Love Never Dies

Live, Love, Laugh…I am reminded to live out that motto more so now than ever before. Recently, I loss my 25-year old cousin. In his short life he taught me so much about being happy and not “sweating” the small stuff. My cousin, Jacqwon, at the age of three, became deaf from falling off the back of a moving truck. My grandmother never really got over the fact that she did not persist on taking him to Disney World that summer with the rest of the cousins–though he was much younger and my uncle (his father) was unable to come. 

It’s hard to describe Jacqwon’s life. He lived with my grandmother and uncle for the first few years of his life. Later, moving back with his mom. He did not live in innocent environments, but he somehow managed to remain somewhat sheltered and untouched by what life had offered him. I was always grateful that his mother allowed us to be a part of his life. I deemed it one of my life’s missions to protect him as much as I could. I would later learn that it was much harder than I thought.  Nevertheless, we had some great and challenging times . 

Jacqwon was more like a little brother to me–and we know how younger siblings can act (ha, I know because I’m one). He taught me about the deaf and hard of hearing community, American Sign Language (ASL), and how to lip read. He inspired me so much that every major school project from high school to graduate school was about the hearing-impaired community. He was passionate about life, learning, and developing himself. That passion and love resonated to everyone he encountered. We didn’t always agree, sometimes, we just stopped to talking to each other–you know, like those sibling tantrums. But one thing about Jacqwon, he always knew who really loved him and those he could always count on. I promised him that no matter where he was in life, no matter how many times we became disconnected due to outside forces–I would ALWAYS find him. I am so grateful that God allowed me to hold true to that promise. 

Skipping a lot of details and fast forwarding to those last moments of Jacqwon’s life. 

I remember is mom reaching out to us informing us of Jacqwon’s failing health–none of us knew what it really meant and a lot of the details were a blur. It was about eight months prior to Jacqwon’s death and I was traveling a lot for work and couldn’t conceive the notion of Jacqwon possibly dying. It just didn’t seem fitting for someone of his age and passion for life. I would visit Jacqwon each time I returned from traveling–he never seemed to be in any grave conditions. 

I remember receiving a phone call from him mom–I believe in September, she was planning to throw Jacqwon a big birthday party (even though his birthday was in June). Jacqwon LOVED his family, especially his cousins (that was the last birthday party he would ever have). Due to prearranged work travels, I was unable to attend–til this day I regret missing that party, but it was that very party that caused me to stop traveling for work and spend the next few months with Jacqwon. My eyes always get watery when I share this part of the story. 

I watched his health decline week after week. I remember Jacqwon being told to remain in bed, but he was strong-minded and determined to get up. One particular incident, was when he had to use the bathroom–he struggled to get out of bed–weak and barely able to stand–yet, he fought, because he knew that was the proper thing to do. Let me tell you, Jacqwon was a very heavy guy! He had gained lots of weight from the medication. Can you imagine his mom and I trying to help him to the bathroom, help him stand upright, while he was heavily sedated. Oh my!

I recall him struggling to greet each person and attempting to sit at the dining table to entertain his guest. I watched him, heavily sedated to the point where he could barely open his eyes nor sign, but he always attempted to–sometimes he would stop in the middle of signing and we would have put his hand down. It was by far, one of the hardest things I had to endure. Jacqwon, just loved people and loved entertaining others. He was so grateful and excited to see everyone who came to visit him. 

It was December 11, 2014, the day before Jacqwon passed away. I planned to stop by to visit him for two hours before heading to the gym and going into work. That plan never happened. I arrived at his mom’s house to find that he was having a bad day–barely able to breath and agitated. I stayed with him for several hours, not realizing that would be the last time I saw him alive.

I received a called on December 12th at 4:30 am. Jacqwon had passed…speechless, unable to move, breathe, nor hear…my entire world had turned upside down. For the last six months, I was there holding his hands at various hospitals, taking him on outings, and visiting him at his mom’s, and all at once it ended. It didn’t seem fair. Did God mean for that to happen? What about all the plans he had…we had to help him?

Keys2Hope-I just keep saying “God doesn’t  make any mistakes….He makes all things beautiful in his time.” I had a lot of questions, but I knew ultimately, God was at work. It certainly did not make the situation better. I tried to remember all the things I was thankful for…like being one of the few cousins to really know Jacqwon and live life with him. I thought of all the weekends we spent together, all times he wanted me to teach him how to write in English, or how we could laugh at wrestling on TV, and I don’t even like wrestling. This was probably one of the hardest times to not question God. I thought about his life and all the challenges and roadblocks he kept having. I knew that God saw the bigger picture and always does what’s best for us. 

