Dear Bizzle

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Dear Biz,

Young brother, I was on my way to counting sheep for the night, when I decided to check my Facebook. A quick refresh put your message up at the top of my list. Strange, considering it was posted an hour ago. After reading through it one time, I felt compelled to reach out and encourage you. I hope this reply reaches your eyes and grants you a moment of peace, if only briefly.

The saying goes, “A new level; a new devil.” While it’s a catchy metaphor, Satan is real and hounds the saints relentlessly, pushing buttons that sometimes we don’t even know exist. Friends can turn their backs on you; family can disown you; fans can flip like a thumbed coin. I know it gets hard to please folks when you’re just trying to do the right thing under God’s guidance. You need to remember that God is exactly who you’re obediently following, Biz. The devil’s only testing your mettle because you’re succeeding as a soldier for the Lord.

Dude, I listened to the Wade-O interview just this morning on my iPod, while at work. You held on to that $40,000-plus stash even when your personal bank account was in trouble. In the end, that money went straight to Africa to build water towers, just like God intended. The devil hates you because of your obedience! You take your wife on tour with you, effectively negating the enemy’s thwarts and temptations on your flesh. The devil is furious with you because of your integrity! You constantly consult your pastor and your close circle of peers, before making any major decisions, just like a faithful disciple of Christ is supposed to do. Satan wants you broken before the masses, because of your heart for God!

As a man of God, you have to remember young brother: Jesus said, “They will hate you because they first hated me.” You have to deliberately close your ears to the chatter of the world around you, because nothing you do will satisfy those in the world.

I can’t begin to imagine what you face daily, because of your celebrity, but I do know that you must resist the urge to give attention to the words of discouragement. I know sometimes that very discouragement might come from “Christians”. But remember that Jesus also told us, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,”. Some of these folks whispering in your ear and behind your back are false. Rely on the Lord alone for strength, brother.

Biz, it’s perfectly alright to admit you’re tired. You’re human, young brother. You’re life is constantly scrutinized because of your success. But where the line must be drawn is here: you will NOT give up! You will NOT go back! Your sons are counting on you to show them how a true man of God handles life challenges. The fight never stops, homie!

Never stop praying. Never stop reading. Never stop believing. I believe in you, young brother. I’m constantly praying for you and your family. I’m just one of many who are behind you.

Before you turn in for the night, I want you to read 2 Samuel 22:2-4 . God’s got you Bizzle. Never doubt him.

What Comes Out

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If you’ve been a faithful follower, and read any of my work (all five of you), then you know what to expect when I publish something new. I’ll bet you didn’t know I moonlight a secret identity, however. You see, I not only write short stories and random thoughts. I also write song lyrics and produce my own music. In a business flooded with wanna-be entertainers and aspiring artists, I do it for the love of the Lord.

Even though I’ve been singing in the shower for 40+ years, I still can’t sing in front of anyone. It’s like some sort of cursed stigmatism I suffer from. But, if the spirit really moves me, I rely on my own mantra before I step in front of a microphone:

“Don’t be surprised what comes out, when you lend your voice back to the Lord.”

Even if the world hates my voice, I know God loves it when I sing to him and about him. Part of my moonlighting involves loosely maintaining another blog (here on WordPress) entitled, “Bro.E On The Beat“. I say loosely, because I rarely contribute unless I’m sharing written song lyrics or my take on a particular song I like. While writing is my passion, the music is a close hobby. I love to plug in my instruments and program beats and melodies. And when it all comes together to glorify the Lord, it sounds like this:

Did you feel that?! Goose bumps! My sons, my daughter and my pastor came together to lend a hand on this track, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. When we come together and sing for the Lord, something amazing happens.

Sometimes, all we need to do is sing unto the Lord and he brightens our day. I encourage you to try it friends. Don’t be surprised what comes out, when you lend your voice back to the Lord.

*Shameless plug time*  If you look to your left (on screen), you’ll see a music player labeled, “The Sheep In Wolf’s Clothing”. Click on any of those tracks to hear more of my music. God bless.

