Been a Minute…..

Been a while since I posted.   Year 40 of life has been very interesting.   I can say that I’ve spent the bulk of this year working on things to become more competent in my profession – Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago last year being one of the main things.

Got my highest scores at PGCPS band festival ever – straight II’s from all the judges (including sight reading).

Published my first composition – Circus Festival March.  Premiered it May 21 at Spring Concert.

Working on getting my LLC (oh yes, BluePhire is going more ‘official’ now than before!) off the ground – mainly looking to spend time composing and publishing music (trying to pay back these student loans!).

Finished my Master of Arts in Teaching June 12, 2013, officially.

There’s more stuff….always is.  God has been good to me and Danielle (seriously).  Danni had a great year too – lots of work, but her group at festival got the same scores.

A lot of this year has been seeing ‘Calvinism’, ‘Reformed Theology’, ‘Biblical Theology’ worked out in the practical and the every day.  I’m still working on part III of my intro series on reformed theology on the main page (that I started 2 years ago).

I do spend a lot (probably too much) time on Facebook, forwarding things, getting into the occasional argument and debate and so on.  I have a huge set of tasks ahead of me, so I need to be a bit more focused with my time in the coming years.

That’s all for now…. more to come.

#40YearOldCalvinist

Well, today I turn 40.  The past few months have been rather interesting – busy as heck (continually). I know (from experience) that everyone gets ‘this busy’, so it shouldn’t  be a surprise to me that so many small fires (and big ones) keep popping up and I don’t have enough ‘feet’ to stomp them all out.

Looking back at a statement my old pastor once said to me…..

I’m now 40. What do I have to show for it ?

  • Decent career (a bit challenging at times).
  • A wife who loves me and a good marriage.

  • An album in the works.
  • Three major websites that get a little traffic (really – mostly because I don’t update as often anymore).
  • A house.
  • Great in-laws.
  • Great friends and a solid church.
  • A bit more wisdom.

Not too bad. God has been gracious to me.  Looking forward to another ‘interesting’ 20 years…..

Starting with the first single for my album…which will FINALLY be ready to drop next week (hopefully).

Still Around. A Few Quick Thoughts on the 2012 election….

Beginning of the school year….as usual.  A few quick thoughts:

1. As I trust God more, I worry less about the culture of the US going to hell in the next election. Paul wrote in pagan Rome, where young boys were expected to be molested, there were brothels on every corner, temple prostitution was the norm (prostitution as part of a religion) and the penalty for being a runaway slave was sure death.  BIBLICAL Christianity thrived under these conditions.

2. As I watch politics more and more, I realize that both sides are simply playing the pro-wrestling game. It’s all scripted and controlled by someone(s) over both parties who will still benefit no matter which candidate gets in office.

3. As I watch the intersection of politics and theology, I realize that even well-meaning believers can be suckered in by hucksters whose only concern is to rope them into voting for them with ‘God-talk’.

4. As I said 4 years ago…no matter who wins, it will be the person that God wants in office. The same God who gave Bush, Clinton and Regan 8 years has given Obama at least 4 (and probably another 4).  Let us be faithful to worry about changing hearts and minds with the gospel message first rather than with political power and legislation.  Pray for the peace of the city, vote your conscience, preach the gospel regardless.

Meditation on the Sovereignty of God: Never Abstract and Theoretical.

I can’t share all that’s been going on with me over the past 72 hours. My wife and I drove the 11 hours to Nashville and our family requires much prayer at the moment.

I may be beating the same drum again, but it needs to be said. The sound theology that so many people turn their nose up to during the days of sunshine is designed by God for the benefit of the believer when the storms come.

Sound theology doesn’t take the pain away. That’s not its’ purpose.

What it does is ground you in reality.

Romans 8:28-39, the doctrine of election, the perseverance of the saints and the rest of the doctrines of grace aren’t simply theoretical ideas that have no basis or real impact on the life of the everyday believer.  They are comfort when hard times come.

You see, every true believer defaults back to a position similar or identical to reformed theology when trials hit.

