A Well-Placed Faith

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB).

Whether we acknowledge it, we all possess faith. We all worship someone (e.g. ourselves) or something. For most of us—possibly all of us—we worship that which we perceive as truth; thereby, placing our faith in it. Our faith in that truth is what establishes our beliefs; subsequently, driving our actions.

How does it establish our beliefs?

Glad that you asked 😉 Continue reading

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Feeling Pressure: Fear Versus Faith

The only pressure I’m under is the pressure I’ve put on myself.
~Mark Messier, NHL Hall-of-Fame player (Oilers/Rangers)

Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what you’re doing
~Chuck Noll, NFL Hall-of-Fame Coach (Steelers)

‘Pressure’ is a word that is misused in our vocabulary. When you start thinking of pressure, it’s because you’ve started to think of failure.
~Tommy Lasorda, MLB Hall-of-Fame Manager (Dodgers)

Courage is grace under pressure
~Ernest Hemingway, Author

Whatever you see—any good results—are all from the pressure
~Ziyi Zhang, Author

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following post intentionally applies a secular position through its majority, eventually applying a Christian perspective near its conclusion. The rationale for this decision is that it will help non-Christians see the general relevance of the topic, while also highlighting my view that a Christian perspective for addressing moments when feeling pressure (or confronting those poorly dealing with pressure) is best. This post focuses on issues that I believe are both prevalent and pervasive within the culture in which I find myself. I attempt to be as thorough as possible in my logic and as reasonable as possible with my justifications. What I do not claim is omniscience or perfect clarity on this issue—or any issue. Therefore, I welcome thoughtful dialogue with anyone who may disagree with any or all of my positioning | Any bold, magenta words within this post are hyperlinks that provide useful, supplemental information. If the magenta hyperlink is followed by (a), for example(a), then there is an available blog or appendix page that allows for a deeper look into the topic hyperlinked.

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INTRODUCTION
Feeling pressure. Who doesn’t feel pressure at one time or another? But for as frequently as we feel pressure, do we even understand why we feel it? And, what is “pressure”—really? Continue reading

A Healing Faith

“The ultimate purpose of reason is to bring us to the place where we see that there is a limit to reason.”
~ Blaise Pascal

“The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.”
~ Hubert H. Humphrey

“Righteousness and faith certainly are instrumental in healing the sick, deaf, or lame – if such healing accomplishes God’s purposes and is in accordance with His will. Thus, even with strong faith, many mountains will not be moved. And not all of the sick and infirm will be healed.”
~ David A. Bednar

“The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.”
~ Marianne Williamson.

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Disclaimer: This post is written for a Christian audience, and may be challenging for those adhering to a different worldview.

INTRODUCTION
Ever been hurt? Consider the following questions:

  1. How many of us are broken and need healing in some aspect of our lives at one time or another?
  2. How many of us struggle to heal without success?
  3. How many of us abandon any hope for our healing, and accept a permanent reality of brokenness?

In response to the first question, addressing it from the perspective of a professed Christian, I would suggest that we are all broken to some degree—the circumstances of living in a world of sin. Moreover, I would assert that at some point in most of our lives we have suffered through immense pain and utter brokenness. When considering the second question, I would have to believe that most of us try—at least initially—to find means of healing when we view ourselves as being damaged or broken. And if we are individuals who respond to the third question in the affirmative, then we are probably resting in a self-perceived, inescapable despair…

For any of us who are currently residing in such a state of despair, the following scripture should come as a comfort and provide impetus for restoring hope: Continue reading

Joy: Following An Eternal Perspective

“I believe that a trusting attitude and a patient attitude go hand in hand. You see, when you let go and learn to trust God, it releases joy in your life. And when you trust God, you’re able to be more patient. Patience is not just about waiting for something…it’s about how you wait, or your attitude while waiting.” ~Joyce Meyer

“We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone—but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.” ~Walter Anderson

God’s plan for enlarging His kingdom is so simple—one person telling another about the Savior. Yet we’re busy and full of excuses. Just remember, someone’s eternal destiny is at stake. The joy you’ll have when you meet that person in heaven will far exceed any discomfort you felt in sharing the gospel.” ~Charles Stanley

