Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tavis Smiey's Interview with Venezuela President Hugo Chavez (plus more updates)

Peace and blessings,

Below is very recent interview with Tavis Smiley and Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela. Also, makke sure to check my archives, because I have started adding videos for some of the movies and themes I mentioned in those pieces. Most recently, I have made updates to posts I made in February and in June. Enjoy, and as always, speekonit...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What has changed?

Peace and blessings,

I was speaking to some folks today, and we were commenting on tonight's NFL football game. We were discussing how there is alot of talk about the superdome reopening, which is a tremendous blessing. However, we were disturbed by the fact that in many of the areas that were severely hit by Katrina, especially the "poorer" neighborhoods, little to nothing has been done, nor have the levees been repaired. In light of this, I decided to post Kanye Wests' comment about the inequalitites that were heightened during Katrina, not to point the blame at or to "crap" on Bush, but to remind us that the moral let down that the victims faced and continue to face at the hands of the "Havs" (as opposed to the "Have-nots") demonstrates, if nothing else, that we can never get complacent when it comes to making sure we value the quality of EVERYONE's life, and that we are morally obligated to address these and other forms of systemic inequality. Speekonit...

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Diversity of the Spirit

Peace and blessings,

This piece is something I felt God has been putting on my heart for the last couple of weeks. It seems like within American ideology there is this over-arching sense of and need to polarize beliefs, ideas, and groups. For instance, a large part of our livelihood tends to consist of a composite the choices we make from polarized alternatives. Either you're a Democrat or Rebublican, beautiful or ugly, fat or skinny, and so forth. I know these examples are somewhat simplistic, but the point is made nonetheless. Many aspects of our lives are dictated by an "either/or" framework.

Now I am not making a case for absolute relativism, because I believe that the enactment of absolute relativism, especially moral relativism, would pose a great threat to the human existence. Moreover, I believe that when it comes to how to live and how we should treat one another, there is an objective truth that governs these and all behaviors, and it resides in the relationship with God through Jesus Christ. With that said, what I am making a case for is for the acknowledgement of the spiritual diversity that derives from a relationship with God.

As a child, I thought of God as someone who was a strict disciplinarian who saw and knew everything. I thought that if I ever did anything that was contrary to His will, He was going to severly punish me, if not immediately, then eventually. Therefore, I attempted to stay away from trouble and be a "good boy," but for the wrong reasons. Although God is a sovereign and jealous God, our primary reason for living holy lives in accordance with His will should not be because we are afraid of what God will do to us. Instead, I believe that our primary reason for living for God is simply because of WHO HE IS! Once we change our conception of God from someone who is waiting for us to mess up so He can "lay the smack down" to someone who created, redeemed, and called us into a loving relationship with Him, we will be able to walk with Him, and thus live for better lives for Him.

Lastly, it is this "living for Him" part that inspired me to write this piece. Once we are in a relationship with God through Christ, we learn about the Christian docrtine and the principles of the faith. I know for me, there were times where as I was getting more into the Bible and into what it means to be a Christian, I would not only feel marginalized within a larger social context (e.g. there are just certain places and things a Christian is not suppose to go and do), but I would also feel limited in terms of the way I thought about God. I think it is often easy to confine our conception of God to the books of the Bible. Even though He is the same God, He also created each and everyone differently, and thus speaks to us differently. As I began to realize that, I stopped assessing my conception of and relationship with God based on others' conceptions of and relationships with Him, and found my own. That is the beauty of God working in us through the Holy Spirit, is that God not only meets us where we are at, but He also uses us according to our interests, personalities, and ways of thinking. For me, the way I view the world and the phenomena within it is heavily based on me viewing things in terms of connections, patterns and analogies. In order for me to truly understand something, I must develop a comparable analogy that explains it, or see how it connects to something else. It is no surprise that becaause God made me this way, that these are the ways in which I feel that I see God at work in the world. Things like how the little, everyday things we do (either by deliberate choice or out of reacting to the circumstance), can make the difference in receiving or missing our blessing, as well as in our opportunities to be a blessing to someone else.

Through my experiences and the constant changing of my conception of God, it is clear that while there are many people who do not have a relationship with God because for whatever reason they do not believe, there are also many of us who have a narrow conception of God and of the avenues through which He plans to use us to do His will. It is my prayer that we as Christians place substantial emphasis of the diversity of the Holy Spirit, namely the fact that our conception of God should never be limited, but to expand so that once we realize that God uses all of us according to our unique personalities, ways of thinking, interests, and talents (assuming of course these do not conflict with His will), we can put ourselves in a better position to serve Him. Stay blessed and as always, speekonit...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Stay away from (fresh) spinach!

Peace and blessings,

I'm not sure if folks have been keeping up the the latest news with the E. Coli outbreak, but health officials are warning people to stay away from fresh spinach (spinach from the bag), but i'm going to play it safe and stay away from spinach in general until I hear otherwise. Definately spread the word because the amount of people getting infected and even dying throughout the country is increasing. Also, there is a link to an article on the latest in the "Health News" section. Speekonit...