At his funeral, one of speaker’s said Jacqwon wrote on his Facebook page:

“That a friend is someone you can be completely stupid with.” Jacqwon was that friend. I am honored to have lived life with him.

I have learned that love does not die when the person passes away, rather it increases with the memories you have of them. If you love, care, and appreciate someone, spend time with them and tell them often. Give your flowers while they are still alive. While you’re at it be sure to LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH everyday!

What Designer Label are you Wearing?

I love shopping! Most girls do, and I’ve found that a lot of guys do too. Guys especially love shopping for shoes. Of course, it can’t be any kind of shoes, it has to be Jordan’s, Vans or whatever is hot on the market. One thing for certain it has to be a designer name. It has to be the authentic label.

Last year my little brother was obsessed with Polo shirts and Levi Jeans…it’s so hard shopping for boys. I never have a problem shopping for my little sister, but for my brothers…man, it’s expensive.
For Christmas I decided to buy my brother a couple of Polo shirts and Levi Jeans. I went everywhere trying it find some affordable, yet authentic Levi’s. I must have went to 10 different stores, but finally I found him the “real” deal. Boy, was I happy. Unfortunately, I had equal difficulty trying to find Polo shirts. Marshall’s and T.J. Max even have those “look-a-like” Polo shirts, with the oversize horse in the corner. Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with wearing those, but I was searching for the authentic designer label. My little brother is explicit with what he wants for Christmas, and I appreciate that! So many times I thought I found the right shirt, but it was the one’s with the large horse. Eventually, I found some, but I didn’t think it would take all day. Nevertheless, we will keep searching until we find the “real thing.” We get sadly disappointed when something states its “real”, but isn’t.

This is how people feel when you say you’re a Christian, yet lack the actions of a Christian. People want to see an authentic Christian. It’s disappointing when you act like a Christian around certain people, but around your peers you act differently. That’s hypocritical, fake, unreal and so forth. As Christians we are called to wear “Christ” authentic label.

Being a Christian means to be Christ-like. We are to conduct ourselves as Christ would conduct himself. I learned this amazing quote from Young Life: “Preach the Gospel always, but when necessary use words.” We are to live preaching the Gospel non-verbally, and when needed use words.

A group, Sidewalk Prophets sang “Live Live That”, one line says: “People pass, even if they don’t know my name, was I evidence that I’ve been changed”. Are you evidence that you’ve been changed? No one knows your testimony or experience with God like you!

No, this doesn’t mean you’re suppose to be perfect, but if Christ has entered your heart, it should show. People should see a difference in you. It is time for us to be unrestrained, uninhibited, and unashamed for Christ!

If we’re wearing a designer label, we’ll wear it with great pride. We’re wearing the greatest designer of all times. No one could ever duplicate it…God hand-woven you to be you…to share His great love like only “you” can.

Keys2hope Seek God daily, ask for strength, quote your favorite scripture, listen to your favorite song before going to school or work, and pray over yourself.

Lastly, remember John 15:16-“You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you should ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”

God has chosen you! What an honor to be chosen to wear His label. He has ordained (called) you. So you were chosen and called. Walk forward in hope and encouragement.

May the face of God shine upon you…may you have continued hope in Christ! Enjoy the video:

 

 

Captivated by Sparks of Happiness

Today was busy, great, and exciting…one big spark of happiness. I declare God is faithful to keep our hope renewed. Sometimes, things get a bit overwhelming, since I’m human, sometimes I feel like giving up, then God provides a spark of happiness, joy, and hope! One author describe it as “God winks,” when God winks at us through His blessings or things that make us smile.

God winked at me today…well He winks at us every day, sometimes we’re too caught up in our problems to see it. But today, I was attentive (smiley face). Let me back up…a few months ago, Colin Gunn, film producer/director of Gunn Productions contacted me to be a part of a documentary film “Captivated” produced by Phillip Telfer with  Media Talk 101. I’m a journalist so anything with media in it sparks my interest, especially Christian media. Naturally, I accepted the wonderful opportunity.

 Today was the first day of shooting the film, which means I was the first interview. It’s always a pleasure sharing my testimony with others. After I finished my testimony, I had to do a mini photo shoot at Mt. Trashmore by the beautiful lake surrounded with dandelions. Overall, it was a great experience. I met Phillip’s daughter, a wonderful cameraman, and great Christian film makers.

 Keys2hope, despite our trials and concerns God will not leave us hopeless. At times it seems like God has forsaken and forgotten about us, but His word does not lie. He promise to never leave nor forsake us…through His God winks or sparks of happiness; I draw strength, encouragement, and hope.

