Book Review: Go by Preston Sprinkle

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Picture courtesy of Pinterest

As you may see, my goal is to get back into the swing of doing book reviews. As a result of this book review I am finally caught up in the mandatory book reviews I need to do. The book I am reviewing is titled Go: Returning Discipleship to the Front Lines of Faith by Preston Sprinkle. Having a book out about discipleship is very encouraging in light of our society increasingly becoming non-Christian. The book is written based on the author’s study of a research project conducted by the Barna Group in 2014 titled The State of Discipleship. The first chapter of this book gives a working definition of discipleship along with an overview of the problem with the way discipleship is viewed and practiced in America. The remaining chapters of the book analyze findings from the Barna Group study on discipleship offering solutions to the problem centered on relationships, mission, community, diversity and more. The final chapter offers some practical advice on how to implement the principles that were taught in the book in the context of the local church.

This book operates under the assumption that the way the modern church in America understands discipleship is off of how discipleship works biblically speaking. I agree with the author to an extent and must admit that this book is very discouraging yet empowering for several reasons. It’s discouraging because it highlights accurately the problem of how many see discipleship today, which deviates strongly from the model Christ showed. If you choose to purchase this book, I pray you use it as a way to become even more motivated to win souls to Christ and lead others in truly following Christ. Following Christ should change us. Sprinkle’s study on the state of discipleship in America is brutally honest but needed for a time as this when many people, especially millennials, are choosing not only to be done with the church but with Christ. This is a problem that cannot continue to happen on our watch. No way….no how!

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complementary copy of this book.

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Book Review: The Caregiving Season by Jane Daly

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Today I am back with another book review reviewing The Caregiving Season: Finding Grace to Honor Your Aging Parents by Jane Daly. This book spoke to me personally because I have the honorable responsibility of taking care of my father who is in his 80’s and is a widower. As he is aging, while he is able to do a majority of things for himself, we still see the reality that as he gets older, more care from his family must be given. This book takes the reader on a journey of what it’s like to go from living your normal life as an adult to coming face to face with the reality that taking care of your parents as another part of your life along with the other responsibilities you already have. The first part of the book focuses on being realistic in acknowledging that your parent doesn’t have the same abilities and strength they once had. This can be challenging because we’re so used to seeing our parents as the ones helping us. Now the roles are reversed as we have to help our parents. One big idea emphasized in the first part of the book is that as adult children we must extend grace to our aging parents because while we see the decline, they are having to face reality themselves, which can potentially lead to depression. Part 2 goes through the struggles the adult children may have as they come to the conclusion that their parents aren’t the same. Part 3 starts with how to serve your parents if they are dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia. Part 3 concludes with words on how to balance caregiving and marriage (if we’re married), which is challenging but can be done. The final part of the book continues discussion on how to handle decisions involving end-of-life care and general care for our aging parents as they get older.

As I indicated in the introduction, this book speaks volumes to me as my father is in his 80’s and has started to show some signs of slowing down. I would recommend this book to any family involved with caring for aging parents. Caring for aging parents is rewarding yet very challenging. Along with this book, I would encourage families to connect with others who’ve been in the situation before or are currently going through it for encouragement and advice. I salute Jane Daly for writing this book and being transparent regarding some of the struggles she’s faced caring for her aging parents.

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complementary copy of this book.

2016: Year of the Uh-Oh…..

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Picture is courtesy of The Uh Oh Company

Have you ever got halfway on a trip you were on and had what I call an “uh-oh” moment? You had that moment because you realize that you forgot something important. You either decided to turn around and go back to get what you forgot or you just said “screw it” and kept going regardless of the consequences. This is the way I would describe 2016. While there were some high points (accepting the call to preach the gospel, starting graduate school, etc), this year presented a lot of moments when I had to come to some very harsh conclusions about myself and the life I was living. Regardless of the conclusions I came to, I continued to live regardless of what I honestly saw. With what I’ve shared in mind, allow me to share some lessons I’ve learned from 2016 that will help me (and hopefully others) in 2017.

