Wrestle Selfishness Into Submission 

Wrestle Selfishness Into Submission
I’d like to say that selfishness is the antithesis to servanthood but that would be dangerously incorrect. The truth is that even in our selfishness, we are serving. Serving, in and of itself is actually neutral. It’s neither necessarily good or bad. The determining factor is in what, or who we are serving.
Before I became a #Trainsformer I was a train performer
One afternoon I was stopped by two police officers (for rapping on the train) and escorted off the train for questioning. When they “ran my name” (whatever that means) it turned out that I had an outstanding warrant! Apparently “warrants” don’t exactly warrant an explanation, because the cops could not tell me what the warrant was for, only that I was under arrest. Eventually after several hours in a prison cell I learned that the warrant was for an unpaid ticket on a car that I had previously owned- totaled- well, both. When I finally saw the judge he very graciously let me go with just a warning. Fortunately, that’s the extent of my prison (or jail) experience. Few of us have ever served time in a prison cell. Most of us have served plenty of time (even a lifetime) in the prison self.
Human beings are innately selfish
If you’re a parent you need no further convincing of this terrible truth. Is there anything more exhausting than teaching children to share? Ironically, soon as it seems like the baby goats finally get it, they’re grown; and we all know that although selfishness in children is frowned upon, in adults, it’s celebrated. We try and cover it up with words like ambition, drive, personal and mental health or wellness, dreams, and work. We even trick ourselves into believing that our selfishness actually benefits others. How crazy is that? As if putting ourselves first, and others last, somehow better equips us to… I don’t know, help the people in last place later? The sooner we recognize our own selfishness, the sooner we can begin to wrestle it into submission for the sake of serving God and man. Our natural instinct is rarely (if ever at all) to think of others first. It is more often to think of ourselves first. This is a dangerous, lonely, and unfulfilling way to be. Jesus said whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow me. You won’t find that in any self-help books. It’s a heavenly principle, a Godly concept; an ordinance taught in an upside down kingdom where the only way up is down. Jesus, the son of God, came from heaven (above) to earth (below) and humbled himself not only to the form of a man, but to the form of a servant. Not only to the form of a servant, but a suffering servant. He was obedient unto death; and not just any death, but death on a cross! As a result, Jesus has been exalted to the highest place and given a name above all names. Do you see the progression? So, in a wrestling match an opponent defeated by way of submission lives to fight another day. Unfortunately our selfishness is just the same. We must, even daily, wrestle that selfish insatiable sumo within us into submission. How?
Recognize, resist, and replace.
Recognize that you, just like every other human being on the planet live in a flawed world, and that you were born with a sinful nature. Although you are spiritually born again when you place your faith in Jesus, your humanity (this side of eternity) remains resistant to the things of God and must become subservient to your Spirit. Resist the evil without and the evil within. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that evil is only on the outside. Jesus said that it is what comes out of a person (from within) that defiles them. Resist every inclination that is contrary to the word of God. Finally, replace that foul thing you readily recognize and resist with it’s ultimate antithesis, that is, the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, patience, and self control. This fruit is the sweet nourishing sustenance that satisfies my formerly sick but now submitted soul. Pursue intimacy with God through Jesus Christ; deny yourself and follow the savior instead. Let the meditation and application of God’s word, work in you a selfless servanthood.
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.


Reflections & Projections (Happy New Year! Now Let’s Paint.)

365 Days Closer  (Reflection)

Isol goes viral / Russell Wilson throws The game winning spiral (sorry dad) / Bam shakes hands with US rival / Kendrick & Lecrae bring God to the grammy’s / gay men get married / cops go phsyco / eyes on Ifle / Baltimore pyro-protest / no less rights to rifle / Steph breaks vinyl / then takes title / and states bible / memes are vital / primal man as female idol / gendergyro / pro-choice exposed and chose denial / 70 degrees on Christmas eve / and we’re officially 365 days closer to the final…

365 Days To Go (Projection)

I recently asked my 11 year old son a question, and as he pondered it, I added “don’t guess!” His response was “I’ll give an educated guess, it’s not guessing, it’s different.”

