Archive for July, 2009

ER (Season 11) – A Review

Gone but not forgotten, ER continues to roll out the DVD releases of the venerable series (and by “venerable” we mean now creaking along, but not so far gone as to put out of its misery). By now, the show is like an old friend that you don’t mind hanging around. We’re used to its familiar rhythms:

-unusual cases: we see an aquarium worker with a live shark latched to him, a blind woman and her guide miniature horse, a college boy with an arrow in his stomach, etc.

-notable guest stars: Ray Liotta (Unlawful Entry, Goodfellas) plays Charlie Metcalf in the episode Time of Death, which played out in real time (the last 44 minutes of Charlie’s life) – garnering him the 2005 Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. Red Buttons returns as Jules “Ruby” Rubadoux, a role he reprises from Season 2, a widower still blaming Carter (Noah Wyle) for his wife’s death.

-cast turnover: Dr. Corday (Alex Kingston) and Chen (Ming-Na) try to balance the rigors of both work and family, with Elizabeth departing in the episode Fear and Chen in Twas the Night. Carter leaves, ostensibly to join Kem (Thandie Newton) in Africa. Ray Barnett (Shane West) joins the cast as a young doctor by day and a rock star by night. Every bit as ridiculous a character as he sounds.

-complicated relationships: Abby (Maura Tierney) has finally realized her dream of becoming a doctor, but her journey is overshadowed by the usual mix of tangled love lives that play such an integral part in ER. Sam (Linda Cardellini) and Luka (Goran Visnjic) continue their shaky relationship. Neela (Parminder Nagra) gets closer to Gallant (Sharif Atkins). And on and on it goes.

We all suffer the pain of our infirmities, our handicaps should remind us of our own weakness. Along with these broken bodies we need to seek cures, seek doctors. Doctors aren’t here to help the healthy, but the sick. People go to doctors because they are perceived to have the knowledge to treat what ails us, yet they are no more healed than the rest of us. They have problems, health or personal or otherwise, and are every bit as wounded. Yet we still go to them, these wounded healers. The thing about wounded healers is that they know what to ask for. They understand the pain so intimately, they know when the pain meds aren’t working. This mission statement is true of all of us: We are not sent to be served but to serve. In the midst of the pain, agony, and infection of life, we encourage one another as a fellow patients and become part of the healing process. Besides, which warriors do you trust: those with clean armor or those who are battle scarred?

We have a love and fascination with our doctors. The medical drama is part of a longstanding tradition and one third of the trinity of television genres: medical shows, legal shows, and police shows. With 6 discs and over 1,000 minutes of episodes, there’s plenty of ER for those in need of a fix.

“Just A Servant”

I’ll just tell you right now, I’m frustrated. Certain aspects of our modern culture have insinuated themelves into the fabric of the church, deterring or outright corrupting its ministry. Values such as a corporate policy and philosophy have been bought into by the church, where the ABCs of church reality became Audience, Buildings, and Cash. The pastor becomes the CEO and the elders operate as the board of directors. Offerings or tithes become income, or worse, profit; people become measured as “giving units” and the Gospel becomes reduced to little more than a product to be pushed.

This “pastor as CEO” mentality bleeds into and out of our cultural ideas of leadership. Leadership becomes about power, prestige, and possessions except translated through Christianese: we can have more people reached for the kingdom, more people fed, and a larger congregation or church edifice (the pastoral equivalent of measuring penis size). Even the term servant-leader is a capitulation to this mentality when we should all strive to be “just a servant”.

The frustrating part is that some leadership structures view the servants of their communities as commodities. Parts to be used rather than as people. The servants aren’t so much people but rather “just” folks who do the work of church. Servants are little better than light bulbs: as soon as they burn out or otherwise “break,” they are either discarded or hoped to be repaired so they could go back to doing the work.

The word “king” and the word “gens” (common folk) come from the same root for tribe, clan, or nation; that little etymology lesson tells me that there’s a closer relationship between leader and led than we may think. Yet a corporation mentality leads to focus on ridiculous job titles to the point where the title becomes the seduction (I know many folks who got improved job titles rather than, you know, an actual raise). We become about the title rather than the role played or the work being done. And sometimes we don’t want what comes along with a title because those extra intangibles get in the way of the actual work.

