Friday, January 12, 2018

How Did We Get Here?

EDITORS NOTE: Originally written in September 2017

Oh, Jesus, friend of sinners, open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers.

Everyday, I wake up to a world that has fallen farther than I ever thought it would go.

And I can't help but think, "how did we get here?"

Yesterday it was bathrooms. Today it is statues.

What will it be tomorrow? Another man anointed ideal that only brings tears.


This may be the most important thing I ever write, so bear with me. I also write this knowing that some who will read this won't get it. It's my prayer that logic and an attempt to understand each other will intervene and we can find answers.

Almost a year ago, with a few friends, I helped found a non-profit called Loving as Jesus in Truth, also known as LAJIT. There were several motivating factors behind starting this non-profit, but for me, it was a chance to reach out into a world of turmoil. LAJIT was formed in October, right in the thick of election season, and you can see the world unravel at the thought of either major party candidate becoming President. Those who leaned right screamed something about emails, abortions, and Benghazi. Those who leaned left screamed something about sexual assaults and generally being unfit for the job. And inside, I simply screamed.

This post isn't about politics. And it's about everything involving politics. One of those classic "it is, but it isn't" type of scenarios. Full disclosure: I didn't vote for either major party candidate. I did my research, and found a candidate that represented my values and voted for them. Wrote them in, actually. Regardless of what people tell you, there's more than two choices. And I wish more people would realize that just because there is a (D) or an (R) behind their name does not mean they are the only people to vote for. In fact, I wish about 62 million more people would realize that. But that's neither here nor there; I only disclose this information so you are aware that I do not have any ties to either party, so you don't have to make assumptions on where I stand on issues based on my political party, because, unlike many will tell you, God hasn't joined a political party, and neither will I.

Instead, this post is about human decency. This post is about the world we know it, but at the same time, it's about each of us as individuals.

It starts with a simple question: can we agree on the fact that as humans, there is something definitely wrong with us? This has nothing to do with religion, and perhaps everything to do with religion. Regardless of your beliefs, can't we put all of that aside and understand that we are messed up?

That leads me to my next question, and here is where it all falls apart: What are you doing to make things right?

I was and am tired of the hatred going around for our fellow man. I wanted to be a part of LAJIT so I can reach out to a world and show love. Don't get me wrong, you don't need to be a part of a non-profit to do that, but I wanted there to be a movement. We started the Hope Community Kitchen, where once a month, regardless of gender, race, social economic status, age, anyone can have a free meal. We wanted to bring people in and meet them, talk with them. We wanted a place where we could sit down with people in our community and share our stories. Share our battle scars. Our dreams. Our lives. How we got to where we are. What we want to see done in our community. And for the most eight months, we have done that. I've gotten to know people that I would never have met before. I've sat down with people who work in different industries. I've sat down with people who have a different skin color than mine. I've sat down with people who look differently than me.

And for most of our conversations that we have - I listen. I let them do the talking. Because this movement isn't about getting my story out there. Sure, I'll share it if I'm asked, but I want to hear everyone else's story.

I've had my eyes opened.

It's amazing what you can learn if you are just willing to listen.

Truth is, we haven't been willing to listen for a long time. If they don't look like us, or vote like us, then their opinions are invalid. That's how many people see the world now.

How did we get here?

In the past week, I've seen more people who are Christians post and retweet articles or opinions on statues than I have on Jesus. I've seen more people who say they are looking for peace do more and more to divide people than bring them together. I've seen people blasting Trump, and I've seen people responding with something about Obama. I've seen people defending Trump, and I've seen people disgusted with him.  I've seen "what-about-ism" in full force. I've seen every Facebook historian give their two cents on the Civil War, confederate flags, and confederate monuments and why - or why not - we should do this or that.

Sigh.

I'm tired of it. And I can't help but wonder how we got here. Because we weren't here ten years ago - were we?

So I go to the Bible. I find the words of Christ. I'll share them here: the two greatest commandments.

Matthew 22:36-40New International Version (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I really think it's that simple. We got here because we haven't been doing that.

Can I speak truthfully here? Until a few months ago, I had no idea confederate statues were a thing. I've never had an opinion on them. Now that I know about them, I still don't really care about them.

But the thing about the statues is that it's not about statues. It's about something dividing us. And for whatever reason, we as a people are so messed up that we will let this - and more things - divide us.

