Be the Change, Make the Change: My Thoughts on Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, & America

In the circles I travel, there is a familiar saying: “Prayer changes things!” But I have discovered that more often than not; prayer changes people and it’s the people changed by prayer who change things!

tmartinzimmermanAs I write this post, I am reflecting on the state of our nation in regard to the recent findings of the jury in the George Zimmerman trial. Whether we agree with the verdict of the jury or not, this case has brought to the forefront the age-old problem of respect, race, and ethnicity in America. On one hand there are those who cry for justice because they feel that justice was not served in this case. On the other hand, there are those who say that the verdict has been given and whether we like it or not, we need to move on.

In my opinion, I don’t think justice was served! It was tragic that an unarmed Black teenager was unnecessarily killed and it is tragic that his killer goes free with no repercussions! My thoughts and prayers are with the Martin family as they deal with the loss of a son and the loss of justice! My thoughts and prayers are also with George Zimmerman and his family as he and they deal with the reality that his actions were most likely motivated by the racial and cultural profiling that is rampant in America.

Now while I sympathized with the Martin family, I am at the same time, sickened by the hypocrisy of the Black community! This case received national attention and there is presently protest in the Black community and elsewhere ONLY because the victim was Black and the accused is perceived to be White! (Actually, according to Mr. Zimmerman; he is Hispanic) If George Zimmerman was a Black man, chances are, we would have never heard of this incident! Therefore I ask: What about the countless unarmed Black victims that are being gunned down EVERYDAY in Black communities as a result of Black on Black violence and crime? Who speaks for them? Where is the national outrage and protest about innocent unarmed Black children being killed in the crossfire of drug-turf wars in Black communities nearly every day! There is no national protest about that! Now again, this is not to minimize what happened to Trayvon Martin! But it very well could be that part of the reason other people de-value the lives of Black people is because Black people de-value the lives of Black people! We (I mean Black people) have run the Klu Klux Klan and other White-supremacy groups out of business! It wasn’t very long ago that Black parents feared their sons would be killed by the Klan; now Black parents fear their sons will be killed by other Black sons! Where is the national protest about that? We crucify Paula Dean for racial slurs she admitted to have uttered in the past; but what about the demeaning racial slurs Black people berate one another with in personal conversations, rap songs and videos every day? Call me old-school if you want, but to me, that is part of the problem! If you don’t respect yourself, it’s crazy to think other people will respect you! If we are going to boycott Paula Dean, we also need to boycott the gangster and hip-hop rappers who are getting paid to disrespect Black women and others with their profane lyrics!

So where do go from here? What do we do? To my White brothers and sisters, I would suggest that you remember that at the core, people are just people. It is not a person’s race or color that really defines them; it is their character! With that in mind, I would suggest we all take a serious look at revising a judicial system that has turned into a warehouse distribution center for the new plantations otherwise known as the penal system. To my Black brothers and sisters, we need to take responsibility for our own and respect ourselves! Quit being so quick to always place the blame on the “others” when often (not all the time; but more often than not) the blame is with the “brothers” (and sisters)!

How can change happen on a national scale? Don’t expect it to come through legislation or laws. It will come; one person at a time! It will come when we, as individuals, quit demanding, depending, or waiting on other people to change! If there is to be real change, then we as individuals, must be changed, be the change and make the change!

Watch Your Mouth: Don’t Cuss or Curse!

hand over mouthI can remember, while growing up as a young boy in Mississippi, my friends and I would often play ball in the back yard. Sometimes, we would get angry with one another and let out some expletives that we wouldn’t have said in our Sunday School class. At the time we said those words, we didn’t know that mother was listening. But, soon we would hear her yell out the window: “You’d better watch your mouths boys!” You see, back when I was growing up, it was a BIG NO-NO for children (anyone under 21) to use “cuss” words.

But, I would like to suggest that, even though we live in a society in which we are constantly exposed to profanity on the Internet, radio, TV, and other media outlets, “cuss” words are not as nearly damaging as “curse” words! You see, there is a difference between “cuss” words and “curse” words! “Cuss” words are the words used when we sometimes get angry and lay our religion down! (But then, there are some folks I know of who have incorporated these words into their normal everyday vocabulary!) You can tell when you are “cussing” because if you have ever had any home training, something within you tells you that you are using bad language! But “curse” words are horses of a different color! I know some preachers who use “curse” words (by the way, some of them “cuss” too!). There are many people who would never “cuss,” but they “curse” all the time!

