Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Change Has Come

My Dear Friends,

As 2015 draws to a close and 2016 starts afresh, I am excited to write to you for the 1st time exclusively as the pastor of this body of believers called Hope.  It is my commitment to serve you as your brother in Christ - one who is called to teach, encourage, support, uplift, guide, help, love and lead for the glory of God and the benefit of His Kingdom work!

Luz and I are ready and primed to do the Lord’s work in our community and world by reaching out to those who need to hear the Word about Christ. We are also ready to serve those already committed to follow Jesus to grow in the knowledge of God to the highest measure and to assist all in putting their gifts to work to the fullest extent that Hope Church might be strengthened and the lost might be reached.

We believe God has great plans for Hope Church – not temporal plans to make us great, but eternal plans to touch lives through faithfully living for Christ, that those who do not know Him might see Christ in us and truly understand that He is the Hope of glory!  We invite you all to enthusiastically reach out to your friends and acquaintances, asking them to join us in our endeavors so that they might hear a word about Jesus and see His love lived out in spirit and in truth among us.

We further invite you to walk alongside us as we seek to follow Christ and to demonstrate what we believe by how we live our daily lives.  Join us, as we pray, study, work and serve, seeking to grow daily to be more like Jesus by loving God with all we are and have and loving others with all the grace and strength that God provides!

Thank you for all of the love, encouragement, support and devoted friendship you have shown! They are precious treasures to us – treasures that motivate us to give our all in all that we do for the Lord and for you!  Please call, email, text, grab us or message at any time –  we would love to hear from you - know that we are here to serve!

There is now no more waiting!  This is the hour we’ve been waiting for!  Today, we press on in faith and obedience in Jesus Name!  He’s our Rock! He’s our Fortress! He’s our Deliverer! In Him we do trust! Praise God for the opportunity to live for Him and to see Him glorified in our lives as the fellowship known as Hope Community Church!

Your Brother in Christ and Pastor,

Samuel D. Jackson

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Don't Wait to Encourage Others

This week, I learned of the unexpected death of a comrade and mourned anew for the recent passing of a dear friend.  Though any of us can leave this life at any time, I am now at a stage of life where parents are entering their eternal rest, having lived full lives and blessed many along the way, even as others pass unexpectedly as an sudden or unobserved malady leads to their earthly demise.  This eventuality of death awaits us all, and marches on with mechanical coldness and unrelenting certainty. Nevertheless, my faith gives me the hope of eternal life and the resurrection of the just, but one must somehow deal with the eventuality of death.

Considering this inconvenient truth, we are often tempted to be philosophical.  That is not my purpose of writing on this day.  Hebrews 3:13 exhorts us to, "But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."  "Encourage one another day after day."  Let me encourage each of you to take the time to reach out and encourage someone who's been on your mind - today! Make the phone call. Send the text.  Drop by and treat a friend for lunch.  Give that buddy a hug!  "Life is hard and then you die" or so the saying goes!  That gives each of us a perfect excuse to take the time to encourage a friend - now!  If they're on your mind, let them know.  If you feel the need to connect, what's stopping you?  If they don't pick up, leave a message - not just your name and number - a message!  Tell them you were thinking about them.  Tell them you love them. Tell them you're there for them!

I doubt that I'll be the last one standing of my generation.  Nevertheless, while I'm breathing, the world in which I live and my friends who live in it, deserve my best!  They need to hear my voice, see my messages, and receive my encouragement.  It may not cure what ails them, but just maybe in will stir them up as they fight the good fight!

Be a friend!  Encourage others!  Use you voice and your gifts to be a blessing.  Work to bless others while you can!  The time to enter a long, long rest will come soon enough - for each of us!

See you along the trail of encouragement!

Your Friend,


Saturday, November 14, 2015

World War Next - In The Pursuit of Peace

Yesterday, I posted thoughts on how Christians should deal with the issue of terror on broad terms (  Nevertheless, many have asked me to more specifically share my opinion regarding the appropriate re
sponse to the latest act of terror carried out in France.  Here are my thoughts.

First, there must be a realization. That realization is that these acts are not random acts by malcontents nor are they born of frustration due to some easily defined socio/economic issues that can be solved with job fairs and youth programs.  We must realize that we are now engaged in a great World War.  This war has been initiated by an ideology that does not believe in coexistence, but rather in the domination and destruction of any philosophies that differ from its own.  The goal of this ideology is to exterminate or totally subjugate anything and anyone who holds other views - period. 
This attack is not just about France or Europe and this War did not begin yesterday.  Isis and like-minded allies are already targeting the US and have indeed already hit us – for years. Remember 911. Remember the US Marine Barracks Bombing in 1983.  Remember the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Remember the Barbary Pirates and “The Shores of Tripoli…”  The same parent ideology has spawned all of those crises and attacks and have grown to a world-wide movement that doesn’t just seek to carve out something localized for themselves, but rather seeks to disrupt and annihilate ANY potential dissidence to its view of how the world should be.
The presence of such an ideology, infused with a driving mechanism hell-bent to kill and destroy, demands the attention of people who love and believe in freedom and peace.  Those who stand for what is good, righteous and beautiful have an obligation to engage such a philosophy in thought, word, and deed.  Practically speaking, that means engaging this evil on a spiritual basis by pointing out its errors and presenting truth. That is one of my primary tasks as a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I believe that it is possible for someone who is zealous to the point of killing others, to have a spiritual confrontation with the living God and to be transformed into a new creation. Do I have an example?  Yes. I am sure most of you are familiar with the Apostle Paul of Tarsus.  This hateful, religious zealot encountered the risen Jesus Christ on his way to “a mission” and was confronted with his own wickedness.  In the process, his heart and mind were renewed and his life was transformed by the power of the experience.  I can report that I have witnessed these types of transformations and seen what a life surrendered to the transforming power of God can become!  These amazing metamorphic encounters happen today and they are real!
Unfortunately, not everyone responds to such an appeal. Even worse, some individually and corporately devote themselves to the destruction of as many people as possible as they reject the appeal to reason.  Such persons MUST be stopped.  Therefore, along with the appeal t reason, the enforcement of the maintenance of peace and safety by force must be implemented with skill, vigor, passion and commitment. In Romans 13
 “…rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
“..bear[ing] the sword” refers to the possession of arms by those in governmental authority to protect the innocent and to maintain the peace.  Governments are morally obligated to put down evil doing by the appropriate means, up to and including deadly force.  It is clear from the attacks that have occurred in our times, that peace-loving peoples around the globe, including the US, have reason to be vigilant, to anticipate similar attacks on their home soils and have the duty to prevent them by destroying the specific movement that is planning and launching them. Paris was not only the execution of a terror mission, but a dress rehearsal for more of the same around the world for years to come.

That is why while it is absolutely essential that we pray and work for peace through peaceful means with anyone willing to listen, learn and be transformed – after all, the Scripture beacons us, “Come, let us reason together” – it is nevertheless just as essential that we also maintain peace and preserve innocent life by actively combating with deadly force those who are determined to harm us with violence. Peace must be pursued AND peace must be maintained.  Both actions differ from each other, yet peace is the goal and both are necessary in this troubled and complex world.  Working for peace in any capacity, spiritually or militarily, is costly, potentially dangerous, and yet must be done.  May we summon the energy to do all within our power to seek the peace as even as we protect it.  Lord, grant us strength, wisdom and courage and please have mercy on us all.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I'm The One!!!

