Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thinking the right way

Zephaniah 3:14-20, Isaiah 12:2-6, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:7-18

If we are to be at peace with God, we have to think about the goodness of God. We can get bogged down in our mistakes, caught up in our misfortunes and paralyzed by our fears. It is a natural occurrence, therefore we have to think supernaturally.

We have to remember after all those tough times, how God delivered us through them. We have to remember in our good times, how God lined everything up so that we could be prepared to receive those blessings. The best guide of how to think is found in Philippians 4:4-7.

When we think positively, positive results will happen. When we think about God's goodness, we are thinking positively. Therefore, when we think about the goodness of God, positive results will happen.

Be positive. Be faithful. Think God.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

There is a difference

Baruch 5:1-9, Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 1:68-79, Psalm 126, Philippians 1:3-11, Luke 3:1-6

As we have entered the Advent season, preparing for the celebration of the birth of our Savior, we are overwhelmed with the secular aspect of Christmas: spending money. We look at the affluent in our society and watch their indulgences with fascination.

We also tend to look at those who have attained their wealth it seems at the expense of others, with no outward repercussions, as untouchable or unstoppable. We, in a sense, envy them. However, I am here to remind you all that there is a difference between us and them.

Those of them that value money more than anything else suffer more than we realize. Their lives are basically in a bubble and their decadence usually comes to light in an unflattering way. They single-handily have created an industry of gossipers and voyeurs documenting their every move.

Those of us who value our relationship with God don't have to worry about those things. We commit sin, but we repent, and we stay in prayer for forgiveness and favor. We understand that the only judgement we have to worry about is the final one. No publicist can spin our way out of that one. No lawyer on earth can successfully defend our case in the end. We must stand accountable for our actions and we are gravely aware of that.

The grass may be greener on the other side, but we don't need all the fertilizer either. Life is tough enough as it is, knowing that carnal and supernatural forces are constantly testing us, we don't need to abandon our relationship with God for the sake of wealth as well.

Not all of God's people need to have millions of dollars to be considered wealthy. Their faith is the true measurement of their wealth, for nothing is more glorious than the guarantee of eternal life and favor with God.

Nothing is wrong with being wealthy. It is only wrong if you are wealthy only in a worldly view. Treasure your relationship with God and live in the security of peace and happiness. That, to coin a phrase, is really priceless.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Let God lead you to the Truth

Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36

Too often we rely on our earthly instincts to make decisions. We trust people too much. We assume things will follow a set pattern. We believe in things and people that are not dependable or are temporal.

Instead, we should follow the One who is eternal, the One who is omniscient, the One who is the Alpha and the Omega, the One true living God. It is God who sets all things in motion, whether it is the rotation of the planets in our solar system or something personal, like providing you with the protection against all enemies and afflictions.

He delivers, not on your time, but on His time. He is faithful, always there for us when we need Him. He is steadfast, immovable. All those qualities we look for in our elected leaders, our ministers, our business executives, in other words, we look for godly qualities in those who are not God.

If we truly seek out the truth, then we must follow the one who is the Truth, the Way and the Light. We must follow God by studying His word, praying to Him, and living a life based on faith, not fear. Men terrorize, God comforts. Men intimidate, God radiates. In mankind, we find despair; in God we find hope.

Let us recommit ourselves to real leadership. Let us follow God, so that we may one day attain the real truth, for all eternity.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

To My Wife

It has been said that if a man finds a wife, it is a good thing. 364 days after you took the vow to be my wife, I would say that is an accurate statement. As you went off to work this morning, leaving with me with that soft kiss of yours, I just had to think about what a year it has been.

Before I go on, this has not been an easy journey. We have had our share of ups and downs in getting adjusted to each other, but if I had to give an overall assessment, I am honored to be your husband. Yes, you are quirky, but you are also a muse, one who inspires creativity and exudes beauty. One who makes people smile and the world a better place by your presence.

For everything I have done to upset you, I am sorry. For everything that I have done to make you smile, I am grateful for the opportunity. Many couples in this day and time never overcome their first year shock. Over half of all married couples in America end their relationship. I want to beat those odds.

I want to see marriage this time around as a never-ending journey. I want to uphold the vow of " 'til death us part". When I die, I want it to be said that you are the last woman I ever loved.

Never mind the fights or the hurt feelings. Never mind the shortcomings and disappointments. We are one and like fine wine, we, as a couple, will get better with time. After all, practice makes perfect.

Bottom line, I love you with all my heart. You are my joy and have been that way since the moment we met last June, that has not, nor will it ever change. Some compare the first year of marriage as surviving the whirlwind. Well consider us survivors. Congratulations.

On tomorrow, as everyone else will be giving thanks for what happened for them this year, I will have an additional reason to be thankful, and that is you.

Happy Anniversary, Gina!

May God continue to bless us, be with us and keep us together in His favor always.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Be Thankful

Joel 2:21-27, Deuteronomy 8:7-18, 1 Kings 8:55-61, Psalm 126, Psalm 113:1-8, Psalm 138:1-5
, 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Colossians 3:12-17, 1 Timothy 6:6-11, 17-19, Matthew 6:25-33

This week is the time when we get ready for good food, family gatherings and football games all day long. But we also know that it is the week that we annually remember what and who we are thankful for.

My main suggestion is that we don't forget God in our thanksgiving. It is God who has made everything possible in your life. It is God who has carried you through to the hard times. It is God who gave up His son so that we may have the guarantee of eternal life.

Thanks be to God for all He has done and all that He is going to do. Amen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Never Gonna Happen

Haley Barbour cannot surprise me anymore. Been there done that. So when he unveiled his long-term consolidation plan for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (MS IHL), better known as our eight state-run universities, it was a very familiar tune.

When I attended Jackson State University, Mississippi's largest Historically Black College/University, it was during the mid-1980s. The Ayers lawsuit, which was brought on behalf of the students attending MS HBCUs, was only a decade long and there was talk about consolidation. Jackson State was suppose to become the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in Jackson, Mississippi Valley State was suppose to merge with Delta State and Alcorn State was suppose to merge with Mississippi State and the Mississippi University for Women.

We had witnessed Utica Junior College, a two-year HBCU, merged with Hinds Community College, and being involved with student government at the time, we would be damned if our alma mater was going to suffer the same fate. Led by our student body president, Thomas Fox, we marched on the College Board and crashed their meeting. We marched on the State Capitol and chased legislators up and down stairs.

In other words, we made our defiant voices heard. Fortunately for us, MUW did not want to be consolidated either, and since a number of the alumnae were spouses of the key players on this issue, consolidation died a timely death. Now, our governor wants to resurrect this idiotic discussion.

Idiotic may be a strong word, but completely appropriate. First, how are you going to justify saving money by maintaining eight physical plants, regardless of what they are named? Second, what federal exemption does our governor think he is going to get by dissolving a historically black land grant school. For those not familiar, during Reconstruction, the federal government donated land to create colleges. In those states that believed that Blacks and whites should not attend school together, land grants were given to open a Black college and a white college. Alcorn State and Mississippi State are our state's land grant institutions.

Third, it is a bad business model. Ole Miss, for example, only receives 30 percent of its budget from the state. The rest is covered by endowments to the school. JSU is just the opposite, receiving 70 percent of it's budget from the state. Why would Ole Miss take that kind of disparity on, putting a strain on its coffers?

Fourth, the Ayers case has been settled. The purpose of the lawsuit was to show that MS HBCUs were capable of being elite public institutions and that they should be given the resources to maintain that standard of excellence. Consolidation would nullify the settlement and probably generate another 27-year legal fight in the Federal Courts.

That is why I say IHL consolidation will never happen. The Legislature does not have the political will to push for it. The alumni of JSU, Alcorn, MVSU and MUW will fight this plan to the very end. And I believe that they will be victorious.

Gov. Barbour got what he wanted, a vigorous discussion about the issue, and coverage on most news, especially the Clarion-Ledger. Surely, I don't think he is stupid enough to believe that consolidation will happen during his last year in office. However, it is now our turn, we must be loud and strongly voice our response to this mess. We must do it for JSU, Alcorn, MVSU and MUW.

Barbour thinks he can erase 100s of years of history at these schools in the name of fiscal management. As Mr. Gump would say, "stupid is as stupid does."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Fullness of Joy

1 Samuel 1:4-20, Daniel 12:1-3, 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Psalm 16, Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18), 19-25, Mark 13:1-8

When you read about Hannah and her faithful, fervent prayer to God, one should be encouraged. She approached God with a peace in knowing that her prayer would be answered. Hannah did not shout it out, but she communicated with God directly. The priest Eli did not understand it at first, but her words and her joy made him understand and lift her prayer up toward God as well.

