5 Lessons from Disney’s The Lion King

It’s no secret that one of my favorite childhood movies as “The Lion King”.  But what I didn’t realize growing up all of the lessons that Disney hid in the characters, the dialogue, and the locations hidden within the movie.  I was reviewing some of my favorite moments, and decided to reflect on lessons I picked up on and wanted to share.

 

Scene1

Scene 1 : “Inheritance” 

In this scene, Mufassa takes Simba away from the pack and speaks to him alone. “Everything the light touches, is our kingdom….. A King’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun, one day the sun will set on my time here and will rise with you as the new king.

This short 45 second scene is a symbol of how us as Fathers and leaders of our own ‘packs’ must speak life and royalty into the lives of our offspring. Showing them the kingdom which awaits their full maturation. It also introduces a hard conversation that we as a people don’t like to have in preparation for death and handing over the torch. The ‘kingdom’ is Simba’s inheritance from His Father and those before him, what kingdom are you leaving your children so that may experience life more abundantly because of your sacrifice?

Scene2

Scene 2: “No Worries” 

In this scene(s) of Lion King, Simba meets Timon and Pumba. They help raise Simba from this deep oppressive and depressing state of mind. Introducing him to the concept of ‘Hakuna Matata’ ( a Swahili phrase translating to ‘no trouble, no worries’).

It’s important to have a time like this in our lives that we are focused on discovering ourselves, eating new foods, traveling to new places, and allowing our purpose to take form in whatever capacity that is. Timon and Pumba had one flaw though, they did not recognize Simba for the King that he was. Having people around that don’t recognize when you’re living beyond your calling can be dangerous. And yet they were content with having a friend at the top of the food chain… *

Be careful not to rest in this careless and carefree state for too long, there’s a purpose for you to fulfill and people depending on you to use your gift to transform the world.

Scene5

Scene 3 : “You Are More than What You’ve Become…”

Rafiki was trying to teach more than Simba a lesson: “You are more than what you’ve become….” … Remember WHO you are, Acknowledge WHOSE you are… Rafiki literally took him away from his carefree life of Timon and Pumba and reminded him that he had a larger calling on His life to be a King and it was time to grow up and live out his purpose. It’s amazing what being led to WATER and forced to deal with the man/woman in the mirror.

Scene4

Scene 4: “The Past Hurts…”

Here Rafiki slams Simba across the head to teach him a lesson about the Past.

Simba after confronting his shortcomings with His father admits he’s spent all this time bug eating and chillin because he was afraid to face his past essentially RUNNING from a lie. *

Truth is the Past can hurt, and facing it head on can be extremely intimdating with lots of doubt. However, how long are you going to run away from the truth? How many ppl will suffer on ‘pride rock’ because you have too much of it…to face the truth and grow? *

Don’t let a moment hold you back from a mountain there are people counting on you in this world.

Scene 3

Scene 5: “The Right Person, but the Wrong Time”

n the early part of the movie, Zazu told Nala and Simba that they had been “bethrowed” or planned to be married…their reaction in the top of the pic. DISGUSTED.

About 2/3 of the movie they are reunited and share never before affection, reaction in bottom pic.

I believe this is where the idea “The Right Person at the Wrong time” comes into play. Sometimes we’ve known “The One” for a long time in our lives but some maturation has to take place for one another to appreciate and realize that its more than a casual affection for one another. Simba literally had to go away, get out all his foolishness, and be reminded of His calling before He could ever lead Nala and the kingdom. Likewise Nala though much more mature grew up and learned what a Real King is supposed to be, standing up to Scar and not settling since he was the “king” *

Fellas, you can call yourself a King but until you put away childish ways you’ll never get your Queen or Kingdom. Ladies, don’t settle for a man that may look like a king but obviously doesn’t know what one is supposed to do. Live out your purpose and let God direct you !

 

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Sweep Streets

 

Each year on or around January 15, we celebrate the tremendous and world transformative life of the legendary Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   There are oratory contests, days of service, parades, and commemorations spread out around the United States to celebrate and lift up the name of justice. And not the least of the memories, is the famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  However, this year, I found myself becoming wrapped in another one of King’s “sermons” if you will.  “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint”, a short speech given by King at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967.  For a quick moment I want to talk about the street sweeper…

See the climate of 1967 was just as rough as any during the civil rights movement, and Dr. King had taken a few moments to go speak to a group of middle school students and empower them beyond their violent climate. Moreover, he called the students to consider their blueprint or plan if for their very own lives. Calling them OUT of the struggles of being a negro during the civil rights movement to be the best at whatever their various commissions may have been.  About 10 minutes into his speech he switches from giving his reasons, and over to the calling.