They know God is wiser than our desires (thanks for the reminder RaRa). And so when they have done all that they can do to fix the situation, they default back to trusting God in His infinite wisdom to do what seems right to Him. They may pray for deliverance and relief from the situation, but know full well that if their prayers are not answered in the affirmative, God is still good….and God is still God.

At times when most people would lose all hope, true Christians have hope. They rely and trust upon God. They acknowledge simple things about God: His goodness, His omniscience, His power and ability to rescue…and deep underneath it all, they know.

Romans 8:28-30 again. God is for me.  As a believer, I may endure all sorts of trials – even down to persecution and death at the hands of my persecutors (vv. 33-36). Think of the implications of that closely.  And the promise I have that God is for me is seen in the fact that He gave up the most valuable possession in the universe to Him – He gave Himself.

God the Father, who loves His son, gave His Son. His Son who did no wrong, took the penalty for my wrongdoing.

If God is capable of doing this, then Him choosing me, calling me to salvation, paying the penalty for my sin on the cross, preserving me, sanctifying me and eventually glorifying me is not an impossibly big deal.

And I take this promise and feed on it for comfort during times like these. I realize that God has not only called, saved, sanctified me, but also others.  And when those others are enduring their own pain, I point them to these promises as a source of comfort and hope.

No, the pain doesn’t ‘not happen’. Every day is not a Friday. Every day can’t be a Friday. Joel Osteen’s book is full of lies and is nothing more than paganism and selfishness wrapped in fake Christianese with a few misquoted scriptures tossed in. If your ‘BEST life’ is now, then your next life will be in hell.  God never designed the Christian life to be free of pain or struggle. But He did design it to be full of hope and joy even in the midst of tribulation and trial.

So I rest in the Sovereignty of God  and trust Him. The Judge of all the earth will always do what is right (Gen. 18:26), even when my finite, limited-understanding, easily moved and changed mind and emotions don’t understand why things have to happen the way they do when they do.

Pain, then, becomes a beacon pointing us back to the true and living God for comfort, and not simply our friends & family. It also points us away from things like alcohol, drugs and other destructive things that provide a false sense of temporary comfort. Suffering becomes an opportunity for trust, not dismay.  Nothing less than a God who is both Sovereign and in control of all human events (including, but not limited to earthquakes, death, famine, marriages, joy, celebrations, and accidents) is able to promise Romans 8:28-30.  He can be trusted. Nothing less than a God who is carries out election, calling to salvation, justification, sanctification and glorification is able to promise and carry out Romans 8:38-39. We don’t serve a God who simply wishes well for us or thinks well for us like a cheerleader on the sidelines watching the game.

Never theoretical. Never abstract. Always real. Because God is real, life is real and pain is real.

What are you resting on ?

Trust God.

Twenty Observations and a Few Additional Thoughts….

The Weekend to Remember Conference gave me some needed rest and mental refueling. Crawford Loritts is really a GREAT example of a pastor and leader. I tell you the truth – this man made me want to dress up in armor and fight the invading hordes of whateverstan with nothing but a spear, sword and shield.

I got a quick chance to talk with him (originally confusing him for his son, Bryan Loritts, who made the Elephant Room comments that I disagreed heavily with) about said comments in parenthesis.  Dr. Loritts was very gracious and mentioned that the point his son was trying to make was that sometimes, when ‘our people’ (African-Americans) get introduced to new theology, there is a tendency toward ‘hero worship’ and attempting to parrot just to fit in (my words, not his).  I can agree with that to a point.  I do think that Bryan could have phrased his statements better…. but I see where he gets his ‘strong stances’ from.

Anyway, Dr. Loritts really REALLY did a spectacular job speaking at the Weekend to Remember Conference. I just wanted to push that point home.  I wish WTR would record and make his sessions available online. A lot of people could benefit from them, especially in African-American communities where the fatherlessness rate is almost double the country’s national average.

That moves me on to my FB page….and it generated a bit o’ good conversation. Here’s twenty observations I posted:

TWENTY observations:

1. If you claim to be a Christian, but don’t you’re not a member of a church family under the authority of a pastor, you ARE in disobedience to scripture and to the Lord who gave scripture, no matter how ‘good’ you think God is with your idea.

