Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Keeping You Head Above Water

Every morning, before we leave out for school and work, my family gets together in the front room and we hold hands and have a family prayer. We usually take turns on who says the prayer, this morning, it was my son’s turn..

“Dear LORD, we thank you for this day. We pray that you look after all those people in New Orleans who don’t have a place to stay and don’t have any food to eat because of the hurricane and floods. We pray that you shelter them and take care of them, even the ones who are stuck on their roofs or in their attics, we pray that you watch over all those people who are in the storm. We thank you for allowing us to have a roof over our heads and food on our table, we thank you for allowing me and my sister to be able to go to school, we thank you for allowing mommy and daddy to have jobs. Please watch over us today as we go about our day, in Jesus name we pray, amen.”

I didn’t make that up..that’s really the prayer that my 13 year old son prayed this morning, and just to hear him pray with such sincerity and truth made my eyes start brimming with tears. Not the kind of tears that make teardrops, but enough to moisten your eyelashes.

It’s been a pretty emotional last couple of days. Like everyone else across America, we have been inundated with the horrific images of destruction and despair throughout the Gulf Coast. Houston is only a few hours drive away from New Orleans, and all of us natives have had our own experiences with hurricanes and flooding, but my experiences don’t come close to what they’re dealing with in the aftermaths of Katrina.

My biggest hurricane story is from 1983, when Hurricane Alicia ripped through Houston with immense force. We were without power and running water for several days, but my parent’s house stayed intact. The water only rose up to our driveway, it didn’t make it to the house. But in the days afterwards, I can vividly remember going to stand in line for ice with my dad.

Since all the power was out, this meant that you couldn’t refrigerate or freeze food. So any chance of saving what food you had, rested on getting blocks or bags of ice and keeping the deep freezer closed. Old school ‘ice box’ style.

When the hurricane was passing through our Southside neighborhood, our tool shed in the backyard went tumbling over the fence and there were a lot of trees that were blown down, but most of the structures in Houston remained intact. But Alicia was only a Category 3, hurricane Katrina was a Category 5, that was downgraded to a 4 right before it touched land. Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

When the eye of the Alicia was passing over the Southside, I walked outside with my father and the sky was so blue and clear it was eerie…

“You see son..this is the how nice and calm it is? When I was in the Navy, if there was a hurricane at sea that we couldn’t get around, we’d steer right through it until we got into the eye, and we’d just follow that eye because it was calm there.”

As I gazed around at all the debris that had blown in and out of our backyard while the front part of the hurricane passed through, it was almost creepy as to how peaceful it was in the eye. Because no matter how calm it seemed, I knew that we were going to have to make it through that back end of the storm and you just never know what may come flying through your window. That’s why my dad and my uncle boarded up all of the windows on the east and southern portion of the house with plywood or they used duct tape to keep the glass from shattering.

The images that we were seeing on TV displaying the havoc that hurricane Katrina had inflicted upon the Gulf Coast played an even more personal role to our family. Because it was less than a year ago that we made the drive to Biloxi, MS to attend the wedding of some close friends of ours. While we were watching some of the news reports and my wife was pointing out to them that we stayed right there on that same coastal strip of hotels that are now demolished when we went for the wedding, my daughter’s eyes grew wider and more worried..

“Do they still live there?”


“The people who got married..”

“Uncle James and Aunt DD?”

“Yeah..Uncle James and Aunt they still live there in Biloxi?”

“No..actually they live in New Orleans.”

“Are they okay?”

“I’m sure..I talked to Uncle James Sunday, and all of the family had packed up and made their way to Baton Rouge before the storm hit.”

Fortunately, today’s meteorological advances gives us a few days notice before hurricanes hit land. When you think of the thousands that perished in the tsunami earlier this year that had absolutely no warning of what was coming, then you realize that things could have been a LOT worse.

People who are familiar with the topography and geography of New Orleans aren’t too surprised about the hurricane’s aftermath.

New Orleans is a city that is built like a bowl, or bathtub if you will, and a large part of the city rests below sea level. Bordered by Lake Pontchartrain, (which is more than twice the size of the city) to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south and east.

