March Madness: The Real Cinderella Story

Pure. Joy.  Kevin receives one of the greatest hugs this side of heaven.

Pure. Joy. Kevin receives one of the greatest hugs this side of heaven.  (Haiti)

There are many of you who may have read last weeks blog post titled, Keep Kevin in the Game, and no further explanation is needed. But for those of you who do not know Kevin or what we are trying to do, in a last minute effort to raise awareness and funds for our friend we put together an invitation to join our March Madness pool inviting people to donate to Kevin’s global mission. The results have been amazing.

With just hours before the deadline we had zero people join our Keep Kevin in the Game pool, and we still had $2,400 dollars to raise.

Well at least we tried, right? Wrong.

Only seven people joined the actual pool, which turned out to be pretty good odds for the prizes were offering, but many of you gave. In a week we have seen people who know Kevin and those who have never met him give over $1,000 dollars. And with one week to go we are still hoping to raise another $1,500 to help Kevin to meet his fundraising requirements for April 1st. I’ve held onto the belief for a long time that there are people everywhere who are waiting for an invitation to be passionate, involved, or more simply put, “get in the game”. In some form or fashion we all know deep down that we have so much more to offer than we often allow ourselves to believe.  I believe it’s the adventure God invites us into when we begin to understand his love for us and the world.  We don’t have to be deeply connected to a cause to make someone’s day or to encourage a stranger for the next 8 months. We can do it in a matter of minutes. That’s what I was reminded of last week, and that is why with the help of some of Kevin’s friends we are going to continue to extend the invitation for anyone to get in the game who wants to play.

My friend Alex wrote, “The best day in March Madness is when you admit your bracket is beyond redemption and just start rooting for the underdogs.” We all know that feeling in some way. And in the spirit of March Madness and in support of Kevin, we are about to invite you into one of the biggest Cinderella stories this season has to offer. Keep Kevin in the Game.

Here is how you can help:

  1. First: donate 15 minutes of your time by sharing this message with as many people as you know who love fun, love people, and who love getting in the game. Social media, email, reposting, billboards, flyers, sign spinning, public announcements… you do you!  And for the trendy folks this is for you: #keepkevininthegame
  2. Consider supporting Kevin financially before March 31st in one of the following ways:
    You can simply give directly to Kevin’s mission fund.
    I have been blessed, and I know Kevin has been blessed, by all of you who have simply given in support of his mission. To donate, please visit his financial page today, by clicking here. All donations are tax-deductible.
    Or, you can buy a t-shirt that my friend Alex designed for this very cause. All proceeds go directly to Kevin. We don’t want Kevin to come home, yet.  If we sell 100 of these “Home” t-shirts alone, we wouldn’t have to worry about that.  They are $23 dollars, and you can share them with anyone you know who loves Kevin and/or doesn’t want him to come back yet. Click here to buy your t-shirt today.

    "HOME" Tri-star t-shirt designed by Alex.  Click image to purchase.

    “HOME” Tri-star t-shirt designed by Alex. Click image to purchase.

  3. Get creative. If you have an idea of how to spread the word and help Kevin reach his fundraising goal, let us know. Everyone has something they can give; sometimes it just takes a little creative encouragement to figure out what that is!

For more information about what Kevin is up to you can visit his blog.

On behalf of Kevin, and all of us who support him, thank you! Here’s to keeping Kevin in the game!

Keep Kevin in the Game

Kevin Smith

Yesterday afternoon I got a text message about a friend of mine, Kevin Smith who is leading a group of people around the world for nearly all of 2015. What happened over the course of the next 5 busy hours has led to this little spontaneous project in order to help Kevin reach a mandatory fundraising threshold on April 1st. There are some of you who know and love Kevin. And there are many of you who have never met the man, but I promise if you did you would love him as well. Just because you’ve never met Kevin doesn’t mean you can’t join us in the fun. What we’ve decided is simple, and in just 15 minutes with a gift of 15 dollars you can impact the rest of Kevin’s year and the hundreds, maybe thousands of lives who will be blessed by his friendship.

