Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"The Makers..." A Must See for Women...and Men

"MAKERS: Women Who Make America" is a must see! 

This documentary about women's issues and the feminist movement is not only an informative look at how far we have come in the area of gender equality, it is a sobering look at how far we have to go. 

The one thing that was clear to me after watching it is that women's issues are men's issues as well. How we respect them (or disrespect them), how we treat them (or mistreat them) is a evidence of how we value their contributions. 

This presentation is a compelling look at how women's fight for equity goes to issues are small and large - anywhere from participation in the Boston Marathon, to Hillary Clinton's revolutionary role as First Lady. It includes a retrospective on the Equal Rights Amendment and revisiting the impact and significance of Anita Hill's testimony in the Senate confirmation hearing of Justice Clarence Thomas.

I don't really think it's fair to simply say that, as a man, 'Makers...' challenged my thinking. It inspired me. It should inspire all of and women.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

You Are There! Mike Wallace and Reinhold Niebuhr

Did you ever think you'd like to be present during some of the great debates and conversations in history? The Lincoln-Douglas debates for instance. Or some of us would like to be in Harlem during the Reinessance when Langston Hughes and Zora Neal Hurston lived there, along with some of the great black literary figures of our country's history? I know I have. 

Here is something close. A 55 year old television interview featuring the legendary Mike Wallace and preeminent theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. 

Of course some of the issues have changed. But its fascinating to watch the interview and actually hear and see Neihbuhr engaged in this dialogue. 

This isn't for everyone...but suffice it to say we don't have television like this anymore. 

Here is an excerpt from the transcript (you can read the entire transcript here)  and here is a link to the actual interview. 

For those of us who have read Neibuhr and have admired him, this is a treat!

Mike Wallace
WALLACE: It would look, Doctor Niebuhr, as though all of our major 

religions are becoming more influential. I say it would look that way 

because we hear so much about religious revivals with church attendance 

increasing, college students returning to religion, the apparent success of 

the evangelists. Yet, in large measure you have criticized this revival. Why?

NIEBUHR: Well, that's a long story, too. I wouldn't criticize the whole 

revival. I've criticized - the revival wherever it gives petty and trivial 

answers to very great and ultimate questions about the meaning of our life. 

There has been a religious revival because -- let me put it like this, the 

people that weren't traditionally religious, conventionally religious, had a 

religion of their own in my youth. These were liberals who believed in the 

idea of progress or they were Marxists. Both of these secular religions have 

broken down. The nuclear age has refuted the idea of progress and 

Marxism has been refuted by Stalinism. Therefore people have returned to 

the historic religion.

NIEBUHR: But now when the historic religions give trivial answers to these 

very tragic questions of our day, when an evangelist says, for instance, we 

mustn't hope for a summit meeting, we must hope in Christ without spelling 

out what this could mean in our particular nuclear age. This is the irrelevant 

answer, when another Evangelist says if America doesn't stop being selfish, 

it will be doomed. This is also a childish answer because nations are selfish 

and the question about America isn't whether we will be selfish or unselfish, 

Reinhold Niebuhr
but will we be sufficiently imaginative to pass the Reciprocal Trade Acts.

WALLACE: In other words, translate religion into a kind of active morality.

NIEBUHR: Yes, a morality of justice and reciprocity.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you this: Now, we're constantly being told, Dr. 

Niebuhr, by our political and by our church leaders, that in our fight against 

Communism, we are on God's side that we're God-fearing people, they are 

atheists - the Russians, the Communists are atheists - and therefore we 

must ultimately win. What about that?

NIEBUHR: I don't know whether any religious leader would say that we 

must ultimately win, because we're on God's side. If they do say that, it's 

bad religion, because....

WALLACE: Well, haven't we heard from the the Old Testament that "right is might"?

NIEBUHR: No, no - well, that right is might ... but in the Old Testament, the 

God of the Prophets never was completely on Israel's side. There was a 

primitive national religion, but it was always a transcendent God who had 

judgment first in the House of God. This is the true religion. It has a sense 

of a transcendent majesty and a transcendent meaning so that that puts 

myself and the foe under the same judgment."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013

Relating to One Another's Souls

"Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem?..."

