Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The newest Louis

Ladies and gentlemen, please meet my nephew, Landon...

9 lbs, 11 oz., 21 inches long. Day-um!

This kid must've came out eating!
See. More eating!


Even more eating. Take it easy, kid!

My sister enjoying her new role as an aunt!

Uncle Andre. How cool is this?!

- ACL

Miscellaneous news

An assortment of miscellaneous news for you to chew on...

Apparently, fraud perpetrated under the unbrella of Katrina has hit $1.5 billion. This is $1.5 billion taken from the relief effort of tens of thousands of people who lost everything; and exploited by crooks. This is sad reminder of how far people will go to benefit from other people's misery.

Speaking of $1.5 billion, I thought it was interesting that Warren Buffet, lord and master of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the richest men on Earth, is donating 85% of his wealth to the Gates Foundation. His $1.5 billion annual contributions will eventually amass the $35 billion dollar mark. Let me repeat that: $35 billion.

His generosity is what being wealthy is all about. In his giving, Buffett rounds out the cycle of true capitalism — applying the resources handed to him by society, creating wealth and then returning that wealth back to society for more than just his family to enjoy. While the praise people like Oprah and Angelina -- whose contributions to the world probably don't even represent 5% of their worth, guys like Buffet and Gates are centralizing most of their wealth on others. Now, this isn't to say that other wealthy people haven't done the same. But, 85% of your fortune?! To me, Buffet and Gates have set the benchmark for altruism.

I was really happy to hear that Star Jones was getting the boot from the View. Now, only if they would cancel the whole damn show...

Moving on...

Even though I consider myself a centrist (since I think that Dems and the GOP are equally insipid), I'm going on the record for the first time in history by actually agreeing with President Bush on something. Like the Bush Administration, I'm disturbed by how the media has leaked information on how the Feds are tracking bank activity by suspected terrorists. Though it's not illegal (since this information wasn't passed directly to the enemy, it's not in violation of the Espionage Act), it does have an ill affect the so-called "War on Terror".

But, maybe if Bush wasn't so sneaky and deceitful about everything in the first place, none of this media probing would have ever taken place. To coin a phrase I always used as a kid, "He started it..."

According to some columnists, an old rumor sparked by columnist Wayne Madsen -- about an affair involving Dubya and Condi -- has resurfaced. I'm no fan of the Prez or Condi, but even I find this one is disgusting.

Speaking of disgusting, am I the only one annoyed by the whole flag-burning nonsense? This is clearly one of those silly mid-term election ploys. With all the other pressing issues in the nation, do you mean to tell me that whether or not flag-burning should be allowed is important? I tell you what: how about we burn Congress instead?!

Can anyone please explain this whole Federal Marriage Amendment nonsense? I thought it was hilarious that this silly legislation was struck down. Yes, I think that homosexuality is wrong by God's standards. No, I don't think that we should try to create legislation robbing homosexuals of basic human rights; including marriage.

I've always thought it to be interesting that Conservatives -- who claim to be for less governmental intervention and who actually favor a "small" government -- spent unnecessary time trying to pass amendments that dig deep into people's personal lives. Sigh! Must be election time again...

Moving on yet again...

According to this article, Andrew Hawkins; a descendant of a slave trader; has made a formal apology for slavery which took place in Gambia. Is it just me, or are "apologies" getting old? I mean, doesn't it make more sense for this man -- and others who are 'apologetic' -- to let their apologies materialize into action?!

On another sad note, I just heard the story about Sgt. Raymond J. Plouhar, who was just killed in Iraq from a roadside bomb attack. Apparently, he was in Michael Moore's latest movie "Fahrenheit 9/11," though both he and his family were supporters of the war in Iraq.

This Palestinian/Israeli conflict is really starting to get bad. According to this article, Israeli forces are starting to turn up the heat against the Hamas government. And this is just for a few missing soliders. Times like this remind me to pray and pray often.

Speaking of praying for people, let's continue to keep the flood victims on the East coast, the wildfire victims in the West, the victims of the Indonesia earthquakes, and the victims in Africa in our prayers. The next time you get mad at God for not hitting the lottery or for the cancellation of your favorite sit-com, think about the people who are really suffering in the world today. Then tell me how your "problems" compare.

You know, now that I think about, maybe I should just turn my TV off for a couple of days.

- ACL

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Restoration, part II

A huge weight has been lifted from my heart.

For the last month or so, I've been lamenting over a certain problem; as issue that has been plaguing me for a while now. I've been going at it with one of the closest people in the world to me (you remember her, right?!) Since our conflict didn't seem to have a resolution in sight, I decided to use the disassociation tactic that I'm known for. Simply put, I just stopped talking to her. Here I was; ignoring the person that God has used time and time again to bless me; because we came to a disagreement. Granted, we failed to meet eye-to-eye on an issue that was close to my heart. But, was disassociation really the right way to go? Evidenced by the misery I've been dealing with lately, I wouldn't say so.