Here is how you can send love and encouragement to Kevin for the rest of the year in just 15 minutes:

  1. Donate 15 minutes of your time by sharing this message with as many people as you know who love fun and love people. Social media, email, reposting, will encourage our friend for an entire year.
  2. Consider, pray if you so desire, about giving $15 or more to Kevin’s World Race fund. If 160 of us do this, we will meet the goal in a hurry. To donate, please visit his financial page today, by clicking here. All donations are tax-deductible.
  3. Join our March Madness Pool just for kicks, good conversation, and even a chance to win back some of that generous “juju” you’ve given to our friend. There will be prizes for 1st Place ($50 visa card), 2nd Place ($25 visa card), and 3rd Place ($15 visa card). Once you’ve donated, visit http://kevininthegame.mayhem.cbssports.com/e?ttag=BPM15_em_cbsinv to join our pool and make your picks. I’ve got Belmont University going all the way, so there is a very good chance you won’t be last. The pool password is RaceMadness. Do this before the madness officially begins on Thursday morning at 11 am(March 19)! If you happen to miss this deadline, it’s never too late to contact us about printing a bracket!

If you’ve made it this far in the post, you’ve been a blessing already. For more information about Kevin see the little bit below that another friend of Kevin put together in hopes of impacting the rest of Kevin’s year!  For the extra curious, visit Kevin’s blog.

Thank you in advance for joining us, and Kevin, on this journey of a lifetime. #KeepKevinInTheGame

—–

Meet my friend, Kevin.

Kevin Smith Nashville

Kevin is leading a team in The World Race, an 11-month journey to 11 countries focused on ministering and serving around the world. He has already visited three countries.

Dominican Republic (January)

Kevin in the Dominican Republic (January)

Haiti (February)

Kevin in Haiti (February)

Kevin in Costa Rica (March)

Costa Rica (March)

However, his mission work is far from over.

Kevin hopes to continue on this journey to places like Honduras, Guatemala, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Botswana, Swaziland, and South Africa. With that said, Kevin needs our help! He is currently $2,400 away from meeting a mandatory funding threshold on April 1st. That means he has two weeks to raise a lot of money. The Challenge If you are willing, I invite you to participate in a March Madness bracket challenge to support Kevin. There are two simple rules to participate (before Thursday, March 19th!):

  1. First, prayerfully consider donating $15 (or more) to Kevin’s World Race fund. If 160 of us do this, we will meet the goal in a hurry. To donate, please visit his financial page today: https://www.adventures.org/give/donate.asp?giveto=worldrace&desc=Kevin%20Smith. All donations are tax-deductible.
  1. Second, once you’ve donated, visit http://kevininthegame.mayhem.cbssports.com/e?ttag=BPM15_em_cbsinvto join our pool and make your picks. The pool password is RaceMadness. Do this before the madness officially begins on Thursday morning (March 19)!

At the end of the madness, prizes will be given out to 1st ($50), 2nd ($25), and 3rd ($15). I encourage you if you are able to support Kevin. You can do this with your:

  • Finances (Donate your $15 or more today!)
  • Network (Share this with your neighbors, friends, and churches who want to support mission work.)
  • Prayers (Send petitions to God to overwhelmingly supply all that Kevin needs for his work in the kingdom, and send thanks in advance for how God will provide.)

For more info about Kevin’s time on the World Race, read his blog here.

Prepare. Make Ready. Become.

Proportion.  Man and universe.  Photo Credit:  Donnie Hedden

Proportion. Man and universe. Photo Credit: Donnie Hedden.  Click image to visit Donnie’s tumblr page.

I want to take some time to explore the idea of preparation.  Specifically, what is it, and what areas of our lives require preparation?  I’m not trying to take this conversation in an overly negative direction.  This isn’t about nuclear fallout, foreign occupation, or even a global economic crisis.  I’m not talking about preparing for the worst, rather opening discussion about what could be if we prepared for the best life had to offer.  I’m talking about the substance of our humanity, our moral compass, and the heartstrings that bind all cultures together.  I am talking about the things that if we spent a little more time “preparing” would make countless other problems easier to navigate, or possibly make them avoidable all together.

