Category Archives: Just Something to Think About

My random thoughts and views on society as I see it

Satan’s Method is Trickery

First we must understand that even though we live in a physical world, it’s under the rule of evil spirits. Darkness is all around us and constantly at work to ruin our lives in a multitude of ways that include temptation, our insecurities, fears, other weak people, and even our own misunderstanding or misinterpretation of The Word against us.

The leader of darkness, Satan, is a slick and deceitful being. Don’t be surprised if he tries to use the word of God against you. He tried it on the “Living Word” Himself while He fasted forty days and nights in the wilderness.

“The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”  Matthew 4:3-11 | NIV

Have you ever heard the phase “devil will tell the truth to tell a lie”?

As you see, the tempter/devil/opposer, whatever you want to call him, knows The Word too. But he leaves key portions out to make it easier for him to manipulate and deceive. That is why discernment and our own knowledge of the Bible is SO important.

Let me show you how he tried to trick me by making me think I was doing the right thing. In 2008 the U.S. Economy was bad to say the least. Many people lost their jobs, consequently losing their homes, cars and some people even committed suicide to escape their problems.

In late 2008, early 2009, my employer at the time was terminating contracts and offering extensions with pay cuts or salary freezes to employees in an attempt to not have to lay anyone off. Seems like a noble thing right?

In my case, my boss came to me in April 2009 three days before year two of my three-year contract was to end. He told me they were terminating my contract, but wanted to offer me a two-year extension with my salary frozen at my current rate.

The fine print of my contract stated that the company could terminate our original agreement for any reason as long as they gave me sixty days notice before the next contract year was to begin, or else be force to pay me a pro-rated salary for each day they failed to notify me in the two month window if I decided to move on.

My first two years at this job were dreadful. If you’ve read any of my other writings, you’ve heard me discuss my discontent at my last place of full-time employment. I contemplated quitting several times, but didn’t because I did not want to have a blemish on my resume that I walked out of a contract.

So when they came to me I could’ve left with fifty-seven days pay, plus the pay from the current pay period I already worked. I would have had two and a half months pay to walk away from a job and career that I didn’t want anymore and start over.

But Satan had me using human reasoning. Why would God want me to walk out on a job that claimed they wanted me, especially when I had rent and a car note to pay? I reasoned why I should re-sign even though I hated the job instead of relying on faith that God had worked a way out of a bad situation without making me look bad.

Not one week after signing the two-year extension, the first incident that started the worst two years I had there took place. It was all downhill from there. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. From having co-workers lying on me, to even having the boss who said he really wanted me to re-sign question my work ethic and teamwork.

My last two years was twice as worse as the first two years that made me want to quit in the first place.

Had I trusted the Lord and left the job when they gave me a way out, I now believe He would have led me to better opportunities that would’ve financially allowed me to take care of my responsibilities and I would’ve been able to pursue my true passion of creative writing years sooner.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” ~  Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (C. 1150)

I thought I was doing the right thing by keeping the job, but in hindsight I realize that I bought into the lie Satan was selling me that it was best for me to keep a job in an dismal economy where hundreds of thousands were losing theirs and everything they built.

Satan wants to keep us from relying on faith in God. Tricking us into thinking we know better. Whether he omits part of The Word or human reasoning, he wants us to not use blind faith. Often times blind faith is how we show God He is the only one we’re relying on. If your situation doesn’t make human sense, then I would advise you to see it as an opportunity to activate your faith and draw closer to God.

Don’t allow yourself to be tricked.

Just Be There 

“You don’t have to have a pulpit and a following of hundreds to have a ministry. It can be just as simple as overcoming all the obstacles, heartache and pain, and someone being inspired by your faith through it all.” – Kavis K. Peak (am I allowed to quote myself?)

Everyone doesn’t have the gift of public speaking, small talk, singing or playing an instrument. So that would more than likely rule out being a pastor, usher, praise and worship leader, member of the choir and even a church musician. All of those are positions in the church that are revered, and dare I say highly coveted. I purposely used the word coveted. Look up the definition in the dictionary, and the Tenth Commandment in Exodus 20:17 to know why.

But even if God didn’t give you a gift that is on display on Sunday mornings, or whenever service is being held in the sanctuary you attend, it doesn’t mean what you do have isn’t as valuable.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” ~ 1 Peter 4:10

I believe you can be blessed with the gift of availability. In sports the saying goes “the best ability is availability.” What I mean is, some people are very good at just doing the simple task of sitting in comforting silence with a person who is grieving so they don’t feel alone, or listen when a person is venting their pain and frustrations. Some are good at organization, which can help a person who feels their life is out of balance, causing them enormous amounts of stress. Others may be good at writing resumes and cover letters, and can take their time to help someone get theirs in proper order to obtain a great job. There are also those who are able to lift a person’s spirits just by saying hello and offering a friendly smile. Many are living examples of just doing the right thing.