See Full Speech Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmtOGXreTOU

In King speech he proclaims: “Stay in school, and when you discover what you’re going to be in life, set out to do it like God almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it…” And don’t just setout to do a good “Negro” job, but do a good JOB. That ANYBODY could do […]  And set out to do that job so well, that living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.  If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

 

Makes you think right? I’ve heard snippets of this speech many times and know the poetic commission of the “Street sweeper” but it wasn’t until I had my first meal of 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana that I saw it manifested for myself.  My friends and I celebrated NYE in NOLA, and concluded our trip with  lunch at Mandina’s Restaurant off of Canal St. As we awaited in the bar area for our table to be made ready, we found ourselves unknowingly staring at one of the bus boys.  We initially began joking and how quickly he would bus down a table, clean it, and have it setup for the next party. He was seemingly doing it in one fell swoop.  We kept watching as he adjusted from bus boy to server, and back to the tables just to keep the flow of traffic and patrons reasonable.  Shortly after that we were seated and began to order, and all throughout the time at the restaurant we found ourselves continuing to be amazed and how he flowed through the rows of tables, around the servers, and barely missing the patrons as the morning and afternoon progressed.  Just like Martin alluded, it truly was like art. He had a subtle smile on his face and was the only bus boy that we noticed in the restaurant.  As we concluded our meal, we requested to see the manager and brag not on our waiter but on the bus boy. That we had never seen anything like that and wanted to make sure he got his due of credit for an enjoyable experience.  The manager mentioned that he loved that job, and he even tried to make him a waiter at one point, but it didn’t work out.  The kid just wanted to be a bus boy…

 

 

It was at that moment that it hit me. Not that this man’s life calling was to be a bus boy, but in that moment, his dedication to that job allowed me to notice a splendor of God that was over him and even my own life. It was in such a way that I realized if you can do a job or vocation so well that it points people to God, you are indeed called in that moment for a reason and a season.  Whatever it may be that you are called to do, do it like the street sweeper Martin talked about, do it so well like the bus boy that you outshine those that may have higher positions than you.  When you are equipped with skill, passion, and joy its no longer work but a commission to transform people, places, or things into a better representation of themselves.  So on this Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day, in addition to your plans you may have, I want you to think about what you’ve been called to do. I want you to consider all the people that are waiting on you to accept your calling and bless their lives. I believe there are blessings God has for people around you, that He’s waiting to speak and demonstrate through you after you submit to obedience. Let today be that day as you embark into the remaining months, weeks, and days of 2018. No matter how low or high the position, do it for the glory.   Happy King Day to all the “Street Sweepers!”

 

. With Passion, Purpose, and Pride,

Trent J ACEO

 

I’ll Make Your Name Great

 Greatness comes from within. Meaningful actions, allow others to witness it.

The enemy of good is great” is how Jim Collins opens one of my favorite books entitled From Good to Great.  All throughout that book he demonstrates how we as people settling for what’s good, or considered all right has too often become the norm.  In fact, I’d argue that there’s more greatness available, because so many have decided that being just a little bit better than the man or woman next to them will suffice.  So many people do not tap into their potential for a variety of reasons by which we must overcome.  Well the concepts that surround how to define, how to uncover, how to live greatness are not just reserved to Collins in his book. In a few events I’ve been paying close attention to, I was reminded that becoming great seems to follow a very unique formula and I wanted to try and unpack what’s been running through the waves of my mind for a few weeks now.

It is no secret that I’m a man of faith, and I enjoy the peace and privilege that my faith has brought me thus far in my life.  I often use the Bible as a reference for my blogs because let’s be honest there’s some pretty good material in there whether you believe in God/Christ or not. The writers of that text were certainly divinely inspired even though the context of the material can be sometimes construed. (Another topic, another blog).  As it relates to greatness, God uses all kinds of people throughout the Bible to prove points, prove His power, solidify his sovereignty, and most importantly demonstrate His Love.  But what many people don’t realize is other than Jesus, He doesn’t use ‘perfect’ or likely people to get these things accomplished.  My pastor shared a quote with me many years ago when I first moved to Houston, “God doesn’t call the perfect, He perfects… the called.” – MDC.   That by far has resonated so powerfully with me, because for one it’s true, and two… I’m not perfect. So it reassured me that I could somehow still be used even though I’m a pretty messed up guy. All of us have our flaws, but I’ve been amazed at how one small thing about us, or one decision made by us can be used to literally redirect and retransform how our lives are shaped up. I keep hold of my faith, because all the examples of the ‘giants’ in the text are all people that were by all accounts just average, and by some orchestrating became leaders, kings, rules, disciples by a means that could only be by a higher power.