Hannah got it. She experienced firsthand that being in God's presence is the fullness of joy. Face it, when you are in a joyful state, there is no remorse, no pity, no insecurity. That is what it is like to be in the presence of God. Since Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for us, our pathway to His presence is uninhibited by any force, natural or supernatural.

If you have not taken advantage of this opportunity in your life, make today the day that you set out to enjoy the fullness of joy. Today enjoy the honor and the privilege bestowed upon you to be in the presence of the Lord.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Politics is Boring

If you have been following my blog lately, you may have noticed that I have been talking more about spiritual matters rather than political, although every now and then the two coincide. That has been deliberate. It is because I look at the current political situation as uninteresting.

It has become so predictable in a moment when we thought radical things were going to happen. The advent of the Obama presidency was suppose to bring about this new change, add a fresh breath to the stale Beltway air. Turns out that the Beltway is stronger than hope itself. The mass appeal is fading, the luster is dulling, and the same ol' gridlock and malaise is starting to settle in.

This is not Obama's fault. He is pressing on, tackling the big issues of our time with the force of a blitzing linebacker. His supporters, the real ones, not the ones moved by a false sense of inspiration, are fiercely out there, doing what they did to get him elected. Unfortunately, Obama has run into the same problem most of us run into when challenging an institution in politics, it is easier to win the election than to govern.

The Republicans have made up their collective minds that they must win in 2010, a repeat of the 1994 Revolution. It worked before when the country elected a president on hope so if it is not broke, then don't fix or modify it. The only difference is that the GOP is feuding within, a phenomenon only practiced by Democrats. We were more united on September 12, 2001 than we are now and there is no reconciliation forthcoming. Bipartisanship is officially dead.

The aforementioned Democrats are doing what they always do, tripping over themselves, turning layups into low-percentage shots. The politicians in Washington, as a whole, have no sense of nobility in tackling the toughest issues this generation faces: Health Care, Foreign Policy, Environment and Fiscal Responsibility. They are taking safe votes instead of the right votes. They are still pushing pork instead of public policy that leads to self-sufficiency. They are using wedge issues and fear to get elected.

In other words, the same ol' stuff, and it is rather boring. To boldly go where no man has gone before is just a tag line for a great sci-fi show, not the philosophy of our political leaders. They like being the naked emperors walking the streets, because they know they have the resources to stay where they are. They like the fact that Americans are struggling so that that they can capitalize on our insecurities, rather than enlightening us with a new vision, a whole new class of poverty pimps if you will.

And the alternatives are not any better. Our choices now are to stay with the elected officials we have or the resume-padders, you know, the ones that want to die with the title, "The Honorable Rev. Dr. So-and-So, Esquire". Visionaries and statesmen need not apply. That to me is a mundane world. I think Abraham Lincoln and Robert F. Kennedy would have a tough time serving in this Congress. They would be better served forming multi-million dollar foundations, addressing the real needs of the masses instead of staying in the political process. That is a sad observation to make.

I was once taught that public service was the highest aim of mankind. I will be glad when a generation of politicians thought that way again. It sure would be a lot more interesting than it is now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Remember our soldiers

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17, 1 Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 127, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:38-44

Joshua and David. Two of the most famous soldiers in the Bible. Their common denominator: an unwavering faith in God. As we celebrate Veteran's Day this week, remember that our young men and women are fighting for freedom but they need our prayers.

Weapons can only carry the victory to those who have faith. Pray for our soldiers to be victorious, pray for their safe return home, and pray for peace in this unstable world.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tomorrow in Mississippi

Tomorrow would be a typical Saturday in Mississippi: mild weather, lots of college football and then some partying afterwards. However, November 7, 2009 will be atypical in a couple of ways.
First at a football game, more attention will be paid to the pre-game ceremony than the actual game itself. In Oxford, Ole Miss, known outside of the state as The University of Mississippi, will be hosting some directional school at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday afternoon.

There will be all sorts of national attention on this game based on a chant the student body says prior to the game. As the Ole Miss band finishes its rendition of "My Ol' Dixie Home", the fans yell "The South Will Rise Again!" The chancellor, Dr. Dan Jones, football coach Houston Nutt and several distinguished alumni have asked for the practice stop. Jones even went so far as to say that if the chant is uttered this Saturday, then the band will not be allowed to perform the song that prompts the chant ever again.

The chant is only as old as the era of segregation and civil rights. A then-defiant student body, protesting federal intervention in desegregating institutions of higher learning, started saying the chant as a battle cry during football games to send a clear and chilling message to all who would hear it.

Over the years, it has become as harmless as the Sooner Schooner or the Seminole Chief spearing the field. It is just a much a traditional cheer as the Hoddy Toddy song, which supposedly is also banned, but is said with much gusto to this day. It has become an issue now because recruits for athletics have said they will not play for a team that have fans making that kind of reference, innocently or not. Bad athletics mean less money for the school, and now you get the picture.

The issue is not political sensitivity, it is economic viability. Me, personally, I get both sides of the argument, but I honestly could care less. If folks that attend Ole Miss want to believe in the quasi-romantic notion that The South will rise again, so be it. However, if they want to compete in the SEC for generations to come, then maybe the chant should fade away like the old soldiers of the Confederacy.

Speaking about fading away, one place that will not is the infamous nightclub the Upper Level. Located in my old legislative district, the Upper Level has been a blight in the City of Jackson for years, so much so, that the Jackson Police Department relocated to a vacant office a block away to set up a precinct headquarters. Yet, despite the extreme efforts of the previous mayor, the late Frank Melton, who successfully did shut down the club as a public nuisance, the club will open its doors again on November 7, 2009.

Bottom line, if you want drugs, go to the Upper Level, If you want prostitutes, go to the Upper Level. If want the thrill of being shot at, go to the Upper Level. If you want to have a good time with friends on a Saturday evening, go somewhere else.

However, the Upper Level has friends in high places. I would dare to say the club was a catalyst for the previous hotly contested mayoral race this past spring. Melton's actions to close the club, legal and legally questionable, became a focal point of his administration and the election. The ACLU held voter registration drives there. Politicians had receptions there. Prominent attorneys have represented the ownership in court. As a matter of fact, if you really make an effort to connect the dots, you will know for sure that the young lady that has been identified as the "owner" of the Upper Level is really a front woman for the real owner, who I can modestly say is one of the most influential persons in Mississippi history.

Many people were saying on the street that once Melton was out of office, the Upper Level would be back in business. Seems like that was an accurate assessment. I look forward to seeing many of its patrons visiting my new place of employment on a regular basis.

It is amazing to me that these issues are even before us. Both seem to be decisions that should be made practically. But if this were a practical world, the world would be much better off. I do expect the students at Ole Miss to do what they think is right. As for the Upper Level, all I can do pray no one gets hurt or worse this time around.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One year ago...

...I was getting ready for history to be made. I had made the decision to participate with the Mississippi Democratic Party at their watch party at the Mississippi Telecom Center. I was bringing stuff to the center and making sure that the logistics were set. I wish I could say I was optimistic about my chances of winning, but that would have been a lie. I had to be a true competitor and appear confident, but the handwriting was on the wall in Mississippi.

Obama was behind in the polls here, which meant there would be no chance for me to win. The jury was still out on the Musgrove-Wicker race, so any push for me and Obama would help Musgrove. That was the only drama for the evening. Musgrove was setting up at the Cabot Lodge and most of the national media was situated there. The local media was setting up at the center because of the national implication of Obama's chances to win the overall election.

It is tough to admit, even after a year, that losing my state was inevitable, but it is what it is. There are just some places where progressive or moderate people cannot win elections. I guess when your biggest debate in your state is whether you should say "The South will rise again!" before a football game, you can only expect so much.

Nevertheless, the mere fact that, in my lifetime, an African-American was on the cusp of becoming President of the United States took away any personal pain and angst I may have been feeling about my own race. After 7pm, it was all over but the crying and celebrating. It was time to watch the numbers. When the first numbers started coming in nationally, you knew history was going to be made, but the shock came when CNN made the initial announcement that the Cochran-Fleming race was too close to call.

My phone nearly exploded. I even got an e-mail from NPR to be on All Things Considered the next morning. Could I have been wrong? Could a miracle happen? The possibility lasted until the numbers from the Gulf Coast started coming in. That was about 8:30 pm. The Coast voters were so lopsided on the GOP side that it took all of the wind out of any Mississippi miracle for myself and Musgrove. They called Cochran first, right after I had a preacher friend of mine offer a prayer to my supporters and family members in a room separate from the big party. Then came McCain and then Wicker. A clean sweep in the big three.

