Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Best Chili In Town

There were two brothers: Jared and Joshua. They owned a restaurant in the town of Squire's Pond called J and J Chili Shack. Their main dish was, you guessed it, chili. They dubbed it "the best chili in town." For a while, it seemed true. There was always a huge line of people every day, hankering for a bowl of chili. The two brothers had so many customers that they had to hire a staff. Even with the staff, Jared and Joshua profited a sum that was large enough to make them well-off.

Things were going very well for the brothers until one day. Joshua noticed that they were losing money by each week and could not imagine why. The prices for the products remained the same, and the workers only made minimum wage with a 4% raise each year. One day, it dawned on him; some of the regular customers stopped coming. Joshua talked about it with his brother.

"Why do you think they have stopped coming?" he asked. "The economy is the same as it was when we opened, and I know they still have their jobs."

"I'll handle it," Jared said smugly.

"What are you going to do?" asked Joshua.

"Just trust me," said Jared.

The next day, after work, Jared decided to drop in on the missing regulars. First, he went to Carl's house.

"Haven't seen you in a while, Carl," said Jared as Carl opened the door. "Why haven't you come over for some chili lately? We miss you."

"Sorry I haven't been by," answered Carl. "I have been trying out this new place across town called Chili Heaven, and they are really good! I'm sorry, but THEIRS is the best chili in town. But you and Josh have so many customers already. You shouldn't miss me." Suddenly, Jared's face turned red with anger.

"So, you went to another chili place, huh? How could you? I thought you were loyal!"

"But Jared..."

"Drop dead, traitor!" yelled Jared, turning to leave.

Jared then went to other regulars who stopped coming in for chili. They all told him that they have been going to Chili Heaven across town, and Jared responded by yelling and cursing at them. He even pulled out one of Mariah's begonias.

After he visited all of the regulars, Jared was so angry that he felt he needed to teach the owners of Chili Heaven a lesson. He went back to his restaurant (Joshua and the workers already went home) and grabbed two crates of rotten tomatoes that were meant to be thrown out. He then drove to Chili Heaven (they were closed), brought the crates from his car, and walked around the restaurant, throwing the tomatoes at the windows. He made a tragically gigantic mess. Someone saw him and called the police. Like clockwork, the police came and saw him in action. He was promptly arrested.

In the morning, Joshua went to bail out his brother. When he learned how Jared treated the customers, he took the list from him and told him to go home and think about what he had done. He went to all of the regulars, apologized for what his brother had done, and paid to replace Mariah's begonia. He then asked WHY they stopped coming to J and J Chili Shack. These were the responses:

"I'm a vegetarian now, and all of your chili has meat."

"Frankly, your chili has too many beans. It was fine when your's was the only chili place in town, but when Chili Heaven opened, I got curious. Chili Heaven has an even blend of meat and beans."

"I like chili, but I don't like beans, and all of your chili has beans in it. Before Chili Heaven opened, I always had to strain out the beans."

"While your three-alarm chili is supposed to be the hottest one you have, it is not hot enough for me. I like to feel as if I ate a red coal or something."

"I had no problem until you started that rule where there is a thirty minute seating limit at your tables. I like to enjoy my meal and talk to my friends and family without feeling rushed."

Joshua thanked them for their input and went away with many ideas. With Jared's guilt-driven cooperation, the two brothers made some great changes for J and J Chili Shack. The first thing they did was add tables and chairs to the outside of the restaurant and eliminate the thirty minute limit. They then added more variety to their menu. Not only did they add a vegetarian option, but they also added fewer beans to each chili dish,  a bean-less option, and a four alarm chili, which included the hottest chili peppers in the world. For added oomph, they started serving chili cheese dogs, chili burgers, and turkey chili. As a result, J and J Chili Shack offered more variety than Chili Heaven. Most of the regular customers came back, and those who did not were quickly replaced by new customers who became regulars.

