; and also prevent our kids from being locked-up by unequal sentencing laws throughout the country!

On a positive front, we have come a long way…

1)      This country has seen its first African-American U.S. President

2)      This country has seen its first African-American U.S. Attorney General

3)      This country has seen its first Hispanic woman Supreme Court Justice

But we still have a way to go…

1)      The highest levels of prison inmate of men of color in a century*

2)      The highest unemployment rate for men of color

3)      Lowest college entries for men of color in twenty years

The exchange of thoughts and ideas continued in the small meeting room.  We believe that most of our “next step” ideas will come into fruition, but baby steps are needed as we gel together as a team.  It is amazing how just a handful of men from all walks of life and soon coming together to meet a common goal!  When a community is in dire need of help, the core of individuals from that same community should find time to resolve matters.

Initiatives like this create a movement to build purpose and empower a community.  And as we celebrate the March on Washington fifty years ago this week, I DREAM for equality shared by all, freedom for all, justice approved by all, and peace to all.

Let go people and do some good!

*U.S. Bureau Department of Justice – Prison Inmates 2009/Statistic Table

The Pressure to Find Purpose In Perilous Situations

On a balmy Saturday morning (last weekend), I triumphantly marched through the thickets of farm grass toward the most challenging event I’d ever experience in decades.  At the request of my best friend, I signed up to participate in a 5K Mud-Crusade Race!  Yes, imagine the scene of a quasi-triathlon environment of cross-country running, over-coming water challenges, and mastering several muddy obstacles.  The event’s website asked this question to interesting candidates:

“Do you enjoy testing your mental and physical limits to see how far you can push them?”

Well…I wasn’t eager to say ‘yes’ right away, but I felt moved to take the challenge.  The place of the event was held on a huge farm just outside of Atlanta.  The man-made race course was built on a cow pasture and portions of the race patterns weaved in and out of tree covered areas.  You can feel the excitement of others ready to get their ‘mud’ on!  Before our run wave time of 9:30 a.m., my friend’s work colleagues welcomed me to their team, which was called “The Mile High Group.”  In our brief interaction, I attentively listened to some of their previous mud race stories and was encouraged by the support of completing the race as a team….well….maybe that was all in my head.

Two minutes before the signal of our race time, we wiggled our way toward the middle of the pack.  The blast of the siren startled everyone and we began the race speeding down a long slope like wild gazelles in the Serengeti of Africa.  Upon the horizon was our first obstacle – a 10’ wooded wall barrier.  Of course, the challenge was to jump upward against the wall, hurdle quickly over and jump down.  Your truly mastered it fairly well with the help of my team’s encouragement.  Leading up to the fourth obstacle, we face our first watery/mud infused obstacle.  You may view the actual race course in the embedded YouTube link below to get a sense of what I had to go through.  After achieving that obstacle, my clothes, shoes, socks were soaking wet – feeling like I’ve gained ten more pounds while running.

http://youtu.be/NTIl-3jEgBU

Nearly three-fourths the way in completing this course, I survived the crossing of a large stream of water that was ‘thigh’ high in some spots.  At that point, I felt completely exhausted and with no more energy to move further.  I eventually became ‘the’ last runner of “The Mile High Group.”  And while I could hear the recurring support chant of – “Come on Jerry, let’s keep going!” – the team grew farther and farther away from me.  Feeling overheated and barely able to walk, a medic cart from a distance sped closer to investigate the situation.  The driver asked me a question if I needed attention and I said “I may need to go to the Medical Tent.”  The person looked at me puzzled and said “Well Sir, you’ve already completed three/fourth of the race; you’re almost at the Finish Line?  Don’t you hear the music in the background beyond these trees?

I became insulted of the mere fact that he would rebut my request!  I wanted the medic to follow MY instructions.  My facial reaction toward him had the look of either one of three sitcom characters:

1)      The evil ‘fish-eyed fool’ look of Aunt Esther (Sanford and Son); or

2)      The ‘bigoted’ look of Archie Bunker (All in the Family); or

3)      The ‘serious-I’m gonna-beat-your-Butt’ look of James Evans (Good Times)

Instantly and kindly, I bartered with him by saying – “I just need to sit down on the seat within the cart for a minute.”  He agreed; in seconds he told me he was going to walk down the course path and see if anyone else needed medical attention.  So he left me all by myself in the golf cart while other runners ran past me.  The pressure simmered in my mind – do I simply quit or should I risk my health to complete the course?  Minutes went by and my friend came back to see if I was okay.  He obvious thought something had happened to me.  The outer crust-hardcore of my being voiced out to him saying “I’m alright, just go on and find the rest of the team…I’ll be fine.” But the inner-soft feeling of my being mentally said “We need to finish as a team dagnabit!”  He left to join the rest of the team.