The Walking Dead

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The Walking Dead 

Marc patiently sat, watching Grace fidget with a single strand of dry hair for the hundredth time. Forty minutes had past, since she first stepped to the vanity. A sympathetic smile curled the edges of his lips.

“Sweetheart-”he started.

“Shush! Don’t you say a word!” Grace combed her fingers through lack-luster, moisture-starved locks. “I can’t do a thing with this mop, today! Honey, I don’t think I’m ready. Maybe we should wait until next week.”

Marc, watched as flakes of brown ash rained down Grace’s shoulders and settled into a neat little pile around her feet. Dust encircled her head, as she turned away from the living room vanity. He gathered she was entertaining second thoughts.

“No, you look beautiful, sweetheart. Remember, your appearance isn’t what’s important, there. Mine should be the only opinion that counts, right?”

Grace’s pupil-less eyes gazed at the floor, as she twiddled her fingers around the hem of her dusty black silk dress. A black teardrop rolled down her cracked brown cheek, trailing ash as it dangled from her chin. Marc crossed the living room and wrapped an arm around her waist. Pulling her close enough to inhale her putrid breath, he lifted her chin.

“Hey, do you hear me? You look beautiful. You are beautiful…to me.”

“Oh Marc, they’re all going to judge me the moment I walk into that place! How can you stand to be seen with me?”

Grace buried her face into Marc’s brilliant golden shirt. She felt his strong arms embrace her; fire seemed to ignite her skin where his arms touched. Despite the burn, the heat was soothing. Once again, she found herself amazed at their differences, but thankful for his presence in her life; such as it was.

“For better or for worse, remember?” Marc squeezed Grace, filling her fragile, decaying body with all the love he could muster. “You never quit. Even if something or someone changes, you never quit, babe.”

Grace suddenly tore away from Marc’s embrace, crossing the living room toward the bay window overlooking the downtown square. Ash trailed along the dirty white carpet, as her dress sashayed against the exfoliating skin of her legs. Grace folded her arms, absently scratching at a dry patch as she stared through the window toward the street, three stories below. Outside, ‘normals’ and ‘brighties’ milled about. She was suddenly reminded of just how different she and Marc were, once again.

“Honestly Marc, I don’t know why you even stay with me. I’m sure you could find yourself a nice brighty to shack up with. You people seem to keep to yourselves anyway. Why waste your time? Don’t your friends badger you about your normal wife?”

“Stop it, Grace. That’s the enemy playing his double-minded game on you right now. You know I don’t want anyone else, but you.” Marc slid behind Grace. He gently massaged her frigid shoulders. “Besides, I would never force you to do this sweetheart. You know that. But I can’t lie to you; it’s a better life. Honey, look at me.”

Grace slowly spun around and stared into her husband’s dazzling golden-brown eyes; those unnerving, yet peaceful eyes. His gentle smile was filled with warmth that called out to something deep within her soul; something she didn’t understand. His touch burned her shoulders, but the heat radiated a weird pleasure within her bones. Grace began to cry, staring into his radiant face.

“Sweetheart, I will wait for you, for as long as it takes,” Marc said, “but I pray that you make the decision before it’s too late. I know how afraid you must be. I get it; I was there once, remember? But I found out, fear was only keeping me from experiencing true life. Look out the window. There.”

Grace and Marc looked toward the corner of Sodom and Gomorrah, where a normal couple were crossing the street, approaching a bright couple. As the bright couple approached, Grace saw the man, dressed in a brilliant golden-fleece jacket, raise a hand of salutation toward the normal man. The normal couple, seemly appalled by the gesture, jerked out of reach, and scurried to the other side of the crossing. A hint of embarrassment stabbed at Grace’s heart, while Marc only shook his head.

“Did you see that? Fear of life. Sure, I get some folks who heckle me about our unique relationship. But the hecklers look like you: normal.”

“But that’s impossible,” Grace said. “I thought that only brighties worked on staff, with you?”

“Well, there’s the punch line, isn’t it? Once upon a time, they were bright. In their minds, they believe they are still bright. It is possible to lose the luster of life.”