First I noticed that what happens first in a make your name great situation is (drum roll please) …. God tells us. As simple as that. Starting with Abram, and further examples with Simon, Joseph, Daniel, Saul and many more He tells or shows them that He will make their names greats for many a generation. Sounds pretty harmless, right? Sure. However, God is not saying I’m going to make you great doing what you already do or are doing. I have another plan lined up that’s beyond anything that you could ever imagine. Now this is where things get ominous. In the examples of above I gave their ‘former’ names before God called them to a higher place. We know that God changes the names of these giants to align with what He has planned for them. He shifts what they will be called by men and women to prophecy what He has called them to do.  Abram to Abraham, and Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul. He had to change their identify before He could use them fully.

Next, I noticed, that God ALWAYS asks or forces us out of our comfortable situation.   Saul a powerful king, Daniel a pretty savvy Shepherd’s boy, Simon a known fisherman. He tells us in order for me to make your name great, you will have to sacrifice some of the vices or pleasures of your current situation.  Just like these giants, we have to trust God that His ways are indeed higher than ours. And that our greatness just may not be in the very things we went to school for, the very things we are known or even not known for, or even in wrongful persecution. What is consistent in how God takes us from Good to Great is He takes us from a situation and sets us on an unimaginable path. These paths most of the time make no sense. They are rough and misleading.  They cause us to be persecuted by those we have always known and love, they cause us to be talked about by those we’ve never met. They sometimes cause us to be thrown in prison like Martin or Malcolm, or Mandela or Joseph, or even most recently… Kalief Browder. They may also cause us to lose our job and be black balled, you know like Colin Kaepernick.  After changing our names, and asking us to leave our day jobs, God has the audacity to grab us by the collar and allow us to be dragged through some extremely hateful, uncomfortable, and quite frankly scary circumstances. Yep that’s Him. In fact, the more I study the stories of Great people, they always seem to follow this unique path.    You have this idea of what you THINK your life will be, God steps in tells you something unimaginable, changes your identity, and many times removes you from what you THOUGHT might be your claim to fame.

I was inspired to write this after two major events occurred in the past weeks.  I watched the full documentary of Kalief Browder, and Kaepernick was named GQ’s citizen of the year.  Now starting off with Kap, I wrote an article earlier in the year stating why I wouldn’t boycott the NFL, although I’ve truly enjoyed watching the league fall apart as they have refused to deal with the issues at hand. I later made a statement on how I believed that Kaepernick would do more good as an ex-NFL player than he ever would coming back out of retirement. I do indeed know that this man LOVES the game of Football, and it gave him the very platform that he has today. But, now Kaepernick is a globally recognizable household name. For being brave enough to risk his own career, because the cause was bigger than the sport that he loved and played all his life.  Reminds me of Simon, now called Peter.   Simon was KNOWN for his skill in his career as a fisherman. He probably even told people that he’d be in the Super Bowl of fishermen if there ever was one.  However, even He was approached with an opportunity that said I’m changing your name to Peter, (Petros) rock. And upon you I’m going to build my entire church. WHEW…  Colin, if you ever read this, I believe that same opportunity has been put on your table.   Football is a cool sport, and there’s NO doubt that you are skilled, and no doubt you may have been a hall of fame great. However, when you mentioned it’s bigger than football you were speaking your own prophecy into fruition.  And because you were brave enough to do that, you brought about a national conversation about not only Police Brutality, but Racism in a larger spectrum, and even uncovered some hidden racist within your own professional league.  This sir took bravery.  Being called everything but a child of God, and because of that your name is on the lips of those who may have never known your football ability, but will know you because of your sacrifice of it to help improve the lives of the least of these.

In another story with Kalief Browder, it’s a little more disheartening as there’s two parts to his story that both inspire and disappoint me. For those that don’t know the story of Kalief Browder, I’d encourage you to go watch the short series on Netflix before continuing with this blog. (Seeing that it’s almost the end you probably won’t do it anyway).

