Well I have started on a new journey in my life. I have joined Toastmasters!
In March I joined a local Toastmasters club to improve my public speaking and to network with like minded individuals.
Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development. Our organization has more than 352,000 memberships. Members improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 16,400 clubs in 141 countries that make up our global network of meeting locations. To learn more about Toastmasters click here.
On July 2nd I prepared and delivered my first prepared speech – the Ice Breaker speech. In this speech you are to introduce yourself to the club and speak 5 to 7 minutes sharing details of your life you want to share.
For me five minutes was not near enough! I can talk all day about me. I am a subject matter expert on myself don’t you know, and have a few years with myself as well. But for the sake of the other members I shared in less than 7 minutes.
Now I have been a leader, teacher, singer, master of ceremonies and coach for most of my life. I really don’t have a problem talking in front of other people, but this crowd is different. They all are trying to better their speaking abilities and know when I am messing up – they are just looking for it!
There is someone at the meeting who counts the number of times you say – uh, ah, so, and so, use improper grammar and repeat yourself. This person had a field day with me. I know I have a problem with my dialect and use of the English language, but I don’t care to stand up and share what I know.
My speech was titled “Blackberry Wisdom”. Wonder where I got that idea. Through the speech preparation I found my life can be best summed up by sharing a few details from the different seasons of my life.
So now with the 1st speech behind me, I am ready now to aim toward becoming a Distinguished Toastmasters (DTM). Let the journey begin!
On my 50th birthday I thought to reflect on the things in life that meant the most to me and the life lessons I have learned. I wanted to write them down to remember, reflect and share.
Below is my top 10 list of the things that have meant the most to me from my first 50 years:
Deciding to repent from my sins, ask Jesus in my heart and follow Him was the single best decision I have and will make in my life. The life of a Christian is not easy, but we know it will only be for a little while until we spend the rest of it in Heaven in a new glorified body!
My parents set good examples and instilled some good traits into me. If there is any good in me is from the mercy of Jesus and my parents. From mom I learned patience and kindness. Dad taught me to work hard and be generous. I am so thankful for the way they have showed love to me.
We never talk about the pictures we took on the couch. Life is full of such great adventures, but I have never experienced them from the couch. I like to get out and experience – bike, hike, hunt, take pictures, cut wood, garden, swim, pick berries, smell flowers and get a sunburn. (ok not good on the sunburn part, but it meant I was outside!)
I tried things even if I was not certain I would succeed. I have tried so many things in life that I didn’t know if I could do or accomplish. I feel my only failures in life have come from not trying the things I wish I would have. For example in the Army I went to Airborne school without a clue if I could do it at all, and guess what – I succeeded! On the other hand; I was asked to go to Ranger school but I let my fear and circumstances get to me, so I did not even get to try to succeed (one of the biggest regrets in my life)
I went on a foreign mission trip and loved it. I was afraid of what my stomach would do in a foreign place, but God took care of me.
I coached little league sports teams and had a blast. I never knew what fun coaching would be till I tried it for the first time. I didn’t always like dealing with parents, but working with the kids was so much fun.
I have loved someone with all my heart. God gave Cindy to me, and I am continually learning to love her with all I have. Loving is not always easy. I have failed her and continue to disappoint, but I am also trying to learn to love as Jesus loved and that will only grow with time! I am learning to love her the way she most feels loved and that is an adventure!
Be a friend – I am really not a good friend at times. I am faithful and will always be your friend if we have build a bond. But I don’t call or visit my friends like I should. I have been surrounded by some great friends in my life, but I just don’t take the time to spend time with them like I should. Maybe that is something I can work on in the next 50 years.
Spend time with family – well here again I do not spend time with my family like I should. My sister and I get together almost every week, but that is because she pushes the issue – and I am thankful for that. I have other family that I love dearly but I just don’t spend time with them like I want to. But I enjoy my family – cousins, inlaws and outlaws. We really do have a good time together.
Serve Jesus according to my giftedness. Here is the secret to a happy life – serve Jesus with the gifts and talents He has given me! I find all the joy and fulfillment from listening to Him and obeying what He says to do. There is no drug, drink, ride, or experience that can ever make me feel complete like serving Him – just as He made me!
On November 12 of 2015 I and some of my Army buddies celebrated our 30th anniversary of joining the US Army. It truly seems like somebody pressed the fast forward button and here we are today. So much has happened in the past 30 years, but my life was changed drastically starting on that November day in 1995.
On the first van ride we had while leaving Knoxville I sat by myself in a seat. Some exuberant smart mouth behind me yelled at me and said “Gibbs, ain’t nothing good come out of Gibbs”. Gibbs was the high school which I graduated, and was on the back of the jacket I was wearing. The keen observation was made by someone by who I would soon know as Wes Tankersley. Wes became my best friend in and out of the Army starting that first November day.
I remember laying in a bunk bed the first night in Ft Benning, Georgia with two burning questions on my mind – why was I here, and what in the world was I going to be doing? Neither of which were anywhere clear that first lonely night.
The next day was the beginning of processing and basic training. Those two questions would soon be a distant memory and I was told everything I needed to know moment by moment and exactly how to do it. So the routine continued through basic training and Army life in general.