Grace pondered this, for a moment. “How is it possible for…someone like you, to become normal again? Listen to me. I say that as if it’s actually a bad thing!”

“The bright can lose sight of what true life is all about, honey. The moment the luster becomes a badge of achievement, it tarnishes. The luster of true life was never meant to be flaunted as an idol, but that’s exactly what some people make of it. That’s why normal folk fear the luster. A few bad apples really can spoil the bunch, or at least the appearance of the bunch.”

Grace shrank under the weight of some invisible force. Her shoulders slumped. Marc pulled her tight against himself, to steady her.

“Marc…I’m so tired of being afraid of…of you; of your kind. I love you, but I’m afraid of what you are. I’m tired of the aches and pains in my skin and bones. I’m tired of being angry all the time. Sometimes…death just seems like a viable option to this.”

Marc squeezed his wife gently. His warm lips pecked the frozen nape of her neck.

“Sweetheart, you’re already walking in death. Come into life. For better or for worse, remember? Come to life, with me.”

Pride broke within Grace and she sobbed. As Marc held her close, hot tears rolled down his glowing brown cheeks. A fizz and puff of ashen smoke rose from Grace’s breast as Marc’s tears dripped onto her cold flesh, sending a shockwave of painful pleasure coursing through her body.

“Marc I want to, but I don’t know how to start. Please, help me. I can’t do this on my own.”

“You won’t have to, sweetheart. That’s the enemy taunting you again. He knows you’re ready to make the decision that will change everything for you. But, I’m with you. I’ll always be with you. I’ll never leave you, sweetheart. Steady now. Breathe with me.”

Grace drew in several short gasps, as the last of her sobs subsided. She felt the heat of her husband’s body rest against her; felt the warmth of his arms wrapped around her cold shoulders; smelled the overpowering sweet scent of his breath against her face. She slowly began to match his breathing, in and out. Slow. So very slow. Soon, they were in rhythm together.

“Are you ready, sweetheart?” Marc whispered.

“Yes. Take me, now.”

The walk down Sodom was slow and deliberate. Grace was conscious of every set of eyes watching them stroll hand in hand along the gray concrete. Brighties smiled and spoke greetings in passing. Normals, on the hand, avoided Marc and Grace completely. In the few instances when normals were encountered, she heard whispered curses in passing, tempting her to respond in kind. Oh, if not for the temperance of her husband. Several times, she looked to Marc, to find him smiling as they walked. What was he so happy for? All the time! This perpetual happiness of his was down-right maddening! But, then she reminded herself that today was the day, she’d chosen to find out personally. No more fighting it.

The sky was cloud free and clear blue-gray. Nice weather, she thought. Grace glanced at the gray-brownstone Condominiums across the street. She noticed the disproportionate number of normals to brighties leisurely walking the blocks. But that wasn’t really right at all. No. The brighties were leisure, while the normals seemed to be perturbed.

“Hmm.”

“What’s that, sweetheart?” Marc asked.

“You all don’t seem to be too pressed to get anywhere fast, do you?” Grace said with a smile.

“If we’re moving too slow for you, we can pick up the pace. I’m so excited, I could run!”

“No, no. That won’t be necessary,” Grace said. “Honey, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure, go for it.”

“How do you see me? What I mean to say is, color-wise.” Grace searched for the words, barely aware of the burning in her intertwined fingers, resting inside her husband’s hand.

“You’re beautiful, period. What does it-”

“No honey, seriously. You’ve been here before. You know what I’m asking, even though I can’t articulate it. You know why the brighties constantly smile at us when we walk by. Please, tell me how you see me.”

Marc sighed, still smiling. His hand gripped her fingers tighter.

“How about this,” Marc said, sweeping a hand across the skyline. “You see all of this in color no doubt. The sky is blue; the buildings over there are brownstones; there’s Mrs. Jenkins at the fruit stand in a red blouse picking through a bunch of bananas.”

“Yes. Nothing out of the ordinary to me.”