 Later, I was able to see many of my Young Life Booker T. student leaders graduate from high school. What a blessing. I’m so happy to have been involved in their growth. Cheering for kids is what we do in Young Life, today I believe I cheered real hard as I heard their names being announced. I’m excited to see how God will use and direct them.

 Lastly, I had a productive meeting with my area director and we are preparing for Young Life Summer Camp at Windy Gap in Weaverville, NC. God is providing funds and resources for this endeavor. Is there anything too hard or too big for God? No!!! He’s all powerful, all knowing, and yes, He cares about us. “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son.”

Please check out the website: http://www.captivatedthemovie.com

Blessings & Hope! 

Suffering: a universal language

Every one hurts, every one goes through pain, every one goes through trials and tribulations: “Suffering is the common thread in all our garments” (Hope Again by Charles Swindoll). No matter how much pain and suffering we endure, hope is like an anchor: it can heal, keep you grounded, and keep you secure. “Our hope in Christ stabilizes us in the storms of life, but unlike an anchor, it does not hold us back.” Christ will keep you, but He will not stop us from progressing. He has a plan for our lives, but we must continue to allow Him to be the Captain and anchor of  our life.

We go through situations for several reasons. 1Peter 1:6,7 says:

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary you have been distressed by various trials that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The scripture shows we have a developing faith. The words “even though” indicate that the joy is unconditional. Yes, joy can be experienced in the midst of trials. To the college student without food, you may receive joy from getting an “A” on a big examine, or finally receiving your refund check; To someone that just became unemployed, joy may come from knowing you will receive unemployment benefits and that you still have strength. Joy is not depended on the circumstances surrounding us. Joy comes in spite of our suffering.

1Peter 1:6,7 reveal three important facts about trials:

1) Trials are necessary, it proves the genuineness of our faith while teaching us humility. Trials display our own helplessness. They put us on our faces before God. I believe because of my trials and helplessness, I realized there wasn’t anything I could do to help the situation. I had completed all the steps I knew to do, so now, it was up to God. That is a tough pill to take. We are finite creatures, if we can’t see a way, we become worried. But trusting and hoping in God is the key! It doesn’t mean we’ll immediately see results, but we know they are coming.

2) Trials are distressing, teaching us compassion so that we never make light of another’s trial. As human’s we lack the care for other people’s test and pains. But, as we endure our own, we begin to understand another’s person feelings. We become relatable .

3) Trials come in various forms. Nevertheless, God offers special grace to match every shade of sorrow.

Keys2Hope:

1) Read the book Hope Again: When Life Hurts and Dreams Fade by CharlesSwindoll

2) Express your sympathy and weep with someone else during their time of sorrow and pain

3) Embrace someone

4) Come outside yourself and feel what that hurting person is feeling

5) Most importantly, Pray for them

Listen to this beautiful song by Kirk Franklin: https://keys2hope.wordpress.com/got-music/138-2/

Day of Prayer, brings hope!

National Day of Prayer is one of the most important days for Christians. Personally, I think it’s pretty awesome to have a special day to celebrate and recognize prayer. At our Young Life Campaigner meetings we each made of list of  5 things we wanted to pray for. There were 3 specific groups:

1) Family
2) Personal
3) World

I went to the meeting feeling a little down. If we allow it, life can take us so low, which is why it’s important to have  good, Christian fellowship. Each person prayed for finances and employment. Our group consist of people from 30 years of age to 15 years of age and each person had the same two prayer needs. We could feel each others pain and needs. We each knew, or at least had an idea of how it felt to be uncertain about our well-being. But as we prayed for one another we gained strength and hope to continue on. I’m a fervent believer in prayer…in the good times and in the bad–it brings joy and hope.

The National Day of Pray is important but I want to encourage each of you to pray daily. Really get in tune with God and devote time to your prayer life. I promise that you’re life will be different. Your problems may still exist, but you have an uncanny belief that God will bring you out. While you’re praying make sure you find someone else to pray for. Often times, we feel like our situation is the worse and that no one else understands. That’s such a lie. That’s why communication and fellowship is key.

Keys2Hope: 1) Get a prayer life
                          2) Maintain your prayer life
                          3) Communicate with someone to find out their needs & pray for them
4) Get a strong and dedicated prayer partner or group

“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8)

Ignoring the Knock 4 Everlasting Peace

If you knew what age you were going to die how would you spend your life? If you could pick what age to draw your last breath, what age would it be? Taylor Anderson would probably have picked an older age than 24. According to the news (http://abcnews.go.com/US/japan-tsunami-va-teacher-believed-us-casualty-tsunami/story?id=13187712) her life was full of meaning and hope, yet a devastating Tsunami that hit Japan took her life away and many more. We cannot predict catastrophic events, we cannot predict crimes and accidents, and we cannot predict when and how we will die.