This weekend, I gave her a call to notify her of the news of my being an uncle (it's offical! My brother had his son!) What later ensued was a conversation that I didn't expect or prepare for...given our situation. During the conversation, we aired out our laundry, chewed each other out, apologized, and dropped it. It was that simple.

This portion of our conversation lasted less than five minutes. The rest of the time (two hours or so) was left for joking, laughing, and sharing.

Imagine that. A month long conflict was resolved in less than five minutes and with one simple apology. How could that be?

Have you ever wondered how many situations and hurts that we experience can be resolved using the most simple solutions? Why, then, do we drag things out -- damn near to the breaking point? Why can't we just say "I'm sorry" and move on? I think that we -- for the most part -- have a hard time offering any apologies in circumstances where we feel like we're on the side of right. "If we're right, we don't have anything to be sorry for" is what we tell ourselves. in fact, those were the very words I used. Verbatim. I refused to accept my role in our conflict because I just knew that I was right. Little did I know that this was the source of my conflict. Whether I actually was right or not was irrelevant.

But, praise be to God, the two of us have fixed the patches in our lives. To coin a phrase from Forrest Gump, we're "like peas and carrots again". While the residue from our conflict remains and some of the concepts/circumstances that created the conflict in the first place still resonate, I can at least say that I've got my friend back; and it's an terrific feeling.

And, to think: it only cost me one sincere apology...

- ACL

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Imitations of Good & Evil


Truth be told, I have a real problem with people who go around quoting Scriptures as their preaching point. It doesn't really impress me that much. I think that largely, it's because too often people use scripture out of context or to help them emphasize a point that they make, while ignoring everything else about that passage. My experience has been that those who frequently misuse quoted scripture also usually have pretty bad theology behind them. So when I hear someone say, "As it says in the Bible..." I brace myself to hear their personal point of view. Whether it's actually Biblically or contextually accurate or not is another story. For example, my dear granny (who, by the way, I deeply love) tells me that -- according to Bible -- "God only helps those who help themselves". At that point, I always have to remind her that that verse is nowhere to be found in God's Word. Likewise, when people use the "Women should be seen and not heard" line and back it up with I Corinthians 14:34, I have to remind them that this passage must be taken in the context of the time when it was written and that it is not implying that women need to be silent in modern churches.

However, every so often someone will drop a verse or two that will really challenge me. For instance, just yesterday, my minister friend read my post about revenge and gave me a call about it. After we discussed it for a few minutes, he hit me with the following passage:

"Dear friends, do not imitate evil, but imitate good. He who does good is of God; he who does evil has not discerned God."
-3 John 1:11


I was floored.

After he dropped that verse on my head, it got me thinking. How often do I imitate the evil things of the devil, instead of imitating the good things of God? Perhaps the better question is: how can I tell which is which?

To “imitate” means to copy the actions of another. That being the case, I wonder how often I copy the devil's actions. Comparatively, how often do I imitate God's actions? When the guy driving his mammoth SUV almost plows me off the road, is he acting out of evil? Would I be imitating evil if were to drag him from his Hummer, smack the mess out him and, and toss his keys in an open field?

When I throw away leftovers; knowing that people are starving all over the world, is that an imitation of evil? I'm sure that, as children, we've all been hit with the “You know, there are starving kids in Africa” line. While our parents probably thought they were doing “good” by teaching us not to be wasteful, I've always thought that I was doing “good” by not eating more than what I could actually take in.

When I feel like a person has done me wrong and I respond by returning the favor, am I imitating evil? When someone has imposed themselves on me and my way of life, am I imitating evil by trying to forcibly drive them out (of course, this is one is only a hypothetical. We know that this never happens. Right?!)? I can’t help but to think so. Some people would argue that I am wrong while others will say that I'm right.

I once had a Bible-thumping, ultra-conservative co-worker who made a habit of pontificating to others (she was a Republican version of me :) ). One time she sent me, along with about 100 other people, an email calling for the boycott of the Ellen Degeneres Show show because she came out as a lesbian. She even went so far as to point out verses that suggested how much God hated this type of televised evil. In my response, I put together a short message about the dangerous sin of Christians hating others, clicked "Reply To All", and sent my email to her and everyone she contacted. Not too long after that, she removed me from her mailing list. Who was at fault here?

I guess this is where I'm stuck. What is evil? What is good? Who defines good and evil? I know that Christians set their standards by what the Word says (allegedly), but not even the Bible pinpoints everything we do. Certainly, it doesn’t categorize everything we do into the good and evil columns. Interestingly, what looks like good to some is actually considered evil by others. Since I can’t seem to determine the difference between good and evil, how do I know when I’m imitating either one?

