52 Weeks of Gratefulness #12 – Martin Coleman

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Martin Coleman (Twitter)

In Week 12 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Martin Coleman.

One Sunday after service, Marty Coleman walks up, “Hey Brother Paul. I understand you have a business that does computer work. There is someone I think you should meet.”

He then waves over a young man who seems tired and despondent. His approach toward us from across the room was slow and labored. He’s disheveled. His hair is matted to his head with gel. His clothes are wrinkled like he had just rolled out of bed with them on. His glasses are so hazed, perhaps from the gel in his hair, that I can barely see his eyes.

Though his approach seemed reluctant, when we started talking, he opened up easily enough. He’s a gamer. He knows his way around technology by having built custom and very sophisticated gaming computers. Brother Marty’s hope was that I would be able to give this young man a job.

This is not long after the Great Recession. One of my largest clients, representing twenty-five percent of my business’s income, was a casualty of the economic downturn. I lost them to closure and many of my remaining clients cut their retainers in half. I feel personally responsible for the people that I hire. Each time I extend employment, my heart and philosophy is to provide that person a home either until they are ready to move on or, preferably, until we’ve helped them to advance in their career. I try not to hire anyone unless I feel there’s a good chance that I can provide that.

But, with the cuts, I couldn’t sustain the staff I had and was scrambling to find safe places for each of my employees to land. By the grace of God, opportunities -even better than they had with me opened up for every one of them. I was so thankful and relieved. Anyone that employs people knows that it is no small undertaking; taxes, withholding, reporting -just maintaining the revenue to make payroll is a tremendous burden. After having miracuously averted the near disaster of having to lay staff off, leaving people who are dear to me without means to provide for their families, I was perfectly content to go it alone for a while. I did not have any appetite for hiring anyone else and going through that again.

But, God.

My default position on the proposition of hiring anyone was flatly “no”. But, there was this nagging notion that this wasn’t just about hiring someone. I had a sense that this may be from God. But, I resisted it. It wasn’t anything I wanted to do. Business wasn’t great. I didn’t even know if I could really financially afford another a person but that nagging notion would not relent. I shared it with my wife who said, “If you believe this is something God is leading you to do baby, you need to be open and to trust Him.”

So, I begin to move in the direction I believed God may be leading. I start making calls. I learn that the young man is in recovery from a drug and alcohol addiction, has not long gotten out of prison and is staying with another brother from our fellowship. But, I find myself with a compassion I cannot explain and am moved to keep going. I call the brother that the young man is staying with as a character reference. He candidly and honestly reports, “He’s unreliable, he’s sleeps all day, he’s still drinking and he’s been lying about it.”

The Holy Spirit was like, “I’ll take him.”

I hired the young man that day and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

God provided and we worked together for years. We did more than work beside each other every day, we shared life. We laughed together -a lot. We studied the Bible together. We battled our demons together. We prayed together. We shared our dreams together. What was dear to him became dear to me and the other way around. To this day I can still feel his intense love for his family, especially his son. From that day it became my heart, to the extent that they will allow me, to treat his family as my own. He did the same for me.

Anyone that knows Melissa and I can attest that we are very particular about who keeps our children. They are a treasure to us. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we’d be reluctant to entrust even the Secret Service with our kids. As a result, we didn’t get out much. Observing that, this young man insisted that Melissa and I have a night to ourselves and volunteered to keep our boys. Having watched this young man grow over the years, we humbly accepted without hesitation or concern.

By the grace of God, the young man that had an addiction was transformed into one of the most diligent, devoted and trustworthy people I’ve ever known. He was among those that I can count on one hand that Melissa and I considered leaving our estate to and making responsible for the care of our children should we both die unexpectedly. He is a true and dearly beloved brother.

He would often gush about the difference I made in his life, not realizing the heavenly shift that God used him to make in mine. I have been continually praying to God to teach me to love the way He loves. God answered my prayer and taught me to love by sending me someone to love .

Moreover, he showed me other believers who did not just love in word but also in deed. They truly behaved as people of one heart and one soul, who had all things in common (Acts 2:44, 4:32). They opened their homes, they opened their hearts and treated this young man’s burdens as if they were their own. Their labor yielded a harvest of new life not only in him, but also in me, revealing to me the authentic Church in power and glory. Thank you Brother Marty for this life changing introduction. I’m eternally grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #7 – Dr. Athelia and Placid Eze

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze
Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze
Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze

In 7 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze.

I was in my MR COMPUTER MAN service truck on Highway 82, headed back from a service appointment in Columbus to Starkville, when a tan 2001 Lincoln Town Car flew past me. As the car advanced ahead of me, the driver glanced over in my direction and suddenly the car’s speed dropped precipitously to match my own, our vehicles side-by-side on the highway. The driver locked her eyes on me, nodding her head, then pointing in my direction and afterward sped off. I was perplexed and slightly unnerved by the encounter, but little did I know that moment would mark the beginning of one of the most meaningful relationships of my career. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from Dr. Athelia Eze to provide IT services for her practice and that began a 20 year relationship with her and Dr. Placid Eze of Eze Family Medical Clinic.