“That’s because you don’t understand truth yet. Your eyes see everything in a shade of gray. It’s not just gray; it’s like a milky film or a fog you see through. The colors of the world come to your vision as an afterthought. Sort of a subtle hint to the gray, rather than the vibrant shades I see.”

Grace slumped, overcome by another wave of shame.

“When you look at other unbelievers-”

“Just call me normal Marc, please.”

“Fine. When you look into the eyes of other normals, you see the gray of their pupils. Tell me, honestly, have you ever seen a normal person with colored pupils? Brown eyes; blue; green; have you ever noticed a shade other than gray, in the eyes of another normal person?”

The thought had never occurred to Grace. Faced with it now, she shook her head, reluctantly agreeing with him.

“No you haven’t. Honey, from my vantage, the normal have no pupils. Your eyes are completely white. You’re missing the light of truth in your eyes.”

Grace’s hand slipped out of Marc’s. He stood there, a few steps ahead, allowing her to engage the moment. Silently, he said a prayer for his wife, as he remembered the feeling of confusion she must now be dealing with.

Grace stood still, staring into her own hands. She lightly brushed her right index finger across her left palm and watched a thin wisp of ash float into the air; brown ash. Glancing up and down the street, she watched normals hustle and bustle. Some were close enough for her to see their pupils. Not a single colored pair of eyes. Different shades of gray, yes. But, not one pair of normal colored pupils, returned her gaze.

“And what of my skin, Marc?” She looked to her husband. Black tears had begun to run down her cheeks again. “What does my skin look like to you?”

Marc stepped to Grace, but she recoiled.

“Sweetheart, you are…and will always be…beautiful to me.”

Grace’s face contoured in anguish. “Stop saying that! Just tell me the truth! What do I look like in your eyes?”

He inhaled deeply, and nodded. “Your skin is brown, like mine. But you do not reflect any sunlight. If it makes any sense to you, I’ll explain it this way: You look as though you have a perpetual layer of cracking mud all over your body. It is smooth to my touch, but cold. Beneath your decaying flesh, I can see the beauty of your Spirit. I see who you really are underneath the surface, Grace.”

She stood before him, horrified. Marc knew how deeply his words cut. But, now was the time for the truth to be completely known. For so long, he had filtered his words; careful in his choices. He never wanted to turn her away from the knowledge of the truth. He knew how crucial this moment was. This was the time when the enemy would come against Grace in full force. For the sake of her salvation, he had to tell her everything.

“To your eyes, I glow like some sort of specter. No matter what color my clothing actually is, you only see a golden shade, honey. It’s uncomfortable for you to look into my eyes, because your decaying mind cannot comprehend the light within me. My touch burns the surface of your skin, but causes a flutter in your heart.”

He reached out and grabbed her shoulders, pulling her closer to him. Grace gasped, as Marc drilled her with a fierce stare. His eyes penetrated her soul. She was simultaneously gripped with a fear of the unknown, and a heat inside her heart unlike any she had ever felt before. Marc had never looked at her this way.

“Marc,” she whimpered, “I’m scared. I’m afraid it’ll hurt me. I’m afraid it will all be too much for me to take, and my heart will burst. I’ll die, Marc.”

“That’s exactly what the enemy wants you to think, my love. Feel my warmth, Grace. Hear my voice. Look at me. Am I dead to you?”

“No. You’re…” she forced herself to hold his frightening gaze, as she searched for the words. “You’re not dead. You’re…beautiful. Marc, you’re beautiful. I want what you have. I want to be beautiful, for you. Why can’t I make up my mind to do this? Why do I continue to struggle?”

“It’s the life you want, vying for control over death, sweetheart; confusion within you.”

“I don’t want it anymore. I’m sure of it.”

“Then let’s go!”

He grabbed her hand and they took flight. Grace ran with a vigor Marc had never seen before. She practically dragged him up the street, toward the church four blocks away.

As they ran, Grace noticed brighties cheering them on. How did they know? It was as if they were cheering specifically for her.

“Run Grace,” Mr. Matinez yelled from his hot dog kiosk across the street. “Don’t stop until you’ve found life!”