In our sojourning along the virtual highway, let us keep perspective with humility of heart and soberness of mind as we discuss solutions to the problems that grieve us. Though we may be in the right in our stances or positions, let us humbly impart any wisdom we may have to share, recognizing our own weaknesses, frailties and faults. As we seek to guide others to the path of righteousness let us not forget our own sinfulness and need for salvation. Consider Jesus’ words in Luke 18:9-14 and take a moments to ponder the lyrics of a song that calls all who are self-aware to engage in reflection and self-examination. 

Jesus said, "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Now, think on the words of this old standard, with some contemporary application thrown in:

It's me, it's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer
It's me, it's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer

Not my father, not my mother
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer

Not my sister, not my brother
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.

Not the people that are shoutin'
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer

Not the members I've been doubting
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer

Not the preacher, not the sinner
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer

Not the deacon, not the teacher
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer

Not the left ones, not the right ones
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer

Not the chill ones or uptight ones
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer!

Hear our prayer, oh Lord! 
Give us the eyes to see
What you are doing for us, 
And the ears to hear 
What You are saying to us!  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Handling the Truth

“All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time” General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, USMC.  This singular quote shows two critical elements of great leadership and problem solving:  The ability to accurately and realistically assess a problematic situation and still manage to infuse a sense of hope and determination in solving and overcoming the quandary.  It appears that on multiple levels, contemporary US culture is lacking in either its ability or its resolve to do either.  We have created a culture that is not willing to deal with reality but instead, restricts information so that situation either seems more stable than it is, or else seems to present a problem that is so bleak, it seems unsolvable.  All the while, we castigate those who attempt to address reality and we criticize those who dare to attempt to present creative solutions.     

Chesty Puller’s quote shows us the wisdom of presenting reality for what it is, while demonstrating the will that is necessary to overcome life’s most severe conundrums.  Societies do not generally welcome personalities like General Puller’s.  We proclaim that we want the truth, while demonstrating an unbreakable unwillingness to handle it.  We swear that we earnestly desire solutions while vilifying those who present them to us.  Every facet of US society is immersed in this struggle – education, ministry, the military, healthcare are a few examples, but no area of society is untouched by the malaise.  The destruction we continue to see in our nation including mass murder, but also extending to the unrelenting ravages of urban violence, reflect s our hesitancy in activating a Pullerian form of leadership and our tendency to embrace a politicized, ineffective style of management that seeks to preserve systems rather than serve people.

If we are to have any chance of effectively dealing with the modern day plagues that besiege us, we must develop a willingness to receive unvarnished, unpoliticized truth whenever it is set before us.  Once the truth is understood and embraced, we must have an equal willingness to do difficult work, elevating leaders who will not cower in the face of daunting challenges, but who will instead welcome trials and  lead the charge to take on difficult issues with skill, energy and undying hope.  The tide of despair can be turned, but only if we face that facts and work towards solutions, and only if we don’t wait until it’s too late.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hiding Among Giants

Over 30 years ago, I experienced one of the most painful disappointments of my life when I was separated from the United States Military Academy at West Point.  The hurt and shame I felt was immense and was only overcome by very wise and caring parents who never once voiced anything for me but love and support and who helped me to rally on in pursuing a life of purpose.  Over time, I grew to move past the disappointment, but continued to carry a gnawing feeling that somehow, this setback had exposed something defective in me and I was no longer worthy to be associated with a group of people I had come to love as much as my own family – the USMA Class of 1985! 

The challenge I faced, was that though I had doubts about how my class felt about me and my place with them, there was no doubt how I felt about them and their place in my heart.  Before PC’s took a place of prominence in our lives, I watched silently from afar, keeping up through telecasts of the Army Navy game and cheering that ultimate accomplishment of graduation by watching every telecast report of the excellence that wasn’t only strived for, but achieved!  I watched the Army Times for promotions, strained for glimpses of careers through the news, and occasional connections but mostly continued to follow at a distance as ‘85’s greatest non-graduate fan!  

The years passed.  I embraced a calling that was clearly placed upon my life and pressed on in service of another kind, applying lessons learned for my time at the Academy in the context of ministry.  Within that period, email came into play and then a short time later, social media.  Years of being away from sustained direct contact from my friends had allowed for the accumulation of a curiosity that couldn’t be denied.   I began to test the waters by reaching out to a few friends.  At the same time, others reached out to me.  Before I knew it, I was interacting with friends I hadn’t seen for years!  We were catching up, sharing encouragement and having very meaningful interactions. 

I got significant insight into the true heart of ’85, as Kris Fuhr and I had an occasion to work together on a very significant city ministry project involving a major film.  As the project was presented to community leaders, Kris referred to me in her opening comments as not only a friend, but a classmate in good standing. Other members of ‘85 referred to me in the same way, and included me on email lists, social media circles and other points of connection.  I began to have face to face reunions with ‘85 friends with each occurrence characterized by positivity and affirmation.  It seemed I was still, somehow, connected. As a result, I began to hear of, and was invited to attend, the reunion!

A few hard but gentle pushes from several ’85 members and Luz made it clear that whatever challenges I thought I might meet at the reunion, would be greatly surpassed by the wrath of those who were urging me to attend if I chose to ignore the invitation.  Close to the 11th hour, I signed up for all of the activities I could and last week, Luz and I headed for the "Touchstone" as one classmate referred to our Rockbound Highland Home. 

Then we arrived! From my first encounter to my last, I experienced overwhelming love, encouragement and acceptance!  I wasn’t just present, but was seen as a part!  This acceptance was really brought home to me in the words of one of our classmates who answered my doubts with great tenderness saying, “Sam, you’re a part of our story!”  Others confirmed it in embracing me as a Brother and choosing to remember me at my best, and not defining me by my worst! My convictions of acceptance were cemented when I and others were invited in matter-of-fact fashion to stand with the class as the Corps passed in review.  

As sweet as the invitation was, at the last moment, even as I had agreed to stand with the class, panic set in and I asked
aloud, “Guys, should I really do this?” Two classmates – dear friends who had encouraged me to come to the reunion – responded resolutely by saying that they would stand with me and they believed there would be no problems. Then one, of them chimed in with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, “Besides, you’re so short, no one’s gonna see you anyway!” We howled!  But his words, as funny as they were, touched my heart. In my entire time at West Point, I had been privileged to stand among giants – giants of character, giants of heart, and giants of courage.  At the time the quip was made I was literally surrounded by people much taller than me and was literally, out of sight!  It occurred to me that while I would never have the individual title of West Point Graduate, my classmates had never removed one just as sweet – a member of the Class of 1985.  I had no standing on my own, but had permanent standing hidden in the midst of my classmates.  I am truly blessed that while there will never be a public indication of my place in the flock of USMA ‘85, I have literal and actual standing among it!

