Dear Joe…

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Friday, November 27, 2020

Dear Mr. Biden,

Sir, I want to congratulate you on an unprecedented and resounding victory in the 2020 presidential race. The outcome speaks volumes, of the hopes and expectations of the American people. Our democratic process has not failed us, despite the troubling times we are currently enduring. The people have spoken, and soon we will look to you to lead us into the future. You are ready for this. It is your time, Joe.

Among its many lessons, the Bible teaches us that God’s timing is not our own. Throughout the campaign process, many of your opponents made reference to the fact that you have spent 40 years of your lifetime within the political realm, supposedly without significant impact. I do not believe those statements to be true. You may have made controversial decisions in your political career, that may have alienated some. Sure, history may have recorded disparaging remarks made during the 1970s. You might not have done everything right. And yes, you have run for the office of the president of the United States of America several times; and lost. But, I believe all of those minor setbacks and trials had to be endured for such a time as this, Mr. Biden. You are a man of faith. So it should not be lost on you that, just maybe, God walked with you through the fire many times to prepare you for the leadership of this country, at a time when wisdom and experience would be needed the most.

We are in trouble. A house divided cannot stand; we are a house gravely divided. Unless we lift up a leader who can effectively reunite us as Americans, our demise is assured. History has taught us that powerful civilizations eventually topple; whether from the inside out, or by external forces, it happens. Personally, I would like to see our story be one of immense courage and an amazing rebound, in my lifetime; not the end of a great nation. I do not believe it to be a dramatic statement to say we are swiftly moving toward a point of no return.

You have to lead this nation. You have to unite this nation. And, you must do both with integrity, honesty and decency. These are traits Americans need to see and believe in again. You have to put us first. I think you are doing that, based on the choices you continue to make toward filling leadership roles. You seem to be purposely making decisions of inclusion, over favoritism, and these appointees seem to have much-needed experience. I see wisdom displayed. It’s a great start. But, you have to remember a team is only as good as its leader. Mr. Biden, you have to lead us. And, my hope is that you are putting God first in many of your decisions.  

Along the lines of integrity, honesty and decency, might I suggest focusing solely on what needs to be accomplished? Listen to your citizens. Hear us. And work on our behalf, for our good. Do what you promise. Tell the truth, and honor not only your word but your values. I found it disheartening to see our current leader focus on personal time off while the country as a whole continued to suffer from the unchecked effects of the pandemic of our lifetime. That (in my opinion) did not display true leadership, honesty, integrity or decency. And while I’m sure you know that as well, you have to be the man who ignores the failings of your predecessor, for the good of all of your citizens. Jesus never really put blame on the Pharisees, for the sinful state of the world. He simply came on the scene and did the work he was commissioned—by God—to do. He never played the blame game. You have to do the same, by remembering the race is over; the victor has been chosen; and that now, it is time to get down to work.

Remember those who made it possible for you to succeed. Remember the sacrifices of so many who never lived long enough to see your accomplishments. Remember the resilience of the millions of historically disenfranchised citizens, who stood up and collectively said, “Enough is enough”. Remember the courage of your former political opponents who rose up to support you, when you needed it most. Remember just how proud your son would be to see you now, and honor that thought with your actions, sir. In short, be presidential, Mr. Biden.

Now is your time. Get to work. We’re all counting on you.

You’re welcomed.

We’re Gonna Be Alright

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Let’s Recap Shall We?

In January, I turned 47 years old and found myself reflecting on life; where I was in the grand scheme; what I had contributed (if anything) in my previous 46 years; what I planned to do with the next 40 years (thinking optimistically of course). I had no idea of what was coming down the line for all of us. Honestly, my biggest concern in January was worrying about how best not to ruin the most important day of Mirranda Marcum’s young life, in the coming March, as the DJ of her and Tyler DeWitt’s wedding. It was the perfect ceremony by the way, if anyone wanted to know.

That very next weekend following the DeWitt’s marriage, the world shut down. And, things got ugly. 2020 dropped off a cliff.

My family lost our Mom in April. A childhood friend also fell victim to the pandemic. Truth be told, I think we all suffered on some level; whether close to us or an acquaintance of acquaintance. Everyone lost someone.

Division opened gaps politically, racially, economically, emotionally, spiritually and any other l.l.y. acronyms we can conjure up. People are mad at each other, even today. Whether the underlying issue is fear or anger doesn’t even matter right now. We’re divided.

Toilet paper became a sought-after treasure. I mean…seriously folks. I still need someone to explain to me why toilet paper became so important as a pandemic escaladed. Technically, food never stopped flowing. We were all too interested in making sure our butts were properly wiped.

To add insult to all of that injury, we seem to have lost faith in our government. You can choose a topic of discussion: the pandemic; the election; golf. It doesn’t matter. The American public generally feels duped by our governing bodies during 2020.