W.E.B. DuBois

Yesterday, CitySquare's Urban Engagement Book Club was particularly interesting for me. 

For those of you who may have never attended, Randy Mayeaux, who has reviewed books for us for nearly 10 years, reads our books and provides us with hand-outs of excerpts from them. He does a phenomenal job. After Randy's review we discuss the book, sometimes with experts on the issue to which the book relates and sometimes with the author!

Yesterday's book was 'The Souls of Black Folk'. It was actually a book recommended by Facebook followers. 

William Edward Burghardt DuBois (1868-1963), for those who don't know, was the first black to earn a post-graduate degree from Harvard University, a stunning intellectual and a co-founder of the Niagra Movement - a precursor to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP). 

'The Souls of Black Folk' is a selection of essays about what it was like to be black at the turn of the 20rh century. It is a phenomenal classic. 

Randy's humble estimate of this book was interesting. He told me he felt unqualified to do this book justice. Randy, you see, is white. 

My reply was I think Randy was perfectly qualified to read and review this book for us. 


As I tried to demonstrate afterward, knowing the biography, lives, cultures and history of white leaders and events from the perspective of white people is required of all of us: blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans. If you go to school, you will learn about their lives, families, thought processes and contributions. Rarely, and certainly to a limited extent, are whites required to learn about the heroes and contributions of blacks and other minorities. We are taught, subtly and not so subtly, to identify with and, in some cases revere them. 

For a white man to read a book like 'The Soul of Black Folk' and to learn the ways in which we have and haven't changed as a country is signficant. To his credit, he didn't read or review the book defensively, nor did he try and evade DuBois' pain and frustration by trying to emphasize how the world is different. He allowed himself to try and identify with the pain and, as difficult as it might have been, let DuBois speak to him. I think it was brave. And I have tremendous respect for Randy for allowing this book to touch him as he has with other books on other subjects with which he is more familiar. 

The point is, we have to know one another's stories in order to avoid fearing one another. We have to find common ground in those stories to avoid trying to make other people 'like us' in order for them to be acceptable to us. We have to accept the legitimacy of their pain and frustration in order to understand 'the job' that has been done on all of us. 

Willie Loman, in Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman' and Walter Lee Younger in Lorainne Hansberry's 'Raisin in the Sun' are not so different. They are both frustrated by life. One by age, one by race and the limitations imposed on them by a cruel and insensitive world. They both are looking for one shot, to simply gain respect. They have families that don't quite understand them and, at some deeper level, understand them better than they realize. 

The point? We have - in spite our particulars and differences - a common humanity that should lead to a common understanding. And we shouldn't have to change or ignore our histories, no matter how painful, in order to discover and even celebrate that common humanity. 

What if we sought and valued that common humanity between races, ethnicities, the poor, the homeless? 

I think we'd have a different world. Not a perfect one. A better one. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Call of Compassion

We don't have politicians who speak like this anymore. This was from the heart of one who had been touched by adversity and who allowed that adversity to make him more sensitive to the pain of others. All too often now, we allow our pain to separate us from one another, to build a wall between one another so that we don't feel that pain again. Only as we allow ourselves to reach out to one another in an attempt to understand and relate to one another - not require them to be like us, or feel like us - but to relate one another and to commit ourselves to one another for the purpose of building a better world. 

In the midst of our struggle to make our world whole - we pray that we unite around this challenge to work with one another, not to transcend our differences, but to find the unique value of those differences and how our lives are enriched by them. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Morning Blessing: Marilyn McCoo

I'm almost certain that there are many who see this who won't have the slightest idea who Marilyn McCoo is. But several years ago, she and her husband, Billy Davis, Jr. were not only two of the most popular singing duos around. Their hit song, 'You Don't Have to Be a Star (to Be in My Show)', was a number one hit for months. And before that she and Davis were members of 'The Fifth Dimension', one of the greatest pop groups of the late '60's and early '70's. 

Her repertoire also included Gospel music. This is just an example of her great voice and the power she possessed. As the old church leaders I grew up around used to say, there aren't many I know of who can stand 'flat-footed' and sing with this kind of power! 

