The Vision – G.E. Hip Hop Genre

Standard

The year 2022 saw Hip Hop officially turn 49 years old, coincidentally matching my own age. Little did Kool Herc know when he hosted the “Back to School Jam” in 1973, he would make history. As a 70s-baby and a child of the 80s, Hip Hop has been an intricate part of my life. Just as I’ve continued to navigate the everchanging seasons that inevitably progress with the passing of time, Hip Hop also grew; from humble East Coast underground beginnings, into a global force now affecting all forms of media throughout countless cultures and countries. Through the decades, Hip Hop has taken on many different shades as it continues to march through history. Today—as an artistic form of musical expression—Hip Hop endures time’s constant tests, and continues to evolve with the fanatical and, sometimes, fickle tastes of public opinion.

While Hip Hop continues to adapt to change, it has yet to reach a state of true maturation. As the children of the 70s and 80s are now entering the years of silver-haired wisdom and patriarchal roles in society, Hip Hop’s source material never truly left adolescence. Some of the Golden Era artists of the 70s and 80s seemed to have faded away from the music they pioneered. The culture has changed, and they simply do not fit into the box created by mainstream media outlets dictating what is popular and possible to generate revenue. Other Golden Era artists have conformed to the model of doing Old School Review concerts, essentially reliving the glory days by revisiting the music that moved our generation. But there is a remnant of the old guard who continue to champion the Golden Era style of Hip Hop, by creating new music yet remaining true to their own style of cadence, story-telling, beat-production, sampling and rhythm.

These Hip Hop purists refuse to go quietly into the night, and fight to keep the legacy of Hip Hop’s roots alive and well. They refuse to use Autotunes. Trap beats and simple three-note basslines are not a part of their arsenal. Cuts and scratches are still woven into tracks as instrumentation. Lyrics are complexly spit without slurs and mumbles; verses are punched perfectly on beat; and though subjects may seem somewhat familiar and relatable to the everyday struggles of the past, the messages are crafty and clever in delivery. These are still the traits of true emcees and DJs from the old school. They live on today, even though their messages are often lost in the shuffle of the present culture’s definition of Hip Hop.

I love Hip Hop. I always have. I always will. Knocking on the door of my 50s, I long to hear new messages, clever stories and even battle raps spit over boom bap and G-Funk beats by not only those Golden Era artists, DJs and producers still around, but from some of the new Thundercats with true lyrical skills who long to revisit the style that birthed the culture we live and breathe. I don’t particularly need to hear another rap about the latest car, the club atmosphere or how many women are in someone’s bed. As I’ve aged, my interests have changed with life’s progression. Hip Hop has experienced the same type of change. Yet, I’m hard-pressed to find any emcees who will talk about life after 30, 40 or even 50. It is as if Hip Hop has a comic book character immortality. While Spiderman may change with the times, his core character will always exist between the ages of 16 and 26. Any older age calls for a revamp and rehashing of the Superhero. That’s the way mainstream music treats Hip Hop. At some point in time, the beat must go on, but traveled in a new direction dictated by the masses. And those emcees of yesteryear are quietly forgotten.

My Hip Hop needs to grow up with me. There is a place in music for the Hip Hop of my 16 year-old son’s culture, and I’m certainly not bashing the young artists who cater to and make a living off of the popular styles today. But, we Golden Era fans long for new music as well; and we shouldn’t have to be forced to pick from what is the current status quo. Our Hip Hop heroes are still alive and still have something to say. And I’d be willing to bet that they would be excited to create new music that pays homage to their early days on the mic, before the fat contracts; before the agents and lawyers; before the glamor outweighed the fun of the music. When I reach 75 years old, I want to still be excited about hearing new music with an old school flare, by artists who walked through every stage of my life with me, musically. This is my dream. It’s my vision. Hip Hop’s Golden Era revisited anew.

In popular music, current artists are making decent livings by creating new music paying homage to the swing-era of classical jazz music. Artists such as Michael Bublé and Frances Madden not only draw crowds for remakes of classic swing tunes, but also for original works of art mimicking the style of the big band tunes of the 40s and 50s. I think it’s cool that these artists are able to revisit a genre of music that has endured the test of time, and still connect with an audience hungry for that music. Closer to home, The Weeknd produced a brilliant body of work in his album, “Dawn FM”, where the artist revisited the 80s style of Pop and R&B music for the majority of the album. It worked beautifully, attracting Millennials and Gen-Z fans toward a genre of music made popular 40 years before them. It’s time Hip Hop did the same, by giving a voice to our pioneers and arming them with the instrumentals, beats and melodies that will inspire them to draw strength from their beginnings to push through the future. It’s time we give Hip Hop a proper category that focuses on the feel, heart and soul of the old school coupled with new lyrics and tales from our heroes.

The Golden Era needs a resurgence. Personally, I think our pioneers still have gas in the tank and are simply waiting for the right time to pull the car back onto the street and light the tires on fire. And I’m not just talking about a cameo verse here or a single there; a few bars spit over a 2:10-minute beat or an ad-lib over a chorus for another artist. No. I think it’s time we give our beloved Hip Hop its own Golden Era genre; call it G.E. Hip Hop if you will. It needs to be strictly dedicated to new music mimicking that unique sound made popular by rap of the late 70s through the mid 90s. It needs to give space for seasoned emcees to bring new material, or even revised classics, to the table. It needs to provide a space for producers to create instrumentals specifically tailored to artists looking for that era-sound. Scratch DJs should find a home here. Lyrical cyphers should be welcomed. Young emcees with a flair for unique story-telling should be invited. In the classic movie, “Brown Sugar” Dre Ellis said it best, “Real emceeing; that’s the hook”.