Now, Let’s Shift the Focus for a Minute

Sliding into the Thanksgiving Holiday, we’re headed back into quarantine as the 2020 pandemic rages on and our government is actively trying to negotiate a peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 election results. Folks are still angry…and fearful…and that makes for some truly delicate discussions not just among friends, but family as well. Even in the church community, tensions are at an all-time high. It seems that even God’s people are struggling with trusting that He’s in total control even now. And you know what? That’s okay. People are people. We’re all human and we’re all subject to the emotions that come as part of our humanity.

I saw a social media post today, where the writer wrote (in all caps),”WHERE ALL THE TRUMP SUPPORTERS AT NOW? I DON’T HEAR ANYBODY SAYING ANYTHING!” You know, a month ago I might have been riding the bandwagon of that Christian man who posted that. Today, I’m just tired of being a part of the problem. Today, I’d rather bone up on my bible reading and try to get myself back into the right frame of mind where I remember that Jesus loved on everyone despite their differences. I need that centered thinking, because in two days my wife is going to try to serve her family a Thanksgiving dinner without her Mom at the table for the first time…ever. The last thing I need to be concerned with is who’s mad at who now. It won’t just be my household either. Somewhere, the Sanders family will be missing a loved one at the table; so will the McAfees; and the McFays; and the Jones; and the Browns; and Williams. I think you get the idea.

So, What Do We Have to be Thankful for?

Celebrate the Small Victories

A few days ago, my oldest daughter and I went to a local car dealership. This wasn’t some whimsical decision. This kid had been saving her money for years, for a specific purpose. She was set on buying herself a new car. And so, over the course of roughly a month’s time, she did her due diligence by researching what she wanted and what she needed to do to get it. And after almost five hours spent at the dealership, she drove home in her new car. She never settled. She purchased exactly what she wanted.

There’s a point I want to make here. Later that night, we talked in the kitchen. I told my daughter to remember the small victories. Sure, the process may have been tedious. But, the end result was a victory.

I think this week, we all need to remember that. Looking back on 2020, there may not seem like a whole heck of a lot to be thankful for. But, I’m going to challenge each and every one of you to dig deep and find something to celebrate. It’s there friends. It may be hidden among the election results or the latest pandemic numbers, or the unemployment rate, or the big news about the stock market hitting 30,000 (I really can’t even believe…yes. Yes I can). We all have something to celebrate. And you know what else? I believe we’re all going to be alright. The dust will settle. It’s getting cold outside, but the Spring will eventually return. Tensions are flaring for now, but I think we’re all starting to tire of the constant animosity. This season of despair we’re in; this too shall pass. I’m going to be thankful for my family, and for my friends; for my job and for my health. I recently got a COVID test; actually the fifth time I’ve had that Q-tip stuffed up my nose. That experience never gets old. But I’m good. And so I’m going to celebrate that goodness. My kid bought her own car. She’s got her own insurance. That means I’m going to have a little more money moving forward (until Isaiah learns to drive next year). I’m going to celebrate that, too.

We’re gonna be alright. But we have to start somewhere. How about we start with each other?

Fist bump

We Are Americans

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The election is over and the Democratic candidates are now the president elect and the vice-president elect. The people have spoken, in what has been noted as the largest voter participation in the history of our nation. All over America, a mix of emotions can literally be read in the faces of its citizens. There are many who jubilantly celebrate the historic appointment of the nation’s first black woman as vice-president. There are those who celebrate the tenacity of a man who spent more than half of his life devoted to politics; failed to attain the presidency twice before, but gave it one more shot for the win. And then, there are those who genuinely grieve the political-loss of the most recent one-term president. America’s many faces tell the story today.

Now what?

If this election has taught me anything, it has solidified just how broken we still are. Even after the results were announced yesterday, social media hatred was alive and well, coming from both sides of the political line, shared by the common citizen and super-celebrity alike. Everyone is taking potshots. Some of us are kicking fellow Americans when they’re down, while others (among us) are cursing the celebrations as premature and fleeting. One thing is for sure; we’re not healing.

Allow me to share something for a moment. Folks, I give you: The New Colossus (Emma Lazarus 11/2/1883)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”

This is the poem adorned on the Statue of Liberty (just in case you didn’t know). It was supposed to represent what we, as a people, stand for. We’re all immigrants if you trace back our individual histories. As such, we should all be one people. That’s what the idea of America being great was supposed to be about; the giant melting pot. But, in the 244 years since our official establishment, we have not always seen accurate representation of all our citizens. Yesterday, for the first time in our 244-year history, a woman—not just any woman; but a woman of color—was chosen to hold the second highest position of leadership in our nation. Folks, I seriously need you to take a moment to put whatever your political allegiances are, to the side, and recognize this fact. We just elected a woman of color to become vice-president of the United States of America. In our 244-year history, that position has been held by white men! We—as a nation—just made history!