Her knees screamed in protest. Her elbow-pain spiked with every stride, but Grace smiled wider with every step. Marc panted as he ran behind her; too slow. She wretched her hand free of his and picked up speed. She ran for life, despite her body’s objections.

“Run honey, run! I’m right behind you! Run, Grace!”

She ran harder than she ever had. Her lungs froze with icy-fire. Her vision swam, in a weird hazy fog. Her breath was shallow. Still she pushed harder. Normals scattered out of her way, as if she were inflicted with a contagious plague. Brighties whooped and hollered on both sides of the street as she strode toward the church, now two blocks ahead. Everything was a blur. She heard shouts of encouragement, screams of terror and anger. Grace never broke stride.

Marc stopped to catch his breath and fished his cell phone from his pocket. He quickly punched speed dial number 3, on the keypad.

“Pastor, it’s me. She’s headed your way, outrunning me! This won’t wait for ceremony. You’ll have to be ready for her.”

“Praise God!” Paster Martin shouted. “I’ll get the team ready. Shall we wait for you, brother?”

Marc was winded. He caught a glimpse of Grace weaving through pedestrians. “No! Don’t wait for me! I’ll get there in God’s time.”

“As fast as you can, brother.”

Marc punched the SEND button, then stuffed the phone back into his black trousers pocket. He looked up into the sky and said a prayer.

“What are you waiting for, Marcus,” Mrs. Walters called out from the flower shop, front door. “Get over here quickly, and take this bouquet for Grace.”

Marc laughed, as he jogged over to the shop.

“She outran me, Marry. Did you see that? My honey ran toward life!”

“I saw it, my dear boy! Today is truly a blessed day. Now hurry, or you’ll miss her salvation!”

Marc grabbed the bouquet of colorful roses, kissed Mrs. Walters on the cheek, and sprinted after his wife.

Grace burst through the church foyer doors, to find a crowd of brighties standing before her, smiling. Her eyes locked with Pastor Martin’s just as her legs gave way. She stumbled into his arms, exhausted and aching. Black tears streamed her cheeks, and she could hardly find the wind to speak.

“Pastor, I…I-”

“It’s alright child, I know. I know! Grace, are you ready to accept the gift of life, God offers freely to you?”

Grace howled in broken submission. “I can’t walk, Pastor. Please, where is Marc? Where is my husband?”

“He’s on his way, Grace. He instructed me to help you along, upon your arrival. Would you like to wait for him, dear sister?”

Dear sister. The term sounded foreign to her ears, but rang true in her heart. As Pastor Martin slung her right arm around his neck, another brighty, Mrs. Jefferson, draped Grace’s left arm around her neck. Together, the three slowly made their way down the main isle of the church, toward a large stage. A congregation of brighties followed behind, spouting prayers and praises to God. At the top of the stage, she saw a large see-through tank filled completely with golden water. Grace was overwhelmed. She couldn’t find her voice. At the bottom of the stage, Pastor Martin stopped.

“Grace, are you sure you want this, daughter? To come into life is a free gift that must be chosen; never forced.”

Grace nodded. “Marcus. Where-”

From the back of the church came a horrendous crash, through the foyer doors.

“Grace! I’m here sweetheart! I’m here!”

Cheers erupted throughout the church. Grace was suddenly aware of dozens of people inside the sanctuary. She felt the strong arms of her husband wrap around her waist and lift her feet from the carpeted floor. Marc’s sweet and warm breath pressed into her right ear.

“I’m here, sweetheart,” Marc whispered. “I’m here. I’m so proud of you. Are you ready?”

Grace stared into his wet eyes. She was beyond exhaustion, and only managed a limp nod and a soft smile.

“Marcus,” Pastor Martin called, “please carry your bride to the baptism tank.”

Marc carried Grace up the flight of six steps, onto the large stage overlooking the sanctuary filling up with onlookers. He turned to face the congregating crowd and was surprised to see a few normal faces cautiously observing from the back of the sanctuary.

