Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Covenant

Many amazing things have happened this week on the national stage. History was made, old wounds resurfaced through a tragic event in the House of God, and bitter struggles attained a degree of truce. Any one of these events would lead to countless hours of discussion, debate and introspection. But one event happened today, that symbolized our hope and promise for the future. It occurred during a ceremony practiced countless times in places of worship around the world. It is a simple act with profound consequences, pledging oneself to serve in the mightiest army on earth. It begins with, "Do you believe in God the Father?" The ceremony goes on with other questions, but two stand out, particularly this week - "Will you seek to serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?" and "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?" The response for each of these last two questions is "I will with God's help." The ceremony I refer to is the Holy Baptism. I had the priviledge to serve as a Eucharistic Minister for an adult Baptism today for a young man who, along with his family and friends to witness, became part of the household of God. You could actually feel the power of the Holy Spirit in the church today as it washed over the congregation during the Baptism. The joy in the newly baptized person's face was priceless. We all should ask ourselves from time to time the Baptismal questions mentioned above, and even more importantly, reflect upon their meaning as we go about our daily lives - especially when events happen that give us pause. Ask yourself - how would Jesus respond? I think you know the answer.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Depend On Yourself? I Think Not!

We as human beings can "fix" anything. Just watch the television show "Scandal" and the pitbull named Olivia Pope to see that it's true! But is it? Do we approach our lives as needing only to rely on ourselves to "fix" problems without counsel or guidance from anyone? That's the way most of us operate. Do we do this because we really think we're that good, or are we just too damn scared to ask for help because then folks will know we ain't as smart as we want them to believe. I think that's closer to the truth. The funny thing is, if we really are as smart and awesome at "fixing" things, then why are we still getting into, or never getting out of, the challenges that life throughs our way? Hmmm. How about we try something radically different? Try something that has been available to us to "fix" our problems and challenges for a long, long time. That something is...are you ready?.....seriously, this is just incredible.....that something is....Prayer. Try this on for size - "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace. God...will supply all your needs from His glorious riches." Philippians 4:6-7a, 19b Think about it. You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain, by prayer. Doesn't need to be fancy, colorful or grammatically correct- just from the heart. God will hear you! He may not give you what you want, but He will give you what you need. Give prayer a try....you might be surprised what gets -"fixed."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Sermon

It's been over a year since I last wrote this blog. In fact, it was September 2, 2010 and I wrote abou the passing of my father. I've made various attempts to, "pick-up the pen", so to speak, but just couldn't quite get there. Why today? Only God knows......really.

I was at home this Sunday morning and, as is my custom, I was reading "the good book", and contemplating the words and meanings behind the passages. For some reason, it just wasn't connecting. So, I turned on the television and was flipping through the channels, when I saw someone I knew.

It was Pastor Carter of a church in Morristown whom I heard preach at the funeral of a friend several years ago. He was preaching about Mark chapter 1. This chapter deals with the evangelism of John the Baptist, the preaching of Jesus, and His selection of the disciples.

It was an incredibly captivating and informative sermon. One particular question he asked during the sermon, really got my attention.

Remember the story of how Jesus picked his disciples? He didn't pick them from the religious aristocracy, or from those who loudly, through speech and actions, felt they were the "worthy" ones.

No, Jesus chose everyday people - with all kinds of issues and weaknesses. Definitely not the kind of folks you'd think would be chosen. These average ordinary folks didn't go to church or synagogue or walk around "piously" looking religious.

So it makes you wonder why Jesus picked them. Then Pastor Carter upped the ante by asking, "I wonder from what part of the church would Jesus select a disciple if He had done so. From the front pew? From the back of the church? From the altar area? From the Church leadership? Definitely not the guy who only comes at Midnight Mass or Easter and smells like he had a few before coming, right? Or would He? Who knows?

Whew. The sermon kept getting deeper and deeper through the simplicity of the Pastor's questions.

Look, I don't know why this sermon struck a good nerve within me this morning. But I do know this - it left me with more questions than I had answers.

And it has changed the way I will approach reading the bible in the future. I'm not doing that sermon justice at all in trying to explain it. Let's just say it was like seeing a movie in IMAX 3D verses reel-to-reel. There is no comparison. It also left you wanting more. You know, like reading a really good book and when you get to the end, you can't wait to get the sequel.

Maybe this is the way we are supposed to feel and react to our spiritual instruction and experiences. I'm not saying there is a right or wrong way, because each person's spirituality is their own.

Some folks like the repetative nature of their religious service where Sunday after Sunday, they follow the script and order of prayer and service (I grew up Catholic, so those of you familiar with the Mass know what I mean) and that's ok.

