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Luke 2: Where the Unqualified Come First

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  Glory to God is the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" - Luke 2:13-14
Here is what we often neglect about this scene...
This celebrated and glorious song is rendered to an audience of social outcasts: Shepherds.
During the time of Jesus' birth, shepherds were banned from testifying in court and looked down upon by the religious and political leaders and the power structure of the Roman state. They were marginalized, disadvantaged, and nomadic.
Perhaps that is exactly why they are the first at-large group to hear the Good News of the Lamb of God's birth.
First, one angel shares the good news with the shepherds (v. 9). But, seemingly the word was so good that the heavens could not contain the joy of the message and bursts into a multi-angel chorus.
Let's grasp this truth: shepherds heard the good news of Christ's birth first. The word of Jesus'…

Luke 1: The Introduction of Radical Reversal

"And Mary said: My soul magnifies the Lord." - Luke 1:46
Upon hearing that John leaps in her cousin Elizabeth's womb, Mary bursts into song.

The song she sings in Luke 1:46-55 is prophetic, theological, and filled with wisdom beyond her years. Her lyrics are about the child she is about to give birth to.

"He has put down the mighty... and exalted the lowly" (v. 52).
"He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty." (v. 53).
These two Scriptures, and the song itself, speaks to the radical reversal that Jesus will usher in. In this approaching reversed world, the unqualified will be qualified; the unloved and unlovable will be loved; the forsaken and neglected will be remembered; the sick will be cured; the unforgivable will be forgiven; the hurt will be healed.

In the new reversed world, there will be a solution for every offense, shortcoming, and handicap by God's grace through the salvation that Jesus the Christ will …

Luke: The Gospel of Amazement

"And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying 'This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'" - Luke 22:19
Earlier this week I completed Michael Card's commentary on the book of Luke, Luke: The Gospel of Amazement. 
Not only is this the very first biblical commentary I have ever completely read and "worked" through, but it has set the bar high for any other commentaries I pick up.
A big reason why I enjoyed this study of Luke is due to how passages of Scripture are broken up into digestible parts. This is not your average commentary. 
Most commentaries are broken out on a Scripture-by-Scripture basis, whereas Card's commentary is passage-based. This structure allows readers to look at passages as part of a larger story. 
Several themes stand out: Jesus was just a human as you and IJesus was drawn, like a magnet, to those in need, especially the poor, overlooked, and marginalizedJesus served with hea…

Making the Investment

It feels great to be back into production. It is a craft that I have missed and let lay dormant for far too long.

The hiatus between '12-'14 was not without cause. I focused on piano, improving our music department at church, and growing as a jazz student.

But there is nothing like turning a simple melody into a creative masterpiece in a studio setting. There is a sense of intimacy and diligence in studios that cannot be replicated on a live stage.

Another interesting facet of studio life is the equipment used to create and shape music.

Propellerheads just completed their May Blowout Sale on Rack Extensions and Refills.

I purchased 4 rack extensions: A-List Acoustic Guitarist, PX7 FM Synethesizer, Rotor Rotary Speaker, and PMS-20 Analogue HP/LP Filter, all for the grand total of $148. It would have been an arm and a leg at regular price.

So far I have been very pleased with all four rack extensions and glad to have them in my arsenal for creative possibilities.

That leads me to…

Assurance in Sifting

"And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." - Luke 22:31-32
The first time in the Bible where Satan asks permission to "sift" someone is in the first two chapters of Job.
Clearly, Satan must get permission from God for his attack on Job.
The same is here in Luke at the time of Passover.
Why must Satan ask? Because God is sovereign. Paul later writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.
If you are being "sifted" right now, this passage means two comforting words for you. God is sovereign, even over all our suffering. God knows our limits, trust Him.Jesus Himself is praying for us, like He prayed for Simon. Satan wants you to crack under the circumstances, but put your trust in Jesus, who the Word assures "makes intercession …

Springtime Music

Just how Spring is that season of the year for refreshing, renewal, and rebirth, so there are songs that communicate or remind us of the same message.

