The Move from Ruston

When I moved to Ruston, LA in September of 2003, I never dreamed I’d live there for 13-plus years — but I did. Did being the operative word.

In 2012, I convinced my now wife, Allison, to move from the Washington D.C. metro to this small town in North Louisiana. A place that had grown to be very special to me. Ruston is where I began to understand who God made me to be and more importantly wanted me to be. It’s where I formed bonds with people that will last a lifetime. People I could lean on when times were hard and who could lean on me. This is something I hope doesn’t change.

My Information Technology career began here after graduating from my beloved Louisiana Tech University in 2006. Thanks to Business Technology Group in Ruston for giving this green college grad his first “big boy” job. I moved on to Rogers Manufacturing Corporation as their IT Manager in 2008 and stayed there until May of 2016. RMC took a chance on me and it worked out well for both parties. For the past year, I’ve worked as a Systems Analyst at Northern Louisiana Medical Center, a place I can wholeheartedly say cares deeply for its patients.

Ruston is where I started BleedTechBlue.com with the help of Jason Jones in 2008. Last month, Ben Carlisle took over. With no family in town and no website tying me to Ruston, Allison and I felt a tug on our hearts to move.

But, where would we move?

Would it be Texas? I had a contact in the Houston area who wanted me to work on the same team as him in corporate communications. The timing never seemed to work out for Houston. Then Allison and I started talking about cities we liked, Little Rock, Austin, Dallas and Nashville.

The only place I got any nibbles back from was Nashville. Those first nibbles weren’t good timing in our life to say the least. However, those nibbles we felt were our sovereign God saying, “Nashville is where I want you, but not yet.” While Allison processed the thought of leaving her great job at Holyfield Construction, I waited for her but kept my eye out for jobs that interested me. I saw a job for a Business Development role for an IT consulting company and realized their recruiter was from North Louisiana and I knew of her.

I asked a mutual friend if he would get her work email address for me. Once I had it, I emailed her. While the role I initially was interested in was not a fit, they had a role that was right up my alley. After five technical assessments, they wanted me to go to Nashville for a 2-hour technical interview with their Director of Technology, and a group interview to gauge a cultural fit.

The first week of May, I start as a Solutions Engineer at Concept Technology, Inc. in Nashville, TN.

I owe a lot to Ruston. It’s a place that does not quickly accept people who aren’t from Ruston as their own, but it accepted me.

Identity in Christ

Finding your identity in Christ is one of the biggest foundations of the Christian faith but often times we fail, I know I do.

In 2008, I started the brand BleedTechBlue after a friend approached me. Since I have a degree in Computer Information Systems, I am an alumnus of Louisiana Tech and lastly was single with lots of time on my hands, it made sense. BleedTechBlue is a brand that reports on Louisiana Tech sports through a website and radio show. During my time as Publisher it grew exponentially.

February 1, 2017, it was time to let someone else take over BTB.

The why, is where I meet you today.

Being a Christian was something I always held dear. I was raised in a Christian home, was at church anytime the doors were open – even sometimes when they weren’t. I always heard, “let go and let God.” It never really made much sense to me though. Probably because I’m a control freak and struggle mightily when I’m not. There lies the rub.

Now, a little background information is needed. I grew up overweight and as everyone knows, overweight children are bullied – it had a profound effect on me. A feeling of inadequacy was born and is something I struggle with to this day.

With the growth of BTB came people thinking I was the authority on a subject. Given my struggles with inadequacy, I finally felt adequate in an area of my life – it was intoxicating. More over, words of affirmation are one of my main love languages, which just complicated matters.

That feeling of being the authority on a subject led to me being far from humble. I was more concerned with more followers, likes and subscribers than anything else – including how being so consumed by BTB made my wife feel.

Burn out had set in and I even talked about it with my wife and some close friends. I was ready for BTB to be over. Then, God revealed to me I had been finding my identity in BTB instead of Him. It was time to hand BTB over to someone else.