Just as the senator’s appointment to vice president is something that should be celebrated by all Americans, we should also be collectively mourning another historical event: the Corona Virus. In the 21st century, this pandemic is still running rampant. There is no vaccine. There is no cure. Its tole is devastating on the population of the entire world. While our national-economy should be a priority, we have to come to terms with the fact that…if we don’t do something about this pandemic, there will not be anyone left to comprise an economy. This isn’t a Democrat or Republican problem; it’s not even an American problem. This is a worldwide problem. And it didn’t just magically go away, while we were voting.

We have to stop fighting. We’ve been doing it for long enough. The new president elect is calling for unity in the nation, and I get that it’s going to take some folks longer than others to get onboard with his rallying cry. But we absolutely must do this. It’s bigger than political ties. Personally, I want my great-grandchildren to see an abundant life someday. That just doesn’t happen unless we all take to heart the words of “The Colossus”. Right now, we’re all tired and weary; and we’re taking out our frustrations on one another. We have to change that. We have to turn it around. My enemy shouldn’t be my neighbor, who voted Red. My church brother shouldn’t hate me because I voted Blue. We need each other. When we come together, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. That’s what we do, because we are Americans. Today is a brand new day. Let’s get to work. People, let’s get to work for each other.

What Do You Want To Do About That?

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Romans 8:28 (NLT): “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Hi. I’m back, and I want to share a story because it’s time…

The Old Testament book of I Samuel, chapter 8 introduces us to the nation of Israel turning away from God and asking for a King (to rule over them) in His stead. At the time, God’s representative—Samuel—was aging out of his appointment. Despite Samuel’s righteous heart, his two spoiled sons were dishonest men. The people didn’t want either of those characters to fill the roll of their father once he was gone, so they demanded that Samuel appoint a King to lead the nation after him. Israel had seen how the other nations of the world governed themselves, and wanted to be just like everyone else.

Naturally, Samuel was pretty put off by this ridiculous request, so he consulted the Lord, rather than make any emotional decisions. He went to God through prayer. And you know what? God answered him, basically saying (translated in Ennis vernacular),

“Hey, don’t worry about it, Sam. I’ve got you. You go on ahead and do whatever it is they want you to do. Just know they’re not disrespecting you or your service. No…they actually have the audacity to disrespect Me with this foolish request. So, you give the people what they want, but I want you to tell them precisely what they’re going to get, as a consequence of this request.”

And so it was, Samuel gave them permission to elect a king from among themselves. The people chose Saul. And God allowed it to happen. Saul was a handsome specimen of a man and honestly, that trait won him the position; that’s just about all he had going for him. Eventually, what Samuel warned against came to fruition in Israel’s first king. He did such a bad job at God-honoring leadership, that God removed His Spirit from Saul and placed it over a young man who would go on to be called, “A man after God’s own heart”. That young man was king David.

America was supposed to be built on the principles and beliefs of God-honoring men. Now, history is rife with instances of those same founding-fathers failing to uphold God’s two most important decrees (Love the Lord your God with all your mind, soul, and spirit and love your neighbor as yourself), but they at least attempted to somewhat build our country around some version of what they decided God’s word meant to them. Again…not even close to perfection, but that’s another discussion for another time. As time marched on, our nation has strayed farther and farther away from God’s word. In the process, we’ve somehow managed to redefine what it means to be Christian. Our culture has successfully interwoven into the very fabric of our faith; so much so that the average person can’t recognize many self-proclaimed Christians by their behavior anymore; by their fruit. We are just like everyone else in the world, instead of being world changers.

The saga of the current administration leading right into the present days following the election, reminds me of the story of Saul. There are Christians among us who vehemently support the idea of God appointing the current president to office. And you know what? I would agree with them, but for extremely different reasoning. God did (in fact) put him in that seat, within the oval office. He did so, just as he gave Samuel permission to appoint Saul as Israel’s first king. He did so, just as he appointed king Nebuchadnezzar power to take into captivity the southern kingdom. Now to be fair, Israel didn’t ask for King Nebuchadnezzar. He was sent as punishment. The point I’m making in including him, is that God was—and is—always in control.

Our current president is a flawed man, just as all men are. None of us are perfect. By the democratic process our country is privileged to have, he was nominated and elected to be our commander-in-chief. In truth, we all knew what type of character he possessed long before he was appointed. Yet, despite the warning, he was given an opportunity to lead this country in a God-honoring way.

