Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Anyone with an iPhone or Android has undoubtedly downloaded the game “Temple Run.” It is a fascinating, yet simple time-killer that has assassinated countless hours of productivity. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got yourself getting sucked in to the addictive nature of the game. However, while sacrificing hours on the altar of “Temple Run” trying (unsuccessfully) to beat my 5 year old’s top score, I realized that “Temple Run” also holds several spiritual truths that mirror the message of the gospel and the life of a believer. Since there are four gospels, here are four spiritual truths I found in “The Gospel According to Temple Run.”1. You’ve got to run for your life.

“Lord, I’m runnin’ tryna make 100!”

In “Temple Run”, the explorer is constantly being pursued by “demonic monkeys” who are waiting for him to make one false step. The moment the explorer stumbles, the monkeys pounce on him to “eat up his flesh.” In the same way, our enemy, the devil, is constantly sending his demonic forces on assignment to chase, harass, and attempt to destroy the believer. However, just like the explorer, we must keep running. We can’t afford to stumble. Every time we stumble we allow the enemy to gain ground on us. The interesting thing is that the demonic monkeys are not fast enough to catch the explorer on their own, they need his help. They need him to stumble in order for him to catch up. The enemy can’t catch you if you don’t allow him! That’s why he puts obstacles in your way. You’ve got to jump, slide and turn on the road to your destiny. It reminds me of the old song of the church that says, “Lord, I’m runnin’ tryna make 100 because 99 1/2 won’t do!” Keep running for your life!

2.  Don’t forget the coins.

The explorer can’t be so busy focusing on the demonic monkeys behind him that he misses out on the coins in front of him. Throughout the obstacle course there are yellow, red and blue coins. These coins represent the treasure of God’s word. They also represent opportunities; they can be used to purchase upgrades and aids to help the explorer on his journey. Likewise, every day, God blesses us with opportunities designed to aid us on our journey. However, if we are too busy looking at what’s chasing our back, we’ll miss out on the blessing that’s staring us right in the face. One interesting thing to note about the demonic monkeys in “Temple Run” is that for most of the game you can’t even see them. They are so far behind the explorer that they disappear off the screen. God doesn’t want you looking at what’s behind you. He wants you to focus on the opportunities that are ahead of you. The Apostle Paul says, “Forgetting those things which are behind…I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14). Don’t forget the coins!

3. Make sure you power up.

Force-Field of Favor

Throughout the maze of “Temple Run” several “power-ups” appear. The explorer has to leap to get them.  These represent the power of the Holy Spirit that is available to every believer. We just have to leap up and grab it. The Holy Spirit is our Paraclete. He is our Comforter and our Helper. He is like the Christian’s “power-up.” There are several power-ups in “Temple Run”, but my favorite is the magnet. When the explorer gets the magnet, he doesn’t have to maneuver to collect the coins…the coins come to him. That sounds a whole lot like the favor of God. When you have God’s favor, you don’t have to try to force your way into situations; God will make them come to you! The Bible says that God surrounds us with favor, like a shield (Psalm 5:12). In other words, He puts a magnetic force field of favor around us that just attracts the blessings, but you can only get it if you power up.

4. The objective is to survive.

There is no tricky secret or hidden motivation for the explorer in “Temple Run.” His only goal is to stay ahead of the demonic monkeys behind him and watch out for the obstacles in front of him. The goal is to stay alive – to survive. Similarly, our goal as believers is to keep surviving. Even though our situations may look bleak, we continue to survive. As Ezekiel prophesied to the dry bones in the valley, we must encourage ourselves to live. Proverbs says that death and life are in the power of our tongue. Therefore, we must learn to speak life. You must tell yourself, “I will not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord!”

While there are at least four similarities between “Temple Run” and the life of a Christ-follower, there is one stark difference. The game has no end. The explorer can just keep running and running until he either gets tired and gives up or is eaten or killed in the game. He has to keep running, never being allowed to get any rest or peace. However, for the child of God, we are promised both rest and peace. God grants us opportunities to rest and even commands us to do so, and one day we will look forward to the ultimate peace of eternal life. Another difference is that, in the game, the explorer is running away from the temple. Of course, in our Christian journey, we must run TO the temple. So make sure you make that “temple run” this weekend and #Go2Church!

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Instagram has become one of the most popular social networking apps in the world. What started as sort of a “members-only” photo-sharing site for people with iPhones became a whole lot more crowded with the launch of the Instagram app for Android. And with the announcement of Facebook’s purchase of the site for a whopping *in my Dr. Evil voice* one BILLION dollars, Instagram’s popularity has exploded.

