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:

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.