I was at peace with it and it was time for me to finally make my speech. I had put it off from the beginning of the program because if I was not going to win, I did not want to be on television. One last pep talk and then it was time to look at the big screen. As the camera focused on the huge crowd gathering at Grant Park in Chicago, I caught my father in the local crowd, hugging folks I have known for years and strangers alike. Obama was projected to be the winner of the election.

A year later, the euphoria and heartbreak have subsided. I got married and Obama got sworn in and received the Nobel Peace Prize. We are still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are still in a recession. We still are debating health care reform. Mississippi is still the poorest state in the nation. The reality has set in that these next three years are going to be toughest our country has gone through in generations.

A year ago, hope and change was the mantra of the day. A year later, in Mississippi, neither one exists. We'll see what 2010 brings.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints' Day

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9, Isaiah 25:6-9, Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14, Psalm 24, Revelation 21:1-6a, 1 John 3:1-3, John 11:32-44

Today is November 1st, which in many Christian denominations is All Saint's Day. This is the day that we collectively remember all of those who have departed this life for their eternal reward. To study the history of this commemoration, start with this Wikipedia nugget and then go from there: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Saints.

I encourage you to continue that tradition today, as well as thanking God for allowing you another day on this journey. You should pray every day, but today send up a special one and rejoice in the blessing of life that the Lord has given you, and of those who have touched your heart along the way.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Didn't make the cut

The below entry is the one I submitted to The Washington Post for it's Next Great Pundit contest. There were over 5,000 entries and only ten could make the next round. Needless to say, I didn't make the cut. It was limited to 400 words and maybe, with the way I normally express myself, the content was lacking. Nevertheless, I am use to taking constructive criticism, so I present to you my entry for the contest:

As I woke up October 9, 2009, the big story was going to be a rocket crashing into the surface of the moon, hoping to find some signs of water for future space explorations. While that event did happen, not living up to the hype I might add, a reality crashed on all of us, especially the President of the United States. That fact is that the trusted international mantle of leadership was handed back to us.

President Obama was surprisingly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace that same morning, and with it an awesome responsibility to walk the walk, after two years of talking the talk. Forty-one years ago, demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago shouted, “the whole world is watching!” The five members of the Nobel Prize for Peace Committee quickly reminded the President, and the United States as a nation, that the whole world is still watching, and waiting with hope.

The committee said they chose the President because of his diplomatic strategy of engagement rather than the unilateral approach the previous administration practiced for eight years. The question becomes now: Can that approach work in the current world we live in?

President Obama embodied a symbol of change for Americans, invoking an image of hope and energy. The fact that the majority of American voters elected him to be President sent a message to the world that the America their ancestors talked about and sought, to either visit or live in, had returned, that ever-shining beacon of hope in the world.

After World War II, the world entrusted America to be the economic and military superpower, but lately it seemed as though the luster in America’s star had dimmed severely as our stewardship of that trust was questioned. Now, after nine months in office, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize sends a message that the luster could return and that the President is on the right path to make that happen.

As a citizen of the world, I hope that the President is successful in his strategy of engagement. As an American, while I am glad that he has secured such a distinguished honor, I just hope that he can take that mantle of international leadership and deliver on the promise it symbolizes, while at the same time making our nation better place for us to live.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Just starting to fight

Jeremiah 31:31-34, Psalm 46, Romans 3:19-28, John 8:31-36

This was inspired by a disturbing note I saw one of my friends post online. She said that she had given up on everything and everyone. My response: This is not the time to give up, this is the time to start!

God empowered us to fight off despair and gloomy outlooks. People will come and go, especially false friends. Financial troubles will subside. Sickness can be healed. Those are all temporary conditions and experiences. God, however, is constant and eternal.

As the old hymn says, He is willing to aid you and He will carry you through anything you ask Him too. I have seen Him heal the sick. I have seen Him financially bless people that needed it. He is a Friend when all others abandon you. This is not just hearsay, these are personal testimonies.

Our God is a glorious God and He made us wonderfully. There is nothing we can't overcome if we put our trust in Him and thoroughly exercise our faith. Thus when it seems as though you have reached the end of your rope, remember that God is our heavenly lifeline. He will never fail us, all we have to do is not get weary in our struggle.

Today is not the day to surrender to the principalities and powers that want to see us suffer. This is the time to fight. Press on toward the higher mark and claim your victory today! Amen!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Turning our own way

Job 38:1-7, (34-41), Isaiah 53:4-12, Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c, Psalm 91:9-16, Hebrews 5:1-10, Mark 10:35-45

Many times we develop a compass for our lives that is, at best, faulty. We tend to set off in a direction that takes us away from God and we encounter a very adventurous, and sometimes perilous, journey.

We trust our own understanding and we end up getting lost in despair. It does not have to be that way though. If we trust in God and follow Him, He will direct our path, with the ultimate goal of eternal salvation.

Our lives are not guaranteed to be easier because we choose God to be our pilot for our lives, but it will make the rough spots in our journey bearable and easier to overcome. Remembering our strength comes from our faith, it is better to keep our hearts open to God than turning our own way.

Stay strong in the faith, trust in God and keep on the path He sets before us.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Not a genie in a bottle

Job 23:1-9, 16-17, Amos 5:6-7, 10-15, Psalm 22:1-15, Psalm 90:12-17, Hebrews 4:12-16, Mark 10:17-31

We live in an instant world. Things are disposable, especially when it is new and improved. We receive information 24/7 as the news is breaking. While living in this world, we have to remind ourselves that we are not of this world. We make adjustments for gadgets and info, but we cannot apply this to our relationship with God.

God works on His own time. He that created the universe cannot be restricted to a timetable. Therefore, we have to be patient and endure until the end. If you have asked God for a blessing through a tough period, then you have to be prepared to receive it. That takes time and a test.

God is not a genie in a bottle, granting our every wish as soon as it is uttered. He is our Father and He will only grant us the blessing when we are ready for it. How many talents and blessings have you wasted already in your life? That is why God is temperate with us. However, our assurance is that God does answer our prayers and the blessings will come down.

I remember playing on a team that lost every game. The next year we were the champions. The championship was much sweeter because of the struggles we endured. We were tested by fire and were ready to be champions when the opportunity presented itself. That is what God wants us to do when we request a blessing from Him, be ready.

A famous gospel song has a chorus that says, "He may not come when you want Him/But He'll be there right on time/He's an on-time God/Yes He is." Remember that when you are having hard times and you seek God's help. He will answer your prayer, just hold on!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Quick Piece of Advice

Job 1:1; 2:1-10, Genesis 2:18-24, Psalm 26. Psalm 8, Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12, Mark 10:2-16

A quick piece advice for my friends this morning: Praise Him in advance! Don't wait until your back is against the wall, your health is failing and your bills are overdue. Praise God now, right this very minute even, for all He has done for you.

The fact that you are able to read this is a blessing. The fact that you can communicate with the world via the Internet is a blessing. The fact that you are alive this morning is a blessing. Embrace the God that seeks to embrace you everyday. However you praise Him, as one shoe company would say, just do it!

Tapping into your power, the Holy Spirit, becomes even more powerful if you also directly tap into the source. Ask God through fervent prayer to guide you through His word, so that you can understand His promise to you. Praise God for He is worthy to be praised, in good times and in hard times. May God continue to bless you, be with you and keep you in His favor always

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Olympics in my hometown

I remember as a young man, growing up in Chicago, wondering how cool it would be for the Summer Olympics to be hosted in my hometown. I had envisioned the opening ceremony in Soldier Field, before the spaceship known as the Bears home stadium landed there, the Olympic Theme blaring from the Colonnades.

I just thought how electric the atmosphere. People from all over the world coming to my hometown, not that they don't already, but this time the whole world will be watching. ( I know, in 1968, the marchers said "the whole world is watching", but I mean in a positive sense. ) Somebody could actually say I won "x" number of gold medals or set a new world record at the Chicago Olympiad. That would be awesome.

Well, as I write this the President of the United States and the First Lady, former Chicago residents, are in Copenhagen, Denmark trying to make that dream a reality. Mayor Richard M. Daley could pull off something his father, "Da Boss", could not do, all it takes is a majority vote from the International Olympic Committee on October 3rd.

Now Chicago's main competitor is Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. I can only imagine what the opening ceremony would be like if the Games end up there. If you think Carnival is a site to behold, just let the folks in Rio host the Olympics in 2016! So just that thought shows the competition is stiff. But the fact that Chicago has made it this far is incredible.

Now there are naysayers out there that are bitchin' about traffic tie ups and higher taxes. They just don't get it. The world will have its focus on Chicago for two weeks. The city will become truly a world class destination from that moment forward. If you don't believe me, look at how the 1996 Olympics transformed Atlanta into a mecca city. International flights leave from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport now. Centennial Park is the hub of downtown. Population has tremendously increased and so has economic development. I mean Salt Lake City, Utah hosted a Winter Olympiad people and they have benefited tremendously as well.