Your thoughts?

- ACL

Monday, June 19, 2006

Pitfalls of revenge

I'm upset with my pastor.

I'm mad at him because he had the nerve to call me out during in his sermon yesterday. Well, he didn't exactly call me out specificially. But rather, the Lord put a message on his heart that hit me squarely on the head. It's funny. Most of the time -- when my pastor's messages don't really apply to me (about bad relationships, raising children, hell raisers in the church, alchoholics, etc.) -- it's fun for me to look around the sanctuary to see people nudge each other with their elbows or get uneasy when a point about them or someone they know is raised. This time, though, the spotlight was shining directly on me. It was almost like the entire sanctuary was cleared out; leaving only me -- nakedly exposed.

His sermon was about revenge. He spoke to the congregation (more like, he spoke to ME) about how dangerous it is for Christians to get ensnared by the traps of revenge. It's interesting that he spoke on this topic because; now that I think about it; many of the pains and hurts I've experienced are directly linked to the revengeful acts that I, myself, have committed.

Though revenge is a dangerous tool, its not all that uncommon for people to use it; including Christians. It's an age-old ritual that we perform to 'right' the things that we think are wrong; to restore a sense of justice to situations that we consider unfair. "An eye for an eye", as the Old Testament puts it. And even though Jesus died to lift the eye for an eye curse, I think that we still hold the concept true to our hearts. "If you do something hurtful to me, then -- dammit -- I'm going do something hurtful to you" is what we say. Sadly, we think that the best way for us to get over the pains inflicted on us by someone is for us to return the favor.

Now, to be clear; revenge is not always as evil, vindictive, and diabolical as it's painted out to be. Not everybody slashes tires, destroys vehicles (see image above), or causes any other physical or property damage. But, some methods of revenge (like the ones I use); though not violent or aggressive, are equally as damaging. My revengeful tactics, for instance, have a certain subtly and craftiness to them. In most cases, I don't think that the people to whom I'm being retaliatory even know what I'm up to. When it comes to revenge, I'm a creative, cool, and calculated customer (how's that for alliteration?).

But, after hearing my pastor's sermon, I'm starting to realize that traps I set in the name of revenge can (and usually do) backfire on me. I realize now that a lot of the hurt I've been feeling is a product of the traps that I set for other people. Rather than finding justice and fairness from my revenge, my situations have actually gotten far worse because of it. When people have 'wronged' me and I respond out of vengeance, I'm not making the situation any better. As Ghandi best put it, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind".

After my pastor had to indirectly put me on trial, I now understand that many of the pains that I deal with are of my own creating. That said, just as I create my pains, I also have the ability to destroy them.

I think that we, as Christians, can avoid falling into the traps that we set by not creating them in the first place. Sometimes, it's better (though not always so easy) to just let go of things. You're dumped by that girl/guy; move on. You lose that promotion to someone else; get over it. Instead of harboring on it (which then leads to us trying to exact our revenge), we should rely on God's grace and healing to help us through the situation(s) we face. God has promised to fight our battles for us if we allow Him to. We don't have to "get even" with people when we feel like we've been wronged. God has a way of evening the playing field for us; and it doesn't involve anybody getting hurt in the process. God's grace will beat out egging houses or keying cars any day.

So, my message/warning to you: If you feel like someone has done you wrong, go to God about it. Don't be so quick to pull out that shovel and start digging a ditch for that person. You might just fall in yourself...

- ACL

Friday, June 16, 2006

Great website(s)

Before I forget, I ran across a pretty interesting site, Theology Online. I've added it to my list of favorite sites on the side of the page. I found the site after a friend sent me this interesting and hilarious ad. I thought I'd share with you.

As an added bonus, if you register on that site (it's free, which is always good!), you get to check out the Battle Royale forums. I actually enjoy them a lot. In the Battle Royale, two people debate issues. Each person is allowed no more than 10 posts to support their argument. At the end, all the other posters get to vote on which person had the best argument. You should check it out if you have a second.

** Update **

Diane just caught my interest with another great website. Among other things, this site identifies celebrity resemblances with photos that you upload. It's pretty fun to play around with. But, get this...

According to the database, I resemble Condoleezza Rice. I wish I was making this up...

What about you?

Have a great Father's Day weekend...

- ACL

Three steps to Christian change


While I can't stake claim at being the best Christian out there (or, even a good Christian, for that matter...), I do know a few things about Christian life. One of the facets about the Christian life that I carry close to my heart involves the idea of change. As followers of Christ, we must be about change. We must be willing to constantly rearrange things, readjust things, disconnect and reconnect to things, unlearn and relearn things. If we choose to stay rigid and unchanged in our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, we eventually get our legs taken out from underneath us. In the long run, we have done very little growing.

