The Most Dangerous Skin In the Game

The Most Dangerous Skin in the Game

When I was in 7th grade, I read a disturbing short story called The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. I won’t spoil it for those who are not familiar with it, but it is mostly about an insidious, rich man who is bored with life and decides to hunt humans for sport instead of game.

I like to think that I am an objective, rational person. I never hitch rides on bandwagons and want to know both sides of an issue before forming an opinion that I usually only share amongst close friends and family. Nor am I into conspiracy theories. However, the death of George Floyd was so disgusting and incomprehensible to me that I felt compelled to use my voice since his has been extinguished. His senseless death has set my soul on fire.

The brutality against Blacks by the police and the world at large has been happening for far too long. This practice is nothing new. America is now being forced to acknowledge its system of institutional racism with the advent of technology in the form of cell phones that record. We have been “free” full citizens of America since 1865. One would think that this Civil Rights Act would signal the end of oppression and racial terrorism. Sadly, it has not. We are merely tolerated in a country built literally on the backs of our ancestors. Our faux freedom is for legalistic purposes only.

In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress. The law allowed slaves to be returned to their owners even if they were in a free state. This act also made the federal government accountable for locating, returning, and trying slaves that had successfully escaped.

Today we have a free status. But we are still being hunted by angry, hateful bigots who feel obligated to return us to our “rightful” state-bondage or death. It does not matter the perceived “offense.” Whether it’s walking through a neighborhood in which we live, selling cigarettes, watching birds, jogging, sleeping, playing with a toy gun, partying, getting a traffic ticket, lawfully carrying a weapon, shopping, reading, decorating for a party, relaxing at home, asking for help after being in a car accident, having a cell phone, playing loud music, going to church, riding in a car, or breathing, our existence spurs the hatemongers into action. It’s troubling and plain sad. This has always struck me as odd, considering that our ancestors did not come voluntarily. I currently wonder why White supremacists do not leave America and form their own country. They could steal another landmass and build a wall to keep “Pleasantville” pleasant and pure.

There has never been a time in my life that I have not been warily aware of the color of my skin. Before I walk into any establishment, meet people of other races, or travel abroad, I constantly wonder if my skin will be an issue. It’s exhausting. During my freshman year at Broad Ripple High School, I was waiting outside under the flag-ironically, for my stepfather to pick me up after ballet rehearsal. A car sped down the avenue, and a man screamed, “Go home nigger!” I wasn’t afraid, but I was shocked that White people still used such terminology. I graduated high school exactly twenty four years to the day and I still vividly recall that incident which shows the impact that it had on my psyche. There have been several more hurtful instances in which I have experienced varying forms of racism over the course of my life. I’m sure this is true for most Blacks in America. We are still being targeted for the hue of our skin, something that we have no control over. We are the hunted, and none of us are safe-Black men, women, or children. America has turned into Ship Trap Island.

Sometimes we ignore what is taking place in our society no matter how vile and overt it is merely because it is uncomfortable to to take action, and we “have no skin in the game,” to borrow a phrase made popular by billionaire tycoon and philanthropist, Warren Buffet. To have skin in the game means to have a personal stake or investment in something. I would like to disagree with anyone who has that attitude. We all have skin in the game-Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, or Other. My two Black precious sons, my Black family members and friends, and all the Black students that I teach are my skin in the game. If you work with Black people, live next to them, are friends with them, play golf with them, teach them-that’s your skin in the game. Our skin, Black skin, is simply the most dangerous skin in the game.

Elie Wiesel said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.” This is a fight that Black people cannot win alone as we are not the color of power and privilege. We are not the face of America. We need all our White allies to stand alongside us. We must overcome this together. I challenge all my white friends, colleagues and family to speak up using any platform they have whether it be social media, letters to the editor, contacting local Congress members, participating in peaceful protests, organizing protests, informing yourself on the issues at hand, creating petitions, refusing to be silent any longer in the face of injustice, talking with your children and saying enough is enough and standing on it.

 

 

 

Perverse and Cursed

“For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” ~2 Timothy 3:2-4

I shouldn’t be, but I am. I am simply amazed at the way  people conduct themselves in today’s times. It is literally mindboggling, lacking any form of logic or human decency, and is plain frightening. When I hear about what makes the news I am often devastated. In my city of Indianapolis, just in the last week we had a myraid of homocides-seven people killed in 24 hours, a group of nine arrested for supplying heroin, crack, and synthetic marijuana to the homeless at a local shelter, an eight year old girl remains missing, and the remains of a 30 year old mother of two was found by a fisherman who reeled in her severed foot instead of a fish. And those are just a few local stories. The national news is even more bizarre, unsettling and heartbreaking.