The larger point being - let's stop looking for things to divide us. We are more worried about honoring our ancestors than we are about honoring God. Stop posting articles that lead to division. Stop retweeting people who only look to separate us. Instead, do you part and show love and compassion to the world. Honor God by honoring his commandments.

Why can't we just love God and love each other?



Friday, May 12, 2017

Jumbled Lyrics, Thoughts and Adventures

I'm tired              But sometimes my faith feels thin

Like the night will never end           I'm worn

My heart is heavy                                                     From the work it takes to keep on breathing 

I've made mistakes              Will You catch every tear

Or will You just leave me here?               I've let my hope fail

My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world



It's like my mind and my world are connected - because they both seem to know when things are going a little too well, and they both work as hard as they can to bring me back down to depths of sadness, frustration, unhappiness (singing whoa, oh, oh, happiness).

What was I thinking? Two years ago, I had two opportunities. I took one, let the other one slide. But let's be real - if I really wanted the other opportunity, I would have worked harder for it. I would have showed more interest. If we're being honest, I only wanted the idea of the other opportunity. God bless that broken road - it led her straight to some other guy that she married.

But the opportunity I took - while not contradictory to the other, it certainly felt like it - it was what I felt like I was being groomed to do. So much so that I planned months ahead of time so I would be ready when the day arrived. And when the day arrived, it was unceremonious, it wasn't anything that I thought it would be, and I had to put out a fire within 3 hours of my start time.

I was still ready. I had ideas. I worked hard to implement them. And little did I know, that while I was working my rear end off, I would cheat on this opportunity with another.


Multi-tasking is a myth; you aren't doing anything good - just everything awful.                                                                                                                                 Propaganda

I had heard this before from my favorite Spoken Word poet (who has a degree in illustration and  intercultural studies, and has a teaching credential, yet raps for a living, let that sink in) in his track "Be Present." And I determined to prove him wrong. And for the record, I do not mean to put him on a pedestal - because I know it bothers him when people quote him - our precious Propaganda.

(Seriously, if Prop ever reads this, he'll either love that fact that I'm a huge fan or he'll resent me using his work this way. I hope it's the former.)

So, let's get to work, said I. The one opportunity, the one I chose, even though I felt it chose me, was a shared responsibility. Ideas thrown out, taken in. Washing feet, Sunday nights, live music, video testimonies. We were going to be world changers, we were going to set our church on fire. Not literally. It's already done that.

But almost immediately, the honeymoon period went away. And I realized that I was a square peg trying so hard to whittle my corners down to fit the round peg. But I'm someone who doesn't like to let people down. So I dug in my heels and took the weight upon my shoulders.

At the same time, the opportunity that I was seeing on the side - they had room for a square peg. In fact, not only did they have room, they were looking to complete the puzzle that I had a hand in haphazardly throwing together some 4 months prior. Seeing instant results - and seeing the possibilities of more - intrigued me. But I was already committed. So, let's multi-task!

One Tuesday evening in April of 16 I tried to walk away from my first commitment and I was talked out of it. I wish I had not listened, but I wanted to be talked back in. I needed the pep talk.

So, setting the stage, I took charge of an opportunity. I also was involved in another opportunity. All the while, all I was thinking about was the opportunity that got away. And while I was committed to the first opportunity, I knew that I was not the right person for that opportunity. When the time came - I wanted to walk away again - only to step back into the limelight because, again, I didn't want to let people down.

and then i became a dream catcher

and I was given a new lease on life. I was determined not to be the depressed loser who was always sad and always frustrated and always screaming in his head "WHY NOT ME" and for a long time I won that battle and I buried my struggles but told people that I had released them to God and let God handle the things I couldn't handle.


i lied and i'm still lying today

I don't have it all together. I've been hurting for a long time. I think about the opportunity that got away and the opportunity that I never even knew I had. I think about all of the times I said "no" because I was too busy doing something that I wasn't even led to do. I've been stabbed in the back and all I've done is take the knife out, hand it back out, and beg for more. I love the people who have done the stabbing - they aren't aware that they are doing it and I'm not willing to sacrifice their happiness to stop my pain.

And in my mind - the devil has convinced me that in a world of playing favorites - I am at the end of the line - all decisions made to spite me, all decisions made against me, all decisions plotting to overthrow me.

The weight of this world is crushing me because I'm letting it.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that I've finally let the opportunity go. It will be someone else's chance. Prayfully, someone who is led to lead. I'm still sad. Because even though I didn't feel that I was in the right spot, I feel I did my best. I love those kids. And I want the best.

