Thursday, August 20, 2015

It's Not Perfect But It Is Better:

I know that we live in racially charged times. I know that there is racism. I know that there is police brutality. A few months ago, I had an incident that could be interpreted either as a racism or possibly not. (This was NOT with the police. My last involvement with the police was the Placer County Sheriff  last Halloween and they were nothing but courteous and professional.) It's my M.O. to take the high road. I try to neither light a fire where there is no fuel nor throw gasoline on a camp fire. In other words, if there wasn't if it wasn't there I'm not going to bring race into the incident. And if it WAS actually racially motivated I wasn't about to confirm any negative thoughts this person had about black people.

 I have lived in Auburn Ca which is in Placer County and is decidedly conservative as am I for the record. Auburn County . I am obviously black, which you can see at first glance and I am decidedly conservative which you probably wouldn't assume by looking at my skin color. That said, please allow me to relate my experience today.

I was in the grocery store while being black and wearing a Dodger cap in this pretty conservative, Northern California town. And white gentleman, probably 15-20 years my senior, comes up to be and starts talking to be about the changes going on in the Dodger's organization. As an expatriate Angeleno it's always nice to meet a kindred spirit. But not as we continued to talk I found out he was a Giant's fan. I was quite surprised. I mean, that's theoretically two strikes against me from the get go. Yet this guy seeks me out in the middle of the store, not in line, to talk to. He didn't see me as a black man and Dodger fan. He saw me as a man and a baseball fan.

Next stop, the checkout line. A checker sees a line and goes to open his register, inviting the white lady approximately 10 years my senior to follow. I happened to know the checker personally and said "I'm right behind you". She had a full cart and saw my four items and said I could go ahead of her. I told her that wasn't my intent I just wanted to hang out with that checker. She insisted I go ahead. I thanked her then and again as I left. She related to me as a human being that she didn't mind showing a small kindness, even at her slight inconvenience.

This has been my experience from here to the Carolinas and back. (I did notice a huge difference in a six-year gap between visits to Atlanta. From puzzlement ,but not aggression, at seeing my college roommate, his wife and myself walking around town together in 1996, to no reaction walking around with them and my white wife six years later.) *She is my only wife, for you literalists out there.

Again all this is to say I'm know there is a long way to go in regard to race relations in our country. But I have seen far, far more instances of white people relating to me like I was a human being as opposed to acting as though I was a blight on their community or some other racist reaction. I know that is not always the case. I know there are racists out there. (And they come in every color.) But I treat people well and for the very most part that is how I am treated. That includes white police officers even when I have been DWB in my Sentra full of gear at 3:00 AM in South Pasadena, as a young man. Or in the compromising position of looking like I could have been trying to steal a car. It was my car. But the person that called the police was a friend of mine that from their vantage point could only see legs sticking out of my car and thought someone of indeterminable color was trying to steal my car... Or worse still, making out with a white girl in a car as an even younger man... For the record, I have dated girls/women of at least three different ethnicities in my lifetime because color has never mattered just content of character. The only reason I think of or refer to my wife as white is to occasionally make a point or observation. Other than that, she is the love of my life and my greatest good. One of the most beautiful things about my daughter's wedding was the fact that, because of  the ethnic background of both sets of parents, if a stranger had walked in they would've had no way to tell which side was the bride's and which side was the groom's. That was a room full of contented characters. 

We can all celebrate our heritage and that's all good.  Ethnic and other distinctions exist and even matter to a point. If for no other reason than to be able to describe Person A to Person B that hasn't any idea of what Person A looks like. Saying, "Person A is heighted and has mass and width" doesn't really help. But at the end of the day we all bleed red and we're all worthy of a great deal of respect as a human being. (Until and unless we prove otherwise and THEN we should be treated a degree of human decency.) There are really two races. The decent and the indecent. If we treat each decently we are more likely to be treated decently. Even by those who would want to treat us poorly for whatever reason. And when we come across the indecent we should, hard as it is, take the high ground.

I' m not saying it's all good or that things are perfect. But I am saying things are better. And it's up to all of to push things in the right direction. 

I love you all! 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Struggle IS Real: A Two Front Battle

There are two particularly dangerous places for a black person in the US today. One is among other black people and the other is, very specifically, the womb.

In 2012, there were more black babies killed by abortion (31,328) in New York City than were born there (24,758), and the black children killed comprised 42.4% of the total number of abortions in the Big Apple, according to a report by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The report is entitled, Summary of Vital Statistics 2012 The City of New York, Pregnancy Outcomes, and was prepared by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Office of Vital Statistics. (See  Pregnancy Outcomes NYC Health 2012.pdf)
*There is some political rhetoric in the article and I can't help that. Please get past that to the substance of the matter.

It's about time. It's one of the things that I find most enraging in the black community. I refuse to be a victim, I advocate hard work, speaking proper English, marriage as the context for raising children as opposed to Uncle Sam doing it. But most of all, I believe INNOCENT "Black lives matter". I hope and pray that there are more blacks figuring out that *Sanger was not a friend of black people and most sadly many inner city blacks are not the friends of black people. We kill each other in the streets by the thousands every year and attack the police when one of our criminals gets themself killed. It's insanity. Generally, I believe there are only two races of people, the decent and the indecent. But it seems at times that many of my people are hell bent on self genocide in America and it's heartbreaking.