I’ll give you a few examples from my life where my availability was used by God to help someone else. In mid 2012 to late 2013 I was in the midst of a lengthy unemployment period after leaving a career I no longer wanted to be apart of. As I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, both my maternal grandfather and Dad became very ill. My grandfather was in Georgia, where my mother is from, my Dad in my home state of Ohio. My mom asked me could I go stay with my Grannie while Paw-Paw was in a nursing home waiting for a life saving surgery. Of course I said “yes.” I lived in Thomaston, Georgia for a year, finishing grad school online, while staying with my grandmother and going to the hospital with her when Paw-Paw had a few late night emergency scares. I really didn’t feel like I was doing much, but my Dad told me during those days where I felt useless, that my presence was enough to keep my grandmother at peace, as well as other family members who were concerned about her being alone had I not been there. Eventually my Paw-Paw passed and I stayed with my grandmother for half a year after that before my Dad fell even more ill.

“A generous person will prosper. Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” ~ Proverbs 11:25

Then I flew back to Cleveland, Ohio where he was being treated by specialists for his condition. I was there everyday for three months, many times ten hours a day, for every surgery, medical test and doctor visit until unfortunately he passed. A couple weeks before he died, my Dad said “thanks for coming to see me everyday.” I replied “no problem, you’d do it for me.” I know being there for him provided some sort of normalcy in a scary situation, even though I couldn’t really help him with what he was going through. But in saying thanks, he assured me I was doing something helpful.

Here’s another less sad example. A while back I was at the gym working out when I saw a lady I see there often. We always speak to each other and extend pleasantries, but we never get too personal. I was walking on the track cooling off at the end of my workout and was going to be leaving in a few minutes, but I didn’t want to leave before at least saying hello. So I went by and softly tapped her on the shoulder and said “hi” while she was on the rowing machine. She smiled, waved and said “hello” in return. When I came back around the next time, she got off the machine and waved me over. She said “this may sound silly, but I was having a rough day with all my health issues and my body isn’t dealing with my mess so well… and it made my day that you would come over and say hello.” A couple days later I saw her again at the gym and she repeated how much it meant that I said hello. All I was trying to do was greet her because I hadn’t seen her in a while. I don’t say this to brag on myself, but to let you know that what you think is a simple act or small gesture, God can use to make a bigger impact.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” ~ Matthew 25:40

My overall point is, don’t get caught up in believing you must do something grand to have a purpose or make an impact. It really is the little things as they say. Take what you do have and make a difference.

I leave you with this, one of my favorite scriptures… “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” ~ Galatians 6:2 

We Need to be More Childlike

 
Let me make this clear, this doesn’t mean be immature.

Here is an example of what I mean. When I was a child I never worried about how my parents were going to pay the mortgage, the utilities, put food on the table or clothes on my back. I TRUSTED they would do those things because they had never NOT done them before. Is that a double negative? I don’t know. But, you get what I’m trying to say. I just went to school and did the things they told me to do like obey my teachers, give great effort to make good grades, and enjoy the extra curricular activities I worked hard to be good at like basketball, football and creative writing.

We need to have this same childlike faith in terms of our relationship with the Lord, no matter how old we get biologically.

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children.” ~ Ephesians 5:1 | NIV

Look at your life and the needs God has met consistently and where He came through, on time, with an answer or help in a situation that looked utterly helpless or bleak. He always delivers, just like my parents did, still do in the case of my mother, and to a degree my father in his death with how he allocated resources to help us in the potential of his passing.

We need to go to work, school or do whatever tasks God has given us, without worrying 24/7—and hampering those efforts by doing things our way—about all the stuff we’ve asked Him to help us with, along with the stuff we haven’t ask help with or even know we’ll need help with. When we don’t use our childlike faith and trust, we start getting our hands involved, ultimately making things messier and compromising the coming blessings.

But also, understand being childlike in this manner I’m speaking of, doesn’t mean we make bad decisions and expect our Heavenly Father to bail us out either. It just means that we go about the business we CAN handle and TRUST, as well as have FAITH, that everything will be just right (taken care of) so that we don’t have to be worried about it.

Just something to think about. I can’t always talk about sports. 

Don’t Just Get Money, Make Money!

“Don’t just get money, make money!” Yes, there is a difference. 

Getting money means to be paid hourly, monthly, yearly or once every time your services are rendered. That’s cool, but, as soon as your services are no longer needed or the one paying you finds someone to provide the service for less, you are expendable and no longer getting money. 

Making money, is the ability to take the cash you already have, and put it towards an idea or project that will continue to make you significantly more money, even after you’re done working on it. I’m thinking investments like stocks, CD’s, ROTH IRA’s, money market accounts or even business ideas like smartphone apps and renovating property to rent. It’s not always sexy, but it’s effective. It’s like printing money, because the cash continues to flow. That’s why I call it making money. 