“Brothers and sisters,” Pastor Martin’s amplified voice rang out through the church’s sound system, “today…is a glorious day. Today, our Lord welcomes another lost soul into His kingdom. Today, sister Grace has accepted the call of Jesus, quite spiritedly I might add.”

The congregation erupted in cheers and laughter. Grace smiled up at her husband.

“Beautiful for you,” she whispered.

“No, not for me. For you, sweetheart.” Marc whispered. He carried Grace toward three steps ascending to the lip of the tank.

Grace looked at the water. Its shimmering surface seemed to call out to her, inviting her to swim. Living waters, she thought. Suddenly, she shed the last remnants of fear, realizing this was her destiny all along. She was born to swim in the waters of life. Her lips stretched into a wide grin as Marc ascended the steps. Behind Marc, she could barely hear Pastor Martin address her over the cheering crowd. It was the water. It whispered directly into her heart, come into me, Grace. Join me, my sweet.

Marc stepped into the tank and descended the three steps to the bottom, shoes, trousers and all. The moment the water touched Grace’s bare feet, he felt his wife shudder. She clamored for his neck, holding him close.

“It’s okay, sweetheart. I have you.”

The water rose to just above his waistline, submerging Grace’s legs and back. She shook, as if freezing, but held a smile across her face. Marc remembered the sensation of heat and pleasure. And then, he noticed the water.

“Oh my Lord.”

Pastor  Martin placed a hand on Grace’s shaky forehead, and yelled over the crowd. “Sister Grace, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Nodding at Marc, Pastor Martin gently pushed Grace’s head under the golden water.

The first thing Marc noticed was the golden water changing black, as if Grace’s skin had been coated in ink. Next he saw a thin mist rise from the water, where her skin actually came into contact. Before he could fully interpret what was happening, Pastor Martin nodded his way, and Marc completely submerged Grace’s body under water. There was a bright flash, accompanied by a puff of golden smoke hovering over the darkening water. Marc lost the weight of Grace in his arms. She simply wasn’t there anymore! The congregation gasped collectively, before falling silent.

“Pastor! What in God’s name-”

“Quickly Marcus, out of the tank, brother.”

“My wife! Where-”

“Out of the water, brother!”

Marc reluctantly tread up the tank’s inner steps, and vaulted the lip, completely soaked from torso to shoes. He stared into the water, now as black as nightfall. The golden puff of smoke hovering over the water’s surface seemed to increase in density, taking on the shape of a cloud. Marc looked to Pastor Martin, who stood nearby with hands raised in praise. Marc looked back to the cloud now descending over the water. The second it touched the water, it transformed into a golden rain, splashing into the tank, leaving a golden pool surrounded by the black oily water.

In one instant, Grace felt the shock of the golden water burning and soothing her feet, legs and back. Then, she was under. Quiet. No sound from the congregation; no Marc; no Pastor Martin. In fact, her arms and legs seemed to dangle freely as if floating in a deep ocean. Her whole body floated in darkness.

I love you, Grace. Thank you for coming to me. Breathe my gift of life, daughter.

In the next instant, tiled flooring made contact with her feet. Slowly, she pushed up, immediately aware of no pain in any of her joints. As she broke the surface of the water, her vision took on a new sense. Vibrant light shown down on her from overhead fixtures, in differing hues of lavender, raspberry and cobalt. The stage’s carpet texture seemed to jump out at her, in alternating patterns of red and black swath. Pastor Martin rushed toward Grace carrying a billowy royal blue choir robe. A black stripe, blacker than any darkness she had ever seen, straddled the left arm of the robe. Pastor Martin’s face, no longer blazed a fiery golden peach, but glowed a magnificent tanned apricot. She heard the congregation burst into celebration.

“My goodness, child,” Pastor Martin said, stepping into the tank. “Cover yourself with this. You’re as naked as the day you were born!”

Grace was oblivious to the Pastor’s commentary, awe-stricken by her new heightened senses. Everything smelled different, from the Pastor’s cologne to the pastries outside the main sanctuary. She felt the soft fabric of the robe drape over her shoulders; a surprising tickle against her bare skin. As she slowly walked toward the inner steps, she saw him, and her breath caught. Marc was gorgeous.

