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.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"And that's the way it is..."

With those words, another CBS nightly news broadcast ended, and so another lesson on what was really happening in the world. That is the way I viewed Walter Cronkite, who died yesterday at the age of 92. Cronkite was the definition of the "anchorman" as he served in that role from 1962 to 1981.

Cronkite however to me was my first professor. He taught me the essence of the world I was growing up in. As a young child, it was his coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing about 40 years ago that made me desire to be an astronaut. His pain-staking details in reporting the events leading up to the launch and his joy when Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the lunar surface could be felt and appreciated through that black-and white television screen at my Aunt Margie's house.

It was on Cronkite's watch that the assassinations of both Kennedys, Malcolm X and Dr. King took place. He covered U.S. Presidents from Truman to Reagan and is credited for turning the national mood on the Vietnam War after the bloody Tet Offensive. Watergate, the subsequent Nixon resignation and the Iran hostage crisis were all under his insightful tenure.

It is safe to say that the formative years of my life, the years I made up my mind that I wanted to be in public service, were shaped by Cronkite. Americans polled in 1972 said that Cronkite was "the most trusted man in America." I definitely would say "Amen" to that. I trusted him wholeheartedly, but it was easy for me because I was still an altruistic child. For adults, who naturally become more jaded with wisdom, to feel the same way speaks volumes about how sincere Cronkite came across.

His rivals in the business loved him. He was a devoted husband and a fun-loving man. He was an avid sailor and a pioneer in his profession. His life story is what America is all about and he had the privilege to tell the other stories about America every night for nineteen years.

I have missed him since 1981 and no one, except maybe Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw, has even come close to his stature. He was the voice the nation needed to hear to make sense of the time that reshaped our nation after World War II. That alone makes him an icon in my book.

Of all of the notable people who have died over the last month, Cronkite was the one individual who shaped my life the most. I am glad to have grown up in a generation where "Uncle Walter" told us the way it was.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Palin did the right thing

Now coming from me this might be a surprise, God knows I do not agree with The Honorable Sarah Palin on many things. However, I agree with her decision to step down as the Governor of our 49th State, Alaska.


After listening to all the critics trashing her for a month, especially about the way she handled the announcement of her resignation, I am here to offer why I think she was right in doing what she did. And it basically comes down to two words, Money and Exposure.


Palin has become one the few who was thrust into the national spotlight during a presidential election. Was she prepared for it? Probably not, but such things are not necessarily planned for. I don't think her political ambition, realistically, had gone beyond what she had attained.


Now that she has had a taste of the national limelight, why should she let that opportunity be a flash in the pan? First of all, you have to admit she is an attractive woman. In a culture where we idolize, and capitalize, on beauty, a former beauty contestant in the political arena is pure gold.


She is definitely not an Ivy League intellectual, but she is a former point guard, and what she does not have in intellect, she more than makes up for in competitive instincts. Her performance in the Vice-Presidential Debate proved that she can be ready for prime time, if properly prepared.


That preparation has to come from outside of Alaska. Now I have been to Alaska, and I think it is a beautiful place. However, it is a long way from the epicenter of American politics. To prove my point, outside of Alaskans, how many of you can name any previous Alaskan governors?


For that matter, how many of you reading this can name previous governors outside of your own home state? If one has to broaden their horizons, they have to go beyond local politics. Palin has decided to make that move. She realized, the hard way, that the way you run a campaign in Alaska is different from the way you run a national campaign. To build her chops in the national arena, she could not be bound to an office that would distract her from that.


And speaking about distractions, her national glow was affecting the way she governed Alaska. The constant pressure from activists in her own party to travel across the country and the equally pressurized criticism/scrutiny on her family took a toll on her level of effectiveness. I believe the people of Alaska, for the most part, were supportive of her efforts since she got off of the national campaign trail, but just getting by was not satisfactory for her, and I definitely agree with that philosophy.