Let me make it short:  Browder was wrongfully accused of stealing a backpack from a man in his neighborhood. He was thrown into prison on Riker’s island and not given a trial for a couple of years. He refused to take a guilty plea as he knew he was innocent (and he was for the record).  During his time there, he was subject to the violence being jumped many times, beat up by corrections officers, and put into solitary confinement. And not just put in there for a few days, but a couple years. With a combined 1,111 days in prison, He eventually was exonerated when the state was unable to produce the witness who had by this time went back to Mexico. But what happens when a 16 year old boy that’s been in solitary confinement is brought back into the world?  Well he can’t function. Family members mentioned they didn’t even recognize him as he came home, not in physical appearance but in his personality and spirit. That many days of no human contact had crushed him mentally in ways that are synonymous with a caged animal.  Of course, his family led a law suit against the state. During this time Browder was attacked and his face sliced, because those in the area thought he now had money when he in fact didn’t.  Shortly after, he woke up one morning spoke to all those in his family and then hung himself outside his bedroom window. And the story ended with the lawsuit never being settled, as his mother died later from a heart attack.

Now I use this man as an example of good to great, because who knew what Kalief may have ever become. But I truly believe he had to have had a strong relationship with God to get through each and every day in that jail being innocent.   I mentioned earlier Nelson and Malcolm and Martin and Joseph all characters from decades on earth that were jailed because of false charges brought up against them BUT it was being strong in those times of wrongful accusations that brought attention to a wider issue.  I’m pretty sure Kalief did not grow up saying I want to lead criminal justice reform, but that’s precisely what his life did.  Not only that, but it brought attention to the larger problem that we do not value black and brown lives in our country.  It brought light to how the love of a mother for her child can help her withstand a heart disease that should have killed her years and months before it did.  This story literally brought me to tears and I had to pause one episode because it was extremely overwhelming.  But I also believe each and everything happens for reason. And I had to ask myself why. Kalief Browder is now added to a list of heroes of mine.  I can’t say for any other reason that I may have known him but for his bravery to not plead guilty and live out his days trusting God and the process.

Well what do all these people have in common, and what does it have to do with you? Well many of us have hit a part in our lives where we are wrestling with our gift or our calling or purpose in this world.  I want to share these stories, to try and identify God’s methods of assisting us to fulfill His purpose for our lives. It’s first prophetic telling and/or showing us what’s to come. Next, it’s reidentification through alchemy. Literally taking our raw, unrefined selves and giving us a new name a new means by which to be known by.  After that, He then calls us away from the very things we have made our idols. It might be our families, our hobbies, our jobs, etc. Now don’t be mistaken, he could very well use the skills and passion you had towards those things, but this will be on a larger stage. Once you get to this point, you truly have to strengthen your faith and trust the process. The road from good to great with God isn’t always a 1 or 2-year process. It might be a lifetime of process, and a moment of greatness that lives beyond your life for many generations. Allow yourself to be used for the greater good outside of your realm of life. Whether you identify with Simon-Peter, or Joseph, or Daniel, or Colin, or Kalief, realize that there’s something bigger in store for you than you could ever imagine.

My theme for 2017 is “Pushing Limits 10X Effort” and it’s aligned to the scripture ‘Eyes have not seen, nor ear heard, nor entered into the heart of man, the good[great] things God has in store for them that love Him.” I Corinthians 6:9.   This tells me that if I can dream it or think it, there’s something even greater than THAT in store for my life.   Growing up I wanted to be a millionaire, but that’s too easy that’s too simple for what’s supposed to be of my life. Be willing to expect more out of God, and not limit him to earthly pleasures as ‘great demonstrations of His power.’   He can blink and give you kingdoms, but molding you into a beacon of light that will make this world brighter even for our God takes time. And it takes time because He loves you, and He loves you because He made you. And because He made you, He’s working to make you all He’s designed you to be. Trust the process. The greatness is IN you, let Him bring it out.

 

. With Passion, Purpose, and Pride,

 

Trent J ACEO

 

I Love My HBCU MONTH!!!

I was contacted earlier in the year by my Alma Mater, Prairie View A&M University, requesting that they spotlight me as a noted Alum and express why I Loved my HBCU! How could I turn that down! DONATE TO PVAMU 

“PVAMU was the place where the plans God had for me(Jeremiah 29:11), were revealed. Not only did I receive a ‘First Class‘ education, but furthermore an unparalleled life-changing experience. In my tenure at MY HBCU, I both was humbled and stretched, educated and refined, challenged and most importantly empowered. This is Why I LOVE My HBCU.”