Thank you for your graciousness towards me and towards Luz during the entire reunion. Thank you for kindness and love that reduced me to tears of  joy and relief when I had the time to process it once I returned home.  Thank you for being giants of character, full of grace, allowing those of us who walked with you only for a season, to remain in your midst as we press on seeking to live by the ideals that were drilled into our heads, but also, etched upon our hearts.  May we all continue our journeys together, spurring each other on to excellence, taking advantage of every opportunity to live out and pass on those virtues that indelibly mark each one of us as products of the Long Gray Line!  You are giants and I am humbled to stand in your midst unseen by others, but blessed by you! Thank you for continuing to consider me, and others like me, a part of this amazing and outstanding company of excellence.

With utmost respect, your classmate,

Samuel D. Jackson
Ex-Cadet, USMA 1985

Sunday, August 30, 2015

To Whom Do Lives Matter?

Black lives matter. All lives matter. These truths are understood by anyone who claims to possess a moral conscious.  Nevertheless, the issue of which lives are valued is hotly debated throughout the nation as unceasing episodes of violence seem to negate these foundational truths. Fingers point. Blame is cast. All are in dismay in the wake of a desperate and despairing state of affairs. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that this situation did not occur overnight. 

Perhaps what has not been considered enough is the historical context of our present reality.  We have not considered that the violent acts which have been carried out against a people for generation after generation in this land of freedom and bravery may have screamed in unmistakable tones,  "You don't matter!"  Some individuals have risen above the fray of violence and have ascended the mountain top of realized dreams and of ambitious accomplishment, thus overcoming this damning and devaluing message.  Others, however, have been stirred to not only receive the message, but to embrace it as they no longer possess the power to resurrect long dead dreams. They have become bewitched owners of a hideous message of death and destruction that contributes to the detriment of all people.  It is a message that has penetrated our societal layers so thoroughly that it's venom has even reached inside mothers' wombs! It is a message that demands, "Killing is the only option you have left to achieve any chance of significance.  Since you don't matter - They don't matter, no matter who the 'they' may be! Only in the mutual eventuality of death can you achieve equality."

These messages are lies. They have power, nevertheless, because they originate from hearts filled with anger, pain, disappointment, desperation, grief, sorrow and heartache.   Still, we must relentlessly fight these lies and recognize that to be controlled by them breeds an atmosphere prone to produce an anger that refuses to surrender to the mercy, forgiveness and grace of a loving a merciful God.  Resistance to God's grace and mercy inevitably leads to a lack of forgiveness and grace in the hearts of people and gives way instead to unrestrained hatred, anger, lawlessness and evil.  

It is critical to remember that these lies are of old, having an origin that is found among the earliest humans. We must be cognizant of the reality that while the Word of God declares that all have sinned it also teaches that all have been created in God's image and have intrinsic eternal value as His image bearers.  Because of our Divinely imposed value, we cannot allow poverty, injustice, hatred, being wronged or the frustration that stems from such crushing experiences to drive us to cheapen our view of anyone's  lives, including our own. We must recapture the perspective that truth and righteousness ultimately matter above all else. We must regain and reengage the values that are inextricably linked to those perspectives for everyone's good.  Perhaps then, and only then, will we arrive at a point of thorough understanding that allows us to see that our own lives matter and allows us to be sincerely committed for the care of
others to the extent that their lives matter to us well.

Pressing on for life,


Saturday, August 29, 2015

The True Story of how Chuck Norris Saved My Life!

In response to a personal request,  here's the story of how Chuck Norris saved my life.  Early in our ministry work, Luz and I served in the inner city of Cleveland where we started grass roots ministries among some very hard core folks and saw some amazing life changes take place. That ministry was supported by churches from all over, including Kentucky.  A group of churches there held a conference inviting missionaries they supported to rotate with speaking duties and presentations.  Sometimes,  churches request specific speakers to visit them. I was requested by a very old and established church near Paducah, but one that had called a new pastor. When I  drove up, the pastor was waiting for me on the steps. He ran up to me and shook my hand and apologized. I asked why. He stated that he felt that the church needed some barriers broken and looking at my experience,  I was the guy to take a hold of this "Jackie Robinson" opportunity.  I asked what he meant. He stated that the church had never had a person of color enter its doors for any reason...not one! Not for repairs, work, grounds keeping,  nothing! Even by showing up, I  had come farther than any person of color ever had. I looked back at the car thinking to make a run for it but he begged me to stay. Being a glutton for punishment and always looking for the sunny side of the street, I went in. If you've ever seen the scene from Blazing Saddles where the new sheriff arrives, the atmosphere was amazingly similar.  People shaking their heads,  glaring at me and the pastor, guys pulling back their jackets and revealing dark, shiny objects! The pastor cut immediately to the chase and began to introduce me. The congregation was stirring and I was earnestly praying! It was a Saturday night and I thought to myself, "Lord give me something to break the ice.  These are Christian people! There's got to be something you can give me to connect!" Not sensing an answer, I sighed and thought,  "Man, I could be watching Walker, Texas Ranger instead of going through this mess... wait! EVERYBODY loves Chuck Norris!  I'll lead off with a Walker story! Thank you Lord!  It's worth a shot!" When I stepped up to the pulpit,  there was an audible moan. I had a strong feeling that I shouldn't delay with the Walker angle. I opened my mouth and said, "My favorite TV show is Walker, Texas Ranger!" It was as if someone had waves a magic wand! The grumbling stopped, some people smiled. I made sure that literally every illustration was a reference to Chuck Norris - literally! By the end of the service, men who had brandished their fire arms were hugging me and slapping the pastor on the back! I entered being seen as an enemy and left being loved like a brother! If I ever have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Norris, I am going to thank him for literally saving my life!  Yes Brothers and Sisters,  Chuck Norris did it again! This time, for the glory of God! 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why Share Painful Posts?

I've been asked why at times I post articles written from a perspective of someone who is in great emotional pain? We live and process spiritual truth through the lens of everyday realities.  The emotions expressed by someone who is hurting often ring true with me as I have witnessed the struggles of others and had struggles of my own, even within the context of Christian community.  Those who deal with struggles need to know they're not alone in dealing with their heartaches and that there are others who care.  The reality of pain does not preclude overcoming in faith,  but it is important to face painful realities and not to ignore them if one desires to experience true healing and victory.  Our seeking to understand also provides a helpful for others who don't experience such struggles but who need to be exposed to the reality others experience so that they can be agents of healing and encouragement for those that hurt.  The positives we experience and the security we possess should not disuade us from listening to the pain of others, but rather inform our understanding so that we can encourage others and give others a better opportunity to share in the victory we experience! Jesus summed it up in this directive: "Bear one another's burdens!"

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Enemies Beware! Now Coming at you with Both Fists!

