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The news of losing my job creates a hurricane of feelings inside my chest.  I vacillate between pure raw fear and excitement.  There is minimal time between the two extremes.

The fear that seizes my thoughts is crippling.  The simple act of driving up my driveway releases the thought of the potential the loss of the job can create. 

“Will I still be pulling up to this house, that I love, a year from now?”  I ask myself.

Out of nowhere, I am a hostage to the most terrifying thought process I have ever known.  Shifting my focus, I try anything to break free from these thoughts.  Sitting still entertaining such damning thoughts leads to a guaranteed outcome.

There are moments when I see this news as a defining shift in my life.  The thought of being able to look back and happily say,  “that is when my life changed for the better,” is a fantasy I welcome.

Longing for that day,  I realize this moment in my life is training for that day.  If I skip the training I will not be prepared for the fantasy.

“Get up,” I tell myself when the fetal position calls me.

“Move,”  I tell myself when the fear that comes with these thoughts paralyzes me.

 “Take a step,”  I tell myself  because the fantasy is stationary and I must move towards it.

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My favorite quote, before yesterday, was: “If you ever want to hear God laugh, tell Him what your plans are.”

Yesterday, while on vacation, I received an e-mail from my boss.  He stated there was a telephone conference at 3:00pm.  He strongly suggested I dial in to the conference.

At about 3:10pm yesterday, I found out my job was moving.  I could move with it or end my career with the company. 

Four other employees listened in on this conference call.  They were given the same option.  In about thirty seconds, the amount of time it took the upper level manager to explain their decision, four families were changed.

Our response:  silence.

When the brain gets too much unexpected information it doesn’t know how to respond.  My brain sat in neutral.  It was numb to what it had been fed.

Last week, I began playing with the idea of walking away from my current job and submersing myself in my writing and speaking.  My working dream was, in two years to be done with the job and start my career.  The thought of doing something I love all day everyday was exciting.

For the past few months, once I decided to give in to my gifts and talents the puzzle pieces were flying into place.  Every conversation I had confirmed a prior conversation.  Every contact I made linked me to someone else, and I was dizzy from the success I was having.  I was planning on climbing out of the tree, stepping of the ground and walking before I ran. 

Then God laughed, and my comfortable world shook. 

God kicked me out of the tree.  He is forcing me to fly and the risk is terrifying. 

God knows I will never fly no matter how fast I run.

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The Privilege of Being a Dad

The hot winds of August usher in football practice for our eight year old son, Zion.   This week he straps on his pads and goes out to “bust some heads.”

My wife and I often laugh because Zion is such a boy’s boy.  He seeks out ways to get dirty and stinky and football is the perfect vehicle for that.  Football gives him the license to hit and be hit and on that field he can be the boy that the four walls at home can’t support.

Each night for two hours he can run, hit and smash in to other eight and nine year olds and he is like a pig in mud.  When he walks off the field  I help him out of his shoulder pads.  The stink that rises from him could cripple a full grown elk.  

On the short ride home, he tells me who he hit, how he got to run the ball, and about the  leg lifts he just hates.  He shares what the coaches told him and he is excited , he is boy, and he is happy.  Zion continues to tell me how he will play for the Arizona Cardinals someday because he likes the Arizona weather that he has never experienced.

August blows in tomorrow’s memories and for two hours each night during the week I get to watch Zion grow and dream.

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If black culture were a pie, a slice of the pie would be found in the neighborhood barbershop.

The black barber shop is this amazing institution.  It is a safe place black men go and just talk.  They talk about religion, politics, relationships, and life as seen through the eyes of the black man.

After growing up afraid to go the barber shop, I finally started going regularly after college.  I have been to several neighborhood shops, in several cities,  and it seems they all have the same cast of characters wielding the clippers.

The “entrepreneur” occupies one chair.  He is the barber who sells anything and everything between heads.  I have witnessed the selling of expensive gold car rims, copied CDs and DVDs, weed, and even lawn fertilizer.  The weed and fertilizer were two separate transactions and not to be used with each other.

The “scholar” holds class everyday all day in the barber shop.  As he trims, cuts and shapes one head, he shares his knowledge on all subjects.  There isn’t an area that he doesn’t specialize in.  The only thing he does not have a grasp on is the fact that  no one on this planet shares his same beliefs or opinions.

 The “sleeper” relaxes in his chair.  Between naps he summons the courage to ask a customer if they want a cut.  He is always turned down because his hands lack the skill to  cut the head right.  As he drifts off to sleep he is the punch line for joke after joke.

 The “elder” is the oldest of all the barbers.  He is seasoned from years of standing and cutting.  He is calm and only speaks at the right time.  His vocabulary is sharp and his view points are sharp and crisps.  His use of profanity is conservative and sprinkled in at  just the right time.  His advice is sound and if the other barbers are calm and quiet enough, they can glean from his experiences of life.

This crew of characters is universal and comforting.  The atmosphere is alive  and soothing.  This slice of life should be witnessed by everybody no matter how your hair lays on your head.

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Forgiveness At Burger King

Saturday I sat at a table at Burger King, sipping on my BK Mocha Joe, listening.  I was there with a  good friend. He talked and I listened.   He told me several stories about his father and how his father was not always the kindest man.

As he celebrated his eighteenth birthday his father told him to get out.  He told me about the many promises broken and money stolen.  His father was not the kindest man.