Not too long ago, I was talking to an old college friend of mine, a young and vibrant minister in the Detroit area. He blessed me with what he calls his "Three Steps to Christian Change". I'd like to share them with you. I wish I was taking notes when I spoke to him, because I just know that I'm not going to do him justice by trying to explain them all. But, I'll try...

Step one: We should strive to learn new things about God, things that we never knew before. God is infinite. He's inexhausible. There's no way in the world that we can boast about cornering the market when it comes to knowing God.

Step two: We should look to add to a point of view that we think is already complete. The truth is, we can always find some part of our life that needs improving. In fact, we can improve our lives every single day. Seeing as though none of us are perfect (even if some of us think that we can do no wrong), life will always present us opportunities to grow. Our attitudes, beliefs, and thoughts are always in need of some adjustment and some tweaking.

Step three: We need to throw away some of our old habits. These habits can be extremely destructive if they're supported by deep conviction from the person performing to the habit. These habits include embracing doctrine, philosophies, or 'church norms' that either have no Biblical support or very little of it. The latter type of behavior is especially dangerous because certain behaviors and actions can seem so godly when they, in reality, are very destructive. For example, telling someone that they need to follow the church's dress code may seem like the "right" thing to do. But, in reality, this could be just as detrimental to the body of Christ as it is helpful. Yet, some people are so absorded in this type of doctrine that they start believing that they are on the side of right. I think that this is what happens when a lack of understanding makes the wrong path seem so right. As Christians, however, we are compelled to discern the truth from what we think is the truth.

Christian growth requires us to have a hunger for God. This should cause us to be willing to change the things in our life that are not necessarily of Him. More importantly, we should have genuine interest in figuring out the things that both are and are not of Him.

- ACL

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tag, I'm "it"...


Uh oh! I've been tagged again. I usually don't post tags on my blog, since I reserve my thought(s)-for-the-day for commentary, but I really liked this one and thought I'd share it. Here's my response to being tagged. Enjoy:

I...

I AM: alive only through the grace of God.
I SAY: plenty of hurtful things to people that I wish I could take back.
I WANT: too many things which may be outside of God’s will for me.
I WISH: I were a more rounded person.
I MISS: some of my once-close relationships.
I HEAR: that Al Gore might be running for President. I certainly hope so. I might start liking Democrats again…
I WONDER: where my Charlie Parker CD is.
I REGRET: the cynicism I have about relationships (intimate, social, and otherwise).
I AM NOT: created to be miserable. This is the one idea that keeps me from jumping off of buildings sometimes.
I DANCE: about as often as I play point guard in the NBA Finals.
I SING: a lot. In the shower; in my car; in my church choir. Whether or not I sing WELL is another story…
I CRY: mostly when my heart is especially burdened.
I AM NOT ALWAYS: the follower of Christ that I need to be in a world like this.
I MAKE WITH MY HANDS: music, blog entries, and artwork (namely, cartoons).
I WRITE: to rant and pontificate, but mostly to express.
I CONFUSE: the idea of “being right” and the idea of “doing right” much too often.
I NEED: God to restore newness in me everyday.
I SHOULD: learn to stop complaining so much.
I START: most conversations by stating my point, then playing "Devil's Advocate", but then quickly moving back to my point.
I FINISH: most arguments by "agreeing to disagree". Unfortunately, not everyone does.
I LOVE: my life; good, bad, or indifferent. It’s God’s gift to me. But, more importantly, it’s God gift to Himself and everybody else.
I TAG: anybody who took the time to read this. :)

- ACL

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

America's new sickness


Even after a year of seemingly endless investigations and coverage, Natalee Holloway has managed to find her way back into the spotlight of American media. This validates the theory that America appears to be suffering from a sickness. It’s not a sickness that you’ll read about in medical books. It’s not a sickness that’s easily curable with Benedryl. It’s not even detectable by most Americans.

Yes. America is sick, alright. It’s suffering from missing white woman syndrome.

At the risk of sounding racially bent, have you ever noticed that all a white woman really needs to do is sneeze and you’ll find national media camped out on her porch trying to figure out what happened? Imagine the concern if she doesn’t show up for work one day or is late picking up the kids from school. On just about every news station, you’ll hear stories about some ‘innocent’ white woman who was abducted, murdered, or brutalized. Now, don’t get me wrong: some women like Lacy Peterson and Chandra Levy actually had horrible things happen to them. Certainly their stories deserved the attention that they received if -- for no other reason -- to raise awareness about the violence and uncivility that is plaguing our world. But, how many women of color are victimized in this country without so much as a comment from American media? Are minorities so unimportant in this country that if one of us goes missing or if one is victimized, it’s not that big of a deal? Or, perhaps the lack of attention received to minority victims is more a product of the intrigue received by missing white women. I suppose that women with a darker hue just don’t have that same mystique.

