Why #BlackLivesMatter

I’ll be the first to admit that I rolled my eyes at the trending #BlackLivesMatter. After all, don’t #AllLivesMatter?

Last week, God broke me of that ignorance.

It’s funny; I love John Legend and I love Common. Never would I have imagined Jesus using them as a tool to break me of my own previously-un-realized prejudices and ignorance.

“Now we right wrongs in history, no one can win the war individually;

It takes wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy

Welcome to the story we call victory,

Comin’ of the Lord, my eyes have seen the victory.” 

Listening to “Glory” in the car one day, those lines swept across my soul like a tidal wave.

I had just heard how some dear friends of mine had been exposed to what may or may not have been racism. Truthfully, I don’t know. I can only guess as to what these people’s intentions were in their actions towards my friends. But, it was the first time in my life that I realized, the African American community has to worry about that every. single. day.

My heart broke. Goosebumps broke out across my body. And I began to cry as I let John Legend & Common take me to church on I-25.

It was in that moment that God exposed in me some prejudices I may have had. Most of my life I’ve touted the flag of not being a racist. And truthfully, I still claim that. However, I realized that when I refer to my friends who are black as my “black friends,” it doesn’t send a message of acceptance, but one distancing myself by labeling my friends as different by the color of their skin.

I hide behind the fact that I have black friends, my cousin is married to a black man, I’ve always had celebrity crushes on black women (read as all of Destiney’s children & Aaliyah) as a way to not speak about the injustice they’ve experienced and as a way to boast to the world that I am in fact not a racist.

You see, #BlackLivesMatter because in our history as a country, no other race has experienced such extreme injustice at the hands of our system set up to protect us.

White people haven’t been counted as three fifths of a person because of the color of their skin. Black people have.

White people haven’t been told they couldn’t vote because of the color of their skin. Black people have.

White people haven’t been forced to ride in the back of a bus, use a different water fountain or bathroom, or sit in a different section of a restaurant because of the color of their skin. Black people have.

Jim Crow laws and desegregation aren’t something removed by centuries of time, but are still alive in the strength, exhaustion, grace, sadness and pride seen on the faces of black grandparents and great-grandparents everywhere.

These things aren’t generations and centuries removed from our history; they happened 50-60 years ago and live on as memories for many still alive today.

As I continue to process what God is teaching me in this, today this thought came across my mind:

If we, the white Church, continually ignore the pleas of and prejudices against those in need, then we cannot expect anyone to come to our aid when we inevitably face injustice and persecution of our own. We cannot selfishly expect any minority (black, woman, gay, immigrant, mentally ill, etc.) to come to our defense and to hear us out rationally, if we refuse to acknowledge the prejudices against them.

#BlackLivesMatter not because of the color of their skin or the color of my skin, but ultimately, because of the Gospel. If we, as a body of believers of all colors, aren’t willing to jump in the trenches of navigating the racial turmoil alive today, we are committing a great sin.

Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of all, uniting us with him in relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Jesus didn’t see race when he went to the cross, but he wasn’t ignorant to what today’s society would be like either. God is not surprised by the racial turmoil today; which means he’s also more than well prepared and equipped to lead us through it. We must congregationally seek His wisdom & counsel, then we must act.

While current systems set in place still oppress many, only one ‘system’ has been created for the freedom of all: the Church. We must seize this opportunity with humility, grace and courage. We must not rely on the government, police, schools or anyone or anything else to free others. We must be a place that all can find freedom in Christ, regardless of their race.

Until the Church accepts this responsibility wholeheartedly and we are willing to wade into the trenches, #BlackLivesMatter because they are the majority who recognize the sin of humanity while we turn a blind eye to it.

What’s Next?

I’m a sucker for a good story.

To Kill a Mockingbird. The Harry Potter Series. Shawshank Redemption. Gladiator. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (and Huckleberry Finn). The Great Gatsby. Kill Bill. Whiplash.

They’re all classics in my mind…and some of the greatest stories ever told.

However, one thing always bugs me about every single one of them. They end.

Like I said, I love a good story. But, when they end, I’m always left wanting more, needing to know what happens next. Seriously, I can’t be the only one who wonders what happens to Harry Potter and Co. after they stop the magical apocalypse. Sidenote: I don’t count that crappy epilogue that even the author hated.

