Why I wrote a book

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My Five Favorite Blog Posts from 2013


Wow, 2013 is almost over. I can look back over the past year and agree with Tale of Two Cities author Charles Dickens that is was indeed "the best of times and the worst of times." On the bright side, I had my first book You're Grounded released in July, and I started this blog in the fall. 








If you're new to the blog - or you just have seen a post here or there - here are the top five I would encourage you to read from 2013. 

1. Is Kanye West a Christian? Yeezus showed up on the Kris Jenner Show talking about a WWJD bracelet and Christianity. You can read my take here.


2.  Why I'm Not Looking at The Front Door.  A blog on why my wife Emily (read her blog here) and I stick it out through the ups and down of marriage.  You can read it here.



3. The Interracial Cheerios family and church. There was a huge uproar when Cheerios used an interracial family to advertise its cereal. If this fictitious family was to ask me about finding a church as a interracial family, here's what I'd tell them. You can read that blog here.




4. Hope for the Hurting. This year, really from start to bottom, has probably been the most pain-filled and difficult year of my life for any number of reasons. This story about an amazing tree always encourages me that our pain isn't wasted. You can read that blog here.


5. How Nike's Blake Griffin Commercial reminds me of the gospel. I love this commercial from the music sample to the layout. The theme of the commercial is also amazing consistently with the main story of the Bible. Read how right here. 

There's plenty more on the blog, such as my thoughts on what 2Pac, the movie Friday and the show Preachers of L.A. have to do with one another and a great guest blog from my wife on forgiveness. I also threw in a few things I learned from going through the publishing process.  One blog that just barely missed the cut was a blog I had about what if rap star Ja Rule was to walk into your church?

I hope you enjoy it, and I would love your feedback on anything you read.

Happy New Year's! 

Chris Lassiter is a Christ-follower, a husband to Emily, and a father of five wild and crazy kids. He has written for The News Leader, VIBE, Rapzilla.com, Young Life Relationships and many other publications. His first book was published by Moody Publishing in July. (Read about it here.) The Cross Promotion Blog gets updated twice a week. Please consider joining this site by subscribing by email or following the link at the bottom that reads "Join This Site."  



















 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Three Reasons I'm hyped for my first book signings

Dreams do come true!

Since the time I've started writing professionally, I've wanted to write a book. Not only did I write a book, but Moody Publishing actually published my first book,  You're Grounded, in July.   

Now I'm holding a pair of book signings. The first will be at 10 a.m. at Danny Moats' barber shop the morning on Sat., Dec., 28.  The second will be Monday night, Dec. 30,  at the Robert E. Lee High School boys' and girls' double-header basketball game. 

Here are the three reasons why I am so excited about the signings. 

1. Because of where I'm signing the books.


The two locations of the two book signings, the Paul Hatcher Gymnasium and Danny Moats' Barber Shop, have both played pivotal roles in my life.

Moats has been my barber for 20 years, and the shop holds a special place in my heart. Even though there are constant jokes about how lumpy my head is, that barber shop is home to me.

Additionally, being part of the Fighting Leemen basketball fraternity was a big deal to me. The city of Staunton has a rich high school basketball tradition, and I was lucky enough to have a small chapter in that history. 

It's a coming full circle of sorts as I achieve one dream (a book signing) so close to where I spent so many nights chasing other dreams (a state championship and a college basketball scholarship). 

 Additionally,  I still volunteer at the school every day through a ministry called Young Life, and I have a great love for the students at that school. I couldn't choose two more appropriate places. 


2. Because of the subject matter of the book.

 "The Greatest Story Every Told is rarely ever told!" 



It was a very long time before I heard Jesus explained in a way that made sense to me. But once it made sense to me, it was the greatest thing I've ever heard (Watch this powerful 4-minute video above to grasp what I mean).

 Now that someone took the time to explain it to me in a way that made sense, I want to take the time to explain the gospel to others in a way that makes sense.

 3. Just Because ... If you know me well, you know I'm a people person, and I could talk to anybody for hours. And just like my family, anything good that happens in my life, I want to share it. I'm excited that I accomplished one of my life goals, and I hope to get to see all my friends and family at one of the two dates. 

I write these blogs as conversation starters. Becoming an author was one of my dreams. What is one of your dreams?

Chris Lassiter is a Christ-follower, a husband to Emily (visit her blog here) and a father to five wild, crazy and lovable kids, a former sports journalist for 15 years and a freelance writer. The Cross Promotion Blog gets updated twice a week. Please considering following by clicking "Join This Site" at the bottom of the page. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Grinch and the Gospel: Three things we can learn from Whoville

The Grinch doesn't even get nearly enough credit as a criminal mastermind.

Think about it. He "stole" Christmas from a whole town! And think about how he did it. He wore a costume associated with extravagant giving to do extravagant stealing. 