*Whether you believe Sanger was trying to decimate the black population or not this is not a proportionate number of abortions in the US.

US since 1973: Roe vs Wade

Black babies aborted since '73 in US

We're accomplishing Sanger's dream and obliterating MLK's.

This is NOT the point:
Black on Black Crime vs White on White Crime
Is there police brutality? Yes. Is there white and white crime? Yes. It's all bad. But
I'm tired of the excuses. Can we please stop killing our babies? Stop killing each other? Stop making excuses. "There's a disproportionate number of Black men being killed by white police officers." We scream "No justice, no peace!" while we through rocks at police over a thug that was legitimately chased down because he was fleeing from a crime he'd committed. It's insanity. There are millions of us (black people) that refuse to live this way. But that is not newsworthy.

Is education a problem? Yes. Is opportunity a problem? Yes. But is one of the biggest problems is the fact the we elevate being uneducated. We discourage education. We prop up thug life. We escalate the issues and don't accept that there are actually white people that are not racist. Of course, some are. People of any race and economic strata can be racist. I was raised to be a content of character person. And truth be told, I've experienced more racism at the hands of other blacks than whites. Have I been a victim of more empowered white racists that black racists? (And, I refuse to be held captive to victim hood. I refuse to embrace it. I refuse to excuse myself because of it. I have already risen har above it.) Yes. But let's not fool ourselves that you have to be powerful to to be racist. This is not about the past. This is about the future.

The bottom line is we need to work on the content of our character before we eliminate ourselves all together. You can't control what others do. But you can control what others see. You can control how you are percieved. What we're representing and prsenting is often not raising us up, it's taking us down. I'm not saying our demise is imminent. But I am saying we are not heading in the right direction.

A very long but important article:
Black lives don’t matter only when they’re taken by police.
They matter when they’re taken by other blacks, too.
Mitch Landrieu -Mayor of New Orleans

So, those of you that believe in God, please pray with me. If you don't believe in God send some good thoughts. Because this is serious and real. One of the enemies is within and doing a much more effective job than any external enemy could. All races creeds colors, religions or lack thereof, gender class, economic status, good, bad, whatever, I love you all. Decent people, (and that is most of you across every group) I also respect you and applaud you. And all decent people can and should be able to find ways to work together. Can we please do that? Again, I truly love you all!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Daniel: Life Lessons From A Teenaged Slave

All lives matter and good character changes and saves lives...

40 black kids beat a white man almost to death.

My 40 some young black brothers that beat up a white man for being white, you obviously don't know that you are exactly why there are is still racism in America. Would there be anyway? Of course. There will always be racists and racism. Obviously. You just beat a white man within an inch of his life sole because he's white. You are racists.

You, the majority, in that situation beat the life out of that man. Some around we're making fun of him. Some to their credit were saying help needed to be called. But make no mistake. Every person that was already racist against blacks just said "My point exactly. That's what they are animals!" Every one of you perpetrators, just set us all red, yellow, black, white brown, back. Everyone of you out there needs to get off your hate pills. Your revenge pills. Your "see how they are" pills. Your whatever makes you think that racism from either/any side is going to get anyone where they need to be.

Stop destroying yourselves and each other ALL YOU RACISTS. YOU all have a place here in America but your hate doesn't. America will never be perfect in regards to race relations or anything else. Because humans a flawed. But you've got to be better than this. ALL. OF. YOU HATERS. Stop being the problem.

The vast majority of us figure out how to live and work alongside each other without resorting this disgusting mess. That doesn't mean we all agree with everything everyone does. But most of us are trying desperately to make our lives and this country work. EVERYONE is accountable. Citizen, politician, LEO, advocate, whatever.

And you may ask why do I call out the perps in this case specifically and directly and not every racist police officer?

1. The media etc is on their case enough and there are systems in place to deal with them. Most officers are not racists and are doing their job honorably. Those that not need to be dealt with.

2. There is no excuse for this beating. No explaining away this beating.

3. I don't want anybody ever, especially whatever racists in any walk of life, to be thinking about YOU when they see MY SON. He didn't do this. He wouldn't do this and you just put him in the crosshairs because he looks like you.

Don't do this to yourselves. To your brother that IS trying to study and be disciplined and be part of society. (Yeah, that's another beating story.) Little Brothers you have got to come to believe that this is wrong and you have got to know that YOU. ARE. BETTER. THAN. THIS! Don't let any tell you otherwise. Especially your so called friends. You are better than this. You're not an animal. You're not a lost cause. You can do better. Be better. But only you can decide to do it. And for the love of GOD and yourself please stop telling each other that being educated is trying to be white...

Race relations have come a LONG, LONG WAY. This is not going to get equality done.

My initial trigger for this post. How the defendant could have avoided this awkward reunion.

Daniel: Life Lessons From A Teenaged Slave

Disclosure: He did not start at the bottom rung. He was a blue blood at the time of his capture.
Genetics/social position etc matter but I truly believe the real advantage is in the attitude that was like engrained in Daniel. 

