That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.

Ingreat?

I want to be great.

I struggle with this. I know that God says that He will give His glory to no man. I ask myself constantly if the reason I have not yet achieved my goals is that I want to be glorified in some way. Maybe God knows (I want to say, “Maybe God THINKS,” but I know He doesn’t wonder) that I would not be as humble as I need to be if He allows me to do the same things as those as whom I know I am at least as good. (prepositions! whew!)

Or maybe I simply have not worked hard enough.

I play music and I write words. I often think, when I see humorists and columnists and hear certain saxophone players, “I KNOW I can do this! I’m at LEAST that good! Why can’t I get a break?” I know I’m kind of good, but I want to be great. And not obscure. And I begin again to wonder if what is blocking me is simply my thought process.

Maybe my thinking has to change… Maybe I have to think more about what greatness will mean for God than what it will do for me.

From day one I have been Charlie Brown. I was the insignificant kid, the ridiculed kid, the unremembered kid. I was the one who the girls looked at from the edges of their eyes. I was the one who either ate alone at lunch or went and found others with whom to eat.

I was never at the center of the action, always at the outer ring. Never the life of the party.

When I started to play music, it wasn’t to get girls or to be cool. I just wanted to learn how to play an instrument — something no one in my neighborhood did. All through school, the fact that I could hear a tune and reproduce it and improvise a little bit did nothing to initiate me into that cool musical circle.

When I grew up and began doing it for a living, my mother, who worked at my high school, would ask me to come back and play for assemblies. My own band director (with whom I rode to school EVERY DAY for three years!!!) was shocked when he heard me, remarking to my mother, “I had no idea Derrick could play like that! When did this happen?”

He had not bothered to notice or nurture my talent. He never pushed me. While the cool kids were taking theory classes and playing in the jazz band, I was at home picking out Grover Washington and Spyro Gyra solos. Teaching myself.

When I was in the eighth grade and on the verge of academic mediocrity as a student in the first Optional School class in Memphis, my English teacher brought a knarry tree stump into the classroom and asked us to write a story based on what we saw. I, thinking myself a failure at English, got the highest grade in the class. In me was born the love for words I now have. I changed at that moment. And a lot of the arrogant kids in the class looked at me differently — although being good at English doesn’t make you cool.

Writing didn’t become cool for me until I began getting paid to write love letters for guys — something I was scared to do for myself for a long time.

This very blog is all about me trying to be great. It is more than a geek with a computer corrupting journalism. It is me trying to not just rant, but to make literature. I want to leave my children with something that shows them that their father did not just consume resources, but that he THOUGHT. I want to not get to God’s throne and have Him disappointed because I left unused some gift He gave to me.

I want to MATTER — to be necessary. I want to be great in His eyes AND send my kids to college. Can’t you do both? There is the rub… That which makes ascent uncertain…

Being so consistently rejected bred in me this thing, this need, to prove them all wrong. To prove to — whomever — that I was worthy of note. Not of exaltation, but just valuable enough to be heard, to be listened to. It is the same drive, I think, that led Michael Jordan to prove wrong the coach who cut him when he was a kid. The same drive that made my father put cement and a pole into buckets to make his own barbells back in the fifties when kids laughed at him and called him scrawny.

I hate being treated as “less-than.” HATE it! I am the first one to esteem my neighbor as greater than myself, as long as my neighbor doesn’t presume to assume that position! I’ll get in the back seat as long as you don’t insist that I belong there. It is for this reason that arrogance is one of the things I hate most in the world.

 I want to show all those who belittled me and dismissed my contributions that they are what is wrong with the world. (But it doesn’t consume me as much as it may sound)

Maybe in a twisted way, though, that is revenge… I don’t know. I mean, I don’t have a desire to hurt anyone, or to repay in like fashion, so maybe it’s not vengeance. But maybe my thinking is wrong. Maybe I need to focus more on how GOD would be proved worthy of note if these things happened for me the way I want them to… I know I am not arrogant — I am PROUD of how humble I am! I make way too many mistakes to have an exaggerated idea of myself.