Even though I feel like I'm finally doing what I'm suppose to be doing - why do I still feel that I'm letting people down?

I've become a slave to people's expectations.

I'm a people pleaser.

I'm Saul.

King David, a man after God's own heart. King Saul, a popular choice for king, for leader, had impressive victories early on, but ultimately let bitterness, laziness, anger, and frustration overtake him and he lost his crown, and even in the midst of losing the crown, he insisted on keeping up public appearances because that's all he was concerned with.

I've become Saul.

Ultimately

                                                                                             a let down

                                                         uncool

                           drop out

                                                                                                                            sinner

                                                                               loser


Am I a beautiful letdown? Then let me sing one true tune...





So now I'm seeking peace.

Peace with the missed opportunity.

             the opportunity I let get away.                                                                                                                      But I have this hope
              the opportunity I got stabbed over.                                                                                                     In the depth of my soul    
                      the opportunity that I never took seriously.                                                                           In the flood or the fire
                       the opportunity that was never made for me.


You're with me and You won't let go

Peace with my God -

-who I have neglected.
-who I have rejected.
-who I've ignored.
-who sings over me with beautiful lyrics.
-who died for me.
-who calls out to me.
-who cares for me.



And I know that you can give me rest                 So I cry out with all that I have left


I don't want to be Saul.
Through this fire - I want to be refined.
And through these jumbled lyrics, these thoughts that don't follow anywhere but inside my own brain:


I'm ready for this next adventure - through the pain, the heartache - to God be the glory for every second of it.









Full disclosure - I didn't know where I was going with this when I started writing this. I just wrote what came to mind. I don't know who my audience will be - outside of God, I'm not sure who will ever read this. If I do hit publish - its because I'm praying that someone else will understand the pain and the confusion and the beauty in everything that was written and if they are going through a similar struggle - that it will encourage them to know that they are not alone.

I guess I just want people to see that I'm not OK - and I think that's OK. Because I'm finally directing that pain to the place I lied about earlier - I'm trying - I'm really trying, to let God take over. I guess if you're reading this, pray for me. And pray for anyone remotely associated with anything I've written. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Escaping Life One Room At A Time

I remember the first time we talked about it.

The tripod, the three stranded cord that was my friendship with KD and Matt, were discussing things to do in Atlanta and Charleston on a week long road trip. Looking at a long list of activities to do on TripAdvisor, my eyes scanned the list, and somewhere in the midst of the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, the College Football Hall of Fame, the words "Escape Room" caught my attention.

I brought it up, and it sounded like the coolest thing ever. It was an adventure contained in a room. A real, breathing Sherlock Holmes story. The board game Clue brought to life. National Treasure without Nicholas Cage. It sounded almost too perfect.

We never did get around to doing an Escape Game in Atlanta or Charleston on that trip. The times didn't line up. We were too tired by the time we got to Atlanta to actually do anything that night. But it stayed in the back of our minds. And 5 months later, when we decided to drive to Charleston on a Sunday Night, it was brought back up. The rest, as they say, is history. At least it is to me.

Break Out: Charleston is the site of our first ever escape game. It was just the three of us and we were signed up to do the Serial Killer room. We had no idea what to expect, but what we got was a full hour of thrills. Despite the cost (usually about $25 a person) it was the one activity that I've found that I feel I've actually gotten my money's worth.

Unfortunately, being our first time in an escape room, we took too long, didn't think too much out of the box, and probably needed one more person in there with us - we were two locks away when the time ran out.

Despite defeat, it was the excitement, the rush, the thrill, and the picture of adventure that made us want to do it again. Especially me.

Two days later, I was in route to Liberty University with my friend Sean for WinterFest. We were going to see NEEDTOBREATHE, and Rend Collective, and Matthew West, and John Crist, and it was really awesome. But before we had even hit the road, I told Sean about my experiences in Charleston, and asked him if he would be willing to try one in Virginia. After he agreed, I didn't really do my research - but I found an escape game in Richmond. If we got up early the next morning, we could make the drive in three hours.

Yes, I was so hooked on the Escape Room experience that after returning from a concert at 2 a.m, I got up the next morning at 7, we were on the road by 8:30, and drove three hours across the Commonwealth of Virginia and checked in to Ravenchase's Adventures for the "The Crypt" escape room.