That said, education (formal and/or practical), wisdom, faith and integrity are great principles for life. Of course, you can live life without faith but it is my foundation so my worldview includes it at all times. Take what you can from it... 
In the third year of the rule of Judah’s King Jehoiakim, Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and attacked it. The Lord handed Judah’s King Jehoiakim over to Nebuchadnezzar, along with some of the equipment from God’s house. Nebuchadnezzar took these to Shinar, to his own god’s temple, putting them in his god’s treasury. Nebuchadnezzar instructed his highest official Ashpenaz to choose royal descendants and members of the ruling class from the Israelites— good-looking young men without defects, skilled in all wisdom, possessing knowledge, conversant with learning, and capable of serving in the king’s palace. Ashpenaz was to teach them the Chaldean language and its literature. The king assigned these young men daily allotments from his own food and from the royal wine. Ashpenaz was to teach them for three years so that at the end of that time they could serve before the king. Among these young men from the Judeans were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. But the chief official gave them new names. He named Daniel "Belteshazzar," Hananiah "Shadrach," Mishael "Meshach," and Azariah "Abednego." Daniel decided that he wouldn’t pollute himself with the king’s rations or the royal wine, and he appealed to the chief official in hopes that he wouldn’t have to do so. 

Now God had established faithful loyalty between Daniel and the chief official; but the chief official said to Daniel, "I’m afraid of my master, the king, who has mandated what you are to eat and drink. What will happen if he sees your faces looking thinner than the other young men in your group? The king will have my head because of you!" So Daniel spoke to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: "Why not test your servants for ten days? You could give us a diet of vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance to the appearance of the young men who eat the king’s food. Then deal with your servants according to what you see." The guard decided to go along with their plan and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days they looked better and healthier than all the young men who were eating the king’s food. So the guard kept taking away their rations and the wine they were supposed to drink and gave them vegetables instead. And God gave knowledge, mastery of all literature, and wisdom to these four men. Daniel himself gained understanding of every type of vision and dream. When the time came to review the young men as the king had ordered, the chief official brought them before Nebuchadnezzar. 

When the king spoke with them, he found no one as good as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they took their place in the king’s service. Whenever the king consulted them about any aspect of wisdom and understanding, he found them head and shoulders above all the dream interpreters and enchanters in his entire kingdom. And Daniel stayed in the king’s service until the first year of King Cyrus.

B. Earn a good reputation. Give credit where it is due. Use wisdom and sound judgement. Speak truth respectfully, but do speak the truth. Be loyal. 
In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s rule, he had many dreams. The dreams made him anxious, but he kept sleeping. The king summoned the dream interpreters, enchanters, diviners, and Chaldeans to explain his dreams to him. They came and stood before the king. Then the king said to them: "I had a dream, and I’m anxious to know its meaning." The Chaldeans answered the king in Aramaic: "Long live the king! Tell your servants the dream, and we will explain its meaning." The king answered the Chaldeans: "My decision is final: If you can’t tell me the dream and its meaning, you will be torn limb from limb, and your houses will be turned into trash dumps. But if you do explain the dream and its meaning, you’ll receive generous gifts and glorious honor from me. So explain to me the dream as well as its meaning." They answered him again: "The king must tell his servants the dream. We will then explain the meaning." The king replied: "Now I definitely know you are stalling for time, because you see that my decision is final and that if you can’t tell me the dream, your fate is certain. You’ve conspired to make false and lying speeches before me until the situation changes. Tell me the dream now! Then I’ll know you can explain its meaning to me." The Chaldeans answered the king: "No one on earth can do what the king is asking! No king or ruler, no matter how great, has ever asked such a thing of any dream interpreter, enchanter, or Chaldean. What the king is asking is impossible! No one could declare the dream to the king but the gods, who don’t live among mere humans." At this, the king exploded in a furious rage and ordered that all Babylon’s sages be wiped out. So the command went out: The sages were to be killed. Daniel and his friends too were hunted down; they were to be killed as well. Then Daniel, with wisdom and sound judgment, responded to Arioch the king’s chief executioner, who had gone out to kill Babylon’s sages. He said to Arioch the king’s royal officer, "Why is the king’s command so unreasonable?" After Arioch explained the situation to Daniel, Daniel went and asked the king to give him some time so he could explain the dream’s meaning to him. Then Daniel went to his house and explained the situation to his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah so that they would ask the God of heaven for help about this mystery, in hopes that Daniel and his friends wouldn’t die with the rest of Babylon’s sages. 

Then, in a vision by night, the mystery was revealed to Daniel! Daniel praised the God of heaven: God’s name be praised from age to eternal age! Wisdom and might are his! God is the one who changes times and eras, who dethrones one king, only to establish another, who grants wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those with insight. God is the one who uncovers what lies deeply hidden; he knows what hides in darkness; light lives with him! I acknowledge and praise you, my fathers’ God! You’ve given me wisdom and might, and now you’ve made known to me what we asked of you: you’ve made known to us the king’s demand. So Daniel went to Arioch, the man the king had appointed to wipe out Babylon’s sages. Daniel said to him, "Don’t wipe out the sages of Babylon! Bring me before the king, and I will explain the dream’s meaning to him." Wasting no time, Arioch brought Daniel before the king, telling him, "I have found someone from the Judean exiles who will tell the dream’s meaning to the king." In reply the king said to Daniel (whose name was Belteshazzar), "Can you really tell me the dream that I saw, as well as its meaning?" Daniel answered the king, “Sages, enchanters, dream interpreters, and diviners can’t explain to the king the mystery he seeks. 

