Where We Come From- A Letter of Appreciation to MLK Magnet

The events of the last month were atrocious. The goings on of Charlottesville have brought about an influx of discussion about race relations. This specific post is not about my thoughts about race because I am hopeful that my feelings of individuals of different ethnicies and racism is very clear.

The following is about is how my perspective on individuals that don’t necessarily have the same skin color or background as me has been shaped over time.

Without a doubt, my worldview within the scope of Christianity is the driving force behind my stance on race. The human person is important. No matter what their skin color is, each and every human life is absolutely valuable. My faith has been most formative in this matter.

However, another contributing factor with my personal view on race that I would love to break down is the high school that I attended. From 2005 until I graduated high school in May of 2010, I was able to attend Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School (MLK for short). If you are any more than just basically familiar with MLK, you know that this public high school is known throughout the state for a high standard in academics. You also will know that there is unique aspect about that place. Now, I certainly fully understand that the administration has had its own set of flaws over the years but that isn’t what I intend to discuss. Rather, I want to discuss two reasons why that place was vital to the man that I am today.

The first reason, which is not my focus for the entirety of this piece, is just how prepared I felt when I arrived to college. MLK, by design, has a way of stretching students and has always employed teachers who push students towards excellence, both in the class room as well as outside. One quick example I’ll never forget took place on the bus ride to a track practice. One teacher who took time out of his afternoons to drive a bus to our off campus practices saw me make a gesture at a car that I really ought not have made (remember I was still in early high school at this time). This teacher pulled me aside, looked me in the eye, and simply said, “Matt, I know what you stand for and we both know that’s something you shouldn’t have done.” This man didn’t have to point out to me what exactly it was that I had done or why I shouldn’t have done it. While he certainly could have turned a blind eye, he simply noted to me that I shouldn’t have done it and we both moved on. But he did this because he cared.

These sort of interactions took place quite often and I will always be thankful for that sort of guidance. Yet, I would like to write more regarding the students that I was privileged to attend high school with.

You see, one of the characteristics that sets MLK apart is the ethnic diversity that exists among the student body. While I was probably aware of this during my six years there, I have become overwhelmingly more grateful for it now. At MLK, a middle class white guy is not in the overwhelming majority. I was surrounded in the classroom setting by students who looked very different than I did and came from a different belief and socioeconomic systems.

Just during my years there, I was blessed to be around many different types of people and I honestly believe that this has greatly shaped my view on racial equality. It was during those years walking from one class to the next when the issues of racial injustice and the tension that exists first became so apparent. Within a school of students from many different backgrounds, there were certainly times of difficulty because we came from different places.

One of the specific times when I began to understand just how difficult it can be for those who are not always the ethnic majority came during an English and World History class that was co-taught by Ms. York and Ms. Broyles. These two ladies guided the 40+ students in one class through literature from a historical standpoint and directed beneficial discussions among high school sophomores. It was during this class where the freedom to speak on how an individual felt about specific issues was first highlighted and encouraged.

But the classroom setting was not the only opportunity we were given to learn about different cultures. Culture day took place during some years where students were encouraged to dress in a way that those from their ethnicity typically do. (I do wish I had taken this day a little more seriously rather than dressing with other white guys in overalls…). Assemblies took place to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Chinese heritage, and discuss why the freedoms our founding fathers had in mind are so important.

These days and assemblies that were designated for a cultural purpose were definitely helpful but it was the people that brought the ideas into reality. Some of my best friends in high school, being of different skin colors, allowed me a brief glimpse into the mind of an Indian female or a black male. One of my closest friends through most of high school was black. I went for a college visit to Liberty University and when I told him it was located in Lynchburg, Virginia he was baffled. “Man, the town is called LYNCHburg?! That’s pretty messed up.” The origin of the name of this city had never occurred to me but it opened my eyes to what he noticed when approached with certain ideas or places.

This environment, while not my biggest influencer, had significant impact on my views of race and ultimately how there is still a great deal of healing that still needs to take place. I’m indebted to my time at MLK because of the way it shaped my view on race. The unique perspective that took place during six years on 17th Avenue South will continue to guide how I value a diverse situation and the importance of surrounding yourself with others who don’t always look, think, or live like you. But I am so much better off because of.