On social media the hate filled comments, blasphemous language and images, sexually charged memes, and mere lack of compassion is troubling.  I refrain from making comments to those who speak negatively. It would not be well received and would only create an opening for attacks against me. The gossip is more than malicious. It is usually downright murderous to one’s character. Recently a beloved rapper and community activist was murdered. He had two children. The mother of his first child is being villified for not posting anything on her social media pages immediately following his death. Since when does one has to “post” anything to validate how they truly feel? I was deeply bothered when I learned of his death, but even more so when I skimmed through thousands of harsh, judgmental, mean-spirited,  indecent, and slanderous comments directed at this woman. I was in true disbelief at the hatred directed toward her.  And I’m sure the vast majority of those who left such scathing critiques on her character did not know her personally. The tongue is truly a lethal weapon. “It is an unruly evil full of deadly poison” according to James 3:8.

I’ve also  noticed that celebrity worship is at an all time high. I’ve never quite understood this phenomenon. Yes, there are entertainers that I enjoy, however, I understand that they are no different than you and I. In God’s eyes, we are all equal. Thus, I do not see the need to place them on a pedestal. I do not follow any “stars” on social media either. I like to use the one platform I am on to stay connected with those I actually know in real life-friends and family. I do not wish to engage is this seemingly innocent form of idolatry.

Many accounts are boastful and proud. There is little humilty on most social media sites. Even professional networking sites such as LinkedIn has been infiltrated by the same mentality. People are desperately seeking attention and validation and will do almost anything to get it. The desire to be the “cool kid” is still a thing.  I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed this morning and noticed that a professor posted a video of himself teaching while one of the student’s infant child is strapped to his chest. My first thought was why did his good deed need to be announced? Did not Jesus say, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:6

Another sickening trend I’ve noticed in teenagers is the usage of the expression “On God” as a way to show they are serious about what they say. As a teacher, I hear this phrase all day long.  I ask the students not to use the term in my class. I find it to be distasteful and disturbing. Nothing should be “put” on the Lord as we are not to take His name in vain. His name is holy. His name is a “strong tower.” His name should not be profaned. Galatians 6:7 provides a warning to those who continue with this reckless speech, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

Last Friday when I was leaving work I noticed that I had a low tire. I saw a male coworker and asked him if he had seen the automechanics teacher because I needed some assistance with my tire. He looked over at my truck and mentioned that the teacher was still there but was getting ready to leave. He walked away without even inquiring if I would be fine or even offering assistance with my dilemma. Obviousy the day and age has passed in which we show love or even concern for our neighbor.

Sadly people opt to do what is pleasing to them versus what is pleasing to God. I constantly have to check myself. My flesh is very weak and I often find myself being short tempered with others. Especially so when I forget to eat from the fruits of the spirit and find myself dipping in the world’s bowl of fruit.

All of these things are simply signs of the time that we are warned about in the Bible. This type of loathsome behavior makes me long for the day that Lord puts an end to this strange day that we live in.

Testimony Tuesday

” I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, And will not be ashamed.”

                                                                                                                   ~Psalm 119:46

Yesterday I posted about some current struggles. I mentioned that it is difficult for me to pray at times because I don’t get a spoken response from God and it makes me feel as if he’s not listening. So instead I wrote a prayer and asked for Him to help me with this and some other things, anxiety being one.

The Lord is on an on time God. Almost immediatedly after I blogged, I received a call from my tenant that the heat was not blowing. Normally this is one of the things that produces a lot of anxiety for me. Yesterday was 11 degrees-far too cold to go without heat. I also wondered how much such a repair would cost me. In the back of mind I am always expeting her to call without warning about some major repair. Of course, me being the property owner, would be responsible for covering the expenses.

But this time I listened and simply replied I would send someone over immediatedly. I told myself that it would be okay and remembered that God would not want me to be anxious about anything. I called a furnace repairman and made an appointment. I texted her to let her know that someone would be there at 2:30pm.

At 2:26pm she called again to let me know that the heat was working fine. She apologized for calling and said she had no idea what happened. I was puzzled but attributed to a glitch in the furnace.

It didn’t dawn on me until I got home that it wasn’t a simple snafu. God had sent me a test to see how I was going to respond. Once I realized that, I began laughing gleefully. God does listen because He cares. I believe He used the issue with the heat to convey the message to me. He hears everything I say and don’t say, reads every letter that I write to Him and even longs to hear from me. Hallelujah!

Still

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

My heart is still a tablet…I have so much to say regarding my faith that I don’t fully know how to say it. Or cannot find the time to write it is more likely the truth. I am weary.

I am still struggling with many things-prayer, forgiveness, and imbuing the fruits of the spirit. I can very much relate to Paul when he describes his weak flesh in Romans 7:15. When I take two steps forward in my walk, I end up taking two steps back-back to square one I go.

I am currently reading The New You: A Guide to Better Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness by Nelson Searcy and Jennifer Dykes Henson. While reading I was reminded of this promise from God found in Psalm 139:5-10:

You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.