FINDING OUR IDENTITY IN CHRIST

As Christ followers, we are called by Jesus to take up our cross and follow Him in Luke 9:23. Further, in marriage we become one flesh with our spouse, a concept I never fully committed to – until now. Now, I am committed to righteousness and have given up control of my life and I’m allowing Him to lead me like a child. Children follow their parents with complete trust and no regard for where they’re being led.

In Isaiah chapter 1 verses 16 and 17, Isaiah wrote:

16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause. (ESV)

PIPER: “ALL THINGS ARE YOURS”

Modern day theologian, John Piper, addressed the class of 2013 of Bethlehem College and Seminary (transcript found here) and reminded them all things are ours in Christ.

This excerpt especially rang true for me.

When the craving for the kudos that come from being in the know about the latest prominent music group, or athletic team, or movie, or pastor, or theologian, or book, or mobile app, or political guru tempts you to attach yourself to them, don’t do it. You don’t to need to do it, because all things are yours.

Man, that hit me square between the eyes. Through BTB I had relationships that put me “in the know” about all things Louisiana Tech.

Thank you Mr. Piper for speaking truth.

FASTING FROM SOCIAL MEDIA

Before Ben Carlisle took over as publisher of BTB officially, I deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone and stopped going to them even from a computer. Any one close to me would tell you, I was one of those people who was so distracted by my phone I could hardly focus when out in public. At home, this was true too. Being disengaged with your spouse is not being “one flesh.”

A recent post on Relevant.com really resonated with me. I was seeking very unhealthy validation through social media.

But my need for affirmation can turn—and in the past has turned—into an unhealthy search for validation. In seeking to get my need met, at times, I have given people far too much power to validate or invalidate me.

Like many other people, I will check to see if anyone liked that status or commented on that picture far too frequently. I will refresh and refresh, wondering: “Has anyone shared my blog post yet?” “Did I get more subscribers this week?” “Is my traffic up today?” “Please let this go viral.”

Does this sound like you? I hope you’ll consider a fast from social media.

CHALLENGE: DISCONNECT IN A CONNECTED WORLD

Along with a fast, I’d like to challenge all of us in this connected world we live in.

When you go home today, put your phone on your dresser or in a drawer out of sight and spend quality time with people close to you.

The next time you go out to dinner, leave your phone in your vehicle and challenge those with you to do the same. Connect with them in conversation.

Be present.

iPhone 7 Plus

iPhone 7 Plus a month in

After ordering October 13, it took nearly a month for my iPhone 7 Plus to be delivered. But, man was it worth it.

I’ve been using an iPhone 6 Plus since it launched in 2014. The number of people who ask me if it’s too big is pretty absurd. Once and for all, it is not too big. It fits just fine in my pocket. With all the speculation the iPhone 7S (if the naming convention continues which no one expects it to) being the most groundbreaking iPhone yet, I had planned to wait until the iPhone 8 would come out. It will be the 10th anniversary since the first iPhone. In classic iPhone fashion, my 6 Plus became super slow with iOS 10.

WHAT’S NEW?

The 7 Plus is incredibly fast. Force touch is far more useful than I ever expected. The new home button not being a tactile button is incredibly satisfying to press, as weird as I know this sounds trust me. The haptic feedback that Apple uses to make you feel like you’ve pressed this pseudo-button is impressive. To produce this feedback, they clearly upgraded the hardware that vibrates because the phone vibrates more intensely than anything I’ve ever seen. Apple continues to produce market leading cameras and the 7 Plus is no different. It actually has optical zoom and with iOS 10.1.1 Apple fakes DSLR like depth of field. This feature is still considered “beta” so it will only get better.

Build quality is something that has always put Apple ahead of all of its competitors. The iPhone 3G was the worst build quality but Apple went back to metal builds after a foray to a plastic phone, until the 5C which was the only budget iPhone to ever be produced. It was simply a plastic iPhone 5.

In short, I love the iPhone 7 Plus and I’ve only had it a little over 24 hours.