But there is a God in heaven, a revealer of mysteries, who has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the days to come! Now this was your dream—this was the vision in your head as you lay in your bed: “As you lay in bed, Your Majesty, your thoughts turned to what will happen in the future. The revealer of mysteries has revealed to you what will happen. Now this mystery was revealed to me, not because I have more wisdom than any other living person but so that the dream’s meaning might be made known to the king, and so that you might know the thoughts of your own mind. “Your Majesty, you were looking, and there, rising before you, was a single, massive statue. This statue was huge, shining with dazzling light, and was awesome to see. The statue’s head was made of pure gold; its chest and arms were made from silver; its abdomen and hips were made of bronze. Its legs were of iron, and its feet were a mixture of iron and clay. You observed this until a stone was cut, but not by hands; and it smashed the statue’s feet of iron and clay and shattered them. Then all the parts shattered simultaneously—iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold. They became like chaff, left on summer threshing floors. The wind lifted them away until no trace of them remained. But the stone that smashed the statue became a mighty mountain, and it filled the entire earth. “This was the dream. 

Now we will tell the king its meaning: You, Your Majesty, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given kingship, power, might, and glory to you! God has delivered into your care human beings, wild creatures, and birds in the sky—wherever they live—and has made you ruler of all of them. You are the gold head. But in your place, another kingdom will arise, one inferior to yours, and then a third, bronze kingdom will rule over all the earth. Then will come a fourth kingdom, mighty like iron. Just as iron shatters and crushes everything; so like an iron that smashes, it will shatter and crush all these others. As for the feet and toes that you saw, which were a mixture of potter’s clay and iron, that signifies a divided kingdom; but it will possess some of the unyielding strength of iron. Even so, you saw the iron mixed with earthy clay so that the toes were made from a mixture of iron and clay. Part of the kingdom will be mighty, but part of it will be fragile. Just as you saw the iron mixed with earthy clay, they will join together by intermarrying, but they will not bond to each other, just as iron does not fuse with clay. "But in the days of those kings, the God of heaven will raise up an everlasting kingdom that will be indestructible. Its rule will never pass to another people. It will shatter other kingdoms. It will put an end to all of them. It will stand firm forever, just like you saw when the stone, which was cut from the mountain, but not by hands, shattered the iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. 

A great God has revealed to the king what will happen in the future. The dream is certain. Its meaning can be trusted." Then King Nebuchadnezzar bowed low and honored Daniel. The king ordered that grain and incense offerings be made to Daniel. The king declared to Daniel, "No doubt about it: your God is God of gods, Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries because you were able to reveal this mystery!" Then the king exalted Daniel and lavished gifts on him, making him ruler over all the province of Babylon and chief minister over all Babylon’s sages. At Daniel’s urging, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to administer the province of Babylon, but Daniel himself remained at the royal court.

C. Associate with people worthy of loyalty. 
King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue. It was ninety feet high and nine feet wide. He set it up in the Dura Valley in the province of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar then ordered the chief administrators, ministers, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to assemble and come for the dedication of the statue that he had set up. So the chief administrators, ministers, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. They stood in front of the statue the king had set up. The herald proclaimed loudly: "Peoples, nations, and languages! This is what you must do: When you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, lyre, harp, flute, and every kind of instrument, you must bow down and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Anyone who will not bow down and worship will be immediately thrown into a furnace of flaming fire." So because of this order as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, lyre, harp, flute, and every kind of instrument, all the peoples, nations, and languages bowed down and worshipped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. At that moment some Chaldeans came forward, seizing a chance to attack the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar: "Long live the king! Your Majesty, you gave a command that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, lyre, harp, flute, and every kind of instrument should bow down and worship the gold statue. Anyone who wouldn’t bow and worship would be thrown into a furnace of flaming fire. Now there are some Jews, ones you appointed to administer the province of Babylon—specifically, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—who have ignored your command. They don’t serve your gods, and they don’t worship the gold statue you’ve set up." 

In a violent rage Nebuchadnezzar ordered them to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar said to them: "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: Is it true that you don’t serve my gods or worship the gold statue I’ve set up? If you are now ready to do so, bow down and worship the gold statue I’ve made when you hear the sound of horn, pipe, zither, lyre, harp, flute, and every kind of instrument. But if you won’t worship it, you will be thrown straight into the furnace of flaming fire. Then what god will rescue you from my power?" Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar: "We don’t need to answer your question. If our God—the one we serve—is able to rescue us from the furnace of flaming fire and from your power, Your Majesty, then let him rescue us.  But if he doesn’t, know this for certain, Your Majesty: we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you’ve set up." Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and his face twisted beyond recognition because of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In response he commanded that the furnace be heated to seven times its normal heat. He told some of the strongest men in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the furnace of flaming fire. So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound, still dressed in all their clothes, and thrown into the furnace of flaming fire. ( Now the king’s command had been rash, and the furnace was heated to such an extreme that the fire’s flame killed the very men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it.) So these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell, bound, into the furnace of flaming fire. 

Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in shock and said to his associates, "Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?" They answered the king, "Certainly, Your Majesty." He replied, "Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around inside the fire, and they aren’t hurt! And the fourth one looks like one of the gods." Nebuchadnezzar went near the opening of the furnace of flaming fire and said, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. The chief administrators, ministers, governors, and the king’s associates crowded around to look at them. The fire hadn’t done anything to them: their hair wasn’t singed; their garments looked the same as before; they didn’t even smell like fire! Nebuchadnezzar declared: "May the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be praised! He sent his messenger to rescue his servants who trusted him. They ignored the king’s order, sacrificing their bodies, because they wouldn’t serve or worship any god but their God. I now issue a decree to every people, nation, and language: whoever speaks disrespectfully about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s God will be torn limb from limb and their house made a trash heap, because there is no other god who can rescue like this." Then the king made Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prosperous in the province of Babylon.

D. Keep speaking truth, respectfully but with conviction. You're only responsible for your part. 
King Nebuchadnezzar’s message to all the peoples, nations, and languages inhabiting the entire earth: “I wish you much peace. I’m delighted to share the signs and miracles that the Most High God has worked in my life. His signs are superb! His miracles so powerful! His kingdom is everlasting. His rule is for all time. “While I, Nebuchadnezzar, was safe in my house, content in my palace, I had a terrifying dream. My thoughts while I was lying in bed and the vision in my mind overwhelmed me. I ordered all Babylon’s sages to come before me, so they might tell me the dream’s meaning. So the dream interpreters, enchanters, Chaldeans, and diviners came. I told them the dream, but they couldn’t interpret it for me. 

Daniel, who is called Belteshazzar after the name of my god, was the last to come before me. In him is the breath of the holy gods! I told Daniel the dream: “Belteshazzar, chief of the dream interpreters, I know the breath of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Tell me the meaning of the visions I had in my dream. In my mind, as I lay in bed, I saw a vision: At the center of the earth was a towering tree. The tree grew in size and strength; it was as high as the sky; it could be seen from every corner of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant; it had enough food for everyone. Wild animals took shade under it; birds nested in its branches. All living things lived off that tree. “In my mind, as I lay in bed, I saw another vision: A holy watcher came down from heaven. He proclaimed loudly: ‘Cut down the tree and shear off its branches! Strip its leaves and scatter its fruit! The creatures should flee from its shelter; the birds should take flight from its branches. But leave its deepest root in the earth, bound with iron and bronze in the field grass. Dew from heaven is to wash it, and it must live with the animals in the earth’s vegetation. Its human mind is to be changed: it will be given the mind of an animal. Seven periods of time will pass over it. This sentence is by the watchers’ decree; this decision is the holy ones’ word so that all who live might know that the Most High dominates human kingship. The Most High gives kingship to anyone he wants and sets over it the lowest of people.’ 

"This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. So now Belteshazzar, tell me the meaning because all the sages in my kingdom were unable to interpret it for me. But you are able to do it because the breath of the holy gods is in you." Daniel, who was called Belteshazzar, was shocked for a bit. What he thought about frightened him. The king declared, "Don’t let the dream and its meaning scare you, Belteshazzar." Then Belteshazzar answered, “Sir, I wish the dream to be for those who hate you and its meaning to be for your enemies! The tree you saw that grew in size and strength, that was as high as the sky, that could be seen from every corner of the earth, with its beautiful leaves and its abundant fruit, and that had enough food for everyone, with wild animals living under it and birds nesting in its branches— Your Majesty, that tree is you! You have grown large and become powerful. Your greatness is as high as the sky; your rule extends to the edge of the earth! "Your Majesty, the holy watcher you saw coming down from heaven, who said, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave its deepest root in the earth, bound with iron and bronze in the field grass, dew from heaven is to wash it, and it must live with the wild animals until seven periods of time pass over it’— 

Your Majesty, this is the dream’s meaning: It is the sentence of the Most High, delivered to my master the king. You will be driven away from other humans and will live with the wild animals. You will eat grass like cattle and will be washed by dew from heaven. Seven periods of time will pass over you, until you acknowledge that the Most High dominates human kingship, giving it to anyone he wants. And when he said to leave the deepest root of the tree—that means your kingship will again be yours, once you acknowledge that heaven rules all. Therefore, Your Majesty, please accept my advice: remove your sins by doing what is right; remove your wrongdoing by showing mercy to the poor. Then your safety will be long lasting." All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later, he was walking on the roof of the royal palace in Babylon. The king declared, "Isn’t this Babylon, the magnificent city that I built as the royal house by my own mighty strength and for my own majestic glory?" 

These words hadn’t even left the king’s mouth when a voice came from heaven: "You, King Nebuchadnezzar, are now informed: Kingship is taken away from you. You will be driven away from other humans and will live with the wild animals. You will eat grass like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you acknowledge that the Most High dominates human kingship, giving it to anyone he wants." Nebuchadnezzar’s sentence was immediately carried out. He was driven away from other humans and ate grass like cattle. Dew from heaven washed his body until he grew hair like eagles’ feathers and claws like a bird. “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes to heaven. My reason returned to me, and I praised the Most High. I worshipped and glorified the one who lives forever because his rule is everlasting; his kingdom is for all time. All of earth’s inhabitants are nothing in comparison. The Most High does whatever he wants with heaven’s forces and with earth’s inhabitants. No one can contain his power or say to him, ‘What do you think you are doing?’ So at that moment my reason returned to me. My honor and splendor came back to me for the glory of my kingdom. My associates and my princes wanted to be with me again. Not only was I reinstated over my kingdom, I received more power than ever before. "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, worship, magnify, and glorify the king of heaven. All his works are truth, all his paths are justice, and he is able to humble all who walk in pride."