These songs give me that feeling; that vibe of newness and a fresh start.

I hope you take the time to listen, enjoy, and be refreshed!

1. Puzzles- 4Him

2. The Beauty of the Cross- Crystal Lewis

3. Awake My Love- I Am They

4. Future- Knowdaverbs

5. O'Lord- Lauren Daigle

6. If I Know God- New Identity

7. Meditate- Out of Eden

8. Jesus Makes Me Happy- Take 6

9. Sonshine- Take 6

10. Inspiration- Tonex

Go Deep

Last Saturday I completed Part 1 of the Rotary Leadership Institute (RLI).

This was my first RLI, but definitely not my last as I thoroughly enjoyed the six hours of courses, discussion, and information.

Leaving the session feeling empowered for service, I asked myself three questions.

In the 3 years that I've been in Rotary, why haven't I attended RLI before?What have I really learned and how can I apply it?How can I spread the word about RLI and when is the next session? I am passionate about Rotary. How it helps people around the world, the friendships, the vocational support, and the community-centered approach it takes to all of its initiatives resonates with me.
But, one serious flaw that attending RLI pointed out in me is how little I truly know about what I say I'm "passionate" about. My attendance at RLI kindled a fire to go deeper with knowing Rotary. And that, Dear Reader, also where I challenge you: Go Deep.
If we say we are passionate about something,…

What Passes First

"And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail." - Luke 16:17
Jesus is speaking to a group of self-righteous, deeply religious people when he says these words. Many of them did not believe He was the Messiah and Savior of the world.

A tittle is a tiny mark used in the Hebrew alphabet to distinguish certain letters.

Jesus is saying that heaven and earth will end before even the tiniest mark of God's Word will.

His words speak to the indestructibility and infinite nature of God's Word.

No matter where you are, what you face, or what may have you worried or perplexed, put your faith in God's Word. It will endure, outlast, and overpower anything existing in this world.

Everything we see and all we know will pass away before one tittle, or the tiniest letter of God's Word, will.









The Synth Sounds

I am excited to share that my first jazz project is nearing completion. (Also why this is my first post this month).

Other than piano, you can definitely expect to hear sounds of 1980's and 1990's-era synthesizers filtered throughout the upcoming album.

I admire the newer sounds we have today, but none of them quite replicate the original, synth-led sounds of 80's and 90's music.

In my opinion, 80's and 90's sounds present the perfect crossover of analog and digital mixes that were limitless in use and expression.

It is no wonder that modern synthesizers today still draw inspiration from 80's and 90's technology. It was simply some of the most innovative audio machinery ever created.

No shame here. Expect 80's and 90's vibes to come your way in my upcoming project.

Stay Tuned!!!


A pile of my module racks from the 80's and 90's used and simulated on my upcoming jazz album.

The Audacity of Hope

Last week I completed The Audacity of Hope by President Barack Obama in 2006.

In The Audacity of Hope, Mr. Obama shares some of his experiences as a citizen and politician while also laying out policy-driven solutions to improve the lives of Americans.

Granted The Audacity of Hope was written before Mr. Obama's first presidential election in 2008, his thorough understanding of the Nation's issues are impressive and difficult to overlook.

Mr. Obama, in an academic prose, but down-to-earth tonality, hits on national issues relative to our political system, constitutional interpretation, economics, military policy, education, and community development.

I found The Audacity of Hope to be one of the better books I have ever read on American politics and public affairs. Regardless of your politics, this is a good read with the capabilities to expand anyone's understanding of politics and government.

In fact, much of the information contained in The Audacity of Hope is still rele…

Rooftops and Retail

I had a meeting with a residential real estate developer earlier today whose firm has completed numerous successful subdivisions across the Southeastern U.S.

When I asked him about what his firm looks for in communities they want to invest in, he quickly mentioned three factors for their site selection:

1. Schools

2. Employment

3. Shopping

The quality of an area's Schools and accessibility to Employment are two site selection factors that I expected. However, Shopping Availability was a bit of a surprise to me initially, but it makes sense.