Preparation by definition is “the activity or process of making something ready or of becoming ready for something.”

To prepare, to become or make ready for something, I miss this all the time.  My definition of preparation generally looks more like, plan for the worst, be ready for an emergency, or attempt to minimize certain future loss.  When we look at preparation in light of that which we love, versus the things we fear, it becomes very different.  Preparation in light of love begins to take on a much more balanced approach.  It no longer becomes entirely defensive, but embodies the idea of progress, growth, and change.

In order to prepare, or make something ready, we need a clear understanding of what that “something” is.  What do we want, or who do we want to become?  For athletes, it is often championships, the highest level of success.  For businessmen and women it may be sustainable growth, impact, innovation, or influence as a leader.  For families it may be security and provision, or becoming the loving leader your family deserves.  When we have a clear vision of the “something” we wish to chase, preparation becomes easier because we begin to recognize what is required of us.  We begin to take note of the opportunities life presents us, daily.  There is no off-season when it comes to preparation.  There are simply different seasons and different ways we prepare depending on the season we are in.

When Nelson Mandela was asked how he survived almost 28 years of imprisonment he responded, “I didn’t survive.  I prepared.”  Is this not what makes or breaks leaders and culture shapers?  When it is easy to play the victim, or when we are the victim, do we see the season we are in as an opportunity to prepare?  Are we being directed by our fear, or are we being driven by our love and conviction for what the world could be?  If we do not recognize the world as it could be, we’ll settle for surviving when in contrast we could be preparing for what our communities could become if we had the vision and the courage to pursue change.

Ryan_Costa Rica_De Alas Rotas

Prepare. Become what the world desperately needs. Become who you were meant to be.
Photo Credit: Ryan Mackle and De Alas Rotas.

This is where we come back to preparation.  Preparation is not changing how the world perceives us, or how we perceive the world.  It is not about putting Band-Aids on broken bones.  It is about truly becoming what the world desperately needs.  Preparing is about ending the conversation about what is wrong with the world or our situation, and doing the things necessary to step into who we were meant to be.  It is our actions that speak loudest, and the world is in desperate need of people who are living so loudly that anything lacking in truth, character, integrity, and conviction begins to shudder.  Or, in best case scenario, others begin to long for the love that has so prepared those who are shaping culture causing them to be ready in season, and out of season.  Athletes prepare, leaders prepare, world changers prepare, because without preparation they will fail.  Without making ready for, or if one never strives to become what the world needs, they will forever be weaker than the resistance.

I haven’t really even scratched the surface about what preparation looks like, other than it is not about surviving the always impending doom, but rather, it is about investing in our hearts and minds that we can see clearly through the mud that fear so often stirs up.  While preparation will look differently at times, there really is no season we should not be preparing ourselves to be all that the world longs for us to be.  Preparation means being able to see truth above what is expected of us, and it means pursuing change over what is culturally acceptable.  This does not require you to believe just anything, it requires you to know why you believe what you believe.  It requires you to be what you believe.  It requires you to become who you were meant to be.  Find your “something” and draw your line in the sand, stand firm and prepare yourself to hold the line.  Prepare yourself to surrender your pride and allow humility to lead.  Do not simply be defensive, be offensive.  Do not survive, become.  Do not simply exist, allow yourself to be made ready… prepare.

Prepare yourself.  Waste no time, for time lost will not return to us.  As you prepare, as your lines are drawn deeper and deeper, expect opposition.  Lay foundations of truth.  Understand rest as a rhythm of life, not a reaction to utter exhaustion.  Challenge and encourage through patience and deep understanding.  Do not be easily swayed by vocal, compelling leadership.  Be what you believe.  In all humility and patience, chase the deepest desires of your heart.  Prepare, because change is a slow process.  Prepare, because growth can often times hurt.  Prepare, because we have all settled for half-truths and illusions of truth in different seasons.  Prepare, because there will be resistance, do not lose heart.  Prepare, not because of fear, but because that is what love does.