But I gained so much from my years in the 10th Mountain Div. I thank God that we were not at war nor were facing war during my time in the service, because we were absolutely ready for battle and they would have sent us first. Looking back I see that I learned so much more than I asked for by joining the Army.
There are a few lessons I learned from my time in the Army that I could not buy or get from college, and they have shaped me into the man I am today. Here are some of the bigger lessons I learned while in the Army.
Family is important: I remember that first Thanksgiving during basic training we could not go home, but they would let us call home for just a few minutes (on a pay phone). I was overwhelmed with how much I missed my family. I really didn’t realize it until I was gone. I do love my family! With a son of my own now I sort of know the pain of separation my parents must have felt.
With the Lord’s help I can do almost anything: I am not overly talented in anything. I can play sports, play a couple musical instruments, and sing, but I am not really good an any of them. When it came to military training I found that I was pretty good at those tasks, but it was because the Lord guided me and I drove myself to be the best I could be. In Philippians 4:13 the Bible says I can do all things through Him (Jesus) who strengthens me. And that is how I made it through my time in the Army.
I really like to be organized and lead: I did not have these two talents before I joined, but God developed them in me while I was in the Army. Now it is just part of who I am to organize what I do, and I feel so comfortable when leading a group, team or organization.
Jesus was always there: I carried a small Gideon’s Bible in my cargo pocket whenever in my BDU uniform. That didn’t make Jesus be with me – Jesus was always with me because He was in my heart!
True friends last a lifetime: There were a few of us who were friends through basic training and permanent duty station of the 10th Mountain Division. We went through a lot together, and we stuck together for support. Some of those guys I am starting to find today on Facebook, and feel today that we still have a tie to each other that time, distance or circumstance can erase.
Yes there has been a lot happen in my life over the past 30 years, and all of it to mold me into who I am today. The Army was a good starting point for me in 1985. But it sure seems like somebody pressed fast forward, and here we are 30 years later.
Reflections from an AME Prayer Vigil – I find it interesting to hear people when they go to worship some place different than what they know, or have been accustomed. I grew up Methodist, and am now Southern Baptist. I have worshiped in a Spanish speaking church. I have not visited many different churches, but I have shared with people of different race, age, background and beliefs. I say all this to say that it is just wonderful when we come together to worship a God who understands all languages, colors, hangups and faults. He makes a way for true worship to happen, when you truly come to worship Him!
10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Southern Baptists – I didn’t grow up a Southern Baptist, and only became one after I married one. However, I can say what I know about Southern Baptists make me proud to be a part of the denomination. We are not always right or Jesus focused, but neither is any other church or denomination. I do think that the SBC is applying the Great Commission better than any other church body, and that is what Jesus told us to do right before He left this earth.
This past week my work allowed us to take a 1/2 day for team building exercises. So, we spent the afternoon in Pigeon Forge, TN!
I am thankful to have been able to experience a few new adventures. Below is a snapshot of our day.
Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster
Our first stop was the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster on the way to Wears Valley. I had heard of these kinds of coasters before, but never had an opportunity to ride one. This was like a personal roller coaster – with brakes! It wound up and through a mountain side.
The only picture I took was really not what I wanted to show the coasters, but it gives you an idea of what they look like.
My buddy Greg Norton shot a video during his ride, and I thought I would share it: Greg’s alpine video
Wonders of Flight
The next destination was one that I have been wanting to do since I first saw it! The Wonders of Flight is a hot air balloon lift that takes you up 400′ above Pigeon Forge! I had so wanted to ride this, but once I stepped onto the platform I quickly considered whether this was a good idea or not. My adrenaline kicked in so I decided to stay – plus the others were boarding so I couldn’t back out now!!
When the gate closed our “pilot” said we would be ascending to 400′ above the ground we just stepped off of. A single cable was what held the balloon to the ground, and slowly released as we smoothly ascended.
From the top we had some awesome views! The air was cool and the sun was warm. Just a great day to be enjoying these views of creation!
Go Carts then Supper
Our last adventure was to ride go carts. Our team found this to be an opportunity for paybacks through bumping of carts! Of course we were warned not to bump, but that was merely a good suggestion!
This past Sunday I was able to hike a local treasure – House Mountain in east Knox County. At 2100 ft House Mountain is the highest peak in Knox county, and you can see over 30 miles away on a clear day.
House Mountain is a 500-acre natural area located in Knox County approximately eight miles from Knoxville. It is cooperatively managed by the State by Knox County Parks and Recreation. The park has a small parking lot, but includes a restroom and covered picnic area.
From Knoxville, take I-40 East. Exit on U.S. Highway 11W (Rutledge Pike) and go north and east on Rutledge Pike. After about 10 miles, look for the “House Mountain State Park” sign on the right side of the highway and then turn left on Idumea Road. Turn left on Hogskin Road. The entrance is less than a mile on the right. More information on House Mountain can be found here.
We took the East Overlook trail which is a fairly steep trail at the top of the mountain. The trail is well marked, but is narrow in places.
The weather was excellent and cool. The parking lot was full and we passed many folks on the trail.
Once at the top the clear day allowed us to see the Smoky’s to the south and east, and the Cumberland Plateau to the west.