Servants are the people who run the church and make it work, wielding the informal power and influence that comes with service. Too often preachers, as important as they are, are reduced to plug and play ear ticklers. We want more of a servant mentality among our people. We want everyone to be like them, but we don’t appreciate them. We need to invest in nurturing them. They are the shepherds, constantly serving the sheep, getting them fed, guiding them, protecting them, co-pastors of a church.

Kingdom leadership is informal, without many official positions. The model of leadership we present is Jesus and yet, he led by serving. He saw needs–physical, emotional, or spiritual–met them, and THEN spoke. It was more important for him to walk alongside his disciples and pour himself into their lives—getting a towel and washing the feet of those who walked beside him—rather than isolate himself so that he could prepare sermons every week.

Not everyone is meant to “lead” or, better said, hold office. Better the “leaders” find their people’s individual passion and gifts and then let them loose. Life is short and we have too little time to not be the people God intended us to be. Striving to be a servant seems to be the best way to subvert our natural inclination to “will to power.” The corporate mentality forgets that loving others isn’t efficient, and we need to be about loving well rather than running efficiently. Loving people well influences. Loving people well is kingdom work. Loving people well is true leadership.

“We express our gratitude to those who serve because to serve is godlike. If Jesus is our window to God, then we are never more like God than when we serve others. Our chief identity is that of children of God, but the best means by which we reveal our identity to the world is through service to others.

“More than any other description, the great apostle Paul called himself “the servant of Christ and of God.” Paul understood himself to be following in the way of the Master – that of self-giving service to others. He remembered his Lord’s teaching that our greatest goal in life should be to hear these words of approval from God: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Sadly, this is something Jesus’ own disciples often forgot”.

Ponyo – A Review

“The Adventures of Little Jesus”

Hayao Miyazaki’s latest animated epic, Ponyo (aka “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea”) hits the eye with what at first brush seems to be crude animation. Owing nothing to CGI, and coming after trailers for lush 3-D productions did the movie no favors. However, one quickly settles into the imaginative world we’ve come to expect from him. The voice talent assembled alone (Cate Blanchett, Betty White, Cloris Leachman, Tina Fey)points to the draw of a Miyazaki production .

This tale of a magical undersea creature (Ponyo), caught up in our pollution, discovering humanity (in her case, a little boy named Susuke), and longing to be human smacks of an enchanted take on The Little Mermaid, replacing show tunes with a highly imaginative world. Like with many of his tales of childhood wonder, the adults are complicated, reckless and scary. Sosuke’s mom drives like she stole something and is quick to let her son stay by himself. Ponyo’s dad, in his smothering over-protection, comes off as threatening and creepy.

Miyazaki is a fan of the torn between two worlds theme (subtlely driven home with Ponyo’s mom asking Susuke “Could you love her if she moved between two worlds?”). Because of the allegory it is focused on exploring, the movie comes across like an animated version of Lady in the Water.

“If you could only remain innocent and pure forever.” –Ponyo’s dad

The story begins with Ponyo’s dad, formerly human, longing for a return to the Cambrian Age, what he considers our Golden Era, his idea of the Garden of Eden. He struggles with what many parents struggle with, wanting to protect their children from the world, keeping them in the palm of his hand or in a bubble. Yet dealing with them is akin to handling a wet bar of soap: you want to keep them in your hand, but the best way to do so is in a loose grip because the harder you hold onto them the more likely they will just squeeze out. It’s the tension that parents have to walk with their children. Letting our children escape our firm, controlled grips and allow them to go their own way. By holding on to them too tight, we don’t allow them to grow. You can’t teach your children from a place of fear because it only teaches them to be in a safe box, unprepared for the world. However, Ponyo’s story follows a much more messianic path.