NOW, I’m asking that YOU JOIN ME in donating $18.76 in commemoration of the establishment of PVAMU to a designation of your choice! That’s less than $20!!!!

DONATE HERE

|#ShowSomeLovePV|

Trent Johnson ’11
Senior Consultant, Accenture

“PVAMU was the place where the plans God had for me,…

Posted by Prairie View A&M University on Friday, March 17, 2017

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The Power of Presence

 

Joking around with a few of my friends, my frat brother said to the group, “Oh you know Trent has mastered Law 16”, referring to the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, “Use absence to increase respect and honor.” Now, I’ve read the book some time ago and very familiar with this “Law”. But as I laughed, and began to think about it, I was struck with an analogy of this law that I couldn’t resist to explain.

Law 16: Use absence to increase Respect and Honor, 1 of the 48 Laws explained in detail by Greene is a unique one as it’s one of the few that I do naturally. Not necessarily because I’m looking to attain or acquire power, but I’m simply just a private person. I’ve always paraphrased this law by saying ‘Give people a chance to miss you, if you’re too available then your time won’t be respected.’ However, you go about it, the message is relatively the same. As my frat brother went on and on about giving his explanation of this law, I interjected: “Hey, that Law aligns with a fundamental nugget of Bible scripture.”  This immediately grabbed his attention as He and I frequently give personal testimonies or break downs of the Biblical text. “Go find the person and what He said…”  And the Challenge was on.

Shortly after he said, “A man can receive no respect in his own home”.  CORRECT! I exclaimed. But, who said this line (though paraphrased.).   He gave a few names, and I finally gave the final hint “It’s in red text.” Suddenly he replied “Jesus.”  But how could one compare a seemingly trivial law with a short line from the synoptic gospels.

Well in Mark 6, titled as “A Prophet without Honor” gives us the Scene of when Jesus returned to His hometown. And in the first few verses there’s murmurs from friends, and loved ones asking “isn’t this the carpenter”, “where is this Wisdom coming from”, in short truly questioning who and what Jesus, is IN THE MIDST of Him performing miracles. (Talk about lack of faith) This reminded me of how often those places we call ‘home’ and our Closest friends can be our greatest enemies. As we attempt to grow and experience new levels of life, they want to constantly remind us where we came from, and how low we used to be, and all the bad things we did together. Jesus was in a unique position to take them higher, and they were more concerned at the justification of His power. He shortly says after this “A Prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives, and in his own home.” Almost identical to the Law presented by us earlier in this text…. How sad it must be that even the savior of the world, was not respected, or honored during his time at home. In the physical sense, this aligns so greatly with that of the 16th Law.  However, there came to me a thought: “There’s even more here…”

Let’s look again at what we’ve went over.  “Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor.” Hmm, as I thought on this over and over, I realized there was an even deeper meaning I could tie with Jesus and His life: The crucifixion. Jesus had to become absent of the body, to receive the true respect and honor he deserved. Mom used to say “You’ll never know what you had, until you lose it,” or, “You’ll miss me when I’m gone.”  I can’t help but to think that Christ was looking at these unbelievers with disbelief (pun intended) that even after these parables, divine teachings, and supernatural miracles they took His presence for granted. And in the case of the Sanhedrin they simply didn’t want to believe it at all. The Jews, people who looked like Him, and believed like Him, were the very ones that persecuted Him unto death. Because they took comfort and security in the ‘ways things had always been’ and the power structure in place they rejected any notion that this prophet, this Messiah had professed. Even the morbid march to Golgotha mirrored some of our present-day struggles.  As you begin to grow into who you were called to be, you can’t help but hear those around you mock you, tell you your dreams are outrageous, and how you’ve forgotten where you came from. Just like they did Jesus.

Alas, it was in the final moments of the late Friday when Jesus gave up the ghost and became temporarily ‘absent of the body’ that the temple veil tore, and the Earth shook and quaked. Immediately, the cries went from persecution to realization that “Surely He was the son of God.” But wait, you mean after 33 years of a miraculous life, fulfilling Bible-based prophecy, witnessing miracles, it took Jesus LEAVING earth for Him to get the respect His very name deserves? Wild…

Doesn’t matter how much you do for and around those that are most comfortable with your presence. When they become accustomed to it, they don’t and won’t always respect it. It’s good that we get out and go away at times, so maybe just maybe our time and presence can be fully appreciated. Sure, we can generate pages of exceptions to this concept, but in the most general sense too much of anything sparks complaints from even the most grateful. I mean think about the ‘omnipresence’ of God, always there both in the past and in the present both when we do good, and even when we find joy in doing wrong; reaffirming that there is most certainly power in presence, and just maybe, moreover, a lack thereof.