The fact that commercial development in area can be deal-breakers for significant investment indicates another reason why the presence of shopping and dining businesses are important  for communities.

Commercial development, and the recruitment and retention of retail and restaurants cannot and should not be overlooked.

While it is true that retail follows rooftops (classic supply and demand economics), the existing presence of retail in a comm…

Thou Shalt Develop Future Leaders

If we are serious about developing sustainable and vibrant communities then we cannot overlook the importance of youth leadership development.

As scary as it may sound, today's teenagers are tomorrow's leaders.

The more we professionals and adults expose the next generation to leadership concepts, cultivate stewardship in them, and prepare them to be responsible adults, the better we prepare those adolescents, and our communities, for prosperous longevity.

This understanding helps explain my excitement for the recent graduation of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce's 2017 Teen Leadership Cherokee Class.

I was fortunate to serve as Chair of the program this year. More than anything, in addition to the many community benefits associated with investing in youth, I enjoyed getting to know each of the 20 high school sophomores. I am excited to see what they do to improve the world.

If we really want to see our communities grow, improve, and remain vibrant, then we should n…

Commercial Real Estate Survey

Real estate, in numerous ways, is central to the process and profession of economic development. Real estate development is the lifeblood of a community's economy.

Economic development, by nature, is a deal-driven, project-heavy, and people-intensive field.

Last week I participated in a survey of economic developers around the U.S. by LeaseRef that sought to learn more about how economic developers help with real estate deals.
The survey results show that economic developers, myself included, face similar challenges and share similar sentiments about commercial real estate development. The data speaks for itself. 
Click this link to go the survey.



White House FY18 Budget Proposal

Today the White House released its budget proposal for FY18 titled, America First, A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.

As was expected, many of the recommendations by the Heritage Foundation and the Republican Study Committee were included.
The White House proposal prioritizes national security and public safety to the tune of $54B. However, this delivers a blow to non-defense federal programs. 
President Trump's first budget proposal calls for elimination of the following programs: Economic Development AdministrationMinority Business Development AgencyAppalachian Regional CommissionDelta Regional AuthorityDenali CommissionCommunity Development Block Grant ProgramNational Endowment for the ArtsNorthern Border Regional CommissionTIGER Discretionary Grant ProgramCommunity Development Financial Institution Plus, cut funding for the Manufacturing Extension Program and the Rural Business Cooperative Service at USDA.
Interestingly enough, all of these programs are economic de…

More Alike Than We Know

Today I had the privilege of hosting 16 German exchange students around Downtown Canton.

It was a wonderful encounter that I will cherish forever. It is amazing how love, compassion, peace, and joy transcend race, culture, nationality, and creed.

We laughed, took pictures around some of Canton's historic landmarks, and discussed how ways of life differ between our two nations amidst many similarities.

I was equally amazed at how fluently these students spoke and understood English. They communicated with incredible command of the language.

Overall, it was a real honor to serve as a host of 16 intelligent students with bright futures ahead of them. It invokes a sense of celebration of peace and global diplomacy that exists in our world.

This level of peaceful relations will not make the news, but carries significant importance: Seventy something years ago this visit would not have been possible.

It is vital that we understand the importance of peace, respect, and goodwill for those…

Healthcare

In 2009, the US spent $2.5 trillion on healthcare. That number is growing faster than the economy. With a growing population and growing needs, our annual spending on healthcare will only increase.

Factor that with increasing deficits and the need to fund other programs and the magnitude of a national healthcare policy comes to light. 
I am not stating that Obamacare is right, nor that the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is right.
However, the Congressional Budget Office released today projected that 24 million more Americans will be left uninsured 2026 by the AHCA than under Obamacare. That also includes 5 million people left uncovered by Medicaid by next year.
Regardless of the policy adopted, our national healthcare policy can always see improvement, not only for the sake of our fellow Americans, but also for the health of our economy. 
Federal spending that could go toward our military, technology, education, infrastructure, or reinvestment for entrepreneurship currently goes to h…

Keep Small Business at the Forefront

As an economic developer, I invest a significant portion of my day assisting small businesses.