I realize that not all folks will agree with my vision. There are a lot of great rappers and producers out there making a way for Hip Hop in today’s culture, and I mean them no disrespect. A return to the Golden Era style of Hip Hop is not for everyone, but it is something that is missing in our musical culture today. I believe there is a fanbase out here craving that genre. And I believe this culture we love (so much) owes our pioneers a debt of gratitude. What better way than to give them space inside the very culture they created, to share what they have to say today.

In truth, I have no idea how to bring the vision of the G.E. Hip Hop genre to fruition. I’m a nobody in the grand machine that is Hip Hop; not even a single small cog. My hope is to share this vision with enough people, until the vision reaches the right people who can help to manifest it. My vision sees legendary emcees like Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, KRS One and Kool Moe Dee (just to name a few) trading verses over Ennis “Bro. E” Smith produced instrumentals; MC Lyte, Salt-N-Peppa, and Roxanne Shanté representing for the Queens of the Era over some of my minimalist beats; LL Cool J, Slick Rick, Ice-T and Ice Cube representing two Coasts, trading verses over one of my throw-back type tracks. This is the music I want to hear from Hip Hop today. There is a fanbase waiting for this genre to appear. If we build it, they will come. So where are my builders? The vision is here. The pioneers stay ready. How do we pull it all together?  

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Or reach out to me and let’s talk about it.

When They Come True…

Standard

Everyone’s a creative. Some folks latch onto the natural ability and run with it, while others tend to use it infrequently enough to miss its existence altogether. Whatever side of the spectrum you fall on, we all have the natural ability and the potential to create. Looking back, I recognize it in my entire life.

When I was a kid, I collected comic books and swiftly took to freehand drawing. I loved to sketch out superheroes in battle poses at first. Later, I took to drawing and coloring posters and murals for friends. But the “drawing phase” fizzled in my early to mid 20s; replaced by the need to story-tell.

I started writing in my first journal when I was 12 years old, and never looked back. Story-telling wouldn’t really take hold of my imagination for another 20 years, but by the time I was ready to do it, the effort came naturally because I’d basically been telling my own story since 12. I had always dreamed of someday writing a book and seeing it published. There was just something alluring about the prospect of holding something tangible you’d created, in between your own fingers.

Writing “Paraclete’s Promise: The Fantastic Fantasies of Timothy” and seeing it published was nothing short of a dream come true for me. The success, or lack there of, didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. What really mattered was that I had set out to create something and seen it through. I had essentially built something that would last longer than me. Dreams–when they come true–are simultaneously awe-inspiring and terrifying at the same time.

Marianne Williamson wrote, in her book, “A Return To Love: Reflections On The Principles Of ‘A Course In Miracles’” a timeless passage. She said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

When the dream becomes a reality, sometimes the excitement of watching that dream blossom is quickly overshadowed by the unknown of what might happen next; what it could mean for our lives; how it might affect others; or even if it will affect others. It’s the fear of the unknown, and sometimes that very fear keeps us from moving forward as the dream becomes reality.

Throughout my entire life, I’ve created art in one form or another, with little to no regard for the idea of it ever becoming even remotely successful. I think the goal was never the end result, so much as it was the journey toward the end-result. I love the process of seeing something come together. Sometimes, I toss a project out. Sometimes, I hold it in stasis for…ever. And then, there are the times when the journey goes straight through to completion. The art is finished, and is stored away until I pull it out of my little closet to enjoy it for myself.

For many years, that’s how I rolled. I created; I socked the creation away, never sharing it with the world. In my 30s, I learned to let go, and share. For the true creative, the art is extremely personal. The thought of some stranger grabbing hold of it and mishandling it is a real fear for us. But Marianne’s quote reminds us (creatives) that our God-given purpose is to shine for His glory through our created works. In order for that to happen, we’ve gotta share. We have to put the created work out there into the world, for all to see, touch, taste, hear, feel, etc.

In my mid-40s, my artistic pendulum swung again. This time, it swung wide in the direction of something that has been a part of me forever. My wife recently said something pretty profound to me. She said,

“Dear, you’re good at writing. But, music is what you were born to do. Writing is your hobby. Music has always been you’re passion. It’s who you are.”

I really can’t argue with that. Music’s always been my air. No matter what I’m doing, at even given moment, it has to be around me. It has to be my ambience. I live it and breathe it. When I learned to create it, the dreams began flowing like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The dreams feed the imagination, and the imagination manifests into the created work.

Like the book, a lot of times, I like to see the finished work and know that I’ve made something that will outlast me. After the book, my writing stalled. It was as if I’d lost the desire to keep writing. Maybe it’s just long term writer’s block. But with the music, every finished song only strengthens my resolve to keep moving the music forward; to keep sharing my sound with the world in hopes that it touches someone right when they need it.

The dreams–when they come true–put me in a position to think about what comes next. In 2021, a record label signed one of my songs. That song, quickly began gaining traction on the charts of the Soulful House Music genre. And that’s when the doubts simultaneously began rolling in. I’m afraid of what it could mean; afraid that the song’s steady climb is some sort of fluke; afraid of it all somehow backfiring; afraid of the lyrics losing their encouragement power. Afraid, of my light shining for others to see.

