Sunday, November 13, 2011

Unfortunate Events in the Life of a Child

Life is filled with situations and circumstances that many children have no control over. It is disheartening to see children suffer from abuse and neglect. The reality of the matter is, as your read this post, there are children who are being exposed to irresponsible people, being abused, and being mistreated by the adults who are supposed to protect them. The question becomes, how can we prevent unfortunate situations in the lives of our children?

I can remember being told as a teenager that my step-grandfather attempted to murder me as an infant. He took a knife, while he was drunk, and cut me down the seam of my nose. I bled terribly and nearly died if it had not been for the quick responses of my mother and my aunt, I would not be here today. I still have the scar on my face to remind me of my step-grandfathers disregard for my life as a baby. What measures could have been taken to avoid such an unfortunate incident?

1. Be on guard. Children should never be allowed to frequent or stay in a household where the inhabitants are alcoholics, drug users, or violent. When children are placed in those types of situations, it is a recipe for disaster.

2. Provide supervision. Predators and curious teenagers thrive in environments where parents do not supervise their children. Never allow your children to play outside without the proper supervision. Remember, everyone does not have your child's best interest in mind.

3. Be an Example. Demonstrate to your children the proper way to live a respectful and wholesome life. Whatever behaviors that you allow as a parent will become the same behaviors of your children as an adult. If they see you drunk and drugged out, then they accept that as the standard. If they see different people coming in and out of your house that is not their father or mother, then they will perpetuate what they have seen in the home.

4. Teach survival skills. Tell and demonstrate to your children what to do when they find themselves in trouble. Ensure that they know your name and not just a nick-name or title. Instruct your children to never to give their personal information to a stranger. Teach them to run and scream when someone approaches them in a strange manner.

5. Monitor your child's entertainment. With the boom of the Internet and social media, your child could find himself in some difficult situations that could be life or death. Check their facebook, twitter, myspace, flicker, and other social media pages. Question them about people who they have accepted as friends. Place the proper child protective software on your computers to prevent exposure to explicit material. Review your child's phone and text messages. Teenagers have a totally different language in the text world and they could be communicating behavior that could lead to disease, pregnancy, and other activities that would be unfortunate for their future.

As I look back over my life and reflect on the whole situation with my step-grandfather attempting to murder me, it can be discouraging, but on the bright side, I was truly blessed by the Lord to have survived the incident in spite of his irresponsible and reckless behavior. How many children do not survive these kinds of incidents? Far too many!

As parents, we are the protectors of our children. We have to think beyond being reactive to situations, but also become proactive to prevent situations that have the potential to leave a terrible emotional and physical mark on our children. Create a home, family and social environment that is child-friendly and void of life-threatening and child-endangering situations. Your children will live and thank you for it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Value of Time

I took my oldest son with me to the grocery store. I took the time to observe how tall he has gotten and the deep tone in his voice. I said to myself, "Wow! Time is going by so fast." It seems like Ephraim was just born a year ago and now he is about to embark upon his last year of middle school.

As I drove to the grocery store, I reflected on the moment that I was granted to spend with my son. It really dawned on me to take hold of every moment we have together. Soon, Ephraim will be out on his own in college pursuing aeronautical engineering. Man, I know he has to grow-up, but why so fast?

Oh well, I will make a commitment today to ensure that I cherish every conversation, every teachable moment, every handshake and every question that my son asks me. This time is so precious and valuable.

Fathers, please do not allow the time to past you by without reflecting and taking precious memories into your heart for those times when it seems like everything is going wrong. Reflect on those memories and come to the conclusion that every situation and circumstance was worth the opportunity to sow into the life of your child. Value the Time you have with them.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Planning Ahead

As I get older, nearing 40, I had a revelation. I'm getting older and soon my boys will be leaving my house within the next 10 years. Oh boy, I thought. I better get to planning things and putting things in place because I want to demonstrate to my boys how to plan for the future.

So..... I made sure my life insurance policy was in place. I made sure that my retirement fund was well funded. I sought guidance from the Lord about other financial moves. I started to see my life in a new way. I will not always be here for them. I will die one day and I want their lives to be comfortable.

The lesson is, I almost started too late. I should have put these things in place when I first started working as a naval officer at the age of 23. Boys start early preparing each phase of your life. If you fail to plan, yes you have planned to fail.

Monday, August 8, 2011

An Open Letter to African American Boys

I often wonder if you are aware of the potential that lies within you. Do you not know that you have the ability to achieve anything with the help of God?