For those who have no idea what Instagram is, think Twitter with pictures. If you don’t know what Twitter is, I just sent you a message on Myspace explaining it all in great detail. But I digress. For all that I love about Instagram, it certainly has its share of things I hate – 10 of them to be exact. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. People who only post pictures of themselves.

I know you think you’re beautiful, but I’m sure there is at least one other beautiful thing in your world that’s worth photographing. Mix in a few photos of something or someone else so you can at least pretend that you’re not so vain.

2. People who only post pictures of themselves…that they took themselves.

Come on now. Not only are you letting us know that you think you’re beautiful, you’re telling us that no one else does! You mean, you don’t have ONE friend that can hold the camera and snap a pic of you. Pay a complete stranger to snap a pic if you have to…we’re tired of looking at your reflection in the bathroom mirror.

3. People who follow 700 people and post zero pictures.

This is a photo sharing site. You’re supposed to SHARE…not STARE. If you’re on Instagram and you never post a pic you’re basically telling us you have stalker tendencies.

4. People who ONLY post tweegrams.

Tweegram is great, but if all you want to do is post inspirational quotes…stick to Twitter.

5. People who post pictures with no captions.

The caption is what frames the picture. We don’t know what we’re looking at if you don’t give us the context. We have no idea that random kid on the tricycle is your second cousin’s neighbor’s third child (adopted)…if you don’t tell us.

6. People who post pictures of their second cousin’s neighbor’s third child (adopted).

Enough said!

7. People who post pics of their entire wardrobe.

No one really wants to see what you’ve got on every day…unless of course you’ve got #SundaySwagger like my man, Kevin Bond (kbonded)! LOL

8. People who never like or comment on any photos.

Again, this is a site for sharing (SEE #3). Instagram is for interaction. If you see something you like, click the like button. Throw up a funny comment. Don’t just stop and stare (that’s creepy).

9. People who protect their photos.

Why come on a photo sharing site…if you don’t want to share your photos? If you only want your photos to be seen by your family members and close friends…email them!

10. People who make lists to complain about how other people use THEIR Instagram 🙂

Instagram is for you to enjoy. Don’t let dopes like me tell you how to enjoy it. Have fun, post pics, make comments…or not. It’s all up to you!

Find me on Instagram at twh_phd. Feel free to comment…no staring allowed 🙂

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Churches across America celebrated “Hoodie Sunday” in honor of slain youth, Trayvon Martin. This sign of solidarity was designed to continue to raise awareness regarding the teen’s death and to demand justice for his killing. George Zimmerman, Trayvon’s confessed killer, remains free and has yet to be arrested for his crime. His claim of self-defense is simply indefensible.

Even more troubling is the injustice perpetrated by the local authorities and the ignorance perpetrated by national media members like Geraldo Rivera. Mr. Rivera, in an interview on Fox News (shocker), claimed that Trayvon’s hoodie was as much to blame for his death as Geroge Zimmerman. There is no way that such idiocy and victim-blaming should ever be allowed on national TV!

My response to Mr. Rivera on Twitter was that Trayvon’s hoodie was no more to blame for his death than the chair was to blame that was used to break Mr. Rivera’s nose back when he had his own show and was somewhat relevant. To blame an inanimate object for the death of a child is simply a ploy to absolve responsibility from his real killer and the real reason why he was killed.

So I join with the thousands who have donned hoodies in their online profile pics and will wear their hoodies to church, but as many of my colleagues in the clergy have mentioned we must ensure that this is not simply a sign…but a start. We must start a movement to continually address injustice against people of all color, especially those who cannot speak for themselves. Therefore, if we are going to rep our ‘hoods’ we need to know what the hood represents.

1. A hoodie is designed to COVER.

Lost in all of Mr. Rivera’s blame of the hoodie for Trayvon’s death is the reality that he was wearing it because it was raining! A hoodie is designed to cover and protect from the elements. It covers the head to protect from the sun, the wind, and the rain. Unfortunately, it could not protect Trayvon from the profiling of an overzealous neighborhood watchman who decided to bring a gun to a Skittle fight.

