Shine a Light on Slavery

End Slavery

Slavery exists and is a thriving $32 Billion business. Many slaves are sold here in the United States. It’s estimated that there are 27 Million people living as slaves today, many of which are sold for organs or sex.

Today is Shine a Light on Slavery Day. Please do what you can, like placing a red X on your hand to start a conversation, show your support, and help bring this issue to attention.

http://enditmovement.com/ is also raising money for anti-slavery coalitions doing incredible work around the world, if you’re feeling generous.

Slavery Infographic

2013: The Year of Regret?

2013Was 2013 a year of regret for you?

I kept seeing social media posts on New Year’s Eve. They said things like, “good riddance” and “2014 has to be better.” These posts started to weigh on me and make me think. Was 2013 so bad?

For me, life is mostly what you make of it. Sure, bad things happen to good people, but so do good things. It is important for us to be thankful for what we have, even if it seems very little. It’s actually quite great.

2013 was an incredible year for me. I cranked up my credit card debt while some loved ones battled cancer and Alzheimer’s. Some of my friends and family lost their jobs. Some expensive items were broken and had to be replaced. There were many days where I felt less than motivated. Very few of my favorite sports teams came close to winning any championships or trophies. Oh, and thousands of babies were aborted each day, before they were given a chance to love and be loved. It was truly spectacular!

In 2013, my amazing girlfriend said yes to my marriage proposal. My incredible son graduated from kindergarten and started 1st grade. He was also involved in the Boy Scouts, AWANA, and soccer. I ended the year 7 pounds lighter due to a diet change. I gained a couple of new mentors at work. Some of my friends got married and a few others brought new lives into the world. I met my adorable niece. Two of my brothers found fantastic new girlfriends and I found some great new friends too. My company’s stock traded at an all-time high and set a company record for recruits within a single week. Some incredible bands performed live for me and I was able to meet a few of the musicians face to face. None of my family or friends passed away. I finally read the entire Bible. On top of that, I was able to give more than 10% of my income back to the one who gives us everything.

It is possible that my friends were only focused on their 2013 setbacks. Let’s live without regret.

I hope everyone has an excellent 2014, while you remember to be thankful for 2013 and the years past.

Three questions to ask your marketing team

Seth Godin

(or your business development team, your fundraising team or your pr folks)…

Who are you trying to reach?

If you say you are trying to reach everyone, I’ll know you’re likely to reach no one. How specifically can you identify the psychographics, worldview and needs of the people we seek to change?

Why do they decide to support us?

In order to earn the donation, make the sale, generate the buzz, we need to change people somehow. When we change them, what happens? What story do they tell themselves?

What do you need in order to make this happen more often?

What resources, tools or facts need to be present for this to work for you? What do we have to change about our products, our services or our people? How do you know?

(reposted from Seth Godin as a reminder to me of these basic fundamentals)

 

Late night answers

[written at 4am]

Tonight I lay awake, as I have on many nights before. Unlike those nights, something special happened.

My mind was racing. It kept coming back to a meeting I had, where a woman was abusively talking about my work and I did not stand up for it. I replayed the meeting in my head, trying to learn from it and thinking of what I could have said. I was considering a confrontation.

I knew that these thoughts were keeping me awake, so I turned to prayer. I prayed to bring me closer to God, to get my mind off from work, and to ask for rest. During that prayer, I started wondering, “why don’t we have any recent signs or great miracles that could prove God’s existence?” I know that He speaks to us through the Bible, so I turned to it.

My Bible app prompted me with this verse of the day, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) To me, THAT was a message from God. He’s telling me not to look for signs and miracles, but to have faith in what is unseen.

This message brought joy to my heart, so I looked no further, but was still wide awake. I turned to a book I have been reading, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, to help me fall asleep. It referenced Proverbs 9 without much explanation, so I looked it up. Here is what I found:

Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. (Proverbs 9:7)

Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. (Proverbs 9:8)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Proverbs 9:10)

If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it. (Proverbs 9:12)

WOW!

This is further proof of God speaking to us through the Bible. I understood this as Him saying, “Levi, you had questions. Here are some answers. Don’t try to argue with that woman, she will only hate you for it. Come to me when you have questions or doubts. Don’t argue with her to show your knowledge of the subject. She doesn’t need to know.”

I feel blessed by these two messages,especially since they were so close to each other and because I felt that I needed a sign. I hope to never have that feeling again, but if I do, I know where to go.

A Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are the truth, the life, and the way. We are nothing without you, for you give us love, grace, and forgiveness of our sins. There is none above you.

Thank you for the wisdom and strength you give us in times of need. There is nothing that we cannot overcome with you by our sides.

Please open our hearts and minds to you and keep us free from the evil in this world. We trust in your plans for us, Lord, but may sometimes be confused. Please give us the wisdom to overcome this confusion and help us reject our sinful natures.

Our lives are given to you. Please use them to your will and let us bring honor and glory to your name.

My Musical Milestone

Jars of Clay - setup

Do you see what the men in the photo above are doing? They are setting up their own equipment for an intimate performance. Their first two records went Platinum, yet here they are, non-pretentious and real. This band has earned incredible respect from me on Saturday night at The Social in Orlando. They also created a musical milestone for me.

You probably know the band from THIS song. It’s called “Flood” and it’s an incredible song. They played it for us on Saturday night, but it is only part of what makes the band brilliant. Their music is inspiring and versatile. You can turn on their music to relax and think or to pick up and add energy to your day. They seem to have a song for any occasion. In fact, they played a song at The Social my fiancée, Christina, and I will use at our wedding.

Jars of Clay released their first major record in 1995. They’ve made multiple records and sold millions of copies since then, but the guys are still humble. Christina has followed the band for 16 years and has now seen them perform live 31 times. When the band walked into the venue, they stopped to say hello to a few fans as their opening act performed on stage. Charlie, the keyboardist, asked us to stay later catch up. After the show, each of the members met with us. They all knew Christina and congratulated us on our engagement. They gladly signed our new vinyl and were taking pictures with fans.

Jars of Clay - The Social

Steve, Charlie, Dan, and Matt, have a new record releasing tomorrow. We were fortunate to pick up an advanced copy of Inland while at the show. It is an impressive record. The title track, “Inland,” is thought-provoking and gets stuck in my head each time I hear it. So far, I have enjoyed all the tracks, with special note to “Loneliness and Alcohol” and “After the Fight.” To me, there are songs reminiscent of bands like The Killers and Arctic Monkeys. I recommend picking up a copy tomorrow or downloading the pre-released songs on iTunes today.

Seeing Jars of Clay at The Social was a musical milestone for me. The guys were incredibly talented, humble, and personable. The venue was intimate and the sound was great. It was my first time seeing the band live and unless they quit touring, I’ll be seeing them many more times. Christina and I found a new song to add to our wedding playlist, “Fall Asleep” from Inland, and a few more by them will be played there for sure. Over the past year, I have listened to Jars of Clay a lot (966 times without counting from my car according to Last.fm). When I couple that with my experience on Saturday night, I am inclined to call them my favorite band, although U2 has been my favorite for the last 25 years.

So now I’m wondering … have you had a similar experience with Jars of Clay? Have you had a similar experience with a different band? Do you have a favorite music experience you’d like to share? Have you ever seen a well-known band at an intimate venue, like The Social? Please let me know in the comments below.