Just like in school, memorization and recitation had its place, but the classes I got the most from had active and vigorous discussion of issues. Maybe there is something to be said for that in religious and spiritual instruction as well - but that's my opinion. What do you think........

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dance With My Father

Life is about change and adaptation. I've not written for a while due to a job change - from consultant to government servant for a dynamic, get-it-done type of Governor in the great state of New Jersey. But this posting is not about that. It's much more personal, for you see, my father died today.

Change and adaptation.

Folks have always said that to lose a parent is one of the most painful, yet insightful events to happen in your life. I believe them. This hurts like hell. You can never truly prepare for this.

Change and adaptation.

Dad is no longer physically here. I only see him now in photographs and within my "minds eye".

Change and adaptation.

But the lessons that he instilled...no....drilled into me and my sister and brother, all seem to make real sense now. Family.Honor. Giving. Helping. Mentoring, Honesty.Involvement. Hardwork. I could go on and on with a list of one word elements that he drummed into us either by word or example.

Change and adaptation.

It's amazing how, as I drove the four hours to the family home tonight, I felt myself changing and adapting to the new reality of life without Dad's physical presence or baritone voice giving me fatherly advice....on everything.

Change and adaptation.

I suprised myself that I could actually drive with tears in my eyes (I don't recommend it) one moment, and a smile on my face the next remembering some incident from my childhood that involved Dad.

Change and adaptation.

During the drive, I thought about how I was raising my own children. Did I measure up to the standard set by Dad? My thoughts turned to them - two girls, one going to college in just a few days, and I saw them through a different prism tonight.

Change and adaptation.

I saw them as I think my Dad saw me and my siblings. Wanting all the best for them with few of life's disappointments. Loving them unconditionally, but with a firm hand to help guide the way. Accepting them yet pushing them to always present their best effort, regardless of the activity.

Change and adaptation.

To say I loved and respected my Dad is easy and so very true. It will be much harder to follow in the immense footsteps that he left behind and will require.....Change and Adaptation....and I was taught well. I love you and miss you Dad..........

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tiger Woods, Michael Steele, Governor Bob McDonnell

Finally Tiger Woods has teed off and returned to playing golf. The pundits have been off the hook in analyzing what his return means; how he will play, what kind of reception will he receive, what his mental state will be, how he can save the planet...ok maybe not that, but you get my drift. Actually, I had expected to hear all this stuff and sadly, wasn't disappointed. Like many folks, I just wanted to see Tiger play golf again. I could care less what his family situation is because, well, it's just none of my business. He has to take care of that with his family, not me.

It really burns me up when everybody and their brother becomes an armchair marriage counselor and head doctor. The best line came from Billie Payne, the Chairman of the Masters, who berated Tiger in his State of the Masters Address, (I use my interpretation of his statements liberally here) for “disappointing my children and grandchildren,” and what a horrible person "the Tiger" is now.

Ok, let's get this straight. Payne didn't seem to mind that Tiger has helped rake in the money and attention for the golf world as soon as he picked up a 4 iron. We have clergy who sexually abuse and take advantage of children; teachers who do the same; parents who "act out" in front of their children; politicians who do damn near everything - yet a GOLFER is the gold standard by which all others are measured? Please.....To be sure, what Tiger did was not good. But to play “holier than thou,” is just as wrong.

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While I'm on a roll, let's talk about Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Ok, Michael has definitely made mistakes and drawn some serious negative attention to the GOP. A lot of this attention is not the type that endures you to the stogy party elders who ultimately determine your fate.

I like the fact that Michael went in to shake up the status quo, because the party needed it. As a black republican, I welcomed a “flame thrower” leader to say, "we are here too, and I'll be damned if you ignore us or play “we really want you in our party, but not too close", games.

Michael had a great opportunity to be that kind of leader, but now, with the sharks circling both inside and outside the party, his window has just about closed. Too bad. He had a real chance to make changes within the party. My fear is, now that he has not succeeded, will the party be reluctant to give another minority the chance to lead again and return to the status quo? Only time will tell.

The sad part of this is that the GOP had a tenuous hold on few minority souls as it was. I’m afraid, right or wrong, how this situation with Steele pans out, may determine how many continue to stay with the Grand Old Party.
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Last but not least, let's talk about republican Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia. What the hell was he thinking? A proclamation honoring Confederate History Month - ok, but without a mention of slavery? Oh, I guess he didn't think about it. Another racially insensitive action by a republican politician. And you wonder why the party is viewed as "minority unfriendly."

Every time one of these events occurs, it makes black GOP folk cringe. I for one will not make any more excuses for the boorish, insensitive behavior by folks in the party.

And no, I don't give a damn if democrats do this stuff too - it makes no difference, because I'm not a democrat.