2. A hoodie is designed to CONCEAL.

One normally dons a hoodie when he or she would rather travel under the radar and be incognito. A hoodie says, “I don’t want to be bothered today. I’d rather be left alone.” Unfortunately, Mr. Zimmerman didn’t get Trayvon’s hint. He just wanted to enjoy his Skittles and iced tea in peace. He wasn’t expecting an all out war. Trayvon’s hoodie couldn’t conceal Zimmerman’s bias, and it definitely could not conceal the bigotry that has no doubt played a part in the authorities’ refusal to arrest him.

3. A hoodie is designed for COMFORT.

There are few things more comfortable to throw on when running to the store than a hoodie. The wool just feels good on the skin and the protective hood just feels good covering your head. While Geraldo Rivera claimed hoodies are worn by ‘gangstaz’ he neglected to mention the many athletes, law enforcement officials, celebrities, and law-abiding citizens who wear them everyday. We wear them because they’re comfortable. Unfortunately, Trayvon’s parents can’t take comfort knowing that the man who killed their son for wearing a hood is still free to continue to watch the neighborhood.

That sounds like the work of another group who is famous for walking around The South in hoods.

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For the past two years I have been blessed to lead a daily “Power Prayer” call. For the past two days* that prayer call has centered around praying for the family of Trayvon Martin and countless others who have suffered loss and been further victimized by the “Injustice” system.

In the Trayvon Martin case, Skittles have become a symbol of this injustice as, we all know by now, that he was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea when he was shot and killed. I do believe that Trayvon Martin’s candy choice has a lot to teach us as we as a global community try to reconcile his loss.

1. Remember the Rainbow

For years, the marketing slogan of Skittles has been “Taste the Rainbow.” The rainbow is a universal sign of hope. God first graced humanity with the rainbow after The Great Flood and Noah’s ark. It was a reminder that He would never again destroy the world by water. When we see cases like Trayvon Martin it’s easy to focus on all the negatives – the rain. We must remember that after the rain comes the rainbow, and we must have hope that somehow God will bring some good out of this and turn this tragedy into a triumph!

2. Celebrate the Colors

Skittles are unique in that the candy is intentionally made up of different pieces of all different colors. This is interesting in light of the fact that “color” has played such a central role in the Trayvon Martin case. Quite frankly, Trayvon was profiled and subsequently killed primarily because of the color of his skin. And, no doubt, the color of his killer’s skin has had at least something to do with the fact that he has not yet been arrested for his killing. As I stated in a previous blog, this is not a problem for the Black community…this is a problem for the HUMAN community. We must learn to celebrate our differences and focus on diversity.

3. Stand in Solidarity

No one buys a bag of Skittles and just eats one. The power of Skittles is in the fact that you can get so much diversity of taste in one bag. Somehow, all of the colors are able to coexist in the bag. While we all may have our preference of which color Skittle we like best (mine is purple 🙂 ) we have a taste explosion in our mouths when we pick up a handful, regardless of their color and eat them TOGETHER. What a wonderful illustration of unity! We can have an explosive effect right in the mouth of injustice when we stand together!

Let’s go down to Sanford, Florida…and make them “taste the rainbow”!

*If you would like to access these recorded prayer calls dial 712-432-6190 code 124541#. The recording numbers for the Trayvon Martin prayers are 032312# and 032412#. Feel free to join us for the live “Power Prayer” call every day 6:00a-6:10a (Eastern) by dialing 712-432-6100 code 124541#.

A package of Original Fruit Skittles.

Is this worth a child's life?

This blog post actually started as a series of tweets regarding the sheer injustice of the Trayvon Martin saga. However, I quickly realized that 140 characters were not nearly sufficient to capture the depth of feelings I have for this case. I have not been filled with such righteous indignation since the execution of Troy Davis.

Those who have followed this blog for a while know that I haven’t written regularly for some time now. However, this case has brought me out of my blog hibernation! The blogosphere, mainstream media and social networks are already buzzing with details regarding the case so I won’t bore you with details here. My goal is to simply add to the dialogue and share my response as a pastor, father, and young black man in America.

As I stated in an earlier tweet, the sad reality in today’s society is that kids are killed every day. We have become numb to it…almost expecting it. It should not be so, but that is the reality. The reason, I believe, that Trayvon Martin’s death resonates with so many is that, apparently, justice died with him. Whenever a vigilante, posing as a neighborhood watchman, can summarily profile, follow and fatally shoot an unarmed teen…AND NOT BE ARRESTED…there is cause for outrage!