God, however, sees things in a different way than do I. Maybe my thinking is out of synch with His. Maybe if I can figure out how greatness and fame intersect, that last door will open.

Or maybe it is just not time yet.

I know He has not closed the door though, because I have continually been able to support myself, and because step by agonizing step, I have done a little bit better. I have worked with some pretty big acts and have played as though I belonged there.

We all live and eat by having people give us money to do something we are good at doing. Our gifts make our way for us. That is all I want. No Bentley, no floor length mink, no gaudy jewels. No breathless fans or VIP status.

Just ample recompense for art rendered. Commensurate compensation.

Lord, I don’t want Your spot or your shine. And if I don’t speak up enough, it is of shyness, not of usurpation. Create in me that right way of thinking, and even closer fellowship with You.

I’m not so haughty, reader, as to think that my life is so compelling that you just HAVE to know about it. I just hope the words are interesting enough to keep you reading them.

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November 26, 2008 Posted by | Arrogance, Artistry, Christian Life, Christianity, Fame, Food for Thought, Glory, God, Greatness, Humility, Life, Music, Saxophone, Words, Work, Writing | 9 Comments

The Devil You Know

Last week, while Christians were lamenting the loss of the Lord’s party and portending the end of the world because a pagan black Muslim OBVIOUSLY managed to circumvent the will God by being elected president, a far greater slaughter was being perpetrated on those who sought to find salvation.

Ravenous wolves were feasting on the poor of pocket and of knowledge via satellite in front of the ENTIRE world! And Christians did nothing. They sent up no hue and cry. They shed no tear. They kicked no dog. They tossed no popcorn. They cried no foul. They mourned no loss.

Rather than trust in the sovereignty of God and even for a moment consider the source of the joy, they cried, “God must be dead!” Rather than speak for those unable, they turned the channel on the carnage and let it go on unseen.

TBN was broadcasting their periodic “Praise-a-Thon.” (I call it the “Preys-a-Thon”) I am often asked why I watch this trash. I do it because it is like having the devil’s walkie-talkie. I do it for the same reason the feds bug mafia phones.

The most valuable thing we own is not our 401k, our homes, our economic stability, or our very lives! The most precious thing we own is our soul. And with souls dangling over the abyss, Christians cry and launch invidious invectives while these heartless hyenas prey on the desperation of those who have been taught to do church the wrong way for years.

They wrench passages out of context and hit the undiscerning over the head with the wrench.

Evangelicals claim to love God and thereby, His people. Especially the unborn. How noble. The unborn have one advantage over those who in ceaseless waves place their own butts into the gaping mouths of roaring lions: The unborn are not in danger of the flame.

While Godly people were crying in their chai tea about an OBAMA(!) having the gall to get elected, these “mend” and “womend” of God were sinking their fangs deeper into the souls of the seeking. Preying on greed and ignorance. And no one raised a finger to stop it.

You know why they are pimps? Benny Hinn, Paula White, T D Jakes, Creflo Dollar, Steve Munsey, Rod Parsley, Eddie Long, the Crouch’s, and the rest? Let me tell you who may not know one of the things a pimp does; A pimp pushes the envelope. He will say to himself, “I’m gonna see just how far I can go with this female… I’m gonna tell her to do the craziest, nastiest thing I can think of (hear me, R. Kelly?), and if she does it, I GOT HER MIND! And once I get that mind, thass IT! I can get anything I want! I can get her to do whatever to get money and give it to me. I’m the baddest pimp out there, an’ I’m gonna prove it by buildin’ up the biggest stable out there!”  I know guys who have done this! (I’ve been to college. YOU know it’s true!) I have seen and heard withering things.

A pimp has an ego that is never filled.

I have seen it. I have heard preachers brag to each other about how they “preached ’em under the pews!” They brag about who has the biggest congregation, the most cars, and yes, the most women.

Listen to this;

And this;

This stuff is the equivalent of a guy telling a girl, “Let me (perform all manner of perversion on your body — I cleaned it up).”