Many of my Christian brothers and sisters out there have stood behind him and supported his every decision. Just as King Saul had loyal subjects who saw absolutely no wrong in his leadership, Christ-followers were (and are) willing to ignore many of the president’s character flaws to support his politics. Today—at this very hour—the sanctity of the democratic process is being challenged by some of those very followers choosing to overlook character flaw for personal victories. The man in charge is attacking the democracy which placed him in power.

But it’s really not the politics that disappoint me right now. It’s the way we’ve all deteriorated into treating one another, as a result of the politics. This political climate has really revealed what is in the hearts of each and every one of us. It’s downright scary. It’s shameful. It’s the opposite of what it really means to be Christian.

I’ve personally shouted to the heavens, “Forty-five is not my president!”. I’ve unfriended many people that I once felt safe speaking to. I’ve argued my points, rebutted differing opinions and stopped speaking with close friends. Family, this is within the body of Christ I’m talking about here! It’s not just me either. It’s all of us. Right now, if you’re taking the time to read through this, you’re thinking of someone you’re disappointed in; someone maybe you had to block; someone who shared a different political view than you. We’ve all lost sight of what it truly means to follow God.

In the last few days, I’ve seen Christians hold emergency prayer meetings in favor of the president retaining his position, lest the challenger win, and the world goes straight to hell. Likewise, I’ve seen Christians hold emergency prayer meetings in favor of the former vice-president winning the election by landslide to ensure the utmost humiliation of the current administration. The social media memes are by far the worst. Christians are mocking opposing camps in deplorable ways. To add insults to the many injuries, Christians from both sides of the political line are calling on like-minded brethren to pray for their specific candidate’s victory, while simultaneously calling on all Christians to pray for God to heal our land.

Really?! What’s that got to do with God’s will being done?  

Saul—despite his many victories in battle—was a major failure when it came to serving the LORD. He used the people to his advantage, and still they followed him. Yet, God allowed this to happen. He gave Israel exactly what they asked for. Today, we are reaping what we’ve sown in this country for generations. We’ve turned our backs to God, and He’s given us exactly what we’ve asked for along with everything that comes with it. Despite these hard facts, we’ve still chosen to put our faith and prayers into these two candidates first, while continuing to hate and ignore one another because of our differences in opinions. Satan…right now…is winning. Don’t kid yourself, believer. Right now, while you’re awaiting the victor of this 2020 election, the real winner is him. We asked for him.

What do you want to do about that?  

Honestly, I don’t need you—any of you—to agree with my thoughts. But I need you to think about your own heart for a moment, and really consider where it is…right now.

Some of us are leaving our home church over race relations. Some have stopped speaking to brothers and sisters because they have different political views. Some have decided that there’s nothing wrong with our nation that wasn’t caused until (insert whatever). Some have simply decided that Christianity is a sham, based on how we’re treating each other. So, the question still stands.

What do you want to do about that?

Romans 8:28 is special for me, because it puts my life into perspective. If I love God, then I have to believe that all things—all things—will work out ultimately for my good, because I’m called according to his purpose. That means, instead of me praying to God to put my choice in candidate into the oval office, I’m going to pray that His will be done, no matter what that might look like in my eyes. His vision is a lot stronger and longer than mine ever will be. I’m not going to pray for what I want. Rather I’m going to pray for what God wants, and I’m simply going to choose to accept His decision. History has proven, if I turn my back on Him and He gives me what I’ve asked for selfishly, the results can be quite disastrous.

Keepin’ It Movin’

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Acts 13:50-52

“But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

Those who stood to lose much within the region banded together to have Paul and Barnabas thrown out, when they realized the message of God was gaining traction. The scriptures tell us that the prominent women and the chief men were responsible for this ousting. Rather than allow the injustice to sidetrack them into focusing on the unfair treatment they’d received, the bible tells us that Paul and Barnabas simply shook the “dust from their feet” and moved on to another location. Once there, their message was received openly and as a result, many disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

Paul and Barnabas never lost sight of the target. They were always about the business of preaching the message of God; the gospel of Jesus Christ and proclaiming just who Jesus is, to those unaware. Injustices and difficulties—although prominent during their mission—never really dissuaded them.

How many times have we been sidetracked by negative commentary? As creatives, how many times have we parked our passion just because someone said something negative about our work? How often do we procrastinate getting back to the business of our calling(s) due to fear of rejection?

Ooohhh, I’m speaking to somebody out there!

Paul and Barnabas didn’t allow the prominent people of the region to shut them down. They simply moved on to someplace else, and continued with their mission. And the results were huge!

We’re in a difficult season right now, people. We have been since early in the year. But, don’t allow the things going on around us to slow you down; to deflate you. Stay true to your purpose. As children of God, we should know what the greater purpose for our lives already is.

Paul and Barnabas would go on to see even more tumultuous times than this one incident in Antioch. Yet, each time they encountered resistance, they kept it movin’. Despite 2020’s best efforts to demoralize God’s children, we have to stand firm, even if that means picking ourselves up after a particularly nasty fall. We have to brush the dust, and keep our feet in motion. Forward always.