——

In order to become more organized in our content, the blog is in the process of moving entirely to homepage, www.becomeahuman.org/blog.  If you want to continue receiving blog updates, please visit our homepage or stay connected via Facebook and twitter

Thanks,

Cyrus

We are moving….

Hey friends, our blog has moved!  In efforts to organize and keep all of our content in one place we’ve synced our blog to our homepage.  www.becomeahuman.org/blog.  Not only are we incredibly appreciative of your support, we’d love for you to continue to stay plugged in with projects and thoughts via our homepage and social medias.

Give.  Love.

Cyrus
The Become a Human Project

 

 

The Beauty of Adversity

Red River

Photo credit: Kern Ducote. Click photo to see more images by Kern.

As the last year has come to a close and the New Year is already three weeks ahead of schedule, the things I am most grateful for are the difficult situations that are seemingly behind me.  If any of you are like me, you have a deep desire to run from adverse situations.  Allowing ourselves to be pushed, stretched, or challenged is often uncomfortable.  So naturally we tend to walk away from uncomfortable situations if the opposite seems easier and the weight of our decisions appears to be insignificant in the grander scheme of things.  I often mistake comfort for the illusions of security and control, yet growth and change requires the risk of uncertainty and loosening our grip on the very few things we truly have control over.

Something I learned about myself in 2013, which I hope to carry with me into 2014, is how much I need adversity in my life if I wish to truly grow.  Without being challenged spiritually, socially, and professionally I continue to wander closer and closer towards apathy, because apathy requires no conviction or risk on my part, it demands zero effort or accountability, but it also comes with no rewards.  What I have learned in my seasons of adversity is just how much I have to give, to myself, to God, and to others.  When life is easy I have made a terrible habit of looking at ordinary opportunities with ordinary expectations, instead of seeing them for what they truly are, a gift.

I think being able to see ordinary opportunities through eyes of adventure, or with the hope life-changing growth, is an integral part of being a great leader and someone who influences those around them for the better.  Leaders who have never been challenged will not know how to lead in challenging situations, and they won’t be able to see the windows of greatness in day-to-day opportunities.  Adversity not only develops us as leaders, it develops our sense of vision and increases our fountains of faith, hope, and love.  Maybe that is what James is talking about when he said, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds…” If we truly wish to experience growth in our own lives as well as see change in the communities we live in, I believe it starts in seeing the beauty of adversity.

Photo compliments of Symphony of Love, click image to visit there homepage.

Photo compliments of Symphony of Love, click image to visit there homepage.

We have to be careful not to confuse all of life’s difficulties with beautiful adversity.  Sometimes we are simply in a difficult situation because we have made poor decisions.  Or sometimes we are in difficult situations because the hope we have for future change will only come with time and incredible sacrifice.  Regardless of why we are in adverse situations, each struggle presents an opportunity for growth, and with that, discovery of our hidden potential.

Orison Swett Marden said, “Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities.  Seize common occasions and make them great.”  I get excited every time I read these simple words.  I also recognize the ability to view life through this lens takes time, and it takes someone who has been awoken to his or her potential greatness (which I believe to be found in everyone).  Look at any great leader and you will see they have been marked and shaped by adversity.  Change does not come if we run away from life’s difficulties, change comes when we learn how to engage and grow through our struggles.  To care enough about an issue that we deeply understand it will require commitment.  To see change in the lives of generations unaware of their infinite potential requires an unwavering conviction and a relentless pursuit of truth.  To invite countless others to join us means we need to open our minds, because a closed mind is the greatest enemy of any kind relationship.  To lead we cannot depend simply on strength, we have to lay foundations of forgiveness, grace, and humility.  To pursue a life worth living, we need a clear vision for what is truly life giving and what truly brings about lasting change.