When small businesses succeed, cities succeed.

That clarifies why officials in Avondale Estates, Georgia are thinking of ways to memorialize the founder of the city's most famous home-grown brand, Waffle House.

The founder of Waffle House, Joe Rogers Sr., passed away last Friday at 97.

Avondale Estates Mayor Jonathan Elmore made a comment that city officials use the Waffle House's birth as one of their top bragging points.

That says a lot about the impact businesses have on their communities.

The iconic 24-hour restaurant was once a small businesses; a start-up diner.

Waffle House was founded in 1955, had six locations by 1961, and today there are 1,900 Waffle Houses around the US.

Cities cannot afford to neglect supporting small businesses: One day its a small operation and tomorrow it could be a into a multi-million dollar empire.

Fostering and developing small businesses should be…

Never Leave

"Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you." - Deuteronomy 31:6
The Bible is filled with promises from God that He will not forget, nor neglect His children.

Thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus, those promises are true for anyone who believes in faith.

"Never Leave", shared below, was written and produced Michael Brooks. Brooks was an original member of Commissioned and wrote and produced many of their early songs. William Murphy ("Praise is What I Do") is the song's male leader.

I hope the track and lyrics remind you that, no matter where you are or what you are facing, God will never leave you-- in a jazzy and soulful way. Enjoy!



Goals of Comprehensive Planning

I spent the most of my afternoon at the offices of the Atlanta Regional Commission, the planning agency for the metro Atlanta region.

One of my coworkers and I were there to learn about upcoming planning grant funding and programs.

Being in the environment of planning propels me to share the common goals of comprehensive planning.

A comprehensive plan is a community's long-term master plan, typically extending to 20 years. To give you a better idea, I encourage you to look up the comprehensive plan for your community.

Because municipalities differ, the goals of their comprehensive plans are not the same. However, most comprehensive plan goals include:

Health- Achieve a pattern of land use that protects public health. Public Safety- Encourage land use that is safe and easy to navigate in case of emergencies.Circulation- Create a system of roads and parking facilities that allows efficient and rapid vehicular and pedestrian traffic.Provision of Services and Facilities- Determine the …

Founding Brothers

Founding Brothers is a well-written narrative of the intricate relationships among America's Founding Fathers.

While there are several among the Revolutionary Generation who were instrumental to winning America's independence and laying the foundation for our democracy, Founding Brothers chronicles the correspondence of seven of them:

George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Burr.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning gives an inside look how ideologies, differences, and informal relationships established the institutional and framework that is still intact today.

The details in Founding Brothers are outstanding. Author Joseph J. Ellis went above and beyond on intricate facts that are seamlessly woven on each page.

Everything from the famous duel that ended Hamilton's life, the location of the Nation's Capital, slavery policy, Washington's Farewell Address, to the introduction of party politics are all co…

On Cities

Cities are the centers for job creation.

Cities are where ideas, creativity, innovation, education, entrepreneurship, and leadership happen. 
All jobs are local. 
Cities are where the fuel of human energy creates jobs and opportunities.
I always think of places like San Francisco and Silicon Valley: there is a culture that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship like nowhere else on the planet. 
San Fran and Silicon Valley are under the same federal government as anywhere else in the US, but what differentiates them from other cities are the people, cultures, events, and institutions comprising their makeup. 
These characteristics make all the difference.
Think of New York City (finance, real estate, entertainment and fashion), Washington (government and politics), Los Angeles (film), Nashville (music), Orlando (automation).

For all of these cities (perhaps your city, too), there are people, places, and institutions, supporting the growth and development of these clusters of innova…

Housing Planning and Jobs Access

Housing is just as central to effective economic development as are the jobs themselves.

After all, entrepreneurs, workers, and people in general, prefer comfortable and safe places to live.

Land use controls how much housing and what types of housing will be built, and where.

Costs, soil conditions, adjacent zoning, transportation, are a few of the factors at stake when urban planning for housing is considered.

Where children live determines where they go to school, therefore housing policy is also a part of education policy.

Where one lives can determine access to social services and recreation, therefore housing policy is also part of environmental planning.

