It’s In Your Hands!

The story is told of some young foolish boys who were always trying to fool a wise old man who lived in their village. It had become somewhat of an obsession with the young boys, because every time they went to the old man with what they thought was an enigma, the old man would come up with an answer!

So one day, one of the little boys came up with what he thought was the perfect plan to stump the old man! He told his friends that he would go to the old man with a live bird within his closed fists and ask the old man if the bird was alive or dead. If the old man said the bird was alive, he would close his fists tighter and kill the bird! If the old man said the bird was dead, he would open his fists and the bird would fly away!

Completely satisfied that the plan would work, the boys took off to go see the old man, almost unable to contain their excitement at the thought of finally fooling the wise old man. When they arrived at the wise old man’s house, they eagerly presented him with their fool-proof riddle. They said: “Old man, Johnny has a bird in his hands! Tell us, is it alive or dead?” The old man sat silent for a moment, intently looking at their mischievous little faces. Then, the old man simply said, “The answer is in your hands!”

Well, that’s the way life is! Although many think it is in the hands of the governments, family, friends, circumstances, or situations, the ultimate success or failure in your life is in your hands! You can live life with open hands to give and receive, or you can live life with closed fists, attempting to hold on to what you have, not realizing that while a closed-fist secures what you have, it also prevents you from receiving more!

But not only is it in your hands, it is also in your head! Much of life is not ‘what it is,’ it is ‘what you think it is!’ The Bible says: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he!”  The poet, Walter D. Wintle wrote:

If you think you are beaten, you are;

If you think you dare not, you don’t;

If you’d like to win, but think you can’t,

It’s almost a cinch you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,

For out in the word we find

Success begins with a fellow’s will,

It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you’re outcasted, you are;

You’ve got to think high to rise.

You’ve got to be sure of yourself before

You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go

To the stronger or faster man;

But soon or late the man who wins

Is the man who thinks he can.

Several years ago, I read Zig Ziglar’s book: See You At The Top, Ziglar wrote: “How you think determines what you become. . . The mind is a dutiful servant and will follow the instructions we give it. . . I am convinced your business is never either good or bad – out there. Your business is either good of bad between your ears. . . . You are what you are and where you are because of what has gone into your mind. You can change what you are and where you are by changing what goes into your mind. . . Realistically, most locked doors are in your mind.” In his famed work: Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz writes: “A human being always acts and feels and performs in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment. This is a basic and fundamental law of the mind. It is the way we are built. . . .You act, and feel, not according to what things are really like, but according to the image your mind holds of what they are like. You have certain mental images of yourself, your world, and the people around you, and you behave as though these images were the truth, the reality, rather than the things they represent.”

Yes! But not only is it in your hands and in your head, it is also in your feet! Some weeks ago, I rode a bike for the first time in many years and I found out that it’s true what they say; if you ever learn how to ride a bike, you will never forget! Riding a bicycle teaches several fundamental lessons of life: The only way to remain upright and balanced is to keep moving forward at certain rate of speed! As long as the bike is moving forward; you’re making progress toward a destination and you are balanced. It’s alright to stop peddling for a while and coast, but if you wait too long before you start peddling again, it will be almost as hard to regain your momentum as it was when you first started! And if you keep coasting and never start peddling again, you will eventually stop; progress will no longer occur, you will lose your balance and you will fall, if you don’t stick your leg out! Yes! In many ways, life is like riding a bike; to make progress, to reach your goals, to maintain balance, you must keep moving forward at a certain rate of speed!

My bike-riding experience also reminded me of another truth! I noticed as I was riding that I had to constantly adjust my direction! Nothing major, just constant minor shifts! The same thing happens in driving a car! Even on a straight road, you have to make slight and minute shifts and adjustments. That’s the way life is! It is never perfectly straight! But, to get to where you want to go, you must first of all, have somewhere to go! We are designed to have goals and to work progressively toward them! In Psycho-Cybernetics, Maltz talks about the fact that human have a built-in success mechanism that must have a goal or a target. It’s in your feet because you will only find fulfilment in life as you walk or peddle your way toward your goals, making slight adjustments and sometimes major turns along the way!

Yes! It’s in your hands, it’s in your head, it’s in your feet, and it is also in your mouth! In your mouth, there is either a miracle or a mess! We used to say as kids: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” Well, I found out that is not necessarily true! Not only can words hurt; words can kill! Jesus said: “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36-37 CSB17) The bad words other people say to you ‘may’ or ‘may not’ hurt you, but the bad words you say to yourself ‘will’ hurt you! When I say ‘bad words,’ I don’t mean profanity, I mean the put-down-words, the negative conversations we sometimes have with our selves! If others say we can’t do it, we can use that as motivation to prove them wrong! But if we say to our selves that we can’t do it; we’re doom to fail, because who can successfully argue with themselves and win?