Ironically, I find myself at the end of a magical apocalypse. Okay, not really. But I do find myself at the end of one book in life.

I say book, not chapter, because I’m finally done with my education (for the foreseeable future). I’ve thought about law school and pursuing a Ph. D., but then I researched how much they cost, then gave up on those dreams pretty quickly.

Instead, I find myself a Master of Missiology and Bachelor in Communication and wondering…what’s next? My story seems to just be beginning.

The thought terrifies me. I can’t skip ahead and read the end, knowing what to do, where to go, what job to have, or what dreams to pursue.

Instead, I’m overwhelmed with the options.

I could pursue church ministry, but I don’t know if that’s the plan God has for me.

I could stay in my job now, but I don’t know if that’s the plan God has for me.

I could move back to NC, but I don’t know if that’s the plan God has for me.

I could move overseas and be a missionary, but I don’t know if that’s the plan God has for me.

I could write a book, but I don’t know if that’s the plan God has for me…nor do I have the patience.

I could start a business, but I don’t know if that’s the plan God has for me.

I could pursue my JD or PhD, but I don’t know if that’s the plan God has for me.

I’ve seriously thought about all of them, but obviously, I have no idea what’s next. And that’s terrifying.

I’ve always been able to rely on one thing: there’s more education. I knew for years I was called to seminary. But, now I’m done with it and cannot help but wonder what the future holds.

I could spout out cheesy sayings like, I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future. Or God’s timing is perfect. Or patience is a virtue. Blah. Blah. Blah.

I’ve never been a virtuous person. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe all of those things. I just don’t want to hear them.

A lot of people have asked me what’s next or what now. The honest answer is I have no idea.

I can rest in knowing that I was faithful to my call to seminary, and can have hope in knowing that I feel like God is at work and doing something. I just don’t know what it is yet.

All I know is that God has called me, and you, to join him in the greatest story ever told. We have the opportunity to be the leading cast in accomplishing Kingdom sized things.

While I don’t know specifically what’s in store for my future, I know that God has created me for His purpose, and my God doesn’t do things without reason.

I know I’m not the only person in a period of waiting. Perhaps there are those waiting to conceive a child, to break an addiction, to figure out their next job, to reconcile a broken relationship, to find a spouse, to buy a house, to graduate, to see what’s next in life, or to overcome cancer.

Waiting on what’s next isn’t always fun or easy, but I know that our God is sovereign, and that He is at work. I know that He has something in store for me. And you.

Until I figure out what that is, “I will wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord, more than the watchmen wait for morning, more than the watchmen wait for the morning. ” (Ps 130:5-6)

I’ll also keep reading and devouring every story I can, knowing that God is still at work on what’s next in my story.

Why I left, then came back, to the Church.

I’ve read countless articles, chapters and discussions about why the millennial generation is leaving the Church. And, they’re right, millennials seem to be leaving the Church in droves.

Most of them say that my generation cares about whether or not our worship sets are big enough or acoustic enough. They say we care about too many social justice issues, the care of the planet, and sexual orientation more than we care about anything else.

While I won’t refute those arguments, I must say they’ve missed the mark about why the millennial generation is making an exodus from the Church.

For about a year, my wife and I left the Church. We were a part of a small, intimate congregation that cared more about relationships and being the Gospel than they did about worship sets and programs. That was extremely attractive to us. It wasn’t wrong for us to not want big band productions or to shun programs. At the time, it felt right and like God was calling us to that congregation.

I’ll never deny the fact that I feel like God put us in that church for a purpose. Today, I’m not 100% sure what that was, but I can honestly say that I don’t regret it. We ultimately left that church because we felt like the church wanted too much to NOT be something. They didn’t want to be about programs, worship sets, mass productions and corporate gatherings so bad that through an eventual lack of accountability and lack of structure, we felt like we were in the wrong place.

We didn’t leave that church because we wanted a young, married bible study or to be around people our age (we were one of the only couples in our 20’s). No, we left because we wanted more consistency and structure. We left because I felt like the church stopped being about the Gospel and more about NOT being something else.

When you’re in a church that’s all relationship based, that means feelings get hurt, harmful words and actions are exchanged and both parties are left jaded. That’s exactly what happened in this situation.