Then I remember Marianne’s quote, and I am reminded of God’s intent for us all. We are meant to shine, to inspire and encourage others. Our dreams-made-reality are supposed to tell others, it’s okay to go after what they really want; to put forth their best effort; to inspire others.

Dreams–when they come true–give us the “okay” to keep dreaming bigger and brighter. In doing so, we have no idea of where God might take us. But it’s not about the end of the road, is it? It’s about the journey and how that journey reaches others, while in motion.

Standard

The Second Emotion

I heard something on the radio while driving in this morning, that caused me to really consider who I am, and what’s going on with me at this stage of life. “Anger is a second emotion. It’s the second emotion. Its origin is usually fear; the first emotion.”

If I had to be totally honest with myself (which at times—if I’m being totally honest—is hard to do), I would say my anger, particularly associated with work, most likely does come from fear.

  • Why do I raise my voice and vent when things go off-plan?

The easy answer is I’m mad that the contractor isn’t doing what the plan(s) instructs. He/she can read just like I can. Why’s it so hard to just build the thing like it says so in black-and-white? I’m going to have to explain his/her actions and rationalize the decisions made in the field. This.Isn’t.My.Fault. That’s the anger. It rears its head on every single project.

But the fear is…deep down, I’m afraid I’ve missed something vital; something not discussed and now I have to work harder to figure out what I feel like I should already know. Did I miss a discussion? Did I miss a detail in the sheet I looked over 12 times? Did I ignore a key component during the meeting? Do I have the right set of plans? I’m afraid of letting down my peers. I’m afraid of being labeled as a fraud. I’m not as smart as others think I am. That’s the fear. And most times, it runs the show.

Sometimes, that fear causes me to take that anger home. It comes out in my attitude toward my wife, or my son. It means restless nights when I should be sleeping. It means second-guessing calculations from the day before. It reminds me of just how imperfect I really am.

But really…that’s okay. Sometimes you give your best efforts and someone will still find fault in those efforts. There is no such thing as perfection in my business. And that’s just it, isn’t it? At the end of the day, we get angry—not at others, but at ourselves—because we want perfection. We can’t control everything, and so things will never be perfect, in spite of our best efforts. If something goes sideways—as things tend to do—my deep fear becomes, “How could I have avoided this?” When in reality, some things are simply beyond my control.

So today, I choose to fight back against the anger; against the fear. I will remember that I do the best I can, and my best consistently proves to be enough. And despite whatever challenges will surface today, my best will be enough.

Because secretly…

I’m batman.   

And This Is Why…

Standard

I need you to take a good look at the photograph featured. I need you to read the plaque, and understand the context. Envision the person. See her story come to life in your mind.

Now…I need you to imagine that this person was compared to Kamala Harris—the FIRST Black Woman Vice President in the history of theses United States of America—by a group of Christian believers. I need you to imagine that these believers thought this comparison was done in good taste and that it was actually quite humorous. I need you to sympathize with the fact that they were only joking, and that certain people shouldn’t be so sensitive.

Now…I need you to imagine how this rhetoric made their Black and Indian Christian brothers and sisters—in the same church body—feel. They…we…failed to see the humor. In fact, we collectively felt an overwhelming sense of anger; disappointment; rage. We thought the Christian body in 2021 was better than this. We believed that our white brothers and sisters in Christ actually know what’s in between the covers of the Bible. Apparently not.

Before sitting down to write this, I reached out to my pastor for counsel, to let him know what I was planning, and the reasoning behind it. He asked me a very direct question: he wanted to know if the source of my anger was political or racial. There was no hesitation on my part. This is purely a racial issue for me. You take the politics of the vice president’s position out of the equation, and what you’re left with is still simple.

One of my White Christian brothers was insensitive enough to share this photograph on social media. Whether in simple ignorance or something more sinister doesn’t even matter. The point is, in a split second he chose to do this with no thought of the repercussions, because in his world, it was harmless. Another Christian brother was quick-witted enough to comment, “Hey, isn’t that our vice-president?” No harm, no foul, because in his world, the joke was harmless. It was a coincidence the Indian Wolf Girl just so happen to share the name and partial heritage of the black woman sitting in the vice-president seat of the White House. And there were plenty of fellow Christians who agreed with the joke, and chimed in.

And this is why the church of Jesus Christ is so divided today. Rather, this is just one of the reasons why we remain a divided body. I can’t really imagine the Apostle Paul looking at a monkey and saying, “Hey, there goes Simon of Cyrene!” encouraging laugher and jeers from the other Jewish Apostles and Disciples. Sounds completely ridiculous, right? Yet, that’s exactly what we’re doing today. We’re tearing each other down with insensitive comments in the name of humor. In today’s culture, race is a huge hot-button topic and—as the body of Christ—we need to do a better job of being sensitive to what God’s inspired Word has to say about the subject.

Now there have been “Christians” who have said things like:

  • I don’t see color; I only see you.
  • Jesus doesn’t care about color; he only cares about souls.
  • God doesn’t care about racism, so we should spend less time talking about it, and more time talking about the Holy Spirit.
  • You’re so articulate for…well…you know.

That last one, by the way, never gets old. I would argue that these well-meaning folks either don’t know what’s really in the Bible, or are misinterpreting what the Word says. Contrary to these comments, God actually does care about my blackness. He does care about the fact that racial slurs and comments—whether spoken in malice or in ignorance—do affect my heart. He does care about injustice even among His own people. It took 400 years, but He vindicated His chosen people, freeing them from Egyptian-slavery, as promised. And, I’m pretty sure that God is the author of diversity. Christianity was never meant to be painted with a Caucasian brush. The brush was meant to have multi-colored bristles. So racial jokes are never okay within the body of Christ.