At first glance, Marc couldn’t believe the miraculous sight of the golden cloud exploding into raindrops, just before collecting like an oil spill on the surface of fresh water. He knew God was capable of anything, but he’d never seen such a site. He blinked, and panic set in momentarily. Where was Grace? Where was his wife? Had something gone horribly wrong? Was she past the point of salvation?

“Pastor, where is my-”

The second glance toward the murky water caught a glimpse of beautiful raven-silky hair slowly rising from the tank. The hair split at the crown exposing a butterscotch-colored forehead; raven eyebrows; hazel eyes; pouty lips slightly split, revealing pearly white teeth. Grace. She was stunning.

“Oh my…”

Marc dropped to one knee, unable to move. Even when Grace stood high enough out of the water, exposing her beautiful breasts, he couldn’t move toward her. He was overcome by emotion. Marc was barely aware of Pastor Martin racing past him, carrying a choir robe. The congregation had exploded into boisterous celebration, but Marc could only see his beautiful bride, and hear the beating of his own heart.

I love you Marcus. Thank you for bringing her to me. Breathe my gift of life anew, son.

Hot tears rolled down Marc’s cheeks, as he struggled to regain strength to stand, tall for his bride.

“Thank you, Lord,” he whispered. “I love you. Thank you for saving my wife.”

Grace raced across the stage, and leapt toward Marc, just as he regained a foot hold. His salty tears mingled with her own, as she smothered him in kisses. She could hardly believe how handsome her husband was; how brave he had been, in sticking by her side for so long; how blessed she was to have him in life, now.

“I can see you, Marc. You’re absolutely beautiful, honey; inside and out. I’ll never leave you.”

“Welcome to the land of the living, sweetheart. You’re more beautiful now, than ever before. I will never leave you, either.”

Marc glanced through the partially opened robe, and smiled wide, secretly thanking God again. Grace held her husband close, allowing his prying eyes to drink in her new-found beauty. She was suddenly aware of claps, whistles and cheers rising from the congregation. Tonight, they would explore their new life together, as one.

“Thank you God, for your gift of life,” she whispered into his ear.

Pastor Martin wrapped his arms around the young couple, shifting them toward the front of the stage. Grace modestly closed the blue robe around her naked body, then waved toward the congregation.

“Brothers and sisters of Living Water Resurrection, please join me in formally welcoming Grace Zoe Adams, into her new life.”

The congregation celebrated, while Grace cried joyful tears.

Jesus In My Beat

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I love hip hop music. No other genre moves me quite the way a pounding beat over a deep bassline, accentuated by flawless harmony can stir my soul. You give me that type of audio assault turned up to the maximum, coupled with master-crafted lyrics praising my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; WOO! Ennis is a happy Christian! It seems like every pair of headphones and speakers I get my hands on eventually explodes. I have a tendency to blow speakers because I need to FEEL my music.

Back in March, Lecrae came to town as one of several acts on the Winter Jam tour. I caught his performance at the Joe (that the Joe Louis Arena for you non-Detroiters). Boy, the acoustics in that place were so primed, my ears rang for two days straight, after the concert! The brother brings the total package to a concert appearance: high energy, deafening sounds, crowd interaction but most importantly, he brings the gospel.

Before 2008, I had no idea Christian hip hop had crossed the barrier separating the desert of corny-boring song from the oasis of relevant, dope music. I had heard a number of attempts at Christian hip hop, but they all seemed forced at best. You either had some well-meaning pastor trying his best to rap over a beat that was probably created by his out of touch sound engineer, or you got a hard-core rapper fresh into the Christian walk, trying to bring his old style of rap into the faith. Both were usually total train wrecks of an attempt to bring the gospel of Jesus into a genre that clearly was not ready to hear what the Lord has to offer. And then, one day, I saw this kid from Atlanta step on stage for a Dove Awards performance. What I saw and heard would change my perception of Christian Hip Hop forever.