So, children, what is the moral of the story?

Monday, September 17, 2012

When Happiness is a Chore

Some of my closest friends have always noticed that I had an air of sorrow about me. They noticed when I was overly strict and intolerant about things. They noticed when I wanted to be alone on some days yet afraid of being alone on other days. They have said I have expected too much of others. Yes, I was the one who never truly got a break. I was the shlemazl. I was the one who was subject to Murphy's Law.

My life has become a never-ending struggle for happiness. This is partially because half the problems I have are barely shared by all men my age. So many good things in my life would be chased away by periods of hard times. It was almost predictable. As soon as something good happened, I would immediately pay for it with something bad or disappointing. It came to the point when I could hardly enjoy something good because I would always wonder what price I would have to pay for it.

When I met the love of my life, I worked harder than ever to drive away that nagging voice in my head. When she graciously agreed to marry me, I had to work even harder. That voice kept saying, "What if she finds someone better? What if you say or do something so stupid that she won't love you anymore? What if? What if?"

For me, happiness is like vacuuming, ironing, and scrubbing the stove all at once to the tenth power. It is the most difficult chore I must do. Of course I want to be happy, but the more I try, the more difficult it becomes. Only my woman and my faith keep happiness from being impossible to come by.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Visitor

Disclaimer: This post has absolutely nothing to do with any particular church, but it collects the attitudes of many churches all over America. Not too long ago, a man visited a church in a big city. When he walked in the door, no one greeted him or made him feel welcome. When he walked into the nave, he chose a seat in the front, but an usher came and directed him to a pew in the rear. "Sorry, but the Wilkinsons have earned this pew, “he said. "They have given the most money to this congregation. They are the richest family, you know." Reluctantly, the man sat down. As members came into the church, they sneered at the man; they were haughty with him. Once the service began, the pastor of the congregation did not take a moment to welcome the members; instead, he gave endless announcements about fundraisers and the prizes one could win for giving the most money, bingo night, and how much money one could win, and finally, choir rehearsal. Not once did he mention anything about Bible study or fellowship. For this congregation, these do not exist. During the sermon, while many of the congregants listened, others chose not to. There were those who read newspapers, listened to the radio, and chatted among themselves. There were teenagers who played with Gameboys, making a lot of noise, and the visitor even saw a couple leave the congregation to go into the narthex and make out. The visitor was horrified, but not nearly as much as he was at the pastor's sermon. He spoke to his congregation about how those who were not Christians were evil, hell-bound, and should be stayed away from. He also insisted that those who were poor were cursed by God because they were immoral, and that the richest among them were the holiest because God only gives wealth to those who are worthy of it. Of course, this pleased the Wilkinson family. To this, he added that since the poor were unworthy undesirables, they should be grateful for whatever charity they are given from Christians, and that charity should be withdrawn from unbelievers who refuse to recant. Finally, he told his congregation that God's love is limited only to those who are moral Christians, and that He sends everyone else to hell because He does not care because they displease Him. This horrified visitor turned around to see if anyone shared his reaction, but they either did not care, or they were in agreement. The visitor, starting to feel nauseated, shook his head in disappointment. The man sitting next to him, wearing a baseball cap, said "What the %*#& is your problem, mack?" The visitor, shocked that he would swear in the house of God, let alone cover his head, said nothing in response. After the service, the members gathered to talk to each other in the nave. The visitor walked among the congregants as they talked among each other. "Hey, we're having a concert in the church next week," one person said. "There's going to be some genuine talent." "What choir is singing?" his friend asked. "Choir? There's no choir. No one wants to pay $30 to hear a choir sing a bunch of stinking hymns. We're going to have a blast: Christian heavy metal, Christian pop, even Christian rap. We might be able to get Point of Grace to come." "And $30 is the suggested donation?" "Suggested donation?! What