I had initially been disappointed - I really wanted to try their "Villians" Escape Room, but it was literally booked up in the hour it took me to get up with Sean about trying an escape room while in VA. Fortunately for me, The Crypt exceeded all of my expectations. To this day, it remains the most impressive escape game to me. Out of respect, I won't reveal huge spoilers for this room (or any other room) online, but the experience was made all the more real with an honest to goodness Crypt room like I was in an ancient Egyptian pyramid. Combined with ten strangers, we somehow figured out how to escape, and victory was ours.

If the thrill of the escape room was intoxicating even in defeat, then I'm not sure how to describe actually conquering an escape room. The great thing is, even if I wanted to, I couldn't tell you how we got out. There was so many locks, obstacles, codes, decoders, and hidden clues that there would have been no way for all of us to be involved in all of them.

That was eight months ago. Since then, I've checked out Cipher Escape (my only other loss, which happened in the Geek Room), Escape Games Live in York, PA (twice - beat the Sherlock Room, and my team defeated KD's team in the Showdown room - real life cops and robbers yo!), the Charleston Escape room again (we got our revenge by Escaping from Prison), and Bull City Escape (beating the Murder Mystery Room with less than one minute to go - and we will check out the Lunar Escape Room later this month).

So, I guess the big question is why? What is the big deal? Why am I so hooked?

To me - it's an escape from reality. It's a safe hobby - something I can immerse myself in for an hour and become something else. Whether it be a cop investigating a murder, a student of Sherlock Holmes, a bandit trying to escape from prison to meet up with Billy the Kid, or a real life treasure hunter, it means a brief escape from stresses of this world. It means entering into a world where bills haven't piled up. It means entering into a world where the many problems that exist between my family can simply go away for an hour or two.  It means entering into a focus - and using that focus to discover, not only more about the room, but more about myself - and, in the midst of it all - discovering more about God's plan for me.

I marvel at the adventure that can be set up for us in a room, at $25 a person.

But in the end, that's all it is - a distorted reality set up in a room. The room contains the adventure - and once you walk out the door, that adventure disappears. But the thrill of the adventure - the thrill of seeking the next one - remains.

Doing an escape room doesn't erase my problems or issues. It simply postpones them. Enjoying some quality fellowship with friends, working together, figuring out codes and finding locks - real or not - it's an enjoyable time - and that lasts much longer than the 60 minutes needed to escape.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Miles, More Miles, So Many Miles

In Africa, there are very few vehicles.
People used their own two legs to get around.
Someone whose legs didn't work, used a crutch
And despite being in pain, made every trip with joy.

You want food? You grow it, or walk to the market.
Go to school? Start walking. There are no buses here.
Go to high school? Pay up or get a job.
Staying at home was not an option.

But of all the places that people walked,
the church always stood above all.
Miles, more miles, so many miles
all to hear the Word of God.

When I was in Africa, I didn't live as the natives.
We rented a kombi to get around.
We only walked when the roads demanded it.
And each walk was an adventure.

The first walk was memorable, the kombi was stuck in dirt.
No mud, no sand, just a road unfit for a van.
Couldn't have been far, that first walk.
Took less than an hour to arrive.

Our destination was a hut, and the insides of which were no home to me
but every home to the occupant. A young woman,
my age, dying from disease, with no visible reason
starting singing praises to our God.

My heart broke when she went to her eternal home
for she taught me true joy in God.
I was the rich man, asking Jesus what should I do?
But my riches couldn't save her.

My riches were worthless.
Somehow only she knew that of
all the people present, she was the richest
and I, the poorest.

For revival, hundreds appeared.
Miles, more miles, so many miles walked.
Hungry for bread of eternal flavor;
thirsty for water that will forever cleanse.

They walked and suffered to praise God.
They did not complain or make excuses.
All they wanted was the Word.
What a novel concept.

Let's take away our cars.
Let's take away our distractions.
Let's take away our comfort.
Let's sing praises of joy?

Let's walk miles, more miles, so many miles.
Let's long for a hunger that food will not satisfy.
Needing to be fed the Word of God so bad
that nothing will stop us to hear.

But America, without our cars, our phones, our comfort
would find reason upon reason
not to use their own two legs to get around,
and if they did, would not do so with joy.

Forever I'll dream of a time where
the more important thing in a person's life
was walking miles, more miles, so many miles
because they loved their Lord.

Are our hearts hardened?
Has the world won out?
How is it possible for us not to know joy
when we have so little pain?