There will be Christians who will read this article, and immediately go on the defensive.

  • Dude, chill out. It was supposed to be funny. Why do you have to make it about race?
  • I’m sorry if I offended anyone. That wasn’t my intent at all. It was just a cool photo.
  • Guy, don’t be so sensitive. It was coincidence the wolf girl had the same name as that lady.

These defensive rebuttals only prove my point. We have to do a better job, within the body of Christ, of recognizing what might hurt one another, instead of heal. If my brother hurts, I’m supposed to bare that burden with him, not kick him and laugh at his plight. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we absolutely do have to be intentional and sensitive to each other’s soft spots. For the Black community, some of you might not recognize it, but we’re really going through some rough times right now. The church is the only safe-haven for a lot of us; it keeps the anger suppressed and the sorrow at bay. That is, until we find out that the church body doesn’t even know (let alone care) about our concerns and struggles.

One of my young black brothers said something to me this morning that was pretty profound. He said, “It’s like we’re considered to be one family, but a separate body; a body whose opinions are seldom considered.” Man that was a bitter pill to swallow. In diverse churches, are we really diverse? Are we being fair? Are we treating each other with decency and respect? Or…are we simply tolerating one another, in the name of Jesus? These are hard questions, I know; questions some might not be ready to address; questions some might even find offensive. But this is where we are today, as the church body.

Before I close, I want to go back to the beginning. Back to where this article was planted. Kamala the Indian Wolf Girl bares no likeness to Kamala Harris, Vice-President of the United States of America. Whether you want to see it or not, the comments and the post itself invited racism into the Christian circle. Sorry if this offends, but that is what it is. That type of “humor” has no place within the body of Christ. We need to do better, and to accomplish that, we need to behave like Christians at all times. What does that look like? Work out your own salvation with the Lord. Draw closer to Him, and He’ll let you know whether your actions represent Him or the enemy. Of course, if you’re not spending any real time with Him, you won’t hear His voice whispering the difference between right and wrong.

To CaVar, Kofi, LaDon, Ricky, Nehemiah, Zechariah, Isaiah, Nakita, Tanesha, Malinda, Jewel, Jada (just to name a few) and all the black brothers and sisters of our church body, I’m sorry this happened…again. It gets old; it gets tiring; it gets frustrating when people don’t see “us” for who we really are. I wrote this tonight to bring it to the attention of our church family, and to all church families claiming to be diversity-minded. This type of rhetoric hurts us; your black church family. See us for who we are: an intricate part of your body. We—the church—have to confront racism in all its forms, and we have to do it boldly together. Otherwise…we fail Jesus. It’s that simple.

I will no longer be silent.   

The COVID Chronicles – Day Two

Standard

Day Two (3/26/21)

I remember watching Chris Como talk about his experience fighting the virus last year. He talked about how the virus made breathing a struggle and how it wanted him to lay down and refuse to be active. But he had to power through and make himself be active. It was a scary time for him, as I recall, because of the uncertainty of everything.

This morning was a bit rough. The dry cough had ramped up in intensity, and taking deep breathes began to get a little painful. I decided to take a nice hot shower and sprinkle a few drops of eucalyptus oil into the water. Turns out…that was a big mistake. My lungs absolutely hated the humidity and the eucalyptus only aggravated my cough. After a few minutes, I had to leave the shower because I felt faint, and couldn’t catch a decent breath in there. I made my way back to the couch and laid down for a few moments, while my breathing stabilized. I took a couple of Tylonol for my fever (yeah that came back this morning), and used my son’s extra inhaler for my lungs. That seemed to take the edge off of my breathing. The remainder of the day became an exercise in controlling my breathing. I didn’t experience any tightness in my chest, and I didn’t hear (or feel) any loose mucus rattling around in there, but as the day went long, deep breathing became some what of a labor.  

My sense of taste is fine, but I seem to have lost my appetite. So, I’ve been making myself eat chicken noodle soup just to keep something on my stomach. I haven’t had to deal with any nausea since the shower this morning, but I’ve limited my eating to soup, orange juice, Gatorade and water. No snacks; no chips; no candy; no sweets. I’m just not in the mood for any.

The fatigue, man. There’s the real challenge. It just robs you of any desire to do anything except lay around and rest. At one point in the day, I felt well enough to get up and do some light stretching, and dink around with a few dumb-bells I’ve got in the basement. But even that light work put me right back on the couch for a nap.

We’ll see what day three brings…

The COVID Chronicles – Day One

Standard

Writer’s block is never easy to navigate, because it robs the writer of the desire to create. It’s like a double whammy when it strikes. First, it creeps into the writer’s creative vault and stifles ideas. Then, it takes away the desire to even try to write anything remotely entertaining. Usually when I have to deal with writer’s block, I fall back on my music as a way of keeping myself in the creative flow. But this bout has been particularly nasty, because I’ve been sick for a day or two. No energy to do much of anything. So, this morning I rose, ate a little breakfast, dressed and was in the doctor’s office by 8:15am. By 9:00am, I was informed that I’d tested positive for COVID-19.

