Sunday, May 1, 2011

(God's) Timing is Everything

Someone once asked me, “did it ever seem like a situation worked out so that it was obvious God was working on you or through you?” After I thought about it for a few moments, I began rattling them off. There were long-term commitments that lasted years, and short interactions that came and went in a blink of eye. There were those that allowed me to make a major impact on someone or someplace, and those where the impact on me was life altering. I have always known that God used me in special ways, even when I hand little belief and almost no understanding of Him. I’ve been told that I’m like Forest Gump in that my friends and I have had so many experiences that “ordinary people just don’t have”. Well, my Gumpishness is definitely God driven.

Of my Godly experiences, the last thought that came to my mind was actually the one of the most special ones to me. It was during my adventures in Iowa. After my first year there, I had amassed a large contingent of minority students. As the Dean of Enrollment, I had been given the job of increasing the minority enrollment from 8% Black and 11% total, to 11% Black and 15% total. Seeing as the state was only 2% Black, and 5% minority total, no other college in Iowa history had ever had come close to those levels. Well, my second fall recruitment brought us up to 25% Black, 10% Hispanic, and 7% “other minority” and international students. Having done a lot more than “window dressing”, I wasn’t very popular with many of the people who liked having mostly “normal” students (their word, not mine) on campus. Still, with the kids that came from as near as Chicago, and as far as Jamaica and China, I was pretty well respected. I did have one problem with my original class, and that was despite my ability to supplement their tuition money, a private school education was still brutal on their family finances. So two weeks into their second semester, many were faced with the prospect of getting their packing notices.

Of course, my position was that I never wanted to lead lambs to the slaughter. For them to leave school with loans and no degree because of me was unacceptable. Then, on the second Saturday of the semester, we were entertaining the last minute potential registrants… something I hated. One man came in with a potential student from Chicago. I didn’t want to be bothered with them since I was in the middle of praying for a way to keep the kids I had become really close to from having to leave. I don't like my prayer time interrupted, and besides, they came two weeks lateGrrrrrr!!! But as I listened to the counselors go through the spiel, I realized that the man who brought the kid wasn’t his father, but just a guy who went to the kid’s church and took an interest in him. Well, if he can bring a kid five hours to see a college, I can at least go out and talk to him. So I went out and made some small talk. After about three minutes, we realized that we were kindred spirits. I offered to show him around the campus, he accepted, and off we went

First we established the mutual admiration society by talking about how we got to where we were in life: I being the only African American employee at a college where I was in charge of all admissions and financial aid; and he being the only African American millionaire building contractor in Chicago. As the conversation went on, and got into the Christian realm, we started talking about serving others. He told me about how his church, a massive 20,000 member spot in Chicago, gave scholarships to a bunch of kids every year. He said he was tired of giving kids who had a support system extra support, and he had been praying for an opportunity to give some kids who were basically on their own some help... AND... he was willing to use his own money… he just didn’t know where to find the kids since there were none like that in his circle.

I’m thinking, “It couldn’t be this easy. I pray. He prays. God brings us together. Let me keep talking and find out where this thing is heading.”

I told him that if he wanted one, I could find him a kid who needs help in about 3 minutes. He said that wasn’t good enough, he wanted to help a bunch of kids. I said “that could be arranged.” I asked him what he wanted to do, and he said… “What can I get for $30,000?” [Blink... Blink... cough... cough... 30 G's?!?!}] Since most of the kids were short anywhere from $1,500 to $4,500, that gave me a chance to save about ten or so of them. We shook on it. I found the kids and sent him the list. He brought me to a banquet in Chicago where he could give me the check in front of some folks to rub it in their faces. I also got to meet Andrew Young who was the Keynote speaker for the event ,and hang at my new friend’s mini-mansion.

Hanging out with this modest, hard-working new millionaire, I found what he considers to be the secret to his success. He constantly gave away as much of his time and money to others as his schedule would allow. One afternoon, he took me and about 120 Boy Scouts, youth home kids, and others to a football game at $68 dollars per ticket, which included busses for the kids. He likes football, and didn’t want to go alone. He never did anything alone that he could bless some other people by doing it with them. He constantly planted some seeds, and watered others. Every morning, he and his wife got up at about 5:00 and had the prayer-line and counseling line of their church forwarded to their house, where they ministered to people until it was time for them to go to work. Sometimes I listen to people talk about how they question God’s ways, motives, abilities, etc. But he had proven very consistent in how God does things… at least to a layman like me. Meeting this brother and hanging out with him for the next six months showed me so many Biblical principals at work: stewardship, sewing and reaping, do unto others, etc. The only way I could not acknowledge how God works… would be if I had never read The Book. Timing is everything, and God is not only always on the clock, He is The Clock.