How gangster is that? Just imagine if you took your kids to sit on Santa's lap at the mall and when your kid came back 20 bucks was missing out of his or her pocket. Pretty clever, right?

Usually whenever I watch or read a story - and The Grinch That Stole Christmas is one of my favorites - it reminds me of the one big theme in the Bible. God had a rescue plan in place to redeem fallen humanity through the person and work of His only Son Jesus Christ. We call that the gospel.

Here are three gospel truths we learn in the Grinch story.

1. We, like the Grinch, have a heart problem. We've established that the Grinch was an evil genius. The narrator tells us why the Grinch was an evil genius. His heart was defective. The Bible explains we have the same problem. There is no love for God in our hearts.

2. If our joy comes from stuff, our joy can leave with stuff, too. The Grinch was an evil genius, but his plan had a fatal flaw. He assumed he could steal something that couldn't be stolen; the spirit of Christmas. The true key to joy is make sure your joy is rooted in something that can't be taken from you. We know from scripture that Christ's love is something no one or no thing can ever take from us.

3. Heart change always proceedS life change. The Grinch ended up eating dinner at a house he robbed a day earlier. How does that happen? It was clear that it wasn't the same Grinch. We learn in the Bible that the gospel changes us internally. Christ lived a perfect life and died a subsitutionary death in our place so we could experience true heart change. He gives us new hearts, filled with affection for God, the way hearts are supposed to function. Just like the Grinch, our new hearts lead to new actions. But it is always in that order. Hearts change first. Actions follow.

I write these blogs as a way to start conversations. What is your favorite Christmas story and why? Or just give feedback on this blog post.

Chris Lassiter is a Christ-follower, a husband to Emily (read her amazing guest blog post on forgiveness here), a father to five crazy but wonderful kids, and a Young Life leder in his hometown of Staunton, VA. He was written for VIBE, Rapzilla.com, Young Life Relationships, JamTheHype.com, HipHopDX.com and other publications. Moody Publishing recently released his first book, You're Grounded, which you can purchase here.

The Cross Promotion Blog gets updated twice a week. Please considering following the blog.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Three The Hard Way: (Part 2) Three More tips for aspiring authors

Last week, I wrote a blog  for aspiring authors wishing to get a book published.

If I'm fortunate enough to have another book published - and I am starting work on some new books - there are also some things I would do differently. 

Here's a list of three things I learned from experience. Looking back, these are the things I would fix with the next opportunity. 
1. Invest your advance. When you sign a book contract, you typically get an advance. As I said in the first of these two blogs, being an author is being a part-time writer and part-time business owner. Businesses have start-up costs. My advice would be to take your advance and put it all in to the business side of being an author, such as buying copies of your own book.
2. Be prepared for the release date. I once read that the opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity. There are months between the submission of your final edit and the release date. This time could be spent setting up book signings and other promotional things, which often take weeks to set up and publicize. If you time it right, which I didn't, you can have your book-signing set up right at the release of your book.

3. When the book releases, your job is just starting. Author and blogger Jon Acuff, perhaps the funniest guy on Twitter, used his blog to address friends who wrote books but felt awkward about promoting the books. 

Here was Acuff's response

"OK, Next time don't write a book. Write a diary. It's a lot easier and you don't have to promote it all." (1) 

 Writing a book is the first half. The second half is then convincing people that reading your book is worth their time. By this, I don't mean arrogant self-promotion. It just means standing by your work. Your book is a product just as Gatorade is a product. Gatorade has to convince athletes that sports drinks provide them with an advantage. And we, very humbly, must promote our product as well. This takes time, energy, finances and resources. 

You can hear a full-length interview I did about the book, You're Grounded, on the What in The Ham Sandwich Show podcast here.

I write these blogs as conversation starters. What questions would you like answered about writing a book? If you are an author, what advice would you give? 

Chris Lassiter is a Christ follower, a husband to Emily (read her moving testimony about forgiveness here)  and father to five crazy but wonderful kids. He leads Young Life in his former high school, Robert E. Lee in Staunton, VA. Chris has written for VIBE, Young Life Relationships, Rapzilla.com, JamTheHype.com and other publications. Moody Publishers recently put out his first book, You're Grounded, which you can purchase here. The Cross Promotion blog gets updated twice a week. Please consider subscribing. 

1. John Acuff, Don't Write a Book, http://acuff.me/2013/10/dont-write-a-book/

Friday, December 6, 2013

Getting Booked: Five Tips for Aspiring Authors

In August of 2012, I was at Buffalo Wild Wings in Waynesboro, VA with a group of recent Robert E. Lee High graduates. 

We were doing what guys do, acting hyper-masculine by trying to eat the hottest wings on the menu. In reality, it was just a chance to get together before many of the recent grads I had worked with in Young Life left for college.

In the middle of that dinner, my wife called me and told me to check my e-mail immediately. I opened the e-mail on my phone to read that Moody Publishing was offering to publish my first book.