Women are now a part of the Ranger Legacy, adding their own legendary contributions to the great and illustrious Ranger story in the process. In an essay I wrote on the issue a few months back I stated that this school will always be tough! An example of how changes can be made while maintaining rigorous standards is seen in our militsry academies. Since the inclusion of women at the Academy,  I've yet to hear one person, male or female who attended since 1976, describe their West Point experience as "easy." Not one. Perhaps someone has, but I've never met them. I certainly wouldn't use those terms to describe my West Point experience!  This will be the case for Ranger School, BUDS training, Q course or any other elite level of military training. Some tweaking may occur for one reason or another, but any adjustments, if necessary,  will only give equal access to getting the hurt delivered in greater efficiency.  
The US military just expanded its butt kicking ability!  Enemies beware!  Drive on all y'all special warriors! May your tribe increase!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On Political Identity

How does one respond to the neverending vilification of persons of one political stripe over the other? Here is my heartfelt take on the usefulness of labels we assign to professional politicians as I presented my thoughts on a friend's comment string:

The author's first point of clarification is, for me, his best [The author of a biting critique of a particular political persuasion begins his article with a scathing evaluation of politicians of every stripe]. The differences espoused by both parties publicly are surface differences, protecting hardened, deeply held core values that favor certain types of people over others. I am an independent because I  have grown to have an equal suspicion of professional politicians of all flavors. Humans crave power and tend to protect power at all costs once it is gained. Bones are thrown on occasion to "calm the natives" but I  am not naive enough to believe that politicians seek political influence to serve anyone other than themselves and those like them. All sides present those who agree with them as champions of the cause and voices of reason, but the reward is seldom beneficial for those who suffer and are oppressed on the whole. Divide and conquer remains the political weapon of choice. I lament to consider that our national political refrain will perpetually be best represented by that classic last refrain from the Who's classic "Won't Be Fooled Again": "Meet the new boss...same as the old boss!"

Monday, August 10, 2015

Love at First Sight

So I get asked a lot if my dad is my "real" dad and that's always been a sensitive subject for me because what I want to say is "Yes, absolutely!". We may not be blood but he is the only dad I have ever known and have ever loved. In fact, I feel like I'm a lucky girl because I got to choose my dad.

I love the story that my dad tells me of how we first met. He tells me that everyone told him to not be surprised if I don't warm up to him right away. Apparently, even then, I was always hesitant and guarded. But that wasn't how I acted. I ran to him with open arms and no hesitation. I'd like to think that was my moment of first love and whatever walls I had before just crumbled down.

In that little girl's heart, she knew that this man would be forever in her life and she was going to love him always with all her heart. I have my own family now with two special guys that I love so much. But a girl never forgets her first love. Thanks daddy for still making me feel special (like the text message I just received). I love you! 

Victory without Revenge! Finding Inner Peace in Turmoil and Conflict

The Bible instructs Jesus Followers to be "quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. For the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God." This is a call in times of stress and struggle to pray, reflect, process, understand and respond intelligently so that one will truly be an agent of God for instruction, healing and godly justice rather than mindless vengeance, hasty wrath or hateful spite. Such an exercise of patience and spiritual discipline will lead one to ponder the situation, to pray for the offender and to pray for oneself to reflect God's character rather than one's own rage and disgust. This will further allow God to do a work in one's own heart that will enable one to appropriate God's grace for oneself and dispense grace for others on a consistent basis. "Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!  In His arms He'll take and shield you! You will find a solace there!"  When wronged, take the time to go to Jesus and to allow Him to come to you. You will be empowered to reflect his beauty and glory in every situation!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

How To Live in a Racialized Society

A friend recently sent me an extensive article addressing race, written by a well-known African American conservative, when it pertains to matters of race. Statistics were cited, perspective shared and a call issued to move beyond victimization, don't believe the hype and rather embrace hard work, resilience and the abundance of oppprtunities that exist to excel and thrive in American society.

I understand where the author is coming from and know that there must be initiative,  persistence and determination for anyone to make strides in life. I understand that wallowing in one's sorrow will not enable individuals to gain one inch of ground towards achieving the goals for which they are aiming or enpower them to achieve the greatest gains within the grasp of their abilities. Nevertheless, at the same time, personal experience has taught me that it is naive and dismissive to ignore the challenges of a racialized society that persist to this day.

22 years ago, especially coming from the perspective of an Army Brat in a military community that promoted and insisted on breaking down racial barriers, I might have penned an essay similar to the one to which I've alluded, in spite of some very heavy racial experiences that occasionally found their way into my generally positive existence.  I chose to live in a sort of fairyland, that refused to fully acknowledge that any significant vestiges of racial challenge remained for black people in the United States.  I assumed wishfully that if one simply clicked the heels of ones red shoes like Dorothy in Oz, ignored the problems,  pressed forward and remained positive,  one would probably eventually triumph,  save some unfortunate tragedy. 

Since that idyllic clueless time, 29 years of racial reality have not dampened my fire to overcome any challenges - racial or other - that may confront me. Nevertheless,  the realities I have experienced,  witnessed and ministered to have allowed me to better understand the complexity of the issue of race and have moved me beyond the fantasy of wishful thinking or the stubborn dogma of citing debatable statistics as "argument settling proof" of a position on race one way or the other. The years of struggle I have experienced have also knocked some sense into me and helped me to face reality - even painful, frustrating and persistent reality - with faith, courage, determination and hope.

I have come to understand that when dealing with race in the USA, various components of truth exist simultaneously and must be acknowledged,  understood and navigated if one is to survive the racialized landscape of America as an African American.  Some practical principles and ideals I have chosen to apply in my daily life as I navigate the complex racialized landscape of America are the following:

1. One must prepare oneself to the maximum extent possible intellectually,  spiritually, emotionally and physically to achieve the greatest gains possible in one's chosen area of endeavor. Proper prior planning and preparation prevents preventable pitifully poor performance.  Do your best at all times in all endeavors of importance! 

2. One must assume there will be challenges in general to overcome and perhaps setbacks to rise above that are simply part of the general human experience.  One must be prepared to get up, dust off and press on when the difficulties come - and they will! Expect the worst and overcome it with your best!

3. One must always be prepared for being blindsided by racial malfeasance and understand that such malfeasance may cause more havoc than typical human problems for the majority culture. If such a problem arises, one must fight for righteousness with all one's might. One must also understand that such happenings are often systematic and won't stop with one individual's experience without active opposition and sacrificial efforts to establish a righteous environment. The "N-word" and its associates can present themselves at ANY time! Have a plan in place to face the ugly and be prepared for an extended struggle involving lots of inconvenience, painful listening and sharing if your desire is a positive and impacting outcome! 

4. One must speak the truth in love at every opportunity,  seeking to promote understanding and never giving up on one's attempts to making a difference and improving understanding between people. Be honest yet diplomatic. Be gentle yet tenacious. Be unrelenting and unyielding in standing for what is right, yet with humilty and civility. If one is pushed to be combative,  be combative with skill, dignity and an ultimate aim to wound to heal!

5. One must never give up hope, or allow one's joy to be destroyed or allow the harshest of realities to allow one to become cynical. As an observant human being it is clear  that very bumpy times are ahead, yet I have faith that God wins in the end. In the meantime,  the Good Fight must be fought, and the difficult duty must be done until our time has come either through death or the culmination of all things. Understand that dealing with race in America is a lifelong discipline.  Make friends. Seek to grow. Don't quit!

This is my heart on the matter.
I  hope it adds to build just a little more hope and understanding. 

I remain committed and approachable and would love to hear from you!

Blessings to you all my friends!


Sam J

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Monumental Destruction - The Tension Between Pride and Shame

Should monuments honoring the memory of heroes of the Confederacy be destroyed? Before you answer definitively, consider the image of the Taliban blasting ancient monuments fowhat they would claim is the good of all that is holy and righteous and the potential peril of such actions becomes apparent. 