Though this list is incomplete, none of these qualities simply develop without countless difficulties, struggles, and trials in which they can be cultivated within.  No one can grow without entering into the arena with risk and uncertainty.  No one will grow if they spend their entire life avoiding difficult situations.  So here’s to taking one step closer toward risk and uncertainty.  If you succeed, you’ll be glad you did.  And if you fall down, you’ll only get back up that much wiser.  Either way, you’ll grow.  That’s the gift.  That’s the beauty of adversity.

—–

In order to become more organized in our content, the blog is in the process of moving entirely to homepage, www.becomeahuman.org/blog.  If you want to continue receiving blog updates, please visit our homepage or stay connected via Facebook and twitter

Thanks,

Cyrus

Never Stop. Forever Hope.

"Hope is a waking dream." -Aristotle

“Hope is a waking dream.” -Aristotle

It is exhausting being in control, or giving yourself the illusion you are in control of anything.  Not that control can’t exist, I simply wonder if it can to the extent we allow ourselves to believe.  Diligence, prudence, and good stewardship are all incredibly valuable and important virtues, but those are different from control.  They are the things that offer structure and stability in an incredibly unstable world.  Combine them with wisdom and discernment, and we finally loose our grip on control and we see life as it is truly is, unpredictable and exciting if we would only be willing to recognize its prompts.

Life was never meant to be controlled or conquered.  It was meant to be lived and enjoyed.  It is so draining trying to be god, and incredibly freeing when we realize we never had to be.  Following can be one of the most difficult and humbling actions in our lives, but until we learn how to follow, we may never learn how to lead.

Make time to be passionate.  In fact, surround yourself with passionate people.  Allow yourself to be challenged, be humble, and be bold and gracious while showing honor in your words when you challenge others.  Never let yourself believe you need to know everything, or any one thing.  In fact, become okay with not knowing and become a person committed to learning for a lifetime.

Never stop living, never stop loving, never stop chasing.

Hope in peace and in Justice.  Hope in steadfast love and truth.  Hope in God, and believe he is good.  Forever hope, hope in all things good.

 

Counting Gumballs

Sometimes life grants you beautiful seasons of consistency and stability, like the changing of the ocean’s tide.  It will rise with as much certainty as it will subside, then repeat with the occasional tropical storm or unavoidable hurricane.  There are also those seasons when life is as consistent as a twenty-five cent gumball dispenser.  You’ll never get the color you want until you’ve spent every last quarter, if you get that orange gumball at all.  Still we are held captive by the things we want, regardless of whether or not they are truly better than what we expect.

Though a little juvenile, I think the idea of a lost child full of love and good intentions, breaking his bank to get the gumball he wants very accurately depicts my current season of life.  I started gathering my thoughts about subjects like community and justice months ago, what feels like months ago.  Yet I haven’t made the progress I wanted, I have been trying to force myself to believe things are supposed to be something they aren’t.  I’ve been trying to convince myself that community is to be understood out of my misunderstanding, or that justice should be an extension of my incredibly finite and imperfect judgment and my even more finite and less than perfect understanding of love, and Jesus.  I put boundaries, expectations, and limitations on nearly everything I have been trying to deeply understand.  I want to better understand subjects like rest, community, generosity, love, justice, God, and more…  But I don’t want to let go of what I expect to learn, or leave my anticipation at home when I walk out the door.  I’m asking God for gumballs, and when he gives me gumballs I want it in another color.  I prefer it too be more round, to roll across the table better, to keep it’s flavor for 48 hours, or to even take on unrealistic qualities like a gumball that not only offers me something sweet and satisfying to chew on but will also act like a Tylenol and take away the headache I’ve given myself.

Gumball 1-  After months without a proper vacuum, I purchased Lucy from Goodwill for $10.  Best investment ever.

Gumball 1:  After months without a proper vacuum, I purchased Lucy from Goodwill for $10. Best investment ever.

