Saturday, October 2, 2010

Transition

It's been an interesting time of transition these last few months.

We just moved from Northwest Arkansas to the Dallas area where Lisa was raised. Honestly, it's nice to be closer to family. Although we have so many amazing friendships up in NWA, we missed being close to our families. And though we grew fond of NWA, we always thought we'd somehow end up back in Texas. It's always felt like home to us. We just wish we could bring all of our friends from Arkansas with us. That's the part that is the hardest to contend with...not being surrounded with all of the people that over the years have become very important to us. We will, in time, form new relationships with people we have yet to meet. It's a little scary. I can't speak for Lisa but it's kind of exciting too...exciting to know we are going to meet new people that we'll form strong bonds with. That, like anything, will come in time. Until then, it feels a bit like being in a strange place although this area is very familiar to us because we've visited so often and because this is where Lisa grew up for 17 years.

To say our family has been on a roller coaster ride these past few months would be an understatement. Life and the choices you make can make for some really tough times. One day we might have to sit down and write a memoir of some kind to pass along the things we've learned along the way. There are SO many things Lisa and I would do differently if we had the luxury of that time machine thingy Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite so often wished for out loud. Through our own mistakes and through the things we've endured, we've often found ourselves grapsing for straws, wondering out loud if God was truly there, if He truly cared about us and what we were going through. Anyone who would have you believe trying to live out an authentic Christian walk is easy is lying, delusional, faking or a combination of all three. I don't know that I've felt as big of a failure as I've felt these last few months than at any other time in my life. This walk has a way of stripping you down until you are confronted with the sobering reality of who you are at your core. Who am I at my core? A broken, needy person who knows much less than what I thought I knew and completely dependent upon a loving Savior who knows much more and better than I do.

Despite the challenges we've faced and are facing, we have reason for hope. There are yet unrealized opportunities that lay beyond the horizon, seen and unseen. Lisa is excelling in cosmetology school and establishing herself as a top student in her class, which I'm very proud of. It's exciting to see her do so well, finally following a long-held dream. I know she's going to be an exceptional stylist so it's going to be fun to see how that takes shape over time. Kaylise has transitioned to 1st grade in a new school very well. I think it helps that two of her cousins attend the same school. She and Isaiah LOVE being close to their cousins and one of their Grannies. We're just dealing with trying to get them to understand that although they live in the same town now, it doesn't mean they get to visit them every day. Good luck to us on that! I've picked up a part-time job working when I'm not in research, which has been nice since I haven't had much research in the past 3 months (1 project to be exact). That has been a great source of frustration to say the least but I know God knows my situation and my need for work. The pain of not feeling productive as a man who is responsible for providing for his family is a very taxing, solitary pain that's hard to describe. And yet I know this is but for a season. This will not always be. I know I have to be diligent and focused on what I can control as a professional and leave the rest to God. He's shown us grace through family that has had to step in and provide us help with finances in amazing ways. I look forward to the times when we are the ones providing relief for those who need it.

My sincerest thanks to those of you, our friends and family, who have given their support, whether that be through prayer, phone calls, texts, e-mails or finances during this time of transition in our lives. We owe you so much more than the support you've given. We pray that you would be blessed seventy times seven for what you have done for us.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Rom. 8:28 NASB

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ground Zero

We live in very interesting times.

This Ground Zero mosque issue has exploded before our eyes and shows that there are still great and immeasurable hurts because of 9/11. What happened that day is unprecedented in our nation's history. And precisely because the trauma of that day has no parallel, the pain resulting from those actions will not ever completely go away.

What's really maddening to me is the reaction by some towards people like me who don't think the Park 51 project should go forward at the proposed site. We're being called "islamophobes", "bigots", "racists", even "un-American". Really? So does that mean almost 70% of the country is composed of such people (among which are those like
Debra Burlingame who lost loved ones that day), this same country that just elected its first "black" President? Of course, the talking heads are saying this from the comfort of their nicely decorated television studios. It's easy to call people names when you don't have to look those people in the face. Channeling that famous broadcasting legend Ron Burgundy, "You stay classy San Diego."

The President's weighing in on this issue has been a profile in disaster. Full-throated and confident, he took time during a White House iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan to insert himself into the controversy. A couple of things stood out to me beyond what he said last Friday versus Saturday; first how he decided to deliver those remarks between those same two days and secondly, the content of the official statement from the White House concerning the celebration of Ramadan. Symbolism, decorum and delivery say a lot - especially when remarks come from the President.
As smart as many elites would like for us to believe he is, it's remarkable that 20 months into the job he still gets tripped up by this. He gets so eager to kowtow to the Muslim world that he forgets about the people he's sworn to protect.