2. The number one cause of divorce is not finances. It’s selfishness. Husbands being too selfish and self-centered to communicate and wives being too selfish and self-centered to forgive…or encourage.

3. Ephesians 5:22-33 is not rocket science. Stop trying to explain it away, stop being disobedient and do it.

4. Saw this today: a wife at the WTR conference publicly apologized to her husband. He’s 6’2″. She’s 5’0″. She realized that her words cut him down way too much and too often.

5. Point #4 will go ignored by several women (single and some married) because feminism has poisoned their brains (they will call it liberation) so that they are only capable of supporting their husbands if they ‘do right’.

6. Related to point #5, 50%-50% in a marriage sounds good, but it’s a fallacy. It’s based on performance….and no one ever lives up to their own standards for ‘meet me halfway’. The Biblical model is 100% on both sides of the table.

7. Most men would love to step up and lead, but are (literally) frightened away by loud and obnoxious women who want to be their equal.

8. Most men would love to lead, but they haven’t had strong male role models to draw from….and the culture isn’t exactly man-friendly these days.

9. Speaking of the culture, there is a direct war on men and masculinity – entertainment industry only promotes hyper-male immature young boys (see most of current hip hop as an example) as role models, television has almost NO decent husbands who love their wives and raise their kids right (i.e. another Bill Cosby) and 7 of 10 commercials that have a man and woman in a humorous situation usually have the men as the butt of the joke.

10. There’s a war on women too – being LED by women. It’s more of a war on any type of woman that isn’t a career-focused, overassertive, male-with-ovaries. Hilary Rosen’s comments are only the only ones that got major press coverage. It’s not a coincidence that most ‘feminists’ (self-identified ones) seem hostile to women who are pro-life. It’s also not a coincidence that most of unborn being aborted are women.

11. Fatherlessness is THE major cause of most of the social ills in our country – from entitlement to poverty to crime. Notice – I didn’t say simply producing a child or putting in a child support payment on time. I said FATHERlessness.

12. Most of the women I mentioned in point #10 will disagree with point #11 and claim that they are the father AND mother to their kids. Sorry – you can’t teach a boy to be a man. Boys are wired differently and have different needs just like women and girls have different needs.

13. Most of the women in point #10 who are contemplating a mental response to #12 will realize their own hypocrisy at this point because they will find themselves agreeing with the statement that women have different needs (or certain needs), yet want to say they can be a ‘father’ to their kids. At this point, they’ll call me names in their heads (or in the comments below) instead of dealing with themselves.

14. Proverbs 26:4-5 dictates that sometimes true wisdom is found in walking away. Ten foolish and ignorant people patting each other on the back about how smart they are….are still foolish and ignorant. Better to nail a message to a brick wall than argue with one.

15. The longer you sit in the bathroom, the less likely you are to smell your own crap. Humility goes a long way.

16. Some people are searching for truth. Others are searching for an excuse to disbelieve (or justify what they already believe). Wisdom, time and patience shows which is which.

17. We’re all sinners. We all need a Savior. There’s only one. Unless you think you’re perfect and you are ‘good enough’ to merit salvation on your own strength and prowess. When you’re done being arrogant, the gospel will still be here.

18. I don’t have to be a woman to have a strong opinion against abortion anymore than I need to be a child to disagree with child molestation or have a vagina to disagree with rape.

19. Some people can and will find ‘racism’ in a snowstorm…simply because all the flakes are white. These same people will be hypocritical and say they agree with Dr. King’s dream (King’s dream was not to run around yelling racism constantly – but to work toward a post-racial society where people are people, regardless of skin color).

20. Some people will ignore racism unintentionally because they are genuinely trying to look objectively at a situation. They may also refuse to recognize that racism exists because they are under the illusion that just because there are no ‘white only’ signs up anymore (except that one swimming pool in Ohio), everything else is entitlement and oversensitivity.

BONUS:

1. Classism is the new racism. It’s almost identical to the old racism. White flight and black flight have produced de facto segregation in many public schools.

