Today’s Reality

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Let me tell you a true story.

One Sunday afternoon, I swung a wide arc and nimbly banked my little FORD Fiesta into our driveway, at a good speed. My daughters enjoyed the quick ride. As I jumped out of the car, a glance right pricked an alarm in my gut. Two cop cars were turning the corner and approaching slowly. Honestly family…I thought I was about to get pinched for speeding, right there in front of my daughters. The first car slowly rolled up to my driveway, while the second car cut off the intersection two houses down. I slowly walked toward the cop in my driveway, as his passenger-side power window lowered.

“We’re looking for a black male wearing an orange shirt,” the white officer said. There was a momentary awkward pause. “He just broke into a house, and was seen running through backyards.”

There wasn’t much for me to say, since I was clearly wearing the same green polo I’d worn to church 30 minutes prior. The officer slowly pulled off. There was no further incident or interaction between us. For me, that was just another moment in my life where I’d come into contact with the police. Nothing bad happened. In fact, I barely noticed when the same two cop cars slowly circled around my house several times.

But my white wife noticed. For the first time in her life, she really noticed…and it scared her. For the first time, she got a glimpse of what black folks all over this great nation of ours experience regularly. Reality upset her.

That police officer was (and is ) probably a good cop. I did nothing outside of the law. He didn’t harass me, and I never antagonized him. But watching them circle our block and constantly slow down in front of our home several times showed her something she never had to face before; something she’ll never forget. She didn’t like it one bit. And now–in light of recent events–my wife is genuinely afraid for her husband and sons. She sent me a text message this morning, when I expressed sorrow over the second shooting in two days. It was simultaneously sweet and heart-wrenching at the same time, because now I see that my love understands a harsh truth that most of America blatantly denies.

“You be careful out there. I NEED you to come home everyday!”


I am angry. I am sad. I am frustrated. I think it’s a shame that an underlying mentality still exists in which an individual race is constantly subjected to treatment that simply is not tolerated among other races. Since the shootings of both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have gone viral, I’ve seen photos of Sterling and his children holding pistols toward the camera. I’ve read rap sheets. I heard people get on the radio and try to speculate about the events that led up to both shootings, before the “cameras began rolling”. I’ve seen and heard enough material over social media to recognize that people are actually trying to paint a picture of men who got what they deserved, based on their life choices.

That’s nonsense.

Not all cops are bad. But, there are always a few bad apples that cause enough damage to prove that bad apples do exist within the barrel of our government’s law enforcement. I don’t care how unruly a “suspect” may turn, lethal force should be the last resort; not the second or third option.

I witnessed the shooting video of Alton Sterling before I realized what I was watching, because the original footage had no flashy title across my social media feed. I had no idea I was about to witness a murder. I really wish I could tell you I was stunned and at a loss for words. But the truth is this: in recent years, this type of injustice has happened so much to my race that each new occurrence no longer invokes paralytic surprise. It invokes rage. Jesus help me, I’m angry. I’m not angry with those who actually uphold the law, no matter what color they are. I’m angry with a 21st century system that continues to fail at upholding equality for all of its citizens, despite their ethnicity.

If you actually believe racism doesn’t exist in the greatest country in the world, you’re blind. When I was a kid, and teachers would ask us what we might choose to be when we grew up, there were always a few kids who wanted to be cops. Today, I have to diligently teach my sons to respect authority, not only because it’s the right thing for them to do, but because their lives could literally depend on how they respond to officers. That’s a scary thought. The reality that a routine traffic stop could escalate to death by gunshot is troubling.

People, we have to do better. I’m not just talking about some of us. We all have to be better. I don’t know what that looks like in this day and age, so I really can’t offer advice. That’s not what I’m writing about anyway. I’m just tired of seeing or hearing about another case of injustice against folks who look like me. Let’s be clear: it is happening everywhere, whether cellphones are recording or not. And I’m sick of it happening. We’ve got to do better. We have to stop it from repeatedly happening.

I seriously don’t want my wife to get a call explaining the unthinkable has happened to her husband or one of her sons. I’ll bet to some of you, that sounds a little dramatic. Ten years ago, I’ll bet the idea of witnessing a murder seemed like the stuff of movies didn’t it? Tell that to Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Today is reality.

