Sunday, September 29, 2013

Politically Incorrect in Today's World

I will, no doubt, lose some friends, relatives, students in my words this day but I believe these words must be penned for they have been burning in my heart for several weeks now. Our pastor has preached powerfully in the last two weeks about our world in the 21st century as viewed by political correctness versus through the lens of the absoluteness of the Holy Bible.  His words have pierced my heart and my soul on Christians today via acknowledgement or, even worse, quietly accepting the wrong that resides all around us, has brought to me this keyboard.  I am always amazed to learn of the rather wide array of people that read my blogs and comments on FB. It is always an honor to have someone call, walk up to me or email me with kind or sometimes unkind words but still, I know people, you, read.  Please know that I am writing from my heart and not just to take an alternative or argumentative position on a controversial topic.
As my life has unfolded, especially in the last decade crafted primarily from time with thousands of college students in my teaching and hundreds of thousand of prison inmates, my heart has been drawn more powerfully to the Bible and its immutable teachings. People can rationalize the Bible in many ways including ignoring what the Bible says but rationalization is just that; cognitive dissonance reduction. Translated, it is Man's mental capacity to find a way to mentally round off the squared edges of wrong.  Frankly, I am quite tired of that and even more tired of seeing it each time I turn on the TV, watch our politicians, seek to understand why things happen as they do.  In that decade, five guiding principles have evolved in my life journey as I view into my seventh decade on this earth. They are:
  1. If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten
  2. If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything
  3. If you do not know where you are going, that is exactly where you will end up
  4. Whatever it is you are looking for in life, you will most certainly find it
  5. Right is right and wrong is wrong and no amount of wrong will ever make a wrong Right
Given those five avenues to what I consider the Truth, I am reminded over and over again that life with no foundation will always crumble at some point.  As I read those five principles in context to me and I believe to Man as a whole, my heart pounds with the wrongness I see so evident on every hand.  The Bible is quite clear on its position on gay, lesbian homosexuality. The Bible is blatantly clear on the institution of marriage.  The Bible is unequivocal in its Commandments to Man in how to exist correctly with God in the first Four and how man can live properly with each other in the remaining Six of the Ten Commandments. As with the issues today we are watching in our Congress and our POTUS, I think we all need to go back and actually READ THE CONSTITUTION.  Likewise, therefore, I implore you to invest yourself in the word of God for its teachings are incorruptible, not misleading and stand unchanged through the flow of history to date and in the days before us. I stand on that Truth! I stand on it for it, the Bible, is God's Inspired Word to His children; that would be each of us.
I certainly, on a very personal level, am not holding myself up as anything worthy of example for I have failed at friendships, I have disappointed and have been disappointed. I have sought forgiveness on my life on many occasions of people I have offended, worked for, friended and I pray God never takes that sensitivity to others away from me.  I have failed my family but am forgiven by them and by my God; that I know. I strive each day with each breath to never disappoint my God nor my family nor my array of friends ever again. I long that for every person that sees me or knows me to leave with a fresh sense that they can see something different, something unique, something Godly in my dealings with them.
As a reader, if you are one of those I have offended, I sincerely am sorry.  But when it comes to the teaching and commands of the Bible, I will no longer simply ignore the  ungodliness of homosexuality, same sex marriage and the whole matter of racism sickens me and I pray I have never been accused of being racist in any way with anyone.  But let me state here that we live in a time and in a world where it seems we are all supposed to be "tolerate" of everyone doing everything or anything they choose to do. Simply, ABSOLUTELY NOT.  It seems to be the world today is growing tolerate of every ideology and whim and wrong except Christianity.  We all do not have every right to do anything and every thing we may choose to do. That is exactly what Satan would have us all to believe and strive for as a way to life.  There are rights and there are wrongs; they are all in the Holy Bible just so you can know.