For a year after we left that church, our marriage and our faith was tested in such a way that I’m confident we’re still feeling the residual effects of that season in our lives. Personally, I’m much less likely to trust people or depend on a faith community to get me through those difficult times that are inevitable in life.

Ironically, as the Lord so often works, it was through a deep personal connection and relationship that Sara and I found our way back to the Church. This time, we’ve landed in what can only be described (compared to our last church, at least) as a mega-church. While I think the technical number for a church to be considered “mega” is 2,000, when you go from a 30-person church to a church of over 1,000 people, it seems pretty mega.

Truthfully, we were reluctant in rejoining the Church world. We didn’t want to get hurt again, and we didn’t want to bring a negative vibe to a body of believers. In fact, two of our closest friends told us that it was okay to NOT go to church for that very reason. If we were bitter and jaded, then that would taint every experience we had with a church. And that’s exactly what happened for a while.

But, through our patient friends, the Quattlebaums, we found our way back to a church setting. I will never understand the love and patience that they extended to us, but the Lord knew that He needed to restore mine and Sara’s faith in people before we set out to join a church again.

We’ve now been committed to the church we’re going to for over a year now. In large part because of the Quattlebaums, but also in large part to what this church stands for.

What became tiresome for me in the church world, and hearing conversations in seminary class, and reading all of those articles was this: too often I think the Church has tried TOO hard to NOT be something in an effort to appeal to my generation. Either the church isn’t going to be like those mega-churches, and it’s going to meet in a living room with fresh-roasted coffee; or, it’s going to NOT be the old fuddy dud church with an organ and have the loudest, best worship service; or, it’s not going to be ultra-conservative and “judgmental” and take a “all doors lead to Heaven” kind of philosophy.

Simply put, I find it offensive that so many leaders in the Church world today would reduce my interest in participating in church based on what music is played, what stance they take on gay marriage, what kind of coffee they provide or where they meet.

Our current church’s vision is simple, yet its the reason we stuck around: Get formed. Get fueled. Go change the world.

Yes, it’s a catchy tagline. But, it’s implemented in nearly every action the church takes. They are about changing the world, about being ambassadors of the Gospel, and about creating disciples. While my church’s vision is not unique to itself, it is one that I feel some churches miss the mark on.

Ultimately, if the Church wants to bring millenials back into the flock, they should start being about the Gospel. Period. It is attractive enough for anyone, my generation not being an exception.

The Gospel offers all the things we want: community, conviction, judgment, worship; a call to social justice, repentance, and participation. The Gospel, people, is all anyone needs to belong to the Church.

Sadly, many churches seem to be missing the mark on that. Fortunately, Sara and I have found a church that isn’t.

5 Takeaways: Week 5 Weigh In

Last week was hard, this week was worse. Here’s five takeaways I have from this week:

1. Convenience is overrated. – If I don’t make my breakfast and lunch the night before, I’m probably not going to wake up an extra 15 minutes early to make it the next morning. Which means, I’m stuck finding food while I’m at work. Which makes Wendy’s Frosty’s and French Fries all the more appetizing…merely for the fact that they’re just a few hundred yards outside of my office. That being said, the extra points they pack on aren’t worth the few bites of tasty bliss. I’m left pinching points when it comes to dinner (typically my heaviest meal) and often after a work out.

2. I run to eat. – Fact, if I run a solid 45 minutes or bike for an hour at the gym…I can earn a whole extra meal in points for the day or the week. Sorry, not sorry.

3. Sometimes, cheating is worth it. – This weekend marks the first weekend in over a month that my wife and I have had two consecutive days off together. It also marks the first time we’ve gone on a real date in who knows how long (I ashamedly take ownership over that one. Worst husband here). We went to see Once at DCPA and cashed in our The Cheesecake Factory gift-card. While I felt like I lost a few man points when I ordered up from the ‘Skinny-licious’ menu, every bite was worth it. Cheesecake and broadway were two great things about my week, but what they gave me was even better…rare and cherished time with the woman of my dreams who inspires me daily to be a better person.

4. Bromances are also worth it. – Friday night I went out with one of my closest friends, Jeremy Q. We hit up Rock Bottom Brewery, grabbed some coffee and saw Captain America unleash hell on Hydra. It was fantastic. Aside from the great food, brew, bean and flick…it was some much needed time with a brother who speaks wisdom and encouragement into my life in a way that few have before…He also challenges me and calls me out on when I’m being an idiot. I love that about him. He really is my brother-from-another-mother. And…splurging on the extra points to hang out with a guy like Jeremy was well worth it.