What this episode does is perpetuate the narrative that Democrats just don't get it. Let's go back to that official White House statement regarding their celebration of Ramadan (if you wish, you can read it in full
here). The President stated, in part, that "Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality. And here in the United States, Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been a part of America..." Islam has always been a part of America? How so? To say this is an attempt to erase the intentional influence that Judeo-Christian principles played in our founding. It's an attempt to undermine the abundant Christian faith of our forefathers. Go back and read the words written by those who signed and authored the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution. Take a trip to Washington and go to the monuments - read the words etched in stone at those sacred places. You won't read about Allah, Mohammed, hadith, jihad or shariah. But if you were able to examine the cap of the Washington Monument, you would read "Laus Deo". If you were at the Jefferson Memorial, you would read "Almighty God hath created the mind free..." At the Lincoln Memorial, you would read that "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether".

It's not just the President "stepping in it". You also have Nancy Pelosi saying just yesterday she
supported the government investigating those who oppose the Park 51 project. Really Ms. Pelosi?! Do you not have better things to do other than trying to intimidate Americans who have an honest, substantive problem with a mosque being built at Ground Zero? I've got an idea. Why don't you instead take time out to truly look into who Imam Rauf truly is and why he can't bring himself to say that Hamas is a terror organization, why he says Usama bin Laden is made in the USA and why the US was an accessory to what happened at 9/11? Why take a chance to embolden the millions of radical Muslims around the world by allowing this mosque to be erected on sacred ground knowing that Muslims have a penchant for building victory monuments at places of conquest?

Regardless of what Robert Gibbs says, this mosque controversy is a lot more than just a local issue. This is bigger than New York, city and state. People know that this issue reverbs throughout the country. Almost 10 years ago, Lower Manhattan was Ground Zero to the worst terrorist attack in our history. Today it serves as Ground Zero for the battle lines being drawn again as our continuing legacy as a nation hangs in the balance. We can't ignore the fact that our way of life is under attack by radical Islam and by those who wish to stifle and intimidate those who oppose this mosque.

Listen to the words of Raheel Raza, a truly moderate Muslim who in a recent
interview with Bill O'Reilly said this: "I can't begin to imagine how they would even conceive of an idea that building a mosque there, which is an exclusive place of prayer for Muslims, would in any way build tolerance and respect."

Wisdom and the courage of conviction - thank you to Ms. Raza and those families of 9/11 victims standing on the front lines in this fight exuding these very traits so many in this discussion lack.



Thursday, June 17, 2010

Unintended Results

It's now been a little more than 24 hours since the President gave his speech from the Oval Office concerning the ongoing disaster in the Gulf. What strikes me is the collective outcry from those on the left and the right against last night's speech. Considering the times in which we live, when so much division prevails between liberals and conservatives, accidentally this speech has done what thus far Obama intentionally has been unable to do - create common ground for people that have completely different ideologies.

Then again, we've seen this play out before. Obama is making this kind of thing the hallmark of his Presidency - creating unity as an unintended byproduct of his efforts. You don't have to look very far back to see this playing out - the takeovers of AIG, Chrysler & GM; passing the $862 Billion stimulus package; passing ObamaCare into law, opposing the AZ immigration law and now the BP oil spill are just some of the instances where the net result of these realities was the collective mobilization of people from both liberal and conservative modes of thought.

I think what people are starting to see more than ever, regardless of political affiliation, is that the federal government has become a stammering, imposing, incompetent beast that wreaks havoc on anything it touches. Fifty-seven days into the largest environmental disaster the US has ever seen, we received a speech from our President that was about fifty-two days late. Not only that, a significant portion of it was a tutorial in political posturing. It was about making the spill and BP the enemy - and using that to promote a fundamental pivot in energy policy. It should've been all about stopping the leak, what efforts have been attempted to date, why those methods didn't work, what makes an operation like this so complicated, what solutions were being brought to the table and what was being done specifically for the residents of the Gulf Coast who are paying such a heavy price in the midst of this disaster - a region that still bears the scars from a little storm called Katrina.

What all of this does as a whole is shatter the argument that big government works. It also exposes President Obama to be lacking in what times like this require - decisive, irrefutable command and control - unintended results from a man and his administration that seem to be giving under the weight of present realities made with their own hands.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Amateur Night at the Apollo

One of my favorite shows to watch as a kid growing up in Houston was "Showtime at the Apollo". For a long time in modern pop culture, it was THE place to go not only for Black entertainers but any entertainer that wanted to make it in the "biz". If they could hold their own at the Apollo, they could make it anywhere. The audience was legendary for it's brutal honesty. Many well-known entertainers have cut their teeth on the Apollo stage. Many of them had performances they would like to forget while others found favor with the crowd and with it, stardom. "Amateur Night at the Apollo" was for many entertainers the starting point of their careers...and for many more it signaled the end of their dreams. For those unfortunate acts, the crowd would hoop and holler until the famous "Sandman" Sims would come out with his hook and entertaingly usher them off of the stage. "Sandman" always played it up for the crowd. I likened him to a rodeo clown - part performance art, part diversion, part compassionate intermediary. When you saw him, you knew your time was up.