Wrong friendships have become far too easy with the advent of social media. What an easy, dangerous trap to fall into isn't it? I see it and hear it all too frequently and have seen firsthand the dire result of pursuing relationships via the cyber "vapor" of anonymity.  Let me remind each of us that NOTHING entered into a computer is ever fully erased due to detection technologies of today; NOTHING! Web sights clicked on, emails, FB messages, tweets; just look at TV when a crime happens and witness the  unbelievable nature of science that unearths messages via hard drives, cell towers, etc. Yet many proceed like there are little walls to hide behind in messaging. As I think about it more and more, that is a great reality. Somebody is always capable of seeing for light makes darkness dissipate, right!
Those of you that know me know  I am not bashful about staking a position and defending it with fact to the best I can. I do not write this to be combative for I write this in hope that people that are staggering around in the forest of wrong of mores, societal lies will cast aside the blindness of Wrong and choose a path that God has ordained. I implore each of us to assess your lives through that lens. Will we lose friends? Probably but it is a worthwhile thinning of the herd of wrong I have become convinced of on so many fronts.
Our world is simply in a terrible economic, political, diplomatic, and military mess and looking at the world from God's view, why would it be any better, I believe. Our own nation, a nation founded on the principles of Godliness, has forsaken and trampled those principles in the dust of equality and everybody having the right to do whatever they want.  I will forever believe the HIV/AIDS disease was brought on by the sickening reality of homosexuality. The Bible is vivid on this very point when men turned to men in lust and women burned in lust for  other women and disease came on those that chose to be in that number.  Look it up; it is THERE!
It is my sincere belief that God has pulled back from America for America, as a nation, has pulled away from God. I believe God is giving our nation a taste of what life without Him can look like.  I am not a preacher but I am a man, a husband, a father and a grandfather.  I realize that amazing mass of people I have had access to in my lifetime and how many of those I have failed to be a Christian example before. I seek forgiveness on a grand scale for allowing that to happen. 
As I sat in church this morning listening, I was moved strongly to put into words the pounding in my heart and thus what you have read.  What do we stand for? Where are we going? What are we looking for? Why do we keep doing what we have always done knowing it is wrong?  Four questions I ask you to deeply analyze at a very personal level.  I hope more than you know that my words will be received with the heartfelt love with which they have been written. I hope even more than that if you see in your own life, as I have, the wrong, I did not say politically correct, but the wrongness of decisions in your own life that there is still time to correct that vector to that God would have you pursue.  If you would like to discuss this with me, I would be honored to have that conversation.  
Like I tell my children and close friends, if I did not care, I really would not care. I care for each of you more than you perhaps can begin to understand. It is my greatest hope that this blog will be a beacon in a world of darkness. I prayed before I wrote that God will give me the words. I will pray before I publish this that these words will touch many hearts as He would have that heart touched.
Thank you for taking the time to read my heart!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Cadence of Time

It has been two weeks since I did my last blog. As I think about what has transpired in those short few days of life, it astounds me at the mastery and the majesty of life and yet, the unforeseen events and people that enter your life that make a lasting brushstroke on your life.  I will begin the blog with remembering a great experience for many reasons with my travel to my hometown of Gadsden, AL to be part of a home going celebration for my college basketball coach, Coach Riley Whitaker.
Funerals have a way of making or causing you to stop and reflect, don't they?  I am so thankful Coach and I remained connected through the years since that one year I played for him in 1967.  To be asked to eulogize him at his funeral and get to sing one of my favorite songs, He's All I Need, was a great time for me and apparently for many others I saw for the first time in far too many years as well as some wonderful people I had not met in my days in Alabama. Memories are treasures I realize as the years pile up and the memories turn to higher elevations in my mind.   A side point but a pertinent point in now having attended and sung at many funerals in the last few years is that there is a tremendous difference in a funeral for a Christian and one that is not a Christian. Coach and his beautiful wife, Marie, were well in the shadow of our Lord and we all know Coach is there in Heaven; a blessing!