I’ll jump straight to the punch line and say that Dr. Athelia Eze and Dr. Placid Eze are unsung heroes in the black community, not only here in Starkville or in North Mississippi, but arguably throughout the southeast, having had clinics and pharmacies in (including, but not limited to) Starkville, Columbus and East Point, Georgia. No one has done more in this area to identify, recruit, educate and produce black medical professionals than Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze. They gave minorities a chance and an onramp into medical professions when no one else would.

This is not something I’ve heard about, the Eze’s themselves don’t even talk about it, it’s something I’ve watched them do quietly and purposefully. I would add that it’s also something they’ve paid dearly to do. I’ve watched them take people with little to no background in a professional setting, with next to zero experience in the medical field and in many cases pay to have them educated, personally study with them for exams and certifications to help them along the path to attain a meaningful and gainful career. It’s an absolute slough of trial and error, frustration, candidates quitting, spectacular failure, betrayal, disappointment, considerable expense, but always love.

Love characterizes their practice. You can hear it in Dr. Placid’s laugh and bedside manner with his patients. You can see it as Dr. Athelia would greet her customer’s children by name, knowing the candy each child preferred. It is a safe place, sadly still needed in 2022, where blacks can come and not get strange looks or funny treatment for the kind of insurance they have, for not having insurance, or for not looking like a ‘good client’ –whatever that means. Sure, as an I.T. professional I’m there installing network equipment or servicing computers but I’m always paying attention. And, when people came through those clinic doors or pulled up to the pharmacy drive-thru window they were treated as though they belonged there, as though they were wanted there. For better or worse the Eze’s focused on care first and would often work with their patients to figure out how to take care of the cost later.

Care for your people even when it costs you is the blackest thing I’ve ever seen.

Dr. Placid is from Nigeria and Dr. Athelia is from the coast, so they didn’t even know many of the people here that they would come to make investments in. As graduates of Morehouse College and Mercer University, respectively, as well as being members of the black greek letter organizations Kappa Alpha Psi and Alpha Kappa Alpha, they were steeped in an African-American culture that prioritized collective progress and embraced education not for education’s sake but as a tool for empowerment. So, in all that they do and everywhere they go, they’re always looking out for black people they can invest in -even if it costs them –because they love them. Again, the blackest thing I’ve ever seen.

I can hear the question, “Wait. Isn’t this just reverse racism?”

No.

Dr. Placid and Dr. Athelia love all people. In watching them serve, hire and work with people of all backgrounds, that would be clear to anyone.

They simply made it a point to focus love where love was lacking. You should too.

This is black history. I am inspired by the Eze’s commitment not only to offer compassionate medical care for their community but also to increase its economic capacity. While it doesn’t always look great for the bottom line, it always yields a profit because love never fails. Their love has born fruit in my life that I’m eager to bear in the lives of others. I’m grateful. #52WoG #BlackHistory

Unhappy At Work: A Confession

Facebook---Image-Post-UnhappyAtWork

I was unhappy at work. I resented it. I felt unmotivated, tired and sad. I just didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t see the point.

I thought to myself, “If I were to do this everyday, it wouldn’t make any difference. I’d look up in ten years and be no better off and no further ahead. I’m going nowhere with this.”

I then asked myself what type of work would make me happy or would make doing it worthwhile? My answer: the kind of work that makes a lot of money, millions preferably. And, there was no way that I could see getting there doing what I’m doing now. The thought left me feeling stuck, without hope and dejected.

Then, I felt convicted and it occurred to me that my attitude about my work was out of line with God’s Word. Colossians 3:23 commands “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” But, I don’t want to do this anymore. It’s impossible for me to obey this command. I can do the work, but I can’t do it from the heart (“heartily”) because I can’t want what I don’t want. That realization was a heart check and prompted the question from Genesis 3:9 where God asks Adam, “Where are you?” It made me consider whether I am in the flesh or the spirit. A preoccupation with materials things is a dead giveaway that I’m in the flesh but how did I get here? What moved me?

In the past, such states of discontent were triggered by feelings of inadequacy brought on by comparing myself to others or frustration with not being able to do something -namely, not being able to afford it. As I examined myself, I could not find any indication that covetousness was at play (this time). I couldn’t find where I was comparing myself to anyone. Then I contemplated whether I was frustrated. I determined that I was but what am I frustrated about? What brought this on?