I guarantee you these guys were backstage afterward comparing (biceps). They were bragging,“Man did you see how those phones lit up when I quoted Matthew to ’em? They eat that stuff up! I’m telling you, the more predictions you make, the more they love it! At the end if I told ’em that at the ascension, Jesus turned into a crow and flew to the moon to build timeshares, they would have knocked each other down to sign up! They want MONEY, baby, money!! And it takes “money” to get money! My congregation gave me a Rolls Royce Phantom when I told ’em the Trinity was nine people and Adam could fly!”

Pimps! Pimpin’ h&es an’ slammin’ Catlack doe’s*

And rather than fight THAT fight and save SOULS, evangelicals were crying and expressing fear (and bigotry) because their candidate lost. God  lost. Do you know how many evil kings ruled over Israel? My goodness! Sunday, five days after the election, my pastor in an effort to quell growing despair and disrespect, quoted 1 Peter, 2: 13, which basically commands us to respect the authorities placed in charge. I was not allowed even twenty-four hours to enjoy the fact that this country had taken such a great step. It was like wrecking a new car as soon as I drove it off the lot. Regardless who you voted for the fact that America grew to this point deserved more from the Christian Right, who is already tagged with the label of not caring for minorities.

We need to get our priorities in line and do something about those who do ETERNAL harm. GET THIS TRASH OFF TV!!

 

*doors

November 11, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Benny Hinn, Charlatans, Christianity, Creflo Dollar, Elections, Evangelicals, Evangelism, False Doctrine, False Prophets, False Teachers, Jesus, John McCain, Paul Crouch, Paula White, Politics, Praise-a-thon, Pro-Life, Pulpit Pimps, Race, Religion, Religious Right, Rod Parsley, Steve Munsey, TBN, Televangelists, Word of Faith | 50 Comments

The First Joke I Ever Wrote

A wife is like a straight-jacket:

You gotta be CRAZY to get one!!

Wrote that in my bitter single days.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Humor, Jokes, Life, Marriage, Quips | 4 Comments

Um a Souuuuul Mane! (shameless plug time)

Soul Men,”  starring Samuel L. Jackson, the late Bernie Mac, and the late Isaac Hayes, opens tomorrow. Go see it! I played on either the score, the soundtrack, or both. Help me out so that my checks will be a little larger! Thanx!

Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac star in The Weinstein Company's Soul Men

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Bernie Mac, Entertainment, Isaac Hayes, Movies, Music, Music Business, Samuel L. Jackson, Saxophone, Soul Men | 2 Comments

Got a Brand New Funky PRESIDENT!*

Here we are. The world has not cracked in two. The stars have not refused to shine. Life is as it was. But…

NOW, as I shake off a headache from so much unexpected, hard crying, I feel that after two hundred and thirty two years the final missing piece has been found and placed into this American puzzle.

The long cracked foundation has been sealed. A black face is the face of America!

I had never felt fully part of the American family until now. I had always looked at history from the perspective of a mistreated child. I had always wondered how the words of that founding father, Patrick Henry:

         [ “It is in vain, sir, to extentuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace–but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” ]

could be so hypocritically immortalized in light of the fact that these very men themselves owned human beings! I could never fully reconcile the brutal irony.

Tonight, though, it has been made manifest that no more American doors are locked to me and mine. As I held my son as he held me and asked what was wrong, I told him that I was happy. Happy that now for him greatness not only included intellectual achievement or financial success, but also the highest office in the most powerful nation on the earth.

I was happy that now his maternal great-grandmother, who fought the Klan for the right to vote, and who hid freedom riders in her home on “Number 8” in Jim Crow Mississippi, had not fought in vain. I was happy that his paternal great-grandfather, who genuflected and called eight year-old white boys, “sir,” and lived a life of menial servitude while raising seventeen kids to honorable adulthood, had finally won.

I was happy to know that the last time black people collectively cried this hard was when, forty years ago, a bullet burst open the face of the face of the search for equality, and that now his sowing bore African fruit.

African! An African name! After so many African names went unremembered and changed. An African man who came to America not in bondage to anything but hope. The way it should have been. The way it is. An African man willingly cleaved in a Godly manner to the hand of a white American woman and produced a descendant not steeped in the brew of oppression, and destined to caulk that fundamental crack. 