Fix Our Division, Lord…

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I want to speak to the church today. It’s Sunday afternoon, and pastors all over our nation have been actively preaching a message of peace, getting back to God and loving one another as we love ourselves. The message is warranted; it’s true and it’s definitely needed. But there is an underlying problem with the act of putting the message into practice. Please don’t misinterpret what I just said. God’s Word is not the problem. The issue is us…the church.

The world is experiencing interesting yet frightening and frustrating times right now. In the second half of 2020, things seem to be increasingly worse at face value, and as we are accustomed to doing, we tend to point fingers at the problem to place blame; as if identifying a culprit might bring some sort of closure. And there is where the problem surfaces. We—the church—are actively participating in the blame game, just like the world.

Social media is rife with the “righteous” arguments of some believers spouting their opinions on how well the current president is doing; but also saturated with the opinions of other believers—who speak about serving the same God—who are just as passionate and “righteous” about the horrible job the same president is doing. These two sides are so split on their views, that’s it actually causes unspoken division within the church. Now, I say unspoken, because in many instances, these differences of opinions never surface when the brethren meet face to face. But the differences are blatantly displayed in social media; the hatred for one-another apparent; all over a man of flesh and blood.

The same can be said regarding the hot-button issue of racial injustice. There are Christians who choose to turn a blind eye to the inequalities within the church, while there are those who are outspoken regarding these issues. Let me back up for a minute. Did you get that? Within.The.Church. Some Christians tend to forget that this very same issue was addressed in the early years of the first church. It didn’t just magically disappear. It’s still a thing.

The point I’m making is this: these are only two examples of the big issue we have. We—the church—are not united. We are, in fact, divided. Because of this division, we are having a hard time influencing those around us, because we’re too busy behaving the way they do. Most “church-folk” are familiar with the scripture of Mark 3:25, but how many of us actually believe in it? I would go so far as to say, not many because I see the social media arguments; I see the rhetoric; I see the written jabs between two Christians on opposing sides of any given argument. We’re divided. We can’t make a difference in the world this way.

Now, I’m not writing this to say, “We’ve failed”. I’m writing it to open up dialogue. There will no doubt be brethren who will be offended at the words written, and feel the need to either defend their opinions, or worse, say nothing at all, but harbor a secret hate for my own opinions. And honestly, either is okay. I think there was a reason Jesus chose 12 very different individuals as His apostles. I’m sure they didn’t always see eye to eye. But when it came to following Him, they were of one accord. That was the key. When it came to following Jesus, they put their personal opinions aside and locked arms in support of Him. Church, we’re not doing that today. Today, we’re willing to side with whichever brother or sister best sides with our own personal world views.

I’m not excluded in this perversion of our human failures. Those who know me best know my feelings on politics. I’ve lost “friends” and “family” because of my political beliefs. I’ve harbored hatred in my own heart over political comments written by “church-family”. I’m just as guilty of contributing to our division as anyone else. And these days, I feel that burden heavy on my heart like never before in my lifetime. I’ve placed God second to the influences of the world. And when faced with trying to put Him first, the enemy is quick to remind me of what sister so-n-so said about my chosen-candidate, or how brother so-n-so commented on black folks’ complaints of injustice. These are real feelings coming from people I’m expected to love and trust as I love and trust myself. This is the church. And I’m contributing to that yeast.

We—the church—have to change that. It can’t be superficial; it has to be deep. We have to make a conscious effort every day to put aside our personal opinions and really seek God’s grace; His mercy; His wisdom. Right now, our house isn’t dividing; it’s divided past tense. The message of “trust in Jesus” has to be more than mere words for all of us, because truthfully, we’re not living that out. If you’re offended by that statement, then there’s your proof. We—the church—have to be united under the banner of Christ.

If I can really keep it 100% with you today, I’ll share what my wife already knows. This thing is so heavy on my heart today, I find it hard to pray for America to be blessed. When I hear the words, “We need to pray for America,” that sounds foreign to me. I find it comforting instead to pray for God’s will to be done in all of our lives; whatever that may look like in the coming days, weeks, months…or years. I trust Him to do what He’s going to do. I’m trying to place Him first, over the prosperity of our country. I’m trying my hardest to pray for God to soften my heart to well-meaning brothers and sisters of faith, in these troubling times. I’m trying to pray for us to be united under Him, first. If we can do that, I think He can fix us. If we can be fixed, maybe we really can change the world. But, that change is only going to come when we–the church–start at home. We have to search our own hearts and give whatever divides us over to the Lord.  Only then, can there be real and lasting healing.    