No one deplores the hypocrisy of some of our early historical heroes more than I, and few make it a point to bring attention to their astounding duplicity as much as I do.  Nevertheless,  I say, let's not destroy the monuments but rather let's use them to educate.  Destroying them would very likely erase the lessons from their shortcomings and increase the likelihood of future folly. 

Before we completely vilify those who fought for an unjust cause we must acknowledge that  people are complex. The Confederate icons are no exception. As a West Pointer, the Cadet records of Lee and Jackson were still legendary during my time at the Academy.  T.J. Jackson apparently had such presence of personality that upperclassmen refused to haze him all during his Plebe Year!  R.E. Lee suffered zero demerits during his entire Cadet career - ZERO! (I suffered zero during the entirety of Beast Barracks - Basic Training - but Upperclassmen made sure I got caught up during the rest of Plebe Year! Lee's was an amazing accomplishment!)  Lee also turned the Academy towards modernity in its structure and designed the Full dress hat that is worn during many parades to this day.  

I abhor the cause these men defended, but I can still recognize their admirable qualities and understand that they contributed as much to the American experience as they damaged. Their inconsistent records are cases in point of the peril of good people being caught up in their own pride and refusing to call evil by its name and failing to oppose it in the name of a lesser loyalty.  

Their mistakes must not be forgotten and the  great suffering caused by their rebellion must remain before us in our collective historical memory. Therefore, I say, keep the monuments. Teach the whole truth! We cannot afford to allow history to repeat itself.

Me,  Samuel D Jackson,  in front of a monument to Confederate Veterans at Port Gibson, Mississippi ca. 1966.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Loving Through Frustration

Today I became very, very frustrated. The duties of fatherhood, being a husband and caring for my father came crashing in with a powerful and irresistible thud! My emotions were totally on edge and I had a sit down talk with the Lord that is not postable. As I stewed, I didn't feel condemnation, but the gentle push that says, "My grace is sufficient. My love will prevail. Go visit your father - by yourself."

Having been raised and trained to do my duty, duty pushed me forward and there Dad was, taking a nap as he sat in the hallway.  My heart sank. He looked so frail. My greeting was met with an awakened Dad who smiled and enthusiastically took my had without words. It's a bit hot here, but I  felt compelled to take Dad for a walk outside. We walked in the shade and parked by a bench where we held hands and looked at each other. As we continued to look at each other, I asked him a number of questions he should have remembered which he seemed not to. A slight breakthrough came when he acknowledged a visit from our dear family friend, 1SG (RET) Bobby Warrix with a smile. We continued holding hands and I kept thinking of the great love Dad has for me and I shared my love through my touch and expression.

Out of nowhere,  a beam of light. Dad looked up and said, "This is beautiful weather we're having. It's a beautiful day. I like it here. I'm glad you're here."   Over the next 10 minutes he repeated the notice of the beauty of the day.   It was as if someone had dropped a bag of gold into my lap. I asked Dad if we could pray with him. His eyes lit up and he nodded. As I prayed through tears and weeping, Dad's face was full of joy and peace . My prayers were being answered as I uttered them. An Amen shared between us and we returned inside.  I kissed Dad and told him I love him. He responded verbally that he loved me too! A mega-blessing of a day, totally unexpected!

I share this to encourage you,  my friends,  to keep on demonstrating your love for others, even when you grow weary,  frustrated and faint of spirit.  Love is the last Victor!  1 Corinthians says that while every other gift and accolade fades, love lasts forever! Love is pretty much all Dad and I have, and it is more than enough!

Don't stop loving. Our society is filled with hate,  frustration and malice. Be stubborn. Love anyway!  There will be fruit, even if it's only produced in your own heart. Don't give up. Keep up the love and embrace the blessing that comes through sacrifice!

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Banner of Hope

After a very busy season of ministry,  our family made a trek southward to some old haunts seeking refreshment and rejuvenation. On our way to the South Carolina coast,  we decided to drop in to see the changes on the campus of the seminary I attended in Columbia, the state's capital.  It was our first visit to Columbia since the early 90's.  I was not prepared for the emotions that would flood in after more than 20 years away.

We experienced some sweet times in Columbia and I personally was spiritually awakened in a way that is difficult to describe in this relatively short essay.  But with Luz by my side, we both were unexpectedly hit with sledgehammer force by a flood of unpleasant memories that we experienced as people of color and a culturally mixed family during the early days of our marriage in the Palmetto State. Memories of my first recurring negative encounters with law enforcement rushed in as we passed by places where memories had been made that we'd rather forget and where various negative encounters caused Luz to beg me to stop traveling alone at night. Memories of the months it took for us to find a church home where we were truly embraced as children of God and not viewed as an intrusion or a freak show.  Memories of being boldly denied a merit scholarship by a historically black university because I attended a formerly segregated institution.  Memories of Luz's countrymen asking her why she had married a black man and didn't she understand that blacks were at the bottom of the pecking order? Tough memories that had apparently been suppressed in the heat of battle and the necessity to function on a daily basis.

I might have sunk into a pit of despair had we not consciously remembered the ultimate price paid by 9 Americans. 9 African-Americans. 9 African-American Christians. We remembered their sacrifice, the supernatural response of love by the family members they left behind and the call of service we have felt to break down barriers ever since our Columbia experience.  We remembered that we could not allow our pain to overshadow the victory of our faith and the hope we have experienced in following Christ and preaching and living in the light of His love.

With our victory in Christ in mind and His hope deeply embedded in our hearts, we welcome the changes underway in South Carolina  to forgo symbols of division and to earnestly embrace the unity that should characterize American life. As one old and divisive banner is lowered and our national colors assume their unique and rightful place as our national symbol of togetherness as the UNITED States of America,  let us contemplate the words of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin,  who said of this ground-shaking occasion,

"This moment is about more than a flag or a vote. It’s about the hope that now, 150 years after the end of the Civil War, we have grown beyond our differences and have begun to grow together. This is not the end of division, of prejudice or of hate. But it is the beginning of something new. If we can hold on to it and to each other, if we can nurture that hope and help it grow, then we will have something more precious than history. We will have a future."

"...and the Star Spangled Banner, O' long may it wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

America, the Truth

Regarding the question of the dismissal of monuments like the Jefferson Memorial,  it seems an extreme stretch to expect the disengagement of the same. I suggest, use the monument to teach by presenting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. As the Bible presents King David in all his glory and all of his ugliness, we should endeavor to do the same with the founders. Present the majestic, powerful words of the founders that proclaimed our national liberty and allegiance to God and, by its side, in equally prominent fashion, display these words of perspective like these uttered by the great and mighty crusader for abolition Frederick Douglass when he contrasted true faith and the slave holding faith of his day:

"What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to theslaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels."

We need not destroy or  hide the ugly facts in our righteous anger. The reality of the ugliness and the beauty of our history should stand together as monuments to warn us of the crushing potential  of the angels of our lesser nature and the overcoming power of righteousness. This is truth. This is America!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

America is Beautiful!