When I think of what the new year will bring I have to consider all the evidence and make an educated guess. Everyone love’s a fresh start, and, the new year at least seems to provide that to some degree. Each new day, hour, and minute provides a fresh start. If only we were intentional enough to seize the moments and opportunities perpetually presented. On the flip side of the new beginnings coin, is the natural sequence of reaping sown seed. 2016 will not be determined by our hopes, wishes, resolutions, or even actions on New Year’s Eve or on the morning of Jan. 1, 2016. Instead it will be the fruition of all we planted, cultivated and invested in- in the prior days, months, and years leading up to this time. The “365 Days Closer” poem is a summary snap shot of the trajectory we’re on. So… Based on that, here is my projection for the year 2016.

  • America as a society will collectively, and openly wrestle with the subject of God, and the christian faith prompted by people of influence in sports, media, and enterainment. The existence and authority of God will be heavily debated, challenged, and considered as a response to great human pain and suffering, as well as signs and wonders (miracles.) More so, in 2016 than ever before. Perhaps Dr. Ben Carson will be elected president. It’s likely the South Bronx will undergo gentrification. In regards to morals, rights, wrongs, good, and evil, the grey area may broaden even more. My hope is that the arts flourish, and social entrepenuers such as myself will prosper. I’d like to see more folks abandon the asssembly line and begin tampering with trajectories. Putting purpose and passion before profit, opting to start small bussiness opposed to working for big cooperations. The new year is a blank canvas just waiting for paint; and my educated guess is that in big fat bold letters “GOD” will be plastered across the center of it.

Merry Mass Consumption & Happy New Debts? (Mr. Hip Pop on The Holiday Hustle)

$pending The Holidays With Santa Cost.  

Go ahead and call me scrooge, but I’m becoming more and more bewildered by the emphasis put on spending a ton of money on consuming things during the Christmas season; Things, or should I say stuff that we likely will forget about by the spring time. Although the misunderstanding of the holiday is wack all together, it’s especially wack to see our middle to lower class people struggling to pay bills yet annually increasing their debt, while paying Santa’s mortgage because the culture says so. 

Mom & Pops Boost The Economy

Spending isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the key is moderation, and appropriation. Instead of pouring millions of dollars into billion dollar cooperations, we can invest in local business, non profits, the arts, mom and pop shops, etc. This will benefit the economy, but more importantly our community.

Lebron is cool, so is the brother KD, but their kicks are in no way shape or form reasonably affordable for the demographic they market to.

Instead of coppin’ ridiculously overpriced sneakers because everyone else around the way is doing the same, we decided to hire a friend, and local artist to custom design kicks for our kids. Moving money around can be a good thing, a great thing, but we have to be wise in how we do so. I guess it’s convenient this revelation of Christmas economics occurred to me long after my childhood years when I benefitted most from the conspiracy of mass consumption. Thanks Dad, Sorry kids. 

Presents VS Presence

Are we placing more value in things than in people? Do you remember what you got for Christmas last year? I don’t, but I do remember who I spent Christmas day with. Recently a friend of mine expressed the stress of not being able to afford more gifts for his kids this year. What made me sad isn’t the fact that he can’t afford more gifts, but the fact that he’s placing his value as a man, and a father in material, and temporary things.

I told him, “Your presence is far more valuable than any present.” 

The Gift Wrapped In Swaddling Clothes (A Christmas Story)

The bible is like humanity’s gigantic Christmas wish list, including all of our deepest needs, and desires, combined with the story of the only sufficient gift wrapped in swaddling clothes that hung on a tree for you and me. Christians celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas, everything else is secondary. 