The hurricanes winds and rain caused a breach in part of the levee to Lake Pontchartrain, and now all of the water from the lake is rushing into the city. Until the engineers can figure out a way to stop the breach, then the water level in New Orleans will continue to rise until the water is level with the water in Lake Pontchartrain. They have huge pumps that pump the water in the city out, via underground canals, but a lot of them are down now due to power loss or wind damage.

A lot of people don’t have a home to go back to, and the only thing they have in this world right now is the clothes on their backs and their lives. They no longer have any income, because where they used to work is no longer in a lot of ways, they can be considered refugees without a home.

It may take months before they can even make it back to where they used to live, and the cleanup and restructuring of the city will take years to complete. But through it all, we know that God is still in control.

Those who have anchored their soul in the LORD have a solid foundation, and you can tell who they are when they’re on the TV, because they usually say, “I’m just grateful to God to be alive.”

So many people were upset about things like buying a bigger TV or getting another car, and now all those material things take a firm backseat and people can really examine the difference between what’s real in life and what’s bound to fade away.

People decry and bemoan the evangelism of the Christian faith, but yet time and time again, when there are humanitarian troubles like Hurricane Katrina, it is those of the Christian faith who step to the forefront with aid and support. Red Cross, Salvation Army, there is a long list of Christian based service organizations out there on the frontlines of the battlefield everyday. Because no matter how people may criticize or lambast the many hypocrites and thieves that attempt to portray themselves as keepers of the faith, the Bible is very descript as to who God considers as ‘religious’ people:

“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” – James 1:26-27 NKJ

Our prayers are for all the families that have been affected by this storm and it’s aftermath. I couldn’t even begin to answer all the questions that some people have right now as to why God would allow this to happen. But the one question I can answer, is that no matter what, Jesus is still the LORD and Savior of us all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

From Jersey to Yonkers

From Jersey to Yonkers - August 17, 2005

One of the things I’ve figured out about artistic expression, is that you never really know what your niche is until you actually get in the pit. Mark Twain started out writing travel articles, Luther Vandross got his first break writing commercial jingles, you just never know.

I used to always look forward to having a job that afforded me the opportunity to travel and see different places. I haven’t done much international travel, save for the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada, but I have done extensive travel across this great land known as the United States of America.

The life of the business traveler can be a peculiar one. Beyond the excitement of visiting different cities and enjoying all of the experiences they have to offer, there is the drudgery of the whole, packing, unpacking, dropping off your car, checking in for a flight, getting your bags, getting ground transportation, checking in to hotels, doing your business, then reversing the whole travel procedure. The whole ‘procedure’ part can get kinda stale after awhile.

It’s a lot easier when you’re traveling light, but if you have suitcase(s), golf clubs, laptops, book bags, engineering plans and whatever else can weigh you down, enjoying the ride will be contingent upon efficient planning and packing.

I usually drive my car to the airport park and ride and catch the shuttle bus over to the airport terminal. Although my company picks up all the travel expenses, off-lot parking is a lot more affordable than parking at the airport terminal.

Normally I prefer checking my bags on the curb with the skycaps, because it’s usually quicker than going inside to the check-in counter and it’s usually brothers working the bags. I enjoy their company and conversation, because it’s quite often my last opportunity to talk to one of ‘my people’ before I embark on a journey where I am surrounded by people of other races and colors.

On this particular trip, my flight left at 6AM CST, and since we’re dealing with a heightened level of airport security, you usually need to check in at least an hour before your flight leaves. The skycaps don’t open that early, so I had to check in at the counter inside the terminal. Some people don’t like using the skycaps, because it’s a common business courtesy to tip the skycaps and they don’t want to spend the money. I usually tip $2/bag, and if I have a suitcase and golf clubs, I’ll give em a fiver. But that’s me..some people tip more, some tip less. My wife’s grandfather happened to be a skycap for over 30 years, so my consciousness of making sure they’re taken care of is probably a bit higher than others.