Her rendition of Andre Crouch's 'My Tribute (To God Be the Glory), is wonderful and worshipful. I hope it starts your Sunday off right!

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Ulysses S. Grant 

General of the Union Army; 18th President of the United States

"There never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Payday Lending & Common Ground Among Faith Conservatives & Progressives

In Austin, one of the issues the legislature will be grappling with is a bill to strengthen regulation of the payday and auto title loan industry. Regulations stronger than those passed during the last legislative session. 

For instance this insightful post written by Eric Weinmann in a conservative blog making virtually the same argument we 'progressive' faith leaders have been making for some years now...our faith traditions call on us to take a stand against the exploitation of the economically vulnerable.

CitySquare is working with allies from across the state who are committed to seeing that consumers, many of whom are poor, who are being exploited by the usurious practices of this industry. We always welcome more allies and as with all issues they come from unexpected places.

We don't have to agree on everything to be right, together on some things....


Payday Lending: Why Conservatives are compelled to Oppose Usury

In 2012, lobbyists for the payday lending industry strived to become the largest campaign donors in Austin. The reason: many state legislators and local municipalities are evaluating limitations to payday lenders by capping interest rates. In Texas, a number of cities have placed restrictions and the Texas Legislature made some restrictions in the last session. The industry argues such a move will significantly curtail their business. At any given time, 12 million Americans have payday loan debt. My initial reaction was to side with the payday lenders, supporting their right to loan money at the interest rate of their choice.

I have since changed my mind.

After thinking about the issue, I have decided that Texans should reject usury. Specifically, conservatives should be at the forefront of this sentiment, as our values reject usurious lending.

About Payday Lending

Payday lending allows consumers to borrow relatively small amounts of money – usually under $1000 – with a repayment date of their next payday. In exchange for this short-term loan, consumers pay high interest rates, typically between 500% to 700% annual interest. This works out to about $17 - $18 in interest per every $100 borrowed every two weeks.

Many jurisdictions have intervened, capping interest rates. There are 12 states which have fully outlawed payday lending. The list includes both the red states, such as Arkansas and Georgia and blue states such as New York and Maryland.

Three states and the District of Columbia have placed interest rate caps on payday loans. Arizona, hardly a left-wing state, has placed a 36% interest rate cap.


A number of groups and individuals have made persuasive arguments: First, lenders argue that payday loan customers have no other place to turn for emergency credit due to bad or no credit history. Next, lenders argue that the high interest rates are necessary. Default rates on payday loans are high, often 10 to 20 percent. Lenders contend they must charge high interest rates to compensate for the bad debt on their books. This may be true, but high interest rates contribute heavily to that default rate. For those without a banking relationship, this serves as a less expensive option than multiple overdrafts.


While the arguments for payday lending are compelling, my faith and commitment to values have caused me to side with tighter regulation. Anyone with a Judeo-Christian belief system should reject usurious interest rates.

The book of Leviticus specifically forbids usury and describes it as a grave sin. In a sense, the Old Testament directly addresses the debt structure of payday lending. In Mark, the scripture describes a loan payable over 30 days. Linked to the Babylonian Talmud, the “fair” rate of interest is 20 percent. This sets a precedent: high interest rates are immoral.

Faith instructs us that charging people exorbitant interest rates in times of desperation is wrong. Instead, we are taught that loaning money should be of mutual benefit. For example, when you take a mortgage or a business loan, both the lender and the business person hope to generate a profit from the transaction. However, in payday lending, creditors know the advantage is one sided.

I don't mean to overwhelm with biblical text. That's not the full point. The lesson is, no matter your view on religion, these stories serve as a guide for moral action: high rates of interest are not right and this notion is supported by the belief system this country was founded upon.

Deception is not a Free Market Principle

Free market principles rely on transparent business practices. If business were built on deception, it would be impossible for free market to operate and for actors to make the best choices. The free market depends on individuals being able to conduct self-interested activity. If facts are obstructed intentionally, this evaluation becomes impossible.