So now with the window of opportunity open, a book deal on the works, a lucrative career on the lecture circuit available, it would be crazy not to seize the moment. Besides, did anybody see her television audition when she hosted Saturday Night Live? She is a natural for television. It was my assessment during the campaign that she would be hosting a talk show real soon and she has made it possible by removing herself from her second biggest obligation, public service.


A talk show deal would not only be financially beneficial, but it will give her the exposure she needs. When I talk about exposure, I am talking about being exposed to things and issues outside of Alaska. Her name identification is good enough now to run for President of the United States. But having a show, like The Honorable Mike Huckabee has, would give her the opportunity to travel the country, and talk with experts on any subject she wants to delve into.


People will be able to see her in her best light every show and she will also have a feel about the pulse of the nation on particular issues. That can only be beneficial for someone who now wants to have a voice on the national stage. My ideal scenario would be that Palin gets a show on MSNBC.


Hear me out. It would be easy for her to get a show on FOX News, but she would be dismissed as just another conservative on a conservative network, which Huckabee already has a show on by the way. However, if she landed a show on MSNBC, here would be the ideal prime time lineup: 7pm EST-Hardball with Chris Matthews, 8pm-Palin's show, 9pm-Countdown with Keith Olbermann, 10pm-The Rachel Maddow Show. It would be the most watched prime time news show lineup in the market, especially for the first month, preferably in a sweeps month like February.


A conservative having a talk show on MSNBC? Genius! If you want to play the conspiracy theory game, I believe it is already in the works. Which network usually gets the exclusive interviews with Palin? FOX News and NBC. What network is SNL on? NBC. See where I am going with this?


I think, personally, it would be a slam-dunk for MSNBC to have "The Sarah Palin Show", but that is enough fantasizing for one day. I just really wanted to go on the record to say that Palin did the right thing in resigning early to get a chance to do something that all Americans desire: getting paid for what you do well. She has been in the national spotlight long enough with just a modest income.


President Obama increased his income by becoming an author. Why can't Palin do the same thing? I say, Governor Palin, go for it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Seek revival

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19, Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 24, Psalm 85:8-13, Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:14-29

Just a short thought for this Sunday.

It is tough going sometimes in life. We face challenges on a daily basis during our journey on earth. There are times where we feel tired and overwhelmed. In previous entries, I have reminded the readers that our faith is the strength that lies within us to get us through those moments.

However, just like many other power sources, we need to be re-charged and revived periodically. We need to be reminded about our faith, which is our strength. We need to rejuvenate our spiritual selves.

Therefore, I recommend that we read all the words in the Holy Bible, starting with the Scriptures annotated above. They remind us of how God rewards the faithful and admonishes the weak. The Bible reminds us that Jesus' love does conquer all, including the wrath of His father. The Bible is also a guide to bring us back when we inadvertently stray away.

We must utilize all the tools that God has placed before us to stay strong in our faith. The enemy, on a constant seek-and-destroy mission, finds ways to consistently to keep us from the Truth and the Light of wisdom. However, as we refer back to our teachings and our weapons of spiritual warfare, we will overcome anything that the enemy throws at us.

Then you can dance for God like King David, and steer clear of adversity like Amos. Learn to love God, even in the darkest moments, and you will be surely revived.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Some things you just don't say out loud

I was angry about the statement Rep. Peter King, R-NY, said before the Memorial Service of Michael Jackson, in essence asking why are we celebrating the life and mourning the death of "a pervert." I have stated publicly that King has a right to his opinion and I have a right to mine. It is the timing and the way he went about it that is crass, and at the same time, unfortunate.

There is an old saying that goes: "If you can't say anything nice about somebody, don't say anything at all." Another saying goes: "Don't speak ill of the dead." King violated both of those axioms on purpose. I can understand that you were answering a question about the most significant event going on at the moment, but to just come out and say that, without hesitation or thought, is unprofessional and insensitive.