I did not know this would mean so much to me.

I care about the plight of the unborn, and about the tenuous religious freedoms we have. So, how can I be happy knowing that innocent babies will continue to die?

I can do so the same way I did it the last eight years when “immorality” and infanticide increased in the last eight years. I can do so by praying to God that He work through His body, the Church, to effect change in this culture a heart at a time.

Obama’s election does not for me signal the end of all hardship. His election does not mean that all problems will be Divinely washed away.

What it DOES is symbolize the fact that there is hope that in this country, with its keloid scars and twisted sinews, people of ALL races — primarily black and white — can grow past ingrained adversity and see each other as the same. But different!

We have loved and desired to be loved in return. We love those who love us. And those who don’t. We embrace the white guy who plays basketball like we do, or who dances like we do, or sings like we do, or swaggers like we do. All we wanted was to make it known that we are worthy of humanity, and the fact that so many NON-black people had to come together and lift this symbolic individual to the highest human height, means that we are getting it!

I remember when, in 1988, Doug Williams lead the Washington Redskins to the Superbowl championship.  was so proud to be black that day. His win meant that we could do it, whatever IT was. There have been a number of those moments, where door after door is knocked down, and this is the last one.

Some racists have said things like, “I’m scared if Obama wins, the BLACK gone take over!” I submit that this sentiment comes from those who know that they have not done right with the power they have had and are projecting their own unGodliness onto us.

Obama’s election does not mean that white folks have to stay out of the fast lanes on the highway, and give up their floor seats and fifty-yard-line spots in sporting events. We will not raid your country clubs with booming music, spinning rims, gold teeth, and chitlin’s. We have just been allowed an invitation to the American house party, and are glad to not have to any longer stare through the window.

So, rather than be defined by the thug image, the gang lifestyle, we have President Obama — cool, dignified, brilliant, clean-cut, erudite, straight, true to who he is, and in love with one dark-skinned, kinky-headed woman, and living in the same house with his kids.

50 Cent, you don’t define me! You never did, but I shake you off! P.Diddy, Pacman, T.O., O.J., Li’l Wayne and the whole Cash Money crew, Flava –Lord hammercy!- Flav! Snoop Dogg, American Gangster, drug dealer, dropout, deadbeat baby-daddy, you are not who I am. You never were, but you never will be.

Get off the stage! Put the mike down! Pick up a book!

My son will not emulate YOU. My daughter will not desire you!

‘Cause we got a brand new, funky, President!!* Gimme Five, America! On the Black hand side!

 

*James Brown

November 5, 2008 Posted by | Abortion, Barack Obama, Black Life, Conservatives, Culture, Current Events, Democrats, Elections, John McCain, Obama, Politicians, Politics, Race, Racial Reconciliation, Racism, Religion, Republicans, Sarah Palin | 10 Comments

I Don’t Get It.

There are things, entities, and people whose popularity I just don’t understand. As there are too many things vying for the attention God deserves, I suggest that we be more discriminating with our adoration.

Here are a few. I will add more as they come to mind, you may do so as well. I hope I don’t burn any more bridges! I already can’t go back to where I was when I started this whole venture. This post is a little bit on the carnal side.

It’s all in fun, y’all, just jokes…

“Boomerang” era Robin Givens. Don’t get it. Never did. Her affected elocution sounds as though she has a mouth full of greazy marbles, and she looks like she’s pressed up against a force field. Totally two-dimensional face… Mike Tyson was too good for her!

T. Pain. I get the PAIN part. In my eyes and ears. “Buy ME a DRANK” and put some strychnine in it!

The fineness of Paris Hilton. Where? WHERE?

Keith Sweat. Come ON!

While I’m there, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, the “genius” of Alicia Keys, Lenny Kravitz,  and — yes — Jimi Hendrix.

M.A.S.H. Boringest show ever!!

Madonna. My goodness! Never was sexy, never could sing. Just nasty. I guess nasty is provocative. The emperor is nekkid, y’all.