The Republican Party has the right kind of philosophy to help create a prosperous country. But that's only on paper. Until the visible leadership, and state committees do not get a pass here, starts acting in a manner representative of all people who call themselves republican -black, white, Latino or Asian- this party will not grow. It will remain, as is the perception now, a one dimensional party. What a shame.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Enough Already!

This is getting just plain ridiculous. Grown adults (and I use that term loosely)can't have a difference of opinion without using racial, ethnic, gender, religious...(wait...no political correctness here please).....without calling someone a nigger or a faggot or whatever else, if they don't agree with you!

Is that the best you can come up with in the heat of the moment when tension and anger is high? Can't control the outcome of an event, so let's just call them names...told them didn't we!....right....proud of yourself?

This kind of nonsense really burns me up. Ok, ok, I know that in the previous blog, I said that minorities need to become more thick-skinned, and find ways to become "players" in the economic sector...show me the money.

And yes, we were taught that "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

But what we saw play out during and after the extremely volatile healthcare reform debate was just plain ugly....and disheartening.

Item: Tea Party protesters calling Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) a nigger.

Item: Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) was spat upon.

Item: Rep.Barney Frank (D-Ma.)-whose policy stances I really don't like- was called a faggot.

Item: Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) had a brick thrown through the front window of her district office.

Item: Phone messages threatening sniper attacks against law makers and their families.

These are just a few incidents, and don't tell me that the same kind of stuff was done while George Bush was in office - yes the vitriol was just as bad, and that's a fact.

But let's get to the core of this stuff - when were we taught that when all else fails, call somebody a name or do damage to their person or property?

And why is it that some white folks have to call black folks “niggers” when they get pissed off? Ok, so not all do, just like not all black folks call white people "honkies" either. But you get my point.

Maybe it's just me. If I think you are an asshole, I don't care what color or ethnicity you are. It doesn't matter, and it's not the first thing that comes to my mind.

So if I disagree with you, no matter how passionate the disagreement, RACE PLAYS NO PART in the argument for me. That's the way I was taught. Thank you Mom and Dad!

Imagine this scene - the family unit (mother, father, sister and baby brother) all go, let's say, to Washington DC, to participate in the democratic process by supporting a particular position on a landmark policy decision.

It can be an exciting time (I've been to a few myself, including a Klan Rally in DC, but that's another story).

Anyway, great experience for the kids - until mom or dad and others start calling people names and spitting on them or exhibiting behavior best suited for demons and monsters in a Stephen King novel.

Well, congratulations! You have just implanted in the young minds of your children that it's all right to act and speak like that because, "if mommy and daddy do it, it must be ok". Not Good.

These children are the “future” of our country. Wow. We think that the education problem in America is huge, what about the “education” they receive at the hands of parents and other “responsible” adults in leadership positions….Please….

We in this country who have so much, have a responsibility to act a whole lot better than what we’ve seen recently. The question is…can we?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Attention Walmart Shoppers - Black People Must Leave

This was the announcement made at a Walmart Store in South Jersey the other day. Don't know who made it, just that it was done over the loudspeaker system in the store. To say it caught shoppers unaware is an understatement.

Poor Walmart. It has a fragile relationship with minorities anyway, as evidenced by suits and complaints across the country, ranging from unfair hiring to harassment in the workplace. Walmart has been trying to clean-up its act for awhile, and then this comes along.

To be sure, they really don't know who made the announcement because there are a lot of phones scattered around the store accessible to the public. My guess is that they will tighten that up, and in a hurry.

What particularly caught my attention, however, was the reaction of, "the Black folks", who were in the store at the time of the incident. Several said they were upset and wouldn't be shopping at Walmart until the issue was resolved; another said he had "heard worse".

My feeling? If it was an employee..bye, bye...in the words of the Donald, "Your Fired".

If it was a member of the general shopping public, oh well, welcome to the world of "Reality Stupidity". Unfortunately, this kind of dumb behavior goes on all the time in many forms by all nationalities, races, religions and socio-economic groups.

As minorties, we need to get over real or perceived verbal slights, and focus on how to get major retailers and other businesses that depend upon our buying power, to be good, responsible community partners in the geographic areas they serve, (which aren't just limited to the urban centers either).

If they aren't giving back, then don't give them your hard-earned dollars (my parents have been preaching this gospel since I was knee-high to a grasshopper).

This isn't asking for a handout, because actually you have already paid for it through the money you spent in their establishments, in many cases, for years!

The good community partners "get it", and find many ways to accomplish this that don't always involve money. Cudo's to them. For the others? Get with the program. Consumer dollars in this depressed economy are precious things, and it's OUR choice where we decide to spend them.

We also need to have the Democrat and Republican parties "get with the program" as well. What that "program" is, will be a topic for another blog post.........