Once you get inside to the terminal for check in, the first thing you have to do is show them some photo identification. The days of paper tickets are quickly fading away, everything is done electronically. Once they verify that your name and face matches up to the itinerary, they check in your bags and give you your boarding pass so that you can proceed to the security clearance area. You can print your boarding passes out electronically at home, but if you have to check in bags, you might as well have them print it out for you.

Now this security clearance thing is on a whole different level since September 11th. You have to stand in another line and wait to get screened. They check your photo ID and your boarding pass, if you don’t have either one of those, then you can’t proceed into the terminal.

Next you have put all of your carry on items on a conveyer belt so that they can scan it threw the X-ray machines to make sure you don’t have any bombs or weapons that you’re trying to sneak on the plane. They even had that one dude who had a bomb planted in his shoes that they caught. Thanks to him, now we usually have to take off our shoes and have them put through the X-ray machine make sure you have on some clean socks!

After all of your items are loaded onto the belt, then they summon you to walk through the metal detector. I don’t know if this is a black thing or a guilty conscience or what, but every time I get ready to walk through those things, I have this sudden rush of anxiety, wondering if I have inadvertently left a knife or something in my pocket. I always have visions of walking through the detector and the alarm going off and all the security personnel rushing over to arrest me.

BWAUNK! BWAUNK! BWAUNK! Security Alert! Security Alert! There’s a negroe with no shoes on going through checkpoint 5, we think he has a weapon!!

I know some of ya’ll might think I’m tripping (especially the white people), but there was one time when they made me walk through that detector 3 times, I took off, belt, watch, wedding ring..they finally called me over to be hand searched..just as I was gathering my things to go over to the ‘yo az in trouble now n’ga!’ section, I looked back to see this white dude walk through the same detector with 3 gold chains, a ring on every finger and a biggo Texas belt buckle and the alarm didn’t go off. So you can’t tell me that they can’t make that thing go off when they want to.

I even made a conscious effort to point this out to the two guys who were going to search me,

“What kind of bull$%@ is this?? How come that thang ain’t going off for him??!!”

They both glanced at each other with this, ‘This n’ga ain’t as dumb as the rest of them’ look, then they just hurriedly escorted me over to the search area.

No matter what you do, when you go through the security area, don’t make any ‘bomb’ jokes, because if you even make a joke about a terrorist, guns or bombs, yo az is subject to miss your plane and wind up back in an interrogation room for a couple of hours.

So once you’re through security, you find your gate, which depending on the airport that you’re in, may require you taking a train or shuttle if it’s a large airport. I prefer traveling as early as possible, because then you don’t have to deal with such large crowds and long lines.

Boarding the plane usually reminds me of cows. They call your row numbers in groups for boarding and you have to line up and proceed down the ramp to board the plane, kinda like cows being herded. Some people are too freaked out with claustrophobia or just the mere thought of being in a machine that weighs thousands of pounds that is flying thousands of feet in the air. I’ve been on jumbo jets, as well as planes so small that I could reach out my hand and touch the pilot. My preference is for bigger planes, the bigger the better, but I ain’t scaid to fly. We all have our day to go, and if I was to go in an airplane crash, I would figure the pain felt would be instantaneous and not long and drawn out, so I’m cool with that.

First class is for the ballers. Big seats, lots of leg room, first class’s definitely the way to fly. But all of us field n’gaz gotta sit in coach. I’ve always wanted to be the last person to board and just sit in first class until somebody told me I wasn’t supposed to be there, but I haven’t summoned the cohones to pull that stunt off yet, unlike Elaine in that Seinfield episode.

Once I arrived into Newark and we got off the plane, the first thing I had to do was find the baggage terminal. You gotta go to the carousels and wait for your luggage to come down the chute. Since the whole meeting was in the New York area, I knew it was best not to bother with renting a car, since I was going to be in New York, I was going to live like a New Yorker and make my way around town via taxis, buses and the expansive New York Metropolitan subway system.

I grabbed a car service at the baggage claim, and when I got in the car, I quickly realized that this guy was from some eastern bloc country. Turns out he was Russian and we had a nice little conversation comparing and contrasting Russia to New York to Texas. I threw a couple of Russian buzzwords out there that I knew like..Putin..the rescued Russian submarine..Mir..and he just took off with all of it and I was able to learn more from him.