“What do you know about humans?” –Ponyo’s dad

Going off on her own, Ponyo, a fish with a little face and red dress, discovers humanity, being rescued by 5-year-old Sosuke who lives on a cliff above the ocean and promises to protect her always. Though both human and magic, Ponyo wants to be fully human, though her first Pinocchio-esque efforts result in her sprouting chicken-like legs. Ultimately though, being fully human means to participate in the story, embracing all aspects of life, but living with the goal of loving everyone and everything with holiness and imagination. She “lowers” herself by coming into the mess humans have made of creation. She “opens a hole in the fabric of reality” by her very presence, bringing the magic with her and joining together two realities. Uniting and reconciling her transcendent realm and our world, she delights in her/our humanity with wonder of a child, learning what it means to be human.

“I found Sosuke.” –Ponyo

Ponyo rejoices in the idea of her relationship with Sosuke. Her and the host of her fellow sisters (like ministering angels) revel each time a person is found, either her finding them or them finding her. Her love not forced but delighted in. As Ponyo’s mom explains to Sosuke, “she needs you to accept and love her as she truly is.” And once he does, “life begins again” (Ponyo’s mom)

But it’s not an easy journey. Storms, tsunamis, may come. Rains come down, floods rise up, winds may blow in … sometimes God sends the storms. Sometimes storms are sent to re-direct, to chasten, disciple, and develop. Sometimes storms close one door while opening another. And it’s hard to hear God in the storm even though God is with us the whole time. He remembers us, even when we think—we’re convinced—that he’s forgotten us. (Like Jesus with his disciples, Ponyo manages to fall asleep during the storm). But the storms eventually recede.

In becoming human for humanity’s sake, Ponyo offers up an example of a new way of living. Through her , her sisters made into new creations, she brings regeneration and healing (to the seniors), and the balance of nature is restored.

“Life is mysterious and amazing. But we have work to do now.” –Sosuke’s mom

Becoming fully human should impact how we work, how we play, and how we relate to one another; finding our redemptive mission in continuing the work He began to reconcile all of creation to God. That relationship between us and God should translate into a sense of mission. Ponyo gives Sosuke a sense of mission to find and take care of others; worried about the “least of these,” widows, orphans, or in their case, the seniors. Sosuke’s mom offers this beautiful picture of what the church should be about: “Right now our house is a beacon in the storm.”

“Will you hold the light?” –Sosuke’s mom

Ponyo doesn’t quite have the sense of constant adventure of a Finding Nemo or a Spirited Away. And instead of his traditional exuberant flying scene, Miyazaki gives us plenty of surfing on water sequences. There is a manic, child-like energy to the movie. And at least pet stores don’t have to worry about stocking Ponyo fish.

Doug Pagitt’s A Christianity Worth Believing (Live Occurrence)

When I was in fifth grade, I got kicked out of Sunday School class. It was a simple telling of the story of Noah’s ark. The flannel graph had a huge boat on it, several animals popping out of it. A smiling Noah under a now beaming sun; a tranquil boat ride scene, the ark drifting on calm waters. My teacher took issue with me adding floating bodies to the surface of the water.

The second time I was asked to be quiet at the church I was attending, it was because the church was having a debate on the issue of baptism. Not whether folks should be baptized, but whether they should be dipped one time or three (the conservatives, the three dippers, were defending the truth against those lackadaisical, anything goes liberal one dippers). I pointed out that while we were having this debate, I was hurting, I had questions, my life was spinning out of control; there were poor not being served and loved that were our neighbors to the west but because they didn’t look like the majority of the church and made them uncomfortable (coincidently, they looked a lot like me), the church didn’t reach out to them.

Apparently I derive from the same tribe of Doug Pagitt’s contrarians.

Full of questions, doubt, and conflict, we wonder if there’s room for us at church as it has largely lost its role as a safe place to ask questions. In a world more worried about production and attendance (“giving units”) and sermons and bottom lines, there’s little room for the eclectic, the square pegs for the round holes reserved for pew potatoes anxious to hear the latest bit of ear tickling, as we’re written off as trouble makers or drama bringers.