Alone and with no one to continue to sing the chant “go ahead Jerry, you can do it,” thoughts of encouragement started to activate my brainwaves:

1)      “Winners never quit and quitters never Win” by Vince Lombardi

2)      The passage of scriptures found in the Old Testament where King David left alone in a cave had to encourage himself.

3)      The charitable organization that would receive proceeds from this race – Semper Fi Fund – an institution to support our wounded troops and their families.  I couldn’t give up on them.

4)      The 400+ blog followers who read positive/encouraging principles I share every week.  I couldn’t give up on them as well.

5)      The statement from the medic driver – “Well Sir, you’ve already completed three/fourth of the race; you’re almost at the Finish Line?  Don’t you hear the music in the background beyond these trees?

6)      The famous British track Olympian – Derek Redmond – came to mind.  We all remember the visual of him in the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympic Games where he tore his hamstring in the 400 meter race.  Unable to complete the final lap, he made that heroic attempt to run on one leg.  And while the race was over, he forced himself to cross the finish line.  Emotional as he was, his father broke from the audience stand to join him on the track…they both cross together.  He certainly was my hero while sitting in the golf cart.

The last thing that increased my adrenaline further was the witnessing of a group of ladies dressed in black leotard pants and red tutus!!!!  Happily prancing passed me and possessing a jovial spirit – I had no choice but to get up and complete my purpose to cross the Finish line!  Slowly I arose from my cart seat and made an agreement to my body – that I would just walk the rest of the way and complete the remaining obstacles.  It took a little bit of time for me to get to the Finish line….BUT I MADE IT!

It always seems impossible until it’s done!” – Nelson Mandela

The Anatomy of Your Actions

Every day, we find ways to move about and get things done. Ordinary things like waking up to go to work in the morning, to helping your child with homework in the evening – we carefully calculate each step of our actions. When we attempt to link our true God-given purpose and mundane actions, the balancing of the two can be challenging. I believe there is an occasional need to examine the skeletal anatomy of one’s action. Let’s take a closer look shall we…

The Head of your Action
The late CBS news correspondent Andy Rooney said this and I quote, “The easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am” – end quote. I’ve often heard that ‘if you surround yourself with a crowd, behave like the crowd, talk like the crowd, you get no further from crowd!’ Advancing yourself to grow requires a head-strong decision to pursue higher learning. Until you expose yourself to something better or different, your current actions will always be kept caged in the current life you live today.

The Shoulders of your Action
“Responsibilities gravitate to the man who can shoulder them and the power to him who knows how” – Elbert Hubbard (20th Century American editor, publisher, and writer). As a mentor to a several young men and an uncle of many nieces and nephews, I often think about my decisions. These self-made decisions I make for my life can and will have some impact on their lives! This philosophy holds true to parents, grandparents and adult guardians. Workplace managers too will have to make decisions for the direction of the company – their decisions will also have an impact to motivate other workers.

The Spine of your Action
Country Star Singer and Actress Reba McEntire said this and I quote, “To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funnybone! – end quote.” Making solid decisions has direct ties to your ethics/character profile.

The Legs of your Action
“If God breaks your leg, He’ll teach you how to limp.” African [Ghana] Proverb. This is where you carry forth your decisions and moving them into action. For example: To lead a lethargic horse, a racing jockey has to influence the behavior of the horse by the motion and movement of their legs. Here are some theories for the race jockey:

1) Leg actions are to create impulsion – when to firmly squeeze/un-squeeze onto the abdomen and flank of the horse
2) Leg actions are to lead the horse – how to slightly bend your legs on the girth to balance for speed of the horse
3) Leg actions are to ask for specific task – developing a personal code between you and the horse
4) Leg actions are to frame and reassure the horse – like how a guitar is strum, the jockey’s repetitious pattern onto the frame of the horse gives directions to go left, right, slow or fast

So by connecting all of these progressive skeletal parts, we can provide a greater sense of becoming more purposeful in our actions.