Now, I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, because I feel like there’s a great opportunity here, people. Suddenly, I’ve got something to write about. Writer’s block is over. For the next 14 days, I’m going to try my best to write about my experience with COVID-19. What I hope to accomplish here is…well…honestly…I don’t have a plan. But maybe someone might read the COVID-19 Chronicles (Ooooo, yeah. I think I like that), and learn about how one guy experienced the virus. After all, it’s still out here and it’s still killing folks. So, let’s get to it.

DAY 1

To say that March 25, 2021 is day one would be a formality. Looking back by a couple of days, the one consistency I’ve had to deal with so far is a constantly fluctuating temperature over the last three days. Now here’s a little-known fact about me. There is a period of time every year where the seasons change from Winter to Spring, and I come down with a little cold; like clockwork. It doesn’t matter if I’ve received the flu vaccine or not, I’m prone to get sick just as the seasons change. On Monday, March 22, right around 11am, I broke out in a heavy sweat while at work, just as the ambient temperature was reaching toward the mid-60s. A friend of mine noticed the perspiration rolling down my face, even behind my mask.

“Dude,” Brett said, “are you okay. You’re sweating like a motherf—” well, I can’t exactly repeat what he said.

I honestly didn’t think anything of it, and simply blew it off. But, in hindsight, I see now, I was probably sick that day and didn’t realize it. Later that night, I even turned in for bed before 9pm. People, I’m a night owl. There’s no way I’m going to bed anytime before 11pm on a given night. But on that Monday, I ignored the fluctuating temperature and the slowly developing muscle cramps. I attributed that to lifting weights on Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday seemed to be a better day. I rolled out of bed sore (blaming that on my old mattress), but ready to function. I took my daily temperature for work’s COVID-19 screening, and passed with a 98.2 degree reading. Not much to worry about. I arrived at work ready to get the day rolling. But, as the day progressed, I did notice something strange. I stopped for lunch, and went to Subway to buy my customary 12-inch Tuna, on wheat bread. I only ate half the sandwich. Another oddity came up as well. At some point in the afternoon, I had to go to my bag and take some of my secret stash Ibuprofen because my back started to stiffen up on me. Tuesday evening, I hit the bed at 8pm.

Wednesday morning, I figured it must be my seasonal illness kicking in; nothing major. I ran the temperature scan and found my temp at 99.1 degrees. Seemed a little hot, but I went to work anyway determined to complete my task started on Tuesday. It turned out to be a lost cause. I failed the site temperature scan…twice…and was sent home. That’s when I accepted the reality that I’d come down with something. I arrived home fatigued but, I didn’t actually go straight to bed. Instead, I washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, took the dog outside then eventually made my way to bed where I slept for most of the day.

This morning’s positive test was confirmation of what I suspected. I can honestly say, I’m dealing with a few weird symptoms I haven’t experienced before. For instance, the chest thing is real. My breathing is okay, as long as I don’t attempt to inhale deeply. At the peak of a deep inhale, my chest erupts in a dry cough. That’s new. Have to keep an eye on that over the next few days. I’m still experiencing temperature fluctuations. I thought my fever had broken this morning, only to have it come back around later in the afternoon. I’m taking Tylonol to keep it under control; doctor-mom’s orders. By the way, she exiled me to the basement for 14 days. I’ve got the place setup like the Batcave, and I plan to binge watch every Batman Animation I can get my hands on. I just finished “Batman: Hush” before sitting down to write. I digress.

The fatigue is also a real symptom as well. I’ll be fine for a few hours, feeling like my ol’ self, and suddenly I’m hit with a bout of fatigue requiring a quick nap. Even right now, I feel it coming back around. I may sleep for 30 minutes, and wake up refreshed all over again. It’s weird.

I did lose my sense of taste and smell. I can’t tell yet if it’s a temporary thing or not. What I can tell you is that I bought a Pepsi on my way home earlier, and it tastes like motor oil smells. My peanut butter and jelly sandwich, eaten earlier, had no discernable taste at all. With my taste-buds all wacked, I don’t have the urge to snack on anything. That’s probably not going to stop me from sneaking some chips in later.

So, this is day one of the COVID-19 Chronicles. I think the big takeaway for me is that I’ve gotta watch my breathing overnight. I don’t need that to get any worse. I’ll let you know how my day two shapes up tomorrow. Stay tuned…

Dear Joe…

Standard

Friday, November 27, 2020

Dear Mr. Biden,

Sir, I want to congratulate you on an unprecedented and resounding victory in the 2020 presidential race. The outcome speaks volumes, of the hopes and expectations of the American people. Our democratic process has not failed us, despite the troubling times we are currently enduring. The people have spoken, and soon we will look to you to lead us into the future. You are ready for this. It is your time, Joe.

Among its many lessons, the Bible teaches us that God’s timing is not our own. Throughout the campaign process, many of your opponents made reference to the fact that you have spent 40 years of your lifetime within the political realm, supposedly without significant impact. I do not believe those statements to be true. You may have made controversial decisions in your political career, that may have alienated some. Sure, history may have recorded disparaging remarks made during the 1970s. You might not have done everything right. And yes, you have run for the office of the president of the United States of America several times; and lost. But, I believe all of those minor setbacks and trials had to be endured for such a time as this, Mr. Biden. You are a man of faith. So it should not be lost on you that, just maybe, God walked with you through the fire many times to prepare you for the leadership of this country, at a time when wisdom and experience would be needed the most.