While those around me were not explicitly Christian, and even at times many were quite the opposite, this idea of racial equality is certainly a gospel issue. In growing up, I was told from the Word that all humans were created in the Image of God but I was also shown that from those around me who didn’t even believe the Bible is legitimate. That, for me, was God continuing to prove the truth found in His word!

I write all of this not to boast in how my own perspective is better than those who were not  raised in such a culture. Rather, my aim is just to project my appreciation for such a wonderful place. It has prepared me for ministry and is simple proof of how God works the things out that are found in His Word in reality.

A late thank you to all of my peers from MLK. You cannot begin to know how much you mean to me!

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Half-way There

*Insert Bon Jovi key change*

OOOOOOOOOOOO WE’RE HALF-WAY THERE

Yes, I’m aware that a music intro to a typed blog is unnecessary but the great rock ballad was the first thing that came to mind recently. July 1st marked the half-way point through the year 2017. The past month or so has been spent analyzing the last six months as well as looking forward.

In an effort to be transparent, I began my year with two measurable goals: read twelve books in the year and through the Bible using the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan. The thought process behind the first goal seemed so incredibly simple: read a book a month. Yet, here I am, after six months, having read two full books and two halves of separate books (I’m still not positive how that part happened). I know, it’s not great. Actually, it’s been incredibly bad.

When it came to reading the Bible through in a year, I decided to set my sights further than the ordinary plans to read the Word all the way through. Instead, the M’Cheyne plan covers the New Testament and Psalms twice in a year and the rest of the Scriptures just once. This aspect started off really well. In fact, there were points throughout February and March when I was actually able to read ahead. I do wish that I could say that this trend continued. But continuing with a theme of transparency, I am currently over 30 days behind in this reading plan.

My initial analysis of the current results of these goals was simple frustration. When lofty goals are set, many people step up to the challenge. If only that was the case here.

As it turns out, I do not naturally manage my time well. Even though reading a book a month was my initial goal and succeeding in that goal is fairly easy to plan for, I managed to spend time that should have been blocked out for reading for just about anything else. It would be one thing if I was too busy with life, family, and church to make time to read. But that isn’t the case. Instead, I manage to spend unknown amounts of time reading on Twitter about how fans of my least favorite hockey team feel about my team’s Stanley Cup Playoff run (don’t worry, I’ll be writing about this in the future!). In the grand scheme of things, I managed to waste a full 30 minutes in reading nonsense like or fiddling with a game on my iPhone when I could have been accomplishing any number of other tasks that would have been more productive.

As for the time it would have taken to keep up with the Bible reading plan, that ought to have taken priority. The time I was spending reading through the Bible at the beginning was really great. However, eventually my priorities got out of sort. Life got busy and I started to place other tasks ahead of reading the Bible. Because of that, there’s a great deal of reading that I have to get caught up on.

Don’t worry. I’m not about to complain about having to read my Bible (how messed up would that be?!). I’m excited about the challenge that lies ahead. And that is the good thing about a midway mark in the year. I have almost five months that I’ll be able to get caught up on the time in the scriptures as well as my book reading.

If you’ve managed to not do so hot on the goals and resolutions that you set for yourself, you have a whole lot of time to turn all of that around. Get pumped about it. I know that I am!

 

 

His Ways are Higher

I’ve got a special guest author to post this time around. She’s my favorite person in the world and I couldn’t be more proud of the story that she is telling below. I have a feeling you’ll be proud of her once you finish reading! Thanks for stopping by!

-Matt

 

I want to start with sharing how proud I am of Matthew for reaching the consistency in writing on this blog that he’s been aiming towards for some time now. I love being the one to proof read, edit, and answer “yes” to the big question he asks every time: “Does what I’m trying to say make sense?” He is so supportive in everything that I do, that this is just a small way that I can show the same support back.

Currently, Matt has SEVEN drafts saved of ideas and topics that he wants to write about, and I love how much he enjoys learning, researching, and contemplating so many topics ranging from sports, to Christianity, and even something that starts with the line of a Bon Jovi song. When he was trying to decide which avenue to take this week, I offered to share as a guest writer what the Lord has been doing over the past several weeks through my life and ultimately, our lives together.