There Is No Title

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I think the best thing about having a blog is the spontaneity and honesty of a post. I’ve been told by a lot of really good writers—including a few professionals who shall remain nameless—that serious writers never print anything without thinking it through. Personally, I don’t believe that. Sometimes, my best work comes out of whatever happens to be on my heart in the moment. It took me years to build up the courage to share my personal thoughts with the general public, and now that I am comfortable with expressing who I am through my writing, I try not to follow the advice of what others may think. I also try not to care too much about how my message is received. You can’t please everyone, after all. Someone’s bound to be offended by what’s written or said. And with that, I’m ready to talk about it. You don’t really need to ask what “it” is.

By now, if you don’t know the name George Floyd, you’re in a coma in some hospital; or you’re part of the problem whether you want to believe that or not. Yeah, it’s really that simple. Even the Amish know who he was, and are actually showing support. Racism isn’t new to this nation. It’s always been here, since the first colonists arrived, and forcibly took the land from its original owners. Facts…as the cool kids like to say today. Chances are high that if you are a man or woman of color, you have or definitely will experience some form of racism—subtle or blatant—in your lifetime. Racism didn’t just magically appear with the murder of George Floyd. The sad reality in the black community is that he’s the latest high profile victim. That statement doesn’t diminish the importance of what happened; it doesn’t blanket the significance of the impact on Mr. Floyd’s family who have to go on with life without him. It doesn’t soften the hurt of an entire race of people who have to once again bury their collective feelings and get on with the business of life. No…that statement is our way of life. It keeps happening. I don’t think a lot of my white friends and family truly understand that kind of hurt. It.Keeps.Happening.

The first time I was called a nigger, I was too young to understand the pride of my skin tone. So when it happened, and because I was surrounded by so many peers who were the same color as the kid who spouted the slur, I felt ashamed. I never told my parents. I buried it. Just about every time after that one, when I faced racism, I buried it…deep. But I want you to understand I didn’t just get it from white people, you see. Over my lifetime, I’ve been called many things by my own people, because of my wife’s skin tone. I’ve been told I wasn’t black enough; or I hated myself so much, I had to go out and get “one of them”; or (this is the one that NEVER gets old) I’m the whitest black person ever. The point here is that racism isn’t exclusive to the white community. People of all races believe in it. People of all races wield it like the weapon it was designed to be. It happens to hurt me personally as a black man, living in a country built on it.

Honestly, I believe the church is struggling to deal with this. Don’t get me wrong, and don’t take anything out of context. I believe a lot of good pastors out there in the world are really trying their best to address the issue of racism using God’s Word, as they should be. They have a difficult task ahead of them. I pray for my own lead-pastor constantly, because he’s the shepherd of a diverse congregation. I can see how many pastors are overwhelmed or frustrated with the continued division plaguing the world despite their best efforts. “How in the world did the church of Antioch do it,” I imagine many of them asking God. The problem isn’t God obviously. I think it may be difficult for some pastors to truly understand how hard it is for some of their congregation to find—and hold onto—faith when they (the pastors) haven’t lived the life of someone perpetually discriminated against because of the color of their skin. It’s hard for them to fully empathize with our—my—deep hurt. While I understand the message of “Give it to Jesus, and He will heal” that message doesn’t always know how heavy that burden really is for some of us.

This past weekend, I watched DJ Jazzy Jeff do his usual live set, from his home studio. But this session was different. Jeff labelled it “Resist” and for the first few moments of the set, Jeff simply sat behind the turntables, played a Donnie Hathaway song, and broke down in tears right there on camera. Man…I felt that. Thousands of miles away from this brother who doesn’t even know the name Ennis Smith, I really felt his pain. That pain was deep. As I wiped my own tears away, I remember thinking, “I’m so tired of this happening to us.” In that moment, I remembered the first time I was called a nigger; and I remember the first time I physically fought back. From my own basement, I was with Jeff. Jeff was with Dr. King in that moment spanning time. Dr. King was with Malcolm. Malcolm was with Colin. In that one moment in time, every black man who has ever experience some form of systemic racism throughout time’s history was with Jeff; was with Ennis; was with LaDon; was with Steven; was with Eric; was with Maurice; was with Dave; was with Shunbe; was with Marlon; was with Van Alan; was with Kovan, was with…∞

Family, we can’t just turn it off, and bravely hand it over to the Lord. It’s exhausting. It’s especially hard for us, because when we try our best to give that pain—that deep pain—to the Lord, we’re quickly reminded of its continued existence with another fresh incident. And just like that, the hurt is back in full color. Do I now have to seriously worry about jogging in my predominantly white neighborhood? Do I have to worry about the validity of the $20 bill in my pocket? Do I have to even reconsider participating in any form of a civil and peaceful protest? I don’t personally doubt the Lord; let’s get that straight. I just find it extremely disappointing that I have to see, hear and experience another instance where a man who looks like me is treated less than his peers of an opposite color. It gets old. Jesus’ timeframe is not the same as my own. I don’t doubt Him. I struggle with patience.