Luke 2:12  And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Gun Issue or God Issue? (The Daily News Discounts God & Prayer)

God Isn’t Fixing This

This is the headline plastered on the front cover of the Daily News last week- “God Isn’t Fixing This”. The headline takes a shot at “Christian” politicians for responding to tragic gun violence with mere words, particularely “prayers”, instead of action. On the surface, this is a social-political statement about gun control legislation, but the undertone and implications are far more complex, and even spiritual. If we can look past the shock value, dodge the verbal daggers, and peer into the angry eyes spewing them, we would find a deep well of valid issues surrounding the Christian faith;  a desperate yearning for truth, and for God to be real.

What Do You Mean By That?

Blanket Statements like “God Isn’t Fixing This” and “F- The Police” are loaded statements that mean much more than the 3, or 4 words used in expressing them. Often times no one inquires further. The same notion articulated with just a few additional words could potentially sound like this-  “Hey, you’re supposed to be the good guys, you proclaim a certain standard of truth, integrity, and respect; you wear the badge, you wear the collar, not us. Not only are you not living up to who you claim to be, but you’re demonstrating totally contradictory values all together, and that’s really confusing, frustrating, and frankly it really hurts.”  A person’s jaded view on God isn’t God’s fault, it’s our fault for misrepresenting who God is. Our, meaning Christians professing Christ. The church owes the world an explanation, and an apology for our lip service christianity, casual christianity, materialistic christianity, & apathetic christianity, myself included.

Effective Prayer, Ineffective Prayer, and politically/religously Correct Prayer

The Daily News described politicians call to prayer as meaningless platitudes. In the bible Jesus once said this in regards to prayer: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6″But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.… Only from a humble, sincere heart before God can effective prayers be produced. There are plenty of conditions that can result in ineffective prayers such as selfishness, bitterness, unforgiveness, and an unrepentent heart. The latter kind of prayers, aindeed are meaningless platitudes. Then there are politically correct prayers, or religously correct prayers which are basically just tradition. You know, just because it’s the “right” thing to do or say. Often when tragedy strikes social media is flooded with #Pray posts, which is great, but if it doesn’t translate from post to actual prayer, that’s a problem.

Disclaimer: I don’t read the Daily News, but I enjoy resorting to self- examination rather than self-preservation when someone calls me out on something.  In other words… they can be totally wrong, and we can still learn something very valuable from their attack.

We Get The Message, Do You?

Okay, so the Daily News basically just rebuked the church like an old testament prophet. We get the message, our talk isn’t lining up with our walk; but before you put too much pep in your step, let’s  remember the sword cuts both ways. Here is your lesson for the day Mr. Daily News:  A lazy, fast food connoisar would be foolish to tell a physical trainer that their exercise regimen isn’t working. It’s like an athiest being angry with God for not existing. Wait, what? Exactly. If you proudly boast in your opposition to God, you automatically lose all rights to A.) Expect anything from God  B.) Criticize God and or his people in a way that isn’t with the intent to better understand, but is with the intent of attacking.

God Isn’t Fixing This, He Already Finished it

The issue we face in America and around the globe is the outward manifestation of an inward problem. We do have a skin issue, because we have a sin issue. We do have a gun issue, because we have a God issue. This issue has already been addressed on the cross thousands of years ago when Jesus, the lamb of God, came to take away the sin of the world, reconciling man unto God through the forgiveness of sin.  We live in a broken world, but Jesus came to give life, and life more abundantly. Say yes to Jesus, and learn for yourself the power that is in prayer, and the peace that comes from intimacy with God.