It was truly one of the most exciting days of my life. 
I got to meet John Perkins in Chicago!


Going in to the book-writing process, all I knew that I enjoyed writing and I wanted to write a book. Literally nothing else. Having now gone through the process once, I've started to learn what to do and what not to do. In the first of a two-part blog, here would be my advice for ambitious writers hoping to get their first book published. 

1. Being an author is part-time writer and part-time small business owner. Being an author will feel like a part-time job or sometimes even a full-time job. I played basketball in college. Fans see the glamorous part, but players know all that happens behind the scenes before game day. As an author, you wear a lot of hats besides that of a writer.  Publishers definitely help you out throughout the process, but you are the main person responsible for the writing and promotion of your book.

2. Write as much as you can. Prior to writing a book, I wrote sports at The News Leader in Staunton for 13 years.  I also wrote for many other publications about faith, culture and music. I wrote for free for as many publications as I could, and I was able to build lots of relationships. Also, expanding my reading audience beyond the local newspaper readership was important as I sold the idea of my book to a publishing company. I would suggest creating a personal blog and finding a Web site that is looking for writers. Then contribute to both sites consistently. Set a goal of one personal blog and one published blog a week.

3. Read as much as you can. One book that was required reading for me was Michael Hyatt's Platform.  (Read about it here.) The book is filled with insights that apply to new and aspiring authors. Another way I continue to improve as a writer is to read as much material as I can from really good writers. Not only is reading enjoyable, but you grow as a writer, so it's a win-win situation. 

4.  Know what publishers like. Publishers are not looking to read your book. They want a book proposal that tells them why lots of other people would read your book and two sample chapters. Hyatt actually addresses the right way to make a book proposal in the Platform book and on his blog.

5. Be prepared for your big break. In July of 2012,  I attended The Legacy Conference  at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I actually had my book proposal in my backpack. When I met the representative from Moody Publishing, she told me what I needed to submit to have my book considered. I was able to hand it to her right on the spot. If nothing else, she knew I was serious about becoming a published author. 

I was interviewed on the Chris Fabry Live! show about being an author and the Trayvon Martin aftermath. You can listen here.

I write these blogs as conversation starters. I would love to know what type of book you would like to publish, and what other questions you have about writing a book. If you have written a book, what other tips would you suggest to aspiring authors? 

Chris Lassiter is a Christ-follower, a husband to Emily (read her blog about forgiveness here), and a dad to five crazy kids. Chris leads Young Life at his former high school, Robert E. Lee, in Staunton, VA, and he has written for VIBE, Rapzilla.com, JamTheHype.com and other publications. Moody Publishers recently released his first book, You're Grounded, which you can purchase here. Please consider subscribing to the Cross Promotion blog, which gets updated twice a week. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Hook-Up: 4 Books (besides mine) to snatch up on Cyber Monday

Moody Publishing (the company that published my first book) is having a gigantic Cyber Monday sale (click here for online sale). 

If you are looking for a stocking stuffer, here are four other Moody Publishing books I recommend in addition to mine: 

1. DNA: Foundations of the Faith by D.A. Horton


Advance13 - D.A. Horton from Advance The Church on Vimeo.

D.A. is the director of Reach Life Ministries, a ministry that works in conjunction with the Reach Records label.  He's incredibly gifted in taking theological truth and making it applicable, especially to Christ-followers who grew up in hip-hop culture. I've met him and his wife on occasion. In his teachings (which I podcast regularly), he's extremely passionate, open and vulnerable. Keep up with his ministry and you will grow.

2. The Cross-Shaped Gospel by Bryan Loritts



Without any exaggeration, I think I have listened to every sermon this man has ever preached. (You can listen here).  I love his ministry. He's a great preacher, and he's a master of illustration and storytelling. He always uses those gifts to lift up Jesus. Watch the five-minute snippet above and you will see exactly what I mean.

3. The Good Life by Trip Lee



Most people know Trip Lee as a theologically sound rapper. His ministry is so much more than music. He preaches, too, and recently he wrote a book, The Good Life, that has the same title as his last album. The book takes a look at how people, including those in hip-hop, would define "the good life" and then addresses it from a gospel perspective.

4: Kai'Ro - The Journey of an Urban Pilgrim 

Kai'Ro is a brilliantly written hip-hop remix of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Our family has used this book and its sequel, Kai'Ro Returns, for family devotionals for the past few months. 

It's one of the best fiction books I've read addressing the challenges of being a disciple of Jesus Christ in an urban environment. (The other would be Phanatik's City of Allegory, which you can find here.)

As a reader, I'm growing more convinced that fiction writing does play an important role in our Christian journey. As a dad of five, it's been fun watching my kids embrace parts one and two of this book.

5: You're Grounded by me, Chris Lassiter





You're Grounded is an introduction to the gospel and the Christian life aimed at the hip-hop influenced reader. It's perfect to pick up and read, as a gift for a friend, or to study in a group. 