We have the advantage
There's literally no reason or excuse
that we can't drive miles, more miles, so many miles.
What a novel concept.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Make Their Day

It's been no secret that the past month has been a struggle for me. There's a few reasons for that. I'm still not back to "normal" following my return from Swaziland. I'm not sure that a bad thing. When you've had your eyes opened and your world and life changed, it's probably a good idea to redefine what "normal" is. The second reason is getting back to work. 

Work, for the first time, at least for me, has felt like "work."

I don't mean to imply that I've never really worked before at my job. Anyone who knows me knows I work hard at my job and I believe in what I do. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm passionate about my job and passionate about my students. I had a friend who is a parent to one of my students talk to me Sunday afternoon. She mentioned to me that she was praying for me, and she could easily see me becoming a full-time missionary and asked if I had ever though about doing something like that.

The truth is, yeah. I have. I think about it every day. I also think about trying to figure out how to get into sports radio every day as well. But, as she was talking and as she was asking about my thought process, her daughter ran behind her, and all I could say is, "Turn around. That's the reason why it's hard for me to ever think about doing anything else."

So, yeah, I work hard at my job. But because I was passionate about my job and about my students, my job never felt like work to me. It was a joy, every day, to come in and do my job. And I did my job well. Excellent, in fact. I have no qualms about saying I'm an excellent teacher. When I finish my self-assessment tomorrow, I'm going to say just as much. I'm confident in my ability to teach and to lead in my subject field.

With all that said...work has become "work." And, in my opinion, that's not a good thing.

I won't go into specifics. I've prayed for a good direction for my school, and I have to believe that everything that is going on at work is part of that good direction and that, in the end, myself and my educators will see the benefits of all of the "work" we are putting in now.

More often than not, I'm coming home, and I'm exhausted. I'm sitting on my couch and I'm brain-dead. I lie in my bed at night and try to come up with ways to stretch 5 hours of sleep into 9. And when I'm at work? I was a theatre student in college. I can act like everything is ok. And I can promote positive thinking and feelings among my co-workers. But the bottom line is, at the end of the day, when I'm rushing off to football practice, or to church, to see one of my youth group people, or to see friends, I can't help but think that I'm tired and nothing happened today to make my day.

So, after prayer, I've tried to counter-act that.

If I can't have my day made, then by God, I'm going to try to make someone else's day.

I know a have a few co-workers who read this, so I'll encourage them to do the same. Once a week (or more often if possible) I plan on doing something that is aimed at simply putting a smile on people's faces. It may be as simple as leaving a note in people's mailboxes, letting them know that I appreciate people as co-workers, as friends and as educators. It may be bringing breakfast to people. It may be going to people's room and asking if I can pray with them. It could be any number of things.

And, just think...if there was more than one person trying to make someone else's day?

We have the ability to change people's attitude, to change people's day, to change people's lives. And just because I'm not getting it from somewhere doesn't mean I can't give it out.

Jesus is love. Let's show each other love by making someone's day often.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

One more blog note.

I don't know who or how many people read this, but, if possible, I'd like some feedback.

I have thought about full-time mission work but I have no idea how or where to even get started. Anyone know what the first step is?

Last thing: attempting to follow the lead of the highly popular "I Am Second" movement and films, I want to start filming our own "I Am Second" videos. I'm starting at Kenly Missionary Baptist Church with our youth group. In the next couple of weeks, we will shoot the first video, which will feature yours truly. From there, I have a few names that I want to check with to see if they would want to participate. If you have no idea what I Am Second is, check it out at www.iamsecond.com and let me know what you think.

Remember, make their day and do everything you do to the glory of the one who made you.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Am I Justified With My Attitude At Work?

I was reading More Than Dodgeball (check it out...not a P.E. website!) and I came across this blurb.