2. Black folk cared more about our communities, education and our image when we were ‘colored’ (when we were segregated by law).

3. The people ruining public education: non-parenting parents (only really 30% of the population of school parents) who raise and shelter their kids so they never face consequences (nothing like a 504 plan or a ‘diagnosis’ to shield a kid from reality), drive-by education specialists with doctorate degrees who haven’t spent time in the school system beyond 2-5 years, school board officials who’ve never been in the classroom as teachers, but think they know our jobs better than we do and idiotic politicians who make legislation that makes our jobs harder than they need to be….then complains when the situation THEY helped to create can’t be cleaned up.

4. Most black folk only voted for Obama because he’s black. A lot of them have since awakened to see that Bush 3.0 is just another politician that gives good speeches. At least Tom Joyner is honest enough to say that ‘we’ should vote for Barack out of loyalty to black people.

5. You may or may not agree with me on every point. That’s cool. You have a right to disagree with me. I can appreciate people with whom I have an honest disagreement with. For example, Peter Singer is an evolutionist, bioethicist, philosopher and ethicist. He’s pro-choice, pro-euthanasia and extremely utilitarian. He tells the truth when it comes to the issue – he believes that biologically, human life begins at conception and that the unborn is a separate biological entity from its’ mother. But he also believes that human beings (because he’s an evolutionist) have the right to terminate their unborn out of convenience (survival of the fittest/natural selection). I can at least have an honest disagreement with him.

I can have an honest disagreement with John Norman. He’s a synergist, panentheist and is Eastern Orthodox. But he won’t pretend that he and I (I’m a monergist, reformed presbyterian) agree and our disagreements are just semantics. I respect that. We can have REAL conversations, even when we walk away not agreeing.

Truthfulness in conversation is a lost art in post-post-modern conversation.

 

Comment below as you desire.

Okay, time to update. :)

I’ll be updating my design gradually in a few hours…..well….over the weekend. After grading gets done.  Thankfully, me and my burnt-out self (and my wife) are on Spring break now until the 10th.

In greater news, my homie Mike gets married on the 2nd.  In around 10 hours or less, he’ll be seeing his future wife as she lands in Detroit.

God is great. :)

New Videos: 10 Things on My Mind and Comments on Fallout from the Elephant Room 2

Been doing a few short video responses in-between writing on the main page of the site.

Three weeks ago,  I put this out: Top 10 things on my mind right NOW. 

Last night, after watching this:http://apprising.org/2012/01/31/james-macdonald-elephant-room-2-and-the-race-card/

and reading this: http://www.gracefamilybaptist.net/voddie-baucham-ministries/blog/elephant-room-2012-01/

I recorded this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hafz-HrCZCw&list=UUv_imwREtUbv6u2fV7a4Fwg&index=1&feature=plcp

Additional good reading:

http://apprising.org/2012/01/30/fallout-of-the-elephant-room-2-hits-acts-29-church/

http://apprising.org/2012/01/24/theres-more-to-the-resignation-of-james-macdonald-from-gospel-coalition/

A few 1/1/12 reflections as I get ready for church (a few weeks late)

For the past few weeks, I’ve been jokingly telling friends (and even my wife) – I’m ‘fat, happy and content’.  There’s probably 90% truth to that statement. I do need to lose weight (takes discipline).  I am very happy right now (even with the general stresses of life and work, all things are going well).  Most of all, I am content (wife and I just purchased a house, so we’re finally apartment-free and we’re in a good area with low crime….and lots of deer….although we spent most of the month of December moving….while still working, doing concerts, etc…).  I generally have everything I need at the moment.

Food, clothing, shelter, income, possessions, companionship, fellowship at a good church, sound teaching….

1 Timothy 6:6-8 is a good place to find yourself.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

Could some things be ‘better’ ? Sure. I’d love to have a more active social life with my friends, but the problem (part of it) is that I live too far away from most of them and FB is a poor substitute (indeed NO substitute) for keeping up in person.  Could my students act better and be more focused ? Absolutely. But it’s the nature of teaching middle school. The challenge every year is to reproduce and exceed the excellence from the year before. I think I’m well on my way to that point at the moment.