Chicago has had a history of hosting the world before with the Columbian Exposition and the World's Fair, but that was before jet planes, 24-hour cable and the Internet. Now the city I call home could be properly put in its rightful place as one of the greatest cities in the world. For the record, Chicago has hosted an international sporting event before, where the US Women's Soccer team proved they were the best on the planet during the Women's World Cup, but this is the sporting event of all sporting events.

Just imagine the Cubs playing the White Sox in the World Series, the Blackhawks playing for the Stanley Cup, the Bears playing for the Super Bowl and the Bulls playing in the NBA Championship during the same two week period and multiplying that 3 times over. That is how big this is.

If you want to gripe about the inconvenience, then plan a vacation for that time. Just don't watch the television for two weeks as your city will dominate the news and somehow, some way, you will really wish you had stayed. As for me, I will try to find a way to be there, even if I can't afford the tickets to the actual events. ( I hear that golf will be played at that Olympiad, so count me in the gallery at Olympia Fields Golf Course, wink, wink. ) Just being in that atmosphere and I am only a $99 ticket away on Southwest from going? At worse, a one day train ride or a 10-hour drive on the Interstate? Sure beats trying to get to Rio, I would have to start saving for that trip tomorrow. Who am I kidding, if its in Rio, I will be watching the NBC family of networks like I have lately.

It would be great for America to host a Summer Olympiad again, if nothing else to give our young men and women competing a home field advantage once again. China fed off its home crowd in Beijing last year. It would also be fifteen years after 9/11, thus showing the world how resilient and proud we are as a nation.

Now there are two things that concern me. First, Nostradamus said the world will end in 2012. Boy I sure hope he got that one wrong. Second, since Kanye West is a Chi-town native, there is the possibility he may interrupt the opening ceremony and say that Barcelona was the best ceremony ever. Barring that, I think Chicago will be a great city to showcase a world-wide event and I can think of no better city to do it than my hometown.

Good luck in Copenhagen!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

May your words and meditation be acceptable

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22, Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29, Psalm 124, Psalm 19:7-14, James 5:13-20, Mark 9:38-50

I'll start with a statement I have tried to drive home in recent lessons: We are powerful. Because of our status as the heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven, we can make things happen on earth and touch God's heart.

God have given us gifts and talents to do wondrous things for each other, becoming a living testimony for God. Esther used her beauty to gain favor with the king and free her people from bondage. Moses used his special relationship with God to provide for his people, even though God had already given them freedom and sustenance.

Jesus even intervened when his disciples wanted to stop others performing miracles, because they believed and were blessed because of it. As God's children, we can do anything in His name. We can heal the sick, aid the poor and change the world we live in. As long as we speak in a way that is acceptable to God and have a clear mind and heart, nothing is beyond our reach.

Elijah prayed for relief from rain and it was granted. Elijah then prayed for rain and it was granted. What have you sought in your life that has not been granted from God? Have you truly asked Him for it? James reminds us that we have not because we ask not.

Continue to walk in your faith and unleash your power. If your words and meditation are acceptable to God, sit back, watch God work, and be thankful for the power you have been given by our Holy Father.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Committing to the Cause

Proverbs 31:10-31, Wisdom of Solomon 1:16 - 2:1, 12-22, Jeremiah 11:18-20, Psalm 1, Psalm 54, James 3:13 - 4:3, 7-8a, Mark 9:30-37


Just a brief word this Sunday morning. The title of this entry is a theme all of us should have every day in our earthly journey as an emerging Christian. The enemy is going to hit us hard from many different angles and the severity will be in many degrees. It will be easy to get distracted, then dismayed.

Nevertheless, if we keep our eyes on the prize of eternal salvation, if we stay committed to the cause of righteousness, if we give our all in all to the One who gave His all for us, then we will overcome our enemies and God's hand will be in the mix.

We will not want. We will not faint. We will not fail. Our God is a mighty God and He made us in His image, therefore, despite our faults, we are mighty as well. When we stray away from our beliefs, we stray away from our precious relationship with our Father, from where our strength comes from. In short, to keep the enemy at bay, from God we must not stray.

Stay positive. Stay faithful. Stay committed to the cause and be blessed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Apologies

I have had to give public apologies in my life before. It is not an easy thing to do, not because of lack of contrition, but because of personal embarrassment for the mistake and the public scrutiny that follows. People, in this cynical age, try to analyze your sincerity from afar and, thanks to the Internet, offer instant commentary about your overall character. We are a society that is quick to harshly judge someone.

Public apologies have also become a PR event as well, with people specializing in how to make them even. Lawyers, public relations consultants, family members are all involved in a process that is really suppose to come from the heart. That gives the appearance of being a contrived statement and may take away from the impact the apologizer intends to really show, in that they are sorry for what was said or done.

However, unfortunately, it is needed in this instant information age. Case in point, the poor quarterback from Ohio State who had to offer an apology to those he may have offended by wearing the name "Vick" on his eye black tape. Terrelle Pryor stumbled through that moment as awkwardly as anyone could. Pryor was being sincere as he could be, but he was not prepared for the controversy and with his answers created more of a stir.

With the recent flurry of apologetic statements released these last couple of weeks by public figures, it would seem that the general public is becoming numb to boorish behavior and the public show that follows. However, I believe, as a Christian, that an apology should be taken at its face value, and that true contrition will be shown as time goes on. If the person who apologizes for example continues to do things that offend, on a consistent basis, then maybe their sincerity should be questioned.

Yet, the flip side of this is that there are people who do things deliberately to offend and show no signs of contrition. They lie about a person's character and show no remorse. They misrepresent facts and ignore requests to recant their statements. Some of them even get compensated handsomely for these actions. This rewarding of bad behavior, especially in the name of free speech, also diminishes the value of apologies. If people are defiant in all their egregious actions, then those who do try to be accountable are as deemed as being vulnerable and weak, fearing something to lose rather than just being good citizens in this world who admit that they made a mistake.

As human beings, we are not perfect. We will make mistakes. To paraphrase the Rev. Jesse Jackson, we are not perfect servants, we are public servants. It is our duty to apologize when we have offended or hurt someone. It is also our divine obligation to forgive, for we all serve a God that gives us second chances. Let us accept apologies from those that have offended or hurt us and then leave the judgement to a higher power than ourselves.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Complacency of Fools

Proverbs 1:20-33, Isaiah 50:4-9, Psalm 19, Wisdom of Solomon 7:26-8:1, Psalm 116:1-9, James 3:1-12, Mark 8:27-38

We, of the Christian faith, who take their blessings for granted, who fail to pray, who let their spirits diminish in trouble, are guilty of being complacent fools. If we embrace our faith as a vocation of custom instead of a joyous exercise, we are missing out on the beauty of our new life in Christ.

It is time for us to stop being passive in our faith. Members of other religions take time out of their daily lives to make sure that they pay reverence to God, but we say we are too busy. They are passionate about their faith publicly, but we sometimes feel ashamed.

Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ should never be timid about who we are and what we believe. You don't have to be a blow hard, but you do have to be proud of who you are and to whom you belong to.

At my former church, New Horizon Church International, we used to recite a creed, written by the Bishop Ronnie C. Crudup, during the service to reaffirm our pride in who we were as Christians:

Having received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of my life and having been filled by the power and the presence of the Holy Ghost, I believe the following to be true about myself, other members of this church, and those in the body of Christ.

1. I am the beloved of the Lord and highly favored!

2. I am saved for all eternity, covered by the Blood, and clean before the Father!

3. I am a citizen of heaven and an heir to the promises of God!

4. I am God’s superman/superwoman: a strong man/woman over my family and home and in all the areas God has allowed me to tread upon!

5. I am a sin-buster, an enemy of the devil and demons, a living weapon, divinely powerful – destroying the works and strongholds of the enemy!

6. I am a saint of God, a faithful brother/sister, a proclaimer of God’s Word and a model of holy living!

7. I am more than a conqueror, a member of the royal family and royal priesthood!

8. I am the redeemed of the Lord, a new creation, a minister of reconciliation, and an ambassador of the kingdom!

9. I am somebody in the Lord! I am special, talented, brilliant, beautiful, courageous, competent – I am strong!

10. I am God’s man/woman!


Even though I am not a member of that church family any more, this creed still reminds me that I cannot be a complacent fool with the power of God that dwells in me, the relationship I have with the Father and with the gift of salvation His son, Jesus Christ, so freely gave to me.

It is my hope that you make a personal affirmation to not be foolish in your complacency as well. May God continue to bless you, be with you and keep you in His favor always.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Changed my mind

I had said that I was not going to write a blog about my anger over the small-minded mentality of some Americans who did not want their children to hear the President's message today. I changed my mind.