So let’s help each other by running from this nonsense advice and see PEOPLE. People who you want to win—Jesus saw people and loved them and shared ALL that he had with them. It’s our greatest leadership example.
So in the case we find ourselves working in a situation where we can’t see the forest for the trees, here’s some better advice for us.
1. Let’s slow down and be open to helping others. The path of servanthood is the most rewarding path you/ we could ever choose.
2. Re-direct conversations in order to champion each other in life and in ministry. Be a grace giver. Even during times of healthy or requested criticism think about the each person and situation from a kind and considerate perspective.
3. Be a little more transparent about your life than what you’re used to.
4. Offer help if you have help to give. Be the biggest cheerleader your team has ever seen. Show up for others. Love them and their passions. A cord of three strands…it’s not a wussy and weak cord, it’s strong and not easily broken.
5. Look at people when you’re talking to them. Texting and phone calls are great. But make an effort to seek someone out. Across the street, across the hall, in their office, in the church- for a personal connection that only eye contact can give. Don’t be afraid of it. Let it be the gateway for genuine care.
5.5. Apologize from whatever position you’re in, for the moments when you’ve made a mistake or judged wrongly. Own them and learn from them. Lead in strength and compassion. Lean hard into God for wisdom in everything, and you’ll have great relationships as you work together in Jesus’ name.
- See more at: http://www.morethandodgeball.com/#sthash.GcKgatA2.dpuf
This hits me close to home because I know how I've reacted to certain situations at my job. Am I open to helping others? Do I try to champion my co-workers, whether they are "on my team" or not? Do I try to consider each person's perspective, and not just my own? How often have I offered help that I was able to give?

The truth of the matter is, I do feel like I am open to helping others...as long as it benefits me. I do champion my co-workers...if they haven't wronged me. I do consider each unique perspective...and then dismiss it because I'm obviously always right. I do offer help...again, when it makes me look better.

When you get down to the heart of the matter, I'm beginning to let the negativity and poor attitude that I've decided to adopt affect my job and affect how I act around my team and my co-workers. Yes, I think some things aren't fair sometimes. Yes, I feel under-appreciated. But, at the end of the day, while my job may not define who I am, I'd like to think the character and reputation I bring to my job will follow me where ever I go. And if that's the case, my character at work isn't something I want to follow me.

While it's hard to constantly be reminded that my job isn't as important as others, I need to always remember, that, like it or not, God's given me a platform to spread His Word. That platform, like it or not, extends to my co-workers, and the students I teach. What kind of example am I setting when I'm constantly bickering, complaining, or whining?

Just because I feel that I'm not treated with respect all of the time gives me no excuse. Jesus got put on a cross because of my sin. He died a horrible death because of my selfish nature. He was treated with the ultimate disrespect - all because he loved a sinner like me.

Showing Jesus to my co-workers and students, despite the rejection and disrespect, that's what I need to be doing. Stand my ground, but, as lesson 5.5 says, lean hard into God for wisdom in everything.

Time to make a change.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

If I Could Write A Letter To Me...

I was listening to Brad Paisley earlier today. It wasn't on purpose - just a random song out of 1500 songs on my phone. The song was "Letter To Me." The song starts like this...

"If I could write a letter to me, and send it back in time to myself when I was seventeen..."

17 for me was 10 years ago. And I remember it like it was yesterday. Not everything. But I remember my senior year vividly. In fact, I probably blogged about my senior year so much that I can probably go pull quotes from my old Xanga page if it still exists.  (Or not...I can't find it anymore.)

 But in the ten years between then and now, a lot has happened. And while I'm going through a time of questioning myself and my life, I think it's worth exploring the things that have made me the person I am today.

So...here goes nothing:

Dear Eric, aka "E" (yes, my nickname, originally "Big E" was just shortened to a single letter. People from my life at this time, when they see me, still call me "E".)

This is you, in the future. Ten years in the future. Don't believe me? Your room is completely trashed. You can't hide anything under the bed because you don't have a bed frame right now. Somehow, you are still getting mileage out of that Windows 2000 computer your parents bought 4 years ago. You have your own phone line, but no one can ever call out of it, because you are always connected through the dial up internet through Dockpoint. It's right after labor day, so you spent the entire summer lifeguarding and doing whatever you could to stay away from your Dad's grass mowing business. You're still rocking the 91..or is it 92? Pontiac Grand Prix.

Any more questions? Anyways, I'm here to let you know what's going to happen over the next ten years of your life. There's probably nothing you can do to change any of this, so, try to look shocked when some of these things happen.

As you probably know, you have a new cross country coach that you don't like. And while you are getting better with each practice, you will eventually lose your love of running and you'll never get it back. In fact, you will qualify for regionals, and your coach won't let you go for reasons I've never figured out. But, by the end of the season, you'll have your personal best time. I won't spoil what it is, but you'll be excited. No one will take that away from you.

You'll ask your best friend, Crystal, to the prom. And you'll do it in completely dorky fashion - during half time of a basketball game at North Duplin High School. In fact, the bus you were going to ride home will almost leave you because you picked the absolutely wrong time to ask that particular question, but she ends up saying yes, because ya'll are awesome friends and stuff. The prom will be held on a Thursday, and, despite what you think, it won't be your last, but it'll probably end up being your favorite. Try to keep up with those memories the best you can.