I'd love to hear back from you. Which book on this list interests you?  What other Cyber Monday deals are you excited about? 

Chris Lassiter is a Christ-follower, a husband to Emily (read her blog about forgiveness here), and a dad to five crazy-but-oh-so-lovable kids. Chris is a Young Life leader in his hometown of Staunton, Va. Please consider following The Cross Promotion Blog, which gets updated twice a week.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Being Thankful is Hard Work: Four Obstacles to Being Thankful People

Friendship, family and food comas. Tis the season.  


I remember being in a Bible study where one of the leaders mentioned that Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday. One the students responded with a hilarious question. 

"If you're a Christian, doesn't your favorite holiday have to be Christmas?" 

Regardless, there's something special about Thanksgiving. So special that I would love to be thankful 365 days a year, not just for one Thursday in November. But being thankful doesn't come easy or naturally. 

In fact, here are four things that I will have to overcome to be a consistently thankful person. 
  • I feel more entitled than thankful. This one is the tough one for me. I would never say this out loud, but in my head and in my heart, I often find the thought, "I deserve ..." This is the biggest barrier to thankfulness in my own heart.
  • I focus on things that make me ungrateful. Earlier this year, Young Life sent my wife and I to Bermuda for free. Pretty amazing, right? During my week in Bermuda, I had poison ivy. Poisoned in paradise.  At that point, I had two choices. I could be thankful I was in Bermuda with my wife, or I could focus on the little thing that was wrong. So often in life I choose to focus on the little thing that's wrong rather than the big picture of everything that is right.
  • I fail to recognize how good I have it. The man who has no shoes feels sorrow for himself ... until he meets the man with no feet. This year, 2013, has been a challenging year for me. As true as that is, my heart breaks for friends and neighbors who have it much worse. I'd be much more thankful if I could keep in mind how much worse things could be.
  • I'm not thankful enough that I don't get what I do deserve.  If the rest of my world falls apart, I can always be thankful for the cross of Jesus Christ. It was at the cross where Jesus took the punishment that I deserve. He got what I deserve - God's judgment - so that I could get what Jesus deserves - an intimate relationship with my Heavenly Father. 
 I write these blogs as conversation-starters. I would love to hear what you are thankful for today.

Chris Lassiter is a Christ-follower, a husband to Emily (read her moving blog on forgiveness here), a father of five and a Young Life leader in his hometown of Staunton, VA. He has written for VIBE, HipHopDX.com, The News Leader, Rapzilla.com, JamTheHype.com and other publications. Moody Publishing recently put out his first book, You're Grounded, which you can purchase here. This blog gets updated twice a week. Please consider following.

 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pimp? Murder? Sell Drugs? The "Happy Meal" Aspect of Hip-hop

A recent conversation I had with the students that I work with reminded me of this must-see, 54-second commercial.

 

Before I share my conversation, let me first explain the video. 

A man in a black sweatshirt fashioning himself as a rapper walks up on a couple. He begins chanting "Pimpin, Pimpin, Pimpin, Murder, Murder, Sell Drugs" several times. 

The couple, as you would expect, looks disgusted. 

Then things get interesting. 

The man in the black hooded sweatshirt gets his friend to drop a beat. The rapper then recites the exact same "Pimpin, Murder, Sell Drugs" chant to the couple, only this time to a beat. 

Now, instead of disgust, the couple actually joins in on the chant, and even starts dancing. 

The commercial, a promo spot for Reach Records' 2009 Don't Waste Your Life Tour, is equal parts hilarious and saddening. 


 
Fast forward to my conversation. I was in a mini-van on a road trip with a group of hip-hop loving teenagers. When I work with students, I invite them to play their own music in my van. And they are always quick to oblige. Heads get to nodding. Faces scrunch up tightly when the beat drops. And they sing along word for word. 

Over the weekend, it sounded like this: 

"Whipping a Brick. Whipping-Whipping a Brick. Whipping a Brick." 

(note: This is not a song about brick masonry or what the Israelites chanted in Egyptian captivity.)

The only catch is we don't just listen to the music. They have to help me critique it. I prefer the critiquing approach to the "baby-out-with-the-bath water" approach, because critiquing helps students to become thinkers.

We look for things such as: 
  • What does this artist tell you is worth reproducing artistically?
  • What values does the artist want to instill in you? 
  • If we fast-forwarded to the logical conclusion of the way this artist tells you to live, would society benefit or crumble? 
Fairly consistently (although, thankfully, there are exclusions), we find several themes that tend to run through hip-hop. 
  1. Money, and lots of it, is what it means to be happy.
  2. Being worshiped sexually by multiple members of the opposite sex is what it means to be happy.
  3. Being a man that everyone fears (not masculinity but hyper-masculinity) is absolutely essential. 
But here's the catch. Those hip-hop messages have a Happy Meal quality to them. Not a ton of nutritional substance, but very cleverly packaged.  In both cases, something undesirable (unhealthy food or unhealthy values) is being communicated in something otherwise desirable.  In the case of the Happy Meal, it's usually a toy. And what kid could resist a new toy? In the case of hip-hop, the message is usually hidden within an appreciation of a certain style of music. And what person doesn't like a catchy song?