Sorry for the sub-perfect analogy, but I guess it’s the best I can come up with.  And it is honestly how I feel.  I feel like a twelve year old who has put in his last quarter and got just another red gumball, not that orange one I was working so hard for.  Like most twelve-year-olds, I’ll be bummed that my quarters are gone, but I still get to look down and count my gumballs and enjoy them one at time.  Maybe I’ll enjoy them all at once.  It isn’t that there are anything wrong with the red, blue, yellow, green or purple gumballs, I’ve just somehow told myself orange was the one I wanted, and therefore it must be best.  Well, it’s not. It’s just orange.

I would like to think I am a very observant person, unless I am looking for something.  A lot of people act this way, and it makes sense.  When something isn’t where we believe it should be, or where it usually can be found, it becomes more difficult to look elsewhere.  When I am looking for my keys, I go to where I usually leave them.  If they aren’t there just shoot me, I don’t know where to start.  I may lead myself to believe I am actually looking in other places but it isn’t long until I come back to the hook in my room just to make sure the keys didn’t return themselves to where they should be, like most inanimate objects with a sense of humor love to do.  Either that or show up on your face, or in your hand.

Gumball 2: My roommate Brian turned 27 this week, we celebrated with Chicken Wings, Nerf Gun Wars, and Jurassic Park.  Incredible.

Gumball 2: My roommate Brian turned 27 this week, we celebrated with Chicken Wings, Nerf Gun Wars, Chocolate Chip Muffin Cookies, and Jurassic Park. Incredible.

The same has been true for me as I attempt to tackle difficult questions in my own life.  If I’m not looking for something in particular, I am open to learning and I feel as though I learn so much.  Yet if I focus my learning, I miss the world around me.  I miss the fact that life is giving me answers to questions I wasn’t asking, or even the answers to the questions I am looking for are right there, they just weren’t what I expected them to be.  Sometimes we have to run out of quarters before we can realize just how many gumballs we’ve gathered in the process.

It really is hard to lay down our expectations or our presuppositions, let alone our pride, biases, or everything we ever thought we knew to be true.  If we knew how life was supposed to be lived out there wouldn’t be problems, inconveniences, or hang-ups.  The world would be fine without us.  In fact, we’d have nothing to fix, nothing to struggle against, no need for a conscience or for spiritual and moral convictions.  Love wouldn’t exist because there would be no hate between people, life would be a single dimension and I assume it would nothing desirable. Life is messy, so is community, love and justice, mainly because they involve messy people. The tough questions will always bet there to wrestle with, that is why it’s important we take truth as truth and we don’t place our experiences into the tiny little boxes we’ve created for subjects like faith, God, justice, community, and love.  If we do, we’ll never actually get closer to a world full of people who actually love each other in their actions instead of “loving” through our empty words.

Gumball 3:  My buddy Nate and his band Judah & The Lion released their second EP Saturday, Sweet Tennessee.  So stoked for this kid, his band, and his beard.

Gumball 3: My buddy Nate and his band Judah & The Lion released their second EP Saturday, Sweet Tennessee. So stoked for this kid, his band, and his beard. EP was released only yesterday, check it out, you won’t regret it.  Need a song suggestion for the day: “Back’s Against The Wall”

Gumballs are those things in your life you’ve been throwing quarters at and miss because you’re focused on something else.  Gumballs are as good as gold when we finally recognize them, but there as heavy as a bag of rocks when we see them as inconvenient or add them to the clutter in our life.  Some people say, “Count your blessings,” and I wonder if they are really trying to say, “Count your gumballs.”  Take notice of the things your time and efforts have produced in your life.  Don’t forget to pay attention to everything, not just things you are looking for.  Take notice of what life is trying to teach, or listen when you ask God to show up, then enjoy what you’re given and don’t focus so intently on what you don’t have.  Give out of what you have, not out of what you hope to have someday.

Good things can go unnoticed every day, some times for one’s whole life.  Don’t let the good things in your life go unnoticed any longer, especially because you are focused on things you do not have. Count your gumballs.  Enjoy them.  You won’t be sorry.

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