With Passion, Purpose, and Pride,

Trent J ACEO

And Many More: A Birthday Story

 

On February 11, 2017, I celebrated my 28th birthday.  I know I only look 21, but the truth is I’m now 28 years old.  As per usual, I received a phone call early in the morning from my grandmother wishing me a Happy Birthday as I did her just three days prior. It’s easy to remember her day, as we’re exactly 50 years apart and within 3 days.  As I got out of bed, I received phone calls from my mother and father, my uncle, my aunt and cousin. It’s almost like clockwork each year that I hear from them with their own unique Birthday wish. In addition to that, I started receiving text messages from friends and loved ones close and far even some abroad wishing Happy Birthday in their own local time zone. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, were buzzing all day long with notifications of individuals taking time out to wish me a good day on Feb 11th.

As the day progressed, I went to go workout which is my daily ritual anyhow and noticed that the notifications were still coming through; and phone calls, and memes and e-cards, and e-mails. It was becoming almost overwhelming as it was draining my battery.  As I traveled home to prepare for brunch with a few friends, I rushed  my phone to the ‘fast charge’ so I could make sure I had battery throughout the day. Trying to find a way to silence the notifications so I could simply have a functioning phone throughout the day. And then, it was at this moment that I recalled a situation that happened at church a few months prior:

On the Sunday’s our Young Adult Choir, Psalms of David, doesn’t sing I typically attend one of the earlier services 715 or 9am to be exact.  On the first Sunday of each month, our church: Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, recognizes those that have Birthdays in that month. And sometimes even gives out gifts to those that are born on that day. Being part of the choir, we’re accustomed to standing and singing a corporate “Happy Birthday to You” almost carelessly before the congregation during this time each first Sunday. But this time, I was participating in worship from the pews.

On this particular Sunday, an older lady came down the row I was on and asked if anyone was sitting in the seat next to me, I replied “No” and she took her seat.  We exchanged some pleasantries before the service started and she mentioned that she wouldn’t be here long. Me being curious I asked, “why so…” She said, “Well, I attended the 7:15AM service but I arrived too late to be recognized for my birthday so I’m here at the 9am service so I can hear the church sing Happy Birthday to me.  You see, when you get my age, you don’t really get to have people sing Happy Birthday to you like in your younger days….”.

At this moment, I realized that I had taken hundreds of Happy Birthday wishes on my own day for granted. I recognized that there was a blessing in each call, text, or post on social media. I realized that it’s a blessing to be alive year after year, and have loved ones around you willing to take time out to wish you another year of life.  Something as simple as “Well, Happy Birthday,” is a proclamation of prosperity and joy in anyone’s life. Not to mention, it’s a reminder that each day is not promised and to be able to HEAR someone say Happy Birthday on this side of the grave is a gift of grace in and of itself!

So, with that being said, I have to express EXTREME gratitude to those that took ANY time to wish me a good day. And likewise, pray that we don’t get too busy or wrapped up to speak well wishes into anyone’s life. How could I forget that I’ve lost many friends and family young in life and expect people to ALWAYS be around. How could I be so worried about my phone battery, and not the outpouring of love that I was receiving.  It was truly a humbling moment because NO ONE had to speak to me, NO ONE had to wish me a Happy Birthday. And beyond that, most of the things I have in life I don’t truly deserve. Moreover, there are those in our lives that we can’t take for granted. Take the time to recognize and honor those around you even if you don’t personally know them.  You never know how a simple “Happy Birthday” could brighten someone on a day when just like my fellow pew-member felt completely unnoticed.

With Passion, Purpose, and Pride,

Trent J ACEO

 

Defying Distractions with Deafness

 

For years I’ve assisted various college-prep non-profits by annotating college admission essays, but what I didn’t know is that one would give me a message that would literally change my view on life. Think about it, what really could a High School Junior write about that would impact MY adult life, more than ten years their senior, as I matriculate through the challenges of adult hood. What could a High school student in this information age, with the world at their fingertips convey to me in 500 words or less that would spiritually jolt me in a manner not felt in years. Well, the answer to these questions, came from a young south-east Houston, TX girl, for our purposes named ‘Issa.’ Issa, was deaf in her right ear.