Now one Happy Meal is more than likely not going to destroy someone's health, but a diet in which fast food is a main staple is going to have negative effects on your long-term health.

I'm trying to teach my students that similar to the way fast food impacts the body, music that promotes destructive values can have a similar impact on the soul. Ask anyone who really knows me. They will tell you that no one loves hip-hop more than me. However, I can not just consume any hip-hop anymore. The only hip-hop that resonates with my heart now is hip-hop that: 
  • creates art in a responsible way
  • communicates values consistent with the truth
  • affirms that life that follows God's design for humans is the best and most freeing way to live. 
In a 45-minute conversation with guys, I don't think I could completely transform the way they think about hip-hop. I'm just hoping that the students - much like a person who is considering the health risks of fast food - can be a little more critical of what they consume sonically.  

I write these blogs as conversation starters. I would love to hear how you think through the content in hip-hop lyrics. 







Chris Lassiter is a husband to Emily (read her powerful blog about forgiveness here), father of five kids, and a Young Life leader in his hometown of Staunton, Va. He has written for VIBE, Rapzilla.com, JamTheHYpe.com, Young Life Relationships and other publications. Recently, Moody Publishers put out his first book, You're Grounded, which you can purchase here.  Please consider following this blog, which gets updated twice a week.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Okaly Dokaly: 3 Ways Christians shouldn't be like Ned Flanders


There is always some truth in fiction.

The creators of the hit cartoon sitcom The Simpsons did a masterful job of showing what non-Christian America thinks of evangelical Christianity by creating an evangelical neighbor to the Simpson family. His name is Ned Flanders. (As a side note, this is precisely why we need more Christians in the arts and entertainment industry.)



And boy is this Flanders character a piece of work. 


His sweater is out-of-date. His mustache is terrible. He speaks in Flanderisms, replacing simple sayings like O.K. with "Okaly-Dokaly."

Flanders is portrayed as extremely annoying,  beyond optimistic, scared of science, out of touch with reality and having attained a level of holiness most of us could only hope to reach. During one Sunday morning church service, he confesses before the congregation that he has too much civic pride in his community.

How then, as Christians, do we avoid an unattractive Ned-Flanders religiosity?  

Here are three ways: 
  • Don't confuse fear with holiness.  We can take one or two approaches here. The baby-out-with-the-bath water approach means that Christians retreat from everything that "threatens" our faith, namely science and culture.  
Ned opts for this approach. In one episode, Homer writes a paper denying the existence of God. When Flanders can't combat Homer's answer with reason, he lights the paper on fire. 

The other approach is to learn to navigate the real world with a Biblical worldview.  We can then really engage our friends and neighbors over their doubts, questions and presuppositions about Christianity.  All in the context of a real friendship. That works a lot better than burying our head in the sand.
  •   Don't replace your culture with a religious subculture. Flanders is intentionally created to show that every part of him - from his vocabulary to his fashion choices - don't work in society at large. His only culture is the subculture that he's created, even down to his own Flanderisms.
This makes being a good gospel witness tough for poor old Ned. Rather than attend a barbecue at the Flanders' home, Homer Simpson elects to hide on his couch and watch the Canadian Football League Draft. 
    
When Jesus incarnated, he didn't just become human. He was Jewish. Jesus entered the world in a certain culture, and so did we. I grew up in hip-hop culture. When I became a Christian, I didn't all of a sudden have a desire to become like Ned Flanders. Christ didn't come to change my culture - except where the culture doesn't align with His Word - He came to change my heart.
  • Live in reality. Our world is broken. I worked in a newspaper for years. Six days out of seven you could replace the lead news story title with the words "Our World is Broken" and it would make perfect sense. Christians and non-Christians both grapple with the fact that our world is indeed broken.  
Poor Ned comes across as a guy whose life is perfect inside of his evangelical Christian bubble. The real problem is that he seems to engage everyone he comes across as if everything is "Okaly-Dokaly" in their world, too. Ned comes across as the type of person who would give you a pat on the back and a Hallmark card quote without a hint of true empathy. 

The opposite of the Flanders approach is to show that we, just like our neighbors, also have deep scars from living in a broken world. However, we can also show them the hope we have in a fallen world because of God's activity in the world through the person and work of Jesus Christ. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the religion of Ned Flanders. Agree? Disagree? What other points would you add to the list? 

Chris Lassiter is a Christ-follower, a husband to Emily (read her gripping blog about forgiveness here) and a father to five wonderful kids. He's a Young Life leader in his hometown on Staunton, VA. He's written for VIBE, HipHopDx.com, Rapzilla.com, The News Leader, Young Life Relationships and other publications. Moody Publishers recently published his first book, You're Grounded, which you can read about here. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

What Lou Holtz and I Have in Common: Three Reasons You Should Dream Big

At age 28, Notre Dame college football coaching legend Lou Holtz was jobless and almost penniless. 