You are “cursing” when you say that you can’t, when God has said that you can! You are “cursing” when you tell your child that they will never be anything because (in your opinion) their father is no good! You are “cursing” when you always talk about what’s wrong with your life and never express appreciation for what is right! You are cursing when you always speak negative, non-productive, cynical, and pessimistic words! The Bible says that a man’s belly will be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth . . .death and life are in the power of the tongue! Jesus said, “Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be cast unto the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatever he saith.” (Mark 11:23 KJV) In other words, whatever you consistently speak with your mouth and constantly believe in your heart will eventually become a reality in your life! Your present circumstances are a direct result of the words you have been habitually speaking! Your words have power!

We used to say when we were children; “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” Well, that’s not exactly true! Not only can words hurt you; words can kill you! Especially if they are “curse” words spoken and/or believed by you! Watch your mouth! Don’t cuss and don’t curse! Be careful what you say! Make sure you speak life and not death into your life and into the lives of the people around you!

Spend Completely, Then Recharge!

iphone chargeRecently, my wife and I stopped by one of our local Best Buy stores and traded in our iPhone 4’s for the iPhone 5. As many of you know, when you get a new phone or tablet, the battery is already partially charged. Well, the first couple of days after our upgrades, we were busy and every time we charged them completely, the charge would not even last the whole day! Then, I remembered a trick I learned some time ago: In order to get the best battery life from your phone, your tablet, or any electronic device, when you first get it, you need to spend or drain the battery charge completely and then recharge! So, I told my wife not to recharge her phone after she unplugged it in the morning and to use it as much as she could during the day. Later on that evening, when the phones were showing about 30% of battery life left, I started playing some YouTube videos along with some other apps that I knew would quickly use a lot of energy. I played YouTube videos and the other apps on both phones until their batteries were completely spent and the phones died from battery drain. Then, I recharged both phones completely. Every since I did that, the batteries in our phones are lasting all day and even to bedtime without needing to be recharged! In fact at bedtime, after a normal day of use, we still have over 50% of battery charge left!

Well, I was thinking about that and I wonder could that be the reason why many people don’t get the best results in their lives? Could it be that they are constantly recharging without being fully spent first? Let me show you what I’m talking about: Most people are not willing to give anything their all. In other words, most people are always holding back in whatever they do. Whether it’s their job, their hobbies, or even recreation; they expend just enough energy to get by or just enough energy to attain a certain degree of success, but they never give it their all. As a result, they find themselves having to recharge often before the task is completed.

But why don’t people give it all they have? It could be that they are afraid that even after they give it their all; they will still fail! And so, they’re in a catch-22 situation: They don’t give it their all because they fear failure, but in most cases the very reason for failure is the lack of total commitment! So most of the time they end up expending just enough energy to get by and sometimes they don’t put forth any real effort at all! Sometimes it is because of the potential of embarrassment. They don’t spend it all (put forth a 100% effort) because they are afraid of being embarrassed by failure. Therefore, they go through life, playing it safe; only engaging in endeavors that don’t require their best effort or a lot of energy. Because of this, most of the time, life to them is boring; they are the walking dead, living on auto-pilot.

The Preacher says in the Bible (Ecclesiastes 9:10): “Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might, because there is neither work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave, the place where you will eventually go.” (NET)  In other words; spend completely and don’t hold back! Leave it all out on the playing field because when the game of life is over, it’s over! Set high goals! If you reach for the moon and fail, you still might land upon a star! And even if you miss the star, you will still have the satisfaction of knowing that you gave it your best! You don’t want to get to the end of your life and have regrets, thinking about what you could have done or what you should have done.

And remember, after you have given it your all and after you are completely spent; it’s not over! You have within you the potential to recharge and come back more energized than ever because any long distance runner will tell you: “After you have given your best and spent all, there is always a ‘second wind!” So remember, to get the maximum potential out of your life; spend completely and then recharge!

Clark Kent vs Superman

Clark SupermanMost of us are familiar with the DC Comics character: “Superman/Clark Kent!” Clark is the mild-mannered reporter from the Daily Planet, who is somewhat bashful, quiet and unassuming. However in reality, he was also Superman; the man of steel, faster than a speeding bullet and stronger than any locomotive! All who are familiar with the cartoon would probably agree that it doesn’t take too much effort to be “Clark Kent,” but it takes a whole lot of energy to be “Superman!”

