|Posted by Ernest on March 23, 2023 at 7:45 AM|
After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August of 2005, I was deployed as a chaplain with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Rapid Response Team to Gulfport Mississippi. My deployment occurred in September just a few weeks after that category 5 hurricane devasted the Gulf Coast that resulted in nearly 1400 fatalities and approximately $125 billion in damage. When I arrived, the area was simply a disaster zone. Our assignments as chaplains were to go into the affected neighborhoods and talk to residents along with offering encouragement and prayer to them. Also, we partnered with Samaritan’s Purse that provided physical aid to the residents we encountered.
Each day the chaplains were paired up and provided a map with addresses for our assigned area to minister. The first few days went as I expected in which we ministered to individuals who were poverty stricken or working class and disproportionately impacted by the hurricane. One morning, we received our assignments as normal and went out to the designated area. I was perplexed as to why we were assigned this area because it consisted of stately homes in an obviously wealthy area of Gulfport. In my heart I was not feeling this assignment, because I felt these residents had adequate insurance and resources to ‘weather this storm.’ When we entered the home of the first resident in that neighborhood and listened to her recount the harrowing experience through tears and showed us the damages to her home, the Holy Spirit immediately convicted my heart.
My job was not to assess the residents’ socio-economic status. Although I was the only Black chaplain deployed in that area, my job was not to just minister to people who looked like me. My job was to provide emotional and spiritual care to everyone that I encountered. I was a crisis-trained chaplain whose job was to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus Christ and share God’s hope. While on vacation in the Mississippi Gulf Coast this week, I was reminded of the most important lesson that I’ve ever learned in ministry from that experience.
Do you understand your assignment?
|Posted by Ernest on March 16, 2023 at 7:40 AM|
For collegiate basketball fans like me, March Madness is our favorite time of the year. This represents the NCAA’s single-elimination tournament of men’s and women’s basketball teams who are competing for the national championship. While madness is exciting as it relates to this basketball event, it’s not something that we desire in life. First madness can mean a state of severe mental illness. Also, it can describe extremely foolish behavior. Further, it can define a state of frenzied or chaotic activity.
You will hear terms like Bracketology, Selection Sunday, Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, Cinderella, and the Big Dance mentioned during this basketball tournament. Bracketology is a means of predicting what teams will participate and ultimately win the championship, but to win in life we must plan for success. Selection Sunday normally causes a lot of debate, because many argue that certain teams that were ‘on the bubble’ should have made the tournament over others. Sometimes we may be excluded from certain things in life, but we can adopt the mindset to chart our own course and forge our own paths. I recently heard someone say if you don’t have a seat at the table, then buy or build your own table. I always love the Cinderella who represents a lower ranked team that upsets higher seeded teams and makes a deep run in the tournament. We can be encouraged by this to know that anything that we perceive as a barrier or deficiency can be overcome with determination and a great work ethic.
Today I encourage you to get ready to go dancing, because you have been selected to succeed. I’m cheering for all of us to win in this tournament called life!
|Posted by Ernest on March 2, 2023 at 1:05 AM|
I have always enjoyed superhero cartoons and movies. As a child, the Super Friends was my favorite cartoon. I especially enjoyed the Challenge of the Superfriends series where the Superfriends would battle the villains from the Legion of Doom. The villains knew the weaknesses of the Super Friends and sought to exploit those areas. Even today as an adult, I enjoy all Marvel and DC movies along with the never-ending battle of good versus evil.
Samson was a biblical superhero of sorts who possessed supernatural strength and served as a Judge of Israel. Although the Spirit of God would often move upon him to accomplish miraculous feats, he allowed his weaknesses (lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and the pride of life) to be his downfall. In particular, he made poor relationship decisions with women. The most infamous of those women was Delilah who wore him down to find the secret of his strength which allowed the Philistines to capture and blind him. Samson was redeemed when he prayed to God, but he ended up dying with his enemies. Since we have free will like Samson, we must be careful not to allow our strengths to create blind spots that lull us into making bad decisions that harm us and abort our purpose.