Everyone knows who Jay-Z is, unless you grew up on Mars. Everyone knows about Eminem. Right now, we have three generations of hip hop heads who understand exactly who Tupac Amaru Shakur was. But how many people out there know of Canton Jones? How many folks can testify to the truth flowing through the lyrics of KJ-52? How many people know that Da T.R.U.T.H. has such a wide pallid of musical taste for the Lord, that he can spit holy fire over a trap beat or a contemporary christian instrumental? Don’t even get me started on the lyrical skills of Andy Mineo! In all honesty, this white boy from N.Y. will run circles around any rapper out there currently, while educating his adversary on the gospel of Jesus!

Sadly, a lot of awesome christian hip hop music will never reach its potential audience because the world doesn’t view this music as relevant. If you aren’t a Lecrae or Andy, capable of generating millions of dollars in profit, your music just isn’t sellable. That’s no diss to those brothers who are currently crossing the mainstream barrier. Now that they are there, they have an opportunity to bring Jesus to an otherwise unsuspecting culture.

Lecrae is carrying the banner of christian soldiers the world over right now. While many of us have followed him for years, he’s now in a position to introduce Jesus to folks who would normally have no idea of his identity, or the message he speaks of through his music. In a sense, it’s unfair to him to have that much pressure placed on his shoulders. There are so many christian hip hop artists out there in the world just as talented and passionate that will never be heard because the world doesn’t want to hear them…yet.

My hope is that the day will come when christian hip hop finds a home among mainstream radio stations. Here in Detroit, gospel has its own station in Praise 102.7. Contemporary christian music has several stations in WMUZ 103.5 and Smile FM (89.1). Yet, none of these stations dedicates an hour to strictly christian hip hop music. I’ll tell you why that’s a tragedy.

Detroit was once the home of Motown. We live and breathe music in this city. Today’s generation of kids are growing up still listening to the tired lyrics, sorry hooks and violence infused beats that my generation transformed hip hop into. What’s worse is, the stuff is played around the clock everywhere! Once upon a time, it only had an hour slot on some station, in the wee hours of the morning. Now, you can hear, “Slap that b#$@! wit’ a back hand, homie,” at 7o’clock in the morning, while driving the kids to school!

Wouldn’t it be grand to have a radio station, in Detroit, dedicated to playing hip hop music with lyrics glorifying the Lord Jesus; real hip hop music. How awesome would it be to hear your son or daughter singing, “I got my pride on low; my faith on high; gave my sin over to God; Lord, let the nonsense die”. How cool would it be to have your kid hear “Romans 1:16” called out in a song, and then have them come to ask you, parent, what Romans 1:16 actually means? In God’s economy, it only takes one person for Him to catch the whole family. How marvelous would it be, to see young men walking around with their belts cinched around their waists actually holding their pants in place?! They’ve learned, through the music, what it means to act like men of God.

This could actually happen! Music affects people in so many different ways. You give the hip hop culture of today, a dose of kingdom music, the type of music they can relate to, and watch what it does for the community. Sure it may take time, but anything worth having is worth fighting for. I want to see this become a reality. I don’t where or how to get it started. Maybe writing this article is the catalyst. I can tell you, it not only works for me but also for my 8 year-old son. I love to hear him recite rhymes glorifying the Lord, while he’s playing. I love to hear him singing hooks glorifying Jesus. I love the fact that my son will never grow up singing, “F%$@ the po-lice, comin’ straight from the underground; a young n^&%$ got it bad, ’cause I’m brown,”. I want everyone’s kids to experience kingdom music.

When I put my own music up for sale through Tunecore, I had to give my tracks a label name in order to complete the process. I quickly coined the name, “Urban Praise Music” because that’s exactly what it is. Society loves labels. If I could run a radio program featuring nothing but christian hip hop music, “Urban Praise Music” would be my mantra: music for the urban community, praising and glorifying the Lord Jesus. We’ve gotta get at the kids on a level they can understand, y’all. That’s what I’d like to see. I think we could all use a little Jesus in our beat.