He dropped me off at my hotel, I checked in for the conference, I checked into my room, I unloaded my bags and I opened my curtains to take a view out of the window as I called my boy Ty (I think you better callll him!) in Brooklyn. Our plan was to catch the afternoon Yankee game and we had to solidify the particulars of where and when we were going to meet each other.

Since Ty was in Brooklyn, I was in Jersey City and the game was in the Bronx, we decided to meet on the train platform on 14th street, so that we could take the 4 train up to the boogie down Bronx to check out the Bombers. I had to first take the ($1.50) PATH train which goes under the Hudson River to the World Trade Center, ground zero.

It’s still kinda eerie seeing the place where the World Trade Centers USED to be. I always find myself imagining what it would have been like if I was at that exact same spot when those airplanes hit.

From there I had to walk across the street and take a train to 14th. It costs $2 to get through the turnstiles, so I just bought a metro card for $40, which you swipe through the turnstile and it automatically deducts your fee each time you go through. The good thing about the train, is that once you get IN, you can ride all day if you want to. There aren’t any transfer fees.

I met Ty on the platform ‘toward the back of the train’ as we planned..

"My n’ga!"

"What’s up kid?! You ready to go catch this game or what?"

"I stay ready."

"Let’s go then!"

We hopped on the next train and made our way out to the Bronx. It took a minute to get out there, but that just gave us a chance to catch up with each other a bit and people watch. When we got off at Yankee Stadium, I felt like I was stepping unto a platform that millions of baseball fans throughout history had made the pilgrimage to the house that Ruth built through.

We had some $40 tickets, which I thought were pretty good. I actually didn’t care if we were on the roof, I was just happy to be IN Yankee stadium and watching a game for the first time in my life. We were both coon smiling and taking pictures and stuff (the game had already started) and we presented our tickets to one of the ushers. I was looking around feeling like Bob Uecker (I must be in the FRONT row!!) when the usher pointed us to the stairs..

"Yeah, yeah..youse guys are all the way at the top."

"At the top??? "

"Yeah, yeah..ALL the way to the top..don’t stop."

$40 dollar tickets don’t get you too close to the field at Yankee stadium, Steinbrenner gotta make that money mane. Instead of saying ‘ya’ll’ most of those northern Yankees say, ‘youse’ looks kinda strange on paper, but when you hear it, you just kinda get used to it.

We had a few dogs, enjoyed a few brews, and a gorgeous afternoon day at the ballpark.When the game was over we headed back to the train and landed back in Brooklyn. The dogs kinda got digested quickly by the beer, so by this time I was having visions of my man Radio Raheem (TWO SLICES!) and my taste buds were set on some good ol New York Ty bought a pie..and we headed back to his place to eat it.

After we ate, the effect of waking up at 2:30 AM EST and traveling almost 2 thousand miles started to take over me, and my body was calling for a nap. So I crashed out on Ty’s couch for a minute while I listened to the sounds of Brooklyn wafting up over the drone of the air conditioner and fan. New York was feeling real good to me.

We had scheduled to meet up with some of our Stanford friends later that evening. They happened to live in Brooklyn too, but it was far away enough that we had to ride a bus. Fortunately the Metro card for the subway works on the bus too, so you don’t have to carry cash to ride.

One of the best things about attending Stanford (1988-1992) was being able to hook up with some very real people. A lot of folks assume that Stanford graduates are snotty, rich and stuck up..which some are. But the group of folks that I formed a bond with operated as a family, The Bruhs. We all looked out for each other, we partied together, we studied together, we traveled together, and we all keep up with each other even now.

The weird part is seeing folks you knew back in college who used to be BUCKWILD, and now they’re living the domesticated life of a responsible husband and father. At least, I know a lot of people trip out when they see me these days, because when I was in college, I was the dude that the spotlight would go on when we were all partying and getting our groove on, and that part of Slick Rick’s ‘Children’s Story’ would come on..

“Dave the dope fiend shooting that dope, who don’t know the meaning of water or soap!”