The irony of the backlash of the George Floyd incident is that just a few short years ago, Colin Kaepernick used his celebrity platform to stage a personal protest against this very issue, and America at large refused to listen. America at large labelled him an uppity negro; a spoiled and entitled NFL Superstar who should be thankful for his place in the world. He was cast out of his profession because he stood up for and against the very oppression that killed George Floyd. Today, social media is flooded with photos and stories of some of those very same people who shunned him for his stance, now kneeling in agreeance with his original protest. Instead of joy over this turn of events, I feel anger at the fickle behavior of the born-privileged. This newfound disdain for racism is suddenly appalling to many folks who have never experienced it before. It’s not new to me, or to people who look like me. The photos are nice. They make for good fuzzies. But the question beckons, are people—ALL people—finally ready to do something real about erasing it? Or is this just another thing for people to get behind for the moment.

One more thing. America, since you’re now on the bandwagon, you owe Colin a sincere apology.             

The Tongue

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Scripture uses the human body to represent the living body of Christ–the church. Each hand has a function; the feet have a job to do; the eyes do their part by giving sight; ears contribute hearing; so on, and so forth. Then, there is that one body-part; the black sheep of the family; that one cousin in the family everyone knows about. When it behaves, everything is great. The problem comes when it misbehaves and, if we’re honest with ourselves, that happens more often than we’d like to admit.

James 3:9-10 (CEV) says, “My dear friends, with our tongues we speak both praises and curses. We praise our Lord and Father, and we curse people who were created to be like God, and this isn’t right.” This historic pandemic has really put control of the tongue to the test for a lot of us. Whether we’re dealing with the confinement of our familiar surroundings, or simply growing weary of seeing the same people every single day, how we respond in speech to our loved ones can have a lasting impact on them. Short tempers tend to give the tongue permission to fly off without caution.

I know I’ve personally said some pretty harsh things to my family over the last three months. Like James said, it just isn’t right. We–as the body of Christ–are supposed to speak life and affirmation into those around us. Especially those we love the most.

Today, be intentional with your speech. Let your spouse know how much they mean to you. Tell your kids how much you love them. And, when you feel the negativity of confinement creeping up the back of your neck today, do your best to stifle it, and speak words of encouragement instead.

We have a choice in how we use that small yet power member within our mouths. We can either speak life or speak death. Choose to speak life today.

*Always*

For My Ma

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April 22, 2020–She went home

Lord, I wonder if it would be alright for me to go ahead and write to her. I’m trusting that you have her in your company, and that she’s in the presence of family and friends; celebrating you for eternity. So…this is for me…

Ma,

Almost twenty years ago, I picked up an old tattered bible you had given to me, at a time when things in my life were looking pretty bad. I sat alone in my bedroom—in the dark—holding on to that bible; terrified of actually opening it. I remember speaking the words, before I ever believed.

“God, if you’re real, I don’t want to be afraid of this book anymore.”

That night, I started reading…and never really stopped. That date was June 26, 2000. If you’d never given me that bible, I might not be the man I am today.

The first time I heard you sing, was at Faith church, back when the building was small and the means were meager. You sang a solo, accompanied by a small radio playing a cassette recording of instrumental music. I remember how nervous and fidgety you were, gripping that small microphone for dear life. But, once you began to sing, it was like the fear melted away, and you suddenly found the strength to use the gift God gave you, to do precisely what it was made for. In that moment, I was blown away.

Ma, your obsession with collecting knickknacks was maddening, let me tell you. I don’t know how you were able to maintain such a collection and manage to keep everything clean over the years! But, where your knickknacks stressed me out, your cooking made me feel right at home. No one will ever be able to recreate the greenbean casserole that became a personal staple (for me) of our family holiday get-togethers. And, I’m convinced that over the years, you made it just for me; because you loved me so much.

In all the years you were a part of my life, you never once said an angry word, or expressed a disapproving sentiment to me, about my life. You always found a way to encourage me, no matter what my latest “thing” happened to be. When I wrote, you were one of my biggest fans. When the church voted me in as a deacon, you were so proud. And I took pride in knowing how proud you were of me. You always gave me positive encouragement on being a dad, and that really meant a lot, because it was something I never really received from my parents. You always made me feel worthy of being with your daughter. I needed that approval.

Ma, I wasn’t the best son. I should have visited more often. I was critical of your health at times. I was vocal, when I felt that you weren’t trying your best. And during those periods in your life when you were out of church, I was resentful. You knew me well enough to know that’s how I was and yet, you still loved me unconditionally. Instead of being bitter about my behavior, you kept on loving me.