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The purpose of this post is to examine the scriptural meaning of joy. More specifically, it will attempt to address the following three questions:

  1. What is joy?
  2. Are their types of joy?
  3. How can we experience more joy?

Continue reading

Peace through Love and Forgiveness

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”                    ~ Mother Teresa

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”                    ~ Francis of Assisi

“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend” ~ Abraham Lincoln

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UNDERSTANDING PEACE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
At Sunday school a few weeks ago, our young professionals group examined the biblical meaning of the word “peace.” After reviewing definitions from a number of sources, and considering these definitions against scripture, we arrived at a succinct definition:

Unity absent conflict

While not typically included within a secular definition, unity is an essential component of biblical peace. When realizing that unity is necessary for biblical peace, we should become aware that how we pursue such peace differs from the traditional, secular definition of the word. While some people may seek “peace and quiet” by avoiding others and finding environments absent noise and disturbance, biblical peace cannot be achieved in this manner. For Christians, biblical peace is about establishing healthy relationship with God and others. Moreover, it requires believers to be at peace with all people (including non-believers) as much as it depends on them (Romans 12:18).

The Christian understanding of God’s being is emblematic of biblical peace. Christians believe in a Trinitarian God—three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in one God—existing in perfect harmony. God is never at conflict with Himself. As sinners, the same cannot be said of our relationship with Him. Continue reading

angel

“The angels are so enamored of the language that is spoken in heaven that they will not distort their lips with the hissing and unmusical dialects of men, but speak their own, whether their be any who understand it or not.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“All God’s angels come to us disguised.” ~ James Russell Lowell

“The guardian angels of life fly so high as to beyond our sight, but they are always looking down upon us” ~ Jean Paul Richter

“Angels descending, bring from above, echoes of mercy, whispers of love.” ~ Fanny J. Crosby

“If trouble hearing angels’ song with thine ears, try listening with thy heart.” ~ Terri Guillemets
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oh my angel! with thy voice ethereal sweet,
i beseech you, dare entreat,
this lowly man, firmly held to ground,
permit my ears to hear thy sound, Continue reading

Identity (In Christ)

“In the social jungle of human existence, there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of identity” ~ Erik Erickson, Psychologist

“[Socialization] is an interactive process through which we make decisions about our relationships, our interpretation of information that comes to us through interaction, and what we will say and do. It is through these decisions that we influence our own lives and the social worlds in which we participate.” ~ Jay Coakley, Professor

“Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God.” ~ Henri Nouwen, Clergyman

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Introduction
As a Christian, I find myself frustrated with the world at times—the frequency of which seems to increase as I get older. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I’d like to believe that the increasing frequency of my frustration is a sign of a growing spiritual maturity—questionable, I know. Often, that frustration revolves around hypocritical action, though it’s not isolated to secular society. Regularly, my observation of such behavior also includes those professing religious affiliations; including Christians. Sometimes, however, I find myself to be one of those hypocritical Christians who frustrate me… Continue reading

Discomfort: Leaving Our Cocoons For Christ

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” ~ Pope John Paul II

“As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” ~ Luke 9:57-58

INTRODUCTION
I returned from a trip to Virginia earlier this May in a poor state of mind. During the long drive back to Georgia, my thoughts wandered; pondering circumstances that I have no control over. For most of the week following, I struggled with anxiety… Continue reading

for mothers

“A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.” ~ Mermillod

“The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.” ~ Beecher

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” ~ Lincoln

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This poem is to recognize and honor all those wonderful mothers out there; including my own mother whom I love very much.
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for our mothers on this day of recognition,
please allow us to make this loving admission,
your love deserves more than one day a year,
and trust that our love for you is sincere, Continue reading

Myself as a Writer: 1998

Following my recent trend of posting some of my academic writing, I thought it would be fun to go retro. The below work was the first paper that I wrote in college–my freshman year of college, 1998. To fully appreciate its content, I believe it essential to share some background.