The industry suggests that payday lending is a short-term debt financing option. This is not true. Industry reports show the average payday loan customer takes nearly a year to pay off their debt. This adds up to usurious rates of interest. Most payday stores incentive their employees through bonuses to keep customers indebted by rolling over outstanding balances for longer and more expensive terms. However, lenders are reported to make repayment terms and loan amounts in ways that do not make this clear at the point of purchase. This deception often takes advantage of the most financially illiterate. As such, good decision making is dissuaded and often make opaque.

Real Solutions

The best way to solve this problem, other than Arizona-style interest rate caps, is through financial literacy. Instead of pushing indigent people in their time of desperation to usurious lenders, we do far better in the long run to encourage banks and credit unions to create checking and savings alternatives for nontraditional customers. This includes secured credit cards, “second chance” checking and small consumer loans offered banks – at much lower interest rates. Much like Washington, the debt culture of consumers has detrimental impacts. It’s important that consumers understand the risks and terms of the decisions. Deception and usury violates the values social conservatives embrace. It is for that reason that I have changed my mind. I am glad to see the majority of the Republican-controlled Texas Senate agrees as well.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Whose America is this Anyway?

I wasn't a baseball fan when I was younger so this went way over my head when I was 11-12 years old. 

But what I do remember was how incensed by 6th grade teacher was at Jose Feliciano's rendition of the 'Star-Spangled' banner. It was, to him, the desecration of the song and he thought it was, in his words, 'just terrible'. And he wasn't the only one. It was a BIG deal!

I think it's beautiful!

I also think whether it is Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye or Alicia Keyes - Jose Feciano - it gives rise to a fundamental question that we have yet to answer: just who does America belong to anyway?

These different arrangements, all are artistic expressions of different experiences brought to a song that has come to express a love of country and a reverence for its birth and endurance. But does that mean that if you share those feelings the song has to be sung in the same way? In other words, if you are white, when I sing the national anthem MUST I sing it in a way that expresses your feelings or experience. Does it mean my culture and experience are irrelevant? Does it mean that its only legitimate if its sung from the perspective of the 'dominant' culture?

If there is a way to be 'American', what is that 'way'? And what does it say about those whose culture and experience in this country doesn't comport with those of another group? Is Jose Feliciano's version, less legitimate than Whitney's, or Marvin's, or the 'Up With People' (you had to have been there)?

This is the basic question we're struggling with, as our country grows more diverse. As more and more, people of color assume positions of power in government, in business and in other areas previously closed to them. It's the question that needs to be wrestled with as we tackle the issue of a comprehensive immigration policy - who 'owns' America? And who has to conform to what in order to be an American?

It's the question of Black History Month. Whose history has to be marginalized, or forgotten in order for the 'American' story to be told? And if I must sublimate the history of my people in this country, which one of your ancestors do we need to forget?

If Jose, Whitney and Marvin all have renditions which express their understanding of  America in all of its richness and realness, then the song has texture and meaning for all of us. 

If there's only one way to sing it, then it's just a song. Then what does that make America?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Gratitude: Five Years Cancer Free!

This year I celebrate 5 years of being cancer free.

This is a strange admission for me, because neither the cancer, nor the surgery which removed it made me feel 'sick' per se. But in 2007, two weeks after the death of my son, a week to the day after his funeral, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

I can confirm what many cancer patients say: when you're sitting in a doctor's office and you hear the word 'cancer', you hear very little, if anything else.

Suffice it to say it was not a happy time.

Because of the fresh grief we all were experiencing after the murder of my son, I knew that the last thing anyone needed to hear was that I had cancer. Never mind that prostate cancer is treatable and that this particular cancer isn't necessarily a death sentence if caught early and treatment is timely, it would just be too much. So the doctor and I agreed that we would postpone action until December which would give us time to deal with our most recent trial.

The toughest part was going through the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, without my family knowing (although I told my wife just before Thanksgiving). Dealing with Jason's death during those first holidays and imagining that it was a possibility, however remote, that I might not be there the next holiday season cast a surreal and solemn pall over that time for me.