SO MANY WAYS TO BUY

There are many different ways to pay for an iPhone. You can go with Apple’s Upgrade Program which includes Apple Care Plus, because after all when someone loans you money they want it insured. Plus, all carriers have payment programs which also need insurance. The payment plans are all essentially 0% loans for the full retail price of the device. Two-year contract pricing still exists, but because the cost of phones have gone up they are no longer prices in the $199, $299 and $399 price points – they’re much more expensive.

In light of this, I made the decision to sell my iPhone 6 Plus and pay full retail for an iPhone 7 Plus. This way, not only am I not locked into a contract but I can sell the device when the next phone comes out and get the most possible for my old device. Understandably, many cannot make this happen financially but if you can, it will pay off in the end.

SHOULD YOU UPGRADE?

If you already own an iPhone 6S, there’s no reason to upgrade iPhone 7. If you have an even earlier model, the answer is simple. Yes.

My take on why America elected Trump as a third party voter

It’s the morning after Americans voted to put Donald Trump into the White House. When I woke up this morning (almost late mind you since I was up late watching the circus coverage) my daily ritual of checking social media was interesting. My Republican friends were giddy while my Democrat friends were ready to move to Canada, mostly in jest I think.

Any one who knows me would tell you I like to cut to the chase and doing so you must ask “why?”. The why for me was summarized in one 140 character tweet. Does the tweet show all the intricacies of why? No. But ultimately, Trump’s candidacy is on the Democratic National Convention (DNC).

I’m hardly the only person to have this thought. Thomas Frank from The Guardian wrote a piece last night about this very thing. This excerpt sums it up nicely.

The woman we were constantly assured was the best-qualified candidate of all time has lost to the least qualified candidate of all time. Everyone who was anyone rallied around her, and it didn’t make any difference.

Wikileaks proved the DNC’s Primary was rigged in Hillary Clinton’s favor but yet the establishment still backed her from the banks to former Republican political heavyweights like George W. Bush they all backed Clinton.

Trump won in states Barack Obama ran away with in 2008 and 2012, like Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. The “why” for the latter three was jobs. Trump hammered home his stance of American jobs leaving in favor over production outside of our country and those states responded.

Many Republicans did not even have Trump as their preferred choice for the nomination but they went with it. Many wondered if the turnouts of Trump rallies would mean anything in the polls, I guess we know the answer.

The media was all in on Clinton outside of one network, Fox News (shocking I know). The numbers crunchers at FiveThirtyEight.com projected Clinton’s chances yesterday before the results started coming in at 71% to win. As battleground states like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina began looking like Trump wins they adjusted quickly and Trump all of a sudden was the favorite. The L.A. Times was one of the few who saw this coming as far as pollsters go – their take on what they saw others missed.

All of this is before we take into account the human element of all of the Clintons’ skirting of the law. From Benghazi to the e-mail fiasco or even the past with her husband President Bill Clinton. How would people take Hillary acting like the laws don’t apply to her like they do the rest of us?

Was Hillary the best the DNC could come up with as their candidate?

Was Trump the best the GOP could come up with? Probably not, but they trusted the numbers from their convention and rolled the dice. Good news for the GOP, those dice didn’t come up snake eyes.

As someone who could not in good conscience vote for Trump or Clinton, I penned this Monday on Facebook. I still believe it to be true. We missed a golden opportunity as a people to elect a third-party candidate. My chosen third-party candidate was Evan McMullin. He did very well in his home state of Utah but I believe entered the race too late.

Thankfully tomorrow this whole he said she said game will be over. If there ever was an election for this country to reverse its way of thinking and elect someone outside of the two major parties, this was it. Alas, we’re a country of sheeple.

For my friends supporting Trump. If a man ever spoke to my wife the way he speaks of and to women someone would have to hold me back from having an altercation. And that’s not even the only reason for me not to support him.

For my friends supporting Hillary. If you can in good conscience vote for someone with her past of lies and deceit and justify it, you might want to have a “Come to Jesus” with yourself. There’s other options if you’re considered liberal or progressive.