E. The truth (even hard truths) will give you better results long term.  (This is the third king to whom Daniel has been an advisor and ther are more to come. And he has been nobody's yes man.) 
King Belshazzar threw a huge party for a thousand of his princes, and he drank a lot of wine in front of them. While he was under the wine’s influence, Belshazzar commanded that the gold and silver equipment that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem’s temple be brought to the party so that the king, his princes, his consorts, and his secondary wives could drink wine out of them. So the gold equipment that had been carried out of the temple, God’s house in Jerusalem, was brought in; and the king, his princes, his consorts, and his secondary wives drank out of it. They drank a lot of wine; and they praised the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Right then the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the king’s palace wall in the light of the lamp. The king saw the hand that wrote. The king’s mood changed immediately, and he was deeply disturbed. He felt weak, and his knees were shaking. The king yelled, calling for the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the diviners. The king told these sages of Babylon: "Anyone who can read this writing and tell me its meaning will wear royal robes, will have a gold chain around his neck, and will rule the kingdom as third in command." 

Then all the king’s sages arrived, but they couldn’t read the writing or interpret it for the king. At that point King Belshazzar was really frightened. All the color drained from his face, and his princes were also very worried. Upon hearing the commotion coming from the king and his princes, the queen entered the banqueting hall and declared, "Long live the king! Don’t be so disturbed. Don’t be so frightened. There is a man in your kingdom who has the breath of holy gods in him! When your father was alive, this man was shown to possess illumination, insight, and wisdom like the very wisdom of the gods. Your father King Nebuchadnezzar appointed this man as chief over the dream interpreters, enchanters, Chaldeans, and diviners. Yes, your father did this because this man—Daniel, the one the king named Belteshazzar—possesses an extraordinary spirit, knowledge, and insight into the meaning of dreams. He can explain ambiguities and resolve mysteries. Now in light of all that, summon Daniel! He will explain the meaning of this thing." So Daniel was brought before the king. The king said to him, "So you are Daniel, the Daniel from the exiles that my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard that the breath of the gods is in you and that you possess illumination, insight, and extraordinary wisdom. Now, the sages and the dream interpreters were brought before me to read this writing and interpret it for me, but they couldn’t explain its meaning. But I’ve heard that you can explain meanings and solve mysteries. So if you can read this writing and interpret it for me, you will wear royal robes, have a gold chain around your neck, and will rule the kingdom as third in command." 

Daniel answered the king: “Keep your gifts. Give the rewards to someone else. But I will still read the writing to the king and interpret it for him. Listen, Your Majesty: The Most High God gave kingship, power, glory, and majesty to your father Nebuchadnezzar. Because of the power God gave Nebuchadnezzar, all peoples, nations, and languages were terrified of him. He did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted: killing or sparing, exalting or humbling. But when he became arrogant, acting in stubborn pride, he was pulled off his royal throne and the glory was taken from him. He was driven away from other humans, and his mind became like an animal’s. He lived with wild donkeys, he ate grass like cattle, and dew from heaven washed his body until he realized that the Most High God dominates human kingship and sets over it anyone he wants. “But you who are his son, Belshazzar, you haven’t submitted, even though you’ve known all this. Instead, you’ve set yourself up against the Lord of heaven! The equipment of God’s house was brought to you; and you, your princes, your consorts, and your secondary wives drank wine out of it, all the while praising the gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone—gods who can’t see, hear, or know anything. But you didn’t glorify the true God who holds your very breath in his hand and who owns every road you take. 

“That’s why this hand was sent from God and why this message was written down. This is what was written down: mene, mene, tekel, and parsin. "This is the meaning of the word mene: God has numbered the days of your rule. It’s over! tekel means that you’ve been weighed on the scales, and you don’t measure up. peres means your kingship is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians." Then Belshazzar commanded that Daniel be dressed in a purple robe, have a gold chain around his neck, and be officially appointed as third in command in the kingdom. That very same night, Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. Darius the Mede received the kingdom at the age of 62.

F. There may well be a serious downside to integrity and faith. (Look back to C for the "Even if" mentally. There is not always a rescue.) Your character precedes you. It gives your actions weight. 
Darius decided to appoint one hundred twenty chief administrators throughout the kingdom, and to set over them three main officers to whom they would report so that the king wouldn’t have to be bothered with too much. One of these main officers was Daniel. Because of his extraordinary spirit, Daniel soon surpassed the other officers and the chief administrators—so much so that the king had plans to set him over the entire kingdom. As a result, the other officers and the chief administrators tried to find some problem with Daniel’s work for the kingdom. But they couldn’t find any problem or corruption at all because Daniel was trustworthy. He wasn’t guilty of any negligence or corruption. So these men said, "We won’t find any fault in Daniel, unless we can find something to use against him from his religious practice." 