So we’re left struggling to make sense of Christianity in our cultural context, in our time. Looking for narrative not formula, as narrative transcends systematics; with theology being the adapter unit between the narrative and our time/culture, making sense of the story, not being the point of the story.

We need to participate in some narrative therapy.

Hearing the Good News that we are beautiful and wonder and made in the image of God. People of worth. That we’re not quite whole, our feelings, spirit, will, and mind not working in concert as they should, with sin disintegrating what’s normal and desired, unraveling our lives and goodness.

Jesus went to those caught up in sin, because sin was its own punishment. He offered a way of life to free us from sin and bring healing and wholeness. Reminding us that we are more than our misdeeds and struggles, we’re still healing and still becoming. But we can live up to who we are, our true humanity, the image of God. He says that the kingdom of God is at hand and we need to join in with what God is already doing as he restores His creation. And he brings the Good News that life will win over death, that God is active in our present reality. That we don’t know how everything will play out, but we live in a state of hope.

Thanks for the reminder, Doug.

Post-Racial Church: The Myth and the Hope Part II: So what can we do?

[click here for Part I]

David Mills directs us to Larry Auster’s comments regarding “The only hope for the betterment of the black race (and the white race)”:

“The solution cannot be in the ‘horizontal’ dimension, that is, in the relationship between blacks and non-blacks, because blacks will always be behind on the level of earthly functioning, leading to unjust racial resentment on the part of blacks and undeserved racial guilt on the part of whites.

“The solution can only be found in the ‘vertical’ dimension,” he continues, “… in the relationship between each black person and God through Jesus Christ, who will put each person’s self in true order and true freedom and remove the focus on the ‘horizontal’ differences and inequalities.

“Each black person will then live and perform and fulfill himself as a human being according to his own aspirations and abilities, without comparing himself to whites.”

Um, yeah, so the solution is for us to pray for us to forgive white folks and leave our resentment behind. I do believe we need to keep having conversations across the racial divide, and I’m as “We Are the World” as the next brother, but this would be considered a conversation fail. Note, while there is some truth in the statement, the onus was in what black people need to do. We can get sidetracked and bogged down by so many conversations that dance around the true issues at hand, and still manage to enflame all the old passions and lingering resentments. Conversation does not mean confess your guilt to a Negro. Don’t confuse institutions of black survival (the black family, black church, and black schools) with institutional or reverse racism.

Sociologically speaking, I’ve learned that we can have the language of sorry, but we don’t have the practice of sorry. My two boys, Reese and Malcolm, have been known to on occasion fight. We, the parental figures and ruling authority in their lives, have been known to make them apologize to one another. Without fail, the initial apology is done through gritted teeth and is essentially worthless. But it is a start. If I’ve learned nothing over the last few months, I’ve at least learned that “sorry”, or rather, repentance, needs to be lived out. And racism needs to be repented of.

Institutionally speaking, the church doesn’t need to program diversity, it needs to be diverse. One of the myths about the Great Commission is that Crossing cultures is a step beyond the general mandate. This myth is that only select missionaries are called to cross cultures in order to make disciples. The rest of us should only focus on people like us, in our culture. The problem with this myth is that the actual Great Commission commands otherwise. Incredibly, Jesus gave a commandment to his mostly Jewish audience to go to a mostly Gentile people and make disciples! Jesus commanded his Jewish followers to go to all people groups (all ethnos, the Greek word for “nations”). In other words, the Great Commission itself is a mandate to cross cultures!

So we start with the individuals. Church folks concerned about multi-cultural church or the state of race relations, looking at your FaceBook friends list is a natural moment to examine the demographics of your life. If the diversity is my sister and I, you may need to color up your lives. I’m not saying take out ads looking for black friends, I’m saying take some steps to break out of the comfortable routine of your life.

At the same time, diversity isn’t the goal. Diversity isn’t the mission. We’re to be missional, advance God’s kingdom here on earth. Strive to carve out a foretaste of what heaven’s supposed to be. In my experience, most times conversations about race in the context of church devolve into spiritual circle jerk. Churches may talk about wanting diversity, even making token statements about wanting to see it reflected from the top down, yet their leadership remains a white, sausage fest. We hear plenty of talk and have attended many conventions, now we need more.