Let’s go people and do some good!

Secret Ingredients to Launch Your Life’s Purpose!

Some people throughout their life on Earth will discover various tactical ways to bring their life’s purpose into reality. Everyday thousands of upstart businesses are birthed or commissioned for business. The first days/weeks/or months of operating in your ‘purpose’ may feel like a ‘honeymoon’ phase. Everybody will join in the celebration of your achievement, recognition and praise will soon follow, and people from unknown places will come to lend support. Then all of a sudden the strong winds of reality will set in – this is the ‘marriage’ phase of the vision. You’ll have ups and downs – yea-players versus naysayers – highs and lows – increase in revenue and decrease in sales.

Whatever you are purposed to do, these homemade ingredients will help you become an achiever!

     1.   Life Purpose Ingredient #1 – Learn from the Experts!

One movie [I believe] that perfectly demonstrates how to learn from an expert is the 1984 filming of “The Karate Kid.” This movie depicts a teenager who has a desire to become a professional martial artist. It took a level of tolerance and patience for the young teenager to achieve great results and self-fulfillment. Today, I’m going through an apprenticeship training with my mission director – learning all what I can to lead small teams on international mission tours each year. 

  1. Life Purpose Ingredient #2 – Conduct Self Assessments

From time-to-time it’s good to evaluate yourself or look inward and assess your on-going strategies. This process may prompt you to re-calibrate your goals and review the methods by which you hope to gain measurable satisfaction. Ideally, pray and ask for guidance so that your motives should always be genuine and not self-centered. 

  1. Life Purpose Ingredient #3 – Have a Preparedness Plan

At all times, be prepared to face various obstacles along the way. Stephen King, an American author of contemporary horror/science fiction was quoted saying “there’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.” In all business affairs that I invest into, I try to look beyond ‘today’ and ask myself ‘what if.’ In the final report of the National Commission on 9/11 Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, the committee was quoted saying that our very own intelligence agencies ‘lacked imagination.’ Who could’ve imaged such a terrible plot that unfolded the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001? I didn’t mean too negative on this ingredient, but you get the point…  

  1. Life Purpose Ingredient #4 – Focus on the People

Be a great listener – Move away from focusing on ‘self’ and draw closer to the interest of ‘people.’ Successful businesses constantly read through individual market studies, consumer behaviors and buying trends, and focus groups. This vital assessment is compiled to deliver the best product or service to a targeted audience.  

  1. Life Purpose Ingredient #5 – Become a Servant Leader

A person who has a vision or purpose to do something requires constructive responses and reaction from others. Relationship building is necessary for your life’s purpose to flourish. The benefit of leadership growth comes from serving others. One of the best examples of this comes from Super Storm Sandy that occurred in the fall of 2012. After many New England communities suffered tremendous storm damage, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie led the way in making sure adequate life-saving resources reached his constituents. He was able to orchestrate and implement the local and state emergency management teams to provide relief and medical assistance to those in need. He also requested help from the Federal government and large-based corporations to participate by donating, sending in-kind items, and mobilizing heavy transport equipment and machinery to clear and correct thoroughfares within effected communities. He was fully interlaced within the purpose of his life to do well by his fellow man.

So by using these ingredients, you too can see your life’s purpose expand beyond your own dreams!

Let’s go people and do some good!

The Benefits of Dreaming Big Dreams!

Promoting a Big Dream of yours is a good thing…but are you sure the ‘big dream’ will turn out to be good for you and others? Will the outcome of your ‘big dream’ produce an impact you hope for?

As you put in motion for your “Big Dream” to become a reality, I’m certain it’ll change your life! I’ve been reading a book entitled “Exponential” written by Dave and Jon Ferguson – two brothers planting church ministries throughout Chicago. The book is based on creating an idea and turning it into a movement. In this book, the brothers shares four ways how Big Dreams will change us:

    1.   Big Dreams Change your Questions

The size of your dream will come with a different set of debatable questions. For example, let’s say you have a small dream to grow a vegetable garden in the back of your home. Some set of questions might be: (1) Do I have enough space to grow several kinds of vegetables? (2) How much time will I need to tend a garden? (3) Can I build a protecting fence to distract animals from eating my produce? Sounds simple huh?