These words are comforting and beautiful. No matter what I do or don’t do, God is still there. He is faithful when we are not. It also helps me with prayer. Sometimes it is difficult to pray because I do not feel that God is listening. He doesn’t “reply” with literal words which makes the exchange feel onesided. Sometimes I feel like I am simply talking to myself which then makes me feel silly. I am working on believeing that God is listening and forging ahead in communing with Him. So I want to close this post with a prayer. If you feel so inclined, please touch and agree with me.

Father God,

I am thankful to have an amazing, omnipotent, omniscient God who goes before me in all circumstances including death. Thank you for Your loving kindness, Your faithfulness, and Your provision. I am clearly aware that I’ve done very little to earn your grace and favor, yet You freely let it flow from Your Superior Being to mine. Lord I ask that You guide me, ease my anxieties, fill me up with You. Take my hurts and use them for something good. Help me to make Godly choices in all circumstances. Let not my flesh get in the way of Your glory Lord. Lord, I ask that You make my heart forgiving and giving. Remove the bitterness from my mind and spirit Father. Allow me to record Your word on the pages of my heart and not the wrongdoings of others. Make my enemies my footstool so that I may rest. Soothe my soul Lord God as only you can. Today I am still, knowing without a doubt that You are God! Lord I am listening for Your voice. In the Holy name of the Lamb, Amen!

Tribe

“…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” ~ Proverbs 18:24 NKJV

As the holidays approach I think more and more about my fragmented, distant family. Although there are only a handful of us left, we rarely connect with each other outside of tragedies.

I have five siblings that I seldom see. I have not seen my youngest sister in years nor have I met her last three children. The same goes for my youngest brother. My middle brother only contacts me when he is in need. I communicate the most with my middle sister which is still only marginally. My brother who is the second child reaches out more than the others. I suppose because it was only us for the first two years.

I have three aunts and a smattering of cousins. I talk to two aunts on occasion and my cousins when I run into them on a rare outing.

It is hurtful to be estranged from family. I have spent many days pondering our fragile connection. However, lately I have made peace with the way things are and instead try to focus on nurturing the relationships that I do have.

The other day my seven year old asked if we could have a “real” Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family. He referenced an end of summer party that we attended, “like the party at the big, blue house.” It took me a minute to recollect and figure out that he was talking about my friend’s party. We had a great time surrounded by both good food and people. It made me sad that I cannot offer him such a setting. We simply do not have the family for it.

Life is tough. The Bible even warns us that our days will be full of trouble and I can say that this has certainly been true in my life. But I also know that is why the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, gave us families. Our family are supposed to help smooth life’s frayed edges.

I too, know that we can’t force our blood relatives to be kindred. However, we can create our own tribe-another blessing from our Father who connects us all. I’ve done this in a sense. My motley crew of a family does not resemble the traditional model. It is composed of my two boys, a few true friends, coworkers turned comrades, some church saints, girlfriends now sisterfriends, and past and present students.

As a bonus, we get the families of my tribe mates as well. Sometimes I sit back, reflect and wish it could be different with my biological family. These people are blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh after all. This will never change. But too much time has elapsed which has allowed the distance to widen. Things are strained and tense to the point that I do not even wish to attempt to sew the rip that’s torn us a part. Obviously no one else wants to either. Being family should not be a seasonal affair when it is meant for a lifetime. Now they are almost like strangers to me. I only know them by heart.

Dry 

“He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs.” ~Psalm 107:35

Reminder for those of you in a desert place: 
“Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rain will come again.” ~Sarah Ban Breathnach

Unbroken 

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” Corinthians 9:24

Today we began a series entitled “At the Movies.” Our pastor takes a popular movie, shortens it to fulfill  the purpose of his message, and inserts himself in the film and provides biblical commentary.

The film today was Unbroken, which is about the life of Louis Zamperini. It recounts his amazing odyssey of triumph that he contributes to the unfailing grace of God.

His life was such a powerful testimony! We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us and Louis proved just that! His brother Pete gave him a mantra-“If you can take it, you can make it.” This gave Louis strength for the journey  during his 97 years on earth.

I was moved to tears during the showing and sat on the edge of my seat. It was hard to watch the evil he endured.

I could relate to so much of his life-the low self esteem, facing trial after trial that would break most, and the strong will to make it despite the odds.

Pastor Dave reminded us that the devil has no real power over us and he can only trick us into destroying ourselves. He plays a lot of mind games and excels at convincing us that we  are worthless. In the case of Louis, the devil used the Bird to try to break his spirit. It was obvious that the Bird saw greatness in him, too and hated him for it.

Pastor Dave also talked about how living out of season can hamper us. Louis defined himself as an Olympic runner and was almost destroyed when he lost a race as a prisoner. His focus should have been on survival instead of his past glory. We must stay in the present in order to appreciate the blessings that we do have.