The New N Word

Bad, dope, sick, ill, and even crack are all adjetives I’ve used to describe something good, exceptional rather. I mean really good, not just anything, It has to be really cool to warrant such potent vanacular. You know, I’m talking something thats off the chain! This kind of vocab makes sense to most of my generation, kids born somewhere between Malcom X, and DMX, but not quite generation X. I googled generation names and it turns out being born in 85 makes me a part of generation (wh)Y, a millinial, an 80’s baby; but being born in Harlem in the 80’s to parents of Jaimacan, African American, & Puerto Rican decent , the label I identify with most is the Hip Hop generation. I grew up in the Boogie down, and it wasn’t long before I was exposed to the culture and language of Hip Hop, and by a preteen I was fluent and lyrically killin it! We didn’t invent the slang we used, most of it had been passed down from generation to generation, particularely in the urban context, but we sure did remix them joints. After all, what is Hip Hop if it isn’t taking something that already exists, and giving it a totally new purpose and meaning? Hip Hop is infamous for redefining things, from style, to language. Perhaps the conditions that birthed Hip Hop contibute to the way we view and use words. See, in the 60’s the Bronx was on fire, literally, and out of the ashes came Hip Hop; something beautiful out of something broken. Today we say “thats fire!” when complimenting someone or something. The N word we redefined and used as a term of endearment, synonymous with friend, or brother, but also generally synonymous with people. Instead of saying ‘people’, we pluralized the N word. I was 9 years old when rapper Biggie Smalls said “I love the life I live, cause I went from negative to positive, and it’s all good”.

The I(N) Word (Crash Course in Culture, Context, Contradiction, and Conflict for Children)

So as a kid the N word was more like the in word. It seemed all the kids used it regularly, it was just the norm. I can’t remember when it infiltrated my vocabulary, but I can remember it rolling off my tongue with ease for over a decade. A few key experiences shaped my relationship to the word, and taught me in live action the diversity of the word’s history, meaning, and cultural application. So rap music is undoubtedly the most influential source of urban slang, and absolutely the culprit that popularized the N word around the world. Within the Hip Hop communities of East Harlem, & the South Bronx the word was sung, flung, but never stung. When my family moved to Throgs Neck the word took on a whole new meaning, which ironically was it’s original meaning. Throgs Neck at the time was still somehwat segregated, and prone to racial issues. Prior to moving there, I rarely thought twice about race. One day while sitting in a park with my best friend at the time, who happened to be white, another older kid came by and sat to talk with us. We looked up to the older kid, because… well because he was older. He spoke about high school, and things that intruiged us. Then he said something I’ll never forget. He said the same word I had been completely comfortable hearing, and saying myself, but with a different tone, and it stung like a killer bee. I stood quiet, embarrassed and ashamed as he made racist remarks unaware that I represented the people he was reffering to in such a hateful way.  Another time in math class my teacher who was African heard me use the word and flipped out! Sent me to the office and accused me of being racist. I argued how can I be racist against black people when I’m black!? You see, my pops complexion is light and most people think he is spanish, my mom is light skin, and low and behold I’m light skin as well. A few similar experiences caused me to learn and understand the N word has a different meaning, and effect on different people, in different places, at different times. I remember the day vividly that my brother and I explored alternative words to refer to our friends as we walked through the same park where the N word had left an inward bruise on me.

Remixing The N word

What is Hip Hop if it isn’t taking something that already exists, and giving it new life and meaning? We remix everything, It’s what we do. -Randy Mason 

“What’s poppin’ my neighbor?” – Damion B Sanders

A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a gospel Hip Hop CD that his co-worker Dame made, and that joint was fire! One line in particular blew my mind when I heard it. On a Kanye West remix the rapper flipped Kanye’s line which originaly used the N word, and replaced it with the word neighbor. “What’s poppin’ my neighbor?”  That line was, and is still one of the dopest lines I’ve ever heard, it’s profound! I loved the CD so much, eventually Dame and I connected and formed a rap duo called Jesus Peace. Fast forward to a few days ago, (that’s an interesting sentence combining future & past tense) Dame and I are at our Church (Elements Church) youth concert where we were performing a few new songs. Prior to us going up, a brother went up to share his testimony. While passionately explaining the life God delivered him from he slipped up and said the N word.  Oops! Everyone kind of shockingly laughed it off as he apologized. As an urban church we knew exactly where he came from, what he meant, and how any of us could potentially slip up like that; especially when talking about our past life. So when Dame and I went up to do our song, I referenced our brothers raw testimony, gave God thanks for transforming his life, and lastly told the congregation that Neighbor, is now the new N word.