Not that I would expect King to win any sensitivity points or have his life story on Lifetime, but he is an elected official. There are people in his Congressional district that were fans of Michael Jackson. They probably watched the Memorial Service on television or online. I am sure that they were not pleased about his comments or the timing of them. If I am incorrect, then why run to "The O'Reilly Factor" and defend the statement?

The best thing to do was just let the news cycle run its course and it would have been dismissed. But to publicly defend that statement after the service had ended only brings more heat on King. I am sure there are a lot of people in his district that agrees with his assessment, but I bet they did not run up to one of their close friends who was a fan of MJ's and express that in this time of sorrow. It is called respect.

When I was watching the journalists discuss Jackson's past, they were thorough but respectful in the time of death. They also reminded folks that Jackson was acquitted of all charges, something that I guess the Congressman was not aware of. I also assume that the Congressman has not seen what has happened to other members of his party who were quick to judge someone else's moral character. Bob Livingston and Mark Sanford wanted to impeach the President of the United States for lying under oath about an extramarital affair. Both have since ruined their political careers for engaging in their own adulterous behavior.

So now Rep. King, you have put the world on notice about you. If you do anything that will question your character in the future, your political days will be numbered as well. As the old saying goes: "A double-edged sword cuts both ways." In Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, He admonished us to not to judge one another, for you will be judged as well. Rep. King, for making that kind of pronouncement about another human being, you are now on the clock, sir.

I sincerely hope, Rep. King, that you have swept around your own front door and have removed all the rocks near your glass house. It will be unbearable to think about the scrutiny and harsh comments you will face if you are caught doing anything that looks improper or immoral. I pray that no uses the bull's eye you just drew on your own back.

I have attended funerals of political enemies and I have witnessed firsthand how a Congressman who hated another politician did not make a statement of any kind publicly when that politician died, so I know that it can be done. For your sake, Rep. King, and the sake of the people who elected you to serve, I wish that you had shown similar restraint and respect.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"Air" McNair

Deuteronomy 10:17-21, Hebrews 11:8-16, Psalm 145, Matthew 5:43-48

As an alumnus of Jackson State University, it is not common for one of us to have fond football memories of someone who did not don the "Blue and White" uniform, especially one of the dreaded Purple and Gold members of the Alcorn State University Braves. Steve "Air" McNair was the exception.

From 1992 to 1994, McNair was the most feared quarterback in college football, leading Alcorn to three SWAC Championships and to this day is the all-time leader in passing yards and total offensive yardage in Division 1-AA Football. He finished third in the 1994 Heisman Trophy voting and won the Walter Payton Award as the best player in Division 1-AA NCAA Football, now known as the FCS Division. He had a stellar 13-year career in the NFL, primarily with the Tennessee Titans, leading them to their only Super Bowl appearance, was a Co-MVP of the league in 2003 and a 3-time Pro Bowler.

He was a winner on and off the field, and that is why his tragic death comes as a shock to all of us who had the chance to watch him play and know him as a fellow Mississippian. My memories of Steve comes from talking with him whenever Jackson State played Alcorn, from him helping my candidate Ronnie Musgrove work the press box at Jack Spinks Stadium, and from his efforts, along with Brett Favre, to lead the NFL's aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina, including their own families.

However, I have to admit that my greatest memories of him come from the playing field. One game that received national attention was when he took on the Jim Tressel-led Youngstown State University Penguins on their march to the Division 1-AA Championship that year. McNair played valiantly in a game where Alcorn was clearly outmatched. Tressel feared McNair so much, that he only rushed three down linemen on every play, dropping eight men down field to keep McNair from hurting him with his deadly accurate passing.