Lastly, not only is it in your hands, in your head, in your feet, and in your mouth; it is also in your heart! Your heart is your uttermost desire! Your heart is what you want most in life! The commercial asks: “What’s in your wallet?” But an even more important question is: “What’s in your heart?” Jesus said: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” (Matt. 12:34-35 NKJ) Your heart contains the will and the fortitude necessary to get and achieve what you really want in life! You heart contains the treasure or the trash that motivates everything you do!

Yes! It’s in your hands! It’s not up to the government! It’s not up to the economy! It’s not up to your spouse or your children! It’s not even up to God! Ultimately, you must accept full responsibility for your life and say: “If it is to be, it is up to me!” Whatever you make out of your life, it is in your hands!

Choices and Decisions (Sermon Snippets)

Snippets from the sermon: “Decision: The Power of Choice” Text: Deuteronomy 30:19. This sermon was the 6th of a 7-sermon series on “Dealing With the D’s.” Preached at the New Hope Baptist Church / Covington, GA. December 9, 2018.

We all have the God-given authority and right to make choices and decisions. This is one of the distinctive qualities of humanity that separates us from the animal kingdom; animals live instinctively, humans live by choices and decisions.

Our choices and decisions determine our direction and destiny.

We are where we are today because of the choices and decisions we made yesterday. Where we will be tomorrow is being determined by the choices and decisions we are making today!

“I don’t have a choice!” is a fallacy: That is erroneous thinking! It’s not a matter of not having a choice; it’s a matter of not liking the available choices!

Many people do not exercise the power of choice and allow life, circumstances, and other people to make choices and decisions for them.

To strengthen your decision-making muscles:

a. When confronted with a choice, never default by saying; “It doesn’t matter.” Make a decision; make the choice between grits or hash browns, coffee or tea, etc. Resolve to be proactive in making decisions in even the smaller things that might not matter as much.

b. When you make it a practice to consciously make a decision with little things that don’t matter as much, you will be better able to make better decisions with the big things that matter more.

c. Count the cost of your decisions ; weight consequences and options. All choices and decisions cost something: time, energy, finances, emotional investments, etc.

We literally make thousands of choices and decisions everyday. What to wear, eat, drive, who to see, to answer or not, etc. Therefore, we don’t need help to make choices and decisions, we need help in making better or good choices and decisions.

Even if we refuse to make a choice or a decision, that is a choice and a decision! To choose not to choose is a choice! To decide not to decide is a decision!

The greatest choice and decision we must make is: “What are we going to do about God’s call to salvation? What are we going to do with Jesus?

Black, White, Brown and Gold

golden ruleIn view of the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri it is quite obvious that we have some serious racial problems in America! However, the problems are not just about race, they are also about economics, respect for authority, personal responsibility, and government abuse!

Let me first express my sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of Michael Brown. Losing a loved-one so suddenly in such a tragic manner is beyond my personal comprehension and experience. My prayers and thoughts are ever with that mother and father, along with the rest of the family. Having said that, let me get to the gist of my thoughts for this post.

First, I want to speak to my people; the Black people in America! No matter what has happened in the past, we’ve got to give up the victim mentality! Although White America must rightfully bear some to the blame, everything that goes awry in the Black community is not “the White man’s” fault! I understand the frustration when blatant injustices occur, but how does looting and burning our own neighborhoods fix the problem? It’s amazing to me that whenever something like this happens, people take advantage of it and use it as an excuse to loot, rob and steal! One really has nothing to do with the other! Burning a store and stealing a 60-inch television set has nothing to do with what happened to Michael Brown!