Access (not) Granted Pt. 2

Peace and blessings,

I last left off with the lessons learned and the implications from the seminar I attended on hip-hop and Christianity. Before I move on, I want to emphaisze that the focus of the seminar was to discuss 1) How we as Christians can become more aware of and use hip-hop culture to expose our youth ( I say "our" to indicate that we must take back our youth!) to Christ. The summer of my sophomore year, a friend of mine introduced me to many Christian hip-hop artists, among them being Cross Movement, KJ-52, Sev-Statik, and Grits. From then, I was hooked. They provided me with a springboard into another dimension of hip-hop music and culture that I was previously closed off from. In the past, when I would hear of the term "Christian rapper," I would automatically assume that their lyrical content and skill would be lacking in relation to the secular artists who I listened to. And although, like with anything there are people who are more talented than others, I have found that from the Christian artists that I constantly keep in rotation (most of which are included on the "hip-hop" section of the website), having a relationship with Christ does not stifle artistic expression, creativity, or breadth (the ability to address mutliple issues and experiences). On the contrary, a relationship with Christ stimulates and enhances these things! And as I reflect on this notion it makes perfect sense. Since God is the creator of all this good, of which gifts. talents, and skills are included, it makes sense these things would be exponentially improved if they are used in a way that gives credit and glory to God, the source and creator of these gifts, talents, and skills. Which brings me to my last point...

As I have become more engulfed in Christian hip-hop, and learning more and more how within the broader hip-hop culture, God is raising up biblically-sound, Christ-filled, and lyrically gifted MCs who are out to reach the youth and the lost, the resistance to this movement is become more and more evident as well. In my opinion, the lack of visibility and access many Christain MCs have faced and are currently facing can be illustrated by the following hypothetical situation. Imagine a child who, for whatever reason, is intentionally starved. Once the child is to the point where he or she is really hungry, they are only given bad-tasting food. Now, the fact that they eat this food demonstartes that they were hungry, but simply eating the food in no way suggests that the food itself was good to them or for them. However, because the child was starving and that was the only food available to them, they got their grub on for real. Further, and more devastating, is that because we often form perceptions of others and their behaviors based on a superficial analysis of that person, the child's eating of the food is perceived as meaning that 1) the child likes the food and 2) the food must be good. It's the same with the current hip-hop scene. Many youth and people who are going through difficult times or do not have a relationship with God are looking for some kind of guidance or "blueprint" for how to navigate life. In other words, they are hungry, to the point where they may be starving. To these individuals (as it was to me during early adolescence), mainstream hip-hop (e.g. the same 8 songs that get played on every major radio station, each with catchy, hypnotic hooks and touch on the similar themes of sex, violence, crime, and materialism) becomes their bad-tasting food. Because this appears to be the only food gaining mainstream visibility, they are quick to consume and eat because they are not aware of a quality, healthy alternative. Therefore, although listeners may call in to these stations and request these songs, I argue that they are not FREELY choosing to hear these songs in a way that attests to the song's quality. To freely choose something, one must also have a somewhat comparable alternative to validate one's choice. For instance, In order for a child to choose to do their homework, he or she must weigh that choice against a comparable alternative, such as not doing their homework and hanging with friends. Until these major radio stations and other media outlets present the public with comparable alternatives, the public will never have a FREE choice when it comes to which music they want represented in the mainstream. And we all know that the opposite of freedom is slavery, but let's not get into that right now, lol. Now i'm not saying that hip-hop should not address issues of sex, crime, violence, drugs, or whatever. These are all aspects of people's life experiences, so i think they should be addressed within hip-hop culture. However, my beef is not with WHAT is being addressed, but HOW it is being addressed. For instance, many mainstream hip-hop artists address these issues and the negative affects they have on people, but fail to mention how people can overcome these and other vices. Further, the argument that artists are ONLY speaking their reality and would have more positive, uplifting lyrics if that was their experience does not hold hold weight for two reasons. One, I know that many if not all of these artists are aware of God, and know of his power. As Shabach, one of my favorite Christian MC's puts it:

"I pray for secular rappers with dope music/who have that Godly intuition but they don't use it!"
-From the song "Speak to me" off of the album, "From Sin to Shabach: The Rebirth"(album info in the "hip-hop" section)

Second, because of hip-hop's influence, artists must realize that millions and millions of people look up to them from throughout the world, and thus they are obligated to steer the youth and others they influence in a more positive direction. As I conclude, I would like to ask those who read this to pray that God continues to add more avenues for Christian hip-hop to gain access to the masses. Although I'm a humble dude, I am overly confident, actually 150% certain that if the youth and the lost were aware of positive, quality Christian hip-hop and were thus able to choose between the bad-tasting food and the food that helps us (by directing us towards a relationship with Christ) transform our earthly lives and solidifies our spiritual lives, I know they will choose the latter. This is an issue that I felt God has laid on my heart for a while, and thus I will continue to address this issue in the future. I'm interested in hearing people's thoughts on this, so please speekonit...