It is true that God prepares us in advance to fight future battles. Louis was “trained” as a youth with the many gladiator type battles he faced as an Italian immigrant in his neighborhood and his Olympic training as a runner.

The most astonishing part of his story was the ability to forgive his captors-the very men who tormented him as a POW. He actually met with them all except for the Bird who refused. Again, another solid example of how we can do anything as long as we rely on the strength of the Lord.

Louis spent 47 days at sea after their military plane crashed. He vowed to God that he would dedicate his life to him if he would only let him live. God granted his request and Louis eventually kept his promise.

I have been down-but never out, bent-but not broken, and I’ve been through many fires-but I never smell like smoke-Hallelujah!!!!

I want to encourage anyone reading these words today to keep running the race! Our sufferings are never in vain and all things can be used for good by God. He hears every prayer we utter and stores them in His golden goblet in heaven. Never grow weary of fighting the good fight of faith my friend!

Refuge 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”—Psalm 46:1

In July I had the pleasure of spending a week in beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico-in the Condado Beach area to be exact. One morning I decided to take an Uber and go to old San Juan. I heard it was a sight to see and indeed it was. I fell in love with the colorful buildings and the blue-yes blue, cobblestone streets. 



I wanted to take a picture or two of myself but it was hard to get a good shot solo. I saw a group of ladies on a corner and approached one of them to take my picture. She happily agreed and they all participated and turned it into a photoshoot.  


Afterwards I asked where I could go for breakfast which is where they were heading and they invited me to tag along. The ladies ranged in ages 61-68 and had been friends since they were small children. Maria and Frances still lived on the island. Nell lived in New Zealand and was there to visit friends and her ailing parents. Mary lived in San Antonio and was there for the same reasons as Nina. 


I spent about five hours with “the girls” who treated me to breakfast and taught me a lot about Puerto Rican history and culture as they graciuosly took me on a walking tour. They dropped me back off at my hotel and I left them transformed by their kindness to a stranger. I hoped that we would stay in touch.


Sometimes our lives intersect with strangers and we are richer for it. In light of the hurricanes that hit both Puerto Rico and Texas, I have not stopped thinking about my new friends. I have been trying to get in contact with them to no avail. I pray that they are okay. Through my church we have sent more than $100, 000 in funds to Texas, Florida, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico. But I wish I could do so much more. I have agonized over this and today God told me to write this post and pray. 


So I ask you all to please help me stand in the gap for “the ladies” as well as the thousands of others suffering due to the storm. Let’s gather in His name on their behalf. Let us pray that they remain hopeful and faithful in their time of trouble. Let their needs be met and take comfort because Help is on the way!  The Bible says that the prayer of the righteous availeth much! 

Sunday Sermon

“There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.” Isaiah 4:6

Today’s sermon was right on time. I have been struggling with maintaining my faith and hope in a few things I am dealing with. Not to mention, there have been a lot of storms weather wise. Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, and many Caribbean nations have been besieged. Storms, physical and metaphorical, are inevitable. 


As a result we do not know what storms or the magnitude of them that we will face however, be warned that they will come in a myriad of forms. Belief in God’s word can help fortify us against the attacks. 

As my pastor pointed out, storms can help teach us what is important in life. I want to encourage anyone currently facing stormy weather to hold on to your faith. Storms can cause depression. Depression is the result of spiritual dryness. When you don’t read the Bible, attend church, or commune with God, your spirit becomes barren. Hope cannot take root in dry places. Nothing can grow without the Living Water. 

In closing, He gave us five principles to apply during trials: 

1. Laugh in your circumstances-this reminds me of the Proverbs 31 woman who laughed without fear of the future. She was wise knowing that no matter what her future held, God would use it for good. 

2. Decide what is true-remember, the Father of Lies loves to confuse the mind and paint everything black so that life feels hopeless. 

3. Discipline your body-Take care of yourself while enduring the storm. Otherwise you are even more vulnerable in a weakened state. We need all of our energy to fight the good fight of faith. 

4. Fight for your life-you have to do your part alongside God. The Bible says faith without works is dead-so work your faith!

5. Preach your message-this resonated deeply within my core. God allows some storms to pass through our lives to shelter others. This realization is powerful. Your “mess” can be a message for someone else. 

Confirmation 

“…You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, Shall revive me again, And bring me up again from the depths of the earth.  You shall increase my greatness, And comfort me on every side. ” ~Psalm 71:20-21 

Tonight I was reading the Bible and came across this gem of a scripture. This is spiritually right on time for as I was in dire need of a word.  

This gives me strength to continue. I know that God is well aware of all that ails me. 

Verses 14-17 of the same Psalm tells me just what I need to do: “But I will hope continually, And will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness And Your salvation all the day, For I do not know their limits. I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.”