George Zimmerman was told by a police dispatcher NOT to pursue Trayvon Martin, yet he chose to disobey that direct warning. There is no doubt that Zimmerman’s pursuit of Trayvon DIRECTLY led to his death. Simply put, if Zimmerman had not disobeyed the authorities, Trayvon Martin would be alive today. However, as senseless as this death is, the lack of response by the local police makes Zimmerman’s actions seem light in comparison. Zimmerman’s actions led to the death of one child. The Sanford PD’s refusal to arrest Zimmerman has the potential to lead to the death of countless others.

Additionally, the lack of justice in this case (at this point) further deepens the wound of a global community and further victimizes anyone who has ever lost a loved one to violence whose killer has never been brought to justice. Every day that George Zimmerman goes free, that fatal gunshot wound continues to pierce the hearts of Trayvon Martin’s parents and the people who love and support him. Justice must be served!

Mr. Zimmerman (and the Sanford PD) are standing behind Florida’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” law. This law is designed to protect citizens who respond to an imminent threat against themselves or others in an attempt to defend themselves. The fact that this law is being applied in this case would be comical if it were not so egregious. George Zimmerman was CLEARLY the aggressor in this case. He chose to follow Trayvon. He hunted and confronted an unarmed child and killed him in cold blood. His claim of self-defense is utterly ridiculous! Last I checked, Skittles have not been classified as a deadly weapon. What was he afraid of, that Trayvon would make him “taste the rainbow”?

The lack of justice in this case should be felt far beyond the confines of the Black community. This should enrage the HUMAN community. Whatever your color or creed, we must all unite to speak out against this and any injustice. Parents, pastors, politicians, people of faith….we must demand “Justice For Trayvon.” Perhaps someday a child won’t be considered suspicious because he’s walking down the street with his hoodie on…IN THE RAIN. But until that day, we must continue to do as the prophet, Isaiah admonished us. We must “cry aloud, and spare not.”

Cry a little louder…I still don’t think the Sanford PD heard you!

The sports world and the nation have been rocked in the past several weeks with the allegations of sexual abuse of children by a former assistant football coach at Penn State University. The coach, Jerry Sandusky, has been accused of molesting at least 8 boys over the course of 15 years with more alleged victims coming forward seemingly each week. This issue is again front-page news as Syracuse University recently fired long time associate basketball coach, Bernie Fine, in the wake of his alleged sexual abuse of children.

The Title of Sandusky's Biography Says It All

One of the more sickening aspects of the Penn State/Sandusky case is that Mr. Sandusky allegedly used his own charitable organization as a means to attract potential victims. The name of that organization is “The Second Mile.” This is presumably a reference to the passage of scripture in Matthew 5:41 where Jesus says, “Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” The essence of this passage is that we are called to go above and beyond the call of duty. We are to go the extra mile. However, in the Penn State case, when it came to protecting kids, it’s clear that many people did not go “The Second Mile”…they never even took the first step.

I won’t go into the details of the case. They have already been discussed ad nauesum by writers far more skilled than me. While it is easy to point the finger at head coaches Joe Paterno at Penn State or Jm Boeheim at Syracuse or other bystanders in each case, it is very important that we do not ignore the other conspirators that are complicit and culpable: the rest of us. As a society, we have created a culture of silence that provides the cover of darkness for the demon of abuse to thrive.

Whenever we choose to talk about issues such as sexual abuse or domestic violence, we focus on two groups of people: the Abused and the Abusers – and rightly so. We as a society, must provide avenues for the Abused to find HEALTH and the Abusers to find HELP. The primary way to help an abuser is to ensure that he/she no longer has access to potential victims – this includes incarceration.

But, while it is important for us to focus on the Abused and the Abusers, we cannot do so to the exclusion of “the rest of us.” When it comes to dealing with abuse, “the rest of us” fall into one of four categories.

Accusers

Accusers are the first (and worst) group. They are second only to Abusers in their ability to inflict pain on a victim. Accusers are those who shift blame onto the Abused for being abused. Accusers say things like, “What did YOU do to make him/her do that to you?” or “You shouldn’t have been there in the first place!” or the most egregious “He/she would never do that. You’re a liar!”

Because Accusers blame the Abused for being abused, they perpetuate the abuse and deepen the victimization. Accusers are especially damaging because they violate the trust of the Abused and often cause them to internalize their pain and not seek help. Whenever someone confides in us that they have been abused our first response should be one of support. Even if we still need to assess we should never accuse.