So these officers and chief administrators ganged together and went to the king. They said to him, "Long live King Darius! All the officers of the kingdom, the ministers, the chief administrators, the royal associates, and the governors advise the king to issue an edict and enforce a law, that for thirty days anyone who says prayers to any god or human being except you, Your Majesty, will be thrown into a pit of lions. Now, Your Majesty, issue the law and sign the document so that it cannot be changed, as per the law of Media and Persia, which cannot be annulled." Because of this, King Darius signed the document containing the law. When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went to his house. Now his upper room had open windows that faced Jerusalem. Daniel knelt down, prayed, and praised his God three times that day, just like he always did. Just then these men, all ganged together, came upon Daniel praying and seeking mercy from his God. They then went and talked to the king about the law: "Your Majesty! Didn’t you sign a law, that for thirty days any person who prays to any god or human being besides you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into a pit of lions?" The king replied, "The decision is absolutely firm in accordance with the law of Media and Persia, which cannot be annulled." So they said to the king, "One of the Judean exiles, Daniel, has ignored you, Your Majesty, as well as the law you signed. He says his prayers three times a day!" 

When the king heard this report, he was very unhappy. He decided to rescue Daniel and did everything he could do to save Daniel before the sun went down. But these men, all ganged together, came and said to the king, "You must realize, Your Majesty, that the law of Media and Persia, including every law and edict the king has issued, cannot be changed." So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and hurled him into the pit of lions. The king said to Daniel: "Your God—the one you serve so consistently—will rescue you." A single stone was brought and placed over the entrance to the pit. The king sealed it with his own ring and with those of his princes so that Daniel’s situation couldn’t be changed. The king then went home to his palace and fasted through the night. No pleasures were brought to him, and he couldn’t sleep. At dawn, at the first sign of light, the king rose and rushed to the lions’ pit. As he approached it, he called out to Daniel, worried: "Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God—the one you serve so consistently—able to rescue you from the lions?" Then Daniel answered the king: "Long live the king! My God sent his messenger, who shut the lions’ mouths. They haven’t touched me because I was judged innocent before my God. I haven’t done anything wrong to you either, Your Majesty." The king was thrilled. He commanded that Daniel be brought up out of the pit, and Daniel was lifted out. Not a scratch was found on him, because he trusted in his God. 

The king then ordered that the men who had accused Daniel be brought and thrown into the lions’ pit—including their wives and children. They hadn’t even reached the bottom of the pit before the lions overpowered them, crushing all their bones. Then King Darius wrote the following decree: To all the peoples, nations, and languages inhabiting the entire earth: I wish you much peace. I now issue this command: In every region of my kingdom, all people must fear and revere Daniel’s God because: He is the living God. God stands firm forever. His kingship is indestructible. God’s rule will last until the end of time. He is rescuer and savior; God performs signs and miracles in heaven and on earth. Here’s the proof: He rescued Daniel from the lions’ power. And so Daniel was made prosperous during the rule of Darius and during the rule of Cyrus the Persian.

Be a person of good character and integrity early in life...and continue for the rest of your life for the good of us all.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Instead, set an example for the believers through your speech, behavior, love, faith, and by being sexually pure. Practice these things, and live by them so that your progress will be visible to all. Focus on working on your own development and on what you teach. If you do this, you will save yourself and those who hear you.

There are precious few guarantees in life. But person of faith or not, certain principles are more likely to serve you well. Obviously, depending on your worldview the passage above may or may not have any credence. Whatever your values, work at living up to your values. Apply what applies...

*There is so much more there. But I'll only add this from other players in these accounts. Pride precedes the fall.

Please, please be part of the solution. CHARACTER WILL PROVE THAT YOUR BLACK LIFE MATTERS.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Discrimination, conviction and hypocrisy?


Let's be honest, accurate and civil please. The part of the quote that has been eliminated is as follows: "Thus, the story added that the owners said they "would serve anybody who came into the restaurant regardless of sexual orientation, but drew the line at weddings" because of their religious convictions." This states in effect that they would serve a gay dinner, a gay birthday party etc. Is it even possible to believe that they honestly don't have any animus towards gay people whatsoever but simply are uncomfortable with supporting a specific function that blatantly flies in the face of their religious doctrine? Is it not even possible to imagine  that the could be speaking without hostility? That does not sound like hate or bigotry to me. That sounds like a legitimate boundary they've set for themselves as a business. It also sounds like the same boundary that many businesses have set for themselves because of their religious convictions.


As a professional musician, I've made decisions as to the content of what songs I would personally sing or perform with the band that I lead. This is NOT a condemnation of anyone. This is not hostility against anyone. This is not my attempt to change anyone else's playlist. This is me saying.  This is me following my convictions.
I'm a huge Prince fan. He's a musical genius. I owe a large portion of my musical existence to his influence. But I can't sing large portion of his catalog. I can't when I have a choice participate, I can't celebrate certain songs because of my religious convictions. (For that matter, there are many of his own songs he doesn't perform anymore for the same reason.) Likewise, I love Sting but there are Sting songs I cannot sing. These matters are difficult for me but that's my conviction. In fact, aside from anything directly work related I have a personal rule on listening to secular vocal music on Sunday. That's my personal way of "Remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy." That means I discriminate against the third person in my musical trinity on Sundays by not listening to the few secular songs by my favorite gospel artist, Fred Hammond.                                                                      So, please, please don't assume hatred or bigotry is at the                                                                                          heart of every discriminating action.                                                                                           Religious conviction is real and legitimate.