Everybody would start pointing to me and I’d start doing that monkey-coon dance..’showing out’ if you will. Of course I wasn’t a dope shooter, cuz I have an aversion to needles..but um..anyway, I digress.

Now we all just get together and enjoy our families, hugging the babies and getting acquainted with all the little ones. This particular friend who’s house we visited in Brooklyn is one of the Bruhs who had already been at Stanford when my class arrived and he did his part in looking out for us and showing us the ropes on what it takes to succeed and he continues to be on the forefront of Bruhs who are pioneering there way toward achieving financial freedom in our world today.

Unfortunately, most black families today have their home lives revolve around a television. You see one in almost every room in a lot of working class homes today. But there’s one thing that I’ve learned from being around progressive families, is that television is an afterthought. Instead the focus is on conversation and real human interaction, instead of images that are force fed into your brain by the American media.

We all just got into our own little circles and ate take out, had a drink or two and just enjoyed each other’s company and conversation. There’s a large contingent of Stanford alumni that lives in Brooklyn and fortunately I was able to catch up with a few of them and share in a hug and a smile.

After we left the family gathering, Ty and I headed on over to a club in Manhattan, where another one of our Stanford friends was celebrating her birthday. (Happy Birthday Flo and thanks for the hookup!). Flo introduced me to a brother named Milton Allimadi, who is the publisher and CEO of We ended up hooking up with a couple of Ty’s friends from overseas and the next thing you know we were in the midst of a full scale party. You know it’s getting good when the DJ starts flipping some vinyl that’s some of that old school hip hop and everyone in the club is reciting the lyrics..

“I said, eenie-meenie-minie-moe..I wreck the mic like a pimp pimps hoz!” – DWYCK, Gangstarr featuring Nice&Smooth

Of course, by this time it’s after 3:00 AM EST, and usually in Houston, this is time for the club to be closing and everybody to be heading out to a 24-Hour breakfast place or heading home. But since this is New York, where the city NEVER sleeps, this was just the launching pad, we headed over to another club not too far away and we got into that groove thang again.

This next spot we hit was a bit more…liberal, kinda club if you will. I consider myself a conservative person, but I’m not the kind of guy that’s going to trip out on a lot of things. I mean, if I’m in a club, and I look on the dance floor and see 2 dudes dancing close together, I’m not going to freak out. I’ll casually peruse through the room and make sure it’s not a club FULL of dudes dancing together. On the same note, if I see 2 chicks dancing close together, I usually start smiling, I dunno, I’m weird like that.

This was the kind of club were everything is fair game, but the mood was good and the brews were cold, so I had a good time enjoying the beats and watching how everybody was doing their own thang. Some people were dancing together, some people were grooving on their own, but the key element is that it wasn’t anybody tripping. Nobody was confrontational or trying to fight, nobody was trying to invade my I was cool with it.

I finally ended up tumbling into the back seat of a taxi at about 5:30 am and it took me back to the World Trade Center and I caught the PATH train back over to Jersey. I ended up crawling into my bed at a little after 6 and I had to be back up at 7:30 for a meeting in the morning. I figured I’d just have to catch up on my rest when I got back home, because I was in New York, the city that never sleeps. [End Day 1]

Friday, August 05, 2005

ASAP! ASAP! (Get on you job!)

In a lot of ways, I guess I could be labeled as a people observer. When you listen to what different people from all walks of life have to say and when you watch how they react and interact with others in society, it can be quite intriguing. This voyeurism of the human condition probably has a lot to do with my passion for the written word. No matter how dynamic the prose that flows from my pen, there is nothing stranger or more bizarre than real life.

I was on the phone with a friend of mine the other day, and I happened to glance up at the television and they were showing the services from Luther Vandross’ funeral. As I was looking at the different people who got up to give remarks about Luther’s wonderful life and career, the camera panned across the immense gathering of folks that were packed inside Harlem’s Riverside Church and I started thinking about all of the lives that Luther had touched through his music and I started thinking out loud…

“Wow! Did you see all those people at Luther Vandross’ funeral??!!”

“ was sad to see him go.”