If I want to find out about missing black women I need to look in Jet, Ebony, or Essence magazine; not CNN (unless, of course, we’re talking about “special” black women like 'bright' college students, rich girls, etc. They're the only black women who get any attention in the media.). However, the only thing that our white sisters need to do is go missing or, at the very least, give the impression that they’re missing and they’ll be plastered all over CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News like they’re a celebrity.

When Jennifer Wilbanks, for instance (who, by the way, should be in jail right now for deceiving an entire nation and wasting public resources), skipped out of her ultra-huge wedding and then lied about a Hispanic man kidnapping her, the media glamorized her. Though she didn’t seem to show any remorse for lying to fianc√©, wasting public resources, misrepresenting women who actually are victimized, or wrongfully accusing a minority (in a society that deems most minorities guilty before proven innocent), she did manage to find an agent who sold her story for over a million dollars. She then got the opportunity to interview with Katie Couric who, rather than call her out on her lies, played the sympathy role. Essentially, Jennifer Wilbanks received a pass from Couric and the rest of the nation. The ‘punishment’ that she received (a probation sentence and a fine) dwarfs the profiting that she will receive from this debacle.

In an interesting post, one of my blogger buddies pointed out that our society has placed a certain high value on the lives of some people, while other people's lives are -- oppositely -- devalued. Such is the case with the phenomenon of the missing white woman (at least, I think so). The simple fact is when black women come up missing; it’s nothing to talk about. White women disappear (even those who stage their own disappearance), and massive search parties, “exclusive” interviews, made-for-TV movies, and book deal are in the works.

Some of you may be asking why I’m so angry about this whole thing. I mean, any time a person comes up missing, we should be concerned, regardless to who it is. I think that I’m vexed largely because of the human interest that is generated from people being vicariously energized and entertained by the stories of these white women; while stories involving victimized black women (i.e. the Duke University rape case) are of the least bit of interest. But, above all, what annoys me most is that the media portrays white “victims” as innocent and newsworthy while missing black women are far less significant and ignorable. This does little to support egalitarianism that our country is supposed to stand for; and greatly contributes to the decline of our nation’s public consciousness. It reminds me of how our nation viewed white women in the past. Society worshipped their ‘innocence’ and their ‘virtue’ and would do anything to protect them from black men; including lynchings. Virtues. Interesting idea. Ida B. Wells once said that if a person became so occupied with virtue, questions should be raised about whether or not their virtues actually existed in the first place.

What is it about missing white women in this country that causes us to turn a blind eye, a deaf ear, and an empty heart to victims of color. What makes people of color any less valid than their white counterparts? Are their stories not equally as tragic and newsworthy? Are they any less 'virtuous' and 'innocent'?

If someone's got the answer to that one, I'm curious to know...

- ACL

Friday, June 09, 2006

Through the eyes of the Rock

John 21

...no, not the wrestler! I'm talking about the original Rock...

Anyway, imagine that you and a few of your closest pals are hanging out by the sea. You’ve been decidedly impatiently while waiting on Jesus to come back for you. Disappointedly, you finally say, “Ah, forget this! I’m going fishing.” The rest of the group decides to play "follow the leader" and join you in the boat.

You spend the entire day out there in sea. Yet you don’t manage to catch a single fish! For the life of you, you can’t figure it out. After all, you're one of the best fishermen to be found anywhere.

As dawn turns into dusk, your anger mounts because (1) You feel like you've been ‘Punk’d’ by Jesus and (2) you haven’t caught a single fish all day long. Your thoughts are interrupted as you notice someone waving at you from the shore. Your eyes strain as you try to focus on the person, but you can't really tell who it is. You then hear a faintly audible voice from the mysterious figure saying, "Friends. Have you caught anything to eat?". You reply “Uh...no...” The person then tells you to toss your net on the right side of the boat. Unenthusiastically, you obey. But then, much to your surprise, the net becomes so full with fish that you can’t even drag it in to the boat! At this point, you realize that the person on the shore is Jesus. In your excitement, you put on your clothes and dash across the water so that you can be the first to see Him. In doing so, you leave your friends behind as they toil to handle the catch that you originally decided to go after.

Once you make it ashore, you find that Jesus had already started cooking breakfast. Man! Does it smell good! He tells you to bring some of the fish (that He helped you to catch) and join him to eat. You respond obediently. You go back to the boat to help retrieve the fish (153, to be exact). How that net didn't tear to shreds is anybody's guess...

As you and your friends eat with Jesus, there is piercing silence all around. Though Jesus has appeared to you all on two other occasions after He rose from the dead, you still struggle as to whether or not this guy is really your Christ. Is this the same Christ who, only a few days earlier, was hanging from a cross, bleeding profusely, and crying out in pain? Is this the same Christ who we wrapped in linen and buried deep into a tomb? However, none of you have the courage to ask this guy if He's really Jesus. Maybe you’re just really hungry and don’t want to mention it. But, more than likely, you're just afraid of getting chewed out for your lack of faith. So, instead you sit and eat in silence.