We are in trouble. A house divided cannot stand; we are a house gravely divided. Unless we lift up a leader who can effectively reunite us as Americans, our demise is assured. History has taught us that powerful civilizations eventually topple; whether from the inside out, or by external forces, it happens. Personally, I would like to see our story be one of immense courage and an amazing rebound, in my lifetime; not the end of a great nation. I do not believe it to be a dramatic statement to say we are swiftly moving toward a point of no return.

You have to lead this nation. You have to unite this nation. And, you must do both with integrity, honesty and decency. These are traits Americans need to see and believe in again. You have to put us first. I think you are doing that, based on the choices you continue to make toward filling leadership roles. You seem to be purposely making decisions of inclusion, over favoritism, and these appointees seem to have much-needed experience. I see wisdom displayed. It’s a great start. But, you have to remember a team is only as good as its leader. Mr. Biden, you have to lead us. And, my hope is that you are putting God first in many of your decisions.  

Along the lines of integrity, honesty and decency, might I suggest focusing solely on what needs to be accomplished? Listen to your citizens. Hear us. And work on our behalf, for our good. Do what you promise. Tell the truth, and honor not only your word but your values. I found it disheartening to see our current leader focus on personal time off while the country as a whole continued to suffer from the unchecked effects of the pandemic of our lifetime. That (in my opinion) did not display true leadership, honesty, integrity or decency. And while I’m sure you know that as well, you have to be the man who ignores the failings of your predecessor, for the good of all of your citizens. Jesus never really put blame on the Pharisees, for the sinful state of the world. He simply came on the scene and did the work he was commissioned—by God—to do. He never played the blame game. You have to do the same, by remembering the race is over; the victor has been chosen; and that now, it is time to get down to work.

Remember those who made it possible for you to succeed. Remember the sacrifices of so many who never lived long enough to see your accomplishments. Remember the resilience of the millions of historically disenfranchised citizens, who stood up and collectively said, “Enough is enough”. Remember the courage of your former political opponents who rose up to support you, when you needed it most. Remember just how proud your son would be to see you now, and honor that thought with your actions, sir. In short, be presidential, Mr. Biden.

Now is your time. Get to work. We’re all counting on you.

You’re welcomed.

We’re Gonna Be Alright

Standard

Let’s Recap Shall We?

In January, I turned 47 years old and found myself reflecting on life; where I was in the grand scheme; what I had contributed (if anything) in my previous 46 years; what I planned to do with the next 40 years (thinking optimistically of course). I had no idea of what was coming down the line for all of us. Honestly, my biggest concern in January was worrying about how best not to ruin the most important day of Mirranda Marcum’s young life, in the coming March, as the DJ of her and Tyler DeWitt’s wedding. It was the perfect ceremony by the way, if anyone wanted to know.

That very next weekend following the DeWitt’s marriage, the world shut down. And, things got ugly. 2020 dropped off a cliff.

My family lost our Mom in April. A childhood friend also fell victim to the pandemic. Truth be told, I think we all suffered on some level; whether close to us or an acquaintance of acquaintance. Everyone lost someone.

Division opened gaps politically, racially, economically, emotionally, spiritually and any other l.l.y. acronyms we can conjure up. People are mad at each other, even today. Whether the underlying issue is fear or anger doesn’t even matter right now. We’re divided.

Toilet paper became a sought-after treasure. I mean…seriously folks. I still need someone to explain to me why toilet paper became so important as a pandemic escaladed. Technically, food never stopped flowing. We were all too interested in making sure our butts were properly wiped.

To add insult to all of that injury, we seem to have lost faith in our government. You can choose a topic of discussion: the pandemic; the election; golf. It doesn’t matter. The American public generally feels duped by our governing bodies during 2020.

Now, Let’s Shift the Focus for a Minute

Sliding into the Thanksgiving Holiday, we’re headed back into quarantine as the 2020 pandemic rages on and our government is actively trying to negotiate a peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 election results. Folks are still angry…and fearful…and that makes for some truly delicate discussions not just among friends, but family as well. Even in the church community, tensions are at an all-time high. It seems that even God’s people are struggling with trusting that He’s in total control even now. And you know what? That’s okay. People are people. We’re all human and we’re all subject to the emotions that come as part of our humanity.

I saw a social media post today, where the writer wrote (in all caps),”WHERE ALL THE TRUMP SUPPORTERS AT NOW? I DON’T HEAR ANYBODY SAYING ANYTHING!” You know, a month ago I might have been riding the bandwagon of that Christian man who posted that. Today, I’m just tired of being a part of the problem. Today, I’d rather bone up on my bible reading and try to get myself back into the right frame of mind where I remember that Jesus loved on everyone despite their differences. I need that centered thinking, because in two days my wife is going to try to serve her family a Thanksgiving dinner without her Mom at the table for the first time…ever. The last thing I need to be concerned with is who’s mad at who now. It won’t just be my household either. Somewhere, the Sanders family will be missing a loved one at the table; so will the McAfees; and the McFays; and the Jones; and the Browns; and Williams. I think you get the idea.

So, What Do We Have to be Thankful for?

Celebrate the Small Victories

A few days ago, my oldest daughter and I went to a local car dealership. This wasn’t some whimsical decision. This kid had been saving her money for years, for a specific purpose. She was set on buying herself a new car. And so, over the course of roughly a month’s time, she did her due diligence by researching what she wanted and what she needed to do to get it. And after almost five hours spent at the dealership, she drove home in her new car. She never settled. She purchased exactly what she wanted.