Too many people’s idea of being post-black (post-racial group of choice) means leaving their heritage behind. As we move forward, no one should have to leave their culture for the the sake of coming together. I mentioned in my previous post about how my formative years were spent in another (the dominant) culture. It is part of a journey I’ve spoken about before. As a result, I was a perpetual other: never a part of the dominant culture and often looked at askance by my own. In order to navigate my circumstance, and keep some measure of cultural sanity, I developed a third culture mentality.

Church should be a third culture experience. Countercultural. Church needs to serve everyone: hungry is hungry, widowed is widowed, orphaned is orphaned, the least of these are the least of these. Pain knows no color. Diversity can be a measurement of how well we’re doing our job. Not something expressly sought after, but a by-product of how well you are serving your community. Your whole community.

Are we really living out our core values, the things we say we’re about or do we once again have to learn to be patient and give the church another chance to get things right (and forgive it its slowness)?

Church is a bigger place than one building or one community. I’ve come to realize that one particular body might not meet all of our needs and may fail us on occasion. And we’re quick to measure our experience with the church by a particular body. But it is all of the Christians who make up the church. Our mission is to be about loving, learning, worshiping, and serving together and one another. But we can’t be that until we’re willing to enter the discomfort. In any culture, despite pain and discomfort that may come. We have to risk our safety and taking on pain. We need truth tellers, bridge builders, and risk takers. We need to be the church.

Post-Racial Church: The Myth and the Hope Part I: Coming to You

It would be cool for someone to do a documentary called “Being Black In Evangelicalism” the sub-title would be “The Only Black Person In The Room” (or vice-versa). Evangelicals, as members of the dominant culture, have no idea what it’s like for a black person (esp. a black female) to be the only black dude in a room full of whites. It’s hard to describe unless you’ve been in that position but it’s always a bit uncomfortable no matter how nice and welcoming people are. I’ve been at evangelical stuff where the room had a few hundred whites and I’m the only black guy. And no one ever really seems to notice.

In light of the Jim Crow still being alive poolside incident, I’ve been thinking about race and wondering if things are any better in the church. With some of the talk about the new post-racial era that we’re entering, the question has come up about whether the church can become post-racial. That’s the hope, but I’ve been coming to terms with church being as fallen as the people who make it up.

Too many about race inside and outside of the church begin (and end) with “I don’t see race” as if that’s a triumph of societal acceptance. While I understand what the sentiment attempts to get at, what my ears often hear and how my heart reacts is “No, you see people (culturally) like you.” The bulk of our interchange of life, most of our interactions, is largely within the same race of people. So of course there’s no need to talk about race. You don’t see race if you’re fully emerged in one story. And we’ve lived with our comfortable situations for so long we’ve become inured to it and don’t want to change things. We’re content with life as it is and don’t want to do or say anything which may make waves in our lives.

Color blindness is not a virtue, it’s a disservice. Color effects how I experience the world. Color effects how I’m perceived by the world. So your “color blindness” negates my identity. I look back on my history whenever I have attended a majority white church. Most times, me and my family were the entire black experience for a lot of folks. And we made it easy for “them” to get to know us because we go to “them”. Here’s what I mean: we grew up in mostly the white/dominant culture. It’s where we went to school, it’s where we went to church, it’s where we go to work. Minorities in the dominant culture have swum in those waters all of our lives, so it’s easy for us to be “safe” because we’re used to adapting to that culture.

I can always tell when friendships with me reach a new level of depth. Those friends come to me. They go where we go, do what we do, be it Black Expo, step shows, or Kwanzaa festivals. They take an interest in us and our culture, wanting to get to know us and understand us better. Without wanting to co-opt it. Without condescension of “wanting to relate” or “have a black experience.” Without the denigration of calling it “weird”. (I’m reminded of when a group of “friends” asked me to take them to a rough area of the city. They were thrill seeking and wanted a ghetto tour guide. I took them to Carmel, a suburb north of me. I told them that me driving through there at night was all the thrill I needed.)