Once you’ve finished eating, Jesus turns and looks you directly in the eye. Emotions take the better of you because you don’t know why He’s looking at you that way. Even more interesting is the fact that the look on Jesus face has a mix of deep sadness and deep love. While you’re trying to figure out the message behind his facial gestures, He asks you, "Simon, son of John; do you love me more than these other disciples?” What immediately strikes you is that He called you by your birth name, not the name He gave you. But, on top of that, you feel like you’re getting called out in front of everybody. "Why He’s asking me this?", you think.

Then it dawns on you. You’ve frequently boasted about how you would always be dedicated to Jesus. In fact, on at least one occasion, you were even snobbish toward the other disciples, suggesting that you were the greatest among them. So, with a damaged ego and with careful thinking you answer, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” But, you don’t fully answer the question. He didn’t ask you whether or not you loved Him. He asked you if you loved Him more than the other disciples did. You fail to pick up on your mistake.
Jesus responds to you by saying, "Feed My lambs.” Admittedly, this boosts your confidence a little. Jesus is asking you to feed the Word to His lambs – the weaker, "baby" believers. "So, I'm the greatest of the disciples after all", you think to yourself.

Then, inexplicably, Jesus gently asks you, “Do you love me?” This time, however, you can feel a little retort in his tone. At first, it sounded like Jesus was boosting you up. Now it sounds like He's tearing you down. As you did before, you get disturbed and confused by the questioning. Why is He challenging you like this in front of your friends? Is He trying to put you down? Are you getting cut from the team? You remove those thoughts from your head because you're sure that Jesus isn't that type of person. "There has to be some logic behind all of this," you tell yourself. So, you once again reply, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.”
Without even blinking, Jesus then replies, “Feed My sheep.”
OK. What kind of crazy game is this?! First this Guy tells you to feed lambs. Now He's telling you to feed sheep. Where the heck is He trying to go with this?! You think to yourself, “I’m really not feeling this. I wish that He would get to the point.” But, you come to understand that He is now challenging you to be a shepherd to His sheep; a leader for the more mature in Christ.
Before you have the chance to respond, Jesus asks you one more time, “Do you love Me?” Aaah! The frustration! You can't take it anymore! Just as you’re about throw in the towel and shout “uncle”, a bunch of thoughts go flying through your head. Your mind goes back to a few days ago when -- at a rooster’s sound-off -- you were reminded that you denied knowing Jesus three times.

You finally realize what this is all about. You finally realize the true extent to how you've deeply scarred Jesus. The same Jesus who:
  • Called you to be one of His disciples
  • Taught you about God’s love
  • Allowed you to witness His Transfiguration
  • Gave you a new name
  • Built His church upon you and gave you the keys
  • Suffered a brutal death for your sins
  • Overcame the sting of death by resurrecting
  • Returned to you, as He promised

This same Jesus is now directly opposite of you.

As it turns out, Jesus wasn’t trying to hurt you or embarrass you after all. You only felt embarrassed because of what you’ve did to Him. Now you were face to face with Him. You are facing Jesus, your Christ, as a shameful and weak person. You realize that all Jesus was trying to do was to make sure that the words that came out of your mouth were sincere this time. He wanted to make sure that you realized the danger of making promises, without understanding the ramifications of your statements. Finally, He also wanted you to know that, regardless of everything that happened in the past, He still wanted to use you.

From that point on, Peter moved forward and never turned back. He eventually carried out his duty of being the Rock upon which the church would be built. To this day, he is one of the greatest Christians in history.
After imagining this scenario, ask yourself how far you are from being Peter. How many of us have been so spirited in our views of Jesus that we talk about how much we love Him; only to realize that when troubles come up, we weren’t nearly as devoted as we thought? As Christians, we must learn how to count the cost of following Jesus before jumping in headfirst. For example, let's look at the apostles (from the Book of Martyrs):
  • Andrew - crucified
  • Bartholomew - beaten, then crucified
  • James, son of Alphaeus - stoned to death
  • James, son of Zebedee - beheaded
  • John - exiled for his faith; died of old age
  • Judas (not Iscariot) - stoned to death
  • Matthew - speared to death
  • Paul - believed to have been beheaded
  • Peter - crucified upside down
  • Phillip - crucified
  • Simon - crucified
  • Thomas - speared to death
  • Matthias - stoned to death

Following Jesus doesn’t come without a price. Will we get killed for serving Him? Probably not. But, chances are, we will have to endure some sort of persecution, pain, or hurt as we make the choice to live for Christ. That said, we should be careful about what promises we make to Jesus. He’s the kind of person who will hold us to our promises. He doesn't take them lightly.