This summer, I had the opportunity to work as a camp counselor for a Music and Worship Camp at Liberty University’s School of Music. One of the greatest things about the camp is that its sole purpose is NOT about how to be an awesome musician or even the best worship leader. The focus instead was on the fact that worship is not just singing and playing instruments, but our worship is how we live out every aspect of our lives. (Romans 12:1)

During this week at camp, there was a student who shared with the counselors that she had been struggling with cutting and suicide, but knew there was a reason she had not been successful in any of her attempts to kill herself. Through prayer by the staff of the camp throughout the week, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, she accepted the free gift of salvation offered by Christ on Wednesday night. That evening, as all the campers were celebrating with her through song and reading aloud various verses of Scripture, I was touched by the sweet love that is shared in the Body of Christ, but not moved in the “church camp spiritual high” kind of way that I had felt before. It was then that I knew I had been putting so many other things (student teaching, graduating college, wedding, honeymoon, “I’m too busy”) before my time and relationship with God.

The next morning I was eager to spend time in prayer and Bible reading. I told God I knew He was working and moving in my life, but spiritually speaking, my eyes had been closed. So I asked Him to open my eyes that I may see how He is still directing my path. That morning, I received a call from a number I did not recognize, and assuming it was from a telemarketer calling to help with a credit card that I don’t have, I answered, “Hello,” in the most annoyed tone that I could muster up. “Hi, Danielle. This is Mr. Lamas from North Cross School. How are you today?” My tone took a 180 degree turn, as I spoke with a principal from the school where I did my student teaching, a private, non-religious affiliated school. When the conversation was over, I had an interview scheduled Monday for the Choral Music Director position that I had just student-taught under. I cried tears of joy as I called Matt and told him about the conversation, because I knew that was an answered prayer.

The interview went well – I would be in charge of two concerts, a school musical (which I had little to no experience in), and would be driving 1 hour and 20 minutes one way. Over the next week and a half, after some prayer and lots of discussion, Matt and I decided that if they offered me a job I would turn it down. It required to much work and energy for me to drive that far, and moving is not an option right now. I would be stretched too thin, and it would take a toll on our marriage, and I would have to let go of my responsibilities at our church. I started applying for nanny positions, because I LOVE taking care of kids. This past Wednesday, I emailed a mom needing a nanny for two infants – $450 a week, paid week of vacation, paid holidays, and would go on an all-expense paid vacation with the family, AND still get my $450 for the week. This was what I wanted to do, so I began praying for this job, and asking others to pray that I would get it.

The very next day, I received a call from North Cross offering me the job, and adding that they would be bringing someone else in to do the spring musical; I would simply be a resource if they needed me. And boy, did this throw my plan WAY off course. I would let them know an answer by Friday. I spent the rest of the day earnestly seeking out what the Lord wanted for my life. I had friends and family that were praying with me and for me, and offering to talk through it as I tried to make the best decision, which I was beginning to think I needed to accept the school position. It was as if God was telling me, “Danielle, stop telling me what you are going to do. I have something better.” Around 4:00, I received a call from the mom with the infants. I was the first person she called. Throughout the conversation, I didn’t feel like I could make the commitment she needed, and after more prayer and more discussion with Matt and my mom, taking the school job would be a better suit than the nanny job for many reasons.

Still, I was waiting for a peace about deciding to go to North Cross, and there was nothing but anxious worry about the long drive I would have to make twice a day, and the fear of being a first-year teacher. As I thought about all the productive things I could do during my drive, (Pray, listen to podcasts, audio books, music for my class, etc.) I began to realize that we don’t always necessarily feel that “peace that passes all understanding” when making big decisions, but I knew that God would give me the wisdom and discernment to make the best choice – I just had to step out in faith and trust that God would take care of me.

Friday morning I woke up with excitement about making the call to the school to accept the Choral Director position. I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life – of growing intellectually by listening to various podcasts and books, of growing spiritually through the long amount of alone time each day, of being a light for Christ to the faculty and students, and of trusting God in a way that I never have before.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
 and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
 and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Be Not Discouraged

Over the last year, I have meant to do a little writing about this and simply never took the time to do so. But, after the events over the last year, I feel like this is an ideal time to give a reminder of encouragement.

If you spend any amount of time in the news, it is clear that things all around us are spiraling out of control. The political landscape after the presidential election is reminiscent of a poorly written MTV reality show (a train wreck, in all honesty). Every day or two, there are police officers being shot by civilians and civilians being shot by police officers. My friends in the black community live in fear as do those in law enforcement. And that’s just skimming the surface of the main events that have taken place in the last month.