Well, like Clark Kent, we can handle most situations we encounter in life. However, because of procrastination and the failure to deal initially with problems in a firm and decisive manner, many times our “Clark Kent” situations will turn into “Superman” situations! Many of us suffer from the tendency to avoid making difficult decisions. We ‘decide’ not to decide, not realizing that our decision not to decide is in fact a decision! And when we decide not to decide, the circumstances of life ultimately make the decisions for us! And as a result of relinquishing control of the situation, we often find ourselves in predicaments where we really need to be “Superman” in order to get back on an even keel!

However, many of the BIG PROBLEMS or the “Superman” situations, can be handled with ease if we deal with them while they are still on the “Clark Kent” level. But, somehow we erroneously believe that if we just ignore difficult situations, they will go away or resolve themselves on their own! Some times this is true! However, it takes wisdom to know the difference. Some times some things do work themselves out, while others need to be dealt with in an aggressive and timely manner. We need to learn when, where and how to correctly concentrate our energy because we wouldn’t want to kill an insect with a shotgun!

Super JesusSo, as you go through life, facing various situations from day to day, take time to weight your options. Is it a situation that Clark Kent can handle or is it a job for Superman? If it is a job for Superman, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed! You can be encouraged because there is someone to help! Just look up in the sky! No! It’s not a bird! It’s not a plane! It’s not even Superman! But there is some one! His name is Jesus! He can help you with your problems! He came that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly! So, pray to God and ask Him to give you the wisdom to deal with life effectively because if you don’t deal with life, life will deal with you! And whatever course of action you take or decide not to take, always remember; it takes more energy to be Superman than it does to be Clark Kent!

A Time to Cry

crying at casketRecently, I attended a funeral service where a speaker got up and said: “This is not a time to be sad or a time to cry, but rather a time to rejoice! This is a time to celebrate!” Now, I know their intention was to uplift the mourners and to encourage us to praise and worship God.  And just like everybody else, after he said it, I said “Amen!” But later on, I started to do some thinking. We were at a funeral, but the speaker said it was not the time or the place to cry! Well, why not? Someone had died and we all were suffering from the loss of their company; why not cry? We were at a funeral! What better time and place is there to cry and be sad than at a funeral?

One of the trends in much of the preaching and teaching of today is the tendency to say or to imply that one should be happy ALL of the time! From what I am hearing, it seems as if there is no legitimate place for pain and sorrow in life and if a person does experience pain and sorrow it is an indication that something is amiss with their faith. I would like to suggest that such preaching and teaching is not only unrealistic, it is also unbiblical! It is unrealistic because it is a denial of reality to expect people not to cry when they have suffered a loss! Crying is part of the human emotional make-up! As Betty Everett used to sing back in the day: “The rich have to cry! The poor have to cry! You’ll have to cry and I’ll have to cry!” The funny thing about it is that many times the very people who are always telling others not to cry will often try to jump in the casket when one of their loved-one dies! I think we should quit trying to get people to suppress their expressions of bereavement, but rather “allow” them to mourn, allow them to grieve and grant them the freedom to cry! After all, it was their momma, their daddy, their son, or their daughter who died, not ours!  And if grief is not expressed at the funeral, it will be expressed at some other time and in some other form that is usually not productive or healthy.

Not only is it unrealistic, it is also unbiblical to deny them or us the freedom to express grief, bereavement and sorrow because the Bible says: “There is . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecc 3:4 KJV) So if the funeral is not the time or place to cry then when and where is it? One of the first Bible verses I ever learned as a child was John 11:35. It is the shortest verse in the Bible. It says: “Jesus wept.” Ironically, I learned this verse as a saying for grace over meals. I still haven’t figured out what Jesus crying had to do with me eating! But when we look at this verse in context, we discover that Jesus cried at the grave of Lazarus, his friend. Now, I’m not going into the theological discussion as to why he cried, I just want to point out the fact that Jesus was at a funeral and he cried! Now, if Jesus cried at a funeral, what’s wrong with us crying at a funeral? Paul wrote, in I Thessalonians 4:13, that we are not to grieve as others who have no hope. He didn’t say that we are not to grieve; he said we are not to grieve as others who have no hope!

So the next time you are grieving over the loss of a loved-one and someone tells you at the funeral not to cry or that you shouldn’t cry; don’t listen to them! Crying is a normal and natural expression of grief and loss! If it doesn’t come out that way, which is normal, it will come out another way that is abnormal and unhealthy! And if you feel like you must give them a reply, just tell them in the words of an old song I heard some time ago: “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!”