“How many people do you think will be at your funeral?”


“You know..have you ever thought about when it’s your many of your family and friends will come and pay their last respects?”

“Man..look here..I don’t even WANT to think about nothing like that! Have you?”

“Of course! I don’t think death is something to be afraid of..I think it’s something we all should prepare for, because we ALL have to go that way one day.”

“Well..maybe I’ll think about it when I get older, but as for now, while I’m still young and healthy, I ain’t even trying to go there and you’re younger than me, so I don’t know why the hell you would even think about something morbid like that!”

“Hmph..that is IF you and I make it to be ‘older’ never know what may happen.”

“Look..don’t even start with that’ going up yonder to the upper room’ talk. I’ll worry about death when I have to face it, but as for right now, I’m focused in on enjoying LIFE.”

“Me too. But you can’t fully enjoy life until you realize how brief our time really is here on earth. “

“Yeah..whatever. I mean, I hear ya D..but like I said, I ain’t trying to get into all that right now, I’ve got too many other things on my mind like keeping these lights on and keeping my kids fed, than worrying about how many people are going to be at my funeral.”

“See, that’s where you misunderstood many people are at your funeral should be the LEAST of your worries. If anything you should start thinking about where your soul is going to go after you take that last breath.”

I guess since I’ve been a part of a lot of funerals these past couple of years, all of the experiences of having loved ones pass away has caused me to become a lot more focused in preparing for the day of my last breath.

To some people this just means making sure your burial insurance is paid up and that you have your will and paperwork in order so that your family doesn’t have to scrape up money just to bury you. But to me, having your affairs in order on earth is just a logistical bulletin item, the REAL issue isn’t life insurance, but rather eternal life assurance.

I was reading an issue of VIBE magazine that had an article about Al ‘Grits’ Green and the event that gave him that well known moniker. A lot of people know that it came from his experience of being burned by having a pot of hot grits thrown on him by a woman. But what most people don’t realize, is that same woman who threw those hot grits on Al Green died that same night, from what the police and medical examiner deemed as a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

In the article, they had a quote from one of Al’s close friends at the time, Isaac Hayes. Hayes said that after that whole incident (Al did have to go down to the police station and have ballistics check his hands for gunpowder residue and was later released after the reports came back negative), Al grew closer to the LORD and subsequently he became Rev. Al Green. But the point Hayes made, was that it is often after close experiences with death, that people tend to seek God for comfort and understanding.

Some people go through traumatic experiences and losses of close loved ones, and instead of seeking the LORD, they turn away from Him, because they feel that if there IS a God, He definitely doesn’t care about them, because if He did, He wouldn’t have allowed such tragic and traumatic events to occur.

No one can explain all the reasons of why God allows these things to happen. To our mere mortal mind, it would make sense that someone as loving and full of a giving spirit as Luther Vandross would be around a lot longer than 54 years on this earth. We can’t explain all of the reasons why, all we can do is keep looking up to our Creator for the strength and guidance to keep living our lives the way that He wants us to live it.

Of course, the next obvious question is exactly how are we supposed to know how God wants us to live our lives? (Those who do believe in God of course)

Some people meditate and try to be in tune with nature and the Creator, others go to some form of religious worship service, to be uplifted by songs from the choir or to hear words of inspiration from the minister or speaker. But ultimately, the responsibility of being in tune and attentive to what thus saith the LORD, rests on each and every individual soul.

Those who grew up in strict religious households, where it wasn’t an option, but rather a mandate for all under the roof to attend services often stray away from any form of religious observance once they become adults.

Because it was ‘forced’ on them as a child, they feel the need for spiritual freedom that is not dictated to them or forced down their throats. There are so many different religions, denominations and cults in our society today, that some people refuse to make a choice, and instead drift along a path of spiritual individualism. Not attending or participating in any form of organized worship/praise service. The common lament is,

“Religion is man-made, I’m down for God..but not religion”

I can say this, because I know that I was one of these people for a large part of my adult life. I was raised with a strong Biblical foundation, but once I got out there into the world with the freedom to worship or not worship, I chose the path of individualism.