I will miss your loving hugs. I’ll miss our deep conversations, even though they were few and far in between. I’ll miss your voice, telling me you love me after every visit. I’ll miss your birthday texts. Every year, you were always the first to get to me. Ma, I’m gonna miss your encouragement. My hope is that I never lose sight of the Lord, because I hope to see you as one of my first family greeters, when my time comes to join you in His presence.

Love, Enn

Thanks Lord. Make sure she gets the message, please.

 

Cabin Fever

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I’ll tell you what people, if planet earth were a person, he’d be laughing at Michigan right about now. Not only are we three weeks into our Social-Distancing routine but, on top of that, we have to deal with a freak Spring snow storm? Okay…I’m sorry. I retract my previous statement. In the great state of Michigan, we’re used to dealing with fluctuating weather patterns, so this really shouldn’t be a shock to us. Nik Estermyer and Nate Smith are both probably walking around in summer-shorts right now, and Donna Sherman is probably getting ready to post a picture on Facebook, celebrating early Christmas 2020–if it isn’t already up.

P.S., I love you three, and I miss you.

So…here we are. It’s Friday the 17th of April. Tax season is suspended. Tigers Opening Day: suspended. Malls: closed. Sit-in restaurants: closed. Seems like just a week ago, I wrote about some of the beauty seen in this quarantine-season of our lives. Now, I’m not retracting from that message at all. Today, I just want to talk about the other side of that message; the dark side, if I can call it that. If the beauty can be found outside, I think it’s safe to say we’re all starting to feel the effects of the dark side within.

I’m starting to notice my kids are bravely telling me, more and more often by the way, “Dad, bring it down. Your authoritative voice is on again”. Yesterday, I was looking for my son, and was calling out his name, as if we live in a 150,000 sq. ft. home. Zeek appeared from the bathroom and said, “Can you hear yourself right now?”

I’m doing it again, aren’t I?”

“Yeah, you’re so loud.”

My bad, lil’ dude. I’ll bring it down.”

So, yeah. There’s the raised voice thing. But that’s just one symptom I’m picking up on. Here’s another. How come all of a sudden, all junk food seems to be appealing to me? Three days ago, I went out to the grocery to pick up a few items. Among those, were a bag of my daughter’s favorite “Cheddar-Cheese” potato chips. At home, I brought the bag out.

Jordynn took a glance at that bag in my hand and said, “You’re not gonna eat all of them this time, are you?”

What?” That’s all I had. She had a point. I couldn’t rebut.

Let’s review the list, thus far. Irritability: check. Binge-snacking: check. Here’s the big one.

I’ve always been somewhat of a night-owl. As a writer and a musician (if I can call myself either), it’s really no problem for me to work until 12AM and still get up for work around 6AM. But this is different. These days, I find myself staring in the direction of the ceiling at 3AM, wondering when I’ll finally drift off. When I do, it’s pretty tough to raise up by 8AM. One day, this week, I actually slept until 9:50AM! Morning nuked. It’s not even so much the late hours that I’m up; the problem is…I’m not doing anything constructive! I’ve got no motivation to accomplish anything at that hour. I just want to sleep! Even my cats are out by the time I make it to bed.

Cabin Fever people. Cabin Fever. The irritability, the snacking, the insomnia; it all adds up and it stinks. I don’t think it would be so bad, if the weather were more…oh…I don’t know…Springy, maybe? Is that even a term? But this late winter push, we’ve got going on is a real downer. So I think it forces me to come up with alternatives. I’ve got nothin’. And the “nothin'” is driving me insane.

Anybody remember “The Neverending Story”? Bastian’s fight against “The Nothing”? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Sorry. I digress. Sleep-deprivation and all.

So, what do we do, and how do we go about combating Cabin Fever? Well, I can’t really answer that question for you, because I’m no expert. I’m just coming to terms with the fact that I’m actually dealing with this very real syndrome, in the first place. But let me give you some parting words of encouragement. You’re not alone. Chances are, if you’re up at night, so am I. You’re not the only one barking at your family these days. And don’t feel too bad, if you notice junk food wrappers in abundance. We’re all fighting the fight now. But, we’ll all get through it together…at a distance of course.

In closing, I work for a great company, with some truly talented people. One guy in particular–Mr. Mark Holloway–heads up our company Health and Safety program. Mark’s a pretty cool guy, who genuinely has the best interest of his peers in mind. For our monthly safety meeting, Mark took the time to shoot a YouTube video on the effects this pandemic might be projecting on all of us. I definitely thought this was worth sharing with my supporters, friends and family. While I may not have any real answers for you, I think Mark might. Take a look; be safe; keep reading; keep praying; and I’ll catch you all on the next one.

Coolest Safety-Officer I know. If he says it, you can believe it.