I had the biopsy in December and the surgery in early March 2008. I handled some of this time well sometimes, and sometimes I didn't. It was a particularly lonely and frightening time. But, I learned that this is what my faith was about. It was also a time that I learned what a great blessing to have friends, family and a church community to rely on. By the time the date for surgery rolled around, I was convinced that although it wouldn't be a piece of cake, I would be fine. In fact, I things went much better than I expected. And though I still deal with the after affects of the surgery, at the end of the day, I am very grateful for my life!

The other lesson I learned is that men have not become as open in talking about prostate cancer as women have about breast cancer. I can't tell you how often another man has told me about his diagnosis and spoken in whispers. It is also interesting to see the NFL in pink during Breast Cancer Awareness month (which is a great thing!). While NO professional sports team with male players even mentions prostate cancer!

We have to do better. Especially since, according to the Community for Disease Control and Prevention's website:

Not counting some forms of skin cancer, prostate cancer in the United States is—
  • The most common cancer in men, no matter your race or ethnicity.
  • The second most common cause of death from cancer among white, African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic men.
  • The fourth most common cause of death from cancer among Asian/Pacific Islander men.
  • More common in African-American men compared to white men.
  • Less common in American Indian/Alaska Native and Asian/Pacific Islander men compared to white men.
  • More common in Hispanic men compared to non-Hispanic men.
  • In 2009 (the most recent year for which numbers are available)—
206,640 men in the United States were diagnosed with prostate cancer.
28,088 men in the United States died from prostate cancer.

If you are a man reading this and you are 40 or over, you owe it to yourself and your family to have an annual check up for prostate cancer. It is treatable and survivable.

There's no 'convenient' time to have cancer. But having it and not knowing it is deadly!

Click here for more information on prostate cancer...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Jupiter Hammon

Jupiter Hammon

First Black American Published Journalist, Poet

"Let all the time you can get be spent in trying to learn to read." 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

S.M. Wright Freeway - Being Reasonable vs. Being Right

View more videos at:

Yesterday, at a press conference at City Hall, the official announcement was made that redesign of a dangerous roadway in  and of  a concrete scar which divided South Dallas neighborhood for decades. 

And yes, that is me at the press conference...

The S.M. Wright redesign has been a point of contention for CitySquare and other leaders with whom we have worked in the South Dallas area. The proposed design by TxDOT calls for a six lane highway to go through the neighborhood. Working with the South Dallas HOPE Initiative and Unify South Dallas, we proposed a four lane highway, which we believed would be better suited for the neighborhood and would provide greater opportunities for economic development and neighborhood redevelopment. 

What changed? A couple of things...

First a conversation with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who, in facilitating a meeting with those of us in opposition, TxDOT, North Texas Council of Government and City of Dallas officials, including councilwoman Carolyn Davis, explained to us, that the money for this project, upwards of $150 million wouldn't necessarily be there forever. In fact, one of the reasons for the delay in the project was the economy which made some of us doubt it would happen at all. Congresswoman Johnson, explained in very real terms, that whatever the merits of our arguments, further delay in the project put that money at risk and could possibly be diverted elsewhere. 

The other reason was conversations with urban designers, TxDot and NTCOG officials which assured us that they had heard our concerns and that modifications could be made to the design to accommodate economic development within the scope of the project. 

Finally, there is the opportunity for jobs in the community. CitySquare with our WorkPaths program has experience working with Dallas County Community College District, WorkSource Dallas County and other partners, in recruiting and training the hard to employ, unemployed and underemployed in commercial construction. If the project needed to go forward, six lane or four lane, we wanted to be a part of the training that expanded the asset prospects of this project by providing an opportunity for as many southern Dallas residents as possible to work on the road. We could easily adopt our model of training for commercial construction, to highway construction working with the same partners. So we will work with WorkSource and the Community College District to identify the resources, and begin the process of training, what I know to be many men (and women), who are willing to work hard to have an opportunity that can lift them out of poverty and provide for themselves and their families. 

Frankly what changed was the political and economic realities of the fight. And having to accept the fact that larger victories can be won if you stay engaged and make have larger principles for which you are fighting. Were we right about the four lane highway vs. six lane highway. Frankly we are. But you have to ask yourself, in an area like South Dallas, whether or not a 'scorched earth' policy would yield a better result than getting the most benefit you can out of a battle. To put it another way, as my mentor, Ernie Cortez would teach us in Industrial Areas Foundation training, 'You may be right, but you also have to be reasonable'. I think this is reasonable. 