I often wonder if you intentionally ignore the wisdom and advice of your elders to express your individuality and independence. However, you do not consider the reason why we tell you what we tell you so that your individuality is not shaped by hardship, calamity and disappointment.

Can’t you see the signs of the times? Do you not see how the past is quickly creeping back into the present and ultimately the future? Ok! You don’t know your history or you think our history is just that, in the past.

Listen young men, “Whatever you do not learn from the past of your people, you will have to learn it personally in your present or future.”

Son, why do you emulate the negative aspects of the culture? If indeed you are seeking to be an individual, then why do you copy the dress codes and mannerisms of celebrities whom you do not know? Be who God made you to be. Be smart. Be dedicated. Be respectful. Be a visionary. Be a young man of God.

My young brothers, when will the sexual escapades cease? Don’t take the advice of your uncle Bubba, who has never had a successful marriage or relationship. Instead emulate positive black men who are taking care of their families and who respect their wives.

My young brothers, your manhood is not measured by the number of young ladies that you sleep with. Don’t you know you are spreading yourself all over the community and indirectly sleeping with every person that the young lady has slept with? Follow the teachings that your grandma, auntie, or mama taught you. They taught you to love God more than your sexual drive.

Young brothers, can we reason about education? You do know that the powers thereof build prisons based on the low reading levels of black boys in grades four and five?

Learn young brothers learn. Learn and excel. You can do anything through Christ that strengthens you. You are not weak because you are smart. You are weak when you are smart and pretend to be dumb. Be the individual God has created you to be.

Finally, my young black brothers, I know you do not want anyone telling you what to do, but it is foolish to ignore wisdom. Do this for me young brother. Read this letter again, digest it, follow it and then pass it on to a friend. Give this letter to brothers you know and care about.


A Concerned African American Man

Racism is a Heart Issue

The stench of racism is still poignant. In fact, it may be nearing the levels of intensity experienced during the 60’s. I know about racism as a native of Tuskegee & Montgomery, Alabama. The cradle of southern racism. One would think that we have made progress, but the ugly head of racism continues to diminish any ground gained.

I can remember last month, as my wife and I were taking our boys on a trip from the east coast to the west coast. Our plane stopped in Houston, TX. As we were sitting in the airport, a little white boy began to say out loud,”Look, there is a brown family. That brown family is dirty. They are monsters.” I told my wife and boys to gather their things so that we could move to another section of the airport and I overheard the boy’s father tell his wife to stop trying to correct the little boy because it was not a big deal. Well, I knew it was time to address the whole situation. So I said to the boy’s father,” I would suggest that you teach your child not to say such horrible things about people. I would never allow my children to disrespect anyone because of their race.” He replied,”He’s only a child!” In response, I told him, “Apparently he is old enough to understand how to describe people as dirty and monsters, he should be old enough to learn that what he said was wrong.”

This father then tried to apologetically appease me by telling me he was not a racist; after all he has a mixed family, etc, etc, etc… At that point, I walked off and explained to my boys that the little boy was disrespectful and his father was wrong for not correcting him. I told my boys, regardless of what people call you, you have to be confident in who you are and address the issue with the wisdom of God.

That day was one of the best training tools I have had to show my boys that this world has some people that are mean and nasty, but God has endowed them with the fortitude to overcome every attack against them because of their race, religious beliefs and anything else.

I said all of this to say, racism is a learned, nurtured and intentional way of thinking. Regardless of who it is, if their heart is filled with hate and disdain for a person or a people simply because of their race, they will never change until their hearts change. What is unfortunate as demonstrated through my experience in the Houston Airport is there is a new generation of children who are being taught this same destructive way of thinking.

Their teachers are politicians who disrespect President Obama by saying, “you lie”. Their teachers are news commentators that refer to the President as boy. Their teachers are congressmen who call the president “tar baby”. Their teachers are political movements who display our president’s face in the depiction of a monkey. Their teachers are their families, friends, pastors, etc… who see their propensity towards racism but overlook it or say nothing.

This is a true statement and I believe it with all of my heart, until the hearts of those who hate people because of their race change, racism will be here for a long time.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Making a lasting IMPACT on men can create a sustaining movement of men prepared and equipped for effective ministry. There is an epidemic that continues to plague churches all over the country; men are falling into sexual sin and almost inactive in ministry. In addition, statics say, that over 50% of pastors are addicted to pornography. Why? We have pacified men with sporting events, dinners and feel good seminars. As a result, men have perfected talking to one another on the surface all the while walking as a dead man in the spirit. This is counterproductive to the male psyche, which looks for challenge and an opportunity to conquer. Therefore the best topics to minister to men are those that challenge them to do as God said in 1 Peter 1:16, “Be ye holy as I am holy.”