For the Texas Admission college essays students are asked to write on 3 different topics, but the most unique is Topic B:  Describe a circumstance, obstacle or conflict in your life, and the skills and resources you used to resolve it. Did it change you? If so, how? Issa, opened up her essay with the words: “When you’re underwater everything sounds the same, sound is muffled for everyone. Once you rise out of the water, however, you are able to hear fine again. Such is not the case for me.”  Immediately, I was grasped by the imagery she depicted, and found myself instantly recognizing how I took the ability to hear for granted.

Reading through the rest of the topic answer, the young student continued her narrative of all the daily challenges of only being able to hear out of one ear. The difficulty at home, around her friends, and not to mention in the classroom. Always having to ask friends to repeat what the teacher said, talking with instructors after school, etc. Because of Issa’s unique A-bility (for this writing it’s not a disability) her classroom experience was a bit altered from most. It was when she described the layout of her daily classroom posture that I stopped and had to reread it.

Developing some ‘tricks’, Issa described to us how she overcame this seemingly life-halting A-bility in a few ways. See, she had a challenge with being distracted in class because of her only being able to listen in one ear, and having classmates that were often times loud and disruptive. When you only have 1 available ear to the instructor, noise tends to affect you more than others. Issa was determined: “If the teacher allowed the use of head phones, I would simply pop one in my right ear, and leave the other open for the teacher.”  So simple, and yet profound. Moreover, she went on to describe the layout of her classroom. “When I got to class each day I would sit in the desk nearest to the teacher, and turn my deaf ear towards the class room, and my listening ear towards the teacher. PAUSE… WAIT… SAY THAT AGAIN?  “When I got to class each day I would sit in the desk nearest the teacher, and turn my deaf ear towards my classmates, and my listening ear towards the teacher……”

 

 

 

Maybe you missed it. Issa went to each of her classes every day, and sat in a perpendicular position to her teacher in a way that her deaf ear was to her classmates, and her listening ear close and directly in front of the teacher. She altered the environment around her so that all of the noise around her fell on a deaf ear, while the instruction was clearly received into the good ear. Issa had defied her distraction by using her A-bility to her Advantage.     MESSAGE: How many times have we needed to SHUT OUT the distractions of those around us, and focus our attention solely on the TEACHER?   Mark 4:19 talks about

 

 

this very scenario:  but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. The ‘world’, our distraction, keeping us from setting our eyes on something above and not beneath, something great, and not something mediocre. We can’t allow the word to become clouded by the smoke of what everybody else might be focused on, because what’s in store for us is coming from above. Eyes have not seen, nor EAR heard……  the GOOD (GREAT) things… in store for us.  What things do we find ourselves constantly distracted by, that we watch days, weeks, months, and years go by BUSY, and yet unaccomplished and unsatisfied.

Issa implemented a survival tactic in order to not be left behind, and ultimately get ahead of some of her peers in school. Think about the advantage she now was in; not only did she sit closer she literally was unable to be distracted by any of her peers. It’s like she was getting one-on-one instruction.

So what does that have to do with you and me? Well, what if we had the zeal she had to learn in school, with our desire for God’s purpose on our lives. If we could completely shut out our worldly distractions consistently how much better off would we be?  Have you ever felt like God wasn’t answering your prayers? Have you ever thought He’s trying to answer you, but you’re too focused on everything else?  You have to ask yourself: What is it that I’m allowing to get in the way of my true purpose in life:  Fear? Doubt? Money? Relationships? False hope? Social Media? Job?  It could be ANYTHING. It’s those things that seem the most routine, that end up being just what’s needed to keep us enough off track that we’re moving but not going anywhere.

I’m grateful for little Issa, and how she shared her story with me and eventually dozens of colleges across the country. As I write this, I’d expect that Issa is submitting those essays, and making her final decisions on college. I pray that her story, and her A-bility take her to new places and heights. And likewise, to the person that’s reading this, that your new found distraction free perspective helps you elevate to the next level of life. Try it out: Disconnect from a few things, a few people, for a set period and set your eyes on something above. Watch how God will speak to you in an even more mighty way.

 

With Passion, Purpose, and Pride,

Trent J ACEO