 By forcing people to conduct themselves in a manner inconsistent with their beliefs are we not forcing them into being something we Christians are constantly being accused of? Hypocrisy.

Memories Pizza was sought out and ambushed with a hypothetical question. Then their answer was truncated. They said they would serve anyone regardless of their sexual orientation. Only when it came to an event that they felt would force them into a position of condoning and celebrating an event they do not support did they state that they could not participate. If the scenario was posed "Will you bake my adultery party cake?" they would have given the same answer. (And of course, adultery is generally lived out in secret or at least is not typically a celebrated event. But IF asked they would have given the same answer.) Separate issue that it is,
 there is no adultery lobby to contend with. No one , outside of Hollywood, is trying normalize adultery, so to speak. And there isn't a big push to make it adultery equally accepted, legally protected and universally celebrated by everyone regardless of their values. This is not about hate. It's about being able to maintain ones values as the practice their business. It's about the right to not be a hypocrite. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Problem no problem?


Kenya Attack: Al Shabab Targets Christians at Garissa University College

Is it time to admit there may be some issues in Islam yet? Islam is the only religion with even a small percentage of their population committing wholesale slaughter around the globe and targeting everyone that has a different worldview. This stretch of time it's Christians in their crosshairs. It's ALWAYS the Jews. Many proclaim death to America and Israel. You don't even want to know what happens to gays for being gay and women for running afoul of Sharia law. This is current AND expanding. Of course, it's not all Muslims by any means. But there are considerable fewer if any Christians, Jews etc currently dedicated to commiting genocide. (Please let me know if I missed some other group religious or otherwise that is slaughtering people. In the name of their God or for any reason.) And they don't seem to be of a mind to stop or even pause to talk about it. I seriously think there might be something wrong going on in at least some small portion of the Islamic community. And that small portion is growing while whittling other populations down to size.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Seven Answers For Seven Questions

In the way of preamble, I say only this. Go to this link or none of this will make any sense.
The Seven Questions of Manuel
Thanks to Manuel Luz for the  questions. Go and read Manuel at manuelluz.wordpress often and carefully.

Ok, so you're back.

1. I am comfortable with my voice but I'm not knocked out by it. I think and hope I'm an interesting, capable and creative singer.

2. If I was a visual artist, as a practical matter, I'd want to in a prestigious gallery because I would at least theoretically be a position to support my family with my art.

3. I greatly appreciate any positive feedback I get for the audience but I am very mindful of my peers because they travel the same or a similar road as I do. That does give peer respect a bit more weight.

4. King David, so many reasons why? He's a role model personally and professionally. Flawed as he was he was a man after God's own heart and a excellent musician and songwriter. I'm a huge fan on so many levels.

Sting, because what a palette. What a musical journey? And it has been a long term goal to lead Sting and Bonnie Raitt to Christ.

5. Generally artistic integrity for me has been just as important as commercial success. I am constantly trying to figure out how to attain the both. That's the very short answer...

6. What in the world do I do RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!?????????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!
I have few regrets so it's hard to answer part II, but here goes. Get a team together that will allow you to do the parts that God created YOU specifically ASAP!!!!

7. I like the term Artist of Faith. It seems much more accurate and broad based than the other two. I'm not one for pigeon holing...

Bonus: This needs to be a year of reclamation and renovation on all three levels as last year was unbelievably... challenging and tumultuous. I very much believe I need a harvest this year and I am willing to receive from the Lord what that is supposed to look like and work like crazy to do my part. I would love it if the Lord would allow part of that to mean working with my family (extended as well) and creating opportunities for the artists I know, love and believe in.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Welcoming An Unbelievable 2015

This past year has been unbelievable. And as a dear and wise friend once told me, unbelievable is a word that cuts both ways...

2014 was truly unbelievable. We had more twists, turns and jolts in our life that a barrel of electric eels. We have more questions than answers in my professional life and in our future than I would care to right now. I had truly hoped that we would have a tremendous story of victory and promise by this time of this year. But that has not been yet occurred. I am striving to do and to be only what God wants me to be this year and I will fall, fail and rise up one more time than I fall...

There was a (hopefully wise) man who once wrote: "Don't know what God has in store for me, but I know His way is right. He didn't pick me up just to leave me in the night." I know this to be true. And though I don't always know, agree with or understand how events and situations in life can be worked out for my good, I have gained (thanks to a definitely wise and insightful man) an amazingly powerful understanding of what this passage really means and I am just about to start incorporating it into my biblical worldview.

Romans 8:28,29
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son...

I don't know what God has in store for us this year. I would be lying if I said I don't hope and pray that 2015 if vastly different from 2014 (read different as "better"). I would be incredibly ungrateful if I didn't say thank you God for 2014 for the amazing amount of love and recognizable blessing that I have had poured out on me and my family. 2014 has been filled with the blessings of marriages, and graduations, ups and downs, surprises great and terrible. It has truly been an unbelievable year and I pray that 2015 is (to be honest ) a more easily appreciated brand of unbelievable.

John 14:1
Jesus said, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me."

God bless you all (in ways that you can comprehend as blessings). I love you all but not nearly as much as He does.