Men have to be challenged and impacted by specific characteristics. Those characteristics can be found in the very letters of the word IMPACT.

Integrity: Teach men the importance of walking in righteousness even when no one is looking. It is during the times of temptation he has to hold himself accountable and chose integrity rather than compromise. Integrity is feed by a strong desire to consistently please God regardless of the situation.

Maturity: Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I thought as a child, I spoke as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Men have to be challenged to move forward in their development of Christ and spiritual disciplines, responsibility to family, associates and ministry. A man’s development in these areas are key indicators of maturity.

Purity: The need to walk in total purity must be taught throughout the development of a man from boyhood to adulthood. Men who walk in purity have to have a mission to intervene in the lives of men of all ages and challenge them to guard their hearts and minds from the spirit of perversion. Purity requires us to know how men function when it comes to sexuality and how to guard our eyes and heart with all diligence. Men are stimulated sexually by touch and sight. Therefore, men have to be taught how to monitor what they watch on television, the internet and how to relate with females without entering into compromising situations.

Accountability: Men who feel that they are held accountable by their brother tend to maintain integrity better than a brother who is a loner. We are our brothers’ keeper and overseer as we journey through this very tempting world. To hold a brother accountable means, I will tell you the truth about you even when you are wrong. This may be hard and difficult, but it will preserve the soul of our brothers.

Character: Who are you as a man? Are you punctual, thorough, honest, can people count of you? These and so many more attributes defines a man’s character. Character is a man’s profile sheet. It is the letter that the Apostle Paul says is read by all men. We have to be sure that the letter our lives present is commensurate with our proclamation to be men of God.

Trustworthiness: Do you tell the truth or do you flatter people with your words that have no works to support them? Men are big on trust. If a brother does not trust his friend, he will only relate to him on the surface. Again, just sports talk and the weather. However, if a brother knows that his friend is trustworthy, he will open up to him about some of his most frightening experiences. For those brothers who have brothers who trust you, never break their trust. This could break the spirit of the man and leave him wounded as prey for the enemy. Let’s walk in truth even when it hurts.

This is a season of healing and ministering to men who have been wounded and injured by the enemy. Some may have been self-inflicted wounds and others a direct attack by the enemy. Regardless of the source of the wound, men can still make an IMPACT in their own lives and the lives of the next generation of men.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Do it on purpose!

As I quickly approach the big 40, I am really thinking about all of the things that I must teach my boys to ensure that they are prepared to be men of God. I had to look back in retrospect to see if I had laid a strong foundation for them to build upon. Here are a few things that I believe fathers must do on purpose.

a.Demonstrate how to love God’s way.

b.Teach them how to forgive as the Lord forgives.

c.Show them how to be good stewards over their time, talents and treasury.

d.Always encourage and correct with the word of God in a loving yet firm manner.

e.Allow them to make mistakes now, so that they can learn from me how to master those areas later.

f.Demonstrate what a man of God is and how he acts in every facet of life.

g.Extend respect in order to expect automatic respect from my children.

h.Teach them to look to the Lord during great times and distressful times.

i.Impart the word of God in their hearts intentionally.

j.Show them the blessing of doing everything as unto the Lord in ministry and life.

There is so much more, but the above things are certainly a good start. I know that we are all busy trying to do the will of God for our lives, but one of those responsibilities includes training our children to do the will of God for their lives also. Do it on purpose.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Appreciate Your Father Regardless

This Fathers’ Day will be a difficult one as it has always been for many people who do not have fond memories of their father. There are stories of abuse, neglect and abandonment, but there are also great stories of fathers and other men coming into the lives of children to making a difference.

I was blessed to have my natural father and a mentor in my life during my childhood. The amazing thing was all that my father was incapable of providing me, God placed it into the heart of Michael Van Barren. He was and continues to be my hero because he rescued me from a life of destruction before I ever had an opportunity to become entangled into the cruel world’s godless system. However, I never lost sight of the fact, that if my natural father had not brought me into this world, I would not have the opportunity to share my life and love with my own three sons. God knew that I would be able model for them what it means to be a man that loves his family and walks under the authority and protection of Jesus Christ. I celebrate my opportunity to be a father and I know that it would not have been possible had my natural father not given me life.