Where people live factors heavily into where they work, therefore housing policy is also economic development planning.

Ideally, people want to live close to where they work, and vice versa.

A lack of access to jobs opens the door for unemployment. Some of the well-documented adverse impacts of unemployment on communities and h…

National Disagreement is Not All Bad

In light of the recent transfer of power from Obama to Trump, the Women's March, and the future of Obamacare on the line, we see concerns and disagreements expressed about the Nation's future and the question of governmental authority limitations.

This governmental authority derives from the U.S. Constitution. 

One of the true gems of the United States is we can disagree without fear of punishment. That is not true for every country, nor for most eras in history. However, here and now, differences and varying opinions are welcomed and can be openly expressed.

Differences in constitutional interpretation, governmental authority, and people's rights are native to the U.S. since its' founding. Below is an excerpt from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams:

"The line of division was again drawn, we broke into two parties, each wishing to give a  different direction to the government; the one to strengthen the most popular branch,  the other the more permanent branch…

MLK Day 2017: Hidden Figures

If you have not already, I encourage you to see Hidden Figures
It tells a powerful and compelling story of three women who persevered through hardships and defied the odds at a time when discrimination and segregation was the law.
It is a microcosm of the struggles of African-Americans in their fight for fairness, justice, and non-discriminatory opportunities. Through that same microscope, it shows the awakening of mainstream America to the wrongness of racism and rightness of unity and equality. 
Augmenting the potency of Hidden Figures is it's reality: The film is based on true events and phenomena.
The accomplishments of many people of color still goes overlooked and left out of history books. In fact, the achievements of women, in general, often gets forsaken and discarded to future generations.
I believe we can all do a better job of documenting the stories of those we know who pushed through hardships to improve the world, especially those who derive from a minority or ma…

Presidential Transition Issues to Watch: Economic Growth

This particular post is not all-conclusive about the Nation's economy heading into the Obama-Trump transition. However, it does serve to depict our current growth and what awaits the new administration. 

The most recent report from the US Labor Department reflects a solid job market that continues to grow 7.5 years after the Great Recession. Check out these numbers:

US employers added 156,000 jobs in December 2016, ending a year of slow, but steady hiringHourly pay went up 2.9% over one year's time, the biggest increase in over 7 yearsJob growth averaged 180,000/monthThe health care sector added 43,000 jobsThe manufacturing sector created 17,000 jobsRestaurant and bars picked up 30,000 jobsTransportation and warehousing companies created 15,000 jobsLike in all economics, these behaviors can be traced to several causes:
For starters, more people started looking for work. The unemployment rate decreased to 9.2%, the lowest level since April 2008. Warehousing and transportation saw …

Presidential Transition Issues to Watch: Infrastructure Spending

Another issue to watch as we transition from President Barack Obama to President-Elect Donald Trump is infrastructure spending.

During his election victory speech, President-Elect Trump declared "We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals... We're going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of people to work as we rebuild it."

Both sides agree that America's infrastructure needs serious attention. However, infrastructure issues may take a different form than what we traditionally picture.


The Flint water crisis grabbed the Nation's attention and highlighted the inefficiencies of many inner city public water systems. Funding solutions will be necessary for upgrades and prevention from lead poisoning from old pipes.Transit in large cities is also moving to the forefront of infrastructure funding as more people and jobs gravitate to urban …

Presidential Transition Issues to Watch: Obamacare

As President-Elect Donald Trump prepares to take office and the 115th Congress already having convened, keep an eye on what happens with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

The campaign slogan from Trump and other congressional Republicans was "repeal and replace" Obamacare. That will be easier said than done.

However, with Republicans being in control of Congress and the White House, we know that major changes are in the works.

Congress seems likely to overhaul the state insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which allows workers without employer-provided coverage to shop for insurance.

Congress may also give states more control of their respective Medicaid provisions. Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have both favored the idea of turning Medicaid into a block grant program: the federal government would pay a fixed share and allow states to divvy the rest how they see fit.

Trump has voiced his support of keeping some of the ACA in place. Such as…