Here is the transcript of the speech:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/MediaResources/PreparedSchoolRemarks/

I don't think a President asking young people to listen to their teachers and encouraging them not to drop out of school is a socialist agenda. I don't think promoting math and science to young children so that they may be the ones who discover the cure for cancer is a socialist agenda.

What I am most concerned about is an anarchist agenda. In Mississippi history, people named Lamar, Davis, Hinds and Clinton are immortalized as they challenged "The War of Northern Aggression" and the Reconstruction period, when African-Americans had political power in this state. When Obama won the election, children were told that they could not talk about the results of the election in Mississippi classrooms and now this. If I had to respect the 43 previous Presidents of the United States, then I would expect people to do the same with this one.

Now I know that narrow-minded behavior is not confined to Mississippi, but we, collectively, sure don't do anything to contradict it. After what happened to Van Jones over the weekend though, it is dangerous for me even to complain about it and express my frustration over it, but you know what, so be it.

If Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Mike Savage don't have to apologize, then I won't. If Fox News is allowed to have a broadcasting license, then I have the same right to call them cry babies or whatever else I want to. However, I will try my best to rise above the fray and this controversy will move off the radar screen within days now that the speech has been given.

I am just sad that the feelings expressed by my father a couple of weekends ago seem to be justified and the bitter pills I have endured all my life are continued to be forced down my throat.

Christians are taught that oppression comes in many earthly forms but it all comes from one source. Therefore, I cannot go wholeheartedly after people who choose to be vessels of discord, I have to renounce the one who is to blame. Nevertheless, when Jesus dealt with Peter before the crucifixion, He did tell him, "Get thee behind me, Satan!"

I'll end this rant with this: This is the United States of America. Barack Obama is our President. Get over it. Respect the position and the man given the opportunity to serve. Or else those that can't can take the advice that they so readily give to others that oppose their viewpoints: Leave!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23, Isaiah 35:4-7, Psalm 125, Psalm 146, James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17, Mark 7:24-37

No message this week. Just take the time to read the Scriptures and be careful on this Labor Day weekend. Enjoy yourself and your loved ones and I will get at you next week with a God-inspired message.

Take care and love you all!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Four years ago, this morning, I woke up...

Song of Solomon 2:8-13, Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9, Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9, Psalm 15, James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

...to see something that would change my life forever. It was something I had been concerned about since I was member of the Mississippi Legislature and the reality of the situation was there before my eyes.

The night before I did not get much sleep. The winds were howling so, banging on my door like a group of invaders trying to break in my apartment. Thunder roared, lightning flashed, rain poured down. All I could do was pray myself to sleep and hope the roof would not cave in or the door and windows would shatter under this brutal attack.

By the grace of God, I did sleep and then awoke. I turned on the television and there it was in my face: total devastation. Hotels where I had once stayed in where gone. Casinos where I had dined in where gone. Homes of friends (and enemies) were gone or severely damaged. My worst fear had come true and all I could think about was getting on my computer and start tracking down friends, not fully understanding that many of them would not respond until days later.

I was living in Clinton, some 200 plus miles from where Hurricane Katrina made a direct hit on Mississippi the morning of August 29, 2005. My car was in the shop being repaired, so I had no transportation to leave, but I did not worry because I figured the storm would weaken as it came north. It did, but not enough. When I stepped out on the balcony of my apartment four years ago, I saw trees down, I saw smoke billowing from afar, I heard sirens constantly. Fortunately my cellphone was charged and I could tell my parents I was alright. I could check on my son and ex-wife to see if they were alright. At least there was peace in that.

Then I went back to the TV and became instantly angry. For years I had been warning my legislative colleagues about this day. I had been pushing for legislation to put more money into our Mississippi Emergency Management Fund for I knew a day like this would eventually come. I expressed great concern when I would visit the Mississippi Gulf Coast and see these tremendous skyscrapers being built near the beach, wondering what the impact would be to those structures and the people that lived in them. Now I was watching my worst fears come true and hearing the past voices of my colleagues saying, "Fleming you worry too much."

In the days that followed I got my land line phone up and made even more contact with folks I had concerns about, I walked to the police station and loaded trailers and I went to the church that had been designated a Red Cross shelter and spoke with the people who had made it north out of the brunt of the storm in time. I located family members for them, got some employment and housing here for them and just listened when they laughed or cried.

Then as friends were checking in on the Internet, they would ask how bad is it. I told them what they were seeing on television was real, it was that bad. It took me a month before I could go down to the coast myself and it was a surreal experience. I told one of the volunteers it was if the "War of the Worlds" had actually happened. An area that was once a city park was now looking like a field military compound, tents everywhere. I nearly threw out my back moving water-logged furniture out of houses. I had already been frustrated that we went into Special Session and all we could accomplish was allowing the casinos to move 800 feet inland. Now as I saw neighborhoods destroyed, I could only get more infuriated with the process.

It was an epiphany, a wake-up call for me. I have never been comfortable with the status quo since. I don't settle for "that is the way we always do it" anymore. People matter to me more. Doing the best you can is the only option. Living without some things doesn't phase me. God is truly the center of my life and pleasing Him is way more important than pleasing mankind.

My life journey has been a roller coaster since that morning four years ago, but I am thankful every day that I am still riding that roller coaster of life. I know from that experience that no matter how far you fall, how much devastation occurs in your life, God can help you pick up the pieces and He can fortify and renew your soul. I have nothing to fear for He is on my side.

I am fully awoke.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Courage by Internet

All my life I have heard and used the phrase "courage juice" to describe alcohol. It seems that when people drink it, a little too much I might add, they seem emboldened to say what is really on their minds. A loss of inhibition, if you will. Well, I can truly say that the Internet is the "courage source" for a lot of people as well.

Being in the public eye means you receive a lot of scrutiny and criticism, especially from people that are your constituents. Most of the time they wait until a town hall meeting or they form their opinions based on news stories, then hem you up in the grocery store or even call you at home around dinner time. However, in those settings, you see them eye-to-eye (or at least hear their voice), listen to their viewpoint and then correct them if the facts are skewed or acknowledge them positively when they are right.

However, on the Internet, people are embolden to make opinions about you, attack your character, misrepresent the facts and they are miles away from you, hiding behind the comfort of a keyboard and a computer screen. Case in point, another blogger picked up my blog about my desire to be Governor of Mississippi and posted it on his site. One of his regulars, I think his user name was "Crusader", made an incorrect reference to my legislative record. He stated I was not qualified to run for governor because I had not gotten anything passed in the Mississippi Legislature. He was using a blatant lie to attack my credibility as a public servant. If you go to www.erikfleming.org and click on "Legislative Highlights", one can see the bills I had become law during my nine years in the House of Representatives.

Now I could have done like in years past and challenged him directly on that site, but I found out that it is a tedious exercise to do that on every blog that has something posted on me. Google Erik Fleming and see what you find. Some of my Facebook friends have even contributed to this misinformation about my character and are unapologetic about it because they have the "courage source" to rely on. Any mistakes I have made I have always lived up to them. But you will find it hard to counter lie after lie after lie.

But the Internet gives a lot of people cover. They don't have to physically confront you, they never have to be held accountable for what they say, they can even alter your Wikipedia file with inaccuracies, or highlight a negative viewpoint without your permission or knowledge. To me that is a false sense of courage. I have been known to confront my enemies head-on and deal with the toughest issues of the day candidly. However, one opponent labeled that style as a "maverick" approach.

In this day and age of technology, maybe that is a true assessment. Maybe it is more acceptable to lob grenades instead of engaging in hand-to-hand combat. But just call me old school, I'm from the "say it to my face" generation. If you would not say it to me in a grocery store or a town hall, then why say it in a forum where I may not ever read it, therefore can't defend it.

I like my Facebook forum better because at least the people responding to it are people that one, have signed up as friends and two, I can see faces and study profiles to understand their viewpoints. We may not agree on everything and most of the time I don't even enter into the debate, but at least there is some of that old school, in your face debating that I think is essential to public discourse.

As some people can attest, I can dish it as well as I can take it, so this is not a bitching session. I just don't like the current rules of engagement in the majority of the Internet weblog forums. Maybe someday we can go back to the days when people can say the courage of their convictions out in the open again, but for now it is what it is. All I ask, if it is not too much, is get your facts straight before steppin' to me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I wish I could be Governor of Mississippi

I remember when I first started in Mississippi politics, I was out there campaigning for a seat on the Jackson City Council, and when I met with people to solicit contributions, they would say to me as they wrote out their checks, "You would make a great state legislator someday." I guess people of faith spoke that into existence.



