Beyond Blessed: Never Stop Learning

Friday night, May 18, certainly goes down as a memorable life moment that I was honored and privileged to share with fellow graduates, university faculty,  friends, and family. It marks the culmination of years of effort and investment, both on my end, but more importantly on the part of others. I am not a self-made man, but simply the return on investment nurtured by so many incredible people. I was proud to have the love of my life, Sweet T accompany me across the stage at the Amberton University graduation. What an honor to celebrate this achievement with someone who has stood by me, encouraged me, and believed in me. This would not have been possible without you. I think back to all the teachers, recent and long past, who shared their time and knowledge with me. And I recollect the counsel and support of family, friends, and mentors that got me to this point. Without you all, I would not have been able to accomplish this goal and achieve this moment of joy. I am beyond blessed. 

Me and T

I’m not one who thinks that college is for everybody or that believes you need to get a degree to be successful in life. I know far too many people who have found success without ever getting a degree. But, for many, a college education opens doors it wouldn’t otherwise. And as one of our speakers noted on Friday night, knowledge and an education is something no one can ever take away from you. Regardless of what you do or what your calling in life is, I urge you to never stop learning. Be a life-long learner.

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It is true that I didn’t take the traditional route to get here. That’s been true for most of my journey on this road called life. I learned long ago that life doesn’t always follow a straight trajectory. Perseverance, resilience, determination, and a ton of prayer can get you from here to there. You just got to find a way to keep on keepin’ on. And you’ll definitely need the support of others along the way.

I am eternally grateful to the sea of teachers, instructors, and professors who helped me along the way. Yours is truly a worthy profession. Thank you. To my myriad of mentors, who the Lord so graciously provided: Thank you. To my family and friends—thank you. To my precious Mom and my parents-in-law–Thank you.

To my bride—Sweet T—Thank you.

With the completion of one adventure another one awaits. While I’m not entirely sure what the next stretch looks like, I do know that God is good and that as the next chapter is written, He will be walking alongside me. Never lose your sense of adventure.

Yes! I am beyond blessed. My prayer is that you may be also.

Amberton 2018

Finding Joy Worshipping in the Presence of the Lord

As we continue to look at prayer in the Book of Psalms, we turn to Psalm 84.

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Psalm 84:10-12

Psalm 84 is a well-known psalm in which we hear the psalmist expressing the desire to be in God’s presence in the Jerusalem temple because the Lord is the protector of his people. The psalmist recognizes the Lord’s sovereignty and yearns to be in the safe rest of His sanctuary. It is recognized as a song sung by the Israelites as they traveled to the Temple to worship the Lord, our God. It is believed that the Sons of Korah arranged the song and that it was played during worship, similar to how we sing songs of praise in worship today.

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Setting our sights on God leads to blessing. As we draw closer and nearer to God, we become stronger and stronger. When we anticipate and look forward to joyfully worshipping the Lord, we rind spiritual refreshment, even in the direst circumstances

Genuine joy comes through a deep intimacy with God. Worship should draw us nearer to the throne, not keep us at bay, or push us away. We can choose to walk closely with God or keep our distance. If we lack belief, then we fall short of having any relationship with God at all. In our unbelief, we miss out on the blessings offered by the Lord, our God.

We experience the true definition of joy when we remain fully committed to worshipping God and are totally satisfied simply being in His presence. There is no safer place, no better day, than experiencing the presence of God.

God delights in us. He wants us to walk in joy with Him. Will you walk with Him today?

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Psalm 84

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! 2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.

3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. 6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.

8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah 9 Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!

10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12 O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Wrestling with Show v. Tell

We love stories. Sit in any critique group for longer than 10 minutes and you’ll hear the phrase “Show, Don’t Tell.”  While it is true that all stories mix and balance showing and telling, the best yarns that keep us turning the page show characters acting, feeling, and responding. It’s not that you never tell. Sometimes, writers have to tell us that Jack climbed up the hill.

Telling has a place in storytelling. As readers, we don’t need to be told every tiny detail, particularly when it involves a mundane activity that doesn’t move the story forward, build tension, or impact the outcome of the story. Good writers use telling to share secondary information. For example, you can write “Jill drove to work.” You don’t want to spend sentences, let alone paragraphs, sharing every detail of Jill’s drive to work. That would be less gripping than watching outdoor paint dry on a rainy day. Save your details for revealing significant plot twists or scene descriptions. When you need to be clear and precise, tell.

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Showing builds intimacy between the reader and your characters. It helps us get in their head and peak inside their soul. Showing reveals a piece of your character’s heart. Showing builds tension and makes your reader curious to find out more. Done right, you’ll have your reader salivating like Pavlov’s dog.

A brief example of showing:

Mom sobbed as I stood at the edge of my father’s hospital bed. “Dad, do you know who I am?”

The man who I’d once considered invincible shot me a blank stare. “No. Who are you?” He glanced over at my mom, kneeling at his bedside. “Who is he?”

Deafening silence filled the room. I could hear my heart thump. In that moment, I realized that the anger I thought I’d let go still raged deep inside me. We had our share of disagreements, the old man and me. Now, I was the only one able to keep score.

“Dad, it’s me. Your son.”

Nothing but a glazed stare returned my plea.

Mom rose from the floor, pressed her hand on my shoulder, “He’ll remember you. You’ll see. He’ll get better. You can’t keep a good man down.”

My eyes welled up, my hands balled up in fists. Good man?  The man who’d once been my hero quit being a good man years ago.

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Good writing leans in favor of showing, sparing the telling for those things that can only be told. A great sentence doesn’t come easy. Writing riveting paragraphs demands effort. We only get better at writing by sitting down and hammering out words on our laptop’s keyboard. There are no shortcuts to becoming a good writer. What are you waiting for?

Get writing!