5. You win some, you lose some. – Except this week I didn’t. Not one pound found its way off of my body, but that’s okay. I didn’t gain any either, so I guess that’s a good thing. Besides, last week I got a notice from Weight Watchers that I was losing weight at an unhealthy rate and that I should have concerns on the effects it could have on my heart. Lord knows I don’t need any more stress on my heart. But, let’s be honest, how ironic would it be to have heart problems from trying to get rid of the problems on my heart, all 220 pounds of them?

Creating Counter-Culture: Week 4 Weigh In

This week has been an especially challenging one in terms of Operation: Banging Beach Bod

For starters, I had the very humbling realization I have the body of Mr. Potato Head: the extremities of a skinny person, but the body of a potato. 

Aside from the realization that I missed out on a lot of dough by being doughy in the Toy Story saga, I have been faced with the cold, hard truth of the fact that I’ve created a destructive culture for myself…one of stress-eating, tv-bingeing and more stress-eating. 

Simply put, when times get hard…I hit the pantry and cuddle up the couch. In retrospect, its a pretty cheap love affair. Instead of leaning into the arms of Jesus and my beautiful wife, I lean into the carbs of Chocolate Chex cereal, fast food and Asian take out. 

I’d like to say I’ll never hit up Chic-Fil-A or order Asian take out again, but that’d be a lie. 

What I can tell you is that this week has brought to light the need to create a counter-culture to the one I’ve spent decades creating for myself. I cannot drown my stress in potato chips, ice cream, spring rolls, Cherry Coke and Reeses anymore; not if I want to be healthier; not if I want to keep losing weight; not if I want to take care of my heart; not if I want to live. 

This week taught me the value of fighting through the stress; and to fight for the things that matter when the things that don’t matter are beating me to death. While I was not perfect, I didn’t (completely) succumb to the usual destructive culture of shoving whatever greasy, salty snack I can find down my throat. 

“‘For God so loved…that He gave,’ When God sacrificed His son, He was creating a whole new kind of culture of generosity.” – Joel Thomas.

I heard that this morning at church, and like a buzzing bee it’s been beating me in the brain all day. As I move forward from this week, hoping to create a counter-culture to stress eating, I must also consider the fact that I am not abiding in a culture created by the crucifixion of Jesus. 

When I let myself be weighed down by the (very normal) stress of work, family and life, I lose sight of the generosity given by Jesus on the cross to be alive…to be freed from life, death and sin…to be a new creation called to be free from worry and stress. ‘From His  fullness, we have received grace upon grace,’ and it’s time to start living like it. 

Week 4 Weight Loss: 2.3 pounds

Total Weight Loss: 14 pounds. 



Eleven Pounds. Six Minutes. – Week Three Weigh In

Growing up, I must admit…I hated the President. Honestly, at the time, I probably didn’t even know who it was. But, all through middle school, I hated him. Why? Because of that freaking Presidential Fitness Test. I knew it had to be one heckuva S.O.B. to make kids all across America compete in push ups, pull ups, sit ups, curl ups, sit and stretches and running.

I was horribly awkward at all of them. Why we force middle school students to test their fitness at the peak of their awkward body changes is well beyond my understanding.

The worst part for me was running. My body was in the beginning stages of figuring out what it was going to look like. I walked and ran like a duck. I had a hump the size of Mt. Rushmore on my back. And while those things are still here today, I don’t give a damn about them, but in middle school…they were torture. I was the butt of many jokes and glares as I ran and I was a horribly slow runner.

Simply put, running scarred me…for what I thought would be a lifetime. I couldn’t make a mile in 15 minutes, and I’m pretty sure the P.E. teacher just felt bad for me so they passed me anyways. I wasn’t hefty. I wasn’t lazy. I just wasn’t a runner and my body was not in a place to compete with the growing testosterone of fellow middle school boys.

Not much has changed today, but I can proudly say I’m overcoming those scars of middle school. I started running about two years ago. Slow and steady, but I did it. I still run and walk like a duck (although not so much so after having my legs sawed in half and straightened in middle school) and I still have this impossible hump on my back. But, instead of hindering me and crippling me with a fear of public humiliation while I run, they bolster me into something…someone different.