America is not flawless, but she is beautiful. I love her not because of her perfection but because she never ceases to strive towards the realization of her ideal. She is majestic and yet gritty. Regal and still down to earth.  She will fight anyone at anytime to remain independent,  yet possesses enough generosity to keep her door open for one more and is quick to adopt that one as her own.  I have experienced the best and worst America has to offer and emerge from my experience proud to be one of her sons.  It is fitting that we celebrate her birth on this day of national independence. Even understanding her imperfection, this is not the day to criticize or to lament but rather to celebrate and give thanks. We who are Americans should give thanks to be fortunate to live in a nation that seeks to uphold the most noble of human ideals. Others who are not American should celebrate with us that a friend like America exists, always ready to aid, assist and to stand with anyone who shares her ideals or desires to pursue them. In the midst of uncertain global times and an ever changing domestic cultural landscape may we all take the time to stand together, thankful for the privilege of being a part of this great experience called America, and may we commit ourselves anew to continue to devote ourselves to make her all she can and should be for the benefit and blessing of us all. Happy Birthday America! You are beautiful!
The Original Statue of Liberty Design Offered by France, showing the struggle and hope that is America!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Time For Hard Core Instruction

Earlier today, a friend expressed her horror at a proposal being made to offer explicit sexual education for children ranging from the 4th to the 8th grades in a particular US school system. Though I am a pastor and a follower of Jesus, I am not a prude and not opposed to discussing the issue of sex in a proper context. Nevertheless, it seems that we are focusing on the discussion of sex and detailed instruction about sex in inappropriate settings, in unnecessary detail, to the detriment of more appropriate and necessary subjects that need to be taught for the purpose of raising u truly educated and prepared citizens who will lead the nation and the world in the future.

If there's going to be a call for more "hard core" teaching, let it be an intensification of academics. There is a critical need for improved reading and writing skills, more challenging math and science development, and a serious upgrade of history (world and US) and geographic instruction. While understanding the need for basic reproductive education from the perspective of human biology, sexual instruction of an explicit and stylistic nature is outrageous and frankly unnecessary. My school years through the Master's level were spent focusing on education, personal development, physical fitness and spiritual growth. I married at 26 and was a virgin on my wedding night. My wife and have 4 children and still enjoy ongoing "fellowship." We figured out on our own with no manual or course curriculum what worked for us and what didn't and had fun doing it! It is NOT necessary nor proper to force those issues on our children in such explicit ways. Let the children BE children and let them enjoy their innocence while they can!  The time will come for children to explore grown up things.  In these formative years, let us help them to focus and discipline themselves for the true challenges that await them, giving them tools to navigate all of life, especially the areas that will impact their professions and vocations.  There is a time for everything, and the time for sexual exploration and discovery will eventually arrive for those who reach emotional and physical maturity, and along with that maturity, the freedom and responsibility to properly handle matters for themselves.  Now is the time for children to grow intellectually and to hit the books academically while their minds are ready and able. Let's not delay that development by sidetracking them with burdens they should not be bearing until a later stage of life. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tears that Won't Stop.

I sit in a Manila hotel in the quiet of the early morning with tears streaming down my face. Some of my tears are joyful ones, reflecting an two weeks of sweet ministry with dedicated and determined human beings, all of whom are committed with unwavering conviction to serving among the most vulnerable in our midst.

Some of my tears, are tears of sadness. Tears that have been generated by seeing very beautiful people ravaged by overwhelming challenges and life setbacks, and in desperate need of resources and opportunities to break the iron grip of poverty's unrelenting tyranny.

Still, other tears flow without ebbing from the deepest depths of my heart, as my own nation reels from undying hatred and fixation on the trappings of that hatred rather than the substance of it. It seems that all the words uttered over all the years and all the actions carried out by the most heroic people of our collective history are seeming to have yielded no fruit in our hearts or environs. It seems we, the people of the United States, are determined to form a more imperfect union, committed to strife and bickering and dedicated to the proposition that we  will not forgive!

I cannot live the rest of my life bickering. The Bible says simply that "All have sinned and fallen short of God's glory." By the wonder of complex human history, my very own DNA reflects that fallenness, as I am the son of slaves and slave owners. As a result, I hate racism and all it entails and the bitter crop it has produced in a neverending harvest of evil. Nevertheless,  while I will not cease to call out its savage manifestations,  my strongest efforts will be directed towards pursuing that "new birth of freedom" that seeks to build understanding,  promote healing and lay foundations for loving and caring among all people.

I understand that pursuing such goals can involve fighting. I am a solider at heart and not afraid of fighting for what is right. Just be aware, my dear friends, that fighting for the right will not,  for me, intentionally involve rancid posts or ranting or attacking others.  My future,  as God allows me to live it, will be a devotion to promoting and creating grass roots efforts to walk alongside of those who are hurting and serving others as Jesus has called me to serve. My time will be spent pursuing good, promoting the general welfare and truly seeking to secure blessings of liberty for all.  Not being naive,  I am not pursuing Utopia.  I am in pursuit of what the Bible presents as the High Calling of Jesus Christ, being conformed to His image in a life defined by loving others and denying self. I intend to walk in this path until my health and intellectual powers fail me or until the Lord takes me Home.

So don't mind my tears. They're just indicators that my heart is still working and my mind's made up to work along with it.

On the battlefield,
Sam Jackson

Thursday, June 18, 2015

..And what if I die in a racially charged incident?

Luz asked me what I wanted her to say if I were to be killed in a racially motivated murder. It is a question I have been pondering for years. I will share my heart with all of you, my friends. First, tell the truth. If it was hate that motivated someone to kill me, don't dress it up as something else. Call it what it is. Hate. Prejudice. Racism. Also, tell the truth about where my hope lies. I trust in Jesus Christ for my sanctification,  justification and vindication. If He allows me to die in such a situation,  He will have a purpose for it and the Gospel will be advanced somehow through it. Continue to love each other and to love others - even those who hate you. If the violent death of people who follow Jesus leads the survivors who loved them to hate in return,  the death of those living in the love of God would indeed have been in vain. So, if you hear of me dying in such a state, tell the truth, preach the Gospel and love the ones who hate. 

Your Brother and Friend,

Sam Jackson

Monday, June 15, 2015

Doing The Best We Can!

As I type these thoughts, I am speeding towards Manila on an Airborne jumbo jet, considering the scope of the challenges those we are seeking to help face every day.  There are frequent debates on the effectiveness and usefulness of short term missions like ours.  Such outreaches are alternately praised and criticized with some believing they are a poor use of resources, while others believe they are the best cure for lethargic, non-caring humanity.  I have heard the debates and considered the various arguments.  In the end, I can only speak for me and my household.   Through relationships and service that now span decades, Luz and I are aware of some acute needs among people we deeply care about.  We are also aware of resources, methods and pathways to help some of those people to change their situation physically, mentally and spiritually.   Can we help everyone we want to help? No. Nevertheless, we won't be held accountable for what we can't do, but what we can. So, we work, think and help to gather resources from afar and when we can, we visit partners with whom we've  committed to serve in every way possible.  Linking together geographically with those we serve and with our partners,  is mutually encouraging and strengthens our resolve to be on task for as long and as strong as we can.  Mortality being what it is, our season to serve in this way will not last forever.  Nevertheless, while we can, we will do what we can until health or death limits us. It's not everything we wish we could do, but it is our absolute best.  Thank you for praying for us as we reach out once again to the ones we love in the Philippines!  Know that your support is not in vain and that we are representing you who  have sent us and He Who has sent us with love, vigor, wisdom and strength and we're doing the absolute best that we can! Further reports forthcoming!