Later, as I started making a name for myself at the State Capitol, people then started introducing me as "the first Black Governor of the State of Mississippi." I thought that was flattering. However, after running two statewide campaigns and fast approaching my 45 year on this earth, 26 of them in the Magnolia State, I believe all that will be is a compliment.



I would love to have the opportunity to run and serve as governor of this state. There are so many things that need to be done. Our education system needs to be thoroughly addressed, infrastructure improvements need to be spear-headed and our overall quality of life must be upgraded from a mode of survival to a mindset of thriving.



Having done the best I could through the legislative process, I saw that there were certain limitations that could be overcome if I had a bully pulpit like the office of the Governor to push an agenda of progress from.



Alas, I have come to the realistic conclusion that I may not have that opportunity, especially in 2011. I guess that is why this is on my mind since the election is only a couple of years away and the candidates are already positioning themselves. Bill Luckett, a Clarksdale attorney and co-owner with Morgan Freeman of the Ground Zero Blues Club, is seriously exploring a run along with Attorney General Jim Hood on the Democratic side. The media has pretty much anointed Lt. Governor Phil Bryant as the Republican nominee and the next governor, but there are rumblings about a GOP primary with Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and /or State Treasurer Tate Reeves in the mix.



Needless to say that I am not overly enthused about the choices out there, but it is what it is. Forces beyond my control have shaped this race and decreased my options. I know that it is impossible for me to pursue something that I would love to do. Well, let me rephrase that: I know that it is impossible to win a position I would love to hold. I could run, and then be labeled "the Black Shawn O'Hara" and as some already said nastily before , "a perennial candidate". I would hate to tarnish my reputation in that way.



Some would argue because of my human frailties, my reputation is tarnished already, but those folks would not support me if there was scientific evidence that I was the "Second Coming." Dismissing those negative energies, I have to objectively assess that my chances of winning such an important office, and thus creating a historical moment of major proportions, are basically non-existent.



It was frustrating to see the end result of two campaigns in which I fought so hard to win, while at the same time during a three-year period, losing the position which I poured my heart and soul into. I am honored that nearly 450,000 Mississippians thought that I should have been their United States Senator. The votes I received made my campaign the most successful waged by an African-American from this state for a statewide position. However, in the final analysis, it was another defeat.



In watching the way the votes came in, it will be hard to see a scenario in which I could pull such a goal off. I believe there will be an African-American governor in Mississippi someday and I will be so proud when that moment comes. But that is in the future, as a new generation of Mississippians reach adulthood.



I have ruled myself out of politics at the moment because of what I have endured in the last three years. I learned the hard way about the backstabbing in the Black community that would destroy any chance for me to achieve anything else in Mississippi politics. I could then just re-write that same sentence and insert "Democratic party" where "Black community" is. This is not reflective of those entire demographics as a whole, but really on the current "leaders, movers and shakers" of those entities.



Again, it is what it is. But it is not just the lack of a strong support system in the political process that has deterred me from pursuing anything in the future. Personal finances are a hindrance, as I am not a wealthy man. I work a real job which is satisfying, but has low compensation. When you make it from pay check to pay check, running for public office is a luxury. I have done that dance too many times to subject myself and the ones I love through that again.



But yet there is something else that concerns me. It is a mindset that has to be overcome.
My father and I talked at our recent family reunion and he asked me what was I going do next politically. I told him I am trying to suppress those thoughts. He laughed and said that if I wanted to be a legislator again, I could probably win, but he could not see me winning a statewide race. That would be a natural observation of a Black man from out of state that left Mississippi when he was young and vowed never to live there again. But considering what I have observed during my time in Mississippi, I understand where he is coming from. For example, I recently heard a statement from a prominent actor who said, "Nobody helped me when I was on food stamps and Medicaid." The troubling thing is that there are too many people in this state that would say "Damn right!" instead of "WTF?", at least enough to sway an election.




People voted for folks that threw them a crumb at them financially instead of improving their lives legislatively. It was devastating to hear people say that they were entitled to a handout more than the tools to pull themselves out. While we have to have compassion to help those in need, that does not mean that we cripple them with charity or pimp them in their times of desperation. It does not matter if you are a TANF recipient, the mayor of a city or a CEO of a corporation, it is not cool to be pimped out by a politician.



The political process is suppose to be about service. Render help to those who need it, protect society from all enemies, including itself, support an economic system that provides opportunities for wealth attainment and establish order so we all can co-exist peacefully. It would be good to see that philosophy for public service emerge again and when it does, maybe then my wish will come true and I could be Governor of the State of Mississippi. But for now it is just a wish, not a quixotic quest to journey on this time.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Spirit Gives Life

1 Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18, Psalm 84, Psalm 34:15-22, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69

For those of us who have struggled with our daily burdens on our own, it is time to stop. We cannot disconnect our problems from the help of God any longer. We were given an incredible gift from God that is equal the love and favor of God, that propels us toward eternal life. That gift is the Holy Spirit.

We marvel at the beauty of the flesh or the greatness of one's intellect. What we should be focusing on is the glorious wonder within us. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us a life that is great and powerful, that provides us hope and fortifies our faith. In essence, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate supplement for us, for it gives us the vitality to endure any hardship the enemy puts before us.

We have to remember that our real enemy is not any one human being or even a certain group of people. Our enemy is supernatural and attacks us by exploiting our carnal weaknesses and turning us away from God. However, the Holy Spirit is the energizer that can renew us and helps us fight against an enemy that seeks to make us faint and separate us from God and His favor.

Therefore, we need to tap into the power divinely given to us. The power that propelled the Pentecost. The power that revealed itself to John the Baptist. The power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Yes, that same power dwells within each and every one of us and it is not a spirit of fear, but of great power to overcome anything.

Think about how powerful you are and step out into the life you have inherited from the Father, generated by the Holy Spirit.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Proving Ground

Sports has always been a proving ground. A moment in time when, in the heat of battle, a champion rises above the competition, an underdog defies the odds, an all-star becomes a juggernaut, warriors fight to the death, or tarnished, tormented souls gain redemption.

We saw all of that this weekend in the world of sports. First the champion. Jamaican Usain Bolt entered the World Track and Field Championships as the "fastest man in the world". The only obstacle, besides topping his Olympic gold-winning performance in the 100 meter finals, was his arch rival, American Tyson Gay. Gay, the previous record holder, did not compete in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, so this was the showdown the world was anticipating for over a year.

Gay, injury-free, ran his personal best, an impressive 9.71 seconds. The problem was Bolt is now at the top of his game. The Jamaican speedster set a new world-record Sunday, crossing the tape in a blistering 9.58 seconds. The time gap is a little more than a tenth of a second difference, but in the world of track and field, for those who watched it, it was a dominating performance by Bolt. With his powerful, fearless, upright running style, Bolt lived up to his name and has earned the respect he so rightly deserves as the most dominating sprinter in a generation.

To the underdog. Tiger Woods has approached the first tee of the final round of a major golf championship with the lead 14 times in his career prior to this weekend. He won all 14 of those majors. Sunday was his fifteenth attempt to do it again. He is now 14 of 15, thanks to the inspired play of a young South Korean golfer named Y. E. Yang. Yang erased a two-shot deficit going into the final round and won the PGA Championship at Hazeltine Country Club by three strokes.

Woods shot a mortal 3-over-par round, struggling mightily as his putter, so true in the first two rounds of the tournament and in the previous two weeks of PGA Tour competition, let him down. It was Woods that seemed like the player seeking his first major and Yang looking like the steely veteran. Woods had his moment at the 17th hole to tie the match but suffered one of his many putting yips and when Yang sank the birdie putt on the final hole, it punctuated one of the greatest upsets in the history of professional golf. You see, Yang started playing golf later in life, had won only one PGA event, and wasn't even ranked in the top 100 of the world's golfers as of last Thursday. That has quickly changed and I believe that Yang will have the opportunity to stare down the Tiger again on many Sundays to come.

Ian Kinsler's performance this weekend against the Boston Red Sox defines the transformation of an all-star into a juggernaut. The Texas Rangers' second baseman, playing in his first series since severely injuring his hamstring, has proven he is one of the best in the game. Saturday and Sunday at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, he transformed into a force that propelled his team squarely in Major League Baseball's 2009 playoff race. Due to his efforts, Kinsler has the Rangers in the driver's seat for the fourth playoff slot in the American League.