During a job interview, a common question is to inquire of strengths and weaknesses which provides an employer insight into how a candidate conducts self-assessment and balances out the existing team in the workplace. Many organizations perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis to gauge performance and understand their competition. All of us have areas of life in which we are both strong and weak. Even the strongest of all superheroes, Superman, was vulnerable to kryptonite. We should not become overly confident in our strengths that we feel that we are not susceptible to our weaknesses. Instead, we should celebrate our strengths and not allow our weaknesses to damage our esteem, growth, and progress.
|Posted by Ernest on February 23, 2023 at 12:15 AM|
One of the great things about living in South Carolina is that we truly experience all four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and autumn. On occasions, we can experience all four seasons in the same week. Seasons can be described as the four divisions of our year characterized by varying weather patterns and daylight hours because of the earth’s position to the sun. Today’s date is February 23, so it’s technically still winter. While ‘Old Man Winter’ has parts of our country in his stronghold, we are enjoying temperatures in the upper 70s this week.
After work yesterday, I enjoyed some down time at Unity Park. While there and other places in town, I captured some photos of the signs of spring. In our state, we are seeing evidence of the great awakening from winter as trees are budding, flowers are blooming, insects are flying, and snakes are crawling. According to the calendar, we should not be experiencing all this activity because spring is not scheduled until March 20.
In life, we have seasons as well. Winter is a time when we experience coldness, darkness, death, harshness, and isolation. Spring is a time when we experience rebirth and renewal. Summer is a time we enjoy recreation and relaxation. Autumn is a time we deal with fading beauty, loss, and transition. If you don’t like the current season of life that you’re in, then remember that seasons change. Just because you’re in winter, doesn’t mean that you can’t experience spring – just ask a South Carolinian. If you are a Christian, your season is determined by your position to the SON not your external circumstances.
|Posted by Ernest on February 16, 2023 at 12:10 AM|
Well, Valentine’s Day is over. Did you celebrate it or survive it? It’s interesting to hear and read how some Single Adults and even some Married Adults dread Valentine’s Day. There are various reasons stated by each group for such a negative reaction to this holiday. Personally, I celebrated with my local Singles’ group. We enjoyed a delicious dinner together from White Wine & Butter restaurant while engaging in conversation with other Single Adults in our area. Further, I enjoyed seeing the various expressions of love that were displayed Tuesday: whether that was a school class exchanging cards and treats; a married couple commemorating their anniversary; or a single adult simply treating themselves.
Many years ago, I used to attend a conference hosted by Minister Barbara Josey at Queen Street Baptist Church in Greenville entitled “After the Chocolate.” This conference would be held around Valentine’s Day each year. It was an amazing event of fellowship, worship, and biblical teaching about romantic relationships and sexuality. No one could break down the lessons on chocolate and sexuality like Minister Josey. Minister Josey if you’re reading this, I think we are well overdue for one of these conferences in the Upstate.
After I left the gym Wednesday night, I stopped by my local Walmart grocery store to pick up a few items. Upon entrance into the store, I noticed several discounted signs of 50% on candy, flowers, and stuffed animals. While we all love a good sale, this triggered other thoughts in my mind.
Unfortunately, some individuals allow themselves to be treated like these leftover candy, flowers, and stuffed animals. First, I mentioned that Walmart had moved these items to the entrance of the store for easy accessibility. If we are seeking a romantic relationship, then we must be careful about who we grant access into our lives. Next, the items were discounted by 50 percent. We must be careful not to lower our standards to attract the attention of someone into our lives. The last thing that I noticed was that the discounted items were all rummaged through. If we allow ourselves to be easily accessed and lower our standards, then we can expect to be exposed to relationships that will leave us confused, in a mess, and out of order.
As we continue to celebrate or survive love, let’s know our worth and demand the best for our lives!
|Posted by Ernest on February 9, 2023 at 1:05 AM|
As an avid follower of various sports, I often witness the debate about what athletes are the Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T.) among fans. Personally, my two favorite sports are basketball and tennis. Fans of the NBA cannot agree if the G.O.A.T. is Michael Jordan, Lebron James, or Bill Russell (had to include a Celtics player). Fans of women’s tennis cannot agree if the G.O.A.T. is Serena Williams, Steffi Graf, or Martina Navratilova. Fans of men’s tennis cannot agree if the G.O.A.T. is Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, or Roger Federer. Compelling arguments can be made why each athlete is the G.O.A.T. In boxing Muhammad Ali solved the debate for his sport in his self-proclamation that “I am the greatest.” Instead of debating the issue, I just appreciate the greatness of each of these athletes in their respective sports.