One thing we know for sure, is that we have a God who loved this world so much, even after we choice to rebel and walk the way of sin, He still loved us enough to send His only son as a redeemer. By this, we can know the future of our lives…if we choose Christ and not the world we can have an everlasting life of hope, peace, and happiness with our Savior in Heaven. The events of this world constantly point towards the soon coming of our Savior, and yet, we continue to gamble with life. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. I’m reminded of the old famous song by The Winans, Tomorrow

Jesus said
“Here I stand, won’t you please let me in?”
And you said “I will tomorrow”
Jesus said “I am he who supplies all your needs”
And you said “I know, but tomorrow, ooh, tomorrow, ill give my life tomorrow, I thought about today, but it’s so much easier to say” Tomorrow,
who promised you tomorrow, better choose the lord today, for tomorrow very well might be too late.

Oh how we take today for granted. We plan trips, save up for college, schedule parties, save for a new car…but we never take action for our eternal gain. Jesus said: “Behold, I stand at the door and Knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup (eat) with him, and he with me.” Revelations 3:20 (KJV)

Jesus knocks on the door of every persons heart, no matter who you are or what you have done, from the biggest drug dealer, murderer, disrespectful, confused, alcoholic, etc, to the hypocritical choir member, every Sunday attendee-acting-like-you-going on, self-righteous-wish-you-could-be-out-in-the world person. All we have to do is open that door and say yes Lord.

Keys2Hope: it’s easy as ABC’s…seriously it is:

AAdmitthat you are a sinner: ALL have sinned, and come short of His glory (Romans 3:23)
BBelievein your heart that Christ died for you: (Romans 5:8)
CConfesswith your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved (Romans 10:9)

 Secure your eternal place of rest today by accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. What is keeping you from doing so??

Blessings & Hope!

Blessed Life Equals No Money, Part-time Job, and a Master’s Degree

Some may wonder how no money, two part-time jobs (both equaling $800-$1000 per month-yikes), and a master’s degree can equal a blessed life. A few days ago I wrote a post that mentioned a quote, “you can’t have a testimony without a test.” My current situation is a test and ultimately God is going to transform it into a testimony.
 

Last week during campaigners (Young Life Bible study) I asked my students about success and if they were taking proper steps to achieve their success in life. They answered yes…but the fact is, nothing in life is guaranteed. I went through the proper steps to be what I thought was successful: hardworking, dedicated, experienced in my field, educated, and so forth. I’m not exactly where I would like be career wise. But God has a plan for each of our lives. Each trial and tribulation is part of the puzzle. It’s that piece that makes us unique in the situation.

 I may not have the money I want and sometimes need; I don’t have a full-time job in my career, and yes, I wonder how everyone who graduated with me secured jobs, and yet not I. Nevertheless, I am blessed. The level of word that I receive from my church, the hope that I receive from the Word of God, the awesome prayer experiences I have with Jesus, and my total dependency upon my Savior—lacking nothing in faith, means I am blessed.
It all depends on how you look at your situation. You can either look at all the tangible things you lack and forget about your relationship with Jesus and throw tantrums, or you can say Lord, thank you…thank you for allowing me to go through this. Through my trials I have learned to depend on you, I learned that you will make away when all else fails. Oh it’s hard, especially when you have bill collectors calling and you want to, but you just don’t have the money to pay up. It’s hard when all your money goes to pay rent and gas. It’s hard when you lack so much, but God knows… He knows what He’s doing even if we don’t.

 I shared this with my students because they mentioned the struggles that cause them not to be successful Christians.  Ecclesiastes12:1 says, “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shall say I have no pleasure in them.” This scripture is confirming that issues and trials don’t cease as you get older. The older you become the more problems and issues you have to deal with. The scripture says “while the evil days come not”—as a youth the evil days are not present—no responsibilities, little to no bills, and strength in your body—that is the time to remember your Creator, because when those trials come, the burden will be heavy, and remembering Jesus will be harder.

 My relationship with Jesus has given me so much strength and hope to continue on. Of course, I’m human, I’ve cried, I felt like given up, I’ve experienced stressed, yet Jesus always reminded me of things He’s redeemed me from in my past. He reminded me that He loves me and ultimately things will work out for my good.

Keys2hope my dear youth, is to know Jesus now, let him strengthen your confidence in Him while you are young, let him direct your path, let Him use you to glorify His name while you are full of vigor and life. And when the time comes, and it will, you will know that you have a blessed life, because you have Jesus. Those who have accepted Him are just passing by in this life. Our reward is in heaven. A blessed life is living for Christ, not measured by worldly success or tangible things.

As always, be encouraged!