All of these things come with new challenges and levels of difficulty that I may not necessarily be equipped to properly handle at the moment. And that’s why I’m reflecting back to this passage again and again and considering my life as it stands at the moment.  I really do have it good. More importantly, God in His providence, has seen fit to place me in the point in life where I am right now because in His all-wise counsel, this is the absolute best for me right now (Romans 8:28).

That last point right there helps me to view life through the wisdom of God in how He deems to execute the life-plans He has for each of His elect, specifically at the moment, for me and my wife.  That, my friends, helps me to learn to trust Him more (especially when He gives me ‘glimpses’ of what I could’ve gotten myself into if I’d married someone else, taken another job, etc….).

A Few Reflections on Robert Champion’s Death, Hazing and HBCU Bands

Those who know me know that my life has several different streams to it – I’m a band director, choir director, DJ, emcee, graffiti artist, been a dancer, been in marching band, member of a black greek fraternity, Christian apologist, small-time conference speaker and a few more things. The people I get exposed to allow me an opportunity to ‘examine life’ in light of other things. This is why I’m perfectly at home discussing reformed theology with a bunch of people who don’t look like me, don’t have my cultural background and I’m equally at home discussing most aspects of 70′s-90′s black urban culture including the origins of hip hop.

So this is one of those ‘stream crossing’ moments.

Robert Champion, freshmen drum major at Florida A&M University, passed away over a month ago immediately after the Florida Classic. That evening, twitter and everyone’s FB page was alight with speculation (later confirmed almost to the letter) that hazing was the cause of his death. The band director, longtime (since 1973) faculty member Dr. Julian White, has been served a termination letter for “gross misconduct and/or incompetence in handling confirmed reports of hazing” in the music department and specifically in the FAMU Marching “100″ (the name of the band).   Dr. White’s lawyer has shot back with 150+ pages of documentation showing that White wasn’t the one dropping the ball on handling hazing allegations – it was the university. He also demanded that the letter be rescinded.

Meanwhile, it seems like everyone put their beef aside for a day to lay Robert Champion to rest.

To properly frame this, a little education may be in order for those whose conception of  band members is ‘band geek’ or some random throwaway line from American Pie.

At most historically black colleges and universities like FAMU, the band is revered either as much as or more than the football team, basketball team or any of the athletics. Unlike most white colleges and universities, HBCU marching bands are, to a point, a fraternity/sorority. People come to football games at most HBCU’s just as much for the bands as for the football teams – in some cases, more.  There is an appreciation among groups, as we all ultimately see ourselves as equals and family based on these shared experiences, no matter which program we marched for.

The work to be a part of the group itself is equal to or greater than any athletic team, physically and mentally demanding and would very easily ‘break’ most of the people who stand back and make jokes based on their limited experience. Making ‘the group’ and doing well at it is a badge of honor that many (including myself) carry and wear proudly. Even at schools with smaller programs (like my alma mater, Bowie State University) during band camp, members train physically at 5-5:30 – 8 before going to breakfast, spend 9 am – noon on the field learning drills and precisions maneuvers to create the great formations you see on the field, eat lunch around noon, hit afternoon rehearsal from 1-5, dinner at 5:30 and then evening rehearsals which incorporate music, field routines, the drill, dance routines and much more until 10-11pm then head to sleep and do it again. So think a bit beyond ‘Drumline’ and ‘American Pie’.

Third, bands like FAMU, SU, GSU and some others travel far and wide around the world. There’s a reason Prince (SuperBowl XLI), Barack Obama (2008), Bill Clinton (1994), and the city of Paris (1989) chose the ’100′ to come and perform as a part of their festivities or as the main entertainment.  Southern University was chosen during the mid 90′s to represent the US in China. Tennessee State and Texas Southern have travelled to Japan on good will trips (maybe I shouldn’t mention TxSU….old joke). TnSU has also travelled and performed in Switzerland. Morgan State and Bethune-Cookman in the Bahamas. Bowie State University in Canada at halftime for some CFL games. Coming up in just a little under two months is the Honda Battle of the Bands, which fills up most of the GA Dome (which seats a bit over 71,000), draws folk from all over to watch 10 HBCU bands perform…and this is the 10th year of the event.