  1. Talk is cheap. I wish I could literally count the amount of things I said I was going to do. As a matter of fact, when I look at what I wrote down in terms of vision casting for 2016, a huge majority of what I wanted to accomplish didn’t happen. So many times I said this year “I’m thinking about doing…….” and yet it never got done. This year taught me that we can talk a good game all we want, but what we actually do is what matters in the long run. That’s why I believe it’s best to talk less and do more. As I shared in a post earlier, the time we use to talk the game could be used to just play the game (or do whatever we’re suppose to do). When it’s all said and done, all that matters is what we actually do.
  2. Never take for granted the blessings of life. Too many times in 2016 I complained about certain things going on in my life instead of being grateful for all the blessings I have. What we have today can be gone today or tomorrow. Everyday my goal is to give thanks to God for another day of life and for every blessing I have in my life. Something as simple as having a roof over my head is something I should never take for granted. I have to be reminded that there are people out in our world that do not know where they will sleep tonight. Instead of complaining about what I have, I choose in 2017 to be more grateful for everything I have.
  3. Our mindset is almost everything. Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success defines mindsets as “just beliefs.” Our mindset is a reflection of what we believe about life, ourselves, and anything else. I’ve learned the hard way that if our minds aren’t right, the rest of our lives will be messed up as well. Many of us do not excel in life because our mindset is stuck on negative things instead of what is positive and will help us move forward. I believe my mindset was a part of what held me back this year. My thoughts and perspectives on certain things blinded what was possible and could be achieved. I’m challenging all of us in 2017 to feed our minds the things that are positive (books, friends, perspectives, etc). There is too much that needs to be accomplished for us to have limiting views of ourselves and life as a whole. Let’s get our mind right in 2017! Start with Philippians 4:8 as a key to getting our minds right!
  4. Consistency is the name of the game. Doing it one time is great. Doing it consistently over time is where the results come in. One of my biggest fatal flaws that showed up yet again this year is my tendency to be inconsistent. I don’t know if this describes you, but I have the tendency to start certain things and not finish them. I believe inconsistency is another aspect of laziness. We’re lazy when we do not put forth our best effort to do what we’re capable of doing. I’m praying that 2017 is a year that I’m consistent in every front. Consistency is the key to success in many areas of life including but not limited to leadership, our daily occupations, family, etc. As I said, doing it one time is great, but the challenge is if we can do it over and over again to get the results we desire.
  5. Not paying attention to details can cost you tremendously. In the last week or so, I’ve done a better job at paying attention to small details of mostly anything I was associated with. I had an experience earlier this year that kind of hurt me because I did not pay attention to details. As a matter of fact, a lot of the failures that took place in my life in 2016 happened as a result of not paying attention to every detail. As I go into 2017 with positive momentum in this direction, I am determined to continue focusing on the small things. It is the details that may not appear large but can determine the success or failure of whatever is going on. We have to do a better job of being as detailed as possible starting with me.
  6. Making a difference should be our ultimate goal because we will not be here forever. While death takes place every year, for whatever reason it seems like there was a lot of death that took place this year. On a personal note, one of my best friends and classmates passed away about a month ago at the age of 29. The biggest saying of his that I’ll always remember is “look here, I don’t have time for foolishness.” It makes me wonder if he knew something that we didn’t know. Having to view his body in a casket is something that will most likely never leave my memory, but it also showed me harshly how short life is.  Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. As a result, we should be doing everything possible to live our lives as difference makers. As someone said, life isn’t about how long we lived, but about what we did in between our birth date and death date. My best friend only lived 29 years, but his refusal to put up with foolishness will stick with me forever. Life is too short and too valuable to put up with things that do not push us further to accomplish God’s will for our lives. Let’s make an impact on others while we can because once breath is out of our body and our heart stops, we can’t do anything else on this earth. Make a difference while you have the chance!

I pray that something I’ve shared will be a blessing to your heart and soul as we move forward into 2017. I pray this coming year is the best one of your life. Stay encouraged and keep on making a difference in the lives of others!

Do This For Me…..PLEASE?

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Picture courtesy of http://www.icollector.com

I know that this is a human issue. I realize that this has been going on for centuries. I realize that 2016 was not the first year it happened so much on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media network. I also know that it will probably happen in 2017 based on history. However, there is one major thing that I am requesting as we move into 2017:

STOP TRYING TO JUSTIFY EVERYTHING TO EVERYONE!

I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve seen (and I’m guilty of all of this too) people talk about “I’m doing abc and what you say about it doesn’t matter” or something like “This is for the haters” or something like “I get extra motivation from those who do not want to see me succeed.” Why do we feel the need to include in our celebration moments those who we know (or assume) are not happy for us? Does it come from a place of hurt? If it does, we’ve got to take the necessary steps to heal. Explaining yourself all the time to people who you believe may or may not support you is a waste of time and energy.

I know that we will not excel to perfection on this (Paul in Galatians talked about seeking the  approval of others in light of preaching the gospel), but I believe our time would be better spent saying less and doing more and then letting people see the results of what we’ve done.

Whatever God has given you the vision to do, JUST DO IT! We have to stop feeding into the negative energy of others when most people are dealing with issues pertaining to their own mind, heart, and soul. The time that it takes to explain our moves to others can be spent being productive and making a difference.

Would you do this for me please? Will you just do what God has called you to do and then show the ending result? Will you take captive the negative thought that tells you to focus on whoever the “they” is?

Do it for me please. More important though, do it for yourself and your family. Blessings to you on 2017!

I Almost Lost My Car….