 

 

 

Spider On The Wall

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I must have sat in my chair, watching this spider traverse the wall for about five minutes, before I got up and crossed the room. The moment I got close…it stopped moving. I imagined its tiny mind reasoning something like,

“Okay. I’m totally invisible. He doesn’t see me. He won’t see me, as long as I stay right here.”

So we were at a stalemate. I stood there staring at the spider and found myself admiring its unwavering determination to fake me out. Unmoving. Not a single leg trembled.

“You’re good,” I said. “But I still see you.”

I got to thinking…don’t we handle our problems in the same manner, sometimes? Think about it, for a moment. Have you ever been confronted with a situation and instead of facing it head on–dealing with it–you freeze. You don’t do anything.

“If I don’t move, maybe it’ll go away. It can’t see me.”

How foolish is that logic?!

I splattered that spider with my Nike. Then I decided to never again hide from my problems. They don’t just disappear after all.

 

Hawaii Praise

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Ephesians 3:20 (NIRV) – “God is able to do far more than we could ever ask for or imagine. He does everything by his power that is working in us.”

My buddy Dan just sent a photo of his vacation in Hawaii. He’s standing atop a green peak, in a tank-top, shorts and shades, yelling at the powder blue sky. In the background, I see a green expanse of flatland far below. The crystal blue ocean pans out to the left. Dan’s about to get married in August, so he took this time to spend a few days with a military buddy, in the beautiful Hawaiian atmosphere.

As I study the picture, I’m genuinely happy for my young friend. As a young engineer, he’s worked extremely hard and avoided some of life’s more precarious pitfalls. He deserves a vacation every once in awhile. Why not Hawaii?

I was just finishing up reading Ephesians chapter 3 (during my lunch break in cubetown), when the photo came through on my cell phone. A wide grin stretched across my face, as I texted him back, “YES!!!”.

Then I thought, “Man, I will never be able to do something like that, in my lifetime.”

I was immediately convicted by those condemning words. What do I really believe about God and his omnipotent power? What did I just finish reading? If I truly believe the Spirit of God dwells within me, why would I ever doubt his ability to take my family farther than we could possibly imagine?

If it is within his plan for my life, the Lord can do anything, take me anywhere and affect change through anyone, using me as one of his many instruments. That’s what the apostle Paul was teaching the Ephesians. We tend to think in the 3 dimensional realm of our current circumstances at any given moment. Those circumstances often dictate what the outcome will look like. But how many of us know that God is not–nor will he ever be–confined by 3 dimensions?  His dimensional scope defies physics, economics, logic(s) and any other “ics” we can come up with.

Dan, I’m gonna need you to mark that spot on the hilltop. Someday, I’ll make it there, if the Lord is willing to have me go do his work in Hawaii. When the camera snaps, my voice will be lifted high in praise to God, for making the seemingly impossible miraculously possible.

Checking In, Family

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Hey there. Did you like Just Ask, Doofus? I hope you enjoyed it. It’s been awhile since I wrote a good fiction short, so that one last night was a joy to watch take shape. I say take shape because a lot of times, that’s just how my writing progresses. I’ve heard of folks jotting down notes, typing outlines, or crafting organized ideas to write a single short story. Meh. My brain doesn’t work that way. Most times, it’s a simple idea that jumpstarts the story within. Before I know it, I’m just going along for the ride. Most times, I’m just as surprised as some of my readers at what comes out through the process. Don’t get me wrong, family. Writing is a process. Writing well is a practiced process.

That’s actually why I’m checking in tonight. Nineteen days ago, I challenged you all to step up your writing game; not so much as an all out competition among one another, rather for the sake of us all growing stronger as Wordsmiths. We can’t grow in our craft if we aren’t writing, right? So this is just a little pep-cheer to stoke that fire, baby!

Maybe this year you’re new to blogging. Well, let me welcome you and say, “Congratulations”! You made the big step in sharing your work! Now, let me further challenge you. There are twelve months in a year. I propose that you make a diligent effort to write and share four posts a month. But that’s not all. I also challenge you to subscribe to or follow at least one new blog every month in 2016. Nothing encourages a writer like support from peers. I plan to follow the blogs of every person who reads and likes this check-in post. I can’t grow in my craft, if I’m not reading and supporting fellow writers. So let’s get moving people! 2016 is in full swing! Expect greater things to happen with your writing this year!