Your Brother in Service,
Sam Jackson

Friday, June 12, 2015

Flashback To 1968 - The N-word Lives in 2015! What Do We Do?

Mary was an adorable little girl - a poster child for the All-American kid. She was blond with turquoise eyes and a smile than could melt an iceberg.  For all her beauty, she was friendly, sweet and well-liked by everyone on our court.  On a sweltering North Caroline day, Mary and I decided to play on our tricycles and to race up and down the sidewalk.  We were tearing down the lane with blistering speed when she hit a rut in the pavement and crashed terribly.  Concerned for my friend, and having been raised to help anyone in need, I jumped off of my bike, ran towards Mary to assist her.  Mary's mother had seen the accident too and was herself running outside to help her child.  Because I was closer, I reached Mary first.  As my hand touched Mary's and I began to pull her up, I heard an unfamiliar word that Mary's mother seemed to use with anger - a word that didn't make sense to me, delivered in a tone that didn't seem to fit what was happening. As I continued helping Mary her mother screamed, "Nigger, get your hands off of my daughter!!"  "What a strange word," I thought! After a few seconds of processing, I determined it must be a proper name that she somehow thought was mine.  Wanting to make sure she understood her mistake I responded, "I am sorry Madam, you are mistaken. My name is not Nigger Jackson, it is Samuel Darrell Jackson!" She was stunned to silence. There was not much more time to interact, as unbeknownst to me, my own mother had witnessed the entire goings on and was running to my side with the purposefulness and demeanor of Wonder Woman.  She stopped a few feet away from us and didn't seem happy at all. She pulled me to her side, inquired about my well-being and asked me to go inside of our quarters.  I obeyed, looking out of our window to observe her interaction with Mary's mom.  My mother wasn't yelling, but she her face was full of conviction, her gestures were controlled but strong and Mary's mother responded with what seemed to be contrition and an apology.

After the exchange, Mary and her mother went into their quarters and my mom returned to ours.  Ma explained that the word I heard was not a proper name, but an insult reserved to degrade people of our ethnic background.  She explained that while I should always do my best to avoid fighting over that word, even though the person using the word may be trying to provoke me, I should never be afraid to speak truth into a situation and never fail to reject the characterization of me associated with this word.  Her advice was sage, as it has been my unfortunate experience to have had this terrible, yet indomitable word directed towards me in every place I have lived in the United States - including my present abode - and even a few unexpected places internationally.  The incident I shared is unpleasant, but wasn't to be unexpected.  After all, it was 1968 - a year that was characterized by racial division and violence in this nation, and the N-word made itself apparent in situation after situation on a daily basis. It was the norm.  Fortunately, in the informed days of this 21st century, such occurrences are rare and will not haunt the memory of present day, young Americans, right?   Unfortunately, I believe not.

I share this story, because I immediately flashed back to this first experience of hearing the "N-word" after learning that a dear friend's son encountered this word just yesterday in our enlightened, politically correct times of 2015 - 2015!!  His situation was much more fearful, and much more discouraging than mine as the word was directed towards him by his own young peers, in a very threatening manner with no apparent adult intervention in a school setting that would seem to have readily lent itself to supervision and adult assistance.  His parents - devoted to living like Jesus - remain people of peace and reconciliation and though they are discouraged, they are yet resolute in their desire to stay on the path of healing and to continue to promote peace and unity.  I stand with them. I also feel the necessity to state that incidents like these cause me to become more resolute in my commitment to do the work of the Lord and to spread the Gospel of peace.  People will not change through the political correct imposition of phrases and behaviors.  People will only change through the complete and through overhaul of spiritual transformation.

The Apostle Paul charged the faithful in his Romans letter to stopped being conformed to this world of evil, but rather to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect." It is for this reason that I remain devoted to ministry, to the preaching of the Gospel and to a life dedicated to showing others the love of God through acts of service, help and love.  It is why we will cross boundaries and cultural barriers to travel to the other side of the world to share a little hope through personalized compassion and care.  Will our actions kill the "N-word?" No.  Our actions can, however weaken it and increase the ranks of others who will march against it. They will not fight it with swords, but with love - a weapon that never dulls, that never becomes obsolete and never needs an armory!  It just needs soldiers brave enough to keep wielding it with passion, intensity and devotion. I'm a soldier in the Army of the Lord, committed to continue to fight the good fight and to spread God's love in spite of overwhelming odds and constant opposition. The N-word persists, but the love of God will outlive and eventually kill it. To this truth I devote my life, my fortune and my sacred honor.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

What Rocky Got Right…and Mayweather/Pacquiao Got Wrong!

The fight that was touted to be the greatest of a generation if not the fight of the century fell flat.  It was generally lackluster in most every way and really, just plain boring.  How could this have happened to what is certainly the greatest sports hype of the century?  The Rocky series can help us understand.

Rocky and his opponents fought from the heart.  Money was an issue, but their honor and pride were of foremost importance to them.  Who can forget Clubber Lang’s challenge in the public square at Rocky’s statue dedication – “I’ll fight this fool anytime, anywhere for nothing!” Last night, the time, place and the money were at the forefront of the planning.  Great fighters can put on a great fight in a beauty parlor if they had to.  There was so much money involved, it choked out the spirit of the fight that so many had waited for – for so long!

Rocky and his opponents stayed hungry.  When Rocky’s will to fight began to fade, Mighty Mick lamented, “You’ve suffered the worst thing that can happen to a fighter – You got civilized!”  It took Apollo and the “eye of the Tiger” to get the Rock back on track. Both Mayweather and Pacquiao seemed to have lost some of their edge and the “eye of the tiger” was conspicuously absent.  Instead of watching two hungry champions battle it out for pugilistic immortality, the world witnessed two highly skilled and wealthy entrepreneurs square off for self-preservation.  Both men have financial empires to protect, interests to guard and futures to consider.  If someone were to invent the Time Machine, this fight might have been a spectacular one to watch when both were still hungry young lions establishing their greatness, rather than what they are now - seasoned boxing royalty trying to protect their legacies.

Rocky and his opponents faced their demons. When confronted by the ghosts of their past defeats or future uncertainties, Rocky and his crew overcame them.  Pac Man seemed haunted by the Ghost of Marquez Past, while Mayweather seemed obsessed with the Ghost of his legacy future. As a result, their performances seemed to lack passion and generally appeared to be choked with an abundance of caution.  Even the final “Championship Rounds” seemed more like an exhibition than a display of boxing excellence and intensity.

Boxing is known as the Sweet Science.  In its brutality, there is an artistry and technicality present.  When it is presented with excellence, all the elements of science and passion comingle, elevating boxing above the level of a mere brawl.  Rocky’s fights always managed to show the sweetness of the passion and the science of the preparation. Yesterday’s contest had all the technicality of the science and very little of the sweetness of the heart.  The result was a flat, lifeless display.

The Fight that was supposed to resurrect boxing has now put its future as an industry in an even more uncertain state.  The best fight of the evening – one of the preliminaries – began with the challenger entering the ring to “Gonna Fly Now!”  His opponent showed fierce scientific skills and passion, while the would be “Rocky” showed a level of heart and grit that would make Sylvester Stallone proud surviving every fistic barrage and managing to return fire, even to the last bell.  Perhaps our two heroes need to watch Rocky III for themselves and to rediscover their own eye of the tiger.  If not, they should enjoy the futures they have secured and make a way for those behind them who still have it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The River or The Fire?