There are times when you don't compromise. And every case is different. But in this case, I think it's the best we could get in this situation. 

Now its time to go to work!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Payday and Auto Title Lenders Lose in Court

The best news I received yesterday!

"This morning, District Judge Eric Moye dismissed a lawsuit filed against the city of Dallas in hopes of halting its regulation of payday and title loan operations."

"The dismissal on jurisdictional grounds means that the city can continue to regulate not only where payday lenders operate but how they issue loans and what they charge in interest and fees."

"Backers of the city’s strict payday lending ordinance praised the ruling as a boon for poor communities that they believe are preyed upon by lenders who offer complex loan products and charge usurious rates during repayment."

"The ruling “really solidifies the city’s right to regulate these businesses in their own jurisdiction,” said Rev. Gerald Britt, of the non-profit CitySquare."

"Britt said the idea that Dallas couldn’t regulate lenders was ridiculous."

"“The city regulates private businesses all the time,” he said."

"The organization that filed the suit, the Consumer Service Alliance of Texas, can appeal the ruling. The city’s ordinance can also be challenged in court if the city attempts to criminally prosecute a payday lender for a violation of the ordinance."

"The importance of the ruling is amplified because several other major Texas cities, including Austin, San Antonio and El Paso, have all followed Dallas’ lead in adopting payday lending ordinances."

"The ordinances were widely seen as a response to what cities saw as lax regulation from the state. Cities across Texas, including the suburbs, have seen payday lenders proliferate."

"Led by council member Jerry Allen, the Dallas City Council adopted an ordinance in June 2011 that forced payday lenders and title loan shops to register with the state."

Read the rest of the article here...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

'Betty & Coretta' - A Reminder of a Debt We All Owe

When a friend of mine told me about the Lifetime TV movie 'Betty & Coretta', I had no idea what he was talking about.

I soon found out that it was a movie about Dr. Betty Shabazz, widow of Malcolm X and Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I recorded the movie and watched it early Super Bowl Sunday.

The movie, which stars Angela Basset as Coretta, and Mary J. Blige as Betty, is moving. Not so much for the acting, although the performances are pretty good,  but for the story itself.
Many don't know that Shabazz and King became friends, along with Myrlie Evers, widow of slain Civil Rights leader Medgar Evars, who was killed in front of his home in 1963.

I became aware of it watching the funeral of Coretta Scott King. Malcolm and Betty's oldest daughter Attallah Shabazz spoke at the service representing her family.

Here are an excerpt of her remarks...

"...I wasn't flattered when one picked Malcolm over Martin. I was protective of who he was through her. And vice versa. You're not doing the men any justice by picking one over the other. Your not doing us any justice by picking one over the other. There are many methods for us to get to this union of who we were."

Attallah Shabazz
Attallah Shabazz

"Our mothers....beautiful women. And I'd like to say, Mayor Franklin, that maybe my mother can have a honorary seat on that Freedom Choir. When I came home after meeting Yolanda King, my mother sat with bated breath, wondering how it would all go, as if it -- she were a long lost daughter of her own. So as we traveled on the road together we got to swap mothers -- all of us -- as I got to know the King siblings, and feel like their older sibling myself. Very protective I am of each of you in my heart."

"They were definitely sisters. My mother, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, and Merely Evers would go away for retreats unbenounced to people -- pin curls, Noxema -- and share that which others could not. And when you saw any of them, grace followed; but not without a Keloid under the attire, not without a continuous rub of Aloe Vera, coconut oil, a little sag. But the commitment to the mission, to loving their husbands, to raising their children, sustained them. (Excuse me.)"

"When my mother in 1997 had her accident, the gathering of women surrounded us. I see many of them here. Mrs. King was no doubt a part of that perpetual momentum. When my mother made her "transition," Mrs. King was one of the few who maintained regular phone calls. Now I had always called and exchanged cards and things on significant dates -- not the Monday that celebrated her husband's birthday, but on exactly January 15th, because there's an intimate association. But on birthdays. And we would always get -- all six of my mother's children -- would receive something in the mail every birthday."