planet are you from? Thirty dollars is the cover charge. You have to pay in order to get into the church." "What if someone can't afford the price?" "Tough for them. Nothing in the world is free. So, are you buying tickets or what?" "Yeah, give me three." He hands him money. Troubled, the visitor walked on to another group. "Will you buy our Girl Scout cookies?" two girls asked a group of people. "Don't you remember the rule, girls?" asked the pastor. "What rule, Pastor?" "Whenever you sell anything in the church, you must give me a free product?" "We thought you were kidding!" one girl spoke up. "Does it look like I'm kidding? With as little as I'm getting paid, young lady, the least you can do to thank your pastor is give him a box of cookies." "We're sorry, pastor." They give him a box of cookies. "I'll take two, thank you." They give him another box. Very angry, the visitor walked away, and went over to a group of women, one of whom stared at him from the corner of her eye, as if to say "Our discussion does not concern you." "Did you hear about Betty Martin's daughter? Fifteen years old, and knocked up! What a horrible job she did as a mother!" the oldest remarked. "I heard that she is going to be kicked out of the choir for this." another responded. "Good! A girl lewd enough to get herself pregnant does not deserve to be in the choir." "Did you hear about the Jones family? They want to join the congregation! The last thing we need is people like them at our church!" commented another woman. "Don't worry! The pastor is going to turn them doing lightly." another reported. "Why on earth would THOSE people even want to come here? It's like we're water and they are oil!" Finally, the visitor had enough. "STOP!" he screamed. Everyone spun around to his direction. "Why must you people behave this way? Why must you be so judgmental? So unforgiving? Why do you turn God's house into a marketplace? A place to exploit others? The poor? The children? And Pastor, why do you choose to lead this church down the path of destruction? Don't you understand that God cannot be mocked?" "What is it to you, anyway? Are you a member here?" asked a middle-aged man. "No, I am not. But I am a member of the Christian church. A church you claim to be a member of." "What we do here is none of your business--you are just an outsider!" "Actually, it is my business. I am an angel!" At that instant, the light of God descended onto him, and everyone became horrified. "God is not pleased with you people. He has noticed that you have become more concerned with pleasing yourselves and your selfish wants and self-righteous agendas than pleasing him. You all disrespect this place, and you only come here for financial reasons or to keep up appearances. I will say it again: God cannot be mocked. I am here to tell you that if you do not change course immediately--and I know you won't--you will disband in the near future, and there will no longer be services at this church." "Yeah, right!" a person yelled. "Like God would want a church to close down!" "Nice lighting effects nonetheless! How do you do that?" Everyone laughed. "Get the %#&& out of here, fool!" The angel sighed deeply, trying to hold back tears. "What more can I say? You have all been warned. I've done my duty." He then proceeded down the aisle in order to leave. An old woman, suddenly frightened, spoke up. "Wait! Is what you are saying true? Has God cursed us?" The angel turned back around and looked right in her eyes. "God didn't curse you. You cursed yourselves." He then left. Sure enough, the angel's prophesy came true. When the church seemed to be less and less like a club or a place to conduct business, and when the true Christians of the church needed spiritual revival or a place less judgmental, most congregants left. In three years, the church became completely dead. Finally, they no longer had the finances or congregants/visitors to stay open, and they closed their doors. Most of those remaining never went to another church. What is the moral of the story, children?"

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Will the Wahhabists please stop embarrassing and stigmatizing decent Muslims???

Disclaimer: Before you take offense at this blog post or think negative thoughts against the harmless blogger, please understand that he has much respect for Muslims in general and, while he is ever the devout Christian, he acknowledges some positive doctrines of Islam. Also, his best friend and heart sister is a Muslim, and this piece is written to honor the decent or "moderate" Muslims.

I have been wanting to write this for such a long time, but I wanted to find the right words and momentum in which to write it. I have just felt so much anger against those who, according to my understand of the Qu'ran, corrupt and defile Islam with their violence--especially against my people (Christians). Before I write anymore opinions, let's state the facts.

--Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker, made a documentary about abuse some Muslim women experience by their Wahhabist husbands. In response, a true disciple of Wahhabism, Mohammad Bouyeri, murders him in cold blood.

---Kurt Westergaard, a cartoonist for Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, drew disgusting cartoons of the prophet Mohammad, in which his head was put on the body of a dog and one showing a bomb hidden in his turban. In response, a group of Wahhabists plotted to bomb the newspaper office, and one broke into Westergaard's house and tried to kill him.

--On October 21, 2010 a group of Wahhabists broke into a church in Iraq and opened fire on the congregation. Nearly 60 unarmed Christians were killed, and several others were wounded.

--Youcef Nadarkhani (God bless and protect him), an Iranian Pastor, is on death row in his country. His crime? According to the Wahhabist government, he is guilty of apostasy. According to what they teach, if a man, who never even truly believed in the tenements of Islam, is born to Muslim parents and converts to another faith, he is an apostate and worthy of death.

--And finally, let's not forget the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which caused the deaths of about 3,000 people, including Muslims, on September 11, 2001 (No link needed).

First of all, I want to point out the fact that many people around the world have bias against Muslims--especially those in the Middle East. When a Wahhabist (ultra-conservative/militant Muslim) commits violence against Christians, Jews, Kurds, Hazaras, and Muslims who do not subscribe to their brand of piety, all they do is create fear and resentment against all other Muslims. Just ask the relatives of a Muslim (or a accented and turbaned brown-skinned man) who was murdered by an opportunist after 9/11. Ask a girl who is bullied because she wears a hijab. Ask a man who is always selected for a "random inspection" at the airport. Even though burning the Qu'ran and drawing offensive cartoons against someone 1 billion people revere is stupid and evil, so is murdering or threatening others in reprisal. It does nothing but justify the fear and contempt people have against Muslims. The hatemongers may murder or discriminate against innocent Muslims, but the Wahhabists are handing the hatemongers the gun and exposing the Muslims to discrimination.

Second, and this is regarding Pastor Youcef and all Christians being persecuted in Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, and Southwest Asian countries. Those Muslims who actually read and understand the Qu'ran would know that there are many scriptures that speak against executing Pastor Youcef for apostasy or murdering Christians who would not DARE utter one insult against Islam in such Wahhabist societies (for the record, there ARE Muslim countries where Christians are welcome; Jordan and Lebanon to name a few).

Here are the aforementioned scriptures:

Surah 109:6: "To you be your Way and to me mine."
Surah 2:256: "Let there be no compulsion in religion..."
Surah 18:29: "...Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject..."
Surah 5:68-69: "O People of the Book (Christians and Jews), you have no ground to stand upon unless you stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from YOUR Lord...Those who believe (in the Qu'ran), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians--any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,--on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve."

Now, even though I cannot read the Qu'ran in its original Arabic, my translation of these Scriptures is that people have the right to observe any faith they wish. Hence, they should not be consigned to death for refusing to embrace Islam. Also, as Christians and Jews are considered "People of the Book," and if they are told to "stand fast" to the Law and Gospel" and that they should not fear or grieve, does it not stand to reason that Muslims should respect Christians and Jews and treat them as equals?

Therefore, a Wahhabist who has a taste for Christian blood are sinning by his own scriptures. The Wahhabists who shot a congregation for no other reason than being Christian in a Muslim country have defiled Islam. And true Muslims should abhor the government officials who order the execution of Pastor Youcef in the name of Allah.

Now, I also believe that it is pointless to address problems without suggesting solutions. My solutions are simple. To those who support discrimination against Muslims, I say this: LEAVE THEM ALONE! You don't have to like them, but don't ostracize them. You are doing nothing but making things worse; in fact, you are in part responsible for the deaths of innocent people, not just Christians, in the Middle East.