I’m working on another short that I’m planning to share tomorrow. If you liked the last one, I encourage you to check back with me, either late Wednesday or early Thursday. Until then, get those fingers tapping. I need some good stuff to read!

Proverbs 10:4 (NKJV) – “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”

Hey! No Take-Backs!

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We all know that one person (somewhere in our circle) constantly obsessing over, “Man, if I could go back and do it over again,” or “If I could go back in time and make better decisions”. Well guess what? You can’t! Hey, there are no take-backs in life!

Last night, my wife and I watched a movie and I heard a particularly clever anecdote. The main protagonist’s boss said to her, “You know, my grandfather had a saying: ‘Life is like a coin. You can spend it on anything you want, but you can only spend it once.'” That was good, and gave me pause to consider how much time we spend dwelling in the past when things don’t go our way.

What’s the point of brooding over setbacks? Time travel is not a reality, so we need to keep on pushing forward despite our obstacles. Can you imagine where we’d be today if both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates stopped forward movement because they couldn’t reach beyond past failures? Yikes! I might be pecking away on a manual typewriter right now.

So, on this 2nd day of the New Year of 2016, I challenge you to leave your past behind. I don’t care if you tried something and bombed spectacularly. Remember the lesson learned, but leave the failure behind. Go forth my child, and conquer!

That is all. Happy Saturday, friends.

Write Intentionally

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Happy New Year fellow wordsmiths! This year, my church is taking on a new vision for 2016: “Believe For Greater Things”. Personally, I plan to not only put that into practice spiritually, but literally as well; especially where my writing life is concerned. So many of us have writing talent. If we refuse to cultivate that talent, we run the risk of losing it. You know what I’m saying? You’ve heard the old adage—use it or lose it.

For years, I’ve limited my writing to moments when the spirit moved me. Sometimes, I would write for seven days straight. Other times, I would pause for seven months without so much as a 200-word blog post. If I truly plan to make noise within the writing community, my writing can’t be sporadic. I have to write intentionally.

So this year, I challenge my writing friends to do the same: write intentionally, family. Take notes of your surroundings; jot down your emotional state at any given moment; write about your day; blog about that dinner your aunt cooked for the holidays; pen song lyrics. Whatever it is, write it—everyday, write something. Everyday.

Pastor-Dad, have you been putting off the start of your memoirs? Momma Tosha, are you ready to start journaling? Tuck, are you ready to start penning your words of wisdom for your sons? Sherry, ready to start that novel you’ve been dreaming of? Kim, is this the year you begin that book you know you’ve got inside of you? Lindsay, ready for round two of your awesome story-telling? Family, the year is brand new! Let’s get started! Let’s do some writin’!

23 Work at everything you do with all your heart. Work as if you were working for the Lord, not for human masters. 24 Work because you know that you will finally receive as a reward what the Lord wants you to have. You are slaves of the Lord Christ. – Colossians 3:23-24 (NIRV)

 

*always*

Everyday Struggles

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This morning, I walked into my supervisor’s office fully planning to plead my case for a merit review. In my opinion, I think I deserve a decent raise based on my consistent performance for the past few years. After 30 minutes of conversation, I left his office with the realization that he’s fighting to keep me busy, for the upcoming winter season. The idea of a bump up in pay never entered the conversation. For the first time in my professional life, I’m facing the possibility of temporary unemployment.

The struggles of everyday life are real for us all. I tell you this because I don’t want you to think that I live an extravagant lifestyle, far removed from the average Joe’s daily problems. I am the average Joe. There are times when I seriously have to decide between paying the utility bill and buying groceries, because my check isn’t enough to cover both. I worry. I deal with sleepless nights. I pray angrily. I’m just like you.

Despite my relentless trials, I still praise the Lord and thank him for his blessings. Every time a need surfaced, he was there. Whenever I was backed up against the wall, God never let me fall to my enemies. His blessings may not have been ridiculously abundant, but they were always exactly what I needed.

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.”

Tonight, I received a rejection response from a literary agent. It’s one of many. Agents just don’t seem to be interested in my book.

Instead of sulking over the rejection and allowing fear to demoralize me, I’m choosing to thank God for the ease in which my book came about its self-publishing history. I’m thanking him for the blessings yet to come. I’m thanking him for giving me the strength to persevere through the everyday struggles.

*always*

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