To make matters worse, his wife was expecting the couple's third child. 


 
To help lift him out of a funk, his wife gave him a copy of David J. Schwartz's book The Magic of Thinking Big. Holtz began to make a list of 107 things he wanted to do before he died; a list that included things such as winning a national football championship, meeting the president of the United States and other outrageous ideas.  (Read Holtz article here.)

For a man who wasn't sure how that month's bills were getting paid, that was thinking big.

Now, many decades later, that once unemployed 28-year-old coaching hopeful has crossed off over 100 things on his life's to-do list. 

I'm finding myself in the same place as Lou Holtz. Not the championship-winning coach but the 28-year-old unemployed Lou Holtz. My life is full of ambition. And it's full of obstacles and challenging circumstances.



I'm working on my life's to-do list now. It includes things such as:
  • Spend my whole life investing in a gospel-proclaiming, multiracial,  missional church. 
  • Create a nationally syndicated podcast talking sports, culture, music and theology.
  • Lead chapel for the student-athletes at my alma mater, Shenandoah University.
  •  Install a pond at my house for salamanders.
  •  Read 500 books.
  • To give away $100,000.00 in my lifetime.
  •  Debt free by age 50.
  •  Sell a combined one million books in my lifetime and have a NYT bestseller.
  • Spend part of every day praying for friends and family.
My list is still in its early stages, but I will see it through to completion, Lord willing. Here are three reasons I would encourage you to create a similar list. 
  • Goals are better than regrets. Even though Lou Holtz hasn't crossed off everything yet, he knows what he's aiming for. Creating that list and then going all out after it has led to one incredible adventure for the coach.
  • There is no such thing as "Must See TV." Americans reportedly watch an average of 38 hours of television a week. Is this the alternative to chasing our dreams? I'm not anti-TV, but I doubt the season finale of any show could be as exciting as Lou Holtz putting a check mark beside the goal that read "Win a national football championship." 
  • This life is a gift. There's not a single material possession a man would willingly exchange for his life. That's because we all realize that our life is the most important thing we have. Not only is it a gift, it's the best gift. Drifting through life aimlessly is sort of like getting the present you always wanted and then never using it. 
I write these blogs as a way to encourage discussion. I would love to hear some of your life goals. I'd also love to see your life goals list when you finish.

 Chris Lassiter is a Christ-follower, a husband to Emily (read her powerful blog about forgiveness here), and a father to five wonderful kids. Chris leads Young Life in his hometown on Staunton, VA, and he has written for The News Leader, VIBE, SOUL M.A.G., Rapzilla.com, HipHopDX.com and several other publications. Moody Publishers recently published his first book, You're Grounded, which you can read about here.



Friday, November 8, 2013

When the real "Enemy" is Inner-Me: Five Thoughts on Forgiveness

If anyone has a right to hold a grudge, it would be Mary Johnson. 

Her only son was murdered by a young man named Oshea Israel, yet her response was anything but typical (This three-minute video might just change your view of forgiveness).



 Mary Johnson's initial reaction wasn't forgiveness. 

"I wanted justice. He was an animal. He deserved to be caged." 

I write this with great sensitivity knowing this situation impacted many people in this community, but I can relate to Mary Johnson's anger and longing for justice.  When a friend of mine was murdered, convictions and long prison sentences didn't bring the peace I thought they would. I grew angry and bitter and that bitterness began to take a toll on me and those closest to me.

Earlier this year, however, everything began to change.

God began walking me down a path of introspection and healing. Even though I said I had forgiven, deep down I really hadn't. Then God allowed me, like Mary Johnson, to forgive what - for years - seemed unforgivable to me.

Here are five things I've learned on this journey...