"... one of the most beautiful things -- as her eldest daughter and I discussed -- when you witness love and being loved the way we have by each our respectable mothers, you almost feel like you don't have the right to ask them to stay a day longer, when they are now in the arms of He who loved her most. For it is not fair to rob someone of that. Because if she was here, we'd still be on the receiving end. But from a chair, and quietly silent, the reflection -- and I know He reached down caressing her, and saying, "I'm here all the while." Sometimes just the human being needs simply that."

There are many people -black and white - who want to forget, or even minimize the Civil Rights Movement. But watching 'Betty and Coretta' made me realize something. We often talk about the ultimate price paid by King, Malcolm and Medgar Evers. We ought to honor these men and the many, many men and women who paid the ultimate price as well.

But the movie and Attallah's words remind me that these families continued to pay a price and do so to this day. Robbed of their fathers (Malcolm X was killed in front of his wife and children) and in a sense, growing up with men devoted to a mission so large that they had little to no time to the normalcy most of us take for granted, because a nation struggled to live up to it's creed, the sacrifice of these women and their children was enormous. It is the height of ingratitude to 'tire' of their stories - to fail to have them make a difference in our lives, or to try and evade any sense of responsibility to make our world better.

'Betty & Coretta' is a reminder of the huge debt we owe, to their husbands, to them, to their children and to one another.

You can listen to Attallah's remarks or read the transcript here...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Angry with God? It's OK! It Really Is...

I wouldn't recommend praying like this! But, I consider it one of the bravest scenes in the history of television (I know you may disagree)!

Any reader of CTW knows that my all time favorite television show is 'The West Wing', which depicts the triumphs and travails of the administration of President Josiah Bartlett. 

This is the scene shows Bartlett in the National Cathedral after the funeral service for his beloved personal secretary, Delores Landingham, who was killed in a car accident. But Bartlett is in a place which, like most of us, is a frustrating admixture of what he has done to himself and what has been done to him: he's concealed an illness from the American public, in order to get elected president; his wife is angry with him, because, contrary to a promise he's made to just serve one term based on that illness, he's seeking a second term; he was almost assassinated and one of his most trusted aides with him; he faces a hostile Congress and a VP (Hoynes, mentioned at the end of the prayer) plotting a run for presidency. 

Yet he's done some good things and he lays those things out before God as he pours out his anger.

Ever been there? Confused? Frustrated? Downright angry with God?

The Bible is replete with servants whose anger and frustration spilled out in prayer. Interestingly enough, God never exacts retribution for their 'impudence'. Rather he leads them into either acceptance, or a renewed trust in His Character.

There are plenty of things that happen to us that we don't understand: the loss of a loved one, illness, or crushing defeats. Sometimes we have fingerprints on those episodes in our lives that remind us that they are really our fault. We don't quite know how to get appropriately angry with ourselves, or others, so we turn our anger toward God. 

I'm not prescribing irreverent profane rants toward God. I am saying that the God of the Bible is able to handle our pain, frustration, even our anger. And I believe that we rob ourselves of a depth of fellowship when we act as if we have to 'mask' how we feel about where we are in this journey from God. 

In the Gospel of John chapter 11, the sisters of a man named Lazarus, a beloved friend of Jesus dies after He fails to show up. The sisters know that Jesus could have healed him. They even sent for Him and He failed to show up in time. 

When He does show up, they both have variations of the same theme: 'If you had been here, our brother would not have died.' Jesus is taken to the grave site and there amidst all the Lazarus mourning, Jesus sheds tears (John 11:35). Bible readers know that this happens moments before Jesus calls Lazarus from his tomb. But it is a lesson to us all, that Jesus doesn't just call us to conform to Him - He identifies with us!

Fred Buechner expressed it like this: 'Where is God when life hurts? He is in us the ones hurting, not in the thing that hurts'. 

We all get disappointed with God. But as another writer has said, 'The alternative to disappointment with God, is disappointment without Him'....

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Bill Walsh

San Francisco 49er Hall of Fame Head Coach

"Champions behave like champions before they’re champions: they have a winning standard of performance before they are winners.”