A few people have read this weight loss blog and commented on the ease with which I am self-deprecating. And they’re right, there’s few jokes more funny than I can make at my own expense. But, know this, please: I kid because I’m proud. There was a time where others hurled insults at me. Where I was the butt of others’ jokes. Where I was the guy who ran like a hybrid of Daffy Duck and Quasimodo.

This three weeks of Weight Watchers has really brought me face to face with some painful memories of middle school and overcoming the lack of self-esteem I once carried around with me like an elephant on my back. But, I’m slowly learning that this weight loss experience is not just about me getting skinnier or healthier physically. Its shaping me mentally and emotionally as well.

This week hasn’t been the easiest in terms of Weight Watchers for Men. I’ve been incredibly hungry. I’ve succumbed a few times to that seductress known as Chic Fil A. I’ve wrestled with motivation. But…I am leaving this week with a new sense of pride for two reasons:

1. I’m 2.9 pounds lighter.
2. I’ve set a personal best on a 5k with 33 minutes and shaved 6 minutes off of my previous personal best. While it’s nothing to boast about for many people; I’ve gone from not being able to run for more than 3 minutes two years ago, to being able to run a 5k with an 11 minute/mile pace and to run about 4.5 miles at once without stopping.

Total weight loss: 11.6 pounds.

Food for Thought: Week Two Weigh In

To say that this year’s Easter weekend was the best in recent memory would be a huge understatement. While Sara and I certainly missed our families back in NC, this Easter was a great reminder that Sara and I have the unique opportunity to create our own traditions, building on what our families have passed down to us. 

It was a long work week for both Sara and I. After a few long work days, achy bodies, some big Easter events (apiece) and seeing only glimpses of each other throughout the week, Sara and I were definitely ready for Easter Sunday. We were ready to go to church together (something unfortunately rare given our jobs right now), cook our first big holiday meal together, and to see Heaven is for Real. 

Only there was one problem. The now-present reality of a gluten-free, Weight Watchers friendly holiday meal. If you happen to be gluten-free or doing Weight Watchers, you know that cooking a holiday meal is no small task. Combine those, and you have potentially an impossible task before you. 

Fortunately, there are fewer stubborn people in this world than the Littlejohn family, and especially the two in Colorado. After a couple of hours doing my research, I finally narrowed down our Easter menu to: raspberry-mustard glazed ham, smashed sweet potatoes, apple carrot salad and dark chocolate espresso pound cake with sugar-free caramel sauce. Bring it on, gluten-free Weight Watchers holiday meal. 

Aside from the seemingly endless minutes it took to finely shred apples and carrots (I know, they sell shredded carrots in a bag, but we already had baby carrots so I was trying to save money), this meal was a freakin’ hit. I’ve included some photos of our Easter Sunday for your viewing pleasure. If you’d like the recipes, just let me know. The ham, I humbly admit, was probably the best I’d ever had. The apple carrot salad was surprisingly fresh and crisp. The mashed sweet potatoes took some getting used to, but in the end won me over. And the chocolate cake? Well…can you ever go wrong with chocolate, coffee and caramel? 

Other than the full belly, I’m taking two things away with me from this past week of Weight Watchers:

1. It works. Two weeks in, and the fact that I’m still committed to this thing is really saying something. If you’ve ever thought about doing Weight Watchers, just do it. Its easy and it works. I do it mostly because its easy. My iPhone App tells me when to weigh in, when to track my meals, offers easy and tasty recipes and makes counting points a breeze with its vast food and restaurant dictionary and barcode scanner. 

2. This Easter at Church I was humbled by something. For the past two weeks, I’ve fretted and been unwaveringly committed to Weight Watchers and to pulling off huge Easter events. Yet, my commitment and dedication to Jesus has been put on the back burner for now. While I am proud of the weight lost and the way my events came together, I am not proud of what they have cost me so far. Simply put, if I do not marvel at the foot of the cross and the presence of a resurrected Savior on a daily basis, then my work, my weight loss, my time and my money are all for nothing. This coming week, it’s my hope and prayer that I’ll carry the weight of the cross with me each day as I shed the weight of my beach-bangin’ bod

Oh…and there’s 4.2 things I’m leaving behind from this past week of Weight Watchers: pounds, baby! Total weight loss: 8.7 pounds!