Seeing the guys I played basketball with so many years ago was a true joy. We laughed, we shared, we bonded once more after the battles we fought together in that successful season for it was Coach that drew us together and then transformed us into a cohesive unit. He was a master at that in his quiet, low profile manner but always focused. I loved him for who is always was; my Coach and I will treasure that time in Gadsden to my last day and beyond!
I love to meet new people but meeting new people from the town where I grew up is even more special for we share a common root structure in many ways.  A dear friend I had that year I played for Coach that was accidentally killed in an auto accident that shocked all of us that knew him that year.  To be honored to meet his wife at the funeral after all these years is remarkable on many fronts that began with unexpected handshake at the conclusion of the funeral.  Seeing many friends I worked with at Goodyear in Gadsden, churched with, had as teachers in high school, sportswriters, former childhood friends; this list is long but the joy is greater. 
As I returned to Canton that Sunday, I could not escape this phenomenal reality of how much people need other people for each of us put our brushstroke on each person we meet on this journey as they do on us. We are the sum of all the people that have touched us, changed us, molded us to what and who we are! Isn't that amazing when you stop and think about it for it screams to me that, yet again, there is purpose for every act and action we take on this journey!  My heart is so warmed by each and every one of those folks I met in the whirlwind journey home but everyone will never be forgotten.
In the last week via a Facebook message, I would able to establish contact with my third grade teacher that is soon to be 101 years of age in December. I wrote her, Ms Adamson, a letter and she sent me a nice letter back along with a newspaper article about her on achieving that century mark. I had to smile with her letter for she closed by giving me her phone number and "you can call collect if you wish .." for there are many of you that do not recall the "call collect" component of phone calls. She also attributed her long life to never getting married and very few drugs.  A great experience and to now have contact with my first, third and fifth grade teacher is really something special to me.
As we as a nation and as a People work through this latest mass shooting, we realize just how vulnerable we all are for today you realize that events like that are just a breath away.  Listening to railing in high pitch after each of these about guns, mental health, poor police work, etc, etc, I am reminded of something I have known for many years. If someone wants to kill you; they will for it is about choice and will, isn't it?
Since returning I have been honored to sing in three local assisted living facilities where you are surrounded by dozens of elderly people. In that hour or so I get to spend with them in singing, talking, meeting and sharing with them, I am reminded that it is I that gets the real blessing by that labor of love. That has become a phenomenal ministry for my quartet, The Pathway Quartet for you realize that many of those wonderful people find themselves placed there by children or whoever just does not have the time nor the patience nor the finances to give that care they need.  I also realize now that each of those people have a story they really want to tell so the blessing comes when the music is done and you open yourself up to the stories.  There are smiles, tears, regrets, feeble hands that hold yours gently, sweet comments of appreciation; who could not love that!  I always take the time during and after the singing to talk about Heaven and what they must do to have that home prepared for them in Glory. Wow, what a ministry!
So time does march on in drumbeat cadence. I know that sounds like something a really old person would write but I see that cadence and hear it ever so clearly.  As physical or mental ailments begin to invade those around you and change the persons you have known for many years, it is both shocking and hurtful to see the transformation. Realizing as well that each of us stand at the precipice of changes like that causes you to enjoy every moment you have with friends, loved ones and family.  My grand kids are now in the fifth, fourth, third and second grades with one yet to start school; that takes my breath for I know each time I see any of them now, they will be markedly changed since the last time I held them.
I will close in a few words on the exhilarating power of hugging.  As big as I am I have to be careful in hugging someone that is frail and elderly not to hurt them. But in being gentle, you can see the power of hugging in lifting a frown to a smile, a tear to a twinkle, a dread to a hope. Wow! And I get to see those transformations oh so frequently in my ministry in the jails, in the homes, at the funerals, in my family. Humans need other humans but more specifically, people really do need people. It is my greatest hope to be able to exhort and encourage many people that will enter my life in the remaining years God will give me. For who gets the blessing? That would be me and I am so blessed.