But even when we do screw up and put our feet in our mouths, the grace of Jesus will still be with us…

…just like it was with Peter.

- ACL

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Let's bomb Iraq!

Several months ago, I read an interesting article about the soldiers who guarded Saddam Hussein. According to these guards, Hussein was an interesting character. Apparently, he was pretty friendly, he ate Raisin Bran for breakfast and absolutely loves Doritos. But also, oddly enough, he also loves to pray. Like a good Muslim he bows down to his knees and prays five times each day.

Saddam prays? Simply stunning.

Saddam Hussein, the villian who kills his own people, prays.

This caused me to think: does God hear the prayers of a man who has ordered the killing of hundreds of thousands of people? Does Saddam really expect God to answer? Has prayer changed his heart? Has prayer changed Saddam into the person God created him to be? What does Saddam pray for?

Now, let’s flip the script a little. What if I were God? Would I respond to Saddam’s prayers? Would I show him mercy, even when he didn't show it to his own people? To be honest, I think my answer would be “Uh..hell no!” I mean, that’s the correct answer, right?! Or is it?

I didn’t think about this article again, until I revisted a previous post, where I used this image:

This picture caused me to think. Does the person who got on his knees to draw these signs ever, like Saddam, get on his knees to pray? If so, what does that person pray for? More importantly, does God hear the prayers of someone who openly admits that he loves the idea of bombing another nation and thousands of its people? Does this person really expect God to answer? Has prayer changed this person's heart?

Now, let’s be clear on something. I pray as well. Prayer is one of the most important tenants of our faith. But, has prayer changed me into the person God created me to be? Are my prayers more authentic than the person who "loves bombing Baghdad" or -- dare I say – Saddam Hussein? Granted, I don’t have the desire to see a nation bombed or to see thousands of people killed. But, according to Jesus, any time I get angry and resentful toward others, I’m guilty. Geez. I hope He wasn’t serious. Otherwise, I could be in major trouble.

Is prayer really the solution to changing the hearts of the evil people in the world? If so, maybe we can all learn to love bombing Iraq; bombing them with our prayers.

- ACL

Monday, June 05, 2006

Apology + Apathy = 0

For starters, please forgive the graphic image. But, our nation's history has never been pretty...

At any rate, I was listening to NPR the other day and the argument about an official 'apology' for lynching came up. One of the guests was Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA); who has become well known for openly supporting a national apology for lynching. Normally, I'm not a fan of politicians, but, I have to give it up to her and Senator George Allen (R-VA) who -- inspired by horrific images of lynchings -- organized an effort to procure an apology from the Senate to the families of lynching victims. This act was to make up for the Senate's historic failure to pass anti-lynching legislation when the practice was more commonplace and widely accepted.

Senators Landrieu and Allen have starting to realize something that most African-Americans have known for years: we need to fully expose the shameful past of this nation and recognize its shortcomings before we can all progress. It's time to pull off the sheets of the past (no pun intended). We can start by exposing the raw and unembellished truths.

Lynching was nothing more than a non-sanctioned, domestically practiced form of terrorism; violent scare tactics used to keep Blacks as a subservient underclass. There's no telling how many blacks had land and assets stolen from them or how many blacks had to curtail educational and professional dreams out of fear that their dreams and aspirations would leave them dangling in a tree or burning to a stake. Don't get me wrong, many lynchings came from Blacks who looked at white women the wrong way or who were defiant 'troublemakers' (not saying that those are any better or justifiable). But, we can't discount the lynchings that resulted in economic theft or those that were done out of fear of the black man's potency. How much of our nation's wealth and acquisition was obtained by greedily coveting and stealing from the Blakc man? It's hard to tell; mainly since history books have never really underscored this shameful component of our past. History has never documented all the land and property that was "acquired" or its costs in human lives.

There's a great book out there, Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America, that captures the nature of lynchings in photos that were frozen in time. As this book shows, lynchings were -- if you can believe this -- social outings, public spectacles, and celebrations. White men brought their families, food and drink, and had a grand ole time. They didn't barbecue burgers and hotdogs; they barbecued humans. They didn't just hang out with each other; they hung men. Some people would even go as far as to collect 'souvenirs' from the lynchings; a finger, an eyeball, a tooth; whatever was available.

Even though seven different administrations urged Congress to end lynching, the Senate stayed quiet about the issue. I think that it's important to note that at least the House of Representatives took initiative to pass three different anti-lynching bills. But, knowing that the Senate remained dormant during these discussions is unnerving. Since the anti-lynching bills never made it passed the Senate floor, the government was essentially left powerless to suppress the violence behind lynching. In fact, Senator Richard Russell (D-GA); after whom the Russell Senate Office Building is currently named; actually considered any actions against lynching as an insult to Southern heritage! Do you believe that?!

Very disturbing...