But invariably, whenever you venture out into the wilderness of life, you’re going to start running across some wild animals along your path and you will begin to realize just how wide open and vulnerable you are to what London described as the ‘Law of Club and Fang’ in his classic novella, ‘The Call of the Wild’.

Some people see the occurrences of the barbaric nature of life and they surround themselves with guns and ammunition, barricading themselves away from the world with burglar bars and home security systems, with hopes of keeping the prowlers and predators away. Some get so paranoid, that the can no longer rest without having a gun under their pillow or in the nightstand nearby.

“Pistol grip pump on my lap at all times!”

Even after my eyes began to open, and I could vividly see the vampires and wolves roving to and fro seeking to devour, I still refrained from participating in any form of organized worship, because although I believed in God, I still wasn’t ready to bow down and submit myself to Him. Church was good and all, but since I was living my life in ways that I knew wasn’t lining up to what ‘thus saith the LORD’, I preferred to avoid worshipping, because I didn’t want to be like so many hypocrites that’s in church singing loud every Sunday and shouting Halleluia, even though they just got through breaking all 10 commandments the night before.

In my mind, when I DID start going to church again, I was going to be real about it and ready, not one of those fake the funk hypocrites that’s in church in body, but not in spirit. My father used to talk to me from time to time and remind me that I needed to give the LORD some of my time.

“I will Dad..I’m just not ready for all that right now. I’ll start going back when I get myself together.”

“You can’t get yourself together on your need Him to do it. God wants you to come as you are..He’ll work on you as-is.”

Although I wasn’t attending church regularly, I was studying my Bible diligently. I even embarked on a personal goal to read the Bible in it’s entirety from “In the beginning..” all the way to, “May the grace of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” It took me 9 months to accomplish it that first time through, but it is to date the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done in my life.

And once I was set in my conviction for the Christ, the Spirit of the LORD began to move inside of me and I knew that it was God calling me to stand up and be the obedient disciple that He had called me to be. So instead of watching my wife and kids leave for Sunday School every morning as I got comfortable on my couch getting ready for the football games to come on with my cold beer (Psssht!), I started getting up and going with them.

People can talk about how much they love God, but if you truly love Him and have faith in Him, then you will heed the call of discipleship and become obedient to His command. Although Jesus fulfilled the Law and we are saved through faith and faith alone, that does not negate the command to obey. And no one can ignore the 10 Commandments.

And although the 1st commandment is still the greatest one..

“You shall have no other gods before Me.” – Exodus 20:3

The other 9 are still applicable today, including remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy. (Ex 20:8) Some people may watch a televangelist or two on Sunday, to appease their conscience so that they can say they DID do something to remember the Sabbath. But that doesn’t excuse anyone (who’s physically able) from participating in a praise and worship service.

People who have read my Statement of Faith often ask me what ‘set’ or denomination I’m throwing up. Although I was raised in and practice within the Baptist faith, I don’t feel constrained by a denomination. If anything, the one thing I do see as a necessary, is to be part of a church or worship community that is Bible based.

The trick is realizing that there are a lot of faiths and denominations that use the Bible, but yet they don’t consider it the complete and inerrant Word of God. Instead they use the Bible as a sampler platter, picking out the parts that line up to their practices, and completely ignoring or discrediting the parts that don’t jibe right with what they’re teaching.

And when I say Bible, I’m speaking of the 66 canonized books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. A lot of people even claim to be ‘Christian’, but yet they discredit the complete authority of the Bible.

“Aww, don’t even worry about that part, that’s just something that Paul wrote.”

“The Old Testament was made invalid by the New Testament.”

“If you ain’t never spoke in tongues, then you don’t know the LORD.”

“The Bible is a good book, but it’s been changed, so you need to read this---, because this is what God REALLY meant to say.”

People who don’t read and study the Bible for themselves, are left defenseless against a lot of slick preachers and false prophets who distort and discredit the Bible. Just because a building is labeled a church doesn’t mean that it’s serving the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And until I began to study to show myself approved unto God, I was reluctant to commit myself to any church, because I was wary of having someone pee on my head and try to convince me that it’s raining.