Try Him for yourself. Get on THE CLOCK, ‘cause time is ticking away.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What did Martin Luther King Really Say?!?!

Today we will be inundated with Reverand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech. What we will generally be hearing is the last four or five minutes of a 17 or so minute speech. We will hear him eloquently repeat a vision he had expressed on several other occasions, but never on a stage that large. I know it was God that made Mahalia Jackson stand in front of the podium nagging at him to “tell them about the dream” until he gave up his prepared text and went into it. That change in his presentation that day had world-changing ramifications, but it reduced King to a “dreamer”. What people don’t hear is the pragmatic power of the first 2/3 of the speech where he gave America a report card of our poor treatment of its citizens, and what our fate would be if we did not become accountable. What they don’t hear are the words of a man who not only dreamed of a better world, but was constantly fighting for it.

I love King. He is one of my favorite military strategists, and he was a pretty good speaker as well. I tend to hang onto every word he said, particularly, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!” As an adolescent, I got into studying war and military strategy. In addition to The Swamp Fox of the Revolutionary War, and The Desert Fox of WWII, I studied The Country Fox of the War on Segregation. I absolutely fell in love with King's primary military strategy...Non-violent Aggression. It sounded like Judo to me. Put yourself in such a position that when your enemy attacks you, he actually beats himself. King chose cities where he knew the abuse would by strongest. He calculated the loss of blood, and how many woman and children had to be brutalized on national television to get as many as possible of the 90% of the population who were not Negroes to join his army. I imagined the pain he felt sending sheep off to be slaughtered for the sake of a better future for coming generations. He had a hard job. I couldn’t do it. At the base of the dream there was always a harsh reality.

Two of my aunts marched with him that day. Like me, they are disgusted by his military strategy being distorted by revisionist history. “Dr King preached Non-Violence” WRONG!!!! Non-violence was the adjective; aggression was the noun… ie, the thing. Dr. King preached Nonviolent AGGRESSION, and at the very least, Non-violent RESISTANCE... but both active, not passive concepts. I won’t go into who pulled this Jedi Mind Trick with his legacy, but it’s probably the same folks who convinced some of us that “they gave us the shortest month of the year” for Black History Month rather than Carter G. Woodson choosing February to honor Frederick Douglas’ birthday. The only thing worse than being denied the truth is letting someone convince you that the truth you know is a lie.

The FBI labeled King a "subversive", and targeted him with their COINTELPRO spy program. Politicians labeled him a Communist, and wanted to try him for treason. He had his home bombed. People forget that his "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" was written... from a Birmingham jail. He should not be on a pedestal because he is a mythical figure of love and peace, he should be on it as a majestic figure of fearlessness and undying devotion to doing what was right. He organized groups of people across color lines all over the country. When he died, he left his family penniless, because there was no corporate sponsorship or kickback money. He gave everything he had to his cause. Had he not started expanded his cause to include young folks being sent to an unjust war in Viet-Nam, and the rights of poor White garbage workers and other poor White people, they may have let him live. But history shows that... somehow... a man who had multiple death threat in the hours before his death found his police security mysteriously missing at the time of his assassination. Nothing happens by accident.
I hate that Marty King has been turned into a passive “dreamer” instead of a military strategist. I’m going to continue to take every opportunity I get to tell what MLK really said. Somebody’s gotta speak up, ‘cause like he said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” King had a dream, but he was not a dreamer… he was a visionary, a warrior, a strategist, a religious leader, a revolutionary, etc, who was jailed, beaten, and died to achieve his dream. If we truly respect him, we won’t allow ourselves to base his legacy on a snippet of one speech. In addition to the “FULL” I have a dream speech, everyone should also listen to his “I’ve been to the mountain top speech”. A true hero will stand in the face of the people who told him they would kill him in the next two days and make a speech about the fact that they were going to do it... just like he did. Also, read the text to his “Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool” speech. If we are still struggling to fulfill Dr. Kings dream, maybe it’s because we really don’t know what he said.