While I may  be working on my Ph.D., my academic focus was not always so peerless. My grades in high school were exemplary, though the impetus for academic achievement was athletics. The expectation set by my parents since middle school was that if I did not earn A’s and B’s, I could not participate in organized sports. I participated in a different sport every season–it was my passion. Thus, I did well. 

However, I have never been a proponent for standardized tests (even less so now). My beliefs strongly drive my actions, and I thought it was equivalent to cheating to prep for the SATs and the like. Further, as long as the score I received was acceptable for the school I had desired to attend (I only applied to JMU), then mission accomplished. JMU required that I take two SAT IIs as part of the admissions process–it did not state any minimum score requirements for them. 

I had stayed over a friend’s place the night before my writing SAT II, completely forgetting that I had to take it the next morning. My mother came to my rescue (to my agony at the time), picked me up and drove me over to the high school to take the test. As we all know that hanging out at a friend’s place might as well be equivalent to little sleep, I was tired. All I remember is that the first essay was supposed to be something pertaining to Princess Diana…before I fell asleep a paragraph into it. It was a good nap–being woken up once the exam time had ended. My score was in the 4th percentile–as in only three people out of every 100 did worse than I did on the test. Subsequently, upon acceptance into JMU, I had to take the equivalent of a remedial writing course for entering students.

The class primarily consisted of international students. I had attended a strong high school in Massachusetts, and took an AP class taught by a professor who had us read 28 novels during the course of my Senior year. Further, we had to write three page position papers every week. And never has my writing been evaluated as critically–even now as a PhD student–as it was in that class. To this day, that class has been the most influential in my writing development. 

The big project for the semester was to write a two page paper that encapsulated yourself as a writer. I wrote it after the first class. There was no real purpose for me to be in the class other than the fact I had done poorly on my SAT II writing test. Unfortunately, my professor required that I continue attending the class–since we were expected to work on it throughout the semester, I intentionally made mistakes that I would later fix. It was difficult to take the paper seriously. Therefore, the final product was sarcastic and bitter, and I chose to play up the stereotypes that Southerners place on Yankees. The paper reflected my thoughts on the class…and reflected my sarcastic tendencies as an eighteen year old when I rebelled against authority. While I have always been one that will meet responsibilities–I tend to communicate my thoughts on those I find ridiculous. This was such an occasion. Maybe the last sentence says it all at the time 😛

As a mild disclaimer, some phrases may be considered inappropriate or insensitive to others. Please remember this was written by an 18 year old in 1998, within a pre-9/11 world. A kid with less life experience than the man today. I find it good to revisit past writing, and see my past perspectives–to help appreciate the journey more…  

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Myself as a Writer

What do I think of when I think of myself as a writer?  Actually, I have never had thoughts about my writing nor do I honestly care to do as such.  I do, however, have a strong inclination as to what others who have experienced the eighth wonder of the world—my writing—probably think of it. Continue reading

moments of beauty

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”  ~ Confucius, philosopher

“The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express.” ~ Francis Bacon, philosopher

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”  ~ Omar Khayyam, poet
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the water lily opening its petals as if arms outstretched prior to an embrace,
welcoming the light and warmth that slips past the darkness with sunrise,
morning’s meaning accentuated by its sudden vulnerability.
a new start with the coming day… Continue reading

three words = one truth

“Love is when he gives you a piece of your soul, that you never knew was missing.” ~Torquato Tasso, poet

“Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.” ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author

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I just want to look you in the eyes,
With hearts vulnerable and transparent, no disguise,
Followed by a loving kiss on your lips,
With my hands gently above your hips, Continue reading