There are a lot of people who see the Bible as a good book of inspiration and good stories, but yet they don’t recognize it as the complete and inerrant Word of God. They’re almost as dangerous as the people who see the Bible as complete fiction. And until I studied the Word for myself, I was unable to step out there on faith and believe something just because my parents and grandparents believed it.

Soo…I said all of that to bring us to the first 3 verses from the first chapter in the book of Psalms. There are 150 Psalms, half of which were written by David. The 150 Psalms or ‘songs’, since they were set to the accompaniment of stringed instruments and served as the temple hymn-book and devotional guide for the Jewish people, cover a diverse topic range, such as: jubilation, war, peace, worship, judgment, messianic prophecy, praise and lament.

"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." - Psalms 1:1-3

This particular passage contrasts two ways of life: godly and ungodly. The first thing to note from the first verse, is the separation that occurs once a man places his faith in the LORD. If you’re going to stand up and be counted as a child of God, you have to remove yourself from the counsel of the wicked. Those people, places and things in your life that you know are contrary to the Word of God. That’s what sanctification is all about, separating you from the ungodly.

Instead, the God fearing man will find his delight and joy in the ‘law of the LORD’, which is the Word of God. Until you start going through some things that you can’t control, you will have no idea of the delight and comfort that is granted when you read and study the Bible. It’s not something to use as a genie either, rubbing it and reading it when you know you need a blessing, then putting it away once that storm passes and forgetting about it. No, the Word of God is a lifetime commitment, and once you get rooted IN the Word, then you will have the need to meditate on it day and night.

Now of course, a lot of people only come to God, because they’re looking for a blessing.

Because they’re trying to get paid like Jabez. They want some of that increase in their life. That’s why those who meditate on the LORD have to be real with themselves. God is not to be mocked. He’s not like Aladdin that you can rub when you need Him and then once you get your blessing, you go back to living an ungodly life. But the good part is, no matter your reason for coming to His table to partake of the Bread of Life, when you study His Word with an open heart, your spirit will be fed some real nourishment, and you will start growing spiritually.

I say this because I know that there are a vast number of people out there, even a lot of the readers, who are fooling themselves when it comes to their relationship with the LORD. From those who completely avoid even thinking about it, to those who appease themselves by saying a prayer over their food and listening to a TV preacher every now and then, to those who worship in the church of EMC , (attending only on Easter, Mother’s Day and Christmas to appease their grandma or spouse)’s a wild world out there ya’ll. And if you haven’t found something real to anchor your soul in, so that you’re prepared to take that last breath..well, then what are you really doing then?

Stacking that paper? What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his soul?

Raising your kids? Whatchu go do once they grow up and leave?

You just trying to survive? Why go through hell on earth and then have to deal with the eternal lake of fire?

And you can’t even pull that, “Aww mane! This is the same stuff I hear from my grandma/mama/daddy/wife/holy roller neighbor all the time” Because this is coming from a hard headed brother that, truth be told, never even liked going to church.

Going to church always seemed like a complete waste of a perfectly good weekend day to me. You had to comb your hair (ick!), wear some clothes and shoes that you normally never wore and sit up and listen to some fat and sweating preacher screaming that all of us are going to hell if we don’t repent. But that was back when I thought as a child and I didn’t want anybody telling me what to do.

All of those who are single with no kids and still resisting making any steps in growing closer to God, I’ll let you make it (for now), because you are obviously still caught up on that idol worship..whether it’s bowing down to that wooden idol (paper is made out of wood), or falling into that self-worship, “I don’t need God, I am a god!!” hater mentality that triggered the fall of Satan. I just pray that the LORD spares your life long enough to realize that you need Him like he did for me.

But for all ya’ll people out there with kids in this world, that you’re supposed to be training up in the way that they should go?? ya’ll don’t have ANY need to get yourself and your kids into a Bible based church just like T.I. says,

‘ASAP, ASAP!..git on yo job!’.

You might not see the need or the urgency now, but we’ll see what it do once something happens that makes you recognize your need to get down on your knees and pray to the LORD for help. Ya feel me?