I know that many of you have pain and difficulty even considering what I am asking you to do, but you must forgive in order to move on completely. Unforgiveness does not hurt your father, it hurts you. Even if you cannot celebrate the things that your father has done for you throughout your life, please celebrate the fact that he helped bring you into the world. That one gift of life has now afforded you the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, your family, and the lives of your own children. Scripture says in Romans 8:28, “For we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Although the absence of a natural father may be painful, it cannot compare with the joy and fulfillment of nurturing your own child or mentee to ensure that they experience a life filled with love and care from a man who loves them regardless.

Celebrate fatherhood with the understanding that the one perfect gift that your father gave you was life; a chance to make a difference and impact the world.

Happy Fathers’ Day to every father, uncle, grandfather and mentor. Your presence and experience will have a lasting impression upon every child’s life that you impact. In turn, your investments in children create a wonderful legacy that will live far beyond your days.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Five Lessons Every Young Black Male Should Know

I have often thought about the essential knowledge that every young black male should possess and master. I believe young black males have the God-given potential to accomplish any goal or objective presented to them. I am so disappointed in the current trend of our young men emulating people who have no future or self-esteem. When did it become acceptable for our young men to sag and show their underwear as a type self expression? That choice to disrespect themselves and everyone who looks upon them is saddening. Nevertheless, the solution to this fad and others is to ensure that black men intentionally impart specific traits into the hearts of every young black male. Allow me to share six practical lessons that our young men should learn:

1. Extend respect to all authority- We must teach our young men the value of displaying respect and humility to persons who have authority over their lives. This starts in the home. Our young black males must understand that their first order of respect must be to God, their parents and anyone who has the right to exercise authority over them. The lack of respect reaps terrible dividends that could ultimately lead to failure and destruction. Let’s stand as black men and demand if we must that our boys exemplify the highest level of respect and dignity to whomever they must take directives from or serve.

2. Learn the word of God- Black fathers who claim the name of Jesus Christ, must ensure that their seed hears, knows and understands the word of God. In addition, our children should see the practical application of honoring the word of God in our lives first. It is through the word of God that our young men will find strength in the time of weakness and encouragement in the time of despair and direction in the time of perplexity.

3. Learn to be responsible- Too many of our young men are derelict in their duties because they have never been trained to be responsible for their actions, words and decisions. Again, this begins at home. It starts with teaching our young men to keep their rooms clean and organized. How many times have you walked into your son’s room and found clothes under the bed, on the floor and a strong order that could spoil your appetite? It’s true! We look over it and never hold them accountable for their actions. The result is a grown man who does not clean his house and has a home that would be unacceptable for anyone to visit. We must start with the everyday practical things in the lives of our sons to ensure that they understand that strong black men are responsible for their actions, words and decisions.

4. Learn a work ethic- Young men need a job! They must learn the value of work early so that they do not develop a lazy mentality. Young boys should learn the value of work by taking out the trash, washing dishes, cutting the grass and contributing to the maintenance and care of the household. They must also learn to get things done in a timely manner. Often times they take the posture of putting chores off hoping that mom or dad will go ahead and take care of the tasking themselves. One of the worse things that we could ever do as fathers is to raise a lazy black man in our house who does not want to work or do anything.

5. Learn how to value money. Fathers, are your guilty of buying your sons shoes that cost over $100 dollars and your sons constantly demonstrates that they do not appreciate or care about the sacrifice made to provide them with the things that they have? If you do not teach them how to take care of the things that you buy them, they will always look to other people to give them something. Teach your sons how to save some of his money. Teach your sons not to spend all of their money on frivolous things. Teach your sons about stocks, bonds, IRAs and investing their money.

6. Learn how to respect females- Brothers, do not allow your son to be a player. Teach him how to treat young ladies with respect and dignity. Dads, you have to demonstrate this in the home so that your son sees that this is normal and acceptable. Teach him never to call a female out of her name. Teach him to never put his hands on a female to disrespect her, abuse her or misuse her. Teach him to open doors for ladies. Teach your son to bless the women in his life instead of degrading them.