So no, white church, you don’t know me. You haven’t taken the time to get to know me. You’ve invited me in with your “Negroes Wanted” signs and hoped that I wasn’t too different from you so that I wouldn’t make you uncomfortable. So that you wouldn’t have to come face-to-face with the everyday consequences of a history of humiliation suffered by a black male, the powerlessness–without even the power to keep our own names, being exploited, the dreams shattered, the justice denied, and of being dehumanized.

So the anger builds. I’ve absorbed the humiliations as part of the cost of the “privilege” of being with whites. And the hatred builds. The hatred of myself. The hate I’ve been taught, the hate I’ve learned, the hate I’ve internalized. We all have walls and race and culture is simply another wall we have to navigate. So I guess we’re wondering what can we do?

[continued tomorrow …]

Hanging Out at the Earth House

Looks like I’ll be spending a few days down at the Lockerbie Central UMC/Earth House this week. First, Doug Pagitt will be returning to Indianapolis this Monday as a part of his A Christianity Worth Believing book tour.

Description: Part revival/book reading/hootenanny/communal gathering, Doug Pagitt and Erik Johnson are spreading the Hope-filled, Open-armed, Alive and Well faith in homes, churches, bars, coffee shops and public meeting spaces around the country.

Live Occurrences are part one-man show (even though there are two of them), part revival, part book reading, part hootenanny, and part communal gathering. The 2-hour Live Occurrences include readings from the book, music – original and covers, video, spoken-word poetry, impassioned invitations to be part of the common good. Live Occurrences are specially formulated for the Left-out, Left-behind and Let-down, and will be suitable for one and all regardless of background.

(For those on my local friends list, come down a little early, say 4:00 p.m.-ish, to help set up and hang out.)

Monday, July 20, 2009
7:00pm – 10:00pm
Lockerbie Central UMC/ Earth House
237 N. East St
Indianapolis, IN

Do the Right Thing Turns 20!

I tweeted about this a month or so back and the fellas down at Lockerbie Central UMC/Earth House decided that it was momentus enough an occasion to rate its own special screening. Not only did President Barack and Michelle Obama see this movie on their first date, but the movie played an important role in my personal and spiritual journey.

Description: It’s the hottest day of the summer. You can do nothing, you can do something, or you can … Do the Right Thing.

Directed by visionary filmmaker Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing is one of the most thought-provoking and groundbreaking films of the last 20 years. The controversial story centers around one scorching inner-city day, when racial tensions reach the boiling point in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood.

It’ll be a good week. Come Join Us!

Will Edit for Food

Dreams of writing that huge hit novels and soaring to the heights of a Stephen King or JK Rowling aside, it’s hard to make it as a full-time writer. The question I have been asked repeatedly lately is “when are you going to quit your day job?” The answer is: “when my writing can provide full health care benefits. And dental.” So not anytime soon. (Plus, my day job allows me a flexible schedule which lets me get my work done, have time for my family, and time for writing and ministry work while paying the bills of my life. I know a good situation when I see it.)

Not everyone has this luxury. In this economic climate, I’d be especially loathe to give up a steady paying gig. Some folks, however, have those gigs taken from them or their significant others (the other way to be a full-time writer, as unglamourous as this may seem, is to marry someone who can has a job which can provide things like insurance). So you have to do what you have to in order to make ends meet. Ain’t no shame in that, especially if you can do what you love to do or at least something tangential to it. Such is what has happened to a few friends of mine.

Uber-talented Catherynne Valente has begun a novel online supported by donations. Similarly, Tim Pratt, who co-authored with Nick Mamatas, one of my favorite short stories of last year, The Dude Who Collected Lovecraft, is also writing a prequel novel also for donations. Who knows, this may be the way of the future for all writers who have accumulated a following.

Editor, Jason Sizemore, publisher of Apex Magazine and books (a stable which includes my own Orgy of Souls and my future anthology, Dark Faith) is also in need of economic stimulus, offering to sell his services as a freelance editor. It’s not easy to finance your dream, no matter what that dream is. Labors of love still cost money as well as sweat equity.