It all started like this: Kinsler, in his first at-bat since coming off the disabled list, on the first pitch, crushed a shot into the left-center field stands to tie the game in the first inning. Then, the Red Sox decided to play hard ball. They pitched him inside the next at-bat to send a message. Later, pitching hard inside again, Kinsler was hit by a pitch in the head. Kinsler, clearly angry for the tactics, got up and got even. The next game, Kinsler blasted a home run in his first at-bat and drove in another run later to help Texas vault past the BoSox to the top of the Wild Card standings. Kinsler's line in two games: .666 batting average, two runs scored, four hits, two home runs, three runs batted in and a stolen base. This is how legends are born, and MVPs chosen. If Kinsler can carry this talented team on his shoulders for the remainder of the season, the transformation will be complete.

Our warriors this weekend were Christane "Cyborg" Santos and Gina Carano. Carano entered the Mixed Martial Arts 145-pound title fight as the defending champion. She has been the face of female MMA fighting and been a tremendous ambassador for the sport. The only woman many felt could give Carano a run for her money stepped into the cage Saturday evening. Santos, known as "The "Cyborg" because of her relentless punching power, was the brute strength challenger that would push Carano's near-perfect technique to the test.

After four minutes and 39 seconds of great fighting action, better in my opinion than a lot of the male title fights that have recently taken place, Carano clearly ran out of gas and was dazed by Santos' powerful Jujitsu punches. As seconds ticked down toward the end of the first round, Santos pounded a nearly-defenseless Carano until the referee stopped the fight as the bell was sounding. Fight fans felt the ref should have let the round end and determined whether the fight should continue in between rounds. But from what I saw, the ref was clearly starting to call the fight with seven seconds left and waved it off just before the end of the round. If the ref had practiced that, I don't think he could have nailed it that precise. Carano was definitely in severe trouble and remember, it only takes one punch to do major permanent damage. The referee was right to stop the fight and I cannot wait for the rematch.

Finally, the tormented soul better known as Michael Vick is seeking his redemption. The Philadelphia Eagles this weekend shocked the sports world by signing Vick, the former Pro Bowl Atlanta Falcons quarterback who served two years in federal prison stemming from his illegal dogfighting activities, to a deal that can pay him up to $1.6 million a season. Unfortunately, this story is still being written. Vick will be a backup for Donovan McNabb. Protesters are picketing everything that the Eagles do. Sports talk show phone lines have been lit up all weekend long, either trashing or praising the boldness of the move.

It will be interesting to see how Vick handles this chapter of his life. If he has truly learned his lesson, he can tune out his critics and let God deal with the reproach. With the support system the Eagles' organization has, an empathetic head coach, a true mentor in McNabb, and an added bonus of Tony Dungy as his personal advisor, the tools are there for him to succeed. God help the NFC East if he can stay grounded and can still be electrifying on the football field, even in a limited role.

This is why I love sports. The stories, the games, the passion-this is what defines true athletic competition. Long live sports, long live the proving ground.

I wonder what will happen next weekend? I can't wait.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dare to learn

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14, Proverbs 9:1-6, Psalm 111, Psalm 34:9-14, Ephesians 5:15-20,
John 6:51-58

As another school year starts, millions of children across the country begin an adventure that will be marked by social advancement and intellectual challenges. The ones that are successful at both will be remembered for years after they end their matriculation by their peers. Personally they should achieve a level of enlightenment that will help them continue to succeed in their adult lives.

Many of us have long passed those years but we still have a lifetime of learning to do. This is our spiritual growth, which adds exponentially to our wisdom. Solomon, when he ascended to his father's throne, understood this. He did not want exorbitant riches or long life, he sought wisdom to rule his people in the way God wanted him to. By pleasing God with this prayer, God gave him wisdom never seen before or since, as well as riches and long life.

We should seek to please God is this way. God has given us the ability to reason and think. It is what clearly distinguishes us from His other creations. However, we should hone our wisdom like a barber sharpens his razor knife. We should be humble and fear (respect) God, place our trust in Him, and focus our sights on He who provides our help.

We need to study the Word of God on a daily basis, strengthening ourselves in the knowledge of the truth. By building a strong foundation in our spiritual growth, we can grow and we can dare to dream. If we dream our wildest dreams, with God on our side, we can truly achieve them. Wisdom and discernment will guide you to your goals, and if you look at things with your spiritual eyes, you can sidestep those hurdles that the enemy will thrust upon you. In other words, it does not matter how big the struggle, the victory will be even greater.

To gain wisdom, you must dare to learn. In daring to learn, you must seek, find and respect God. Instead a being a daredevil, just avoiding perils and pitfalls, be a "dare-angel", rising above the fray, seeking the favor of God. The latter is much more rewarding for all eternity.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Imitate God the best you can

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 , 1 Kings 19:4-8, Psalm 130, Psalm 34:1-8, Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2, John 6:35, 41-51

God loves all of us. He daily forgives us for our sins. He provides for our needs. He walks with us and helps us through our struggles. He puts a hedge of protection around us.

The question becomes do we offer the same comfort to our fellow man? Can someone say that you love everyone? Can someone say that you are forgiving? Can someone depend on you as a provider? Can people say you are helpful during times of despair? Can someone acknowledge that you are a protector?

On this day, let us evaluate ourselves to see where we are in our roles as children of God. It is proven that children imitate their parents, no matter how hard they rebel against that fact. We look like our parents and we adopt many of their mannerisms because they have the most influence in our lives.

This leads to another set of questions: Why do we not adopt the ways of our heavenly Father? Why do we rebel against God's influence on our lives so easily? Could it be because we do not see God with our physical eyes?

It is hard to love everyone in a world that suggests it is healthy to be cynical and distrusting. It is hard to protect those who have done harm to others. It is hard to provide for folks when your personal resources are limited, thus it is also hard to help others when you are struggling. It is hard for us to forgive those who have transgressed against us without any remorse.

However, if we are to be true servants of God, we have to be true imitators of God. We have to adopt the ways of our Father, not just to be nicer to others, but to gain the favor we are on earth to attain, and that is the favor of God.

God is love. We are His children. We need to be about love as well. It is the greatest commandment for us to adhere to. If we set it in our minds to imitate God, our spiritual strength will help us achieve this lofty goal. Have faith, and watch God work within us to make us more like Him.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Always a First Impression

2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13a, Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15, Psalm 51:1-12, Psalm 78:23-29, Ephesians 4:1-16, John 6:24-35

There are nearly 7 billion people in the world. That gives us a lot of opportunities to make a first impression. The old saying goes that you only get one chance to make that first impression, so you are constantly encouraged to make that impression a positive one.

As human beings, that is hard to do, because we are not always on our "A" game. Sometimes we get caught at a low moment, even if we make every effort to be careful with our outward persona. Therefore, even if you never encounter a certain person again, that impression of you will last with them forever.

Fortunately for us, our eternal goal is not making 7 billion first impressions, but to make a good first impression with God every day. Our Father, by giving us another day on earth, cleans our slate with forgiveness, and we have another chance to show God how faithful we are through our love for Him.

When we repent for our sins, we are creating another opportunity to please God. We are then given favor to do what He intended for us to do with our lives. So while we have mortal pressure to make good first impressions with everyone we meet, we should take comfort that we should not have that same pressure in our relationship with God.

God loves us for who we are because He created us. He knows our faults and our needs. All He desires from us is total devotion to Him. Keep that in mind when you are worrying about your outward appearance to the rest of the world, for that fleeting opportunity for a first impression is as temporal as our existence on earth. The eternal love and favor of God is the real impression that counts, and it is renewable on a daily basis.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Ghosts of Mississippi strike again

The movie "The Ghosts of Mississippi" documented the conviction of Byron de la Beckwith, the man who murdered civil rights leader Medgar Wiley Evers. The hero, played by Alec Baldwin, was an assistant District Attorney named Bobby DeLaughter, who seemed destined by fate to bring Beckwith to justice.

DeLaughter became a national hero for his efforts and he gave Mississippi a positive headline concerning one of the darkest eras in American history. Besides the movie, DeLaughter parlayed his fame into a book about the case and became a Circuit Court Judge. His legacy looked to be cemented as a great American story.

However, it is now obvious that the story will not have a happy ending. DeLaughter, on July 30, 2009, pled guilty to obstructing a federal investigation into the actions of Attorney Dickie Scruggs, who was another Mississippi success story gone bad.

This is a sad moment for all of us because it shows how quickly our "fifteen minutes of fame" can go south quick. It is sad because it shows how important it is for those of us who choose public service as our vocation to stay above temptation and how hard it is to do so.

It is true that when you become a public servant, changes come in your life. Your schedule becomes more demanding and it will put a strain on your financial and personal life. That is what makes keeping the public trust so hard for some, because character flaws will be revealed and weaknesses exploited. DeLaughter's flaw was trusting his friends with securing his ambitious desires. DeLaughter badly wanted to be a federal judge and with his pedigree, he seemed destined to achieve that goal.