Let’s not forget the act of terrorism at an Orlando nightclub – the LGBT community mourns as they witness the loss of life of some of their own. And Muslim individuals  are embarrassed and concerned over the use of the term “radical Islam” after the individual involved in the shooting claimed ties to ISIS.

And these are only events that have happened here in our backyard. We have mourned with those in France, Belgium, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and many other countries over massive loss of life. It is just as clear as it has ever been that we live in a world that is broken because of its sinfulness.

Whether you have watched the news daily for years or only find out about these incidents as hear-say or on Facebook, it can be easy to be disheartened over these events. How can a person actually have an attitude of hope when there seems to be so many bad events going on? Specifically, how can those who claim a personal relationship with Jesus continue to live in hope with the negative perception that seems to surround religion in general, and the Christian faith?

In hopes of giving some sort of encouragement, I would like to explain an annual event that I have been privileged to attend many times. This event is never held in the same place two years in a row. Yet, each time that I have been privileged enough to witness it, I am brought to tears.

The situation that I am writing about takes place at the National Association of Free Will Baptists Annual Convention. During the Wednesday evening service each year, all of the missionaries that were able to attend the convention walk into the hall during a processional. Among these missionaries each year are international and home missionaries that are being commissioned by their respective agencies to go into the field.

Some of the reason that this is always an emotional event for me is because I have known many of those missionaries for a very long time and others of them are my peers. Regardless of the length of time I have known them, or whether or not I know them at all, this occasion is one of hope for two reasons.

To begin with, it is a wonderful reminder that God is still calling people to go to the nations in order to tell the lost about the Gospel of Jesus. Scriptures prove to us multiple times that the Christian has been tasked with reaching those who haven’t yet been believed. The fact that God is still calling means that the Lord is still using individuals to accomplish His glory. This means that He wants to use us (yes, you and I) as well.

While it’s easy to observe such an event and simply interact as a spectator, it seems that when God calls us to Himself, it is not enough to just watch and enjoy. The Christian faith is one of action. The action varies for different people. Some, as has been mentioned, have chosen to go. Others follow God’s calling to give of their finances along with prayers. And many choose the action of giving an encouraging word, showing appreciation to these who are leaving the places that are comfortable for the purpose of communicating the Gospel. Regardless, action is necessary.

However, as mentioned above, it can be so easy to become wrapped up in how wicked the world that we live in tends to be. Yet, the second reason this event provides hope for the believer is that there are people still answering the call to leave that which is comfortable for the sake of those who don’t know the Truth. Understanding that there are still those who are saying, “Yes, Lord,” Christians from all over must adopt some kind of action in order to empower those who are going.

So, be encouraged, friends. God is moving in ways around us that you may never know. Let’s continue to be obedient and pray, “Thy will be done.”

A Third Attempt

If you were to go back over the last few posts on this blog, you would observe a lack of consistency with posts. This will be the third time that I have attempted to do some writing online. However, this time has been different than the other times that I have decided to post some of my thoughts.

First, I have really struggled with whether or not to go through with writing via the online blog format. There are hundreds of different internet publications that a person could choose to read, with most of them being far more beneficial to read and by better writers. Honestly, there is not much that Matt Mouser has to say that would have significant influence on a person’s life or thinking. I don’t hold a significant position, have some super wise or unique perspective, or even live an interesting life. There isn’t much reason that anyone would want to invest time in reading the things that I write.

Which brings the second reason why I have been very hesitant to blog again.

I have pushed against doing this because the last thing that I would want to do is attempt to be entitled to attention or come across as though I want attention. It could be easy to write in attempt to be heard, but that is far from my intention.

Rather, I have realized over the last year that I really enjoy placing the concepts that come into my head onto paper (or words in digital form in this case). Over the span of a semester in graduate school, it has occurred to me just how powerful words can be.

Take a moment and think of some of your most vivid memories. For me, those memories are often very closely associated with something that someone has said. Because there is such potential behind words, both written and spoken, I have made the decision that I ought to continue to work on the craft of writing through the medium of a blog. One of the biggest reasons why the blog platform is so enticing is because it gives the opportunity for feedback. Is there a better way to improve at something than by practicing it and receiving feedback? (If there is, please comment below because I would love to hear about it!)