Access (not) Granted Pt. 1

Peace and blessings,

As you can see, I have recently been making many updates to the site. Although I have updated many of the site's components, I have recently been focusing more on the "Holy Hip-Hop Resources" section. This focus is the result of two factors. One is that I am a serious hip-hop head and would not turn down a freestyle or cypha if my ife depended on it, lol. Quiet as kept, I was actually one of two MCs in a live hip-hop band for a semester while in undergrad. The other reason why I have been adding more media, artist info, and other Christian hip-hop related stuff is because I know that God has created this subculture within the broader hip-hop culture for a reason. In my early teens, I got real heavy into the whole hip-hop/rap culture. My first hip-hop cd that I consistently rocked was Snoop's first album, "Doggysyle." From then on, I got my hands on any and every rap cd there was, from Ice Cube to DMX to Jay-Z to Bone Thugs and Harmony. You name it, I either had it on cd or used cassetts to record their songs off of the radio (real talk, that was the thing to do in the mid to late nineties, lol). In high school (in particular Junior and Senior year), I became more engulfed in the music and culture, to the point where if my boys and I did not freestyle either during lunch, after school, or driving home from school, then a brotha didn't feel right. In college my love for hip-hop grew stronger, but little did I know that God was working out something within me.

My first year of college, hip-hop played an important role in getting me through. By this I mean that in college everyone needs a healthy outlet to relieve stress and relax from the academic demands, and for me my outlets were hooping and freestyling, although freestyling occured much more often. When we couldnt find anything to do on the weekends or just wanted to "take a mental break," my friends and I would have freestyle sessions that would last hours. My sophomore year, my love for hip-hop remained the same, but what I loved about it started to change. Upon attending "Atlanta '02," a black student christian conference put on every three years in Atlanta by Black Campus Ministries (a branch of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship), I was most looking forward to attending the seminar on Hip-Hop. At the same time, however, I was alittle reluctant because I just knew that going to a Christain conference and discussing hip-hop (especially as it is represented in the mainstream), would mean that I would have to throw away all of my "secular" hip-hop cds (which at the time was all of them because I was not yet exposed to Christian hip-hop). To my surprise however, I did not leave the seminar feeling convicted to throw away all of my secular hip-hop cds. What I did learn from the seminar and thus took from it was that 1) "the church" (both in an institutional sense and in the sense of we as a collective of believers) should pay more attention to hip-hop culture because we cannot deny the influence it has on the lives of youth and young adults. 2) We also discussed how there are some "secular" artists (i.e. DMX, Pac, and Nas) who at times offer their perspective on who God is and what the power of God can do for people who are disenfranchised. It is important to note that the seminar's speaker did not condone the lyrics, behaviors, and messages of these artists, nor do I. He was just using them to illustrate the point that as Christians, we need to be aware of the cultural messages permeating the minds of our youth, and hip-hop is no exception. 3) Lastly, and probably most importantly, we learned that there is a spiritual battle going on within the the culture of hip-hop, and thus because of the culture's many facets and what it's often associated with in the mainstream, it is not for everyone. For example, although I did not feel that I had to throw away all of my secular cds, I did throw away most of them, not necessarily because I felt a strong conviction to do so, but because as God was widening my perspective in terms of the influence of hip-hop and how He intended it to be used, I no longer had the desire to listen to most of the stuff I used to let infiltrate my spirit. Now there are still a few secular artists I listen to from time to time (some pac, some jay-z, some nas, some AZ), but I have become alot more cautious of the type of music I listen to. In order to avoid making this post super long, the rest of this messsage will be included in part 2. Speekonit...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

"Viktory" added to the "Holy Hip-Hop Resources" section

Peace and blessings,

"Viktory," a Christian hip-hop artist has been added to the section. Check out his info and make sure to listen to tracks off of his album. it's so sincere! Speekonit...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Finally, and update! LOL

Peace and blessings,

I apologize for the scant coverage I have been giving the site this summer. With school starting back and me living in the computer lab these days, site will be updated more frequently. It seems that recently God has been teaching me to have patience and wait on Him, and I think maybe in some weird kind of, "God works things out in His own time" sort of way, I think the time I spent away from this site this summer is indicative of that. That's not to say that I am going to continue to go long periods between updating the site (because I'm not), it's just to say that sometimes by letting my thoughts sit and marinate, God is able to revise them for His purposes. I have plenty of ideas and thoughts to share, and I would really like for them to be coupled with thoughts and reactions from those who take time to check out this site. To kick off this update, and as a prelude to the thoughts, ideas, and experiences to come, I want to leave you with a scripture to jumpstart your day. Until next time (which will be very soon), stay blessed, encouraged, and speekonit...

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

--Romans 8:38-39 (New International Version)