Janet Jackson.I know I’m alone here. I was able to be mad at her for pulling her bress out on tv ’cause she never appealed to me. Un-fine.

Lil Wayne. This is why we need to re-program our daughters as to what “cute” is! Sets black folk waaay back. We need three Obamas to make up for one Lil Wayne!

  Twins. One is a parasite. The other one sucks your blood.

Steve Harvey. Pryor you ain’t.

David Caruso. (CSI Miami)I guess the definition of “sexy” is being the first man to show your butt on tv, no matter how you look. Arrogance on HGH!

Star Trek. Ughhhhhh! I like C-Span better!

Beer. Who tasted this first and said, “YEAH!! THAT’S the taste I was looking for!”?

Watching poker on television. Read a book. Or play poker!

Tyler Perry. I’m not mad at his effort, just the end result.

Woody Allen movies. Ambien without the fear of overdose.

Other movies; “Citizen Kane,” “The English Patient,” “My Left Foot,” and ANYthing Meryl Streep did.

Allen Iverson. As much heart as missed shots.

And Emmitt Smith (very good, but not the GREATEST), Bill Parcells, and Jim Rome (bullies).

Pecans. HATE ’em! Taste like bark.

Runway Fashion. No one ever wears the cardboard evening gown with the birdcage hat in public.

Horror movies. They never end. I like my monsters DEAD!

Fraternities. I know I’m stepping on toes here. “Hey, let me beat the blood out of you, and humiliate you for weeks, and I’ll let you call me ‘brother’, and then I’ll wreck your car, and borrow money from you that I’ll never pay back!” Stupid.

High Fives. Stopped doing it when everybody else started doing it, along with, saying, “bling,” “shout out,” “chill,” and “da bomb.” Do YOU.

Sagging pants with the drawz showing. Don’t y’all know that is prison chic? The ones who do it are the “woman” in prison.

Hip Hop award shows. Personally, I’m em-burrassed when I run across it. I’m sure God hides His face when they give Him props for Best Song for“Three Hoes an’ a Bottle o’ Criss.”

Spoken word. Pretentious for the most part.

Monique. Wake up! She ain’t deep! Even if she DOES frown seriously with every word! Can’t y’all read Ghetto?

Dr. Pepper. Is this not what anti-freeze tastes like?

Diet anything. Just drink water. I can actually HEAR the aftertaste! That can’t be good.

Bell Peppers. Who said this was FOOD?

ANGELINA JOLIE!!! The Piece of Resistance indeed! Where? Where the sexy at? Come on, folks, speak up. I know I ain’t the only one! If a set of lips made you fine, goldfish would be in Playboy.

This is just the start. I got a lot of them. I’m sure you do, too. I can’t talk Bible all the time…

November 4, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Entertainment, Humor, Hype, Overrated, Pet Peeves, Pop Culture, Rant, Stuff I Hate, Style Over Substance | 11 Comments

What’s Been on My Mind

I haven’t written anything here in a couple of weeks for a few reasons. (I thank you kind people for continuing to stop by in the meantime)

Some of the things I have posted in the past have had a slightly negative financial impact on me. No sweat. Christians are made of rubber, and rubber bounces rather than breaks.

The last few posts were getting kind of serious in light of the pending election, and I kind of had to breathe a little bit. There is a lot at stake here, and history is on the verge of happening, one way or the other. Some people hold tightly to their old ways of being.

At the risk of being mis-labeled, I wanted to talk about other tings than race for a minute, but all I saw in the news and around me — this crazy (or drunk, or both) white dude outside of Kroger said to me, “Ni@@er! F**K you, man!!”  I got kids to raise, so rather than kill this defenseless bigot, I called my wife, who told me to just go on into the store. — so I had nothing to write. Someone I know has already called this “An Angry Black Man Blog.” Yes, I am sometimes angry, and ALWAYS black, but I don’t fit the criteria for that tag. So I backed off for a moment.