Allowers

Allowers are almost as bad as Accusers. They are the passive-aggressive enablers who allow the abuse to continue. Allowers try to cover up the abuse. They try to minimize the evil of the abuse and its affect on the Abused. The Penn State case is full of Allowers. People knew of Mr. Sandusky’s alleged abuse as far back as the early 90s, yet they continued to allow him to have unfettered access to children.

Perhaps, the greatest example of Allowers in recent history was the huge sex abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church. Bishops served as Allowers by simply transferring pedophilic priests to another diocese or parish instead of defrocking them and reporting them to the police.

However, the Catholic Church does not own the patent on Allowers. We are all guilty. Everytime we hear of or suspect abuse and do nothing – we are Allowers. When we know of someone who has a history of being an Abuser, yet continue to give them access to other potential victims – we are Allowers. What we do not address…we allow.

Avoiders

While Allowers perpetuate abuse through their willful INACTION…Avoiders perpetuate abuse through their willful IGNORANCE. Avoiders pretend that abuse does not exist. They avoid the conversation whenever it comes up. Even if Avoiders suspect abuse, they choose to ignore it. Avoiders like to maintain a plausible deniability. Their favorite words are “I didn’t know” when in reality they didn’t WANT to know.

We can find Avoiders throughout the Penn State story, but where Avoiders truly thrive is within families. Avoiders say things like, “We don’t talk about that kind of stuff in our family.” or “In our family, we don’t air our dirty laundry.” Avoiders are afraid of the dark, but they don’t realize that darkness disappears the moment the light is turned on. Abuse thrives in the darkness. We can’t avoid it. We must turn on the lights!

Avengers

The fourth and final group is the Avengers. Avengers are the people who, when it comes to abuse, they don’t accuse, allow, or avoid. To avenge means to “exact satisfaction for a wrong.” Avengers don’t allow abuse to continue unabated.

“The Avengers” is also the name of the Marvel Comics band of superheroes who came together “to fight the foes that no single superhero can withstand.” Their battlecry was “Avengers Assemble!” Abuse is an evil so great that “no single superhero can withstand”, but their is a cry for the Avengers to assemble. We are all called to be Avengers. We must SPEAK OUT against abuse, STAND UP for the Abused, and STAND AGAINST the Abusers.

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

A few weeks ago, my five year-old daughter eagerly opened her Happy Meal from McDonald’s and pulled out the toy ‘Smurf’ she had been waiting on. When she opened it she looked up at me with a puzzled face and asked, “Is this a girl smurf?” I looked down, expecting to see ‘Smurfette’ but much to my surprise, she pulled out a ‘Vanity Smurf’ from the box.

'DJ Lance Rock' from Yo Gabba Gabba

After I explained to my daughter as best I could that ‘Vanity Smurf’ was really a boy, I began to think about how kids today are presented with images that are designed to blur the lines of sexuality. While the Smurfs have been around since I was a kid, many newer kid shows have built on the foundation laid by ‘Vanity Smurf.’ Characters like Spongebob Squarepants and the androgynous, ‘DJ Lance Rock’ from Yo Gabba Gabba highlight effeminate male characteristics that, I believe, serve as the entry point to openly introducing alternative lifestyles in the tween and teen years.

In fact, this systematic agenda was brought to the forefront recently when hundreds of people signed a petition for Sesame Street to officially recognize Ernie and Bert as a gay couple and have them get married on the show. On the heels of the New York legislature approving same-sex marriage in their state, advocacy groups decided the best way to push their agenda forward was to target a CHILDREN’S program!

Parents must be aware that children’s programs are now the primary battleground for the introduction of sexual themes and discussions. We cannot allow our TVs to educate our kids about such important issues. With the explosion of the internet age, our children are exposed to so much more than we ever imagined. It is our responsibility to guide the discussion regarding sex and sexuality in our homes – that should not be left up to PBS or Nickelodeon.

Parents must be proactive and protective. Watch what your kids watch. Take the time to sit through an entire episode or episodes and see if there are any veiled or overt references to sex or sexuality. If you feel that the content is mature or misleading…don’t allow them to watch that show.

Some may call that ‘old-fashioned.’ I call it ‘parenting.’ Just because the TV ratings say that it is approved for all audiences doesn’t mean that you have to approve it for your audience. Shows like Sesame Street should stick to educating kids about A’s and B’s…it is the responsibility of parents to teach them about the birds and the bees.

Months after the uproar about Ernie and Bert, Sesame Street was in the news once again this week because hackers replaced their YouTube channel with porn. I guess the message is clear: You can’t let your kids play in the street unattended…even if it is Sesame Street.