But the game I cherish the most, and I felt truly defined Steve's championship demeanor, was the last game Alcorn played Jackson State in Spinks Stadium. This team, led by James "Big Country" Johnson, was JSU's best chance in the three years McNair guided Alcorn to win the annual "Soul Bowl", now known as the Capital City Classic. JSU had the ball first, with Alcorn's defense stopping Big Country five yards behind the line of scrimmage on the first play. The very next play, Johnson ripped off a 20 yard run that ignited JSU's first scoring drive.

McNair then had his turn to have the ball and he led a drive that answered JSU. This was an early indication that whoever had the ball last on offense was going to win that epic game. Guess who had the ball last? If you said Alcorn you were correct. McNair willed Alcorn to win that game 42-35. It was one of the greatest college football games I had ever witnessed in person and it gave me such an appreciation of talent of one Steve"Air" McNair.

After the 2007 NFL season, battered and bruised, McNair decided to end his football career. He had moved on from football to fully engage himself in a business venture that started earlier this year in Nashville. Unfortunately, he did not get to see the fruition of this new chapter in his life, but that reminds me of the last verses of one of the aforementioned scriptures:

"If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them."

That verse is from the eleventh chapter of Hebrews which defines how strong faith may not lead to earthly gains but it will lead to the ultimate reward of eternal life with God. If Steve wanted to go back to the NFL, he could have. But he stepped out on faith to life after football, to watch his oldest son play football, to grow his new business venture. It is my hope that his faith in God and his service to his fellow man outside of football has allowed him to receive that ultimate reward, despite not seeing the things that he had placed a new focus on here on this earth.

I will miss Steve "Air" McNair, the player whose number 9 jersey was the first my son ever wore, and the man who pleased his God so much that He could not bear to be without him anymore. May God continue to bless, be with and keep the McNair family in His favor.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

To grunt or not to grunt

In light of my recent entries, I decided to write about something on a more lighter note.

Today's topic: grunting in women's tennis. Prior to the Wimbledon tournament, The All-England Tennis Club had thought about imposing a rule addressing the grunting that has become so prevalent in women's tennis. According to English sensibilities, it is unsportsmanlike and probably not feminine in appearance.

However, it all started with Monica Seles, whose shrills were a constant whenever you watched one of her matches. It became her trademark and it obviously helped her win major tournaments. Now everybody is doing it, including the dynamic Williams sisters. As fans of the sport in this generation, it has become routine, but now that there is discussion about it, people are actually admitting that the grunts and the shrieks really annoy them.

To me it is not as annoying as the "Wave" at football games or the constant horn blowing at the recent FIFA Confederation Cup in South Africa that made the broadcasts sound like covering an international hornets convention. It is gamesmanship, plain and simple. It is a distraction to the opponent, sometimes masking the sound of the ball on the racket, making it hard to return volley. (Note: according to the rules of tennis, you are not suppose to intentionally distract your opponent, but I have never heard an umpire take away a point at a major because of grunting.)

The question becomes do we want to take that aspect of gamesmanship away from the sport. I say no. Every sport has to have a gimmick, and I am glad there is a quirk that is marketable for a female sport that is not based on their looks. The WNBA and the LPGA are trying to make their athletes more feminine looking to better market the sport unashamedly. Tennis had that problem until the advent of Anna Kournikova, and even though she did not win a Grand Slam event, she transformed the sport image-wise.

So while the majority of the champions in the sport are easier on the eyes, it should be their talent and mastery of the sport that draws the attention of the casual fan. Thus I believe we should let the grunting stay in place. It is unique to tennis and if nothing else, it will keep you focused on those long matches, with every rally, every volley being punctuated.

It also gives the appearance that the athletes are focused for the entire match. Those of us who have followed football, baseball and basketball have always heard stories about athletes tuning out or losing focus in key moments of competition. It is nice to watch a sport where the participants are not sitting out a play, that their focus is razor-sharp, and it is strictly about execution.

As a true sports fan, that is what I want to see, maximum effort from the folks who are the best in the world. So ladies, as far as I am concerned, grunt away, and may the best woman win.