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The picture you see above is the car I’ve had for about 7 years. This car has taken me all across North Carolina and to parts of South Carolina and Virginia. However, on Tuesday November 15, 2016, I came pretty close to losing this wonderful car I have because I failed to take heed to the warning signs the car was showing me. 

For the last 2 weeks, my car has made an interesting noise. For whatever reason, I chose to ignore it and figured “it’s not a big deal, I’ll get it fixed eventually.” But here comes the warning sign. I’m driving and all of a sudden the oil light comes on and comes off. The first thing I’m thinking ultimately becomes true: I’m almost out of oil….uh oh! To God be the glory there was an Advance Auto store that I pulled into. I let the car sit for a few minutes before checking the oil. There was just a tiny bit of oil left. Anybody who knows anything about cars know that the oil is the life of the car. If a car runs out of oil, it damages the engine which pretty much damages the car. I go into the store and buy some oil, put the oil in, give it a minute to get in, turn the engine on and the sound is gone. Wow!

What would have happened if I continued to drive the car to my destination? There was a high chance that I would have permanently damaged my car, which would mean either purchasing another engine (which is ridiculously expensive) or investing in a new car. Warning signs are critical!

While this post could be seen as a basic instruction guide for caring for cars, I want to argue that my experience shows how important it is for us to pay attention to the warning signs of ANYTHING that would take place in our lives.

Some of us are in the process of getting in relationships with people but we’re already seeing the red flags. What will you do? Will you see the warning sign for what it is and change course or will you continue on the path until it’s too late?

Some of us are pondering decisions in our lives that could make or break us, yet there are warning signs that tell us not to go in a particular direction. Will we listen to the warning signs and go in a different direction or will we be stubborn and determined to do it our own way? These principles can apply not only to individuals but to organizations as a whole.

Today I want to encourage all of us starting with me to pay close attention to the red flags and warning signs that are present in whatever we’re dealing with. Those warning signs are the best thing to prevent us from unnecessary headaches. Many of us are unfortunately witnesses of what happens when you ignore the warning signs and advance with whatever you’re looking to do. Every action has consequences and some of us are paying for making the wrong decisions even when we saw the red flags. Choose an open mind over a stubborn mind. Be open to changing course. It could be the biggest difference in you walking in your destiny and purpose!

My Concerns with a Trump Presidency

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In what may be the most stunning result of a presidential election in the 240 year history of our country, Donald J. Trump around 2:40am Wednesday November 9, 2016 was declared the 45th president of the United States defeating Hillary Clinton, who was thought to be the overwhelming favorite heading to the election. As someone trying to be a decent human being, let me congratulate President-Elect Trump and his supporters on winning the election. At the same time, allow me to express some concerns that I have with a Trump presidency.

Let me start by discussing a little bit about by political ideology. I was born and raised by parents who overwhelmingly supported the democratic party platform. Over the last few years, I’ve become an independent with democratic part leanings because I agree with some of the platform issues in both the democratic and republican parties. As a result, I believe in giving candidates on both ends of the political spectrum the opportunity to convince me of why they would be the best candidate to govern our nation.

As an African-American male, the result of this election is puzzling and bothers me for one huge reason:

We have taken a step back in terms of cultural diversity and race relations. Many have argued that this election was about white privilege having its last stand in a society that is becoming more and more diverse. Race relations have always been dicey, but I have to wonder if it will be even more dicey under President-Elect Trump. Whether he wanted it to be this way or not, his candidacy gave ammunition for those who are racist and disrespectful of other people groups to behave in a way that reflected their values. As an African-American male, will I have to be more worried when I go in environments that are predominately white? Will white people feel justified in treating me as less of a human being due to President-Elect Trump being in office? Will more police officers believe it is okay to murder unarmed black males? Will our government feel justified to keep laws and practices in place that systemically hurt blacks and other “minorities”? I have more questions than answers and that is not a good thing as I try to be a productive citizen in this country.

I understand that many supported Trump in an effort to not support Hillary and to vote on the values of the republican party, but how do people justify putting in the office someone who has insulted so many people? I am also disappointed in so many evangelicals basically saying that in this moment, character was not as important as the political issues on the line. As someone that has tried to support evangelicals over the years, this flip-flop was very discouraging.

I would love to have a decent conversation with someone who supported Trump to explain to me why they did and juxtapose it with the concerns I have as we move forward as a nation.

At the end of the day, putting the philosophical and political issues aside (including my fear/frustration that everything President Obama put in the place the last 8 years will be destroyed), my concerns boil down to how we will interact with each other in a country that says as long as we get what we want we do not care who is put in office. How we treat each other matters especially if we call ourselves Christians or Christ-followers. I believe that the reputation of Christianity is on the line even more the next 4 (or 8) years in terms of how we live out being salt and light in the world.