  •  Forgiveness doesn't usually happen overnight. Forgiveness is a process. For years, I told myself and others that I had forgiven when true forgiveness had never taken place in my heart. When I saw photos or heard the names of the men who took my friend's life, all of the emotions would come rushing back. Many lives were changed on 12/12/00, and we are all likely in different places on our journey to forgive. It takes time.
  • Refusing to forgive punishes us and the people around us, but rarely the person who originally hurt us. We often believe that refusing to forgive allows us to have power over someone who hurt or victimized us. In reality, the person that unforgiveness has power over is us. I was filled with bitterness and hatred and it was damaging relationships with the people I loved the most - not those who had hurt me. As Mary Johnson shares in the video, "Unforgiveness is like cancer. It will eat you from the inside out." The only way to be free from its power is to make the choice to forgive. 
  • Choosing to forgive isn't something we can do in our own "power." Forgiveness isn't natural, but supernatural. For years, I'd said I had forgiven when the true work of forgiveness had never really happened in my heart. I really didn't want to, it just seemed like the Christian thing to say. I could only make the decision to forgive after God revealed my refusal to do so and worked in me by His Spirit to truly forgive. 
  • Forgiveness allows us to see more clearly. The day I chose to forgive, I read Luke 23:34 where Christ on the cross says “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” God allowed me, for the first time, to see the humanity of the men who took the life of my friend.  He also helped me better understand His heart for all of humanity. I was able to see all the lives that were left broken as a result of what happened that night. While I knew my friend's family members and friends had suffered deeply, my hatred and bitterness never allowed me to consider the lives of the other families and friends that were left changed as a result. Over the last year, God has helped me to see that no one wins in situations like these and there are victims on both sides.
  • Extending forgiveness brings healing. After choosing to forgive, I wrote letters to the men who were in prison for the death of my friend. I shared the hatred and bitterness that I had carried for years and how God's forgiveness of me had changed my life and was helping me extend that same forgiveness to them. To my surprise, they wrote me back. Forgiving them or beginning a friendship with them doesn't absolve them of the crime they've committed or restore all the brokenness that resulted from this situation. It does, however, free me from the prison of my hatred and bitterness. It reminds me of God's mercy towards me and that someone else paid a debt for me I could never pay myself.  In the words of C.S. Lewis: "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you."
I wrote this with hopes that my story would help encourage others. I would love to hear how you are wrestling through the issue of forgiveness.






Emily Lassiter is wife to Chris Lassiter and mother to their five beautiful children (Read her other guest post here). She is the Coordinator for Valley YoungLives, an outreach ministry to pregnant and parenting teenage mothers. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter or email her at younglivesvalley@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wait, so am I a racist? Thoughts on the Klan, Costumes and Craigsville


Halloween costume or social statement? 

  

Jessica Black's choice to dress her son in a Ku Klux Klan outfit for Halloween has put her and the town of Craigsville in the national spotlight. The response, predictably, has not been kind. 

Now, personally, I would never dress my son up in a Black Panther costume. (He's biracial. It'd be a bit of a contradiction anyway.)

But does that mean I'm not racist?  Are racists only the people who do outwardly racist things? Is it possible to be a closet racist who navigates society a little more smoothly than Jessica Black?

 In light of the current controversy, here are three questions I asked myself. 

  • Would I be willing to be part of the solution in the Craigsville Klan Costume scenario? The easy thing to do is get mad or get "even." Would I be willing to do the hard thing? Would I be willing to befriend Jessica Black (how ironic is that last name?) and allow her to truly have a friendship with a black person in order to remove some of the stereotypes? 
  • How am I working through racism in my own life? I'm black. I absolutely love being black and black culture. It comes with hardships for sure, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.  I love the music, the food, the style of fashion and the unique brand of humor. 
The problem isn't with appreciating my culture. The problem is when I fail to appreciate other people's culture.  We fail to appreciate other cultures when we make our own the absolute standard. It becomes obvious when we make subtle statements like:
  1. That is NOT how you season chicken. 
  2. That's NOT how Amazing Grace sounds at my church. 
  3. Why is their table always the loudest in the cafeteria?
  4. Why is he wearing khakis? It's Saturday!
  5. Y'all follow directions to make Kool-Aid? 
  6. I can't stand (insert any different culture than your own here) music. 
Some of those items above just highlight that different cultures have different ways of doing things. Isn't it true that we are bordering on racism when we make one culture (usually our own culture) the standard instead of appreciating that different cultures have different tendencies?

Life becomes so much richer when we can appreciate the gifts each culture has to offer and so much more bland when we can only appreciate our own. 
  •  Finally, am I against institutional racism or just overt racism?  In Edward Gilbreath's book Reconciliation Blues,  Gilbreath recounts a chapel message given by Rev. Russell Knight to Moody Bible Institute students in February of 1991. Wrestle through the implications of his quote. 
"You might say, 'I'm a not a racist. I have not done anything to anyone personally.' But the problem is that we have to be careful that we do not enjoy the benefits (of racism).  When we silently enjoy the benefits of racism; when we do not protest injustice to those who are poor, powerless and oppressed; when we decide it's not our problem and go on enjoying the fruits of a racist system, then we too are racist." (1)

That one stings the most. We've all seen examples of systemic racism. Some may favor our own race. Some may oppress our own race. Wright's point is that when we see it and we do nothing about it, we're actually saying "This particular racial injustice isn't worth fighting. We're willing to live with it." 

I write blogs like these with the hopes of starting conversations. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you wrestle through the issue of racism. 

Chris Lassiter is a Christ-follower, a husband to Emily (read her guest blog here),  a father of five wonderful kids, and a Young Life leader in his hometown in Staunton, VA.  He has written for The News Leader, VIBE, HipHopDx.com, Rapzilla.com, Young Life Relationships and other publications.  Moody Publishers recently published his first book, You're Grounded, which you can read about here.