Don't get me wrong: I'm grateful that the Senate finally wised up and offered an apology (even if it was, as Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) called it "long overdue"). But, there are still some issues here that disturb me. For instance, why wasn't this apology fully supported by everyone in the Senate? Why is it that neither of Mississippi's senators, Trent Lott or Thad Cochran, supported the Senate's decision, especially since Mississippi has historically been more guilty of lynching than any other state? Why was this vote conducted during an evening session instead of during the day's roll-call vote? Was it that some senators didn't want to openly comment on our nation's shameful history while the cameras were rolling?

Perhaps the biggest question for me is: since Congress (most of them, anyway) recognize and apologize for the shameful history of this nation, what do they plan to do about it? An apology doesn't mean a thing unless you're willing to put more tangible actions behind it. Since the late 80's, my state Representative John Conyers (D-MI) has suggested that Congress form a committee to examine the effects of past racial discrimination to black generations of the present. This includes analyzing the impact of slavery, Jim Crowism, lynchings, and how reparations would benefit blacks. But, as if it's a surprise, Conyers has received very little Congressional support. On the one hand, I accept the fact that our nation is facing all sorts of difficult and troubling issues, stemming from war, the economy, rising health care costs, corruption, Social Security, etc. But, Congress doesn't need to patronize us with some hollow and worthless apologetic gesture unless they are willing to back it up with corrective action.

What do you get when you mix apology with apathy?

Nothing.

- ACL

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Equilibrium

I'm no Buddhist, but I'm absolutely convinced that life is about equilibrium. This entire world seems like it has to follow some order of balance. With me, for example, when good things happen -- rest assured -- something bad is lurking around the corner. Oppositely, when stupid things happen to me, great things find their way to the surface.

I've been having an absolutely shitty month (sorry for the profanity, but it gives dimension to how I've been feeling lately). I hate grad school (though I'm toughing it out), my health has been a little suspect, I've dealt with some other pressing issues (and did a lousy job of 'dealing' with them, let me tell you), etc. I kept asking myself "Will things ever get better for me?"

Last night, they did.

I got a call from a close friend last night. Given the strange and difficult climate that I've been in lately, it was really good to hear her voice. During our conversation, we played a little catch-up (we really hadn't spoken to each other in about six months). She's doing very well. She's happily married, gainfully employed (maybe now would be a good time to ask for that $7 she owes me), and will be having her first child; already named Serena; this month. In fact, she was calling me because of baby Serena. More specifically, she asked me to be her little girl's Godfather! I'll admit: I've never really thought that non-biological roles (i.e. Godparents) made much sense. But, once she asked me, I was incredibly elated and humbled. We've been through a lot together over the years so -- to me -- her request was almost a validation of sorts.

** Moment of digression **

This is all especially exciting for me because I'm also going to be an uncle for the first time this month! My little brother and his girlfriend are having their first child. An uncle and a Godfather?! I can just feel my wallet burning now...

** End of digression **

After we ended our conservation, a few less-than-happy thoughts jumped into my head; which quickly extinguished my excitement. As I mentioned in a previous post, what would've happened if I had never given up on her? Would I be in a different place in my life? Would I be in a happier place? Would I be celebrating the birth of my own Serena?

Every once in a while, I think that we all find our gem. But how many of us fail to find the real value in that gem until it's too late?

Not too long ago, I was watching an interesting episode of the Twilight Zone. In this story, a man and woman -- both living highly stressful lives -- found themselves in their own modern-day Garden of Eden; a beautiful home in paradise. But, they couldn't resist the temptation of reverting back to their former lives; their stressful jobs; their past friends/family, etc. Because of which, they wound up back in their old lives with no memory of each other or their experience in paradise.

My story is somewhat similar. I had an opportunity to land the perfect girl. She's unbelievable beautiful, incredibly intelligent, successful, modest, God-fearing (!!!), and has always accepted me. As an added bonus, not only does she play video games, but she can completely annihilate me in Madden '06 (this isn't a diss on my gaming skills. I'm pretty good. She just happens to be much, much, much better...) But, I was too unwilling to let go of my past for her. The end result was her moving on to bigger and better things and me staying here facing the difficulties of breaking away from my past; and doing it alone. Unlike the Twilight Zone episode, however, I have a reminder of my failure; baby Serena. Looking at her will be a reminder of what I could have had if I wasn't so misguided.

Now, am I implying that my life with this girl would have been perfect? Of course not. I'm sure that she and her husband have their own problems (one of the reasons why I will never, ever, ever, tell her about my blog). But, would my life had been different if I took the road less traveled? I believe so.

Baby Serena is yet another example of how up and down life can be. I'm going to be a Godfather on the one hand, but I'm also going to forever be reminded of how I totally dropped the ball on a true shot at happiness.

Stupid equilibrium...

- ACL