There’s a point I want to make here. Later that night, we talked in the kitchen. I told my daughter to remember the small victories. Sure, the process may have been tedious. But, the end result was a victory.

I think this week, we all need to remember that. Looking back on 2020, there may not seem like a whole heck of a lot to be thankful for. But, I’m going to challenge each and every one of you to dig deep and find something to celebrate. It’s there friends. It may be hidden among the election results or the latest pandemic numbers, or the unemployment rate, or the big news about the stock market hitting 30,000 (I really can’t even believe…yes. Yes I can). We all have something to celebrate. And you know what else? I believe we’re all going to be alright. The dust will settle. It’s getting cold outside, but the Spring will eventually return. Tensions are flaring for now, but I think we’re all starting to tire of the constant animosity. This season of despair we’re in; this too shall pass. I’m going to be thankful for my family, and for my friends; for my job and for my health. I recently got a COVID test; actually the fifth time I’ve had that Q-tip stuffed up my nose. That experience never gets old. But I’m good. And so I’m going to celebrate that goodness. My kid bought her own car. She’s got her own insurance. That means I’m going to have a little more money moving forward (until Isaiah learns to drive next year). I’m going to celebrate that, too.

We’re gonna be alright. But we have to start somewhere. How about we start with each other?

Fist bump

We Are Americans

Standard

The election is over and the Democratic candidates are now the president elect and the vice-president elect. The people have spoken, in what has been noted as the largest voter participation in the history of our nation. All over America, a mix of emotions can literally be read in the faces of its citizens. There are many who jubilantly celebrate the historic appointment of the nation’s first black woman as vice-president. There are those who celebrate the tenacity of a man who spent more than half of his life devoted to politics; failed to attain the presidency twice before, but gave it one more shot for the win. And then, there are those who genuinely grieve the political-loss of the most recent one-term president. America’s many faces tell the story today.

Now what?

If this election has taught me anything, it has solidified just how broken we still are. Even after the results were announced yesterday, social media hatred was alive and well, coming from both sides of the political line, shared by the common citizen and super-celebrity alike. Everyone is taking potshots. Some of us are kicking fellow Americans when they’re down, while others (among us) are cursing the celebrations as premature and fleeting. One thing is for sure; we’re not healing.

Allow me to share something for a moment. Folks, I give you: The New Colossus (Emma Lazarus 11/2/1883)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”

This is the poem adorned on the Statue of Liberty (just in case you didn’t know). It was supposed to represent what we, as a people, stand for. We’re all immigrants if you trace back our individual histories. As such, we should all be one people. That’s what the idea of America being great was supposed to be about; the giant melting pot. But, in the 244 years since our official establishment, we have not always seen accurate representation of all our citizens. Yesterday, for the first time in our 244-year history, a woman—not just any woman; but a woman of color—was chosen to hold the second highest position of leadership in our nation. Folks, I seriously need you to take a moment to put whatever your political allegiances are, to the side, and recognize this fact. We just elected a woman of color to become vice-president of the United States of America. In our 244-year history, that position has been held by white men! We—as a nation—just made history!

Just as the senator’s appointment to vice president is something that should be celebrated by all Americans, we should also be collectively mourning another historical event: the Corona Virus. In the 21st century, this pandemic is still running rampant. There is no vaccine. There is no cure. Its tole is devastating on the population of the entire world. While our national-economy should be a priority, we have to come to terms with the fact that…if we don’t do something about this pandemic, there will not be anyone left to comprise an economy. This isn’t a Democrat or Republican problem; it’s not even an American problem. This is a worldwide problem. And it didn’t just magically go away, while we were voting.

We have to stop fighting. We’ve been doing it for long enough. The new president elect is calling for unity in the nation, and I get that it’s going to take some folks longer than others to get onboard with his rallying cry. But we absolutely must do this. It’s bigger than political ties. Personally, I want my great-grandchildren to see an abundant life someday. That just doesn’t happen unless we all take to heart the words of “The Colossus”. Right now, we’re all tired and weary; and we’re taking out our frustrations on one another. We have to change that. We have to turn it around. My enemy shouldn’t be my neighbor, who voted Red. My church brother shouldn’t hate me because I voted Blue. We need each other. When we come together, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. That’s what we do, because we are Americans. Today is a brand new day. Let’s get to work. People, let’s get to work for each other.

What Do You Want To Do About That?

Standard

Romans 8:28 (NLT): “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Hi. I’m back, and I want to share a story because it’s time…

The Old Testament book of I Samuel, chapter 8 introduces us to the nation of Israel turning away from God and asking for a King (to rule over them) in His stead. At the time, God’s representative—Samuel—was aging out of his appointment. Despite Samuel’s righteous heart, his two spoiled sons were dishonest men. The people didn’t want either of those characters to fill the roll of their father once he was gone, so they demanded that Samuel appoint a King to lead the nation after him. Israel had seen how the other nations of the world governed themselves, and wanted to be just like everyone else.

Naturally, Samuel was pretty put off by this ridiculous request, so he consulted the Lord, rather than make any emotional decisions. He went to God through prayer. And you know what? God answered him, basically saying (translated in Ennis vernacular),

“Hey, don’t worry about it, Sam. I’ve got you. You go on ahead and do whatever it is they want you to do. Just know they’re not disrespecting you or your service. No…they actually have the audacity to disrespect Me with this foolish request. So, you give the people what they want, but I want you to tell them precisely what they’re going to get, as a consequence of this request.”