Biblebonics (Everything New)

Jesus flipped a lot of generational traditions, and cultural idealogy’s on their head. Because of the “new” perspective he brought someone once asked Jesus “what is the greatest commandment?” If that isn’t a loaded question I don’t know what is. In Jesus’s response we discover the two things that God esteems as paramount for humanity.

Matthew 22:36-40 New International Version (NIV)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

So here we are in the year 2015, a lot has changed, and a lot is still the same. In regards to race in America things are once again beginning to intensify. In regards to Hip Hop culture and music, “consciousness” seems to be making a return as rappers address racial/political/social/economical issues in their music and interviews. Hip Hop & Christianity have a lot in common. From the underdog achieveing the impossible, to the remixing of culture, traditions, and perspectives; Most importantly the transformative aspect that they both employ; producing beauty from brokenness. So yo, consider this a Jesus Peace public service announcement: Neighbor is officially the new N word. Effective immediately. Tell a friend, tell all your neighbors.  We have an opportunity to make history! Lets make it so that when people look back at this time, and at our generation, they will see  a cultural shift in language and slang, when the N word was officially abolished and a new term flourished.

Raking Leaves & Building Tables (Learning On The Job)

Learning new things can be fun, but also frustrating and frightening; especially when there seems to be very little room for error. From raking leaves, and building tables, to working with elementary school children, LGBT teens, and homeless adults, learning on the job is my job. So how do we replace pressure with productivity? How do we get from being wet behind the ears to being wise beyond our… (Y)ears? Well… I don’t know just yet, but I’m willing to learn on the blog.

 Go & Grow (Sink Or Swim)

I remember visiting a public swimming pool with friends as a teenager, and being the only one there that didn’t know how to swim. Standing there in my swimming shorts at the edge of the pool watching all my friends have so much fun was difficult, and embarrassing. I was faced with the daunting task of learning something new on the spot; how to swim. Eventually the pressure peaked, and the next thing I knew, I was in the deep end dramatically trying to copy the arm and leg motion I associated with swimming. I held on to the wall for most of the time, but ultimately I had a blast; and more importantly I began learning how to swim; or at least how to survive.

In life I’ve adopted a similar attitude. Jumping in, and learning on the go is something that is necessary for growth. If we go for it, we will grow because of it. If I stand and stare at a mountain for long enough I’m sure I’ll convince myself to turn around. Instead I can begin to climb, even without necessarily knowing how I’ll make it to the top, and that will bring me much closer to my goal; obtaining more experience each step of the way.  Leaving me far more experienced than I’d ever be standing at ground level. Speaking of mountains, attached to the end of this blog is a video of Michael H. Samuelson Author, Adventurer, Lecturer speaking at the annual Bussiness Innovation Factory in Rhode Island. Michael shares a few of meaningful life lessons, and transferable skills learned while climbing actual mountains. Very inspirational. I had the pleasure of attending this conference through a scholarship as a result of my willingness to jump in, and go!

Fostering Feedback & Even Failure

So one of the biggest inhibitors to attemting anything new, is the fear of failing. It’s paralyzing! Ironiclly failing is often a really positive and progressive experience if we view it from the right perspective. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s kind of like the process of elimination; the wrong answer will at least point you in the right direction. This is also known as Trial and Error. If we can humble ourselves, and be willing to learn from error, we will benefit greatly and likely succeed more frequently. The problem is often pride. Pride is what causes us to dismiss failure, instead of dissecting, and redirecting it. Some of us even remain stuck in a rut of what does not work, because we are too prideful to admit we got it wrong. The classic failure before success story is that of Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player to ever live being cut from his highschool basketball team. Another is the story of a young female artist on the come up getting boo’d at the legendary Apollo Theatre in Harlem during her performance… Her name is Lauryn Hill. In both of these cases, I think it’s safe to assume that MJ and Ms.Hill viewed “failure” objectively, processed it, learned from it, and applied what they learned.  Feedback, particularly negative, or constructive critisism is challenging, very! It is also of enormous value. Learn how to foster feedback, and failure in order to fuel the fire.