It’s easier said than done, but this pic represents the mindset you should have.

 

So, Were You This Upset With Those Fought Against The Pledge of Allegiance?

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during the National Anthem to bring awareness to social injustice against people of color in America.

There’s one thing that hasn’t been mentioned in mainstream media, social media, and the barber shops in the debates and rhetoric over the national anthem protests initially started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the NFL preseason. Are those who are upset over the players protests, this upset with those who’ve fought (and are still fighting) against the pledge of allegiance from schools and other events? To me, that is more unpatriotic and disrespectful to America. 

I’m old enough, but still young enough, to remember when we recited the pledge in school work each day. But when I switched from private school to Columbus (OH) Public Schools in 1987 at age 7 (second grade), no school I went to after that recited the pledge, EVER. I’ve spoken with several family, friends and co-workers my age and older who experienced the same. Only one person in almost two dozen I asked recited the pledge through High School graduation. I have nieces and nephews in Columbus Ohio, Houston Texas, Thomaston and Statesboro Georgia, as well as Palm Coast Florida from ages 17 to 5 who haven’t recited or learned the pledge at school.

Not to bore you with legalese, but here’s some information for you about the fight over the pledge. First, in the case of The West Virginia State Board of Education versus Barnette (1943), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled requiring a person to recite the pledge violates a persons first and fourteenth amendment rights. The only time the pledge was ever ruled unconstitutional was in 2005 by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California in Sacramento. And in January of 2009, in the case of  Frazier vs. Alexandre – The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling stating schools could excuse a student from the pledge with a note from a parent. There are many more cases where the pledge has been fought, click here if you want to learn more. 

I point out those court battles to say, even without any legal precedent requiring or mandating  schools to stop reciting the pledge of allegiance, no one stood up and made sure it’s being done every morning, nor did anyone say we were being disrespectful and unpatriotic for not doing so. No one said the people fighting the pledge were disrespecting the veterans, the flag, or this country. In all the cases lost by a plaintiff fighting to remove the pledge or “under God” from it, the presiding judge said in some form that “the pledge is an exercise in patriotism.” That is why in my opinion, it is more important than the anthem because it is a show of your loyalty to America.

Standing up for the national anthem doesn’t make a person any more American than eating hot dogs and hamburgers while shooting off fireworks on the 4th of July could. Most people are like zombies during the anthem anyway. Take a look around next time you’re in an arena or stadium while it’s being played. You’ll see what I’m talking about, most people don’t even remove their hats out of respect when they are asked too.

But pledging your allegiance is an actual action that professes your commitment to the values for which the flag is SUPPOSED to represent. Which is what Colin Kaepernick and others are upset about. The values of that flag aren’t being kept. At least not for ALL Americans.

Eagles players raised their fist in protest during the National Anthem before Mondat Night Football at Soldier Field in Chicago.

As far as my feelings about athletes’ anthem protests, I choose to slightly modify the words comedian Chris Rock and say “I wouldn’t do it, but I understand.” The reason I say I wouldn’t participate in anthem protests, is not because I don’t agree with Kaepernick and others’ issues with social injustices in this country that I as a black man and other black and brown people have experienced, but because anthem protest have been done before and it has been proven throughout history that those we want to hear us will turn a deaf ear when that stance is taken. Case in point, Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Mahmoud Abdu-Rauf (aka Chris Jackson).

I don’t necessarily have a better idea for a protest. But, the players who want to protest could do so by not playing. Especially the big name, marquee players who the games revolves around. That method would probably work better in the NBA. We’ll see what happens when they tip-off in late October.

For those who say the anthem should be changed to something less racist like “America the beautiful”, I agree with you. First, it’s a better sounding and more moving song. But most importantly, for me as a devout Christian, within the lyrics it says “God bless America for me” and I agree with any sentiment that asks God to take control of this country. Lord knows we need it. But we know a drastic move like changing the anthem is never going to happen, because those that are in favor of removing the pledge because it required those who didn’t believe in a higher power to say “one nation under God” are the same people who won’t want the national anthem to evoke the name of God either. So you can scratch that. 

But back to my original point of writing this. If kneeling, raising a fist or turning your back during the national anthem is disrespectful and un-American, then why isn’t fighting to remove the pledge? Or not reciting the pledge at all? I think I know why. It’s because the anthem protests don’t suit your agenda, like it did when when you fought against the pledge because it was “too religious” for you or was “forcing religion” on you. Like I said, anybody can stand and remove their hat for the anthem (which again, most don’t, but we don’t make a big deal about that!) But it takes a REAL PATRIOT to pledge their allegiance and loyalty to their country. So who’s REALLY being disrespectful to America? And why aren’t you mad about that?!