A city burns and blame is cast with hot, molten anger, seasoned with self-righteousness and smothered with pat-answer arrogance.  The verse that comes to mind when assessing the trigger and reaction that have contributed to this horrendous mass meltdown is this: “…the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”  Justice is lost when anger rules.  Justice cannot be enforced by anger, nor can it be recovered by it.  Righteousness is only enforceable when reasoned restraint is applied.  Self-righteousness and entitlement easily lend themselves to lawlessness and disorder.  The Bible calls us to “Come. Let us reason together.”  If we fail to “Come to the river” we will surely, “jump into the fire” and, eventually all be consumed.  God have mercy on our land. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

The New Ranger School Challenge

The New Ranger School Challenge

The Army's decision to open Ranger School to women has stirred many emotions, prompted much discussion and exposed many opinions. As I have had my own emotions, observed many discussions and come to a point of opinion on the matter, I have considered sharing some of my thoughts with people I trust and respect.  I love the Army. I was born into the Army community and I was shaped by its values and traditions.  That love and breeding have caused me to give attention to the issues of importance that have been of concern within the Army family. Because of that love, It is with humility and sincerity that I share the following thoughts, offering them not as a political statement and definitely not with any intent to be divisive.  It is that love that has compelled me to take the risk of speaking out on one the Army’s most historic, barrier crashing decisions of its existence – the decision to open one of its most legendary and demanding centers of training  - The US Army Ranger School – to women.

As I pondered this issue, I reflected on other ground breaking decisions the Army has made in the recent historic past to open new doors of opportunity for women. I remember during my childhood, when my father was a very seasoned Airborne NCO, when the first two women graduated from the US Army Airborne School. In the midst of some grumbling and adjustment in the Airborne community, I was particularly struck by my parents' reaction. My mom celebrated the idea as a great achievement, while dad simply quoted a time honored Jody Cadence to make his opinion known: "If I was President and had my way, there wouldn't be a Leg in the Army today! More paratroopers means less legs - good for the Army, good for me!" Over time, the service academies opened their doors to women. I didn't particularly like the idea, an opinion that I wrestled with to some extent until reporting to West Point on Reception Day. After the first semester of my Plebe Year at West Point, while on Christmas Leave, a family friend asked me what I thought of women at the Academy. I opened my mouth to answer when her daughter, who was like a little sister to me, responded, "Aw come on Ma, you know he hates it!" Her answer bothered me because there was empirical evidence that I had observed that women were holding their own at West Point and many were excelling. Reflecting on my own Academy record, almost everybody in our class was academically doing better than me. Relationally, I was welcomed, accepted and respected by the classmates who were women that I had the privilege of knowing. Many of these women, like many of our male classmates, were amazing athletes – a point brought to my attention with some good-natured humor by one male classmate who is now in Heaven.  During a discussion of women at West Point he mused, "So Sam, what was your Obstacle Course time?"  My time was not nearly as fast as the excellent times of several classmates who had smoked the course and were women. It was becoming clearer to me that my perspective needed adjustment!

My perspective was sharpened even more regarding the matter of women in military service by my own short-comings as evidenced in my separation from West Point.  This failure, and my parents’ encouragement in the midst of some deep soul searching, caused me to take a look at how I placed value on myself and others. I came to understand that If I allowed my failure in a pursuit, as compared to a woman’s success in a like pursuit, to call my manhood into question, or even allowed a mutual success to cheapen an accomplishment, THAT attitude would truly speak poorly of me as a person and denigrate the worthy accomplishments of other persons, as well. This wisdom gave me the freedom to celebrate the victories of others, to be all they could be, while pursuing my own path to  be all  that I could be.

So what does that perspective have to do with women in Ranger School? These lessons have helped me to look more closely at the merits of an issue beyond personal preferences, and to see what opportunities might exist in a scenario my prejudices might have prevented me from seeing.   The current combat experiences of the men and women serving our nation are affording us the opportunity to reevaluate just who is fit to fight.  The demands of the global war on terror have exposed many of the accomplishments of women in combat - accomplishments that strongly call for a revisiting of the roles of women serving in the Profession of Arms.  The Havok Journal and the ABC News Show “Nightline” widened the circulation of the accomplishments of women in combat operations by showcasing the book “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield” written by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.  In his review of “Ashely’s War,” Leo Jenkins captures the deep cultural and strategic importance of the accomplishments of these special warriors by saying,

“For some, I believe this book will be an informative and entertaining look at the relatively new role of women in special operations. However, for those with the capacity to read deeper, it is history in motion. Never before have we had such a front row seat for the changing of a cultural tide. Ashley’s War highlights a long overdue paradigm shift, one where over half of our population finally gains the ability to access a corner of the world that previously had a “No girls allowed” sign affixed. With precision accuracy, this book shows the merit and value of women in direct action capacity as well as a special operations role.”

The times have changed. The requirements of what is required to defend the nation have broadened. The nation and the Army not only has much to gain from the women who take on the challenges of training like Ranger School, the nation needs women bold enough to step up to such demanding service. Just as with their male counterparts who go beyond the call of the average soldier, the women who take on the challenge of Ranger School will gain experience, knowledge and grow in leadership in a way that will benefit them and every organization to which they belong, just as the women and men who have taken on the challenge of West Point have benefited from the West Point experience and have benefited others, whether they have graduated or not. Those who oppose giving women access to such training must look deep within and make sure they are not merely defending tradition or upholding prejudice while overlooking the benefits to the military mission by opening the doors of the Army’s toughest school. It is important to realize that such steps by definition bring changes. Ranger School will be changed by the presence of women, just as the Jump School and the Academies were changed by their presence.  It is also important to understand that these changes do not necessarily mean that the changes will make the program easier or of less value. By comparison, I have yet to hear any man or woman define their West Point experience as an easy one or one that had diminished value because it was coeducational. Has the experience changed and is it different than it was in years gone by - yes. But is it easy or has it lessened in significance? Absolutely not!

Of course, we must ensure that as changes are made, nonetheless, standards are maintained, readiness reinforced and that special units remain special in capabilities and strength! The dangers of today’s world, and the diversity of the threat, has made it undeniably apparent that there is a need for a diversity of rugged, qualified soldiers, both male and female, who have what it takes to function as special operators. In response, the nation’s fighting forces must ensure these women and men have the best training possible. There may be numerous ways to satisfy these needs. The testimonies of those who have defended the nation in contemporary times, in the complex battlefield of today, strongly support the Army’s action to offer Ranger training to women. It is my hope that we can look at the benefits, continue to creatively broaden training opportunities, and give the folks who are special, a chance to shine and reach their maximum potential, regardless of their gender.  Even in the failures, lessons will be learned, character built and Army leaders strengthened.  The Marines may have looked for a few good men, but the Army of today needs men and women of excellence, to carry out its mission in the years ahead.   I have no doubt that by the time of the Graduation of Ranger Class 6-2015, whatever its composition, Rangers will still Lead the Way!

Respectfully, Sam Jackson