Weeks back, we buried my Uncle John Jr. and death has a way of making you re-evaluate. One of my greatest desires is to be in a position to take care of my parents in what should be their golden years. My Uncle’s death was an urgent reminder that the clock was ticking, my parents are aging and I am nowhere near being ready financially. At the time, I did not recognize that these thoughts were even occurring. So, I did not bring these thoughts captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), that is, I did not evaluate whether their implications were lies that contradicted the truth of what God says. I was caught unaware and anxiety was sown in my heart.

Anxiety is a nasty demon –the hellish spawn of pride and fear. Pride makes you bigger than God and fear makes God smaller than your problem -a particularly potent and deadly combination. And that’s precisely where I’ve found myself, wrestling frantically with a problem bigger than I can handle, because what I think of God is so small.

How much has God brought me through? How many times have I been in need and He delivered? Time and time again God has sent who and what I need to get me where He wants me to be -every time. Every good thing I have is because of Him. So, why don’t I trust Him and would rather trust in uncertain riches (1 Timothy 6:17)?

I am glad, yes, glad that I don’t have millions of dollars because I’m obviously still at a level of maturity where I’d be foolish enough to trust it, become a slave to it, hurt others to keep it and probably jump out of a window if I lost it (1 Timothy 6:6-9). Instead, I want to be like Job who said, “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21) or “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). I want to be like Paul who said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” (Philippians 4:11) I don’t want satisfaction that’s dependent on my circumstances. Whether I’m CEO of a billion dollar corporation or peeling potatoes in a prison, I want to be just as full of His inexpressible joy, immovable, with the peace of God ruling in my heart.

Truthfully, it’s not that I’d rather trust uncertain riches than God. It’s that I was not vigilant and allowed something to distract me from my focus on God and I sank. I sank into my flesh and leaned to my own understanding rather than trusting Him. I moved from walking in the peace of the Spirit to allowing anxiety to make me discontent. What does God say about anxiety? “Be anxious for nothing” and then continues “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” -Philippians 4:6. I failed to do the second part that prevents the first. I failed to be prayerful in everything. All prayer requires is to start by being honest about where I am and begin it with “Lord”. These two statements: “I am afraid I won’t have enough to take care of my parents” and “Lord, I am afraid I won’t have enough to take care of my parents” are similar but lead to very different places.

I repent and am resolved to be more vigilant to pray at all times, about all things and trust God. I trust that God is not merely some ethereal concept, but a real person with real power who is good and can indeed work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). So, I can be joyful and faithful with what’s in front of me, confident that He will work all things out and order my steps in the appropriate course of action (Psalm 37:23) to bring Him glory because that is what I want, or should want, above all.

It is a true and faithful saying that I cannot want what I do not want. So, when I find myself not wanting what He wants (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) or unable to want what He commands, I need a new heart. My prayer today is, “Lord, please give me a heart to want what You want. Give me a heart that delights in You, that enjoys and is completely satisfied with every good and perfect thing that is in You. I ask these things following the pattern of your Son Jesus the Christ (in His name) and for His sake. Amen.”

The Paralysis Of A Perfect Plan

Planning Whiteboard

I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted waiting to develop the perfect, fail proof plan. I have to constantly remind myself that if God wanted to make me a robot that operates on strict step-by-step instructions, He would have. Instead, He made me creative, resourceful, able to navigate obstacles and has given me discretion over how I represent His interests. So, I must simply be led by a desire to please God, put my hand to the task before me with what I have and work to grow my stewardship. There is no need to agonize over my next move. If I first aim to have His heart and relate to the world as He does, my steps will be guided in the process.

The Affordable Launch Guide

A professional goal of mine is to learn and teach people who have no more than a high school education, how to build automated systems that can generate income and once established, can continue to generate income without interaction from the owner for at least two weeks. In short, I’m conducting experiments and building the guide I wish I had when I got started as an entrepreneur.

Here is what I’ve learned so far. Please feel free to contribute your suggestions in the comment section.

PROCESS:
1. Go to where people are.

TIP: Start where you are. Begin with asking questions like:
What groups of people do you have access to?
What experience do you have in common with others?
Whose language do you speak?

2. Listen for:

A. A Problem,
B. Observe a Proclivity or
C. Find Something To Perfect that people would pay for.

3. Identify a challenge you can address for a specific group of people that you can afford to test with little investment.

4. Develop a Minimum Viable Offer*.

5. Make the smallest investment possible to put it in front of a specific group of people and see if they will pay enough for you to make a profit. If not, go back to step 1. If so, go on to the next step.

6. Invest more into advertising the minimum viable offer.

7. Set aside a percentage of profits to implement improvements learned from customer feedback.

8. Repeat steps 4-7 until improvements are no longer profitable or the product is mature. (At this point, consider possibly spinning suggestions into a new product.)

* A Minimum Viable Offer is an offer that provides the smallest number of benefits necessary to make a sale. In other words, it’s a Prototype that people are willing to purchase. Source: THE PERSONAL MBA, Josh Kaufman