FROZEN in Fear and its Relationship to Love

 “Love will thaw. Of course!” ~Queen Elsa

“Wanna build a snowman?” ~Princess Anna

INTRODUCTION

Frozen is a wonderfully constructed animated movie that I believe speaks at surprisingly great depth about the relationship between fear and love. As is true in real life, all of the characters in Frozen—except for, maybe, Olaf the snowman—have unique challenges in dealing with fear and loving others in a healthy manner. After having watched the movie a few times, I believe that the movie’s screenwriters developed the characters to possess personalities that would accurately reflect their behaviors in the story–grounding this fantasy tale with a realistic human element. Within this writing, I share my thoughts about how fear affects the ability and manner in which the movie’s major characters exhibit love towards one another—as well as its likely effects on their self-perceptions. With each character’s fears being different in scope and focus, these fears influence their ability and manner in which they love others to varying degrees. Character examinations will begin with Hans of the Southern Isles–who very well may not be capable of anything other than self-love. Concluding these examinations shall be Queen Elsa of Arendelle, who in my opinion is the most complex–and in many respects, the most realistic–character within Frozen. If you are curious as to how I can justify a woman whose magical powers can control winter’s elements as the most realistic character in the movie…you will just need to read onward. Continue reading

Exploring the Dark Knight as a Type of Christ

“He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.” ~Jim Gordon in The Dark Knight

The Batman from the Dark Knight Trilogy 

Over the past week, I watched the Dark Knight Trilogy—just one of numerous times I have done so. I find it an exceptionally well done movie trilogy. And if I was to select a favorite comic book super hero, it would most likely be the “Dark Knight,” Batman. Those who follow the comic book universe are aware that many comic book series periodically “reboot,” as the ever-growing stories become convoluted, eventually losing plot continuity. Characters’ stories will often be revised to more reflect the times; though, the core elements of comic book characters are often treated sacred–unchangeable. However, these slight changes in a character’s development allow for story reinventions—introducing new themes within the stories. In such a way, Christopher Nolan’s presentation of Batman—and the story told within the trilogy—leaves his version as my favorite incarnation of the Dark Knight.

(Please note: if you have not watched the trilogy, you will encounter spoilers by proceeding) Continue reading

Making Decisions

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” ~Peter F. Drucker                                                             

What is right is often forgotten by what is convenient.” ~Bodie Thoene

“You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.” ~Michelle Obama

“My son, when you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, Cling to Him, forsake Him not; thus will your future be great. Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and He will help you; make straight your ways and hope in Him.” ~Sirach 2:1-6

Originally posted on Facebook–March, 2011

Making decisions is hard. Decisions require action and possess consequence. Continue reading

Hope Beyond Hope

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~Desmond Tutu

This writing was originally posted on Facebook in October, 2009

A few years ago, I had a meaningful discussion with someone who has been a major figure throughout my life–we’ll call him “Adam” (not his real name). During our conversation, I asked him a question that I had considered asking him for some time. Adam has always been someone with a superseding sense of responsibility and obligation, but I cannot remember an instance where he used the word ‘love’ in appropriate context towards another person. While we were traveling and he was a captive audience, I took the opportunity to ask Adam why he never used the word “love,” instead, making any good and right action of his a matter of responsibility–of obligation. Continue reading

The Humility of Love

Originally posted on Facebook–January, 2011

Two principal characteristics of faith-based living as a Christian are humility and love. Both humility and love are referenced frequently in Christian sermons and homilies. So too, are they common terms within society. However, the predominantly accepted definitions of these words held by the world, and those that are referenced and alluded to through scripture do not perfectly align. Trying to flush out the differences between the worldly definitions of humility and love versus the biblical counterparts would require more than one blog post. To conclusively define the biblical concept of love alone and elaborate on the differences between it and those views held by various cultures would be an exhausting endeavor on an inexhaustible topic. Continue reading

Followers of Conviction and Not Fear

Originally posted on Facebook–February, 2013

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  ~ Theodore Roosevelt (U.S. President, 1901-1909)

Whenever I have read anything about Theodore Roosevelt, an adjective that arises constantly is “vigorous.” He was a man that believed in passionate action. The quote with which I began this note is likely his most well-known quote, regularly referred to as “The Man in the Arena.” It was part of a larger speech, known as “Citizenship in a Republic,” given at the University of Paris on April 23rd, 1910. The major premise being expounded upon by President Roosevelt during this speech was that a measure of a country should not be its citizens’ visible successes, but rather the overall quality of its people. “To judge a man merely by success,” Roosevelt said, “is an abhorrent wrong.” Continue reading