However, he did not understand how he got to be in the position he was in. DeLaughter suffered personal setbacks in pursuing justice in the Evers case, yet it all worked out in the end. Had he learned that lesson, he would not have put himself in the position to jeopardize all that he had worked for on a promise that sounded too easy.

A champion for justice should never turn his back on justice for personal gain. He could have turned his back on justice for the Evers family but he did not and many of us are grateful for that. I personally wish he could have finished that journey on a positive note. I knew Judge DeLaughter and worked with him on many occasions. I helped him celebrate in his moment of triumph, both in the courtroom and on the silver screen. Now, I am powerless in his moment of adversity.

Unfortunately, DeLaughter will not be the last Mississippian to achieve a national stature and then fall from grace. Every time that happens though, it just brings those dreaded "ghosts" that continue to haunt us in the forefront again.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Provision

2 Samuel 11:1-15, 2 Kings 4:42-44, Psalm 14, Psalm 145:10-18, Ephesians 3:14-21, Ephesians 4:1-6, John 6:1-21

A brief note this morning about provision. In this time in our culture, we generally are covetous and easily depressed over tough economic situations. Our covetous nature makes this economy consumer-driven. When we can't pay our bills, we feel inadequate.

However, there is good news, God is the ultimate provider. He can make a way out of no way. Jesus taught that lesson with the five loaves of bread and two fish. Paul teaches us that not only does God see us through in tough times, He gives us gifts to survive and thrive.

Our God is a giving God. He provides for our needs on a daily basis, and as the ultimate gift, He gave us His only begotten son for our salvation. We want for nothing. When a minister of the Gospel reminds you that you are wealthy because you have the inheritance of God, take that to heart.

You may not can keep up with "the Jones" on earth, but what you have no one can take it away, and there is so much of it, everyone on earth can have it. Use your faith as a weapon against poverty and depression. Temper your desires, financially and otherwise, and let God work His blessing upon you.

You have the ability to see your way through any adverse condition and you have a God that will walk with you every step of the way. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that even if you get weary, don't faint. That extra effort will lead you to your moment of provision and yet another blessed day in the Lord.

Be strong, brothers and sisters in Christ, help is always on the way.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Gates Incident: When Keepin' It Real Goes Wrong



One of my favorite skits on The Dave Chappelle Show was "When Keepin' It Real Goes Wrong." It was a hilarious take on when it wasn't the right time for Black folks to keep it real, thereby jeopardizing everything they have. The arrest of Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his Cambridge, MA home qualifies for that skit on so many levels.

First, I think I have a distinctive perspective on this issue. One, in case you have not noticed, I am an African-American male. Two, I am also a Deputy Sheriff. Three, I am a former legislator who annually introduced anti-racial profiling bills. Therefore, I would like to offer my two cents, as it seems like everybody, including the President of the United States, has.

As everyone knows by now, Dr. Gates, a Black male who is a tenured professor at Harvard University, was returning from a week-long trip and along with a friend, another Black male, tried to enter his home. Gates apparently had trouble opening the front door to his house, thus prompting a conscientious neighbor to call the police, since Gates' home has previously been broken into earlier this year.

Cambridge Police responded to the scene, with the mindset that there was a burglary in progress. The officer that encountered Gates was Sgt. James Crowley. The stories diverge from here, but my assessment is that Crowley asked for identification from Gates, Gates provided it while, in a slightly agitated state, made some off-color comments and accusations.

At some point, Gates made a comment that crossed the line for Crowley, and with other officers present, proceeded to inform Gates that he was under arrest for disorderly conduct. Within 24 hours, Gates was released and the charges were dropped, with the MA Governor Duval Patrick, an African-American and former U.S. District Attorney, issuing a public apology. The issue appeared to be dying off until that evening when at a nationally televised press conference on health care legislation, President Obama made the comment that the Cambridge Police "acted stupidly" in their handling of the Gates incident.

In my opinion, Gates, Crowley and Obama all kept it real at the wrong time. For Gates and Obama, one has to remember that these Black men are almost identical in their class structure. Most people forget that the President is just six years removed from being a professor at a prestigious university, therefore I am sure he had a flash of how he would have felt if the Chicago Police tried to arrest him for burglary at his Hyde Park home.

During my tenure as a State Representative, I was stopped many times by police officers, whether I was in the wrong or not. Once I identified myself to the officer, I was let go and one time even escorted me to my home. I did not criticized the officer or pull the "Black Card." I stayed calm and the officer did not feel threatened, therefore I always had a peaceful resolution.

Not every Black man gets that kind of treatment, hence the term "DWB" aka "Driving While Black". I worked hard to even the playing field in that regard through legislative action. But I believe Dr. Gates should have kept his cool, not be accusatory, and I am sure that the police would have left without incident. That being said, regardless of what Gates said to him, Sgt. Crowley should have deflected any outrage Gates hurled at him.

Law enforcement officers are trained to deescalate a situation, not add fire to the flame. An instructor once told me that it is better to talk your way out of a volatile situation rather than having to use force. Once Crowley had assessed that Gates was the rightful occupant of the home and that there were no unidentified suspects trying to rob the home, Crowley, and the other officers, should have made their way out of the situation and let Gates get some rest at his own home instead of a holding cell. It was really contingent on Sgt. Crowley to back away, since he was obviously the ranking officer at the scene. If your leader does not back away from a situation, then you, as a rank-and-file officer, have to stay and support your leader. Crowley put himself and his fellow officers in an unnecessary crisis.

As for the President, for the first time he let his emotions get the best of him. I understand his initial outrage for his friend, but he is the President of the United States. If he had said "unnecessary" instead of "stupidly", we would not be talking about the incident in such a grand context. The Cambridge Police had conceded their point when they dismissed the charges. However, when the President interjected his personal feelings, he offended a lot of men and women who put on the shield, star and badge. The reaction time of the Cambridge Police to stop a burglary in a Black man's home should have been a signal that racism was not a factor in their actions. The President should have commended them for being responsive, while admonishing them for making a bigger deal of the situation than was warranted. Also, as a point of reference, it is probably not good politically for a Harvard-educated man to reference the actions of a working class man in that same city "stupid." I guess this proves that Obama is human after all.

What I hope happens because of this high-profile case is that all parties apologize for their actions and that a renewed dialogue about relationships between the police and the African-American community comes forth. It is imperative in a society based on law and order that all communities feel that the police is committed to serve and protect all citizens. We should be sensitive that racial profiling does exist and at the same time remember that Black men and women also serve in this noble profession.

Sir Robert Peel, considered the father of law enforcement, said, "The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions." When any segment of our population feels negatively about those committed to prevent crime and disorder, it weakens the thin blue line that protects us.

In summation, as aforementioned, Gates, Crowley and Obama all kept it real at the wrong time. Now it is time for cooler heads to prevail, intelligent discourse to begin and for of all of us to get a better understanding. That would be keeping it real, the right way.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

He will make your name good

2 Samuel 7:1-14a, Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 89:20-37, Psalm 23, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

One of the parallels about the recent deaths of famous people is their fame, and infamy, amongst the masses. Most of us know their names and their achievements and hold them in high regard. Thousands have attended their memorials and have written letters of sympathy and sorrow.

However, there are many who have not expressed that same compassion for the dead. They have trashed their memories and their name. They have condemned them for their shortcomings. If you depend on mankind to hold you in total reverence when you die, you will also suffer the same fate.

Therefore, it is important for us to fear and serve God. God, the Creator of the Universe from which the Son and the Holy Spirit emanate, made a promise that He would never leave you nor forsake you. He made a promise that you would triumph over all your enemies so much so that you will be able to set a table in front of them and not be afraid. He made a promise that He will carry you through all your adversities and be with you in even the darkest of places.

All He has asked you to do is to obey His commandments, especially loving one another, seek forgiveness for your transgressions, show mercy, treat others justly, walk humbly before Him and spread the good news about eternal salvation. Then you will receive His favor and will be blessed. For those who adhere to this, He will also bless those that come after you.

Thus, God, and only God, can give you a good name. The shepherd that safely guides his flock shall be rewarded forever with the eternal praise of God. You do not have to be a pastor to be a shepherd of men. Your leadership is shown through your actions. In other words, you can lead others to a path of righteousness through your example, your lifestyle.

If you settle for the idyllic praise of your fellow man, you will become a victim of mankind's fickleness. But God's favor never waivers. Remember the old axiom, "To err is human, to forgive is divine." Don't ever settle for earthly platitudes, for they are as finite as mankind itself. It is alright to get a pat on the back, just remember that most of us won't receive our flowers until we are gone.

In summation, it is more important for us, in our remaining days, to get a blessing from God. As His name will endure forever, you name will as well, if you put your trust totally in Him, for He is our ultimate judge. What man can't forgive, God will; what man cannot see, there stands God.