The advice I give to newbie writers all the time is “learn as much as you can about the business side of writing and how to handle your money.” Here are a few blogs which I have found interesting which discuss the reality of money and writing full-time which I have found quite informative:

-John Scalzi’s Unasked-For Advice to New Writers About Money and On Writers, Marriages, and NYC/LA/SF.

-Jeff Vandermeer’s The Full-Time Writing Life: If It Doesn’t Kill You First, It’ll Kill You Second

-Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Freelancer’s Survival Guide, Money, Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four

Know what you’re getting into before you go quitting that day job. The dream is one thing, it’s another thing when that dream runs over you with a bus.

Jim Crow Days

More than 60 campers from Northeast Philadelphia were turned away from a private swim club and left to wonder if their race was the reason … The explanation they got was either dishearteningly honest or poorly worded. “There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club,” John Duesler, President of The Valley Swim Club said in a statement.

The other day, my boys were asked if they were part Mexican. So I reviewed the mathematics of our family for them again: “Black (dad) + White (mom) = you Ritz crackers”. Trying to explain the idiocy of race, much less the sheer madness of race relations is exhausting. It was pure joy trying to explain segregation to my boys at last year’s themed Christmas party:

Me: Yes, we used to make black people do things in one place and white people do the same things somewhere else. This is what happens when grown ups rule the world.

Reese: But we’re mixed. What about us?

Me: Well, because of how you look, you would have had to make a choice. You guys could pass for white and that’s what some people chose to do rather than admit they were half black.

Malcolm: Daddy, I’d have chosen to be white. It sounds easier.

Today we went to the pool. The boys love to frolic in the water while I read slush stories for my anthology poolside. I can’t help but wonder what if we were stopped at the gate. They were allowed in but I had to watch from the outside the gate. How do I explain that to them? How do I live with the shame (even knowing that it wasn’t my fault and I certainly didn’t do anything wrong)? What lessons does it pass on to them about me, them, or society? And what do we all do with that pain, that injustice, that rage?

It’s 2010. We have a black president. Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same. Our capacity to divide. Our capacity to hate. We still so capable of fearing and hating all but our own kind; we’re still so capable of internalizing all manner of hate and scorn; and we haven’t quite gotten past passing down lessons of ignorance to our children. We split along a tribal mentality … forgetting that we’re one tribe. The more things change, the more things stay the same …


I look into the face of my boys. I still see me in them, despite our color difference. I know that we have as a family. I see the hope represented by me and my wife. I look at the beautiful diversity of my friends and family and I know that things have changed. The battles may change, and the war isn’t over, but the cause is just. We continue to have these cross cultural conversations. We continue to build bridges between and toward one another. We continue to decry injustice when we see it. And continue to change things.

Enjoying My Cigar

Ok, I don’t smoke, but I need some sort of after the novel ritual. I’m only in a quasi-honeymoon period. To catch those playing along at home up, I signed a three book deal with Angry Robot (HarperCollins UK), for an urban fantasy series entitled The Knights of Breton Court (a re-telling of the legend of King Arthur set in the streets of modern America). Imagine The Wire meets Excalibur. I just turned in Book One: Kingmaker. By December, I need to have Book Two: King’s Justice written as well as my anthology, Dark Faith, edited. Not to mention the inevitable re-writes (unless I can successfully convince my publisher that I indeed can crap gold).

(I love this “A Man and His Muse” photo taken by Surreal Photography)

So far I’m on schedule. Actually, I’m ahead of schedule (why editors love me). Then take a month to finish researching and plotting out the second one. Then I’ll take a couple months to do the writing. In the mean time, I’m allowing myself a couple weeks off. Probably catch up on a few blogs I have been intending to write.

So if you notice the blog postings getting a little erratic, you’ll know why. I may have the occasional guest blogger take over (anyone interested, drop me an e-mail) since I tend to go blog silent during the final push on a project. I get all focused on crossing the finish line.

Did I miss anything good?