My prayer is that some way and some how, even in this period of time we’re about to live in, we do what we can to ensure that America is a nation for all people. While I admit that I am concerned about me and my family’s future in a society under the leadership of President-Elect Trump, I will also use this moment again to be salt and light and remember God’s sovereignty in this moment.

If you supported Trump, will you comment and let me know your basis for supporting him? Can you speak to the concerns I’ve put here? What will you do as a Trump supporter to ensure that we try to have positive race relations with each other?

Why I’ve Become a Mental Health Advocate

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Picture courtesy of http://www.aacc.net

For years it has been my goal to live a life that valued making a difference in the lives of others. Because of the household I was raised in, I hold in high regard living a life that is focused on helping others. However, until this year, I was not aware of how serious a topic mental health is. As I began to look at mental health issues along with looking at my life and the life of those around me, I came to a conclusion that mental health is a topic that needs to be discussed and looked at in our society. As a result of this revelation, I consider myself a mental health advocate. Allow me to share some reasons why I’ve become a mental health advocate.

  1. Mental health affects all of us in some way, shape or form. Although physical health is extremely important, I believe mental health is equally important. One aspect of mental health is our mind and thoughts. All of us have to think on a daily basis. Our thoughts at times can be influenced by how healthy we are internally. Sometimes our attitudes toward others is a reflection of whatever thoughts are circulating in our mind. In addition to all of us having to think, it is highly possible that all of us have family members that are struggling mentally. In my opinion, mental health is not so much about intellectualism but about the state of our minds. Because all of us are affected by mental health, it is important that all of us are aware of what mental health is and how it can affect every part of society.
  2. Life can be one of the causes of mental health issues. From my own experience and hearing the stories of others, I am convinced that many people struggle with mental health because of some of the events that have happened in their life. Whether it was being bullied as a child, being raped in childhood or going through some other traumatic experience, these events in life can damage our mental health especially if we do not seek the help needed. Life is tough and a part of life being tough involves some of the things we have to go through. It only takes one traumatic event in our lives for us to be damaged mentally. No matter where we are in life, life can get the best of us. The biggest thing we should be doing is helping each other navigate through this journey called life. Being aware of mental health issues gives us another vehicle to helping people who’ve been scarred by life get on a path of healing and restoration. Moving past the hurts of life is no easy feat, but I believe that through the power of God, therapy if necessary and a supportive community, one can get to a place of healing and restoration within their mind and heart.
  3. God cares about our wounds and concerns. 1 Peter 5:7 instructs us to cast our cares (anxieties) upon Him because He cares for us. If God is concerned about the things that worry us, then we should be concerned as well. While this verse speaks of us casting our cares to God, I believe that God created us as relational beings. As a result, we should have communities that allow people to express what is going on mentally with them. Our communities should be supportive of one another on the path to healing. We need not have people in our communities who act like mental health issues are something demonic. Mental health issues are real and can be the difference between someone trying to move forward or giving up on life. God’s concern for the things that concern us should empower us to be concerned about the wounds of others. If we had this amount of concern that God has, a lot of us wouldn’t treat people the way we do. Our attitude towards others should always reflect the heart of God.
  4. I want to see our churches talk more about mental health. One of the bad stigmas about the American church that I’ve heard is that churches are not talking enough about mental health issues. Is this stigma true? Perhaps, but it’s time to change this stigma. Our churches have a huge amount of people hurting each and every Sunday. As I said in a blog post I wrote about mental health, putting a praise on our problems is fine, but there are times where our problems need more assistance in being solved. I believe that some of the issues that take place in our churches come from people not being where they need to be mentally. Churches must lead the conversation in mental health awareness. On a personal level, even though my irons are in a lot of fires already, I hope to be one of the leaders in my home church in starting something that increases the conversation of mental health in my church and the faith communities in our area.

In conclusion, I want to share a couple of ways that I’m getting involved in mental health advocacy. First, I am a part of a group on Facebook called the Faith & Mental Wellness Community that was started by Sis. Brittney Moses, who is also the founder of the Unashamed Impact movement. The stories that our members have been expressing regarding some of their mental health issues has blown my mind. People are really hurting and need a safe place to be a part of. If you’re struggling with mental health issues and need a safe place to express yourself and whatever you’re facing, join our community of love, support and encouragement. The link for joining this group will be at the bottom of the page. Second, I have a mental health board on Pinterest. It is there where I post some of my favorite mental health posts, quotes, etc. The link will also be on the bottom of the page.

If you have any ideas in how I can become more of a mental health advocate, please do not hesitate to leave me a comment. I am serious about mental health and want the conversation to continually increase. If you’re struggling with any sort of mental health illness, please be encouraged to know that God loves you and so do I! Let’s heal!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/faithandmentalwellness/?fref=nf (Faith & Mental Wellness Community)