I sat and I listened and I watched.  The rage that should have covered my friends face was not there.  In fact, he was telling these stories with a smile on his face.  Listening to these stories was like biting  an apple and tasting a pepper.  It was not adding up in my senses.

Forgiveness.

He choose to forgive his father.  The example after example of how he was treated by his father could have crippled him.  Instead, he made the tough decision to forgive. There were incidents in his life where he could have walked away from his father and he would have been justified and celebrated by some.  Instead, he made the choice and it changed his life and his father’s life in a powerful way.

 When faced with a similar situation, what choice did you make?  In the comment section below tell how you handled it and why.

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You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

While out on a recent bike ride these words floated to the top of my mind.  These two lines are from a book by Marriane Williamson. “Your playing small does not serve the world,” kept repeating over and over bouncing off all the walls of my skull.  Instead of asking why this was occupying my thoughts, I had to ask, “what about these two lines rang so true in my spirit?”

The answer came to me as I pedaled up a gradual hill.  I have made a career out of playing small.  Shrinking has been a comforting response to anything I have found the littlest success in.  This line is clanging around in my head on a Sunday bike ride because it is not just a random thought.  God is speaking to me.  He does not show up in a burning bush or on top of a mountain to speak to me.  He gives me these phases and thoughts and challenges me to see how they apply to me and my life today.

About a mile down the road the deeper answer came.  No longer am I to embrace mediocrity.  Being average is no longer the comfortable bed it once was for me. I must now take the leap that never comes with being ordinary.  Flying will never be a possibility unless I leave the ground.

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“This is what I need you to do today for practice, “said Father Pat, my high school cross country coach. “I need you to run quarter mile repeats. I need them each run in sixty seconds. You can rest for sixty seconds and then do the next one.”

I hated to ask the next question because no matter what the answer was I wasn’t going to like it.

“How many?”

“36.”

Before I could protest, he had me at the starting point, and told me to get ready. Father Pat raised his arm and uncovered his digital watch. “Ready…..go.” I took off running the lap around the school. We didn’t have a track so Father Pat had marked off four hundred and forty yards. I had done this routine before but never so many.

As I came around the last turn, I could hear him yell, “46, 47, 48…” I picked up the pace to get to him before he yelled “60!” I knew tardiness could mean extra laps. I touched him right at sixty. He gave me his watch and told me to finish the rest alone and he disappeared in to the school.

A week later, I stood at the starting line of the Michigan state cross country meet, and I remembered that practice. I looked down the line at the other 90 runners and was sure none had gone through the insanity that I had the week before. I felt strong, prepared.

Those 36 laps taught me a lot. I often think of those laps when I am faced with what seems impossible. The impossible, insane challenges in life are what condition us to do the next great thing. Life without challenge is a life without promotion.

After running the first half mile of the race in dead last, I passed eighty eight people over the last two and a half miles. I finished second because of the “36.”

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Why I Write

Recently, I watched as two dancers floated across the stage in a dance about a woman who has breast cancer. The dance was on the TV show, So You Think You Can Dance, and it spoke volumes without saying a word.
The male dancer was the perfect partner. He was there to pick up his partner, to catch her, to hold and to carry her. In ninety seconds they showed fear, frustration, anger, and hope simply by the way they moved. The way they moved, moved the judges, the audience, and me to tears.

They achieved what I think we all strive to achieve; to touch those around us in a deep profound way. In a way that leaves those around us changed because they have interacted with us.

This is my goal every time I pick up my keyboard to write. I want to create a lasting image, thought or phase. It is a very stressful and overwhelming goal at times, but to create such an experience as those dancers did would be an honor and privilege.

I pray that reading this will unearth that same desire in something that you do.

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The groom watched with weak eyes as his bride pulled back the yellowed wrapping paper. Inside they found a picture: A picture of them on their wedding day. They were sitting so close they were sharing the same air.
They turned the picture over and there were the instructions the women read to them on their wedding day but slightly changed.

Protect this marriage like a small child
When life gets crazy, hectic, and wild

Protect this marriage above all else
above ego, pride, and love of self

Protect this marriage- love’s beating heart
to its destruction have no part

Protect this marriage from evil and inclement weather
as long as it lives you shall stay together

The old groom looked up at is aged bride and in their eyes was understanding. They both knew that through the years of protecting this present they guarded their marriage. They sacrificed all but God for the safety of their marriage and they let no harm come to it.
They silently knew this is what kept them together. With that, the groom smiled and breathed his last shared breath with his bride.

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She said calmly and slowly, “first, put God first.” Then she reached into her purse and pulled out a small wrapped handkerchief box. The wrapping paper was like the women’s face, soft and worn. She handed the present to the groom and recited these instructions.

Protect this present like a helpless child
when life gets crazy, hectic, and wild

Protect this present above all else
above ego, pride and love of self

Protect this present, love’s beating heart
to its destruction have no part

Protect it from evil and inclement weather
as long as it lives you shall stay together

When finally death has one trapped
its worth can be revealed
and the present unwrapped.

This present was what the couple treasured most of all. They kept the present on top of their dresser where they passed it everyday. Everytime things got rough they remembered the wise words of the gentle old woman and they guarded the present. When they would argue over how to spend the money, or how to raise the children they would always come back to the present. The protection of the present became their priority and the present remained. It sat with them as they watched the children grow up and leave the house. It was with them through the grooms’s chemotherapy, and it was there when the doctor told them there wasn’t anything else he could do. It was there when the groom was taking his final breathes. It was then they decided to open the present and see what they had been guarding through their years.

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