I wish he were still alive. We have some "acts" that need to be pulled from the stage so-to-speak.

The "act" I'd like to focus on for the time being is the NAACP. Yes, THAT NAACP. You may ask why I think such. Look no further than this latest story courtesy of Fox News. The Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP has created a furor over a Hallmark card that's been out for THREE years because some organization members have complained that the card uses derogatory language against Black women. For those not familiar with this story, the card features Hoops and YoYo, two very famous cartoonish characters that have an entire line of cards within the Hallmark brand. This particular card is for student graduates. The characters are putting the universe on notice that graduates are coming to take it over. The particular phrase that has caused an uproar is, "And you black holes, you are so ominous. Watch your back."

Like any upstanding, PC-conscious public company, Hallmark has pulled the card from stores as a result of the backlash. It's disappointing to me that Hallmark didn't stand their ground on this. I don't believe myself to be a marketing guru but I doubt the powers that be at Hallmark wanted to use a Hoops & YoYo card to slander a segment of the population from whom they seek business. Maybe I'm giving them too much credit, but I think they're smart enough to realize that only select Black male hip-hop artists have been given permission to slander and denigrate Black women to be merely sexual objects with which to toy and have their way.

But I digress! My beef, for the moment, is with the NAACP and with those members that decided to make this an issue to begin with. Correct me if I'm wrong but last time I checked there were bigger, legitimate issues to tackle like the disproportionately high rates of teenage pregnancy, divorce, violent crime, incarceration, single-parent homes and unemployment among those in the Black population. And I haven't even BEGUN to talk to the mostly ignored eradication of generations of Blacks due to pro-abortion organizations like Planned Parenthood targeting predominantly Black neighborhoods as places to set up shop.

The obvious inference from the NAACP's foolish act is that the Black community is in good shape - there's really no need for their organization any longer because the "dream" has been realized. We have a Black president after all, we have Oprah and Black culture's influence permeates pop culture here in the US and throughout the world. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. There are BIG problems the Black community faces, mostly of our own doing (or not doing), that can be solved only if we choose to make the kinds of choices that give us the future we desire - the kind of future our Creator had in mind for us before we were breathed into being.

For the Black community, there are still very tall mountains to climb and strongholds to break through. If the NAACP chooses to raise hell over insignificant trash like this, then I have a message for them. The message is simple - step aside. There is much work to be done, too much change to be made to allow an organization like the NAACP to continue to hold the sway and influence they have over the Black community. The hard, necessary work of a society is done by its common citizens - and it is up to them and only them to do that work. No one can do it for them - not an organization, not a political party, not even a President.

The time has come to put our tap shoes on and show the NAACP off of the stage. Amateur Night is over. It's our duty to show them the way out and get to work.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Two Horns and a Sarah

There are just some things that strike a nerve with me, like hearing a bunch of trash come out of the mouths of Arkansas Razorback fans after my Longhorns lost last night. You'd think it was the Razorbacks that played in the title game last night. But no, living vicariously through another team because theirs isn't good enough, I get to hear all of this riff-raff which tires me.

Enough about that. :)

Like I was saying before, there are some things that just strike a nerve with me. Sarah Palin is someone I really admire. I have to admit I hadn't heard of her before John McCain picked her to be his running mate for his unsuccessful 2008 Presidential bid. But seeing her the night she delivered her speech at the RNC opened my eyes. I saw someone beautiful and strong, capable and genuine - a woman unafraid of who she was and willing to accept the role she had been chosen for. I was a fan from that night. And I'm a bigger fan now than I was then. I have not EVER seen any political figure treated the way she's been treated by the media and never imagined that I ever would. Not surprisingly though, despite the vicious and unwarranted attacks upon her and her family, she's still standing tall and continues to gain popularity.

Remember those 11 AP journalists that were commissioned to scour her book (yes I bought it and am reading it, unlike my lib friends who criticize without reading) to find all of those wild inconsistencies? I do. Do you remember the HUGE press conference that was assembled to reveal their findings? I don't. For all of you that are awake, you know there wasn't one. There was no announcement because the AP and the leftist media doesn't have the stones to admit that they're wrong about Sarah. She's the anti-Obama and for as much energy as they've devoted to making their man they've devoted an equal amount of energy to destroy her. Too bad the attacks haven't worked and instead are having an unintended effect - they're making her stronger and more popular among Independents and undecideds. I heard a saying once that certainly illustrates this point - liberalism accomplishes the opposite of what it intends.

Speaking of which, I came across a great article written by a "recovering liberal" called "The Wilding of Sarah Palin". It's a great read...not a long article but really well-written, thoughtful and introspective. Give it a gander...you'll be better for it.

Oh by the way, Hook 'Em!