I understand the argument Conservatives bring about the Supreme Court. But, a third-party candidate could also put conservative justices in place. A stat I heard from the pastor of Denton Bible Church, as he tried to sway his congregation to vote for Trump, about the 2012 election was how 25,000,000 Evangelicals didn’t vote in 2012. Not only do I wish him luck with the IRS as that video has gone viral when it comes to his church’s 501(c)3 status, but imagine if those 25,000,000 people stood up against this “system” we have in place and voted third-party. It would change the political landscape in this county forever.

Last night was like watching a train wreck for me. As someone who enjoys immensely watching people interact it was as much that as watching the completely unexpected unfold in front of my eyes.

Is this the new normal in American politics? A circus?

A strange place Louisiana is a place the nation can learn from its ways

Louisiana often is near the bottom in good things (education) and near the top in bad things (incarceration). The latter has presented an opportunity for Louisiana to do something for the people it imprisons — make them better people.

Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola for short because of its location in Angola, La.) is run by Warden Burl Cain and in his 20-plus years on the job, Cain has taken once the most violent prison in America to one with a much lower violent crime rate.

In the nation’s largest maximum-security prison, one remarkable warden has turned to religion to bring morality to the inmates.

The American penal system is largely broken. I have had the opportunity to know and work with someone who was convicted of attempted murder and served time in the Louisiana penal system but not at Angola. When I asked him if he felt like he was rehabilitated by the system, he laughed. Why is it the prison in Louisiana where the majority of its inmates will never see the outside of Angola’s gates are having a greater impact on the lives of inmates than ones that house those who will rejoin society? Louisiana needs to model all of its prisons after Angola and maybe then Louisiana will not be the most incarcerated population per capita in the country.

Cain has largely rehabilitated much of the prisoners at Angola with the help of Christianity but also says he does not force prisoners to choose Christ. He simply encourages them to find a religion that reaps “moral rehabilitation.” This can be done legally in a country with freedom of religion and a “separation of church and State” — just look at Angola. This is not about forcing Jesus on people at all, which seems to be the only way people see “religious freedom” in the Bible Belt.

An incredible documentary inspired from a visit to Angola with New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu:

Great read: A Rare Look Inside Angola Prison

BleedTechBlue Radio Season 8 Episode 2

Louisiana Tech opens its football season Saturday inside Joe Aillet Stadium as they face the Southern University Jaguars. Host Jonathan Ford and guest co-host Chris Brister talk about the game and its matchups with beat writer Les East of The Advocate in Baton Rouge. Tech is entering its final season under contract with Nike and are looking to change apparel companies and Ford and Brister discussed the options and their impact.

Hurricane Katrina 10th Anniversary

Today marks the tenth anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts of the Gulf of Mexico. I was raised in Southeast Louisiana and my parents and brother live in the New Orleans Metropolitan are when Katrina hit but they had sought refuge in South Arkansas with family.

That day 10 years ago I was a senior at Louisiana Tech and could not stop reading or watching anything to do with the storm and the aftermath that would follow. It would take my family a month to be able to move back into their home in Mandeville. A several hundred year old tree had left a hole in the roof but a Southern Baptist chainsaw crew had removed the tree and tarped the hole. The state of the home I grew up in was largely a mystery. My parents found a photo online that was a photo of their street, Marilyn Drive, with trees covering the street. One of my childhood friends, Josh Hayden, and his brother Adam climbed over those trees covering the street down to the house and told us the state of the house.

Luckily for Mandeville, the flooding was not what it was a mere 30 miles south across Lake Ponchartrain.

While much of the damage in Mandeville from Katrina was not avoidable, the flooding on the southshore of Lake Ponchartrain seemingly was. A documentary titled “The Big Uneasy,” addresses the decades of mistakes by the Army Corps of Engineers that led to the flooding nightmare New Orleanians experienced during the days following Katrina.

Fun times on the radio with an old friend

Wednesday I was on the radio with Sean Fox. Fox and I have known one another since high school and went to college together at Louisiana Tech. He was the host of Fox and Company a daily sports talk show on ESPN Radio 97.7 in Ruston for years and recently came back to the radio waves hosting The Sports Company everyday from 3-6pm.