1. Gilbreath, Edward, Reconcilation Blues (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Books) 2006, p. 49.

Monday, November 4, 2013

"Tryin' to make a dollar out of 15 cents"... Connecting Students to Resources

  I tell people that the students I work with at Robert E. Lee High School are the funniest kids anywhere.



Even the most routine conversations are comical.

A few years ago, we were helping kids raise money to go on our annual Young Life fall weekend trip. Here is how a conversation played out with one particular student.

Me: How is fundraising?
Student: Not good, C! I made minus five dollars ...
Me: Minus five dollars? 
Student: Yeah, the only lady I asked ended up asking me for five dollars!!!

While that story remains one of my favorites, the truth is we've had success with fundraisers. This week, we're doing a Lee High stadium clean-a-thon to help kids pay for our 2013 Fall Weekend Trip.




The fundraiser is really simple:

Students must:
  1. Agree to clean clean up the football stadium for 30 minutes or so after Friday night's football game. (We try to pick things that benefit the school).
  2. Try to find 12 sponsors that will give them 10 dollars each for the clean-a-thon.
Not only does the fundraiser help kids with the financial aspect of paying for camp, we help them learn three important lessons.
  •  Students have more resources than they think. So often kids see the price tag and believe they can't attend because they don't have the money in their piggy bank.  While they may not have the money in their bank account, they may have the resources to go get the money if they think creatively. 
  • You have to have some ambition in life. There will always be road blocks to success, but that doesn't mean it's time to give up. You have to find a way above, under, around or through the road blocks in life. Our hope is that as they raise their money for camp they see that they can find ways through other road blocks to success as well. 
  •  No one should be more invested into your success than you. At Young Life, we NEVER want to the reason that kids don't go to camp to be a financial one. And, in some cases, we help kids cover the cost. However, our first aim is to always to have a student invested in his or her own trip so that the student can learn lessons on being successful in life. 
There are plenty of other ideas out there for connecting students with resources, including a Urban Youth Workers Institute talk given by Kitty Fortner entitled 10 Proven Ideas for Fundraising Beyond the Car Wash. You can listen here

Chris Lassiter is a Christ-follower, a husband to Emily (read her guest blog here), and a father to five wonderful kids. He's written for The News Leader, HipHopDX.com, Rapzilla.com, Young Life Relationships and other publications. Recently, Moody Publications just published his first book, You're Grounded, which you can read about here.



Friday, November 1, 2013

The Donkey, the Elephant and the Cross: Three tests to see if the gospel impacts our politics

Confession: I don't love politics!



If you have ever tried to "trap" me in a political conversation, I'd run to a place where a "Kobe versus LeBron" debate was taking place faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100-yard dash. In fact, here is just a short list of things I'd rather do than take in an hour of C-SPAN or political talk radio.



  • mow the lawn by hand without a lawnmower. 
  • do a 1,000-piece puzzle using my feet.
  • count the pieces of sand in a sandbox during a dust storm.
You get the point.

However, I know one of the implications of the gospel is that the Lord wants Christians to be the best citizens in their communities. (Read I Peter 2) . Part of that mandate means being politically informed, helping to vote in people who we believe can best help our cities, states and nations flourish as God defines flourishing.

Then there's the other extreme.

Just as easy as is be too apathetic about politics (the thing I have to fight against), it's also possible for Christians to put more hope in the election process than in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here are three signs that our political views are out of line with the gospel.
  • Do we use hate-filled language about politics or politicians?  We live in America. We have a democracy. We're allowed to vote, disagree and differ in opinion. I can even see someone being passionate about politics. What I can't reconcile to the gospel is hate-filled speech or actions in the name of political activism. I wince when I see a bumper sticker that is really disrespectful of a politician right next to a bumper sticker advertising a particular church.Yikes!
  • Does the gospel have to compete for allegiance with our politics? For the Christian, a political party can never have our first allegiance. Scripture paints the picture of the Christian as a pilgrim passing through this life. We pursue politics being the best citizens we can be knowing that our first allegiance is to a King, not an elected official.
  • Are our politics a hindrance to our gospel witness? We can't have Christian fellowship with people with differing political views, or we've made our political stances in such a way we could never witness for the gospel effectively to a person with opposing political views.  Even the way we discuss politics should be transformed by the grace we have received. If someone who knows us well and refuses to listen about our Savior because of how we have flaunted our political position, it could be that we look more like our favorite politician than our Savior. 
I always write these blogs in hopes of starting conversation. I would love to know your thoughts on the how Christians should navigate politics. 


Chris Lassiter is a husband to Emily (read her guest blog post here.) and father of five. He is a Young Life leader in his hometown of Staunton, VA. He has written for The News Leader, VIBE, Rapzilla.com, HipHopDX.com, Young Life Relationships and other publications. Recently, Moody Publishers published his first book, You're Grounded, which you can read about here.