You will start announcing home basketball games and you'll fall in love with the microphone. This is a love that will never go away, and it will come in handy later. You'll be asked to participate in Showcase of Stars, but you end up dropping out because of the love of basketball and because you were on a mission to never let down Coach Bagwell. I can't tell you if you missed out on Showcase, but you'll forever cherish the friendship and mentorship you got from Coach Bagwell. Do as much as you can to learn from him.

You'll graduate without any kind of honors. And that will suck, but it's completely your fault. You should have worked a little harder on Calculus homework and pulled that C+ up higher. As it is, you'll be the only Honors Society member to graduate without honors. You missed it by a tenth of a point. You won't be too terribly disappointed later on though. Nobody cares about those things ten years later. And if they do, well, that's an entirely separate issue.

You'll go to Barton College. You will get lost on the way there because you have no sense of direction outside of Johnston County. It's a small school and you'll like that. Eventually, you'll make friends that you'll keep for years. Eventually. You won't make these friends right away, because even though you technically are a college student, you spend nearly all of your time at home. Tuesdays and Thursdays will be church volleyball, Wednesdays will be youth group, Friday is the weekend so you go home. The only day you stay on campus the entire day is Monday. Try to change that, but when you stay on campus, don't go to the poker games. You'll just lose your money.

One night when you return to the dorm from a church volleyball game, make sure you continue the conversation by the guy who wanted to start the Baptist Student Union. He'll be your best friend on campus for the next three years. Oh, and if you can, actually go to the BSU meetings the first three years. You'll see why you didn't go in a few minutes, but you are missing out on valuable ministry that could have helped you.

You'll be in the Young Disciples for your freshman year, and then that's it. You won't get a big send off that you envisioned. You won't need it. Take every opportunity to soak up knowledge and advice from Preacher Donald. You will miss him so much when he's gone.

This next part is big. You're going to meet a girl on a trip to the Judgment House. And it'll take you six months to do anything about it. And when you finally do something about it, you'll actually do something about it in the middle of another prom when you were invited by someone else. You will eventually regret ruining someone else's prom for your own selfish desires. That girl would have still been around the next day or week. Don't be a jerk. Because, if nothing else, you'll ruin a friendship for what will eventually be nothing.

In fact, while we're on the part about the big relationship you'll have over the course of the next ten years, take this advice: just because you want to be loved, and you want to have the life you see on Friends and the same life that everyone else has doesn't been you need to have that life. And you are loved. People do love you. You don't have to immediately think that your relationship will last forever simply because you are in a relationship. Take it slow. And whatever you think is slow, take it slower. Because five years from that point, you will feel such hurt that you never knew was possible. You will literally want to die. You won't go as far as to do something about it, but you'll think about it for a few months. Your depression won't be noticed beyond the first week because you are good at hiding things. You can avoid a depression that bad in the first place by not giving yourself, your life, your soul, and your heart to a girl that you aren't married to.

I don't mean to knock that five year relationship. You had fun. You grew up. There were a lot of good moments. But at the same time, you never explored your friendships in college. You stopped caring about your grades and your classes - to the point that your GPA dipped below a 2.3. And your relationship with God...it would be gone. Again, you're great at hiding things. You are even better at putting on a good show for people. People will assume you are the great Christian guy. Your friends will believe you because you've never given them a reason to doubt. When asked if you were going too far, you can make up a scripture or rationalization so you can get your way. You will be the king of quoting scripture out of context. It won't always be this way - God will put himself in the center of your life later...but it'll hurt. A lot.

You will be bullied in college. This is not something you will ever talk about to anyone because at 19 years old, you think people shouldn't be bullied. You were never bullied in high school, why now? You will contemplate switching schools. Don't do it. You'll eventually grow to love Barton College. One of your best friends is here at Barton. Your friendship will grow so much more after you graduate. Oh, and being bullied happens when you're an adult in the real world too.

You will have a skill for putting together P.E. lesson plans. You won't be the best athlete. You won't have the best skills for basketball or volleyball or soccer. But you will be a great teacher. And even though you will mess up teaching the Electric Slide to the Catholic School down the street from Barton, you'll rebound.

You will be overweight and people will not take you as seriously as they would an athlete in the P.E. program. You are far more athletic than people will give you credit for, but it won't matter. Fight for the chance to prove yourself. When you take gymnastics with Dr. McCrumb, and you to the running forward roll, demand to keep jumping over people. They'll stop you at 5, but you can make 6. Make that extra push. Don't ever let your weight be a reason not to do something.