If we want “other” people to respect us, we must respect ourselves! We get all up in arms whenever a White person or the police kill a Black person! We rally and protest for justice but too often we are strangely quiet and dis-interested in the untold numbers of Blacks who are killed by other Blacks on a daily basis in our communities! What is it? Is a Black life only considered a loss and valuable when it is taken by a White person or by the police? Seriously! We have ran the Klu Klux Klan out of business! A couple of generations ago, a Black mother’s greatest fear was that of her son being killed by the Klan. Today her greatest fear is that her son will be killed by other Black men! We’ve got to draw the line and say: “Enough is enough!” The biggest problem in the Black community is not White folks! The biggest problem in the Black community is Black folks! We must respect ourselves! If we don’t want White people using the n-word in reference to us, then we must stop using it to refer to ourselves! It doesn’t matter what the color of the mouth that speaks it; it’s still a degrading, dehumanizing and disrespectful word! We must learn to protect and respect our women and children! We’ve got to change our values to that which is positive and productive instead of that which is negative and destructive. We can’t really blame other folks too much for looking at us with suspicion if we are routinely engaged in suspicious activity! In other words, it’s unrealistic to expect not to be treated like a thug if you routinely act, dress and talk like one! Our young ladies (and some of the old ones too!) need to understand that if you want to be treated like a lady, then you must act and dress like a lady! It doesn’t make sense to get upset when a man doesn’t respect you when you don’t respect yourself! You don’t have to “show everything” to get a (real) man! If all you got going for you is just a nice body, then sooner or later you won’t have much going for you at all! Parents, we’ve misplaced our values also! Too many of us are too concerned about our children looking good when they go to school instead of them getting an education when they get there! We routinely spend hundreds of dollars for a pair of sneakers, but see no value in investing in computers and educational software! We don’t show up for parent conferences, but yet we want to raise “unholy hell” at the suspension hearings!

But if we don’t respect ourselves, who will? Therefore, we should refuse to tolerate or financially support any rapper,and any other recording artist that produces material that degrades our women and children or any other aspect of our culture! They say they are just “keeping it real” by singing about what’s happening in the streets, but the narrative can be changed! Instead of rapping about what is and thereby perpetuating the status quo, why not rap about “what could be” or “what should be” and inspire others to make positive change? I can almost promise you that if we (the Black community and the buying public) would stop buying their music, the lyrics would change! After all, no matter how they tell us they are just keeping it real, it’s really all about the paper. (Cheese, cheddar, benjamins, money, or whatever the current lingo is)! If the negative, degrading and abusive music being produced today wasn’t selling, they wouldn’t be producing it!

Now, a word to my White brothers and sisters who might read this: Much of the rationale and reasoning of Black people in America might be perplexing to you, but some of the frustration experienced in the Black community is because of “White privilege.” You might not want to admit it, but you enjoy certain privileges and opportunities in America simply because you are White! For you, a BMW is a German luxury car, but for many Black people it is not a luxury at all, it is a “Black-Man-Working” a decent job! You are not routinely subjected to police suspicion simply because you drive a nice car. Therefore, you cannot understand what it’s like to be discriminated against because of the color of your skin because it doesn’t routinely happen to you! And although you may not contribute to the situation personally, you still reap the benefits from those who have gone on before you who did! Historically, there was much done to destroy the psyche of the Black man in America! Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that many White people in America didn’t think that Black people were even (whole) people! (If I remember my American History correctly, I think a Black man was considered three-fifths of a person!)

And now a word about Michael Brown. As of this post, no one knows what really happened on that fateful day in August when Mike Brown was killed. But the environment that produced the situation is well-known! Some say that he was shot by the police officer while he had his hands raised in surrender. If that was the case, there is really no excuse for the officer’s actions. Some have suggested that there was a physical confrontation in which Mr. Brown tried to take the officer’s gun. If that was the case, the officer was merely defending himself because he, no doubt feared for his own life. Perhaps the whole situation could have been avoided if Mr. Brown and his companion were walking on the side of the street instead of in the middle of it. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that walking in the middle of the street is a capital offense worthy of death, I’m just simply commenting on the fact that in many communities I know of today, young people routinely walk down the middle of the street in defiance, daring cars to hit them! That blatant disregard for authority and disrespect for others is often the fodder for such unfortunate confrontations!

Speaking of respect and regard for others, let me now deal with my last color. We’ve talked about Black (people), White (people) and the tragedy with (Michael) Brown, now let me introduce a possible solution with the color; Gold! The color Gold is for the “Golden Rule!” “Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you!” If we all ascribed to the Gold, we would have a better world! Gold is the answer to the issues between the Black and the White! Adhering to the Gold could have quite possibly prevented the unfortunate incident that happened with Mr. Brown! If we would all seek to live by the Gold, many of our societal issues would be resolved! Of course, I am not so naive to think that everyone would do this, but if enough of us did, it would make a world of a difference! And even if no one else does it, if you do it, it would make a tremendous difference in your world!

No matter what the outcome of the Michael Brown case, all of us; Black and White should let what happened cause us to examine ourselves! It really doesn’t take much to fix the blame, but what we really need is to dedicate ourselves to fix the problem! Some claim that they know what to do! They say it is as simple as black and white! I don’t know about that, but I am sure there are some intriguing possibilities for a greater and better community if enough of us would seriously consider the Gold!