Also, we went through a series at my church in which the pastors (we have three) took a poll of our most pressing issues and boiled them down to the “Big Ten.” Some of the topics were, God and politics, marriage, the end-times (I diverge on this one in a non-essential sense), and the top two, homosexuality and predestination.

I have my views on the whole Gay Rights issue which I have rarely expressed not wanting to be written off as a hater. I do think they (as an organization) play on this feeling and thereby further empower themselves and shut down debate. I am dead set against gay marriage, and I do not think one is born gay.

But I do not hate them. After the sermon on the subject, I began to think about how my “No Wiggle-Room” stance on gayness looked from the outside, and how I could be effective standing for capital “T” Truth while displaying appropriate compassion without seeming to give the “thumbs up” to the lifestyle. Complicated.

Christians — Evangelicals in particular — have lately been more apt to point the finger than to lend a hand. We are quick to point out errors in doctrine and separate ourselves from “The World” believing it to be a place not to be reached but to be repelled.

We, in our self-righteousness devoid of compassion, have given the non-Christian every reason to keep doing what he is doing while claiming to desire to make more Christians.

We picket and protest and put out warning notices for certain movies with unwholesome content. We keep our children from the slightest chance of interacting with “those” kids. We show not the least measure of the Godly love we claim emanates from Him. Why would a gay person want to come to us for advice on changing?

This blog has been a way for me to shout through what I see as maddening, increasing Godlessness in our society. I have been able to state my position unwaveringly and back it up with Scripture and common sense, the two being not mutually exclusive.

I have railed against crooked preachers, racists, lenient parents, atheists, black miscreants (more to come. Pacman Jones, grab your playbook and come to the office.), rappers, and stupid drivers. But I don’t want to come across as just another fundamentalist Christian close-minded fool. Unjustifiably. Truth without love is a bunch of baking pans falling out of a helicopter onto your driveway at 5 AM.

I have love, and don’t want that to be lost in all my diatribes. I think righteous anger and love can co-exist. Ask my boy, Max. The main reason I do this is that I hate to see people deceived. From withIN or withOUT.

But pastor Loritts’ sermon on how Christians deal with the gay issue — along with conversations with my friend and fellow church member, Kirk Whalum — made me think about how to be truthful yet winsome. It is easy to do face-to-face, harder to do on a computer.

I went to vote Thursday. At a white Church with nothing but pictures of stiff looking white folks on the walls. Not diverse in the least. I stood in line for exactly two-and-a-half hours! And I later found out that that was peanuts compared to other places.

What struck me was that the hundreds of people in that serpentine collective were engaged in dozens of conversations. The area was largely white and overwhelmingly conservative, but there were all races of Americans there. I’m sure assumptions were made as to who was voting for whom, but there was an air of joviality there. People who, moments before, had never seen each other were all of a sudden laughing and sharing life together in the midst of the most potentially explosive event in any of our lives. Events which could potentially put us all at poles even further apart than before. And there was civility, kindness, and even affinity.

Old white ladies who first voted in the fifties were engaged with black men who probably only ever voted once. There were, in those hours, no conservatives or liberals, but Americans. While the principals and their surrogates fought on like stray dogs over a bag of garbage.

I’m not a “flag pinon the lapel” guy. You won’t see a flag waving on my house. I don’t tear up during the National Anthem. Unless the singer is really great, or really bad (Carl Lewis). But as I wound my way through that maze, I was proud of that group of people. I was proud to be American. NotthatI’veneverbeenproudbefore!!!

American people can get along in spite of deeply held differences. I saw that. And, as a Christian, I try to show on this weblog that while I disagree with a whole lot of what I see and hear, I can do so without being hateful. I can state my case or cast my vote and still love my neighbor.

So, yeah, I’ll still rant, and still shout, “WOLF!” when I see one. I’ll still state my position on issues like race and abortion and Affirmative Action and crime and the rest.

But if I don’t love you, I’m wasting my time, and time is like buffalo nickels: There ain’t no more!

November 3, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Christ, Christian Life, Elections, Evangelism, False Teachers, Food for Thought, Gay Rights, God, John McCain, McCain, Obama, Politics, Voting | 5 Comments