So for the quick handshake at the funeral that meant so much, the many laughs, the tears of joy I saw, the stories long forgotten but now fresh, the reality of the cadence of time, I realize what a precious treasure life is.  I will leave you with that last sentence and the key operative word, "treasure" for each of those I met while back home will forever be a treasure buried safely in my heart.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Stepping into the Deep End

Being born in 1948 and thus my teenage years spent during the turbulent times of the now called "Civil Rights Movement," like most of us, we were pretty oblivious to the real story and the logic behind the events we witnessed or heard about. I certainly plead guilty or perhaps ignorant is a better plea. 
Here we reside in a new century and thirteen years into it and many of us now in our sixties are baffled, fed up with or just plain tired of seeing and hearing some of the rhetoric from some of the same archaic mouths from the era of the "Movement."  Jesse Jackson sort of comes to mind as an example of what I am talking about but there are several.  I have many black, oops, excuse me, African American friends, have an African grand daughter, live in a world populated overwhelmingly by African Americans in the jails and prisons where I seek to minister.  We see the staggering statistics of gun deaths by African American men killing other African American men and have societally pretty much just shrugged our shoulders and just believe or rationalize it is what it is and move on. My list of examples could fill pages but we all know what I am talking about especially if you are from the 1960s South.
This summer I have invested much research time in drilling into the strategic and tactical realities of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Reading or rereading several 500 page books about each day of the three day battle fought 1-3 July 1863 is fascinating to me strategically and tactically. I know the commanders, the locations, the routes of march, the positions upon entering the theater of operations that hot summer, the weapons, etc. I know where my great grandfather and his two brothers were located all three days and about their march from New Guilford, PA to Gettysburg. I know much but what does that really matter when you reflect on the strategic dimension of that battle?
While I long to return to the Gettysburg battlefield and again walk the topography and feel the earth provide cover and springs that provided much needed water; all that was there in 1863, one must, strategically, link up the previous September of 1862 when Lee took his Army to Sharpsburg, MD where the flowing Antietam Creek would provide but one feature show in the theater of blood over three days that Autumn.  Strategically, one cannot just look at Gettysburg and not see the direct linkage to the Battle of Antietam which, like Gettysburg, were Union victories. These were two devastating losses in men, materiel, political footing and pride for the South. Let us not forget that while Gettysburg was being fought, future POTUS Grant was defeating the Southern Army at Vicksburg cutting all the Mississippi River as the spine to the South.  Three great battles with many skirmishes and cavalry battles mixed in led to the surrender by Lee not many months hence. 
Most of us somewhere in our schooling understand all of the above paragraph in differing degrees but we all know the South lost the Civil War. For right or wrong, good or bad, the 1776 "Union" had been rejoined on the crucible of blood. Nearly one million Americans died in that struggle; we know the expanse and the numbers. But have we seriously stopped to understand how those events set America, and the Global Village, on a trajectory where we find ourselves today? 
As America has just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the "I have a dream .." speech by MLK at the Lincoln Memorial, I have found myself in parallel with my research on the military struggle of America in the 1860s asking myself some questions I have honestly never stopped to consider nor to contemplate!
Remembering well the White and Colored water fountains, doctor office entrances, bathrooms, etc, it was no big deal for it was what it was; it was our collective culture. I had black friends that I played with regularly that lived "down there" and we all know, now, where "down there" was. I delivered newspapers both "down there" and "around here" meaning where the blacks lived "down there" and the rest of use lived "around here. I remember being angered that the only missed payments for the news papers were never "down there" but always "around here."  I learned that blacks in my world in the 50s and 60s, could be trusted and were faithful to their debts even when times were tough, "down there." I always admired that and still do!
I do remember that day one summer when I was about ten that I realized blacks were different and that blacks lived differently that me. I did not understand it but it was as a light came on in a cave and I knew that something was strikingly different in their world versus my world. That fact drilled into me more deeply as the riots, the dogs, the fire hoses, the marches, the killings escalated in my world and I was overwhelmed with the cadence of my young life. Oh yes, and there was this thing called the Vietnam War which added a whole new explosive dimension to my world in seeking to connect the dots of why all this was happening. I am sure many reading this would quietly or openly affirm that same sense of wondering why all this was going and spinning out of control for out of control it was!