You'll fail Anatomy. Twice. You will not like Tom Brugh. You will pass with flying colors the third time you take it, and it probably has nothing to do with the fact that Jane Kolunie taught it. This is significant because this will delay you from graduating with your friends in 2008. Take advantage of that by taking more religion courses. Go in with an open mind and your faith will be strengthened.

You will move out of your parents house for good before your last year in school. Save your money. It doesn't grow on trees. You don't need all the crap you think you need to survive.

You'll fall in love with teaching elementary kids. That dream you have of being a great high school basketball coach will never happen because of this. It won't matter. Your time student teaching at Vinson-Bynum will be a fond memory. The relationships carved out there will set the tone for the relationships you'll make at your first place of employment.

You will get a job as a youth director at a Methodist Church. You'll love those kids too. All of them. You won't be that good of a youth director, though. You are going to be in a little over your head. And at this point, you are putting "girl" ahead of "God" on the priority list.

When you graduate, you won't get a job right away. In fact, you won't get a call back until mid-August. You'll drive to northern Franklin County and you will suck at the interview. Let's face it, you will make terrible first impressions. I'm still not sure how to fix that one. You will be devastated. You won't be employed for the first month of the school year.

You'll be a substitute and you will sub a few times in Wilson County. Remember that your Youth Pastor job? Some of those parents have your back and they will recommend you at Glendale-Kenly Elementary. You'll get the job too. And you'll fall in love with those kids too. All 650 of them. It'll be the best part of your job.

Right after you get your job...this is where you will hurt. Your heart will be broken. Your spirit will be crushed. One of your best friends will be in the hospital while this is going on. So will your mom. The first full weekend in January 2010 will be the worst you'll ever encounter. Talk to someone. Don't hold it in. Don't hold a grudge. And for God's sake, move on. Because if you stay focused on all this junk, you won't find peace and it will affect every relationship you will have, at least up until this point.

The good news that comes out of all of this is that you will get the message from God. And for the first time in your life, you will actually make an honest effort to be a Christian. It will turn your life around.

Your best friend from high school won't be your friend later on. You'll have a difference of opinion on religion and you will cease to be friends. It will hurt you. You'll think about him every day.

You will love coaching football. You will love teaching your kids. You will struggle with alcohol and with your confidence. You will feel like a saint at some points and like the biggest hypocrite at others. You will become friends with your co-workers and they will become your work family. They will be your best friends, and you will do whatever you can to try to make sure they are having a good day, because the bottom line is, if they are having a good day, then so are you.

You will discover mission work. You'll do mission work in South Carolina. And then you will go to Africa.

Yeah. Africa. That Africa.

You will visit a country called Swaziland and you will fall in love. And then you will visit a second time, and you'll wonder why you ever left. You will go with complete strangers that will turn into lifelong friends. You will look to these people for guidance and for confidence. They will make you feel like you are worth something.

You will encounter the Holy Spirit in Africa, and you will wonder why you've never felt that at home.

Your new nickname will be Teddy amongst your African cohorts, friends, and fellow missionaries.

You will eventually love to sing. You will eventually love to preach.

You will feel alone, abandoned, shameful, hated, mocked, bullied, and disregarded at times in your life. You'll feel these things from work, from friends, from life. You will lack self-confidence.

You will also feel loved. There's no greater word. That's the only word. Loved.

This letter is going long, so I will end it with this: the next ten years is a bumpy path, but I don't regret anything. You'll be a rock. You are going to be so strong, not just physically, but spiritually, in ten years. You'll know where you stand in life, and with God. You won't be married, you won't have kids, but you'll be OK with that when the time gets here. Your beautiful hair will be gone too, but you'll make it work.

If nothing else, take this advice. Spend time with your family. Your dad may work you to death, but he loves you and will do anything to help you. Your mom will sacrifice more than you will ever want to know. Don't be ashamed to spend time with them.

Reach out to your brothers and sister. If you don't, you may never get the opportunity again.

Some people will always be there for you. Always make time for those people.

Remember this phrase: "I Am Second." That means putting God first. Ahead of girls, ahead of video games, ahead of TV, ahead of books, ahead of yourself.

When you're feeling low, remember that these are nowhere near the best days of your life.

The best is yet to come.

Sincerely,

Eric Creech
September 5th, 2013