A Classic Film We Still Need to Learn From

 

A timeless classic, with lessons we can still learn from today. Photo Courtesy: Columbia Pictures

On July 12, 1991 I was 10 years old, and as a crazed Michael Jordan fan, I was still celebrating his and the Chicago Bulls first ever NBA championship. I recorded all five games of their NBA Finals series victory over Magic Johnson and Los Angeles Lakers, the team of the 80’s. While I watched each game several times over studying the moves of Air Jordan and the Magic Man, there was one commercial that had my undivided attention each time it aired. It was the trailer for an upcoming film. It wasn’t a cartoon flick, or comic book superhero film. It was a raw, rugged, gritty one minute and thirty second look at a film that would eventually become one of the most culturally significant in my lifetime.

That film is “Boyz N the Hood,” the coming of age story of three African-American males from the tough streets of South Central Los Angeles. It debut twenty-five years ago today to critical acclaim. Of course with its R rating, my parents weren’t going to let their ten-year old soon to be sixth grade son see a film dripped with gang violence, sex and explicit language. But, something happened a couple of weeks after the movie debuted. A friend of mine got his hands on a bootleg copy (As an aspiring filmmaker I’m not proud of that), and while we were home alone on summer vacation and our parents at work, we watched what would eventually become one of my top five favorite films ever.

This cinematic masterpiece is best known for catapulting the acting careers of rapper Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Junior and Morris Chestnut. We also got to witness the talents of leading ladies, Angela Bassett, Regina King and Nia Long, all of whom have been staples in  Hollywood ever since, along with their aforementioned co-stars. It also brought to the forefront one of the great young talents of filmmaking and story telling in John Singleton. Singleton would become the youngest and first African-American to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Director for this work. He also was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. 
“Boyz N the Hood” was a triumph for films with a majority African-American cast, as it earned $57.5 million dollars at the Box office on a $6.5 million dollars budget.

The film is so beloved because it’s REAL. Even though it isn’t a documentary, it didn’t need to dramatize what was happening, because it truly was a case of art imitating life.

The characters are witty, charming, easy to root for, and relatable. You had Doughboy (Ice Cube), the drug dealing, yet street-smart, ex-con. In Ricky Baker (Chestnut), Doughboy’s brother and star football player, trying to use his athletic gifts to better his future, and Tre Styles (Gooding, Jr.), the voice of reason who wanted more from his life than to be hanging in the Hood. To my friends’ and I, as well as several other black youth growing up as teens in the mid to late 90’s, this group and their friends we very relatable because in so many ways we were them and experienced some of the same situations they went through thousands of miles away from Los Angeles in Ohio and all over America.

As we reflect on one of the most culturally significant films of this generation–it was added to the national film registry by the Library of Congress in 2002–we must not forget that it highlights problems that continue to plague our community. The themes from this film unfortunately don’t seem to have a remedy anytime soon all these years after Mr. Singleton attempted to push us towards solving them with this heavy-handed message. And that’s my frustration.

The same challenges and obstacles Doughboy, Ricky, Tre and other black youth like them encountered are still crippling our community in Chicago, New York, Baltimore, L.A. and so on and so on. More and more children are growing up without fathers in the home, such as was the case for Doughboy and Ricky. You add in the steady rise of teen pregnancies, which is an issue that Ricky and his girlfriend Shanice had to deal with.

But, most troubling of all, are the rapid deaths of black males at the hands—or gun—of a fellow black male due to increasing gang violence, and even racial profiling at the hands of the police. It might as well still be 1991, hell, 1891 in the case of the issues with law enforcement. The opening scene is a chilling one, as the words “One out of twenty-one black males will be murdered. Most will die at the hands of another of another black male” are superimposed over a black screen appear before we’re introduced to our characters. For perspective, In 2014 (the most recent statistics available) 90 percent of black males were killed by another black male, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That was the fate suffered by Ricky, destroying his dreams of athletic success, and his brother Doughboy, ruining any chance he may have had at turning away from his life of crime. Those stories are all around us today too. In all this time, we’ve still failed to heed the message on the screen after the final scene.

The final image from the film. Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

It seems as though the violence has increased, and the peace has decreased.

The thing I love about films, regardless of the genre is, it gives us a glimpse of ourselves, and attempts to inspire us to take the opportunity to make positive change. As you can see, we haven’t made those changes. We still have Chiraq and the thousands of murders in the black community. Just within the past week, we have had to deal with more deaths of innocent black men (Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota) by the police officers that have been sworn to serve and protect.

Twenty-five years from today when we celebrate the fifty-year anniversary, I hope “Boyz N the Hood” will be celebrated for capturing a look at what once was, instead of what continues to be. Now more than ever we need to “Increase The Peace” on all fronts. Or else we won’t be around for the Golden Anniversary.