There are so many more lessons that our young black males need to learn, but if they could start with just these five, then they will be well on their way to being that outstanding example of a strong, intellectual, confident and refined young man of God. My brothers, what we do not teach our sons about life, God and manhood can very well hurt them. Commit to teaching these first five lessons and look for great results in the future.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to Keep Saying "I Do"

The statement, “I Do”, is two short and simple words that mean life-time commitment. I wonder how many men and women really understand what it takes to keep saying, “I Do”. The wedding day seems so whimsical and fairytale like, but the reality of sharing your life with someone else settles in after the honeymoon period is over. The bottom line is it takes work to keep saying, “I Do” year after year. Here are a few things that you do as a man, to ensure that you and your wife continue saying, “I Do”.

a.Keep spontaneity in your relationship. The element of surprise always brings excitement and renewal to the marriage relationship. My brother, if you continue to do the same old thing, you will continue to see a downward spiral in your marriage relationship. Women appreciate spontaneity. Rehearsing the same routine is a quick way to kill intimacy in a marriage. Surprise your wife with something that she least expects. Watch that smile form and wait for the rewarding after effects of that one gesture.

b.Foster and nurture intimacy. Intimacy goes beyond sexual activities between a husband and a wife. Sex is the by-product of previous comments, flowers, cards, holding hands and doing all of the things that were done to win over your wife’s heart while you were dating. Christian men have to learn the value of intimacy that is produced before the end result, sex. Yes, God has blessed the marriage union with such a wonderful experience of sexual intimacy. But sex alone is not the totality of intimacy. My brother, you have to do whatever is necessary to till, plant, water and nurture your love relationship with your wife. Just like a plant cannot grow without the proper care and nourishment, your marriage relationship cannot grow without the proper care, love and nourishment. Get started now!

c.Provide strength and security for your wife. Demonstrate strength to your wife by defending her and not allowing anyone or anything to attack her mentally, physically, or spiritually. Your presence alone should provide your wife with the security that she needs to feel safe. This will not happen if your priorities are out of order and other things are placed before your wife.

There is nothing like a praying husband, who understands that his prayers avail much on behalf of his wife. There are times in the marriage relationship when the best option to take is to pray and intercede. It is not always a good thing for the husband to try to have all of the answers and provide advice. Sometimes we need to be quiet, listen and pray.

d.Spend quality time together. Time is the greatest commodity that you can give your wife. Make it a point to schedule a date with your wife at least once a month. Take her to her favorite restaurant, a movie, take a walk in the park, or go to a neighboring city for an overnight stay. Whatever you do, do not neglect to spend quality time with your wife. God wants you to invest your greatest asset in your marriage and that is your time. So when is your first date scheduled?

e.Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! Talking to your wife on a routine basis may seem foreign to you because most men would rather keep to themselves and not do a great deal of talking. This will not work my brother. Your wife wants to know in detail how your day has been. She wants to tell you things that are on her heart and she expects you listen and acknowledge in some manner that you care. Please do not ignore her attempts to talk. Don’t give the street man an opportunity to fill that void of needing someone to talk to about her problems. The enemy still comes to kill, steal and destroy marriages. Do not help him by refusing to make an effort to communicate with your wife in sincerity. Schedule a regular time with your wife to just sit down and talk over a cup of tea or a cappuccino.

f.Grow in Christ together. The central figure in your marriage relationship must be the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the shining example of how husbands are supposed to treat their wives. In Ephesians 5: 25-27, the Apostle Paul compares husbands to Christ and the Body of Christ to wives. Paul admonishes husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Christ sacrificed, loved, gave, ministered and died for his bride, the church.

Are you willing to die to self in order to facilitate spiritual growth in your marriage? When is the last time that you and your wife have discussed the scripture or prayed together? If this is something that is absent from your marriage relationship, make a commitment today to begin to read and pray with your wife. Why not start with Songs of Solomon. This is a beautiful love story that foreshadows Christ’s love for His church. If you and your wife are growing spiritually then your combined power in the Lord can defeat any tactic the enemy tries to throw your way.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Male Mentors. You are Needed Today!

Have you noticed the number of young men who are walking around in our communities without any direction? They need strong men who can provide guidance, accountability and encouragement when everyone else leaves or abandons them.

They scream out for attention and help by wearing their pants hanging down and showing their underwear. They scream for help through their repeated arrests and gang fights. Our young men desperately need strong men who can provide guidance, accountability and encouragement when everyone else leaves or abandons them.

Mentors must answer the call to mentorship before those who need to be mentored die. Mentors are needed immediately before another young man becomes a teenage father. Mentors are needed today before another African American young man drops out of school in middle school.

Will you answer the call to mentorship? Can you sacrifice some of your precious time to spend with a young man who has no one? Does the demise of our community concern you my brother? If it does, then go! Go to the schools and mentor. Go! Go to the church house and mentor. Go! Go to your own nephews and their friends and mentor them to become strong and positive men. Male mentors are needed today.