To the peaceful Muslims: hang in there. Don't let the barbaric behavior of others cause you to become violent. And please forgive those who have, in the past and present, abused you in the name of Christ. Christianity is about love and salvation, about sharing the Gospel and trusting in the mercy of God. Anyone who practices otherwise is a hypocrite.

Finally, for the Wahhabists, until you are ready to repent for the crimes you committed or supported, never again say "Salaam Aleikum" because you do not truly mean it. If you really wished for peace to be upon others, you would work towards peace, not violence. You would allow people to live in peace, not in fear. Until you change your ways, you will continue to be the cancer of the Muslim world and one of the many stains on humanity. Finally, if you believe that the kaffir (unbeliever) is doomed to hell but also that Allah hu akbar (God is great), then how about you let Him do his job and stop trying to do it for Him.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lessons My Parents Taught Me: Part 1--The Difference Between an Uncle Tom and a Sambo

Warning: This post contains strong language. If you are one to easily get offended, do not read this.

I was a teenager, and my father came to get me for the weekend. When we were in the car, Dad told me that he was glad that I did not turn out like other Colored (or African-American)teenagers. I then told him how Colored teenagers called me an Uncle Tom for the way I dressed, the way I spoke, and because I was colorblind. He asked, "Did you ever read Uncle Tom's Cabin?" When I told him I knew about it, he said, "Uncle Tom was a house slave. He worked hard and spoke gently and eloquently to the master, his family, and their friends. As a result, the master trusted him and treated him well. Uncle Tom used his advantage to the benefit of the field slaves. He shared extra food given to him when a slave was starving, and when a slave wanted to escape, he told them when the best time to escape was, and he warned them when the master was in a suspicious mood. While most slaves loved and respected Uncle Tom, Sambo, a field [slave], was jealous and wanted Uncle Tom's "good" living for himself. So one day, he went to the master and told him that he would show him how Uncle Tom was helping slaves escape in return for Uncle Tom's position in the house. Sambo set Uncle Tom up, and when the master discovered Uncle Tom's deception, he beat him within an inch of his life. Uncle Tom cared about his people, while Sambo only cared about himself. Never be ashamed of being called an Uncle Tom; it's better than being called a Sambo."

In this lesson from Dad, I have come to realize that every member of the Colored community is a variant of an Uncle Tom and a Sambo. On the one hand, you have educated, hard-working people who teach their children to be the best they can be. They dress respectfully, they speak respectfully, and (at least most) are inclusive. These are "Uncle Toms."

Then, on the other side of the spectrum, you have those who sell drugs, join murderous gangs, and spend a fortune on shoes, clothes, and cable when then cannot even afford the rent. They live highly debaucherous lifestyles, and they enjoy ignorance and hate knowledge. Moreover, they laugh and mock at people who work hard and improve themselves. They steal what they cannot afford. They deface what they cannot steal. They let their pants hang down so that their underwear shows, put grills in their teeth, and pride themselves of their "bling." Above all, they have no remorse when they batter or murder their neighbors for their shoes, or for looking at them the wrong way. Such poor excuses for human beings are "Sambos," and their behavior allows the Ku Klux Klan to take a vacation. They are truly a disgrace to the Colored community as they not only embarrass us but have made us objects of fear. When a person of non-African descent sees one of us, especially the younger males, walking down the street behind them, they will sometimes change sides of the street or running faster than they would for anyone else. Of course the media has a hand in this type of fear towards Coloreds, but the Sambos in our community simply make it too easy for them to do so; the media has the gun, but the Sambos are freely offering them the ammunition.

This problem going on in the Colored community will not go away with rallies and marches, nor will it go away by blaming the White Man (a usual Sambo excuse from responsibility). Things will only change when everyone in the Colored community drops their selfish attitude and gets rid of their entitlement mentality. Everyone in the Colored community has the potential to be an "Uncle Tom." I dream of the day when that will happen.