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.