Even in the Bible, the mother of Zebedee’s sons asked Jesus to grant them to sit on His left and right sides in the Kingdom. They were seeking an appearance or position of greatness. Jesus taught whoever desires to be great must learn to serve. Dr. King’s quote that “everyone can be great, because everyone can serve” is based off this biblical principle.
In the dictionary, we will find that the definition of great means being above average or above normal. Just like some sports fans or the mother in the Bible, we may become so preoccupied with the greatness of others that we neglect our own potential greatness. What does that mean for us personally? What areas do we desire to be great? How do we measure greatness in our lives?
It is my desire that each of us will be great humans, great citizens, great employees, great entrepreneurs, great single adults, great spouses, great siblings, great children, great parents, great friends, great students, and great neighbors. Our world needs our greatness. #BeGreat
|Posted by Ernest on February 2, 2023 at 12:00 AM|
A few years ago, the Men’s Ministry of my church particpated in a book study of Releasing Your Potential by the late Dr. Myles Munroe. From the onset of chapter 1, I knew that I would be challenged by the words of such a great man of God.
The title of chapter 1 is “The Tragedy of Unreleased Potential.” Here are some riveting quotes from that chapter:
This book challenges me to this day to live out my God-given purpose here on the Earth. Whenever my life ends, I don’t want the eulogist to say that ‘he had so much potential.’ Every time we pass a cemetery, we should ask ourselves: ‘will I have graveyard potential?’
|Posted by Ernest on January 26, 2023 at 12:00 AM|
As consumers, most of us are sensitive to the cost of goods and services. Just mentioning the cost of gas and now eggs among other grocery items is a sore subject. When I was a freshman at Clemson University, I vividly recall my economics professor, Dr. Holly Ulbrich, teaching us about opportunity cost. This is a business term used the describe benefits that are lost when choosing one option over another.
Since life is full of choices, I’m wondering what benefits we forfeit when choosing one option over another. When we choose to remain in our comfort zones, what life experiences do we miss? When we choose to only associate with others like us, what world views do we shield ourselves from? When we refuse to develop our potential, what lives do we negatively impact? When we constantly engage in drama, what peace of mind do we forfeit? When we settle for second best, what first place benefits do we lose.
We all have made decisions that we regret, but life can’t be lived over. Let’s not go through life miserable at our personal opportunity costs.
|Posted by Ernest on January 19, 2023 at 1:00 AM|
How intelligent are you when it comes to your relationships? Since last fall, I have been studying the topic of Relational Intelligence as presented by Dr. Dharius Daniels. Dr. Daniels is one of my favorite preachers. He defines Relational Intelligence as the ability to discern if someone should be a part of our lives and what place they should occupy, and then align them accordingly. It’s the ability to define and align our relationships.
In his book, Dr. Daniels strategically provides readers the following practical process to define, discern, align, and assess our relationships.
o Category 1: Friends
o Category 2: Associates
o Category 3: Assignments
o Category 4: Advisors
o Evaluation (Fruit Inspection)
o What Kind of Friend Are You?
o A Model for Healthy Relationship Building
o How’s It Going?
Why does Dr. Daniels believe relationships are so important? His response is that he believes relationships are ‘purpose partners’ because purpose isn’t just about what we do. Purpose is also about who we become. Therefore, relationships shape us into becoming someone and who we become ultimately impacts whether we carry out our purpose. People in our life don’t always help us do something, but they do help us become someone, and in that sense, people are ‘purpose partners.’
His discussion on Relational Intelligence really resonates with me. In part because much of this subject matter was taught to me by my Mother when I was a child. I challenge each of us to examine our relationships. We may be surprised by what is revealed to us.
Further, for those of us who receive our instruction from the Word of God, you can review this website to meditate on scriptures about friendships: https://www.openbible.info/topics/friendship
|Posted by Ernest on January 12, 2023 at 8:10 PM|
Each January, I am temporarily inconvenienced by overcrowding at my local gym. It is due to those who make resolutions for the new year to improve their fitness, which is admirable. I asked myself why does gym attendance get lighter by February; but most importantly, why do I not achieve some personal goals which I establish each year on my birthday and not for the new year? Is it a lack of commitment, or do we simply not set S.M.A.R.T. goals to achieve our desired results.