Now what if you have a large dream to develop a farm and grow vegetables for an entire community? A different set of questions might be: (1) Do I have the funding capital or should I apply for a loan to put together my dream farm? (2) How much land should I acquire and what kind of farming equipment should I possess? (3) How many people will I need to hire to tend my farm?

[Me] Your Big Dreams requires the right set of questions to gain the right set of answers. 

  1. Big Dreams Change your Prayers

The greater the dream you have, the greater need to depend on God for further answers. I found that when you pray, you should be specific in what you desire as long as it is in the Will of God. As your dream moves into reality, it’s good to remain humble prior, during, and after the process.

[Me] Your Big Dream requires the essential ingredients of fasting and constant praying.

The closer you draw near to God will give you strength to carry on. 

  1. Big Dreams Change Others 

The brothers write that ‘big dreams are contagious.’ Big dreams generate excitement, and they attract those who want to follow your example and step out in faith. I often see many examples of Mother/Fathers working in their business profession and later find their children eventually all grown up working in the same or similar occupation!

I’m also encouraged to see some of my friends who several years ago told me of their big dreams and now they have followed their desire to make it come into reality! You see a determination in their spirit to stay focus and build on their success.

[Me] Your Big Dream requires steadfast commitment to see it all the way through – it then encourages others to mimic or use your effective game plan.

  1. Big Dreams Change You 

In the book, Dave Ferguson stated that your big dream defines your identity, your relationship with God, and your relationships with those in your close circle. He also mentioned that our dreams are often too small and we need to dream dreams that match the hearts of our teachers, leaders or mentors. Our ultimate teacher [God] definitely has big dreams for you – if you believe He lives within you, trust your heart and follow His transformation methods to dream Big!

[Me] Your Big Dream demands your attention; it will help you to grow and achieve even more!

Let’s go people and do some good!

Are You a Pioneer or Settler?

Several years ago this question sparked instant reaction during an evening church revival in suburban Atlanta.  The emotionally stirred inquiry was in fact the sermon topic prepared by Minister Ben Lang of Cornerstone Baptist Church.  Minister Lang with a thunderously pitch defined the word “pioneers” as a group of adventurous trailblazers who’ll discover a new region to enjoy and make a way for others.  He then downplayed the word “settlers” in a dull-monotone voice… a group of people simply occupying a new country or specific area.  That’s IT for the settlers…to simply occupy a specific area.

The main point of the sermon was to motivate and ignite the audience to use their God-given abilities.  Years later, I still remember key elements of that sermon.  Here goes…

A Settler’s Mentality

We were made in His image – His creative design was for us to serve and worship Him.  He has given us unique gifting abilities to use.  And these explorative gifts propel us to create constructive ideas and innovation that could be beneficial for others.  Sadly, some of our dear friends may never launch their pioneer-game planning ideas.  Instead, they remain comfortable where they are; never having the desire to launch out on their ideas and thus becoming a settler.  Just the other day, I passed through an apartment complex that probably contains – let say – 30 units.  What struck me was the image of multiple satellite dishes mounted at each apartment unit – appearing to look like a string of humongous grey ornamented Christmas lights perfectly aligned near the roof of each unit.  I began to methodically calculate the hours each home would spend watching television.  After coming up with my own hypothesis, I then said to myself…”if one had all that time to watch television, could that same amount of time be spent doing something more productive?”  This could also be said of those watching television in suburban homes too!

South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and former politician Nelson Mandela said “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

A Pioneer’s Mentality

As I said early, God made us in His image and has gifted us with ability to further empower ourselves and those around us.  Pioneers know just how to get the job done even if their goals resulted in success or failure.  The qualities of these individuals are striking:

1)      They are continuous learners and are very creative

2)      They are interested in human development and studying psychosocial theories

3)      They often challenge and critique themselves

4)      They quest for resolutions and achievements

5)      They enjoy new opportunities and study different cultures

Individuals with a desire to ‘change the way we live’ spend an enormous amount of time in isolation.  That isolation prevents them from becoming too settled in their ways.

The late three-time Formula One World Champion Ayrton Senna said this: “I continuously go further and further learning about my own limitations, my body limitation, psychological limitations.  It’s a way of life for me.”

So often these days, I question myself – Am I a Pioneer or Settler?  Do I find myself like a pool of stagnated water with no signs of rippled movement in my life?  Or do I need to re-evaluate the things I’m gifted to do in life?  Whatever the case, the road to your purpose in life requires some investigating.

Let’s go people and do some good!