A second perk to writing in blog format is that there is room for discussion. A significant impact of many of the most important minds down through history has been the conversation that has taken place because of the words that were spoken or written. A blog provides both the sharing of thoughts and ideas as well as a place to discuss the ideas that have presented. Truth be told, this potential is what may be the most exciting to me.

One final reason why this attempt to consistently write online is different from times in the past is because of the stage in life that I’m found in. In most of the years leading to this point, my schedule seemed to be sporadic more often than not. While things are still quite busy, there is much more structure in my life now than ever before. I am now married (HOORAY!), working an office job five days a week, and serving consistently in my local church which allows enough down time to think through and type out the various topics I plan to publish. It is absolutely new territory for me but I’m excited and hoping to utilize all of that the best that I can.

So here is a promise at an attempt for consistency in writing. My only request is that you read with an open mind. And if you choose to respond, please do so in an honest way. If done well, this blog will have a profound impact on my life as I write and listen to those around me. I look forward to sharing that experience with you!

Honoring Those Who Stand For Truth

Today, we honor a man who stood for truth. A man who led a fight for the oppressed and weary. A man who ultimately lost his life because of the very hate that he was standing against.

As I drove into work this morning and thought of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I thought about times when I was privileged enough to read some of his writings during high school. One such letter, Letter From a Birmingham Jail, amazed me because of the the sort of boldness and confidence with which Dr. King spoke. When most would be extremely discouraged with being put in jail, Dr. King took the opportunity to address those who were frustrated and voiced their disapproval with his actions.

However, I’d like to talk a little about something that sometimes goes unnoticed. First, let me say that in no way do I want to take away from the human rights work that Dr. King accomplished because the things that he accomplished continue to pave the way for equal rights among all people.

While not widely talked about, there were things in Dr. King’s personal life that were not as admirable. I won’t take the time to go into detail about these things because they are not important. The point that I would like to make is simple: Dr. King was a man who had deep convictions on what is right and wrong despite having his own set of struggles.

At the end of the day, each and every person has issues that they struggle with. But, a person that is not defined by those things, but rather overcomes them by knowing they cannot do so on their own makes all the difference in the world. Dr. King was a great man with faults of his own and it is my prayer that we all make steps of our own to battle against the sins that plague us, choose obedience every day, and stand for God’s truth.

New Seasons Bring New Chances

Yet another new year brings forward the motivation to do a bit more writing, among other things. Last year, as you might would read below, I made promises to do more writing and didn’t quite follow through. However, being in another stage of life, I have a good bit more time.

So, with that time, here is a quick update and a promise (to myself mostly) to, at the very least, cut out more time to study and write.

The past six months have come with many opportunities that I never would have seen coming. After a couple of job opportunities fell through, I realized that God must have some different plans for my life. So, I began applying for jobs in hopes of working, saving money, and praying about what will be next. A good friend recommended that I apply at Brooks Brothers and so I started, after a smooth application and interview process, working there as well as picking up a couple shifts valeting.

With these opportunities came challenges. Working close to 40 hours a week is something that I was not very used to. Because I spent the last five years in college (yeahhhh, I know), having a good balance of class, work, and social time was my safe place. Life in college was never monotonous. There was always something going on, whether it was a group of friends making a late night run to Cook Out for milkshakes, or a paper to write. But now, for the most part, I go to church, work, and occasionally get to catch up with dear friends. But I’ve been able to find the great things with this. The moments when I am able to spend time with friends are far more cherished than they every have been. The other highlight of this season is life has to be how my family has allowed me to continue living with them in order to save money. It has been a simple but wonderful reminder of how important their support has been of me. And speaking of support, I’ve been so blessed with a young lady who listens and speaks into my life. My plans are still very up in the air for the next year but I am extremely excited about what God has in store for me.

Through all of this, I have been reminded that this life is not my own. I have been bought with a price and am owed nothing. There have been moments where some of the people I have met in the job force have been such a blessing. In those times, I was reminded about how it is that a Christian person ought to live, act, and think. Some of those moments will stick out to me, I’m sure, in the future as pinnacle moments of change.

To quickly close, I want to challenge y’all to take full advantage of the place where God has placed you. Just like the parable of the talents, we have all been blessed with various resources as well as a place to invest those resources. Be thankful for these things and pray on how it is that God would have you to use them.