And so it was, Samuel gave them permission to elect a king from among themselves. The people chose Saul. And God allowed it to happen. Saul was a handsome specimen of a man and honestly, that trait won him the position; that’s just about all he had going for him. Eventually, what Samuel warned against came to fruition in Israel’s first king. He did such a bad job at God-honoring leadership, that God removed His Spirit from Saul and placed it over a young man who would go on to be called, “A man after God’s own heart”. That young man was king David.

America was supposed to be built on the principles and beliefs of God-honoring men. Now, history is rife with instances of those same founding-fathers failing to uphold God’s two most important decrees (Love the Lord your God with all your mind, soul, and spirit and love your neighbor as yourself), but they at least attempted to somewhat build our country around some version of what they decided God’s word meant to them. Again…not even close to perfection, but that’s another discussion for another time. As time marched on, our nation has strayed farther and farther away from God’s word. In the process, we’ve somehow managed to redefine what it means to be Christian. Our culture has successfully interwoven into the very fabric of our faith; so much so that the average person can’t recognize many self-proclaimed Christians by their behavior anymore; by their fruit. We are just like everyone else in the world, instead of being world changers.

The saga of the current administration leading right into the present days following the election, reminds me of the story of Saul. There are Christians among us who vehemently support the idea of God appointing the current president to office. And you know what? I would agree with them, but for extremely different reasoning. God did (in fact) put him in that seat, within the oval office. He did so, just as he gave Samuel permission to appoint Saul as Israel’s first king. He did so, just as he appointed king Nebuchadnezzar power to take into captivity the southern kingdom. Now to be fair, Israel didn’t ask for King Nebuchadnezzar. He was sent as punishment. The point I’m making in including him, is that God was—and is—always in control.

Our current president is a flawed man, just as all men are. None of us are perfect. By the democratic process our country is privileged to have, he was nominated and elected to be our commander-in-chief. In truth, we all knew what type of character he possessed long before he was appointed. Yet, despite the warning, he was given an opportunity to lead this country in a God-honoring way.

Many of my Christian brothers and sisters out there have stood behind him and supported his every decision. Just as King Saul had loyal subjects who saw absolutely no wrong in his leadership, Christ-followers were (and are) willing to ignore many of the president’s character flaws to support his politics. Today—at this very hour—the sanctity of the democratic process is being challenged by some of those very followers choosing to overlook character flaw for personal victories. The man in charge is attacking the democracy which placed him in power.

But it’s really not the politics that disappoint me right now. It’s the way we’ve all deteriorated into treating one another, as a result of the politics. This political climate has really revealed what is in the hearts of each and every one of us. It’s downright scary. It’s shameful. It’s the opposite of what it really means to be Christian.

I’ve personally shouted to the heavens, “Forty-five is not my president!”. I’ve unfriended many people that I once felt safe speaking to. I’ve argued my points, rebutted differing opinions and stopped speaking with close friends. Family, this is within the body of Christ I’m talking about here! It’s not just me either. It’s all of us. Right now, if you’re taking the time to read through this, you’re thinking of someone you’re disappointed in; someone maybe you had to block; someone who shared a different political view than you. We’ve all lost sight of what it truly means to follow God.

In the last few days, I’ve seen Christians hold emergency prayer meetings in favor of the president retaining his position, lest the challenger win, and the world goes straight to hell. Likewise, I’ve seen Christians hold emergency prayer meetings in favor of the former vice-president winning the election by landslide to ensure the utmost humiliation of the current administration. The social media memes are by far the worst. Christians are mocking opposing camps in deplorable ways. To add insults to the many injuries, Christians from both sides of the political line are calling on like-minded brethren to pray for their specific candidate’s victory, while simultaneously calling on all Christians to pray for God to heal our land.

Really?! What’s that got to do with God’s will being done?  

Saul—despite his many victories in battle—was a major failure when it came to serving the LORD. He used the people to his advantage, and still they followed him. Yet, God allowed this to happen. He gave Israel exactly what they asked for. Today, we are reaping what we’ve sown in this country for generations. We’ve turned our backs to God, and He’s given us exactly what we’ve asked for along with everything that comes with it. Despite these hard facts, we’ve still chosen to put our faith and prayers into these two candidates first, while continuing to hate and ignore one another because of our differences in opinions. Satan…right now…is winning. Don’t kid yourself, believer. Right now, while you’re awaiting the victor of this 2020 election, the real winner is him. We asked for him.

What do you want to do about that?  

Honestly, I don’t need you—any of you—to agree with my thoughts. But I need you to think about your own heart for a moment, and really consider where it is…right now.

Some of us are leaving our home church over race relations. Some have stopped speaking to brothers and sisters because they have different political views. Some have decided that there’s nothing wrong with our nation that wasn’t caused until (insert whatever). Some have simply decided that Christianity is a sham, based on how we’re treating each other. So, the question still stands.

What do you want to do about that?

Romans 8:28 is special for me, because it puts my life into perspective. If I love God, then I have to believe that all things—all things—will work out ultimately for my good, because I’m called according to his purpose. That means, instead of me praying to God to put my choice in candidate into the oval office, I’m going to pray that His will be done, no matter what that might look like in my eyes. His vision is a lot stronger and longer than mine ever will be. I’m not going to pray for what I want. Rather I’m going to pray for what God wants, and I’m simply going to choose to accept His decision. History has proven, if I turn my back on Him and He gives me what I’ve asked for selfishly, the results can be quite disastrous.