So these bands are, for the most part, an institution at these schools just as much as any athletic program would be at your average Ivy League school, Big Ten school, etc…

With that, comes long lines of tradition – sometimes spanning over decades.  Incorporated in some of that tradition may be hazing ranging from simple things like instrument cleaning (which in my opinion isn’t hazing…take pride in your section and your group), silly skits for entertainment for older members of the group to verbal abuse to physical abuse (which I definitely disagree with). “We did it…it’s part of the identity of who we are.”

Having pledged a fraternity, I understand exactly how things have developed up to this point. Some of the things we see from the program outwardly (and I’m referring specifically here to some of the visual things we see like people moving in sync almost perfectly, doing certain moves certain ways, etc….) may have been ‘taught’ via hazing.

“This is the way we’ve always done it. When we’re done, you’ll understand why.”

There is the argument that having gone through a ‘shared experience’ (it happened to me, so I understand it, you will too afterward, you’re being brought into a ‘family’), there will be built a feeling of family and the establishment of a line of tradition exclusive to only a few people and YOU will be part of that line of tradition.  This shouldn’t be a hard point to understand, as we see people use this same line of logic with why they have their kids play football (because they played football and credit it with giving them a different perspective on life, helping them to become a better person, etc….).

Human depravity takes a good thing and twists it. Always. There are good ‘hard work’ traditions that should remain in place and be ‘standard’ everywhere. There are life-lessons to be learned in good sports experiences, good music programs, clubs and other organizations as a whole.  The military, as a whole, has codified most of this as basic discipline (attention to details of uniform, learning facial commands, learning to do things together in unison and as a team, physical training to help prepare the body and mind for the tasks of a military life, etc….).  Even in the early days of fraternity and sorority rituals, pledging activities (many of which are now defined as hazing) all had a purpose which related to the individual’s life experience and ultimately proved to be something an individual could look back on and use as ‘fuel for life’. I speak for myself here, reflecting back on many activities (even recently) in which I had to put on a ‘pledge mentality’ and trudge through whatever it was I needed to get done and get it done.

So it’s with great sadness that I see something as useful as a ‘process’ or the concept of a ‘process’ being reduced to a simple tradition of brutality…and all for the purpose of being a member of a certain bus (bus C).  Since the start of this article, Robert Champion’s death has been ruled a homicide and 30+ individuals have been interviewed….charges coming. Dr. White has his job back, albeit he is still on administrative leave without pay.

Dekalb County, where Champion as a drum major at Southwest Dekalb High School, has suspended all marching band related activities at all schools - primarily due to many ties with FAMU and allegations of hazing by parents regarding the student band culture in the district.

A few of us over at The 5th Quarter began some conversations regarding alternate non-hazing ways of having people earn their way/work their way into HBCU bands, learn the traditions and grow an appreciation for the organization. I can definitely think of ways to do this, but appreciation is something that comes with time and wisdom, not simply via a hard entrance process. I know, for example, too many of my frat brothers who ‘pledged hard’ and have gone inactive…but they pledged hard! (eyes rolling). I also know some of my frat brothers who did not engage in a pledge process, but have grown to love the frat just as much as those who came into the organization via a process.

I can’t justify hazing in light of Matthew 5. Apprenticing new members of an organization so that they learn the ins and outs of the organization is a different story.  And even in that process, the dignity of the human being, made in the image of God, must be preserved. The individual must be made to work (for human beings were made to work), but must not be made to feel less than human.

A sad ending (forthcoming with charges) to a sad story.  One man’s life lost, several other lives about to be ruined, a legacy all but destroyed (I’m not the only person who sees a temporary – for YEARS – disbanding of the 100 coming….), dreams shattered, opportunities evaporated, families brought to mourning over something senseless and downright silly in the grand scheme of things.