As the "Speech" celebrations have come and gone, the talk shows and media have been brimming with discussions on what was going on behind the scenes that was not obvious to many of our young eyes.  SCLC, SNCC, NAACP were organizations that, for me and for most of us then, were only designations for groups of troublemakers. Nobody took time to explain what it all meant; at least in my world for it was what it was; it was our culture. But I knew that culture in which I grew up was in free fall; and still is!
When I learned this week that in 1963 that thirteen states still existed in the UNITED States where blacks could still not vote, I was appalled for all the Freedom Riders, the Selma March, the 16th Street Baptist Church bombings, etc, etc began to come back to me in hues of why all that turmoil was unleashed. How dreadful in a nation founded on equal rights for all where a whole people, a people taken from their homelands and brought to this nation to be literally enslaved in an institution as property with no say, no rights on any part of their lives!
As all this has focused in my mind, the great battles of the Civil War, the unending killings, bombings, strikes, assassinations, events of my childhood were all part and parcel to where we are now.  We fought a war of independence from a foreign force.  We fought a war to maintain the Union. We fought a war in Asia where a conscription draft system skewed the battle deaths sickeningly heavy toward blacks.  This list could go on as well. Some of you are probably angry with me if you have read this far but what this world, our world, that world where my grand kids will grow up and earn and career and live has devolved hideously.  The Emancipation Proclamation was politically explosive for Lincoln.  He could not even bring it to the legal state until the Union Army had one, ONE, major battlefield victory. Antietam gave Lincoln that political green light.
There is so much I could say but will bring this to a conclusion; I hope.  We became a nation in 1776. One hundred years later we killed nearly one million of our own to validate the  Union established in 1776.  One hundred years later the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed primarily because of the dismal, embarrassing state of reality with a significant portion of our population not allowed to vote. As this next century of events since 1964 cuts and meanders in some many directions, one must wonder what this next fifty year will bring. I will not be here nor will many of you so this is all hypothetical.
But as I sit here writing this looking at my beautiful  four year old African grand daughter laying in my wife's arms loving on her., I cannot escape the windows of history outlined above and wonder what her life will be like as she grows to womanhood, family, life!  Cultures are the sum total of the behaviors a great friend, John Loulan, taught me many years ago.  I am not pleased nor happy as I look at my lifetime in the rear view mirror as weighed against the countless deaths and destruction cast upon this nation's people and still such atrocious behaviors still exist on some of our nation's people.
My summation; we are better than this!  We are more advanced economically, politically, societally, than anywhere else on the globe. And yet, the ghosts  and death angels of my young life reside "down there" and "around here." That is shameful.  Having spent much time in South Africa and seeing the three race cultural struggles continue, I cannot escape this sense that we are smarter and capable of much more and much better in all segments of our population.  My faith in this nation is still great. My hope for this nation is subverted with the morass in which we find ourselves in large part due to poor leadership nationally. The dealing with Syrian will point out the historical blundering that could yield catastrophic results; perhaps even the End Times!
I know I have stepped into the deep end of my societal pool. I guess that is what learning and education does; expand one's capacity to learn, right?  But the real question  is simple, what are we going to do differently for change begins with a choice and one step of energy. Fact is; what we are going is apparently not going in a right, more equitable solution for our national population and global village.  None of this excuses the entitlement mentality that resides and abounds and is providing a cancer to the resources of this nation.
Yes, I look forward to your thoughts and recommendations please. If you wish to take shots at my words, I will absorb and move forward. When I think of the blood and loss in our very own nation since our birth that has brought us to where we are; frankly I am not too proud of the landscape.  My grand kids deserve better from their Poppy.  Our Hopie laying in my wife's arms watching Curious George is a metaphor for our national, collective cultural direction I believe.  We can do better!