The New Guy Mentality

The new guy is always extra excited, and eager to learn. The new guy is often humble and willing to go the extra mile. Sadly, the new guy mentality usually wears off over time, and when it does, continuous meaningful progress can become difficult to achieve. A good way to renew the New The Guy mentality is to take what you have become used to, and apply it to an unusual context. For example: I’ve been writing songs, and rapping for over 15 years, and have become quite comfortable as a lyricist, but in recent years I’ve stepped off the stage, and stepped into homeless shelters, NYC subway trains, and schools to rap. The thing that I do hasn’t changed but the setting has, the context has, the application has. I need to learn how to write, deliver, and even teach in a way that is relevent to each unique context, which causes me to grow, and ultimately become better at what I do. This not only benefits my craft, but my life overall, learning always does. So many life experiences offer transferable skills, and wisdom.  What is it that you do? How can you apply that thing in a new context, in order to expand, learn, and grow? The new guy as I mentioned earlier is usually, or at least hopefully, pretty humble. This is essential! Too often we become over confident, and this stunts our growth tremendously. Rekindle the new guy mentality by studying the masters. There’s always someone somewhere doing what we do on a higher level to some degree in one way or another. Although this can be intimidating, the trick is not to compare ourselves to others necessarily, but rather to humbly observe, analyze, glean, and learn from others. The new guy isn’t afraid to ask questions, to seek counsel, to study. “I thought I knew it all, untill I had to renew it all.”

Preparation, Prayer, Patience & Persistence

Preparation, prayer, patience & persistence are pivotal parts of proficiency, and productivity. In less poetic words, you need a plan to get it poppin’! When trying something new, frustration is inevitable, but this plan will keep us from giving up.

  • Preparation: As much as I am an advocate of going for it, I also need to stress that preparation is important. I recently decided to build three tables for my studio/office. Without preparing or seeking any counsel I bought some wood and got busy. In the end, I was confused, discouraged and angry because my excitement for the idea didn’t translate to stable tables. What I built wouldn’t stand at all, let alone the test of time. Thankfully, I decided to try again, but this time I planned to prepare by evaluating my errors, and finding a master builder to learn from. (Note how failing pointed me in the right direction.) The next day, I prepared by stocking up on all the supplies needed, and spending time sharing my idea with a master builder, asking questions and taking notes. Finally, the tables are up, they arent the greatest things ever built, but they’re serving their purpose well.
  • Prayer: Without prayer I would never be able to persevere in all of the things that I do. Prayer empowers me, and also provides peace admist the struggle of… Raking leaves & building tables. Prayer is paramount. Seeking counsel from the master of everything is always priority. The bible says that God has given us everything pertaining to life, and Godliness, and that all things are possible with God. Be encouraged!
  • Patience: Learning something new can take a long time, depending on your learning curve and what it is that you’re learning. I struggle with this more than anything else. Patience allows us to put things on pause and know that tomorrow we can try again. Patience softens the sting of todays failure, and points toward tomorrow’s success. Although I survived my swimming pool adventure that day as a crazy teenager; I actually didnt learn how to swim. I began to learn, I got aqauinted with the enviroment and elements of swimming, and I became encouraged to try again, and again until finally… I got it. We are always learning, everyday. Have patience, and know that progress is being made.
  • Persistence: If I resolve to shoot the basketball frequently throughout a game, the probability that I will score is high. (Assuming you’re not severely athletically challenged, in which case insert another anaology that applies.) If I miss a shot, and let that stop me from taking another, I certainly won’t ever score. Keep at it, keep going, persistently, consistently and intentionally. Go for it, and then go for it again! You got this.

Oh and by the way! The idea to write this blog came to me while raking leaves the other night for the very first time in my life. At the end of my “raking” (I don’t even know if that is the correct terminology) I stood proudly looking over the clear sidewalk, only to find a sea of leaves covering it the following morning.