52 Weeks of Gratefulness #40 – Mr. Richard West

Richard West. Former Chemistry teacher at Bailey Magnet High School
Bailey Magnet High School Chemistry Lab - Jackson, Mississippi
Bailey Magnet High School - Jackson, Mississippi
Picture of Richard West courtesy of Jackson Academy.

In Week 40 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Mr. Richard West.

Mr. West was my chemistry teacher at Bailey Magnet High School in Jackson, Mississippi. He was the first black man that I had as a teacher. He taught me how to use my first scientific calculator, a Texas Instruments TI-35X, which I still have to this day.

There’s not any particular thing he said or did, it was his presence that made the difference in my life. Though I didn’t know a thing about Chemistry going in, students know when a teacher is competent and his command of math and science were evident. He was intelligent, professional, kind but firm, in control, excellent -alpha.

Mr. West’s representation in a professional setting as a teacher during my formative years affirmed that these wonderful qualities were not only possible for me as a young black man, they are what define a black professional.

His positive influence on my self perception, education and professional outlook cannot be overstated. I’m grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks Of Gratefulness #35 – Pearson and Pepper Liddell

Liddells and Lucketts

In Week 35 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Pearson and Pepper Liddell.

“Melissa and I are calling to see what divorce lawyers you would recommend. We want to end this as quickly and amicably as possible.”

This picture was taken less than 24 hours after that call.

The call was made to Pearson and Pepper Liddell, a couple who hosted a Christian marriage ministry that Melissa and I had been a part of for the last five years. During their ministry, they urged each couple to commit to a pact: to take divorce off the table. I was always reluctant to do so because I had a line in the sand. There were things I felt I deserved. There were certain things I wasn’t going to tolerate. There was only so much I was going to endure. I was only willing to go so far.

“Can you meet with us?”, they replied. Early the next morning they drove 4 hours from Georgia to meet with Melissa and I in a location they prepared at New Horizon’s Church in Starkville, Mississippi.

They labored with us in prayer and in the Word for almost 8 hours. It took that long, mostly because I’m pretty familiar with the Bible and was craftily twisting scripture to justify my position. Pearson was definitely no novice, but most importantly, while I was in the flesh, he was in the Spirit and said to me, “The problem with your logic and interpretation of scripture is that it’s built on the basis of what you want. But what does God want?”

Check.

Grasping at this point, I retort, “He wants my peace -1 Corinthians 7:15.”

Pearson and Pepper jointly replied, “Does God want that more than He wants to redeem and sanctify your wife and children through the ark of His holy institution? More than He want’s to make Himself known through your ministry to your wife as Christ’s to the church? If peace is primary, what about Jesus’ peace, that of His only begotten Son?”

Check and mate.

The fact that was indisputable is Christ’s purpose from before creation is redemptive. He came to seek and save that which was lost -Luke 19:10. That is what God wants. This is the ministry that Jesus took upon Himself and He was obedient to death, even the humiliating death of the cross -Philippians 2:8. From the beginning, God instituted marriage to point to Christ with His redemptive purpose in view.

I had been led astray by a focus on my own selfish purposes and desires. Pearson and Pepper were the shepherds that led us to repentance and back to the heart of the Father.

They reminded me that marriage is not mine for my pleasure and purposes. Marriage is God’s, made for His purpose and I am humbly just a minister in it. Marriage is a great and wonderful mystery and, as with most things, when done His way results in outcomes that far exceed anything I could even hope to achieve.

You can’t tell at first glance, but if you look closely at the picture, you can see the tint of red in all of our eyes from crying. This is what has characterized our walk with the Liddell’s. They don’t play church. We deal with real life. They are transparent about their own struggles and are therefore able to help us with ours. We confess our sins to one another and are healed together. God’s grace toward us through the Liddell’s has tremendously blessed us, our children and people we didn’t even know that God was using our marriage to reach.

I have since taken divorce off the table, for any reason, come what may. Christ gave it all so that we may have the true riches and pleasure of being one together with God in Him. The Liddell’s through word and deed have demonstrated that, when done right, marriage is a model of that.

I’m grateful. #52WoG

Originally posted to Facebook on August 27, 2021.

52 Weeks Of Gratefulness #34 – Rosemary Luckett

Rosemary Neal Chris Family Picture
Apartment complex where the Luckett family lived during seminary training at ITC Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia
Rosemary Luckett
Rosemary Luckett at Ribbon Cutting Of Master The Machine Computer Learning Center

In Week 34 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for my mother, Rosemary Luckett.

The place was remarkably clean as I remember.

It’s my Dad’s first year at ITC Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia and we’ve not long moved into the apartment. My brother’s a baby and I’m between first and second grade.

Sterile seems a more accurate description. The walls were stark white. The ceiling is white. The floor is white and black speckled laminate. The only thing breaking up the monotony of the space was a thick, dark grey rubber border running along the bottom of the walls. In the living room, there’s a large window that spanned the height of the wall, sitting just above a motel style air conditioner.

It’s quiet, too. It’s Saturday morning. At our old house, the neighborhood would already be bustling with the sound of lawn mowers and playing kids. But here, it’s dead quiet, aside from the muffled sound of city traffic due to being some way off in the distance. I’m looking out the living room window onto the spacious, grassy courtyard dotted with large trees and thinking perhaps I’ll play out there.

And then, it started as the sound of gentle arrhythmic taps against metal -like salt being slowly sprinkled on aluminum foil. It was the first droplets of rain hitting the coils of the air condition unit. The window began to collect a few drops making a circuitous path toward the sill. Then, what began as a sprinkle became a thunderous shower and sheets of rain are now streaming down the window.

There was suddenly static, like a TV without a clear channel. And then the sound alternated between music, then voices and music again, each electronically garbled between transitions. My mother had gone and gotten the radio and brought it to the front room. She was turning a large silver knob, searching for the right station. When she found one playing a song, she bent forward toward me with her arms stretched out and hands open, motioning for me to dance.

She took me by the hands twisting, jumping and skipping about as we danced to Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and the music of that day. My brother was on the couch in his diaper and she’d occasionally scoop him up so he could dance with us too. A dreary, lonely day was suddenly filled with light. All I remember was the brightness of her countenance and the fullness of her smile as her full, black untamed hair bounced exuberantly upon her shoulders. This is my mother; my wonderful, beautiful, incomparable mother. It is a moment that perfectly encapsulated her as a person. Over and over throughout my life, she took a cold, empty husk of an existence and filled it with joy, hope and love.

I don’t remember the music ending. I hope it never does. If I could relive that moment for eternity, that would be heaven.

I thank God continually for you, Mom. I love you.

I’m grateful. #52WoG

Originally posted to Facebook on August 21, 2021.

52 Weeks Of Gratefulness #21 – Delloyd Cannon

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Chris with Delloyd Cannon on a motorcycle
IMG_0785
Ribbon Cutting for Luckett Technology Lutekk Image-Engineering

In Week 21 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Delloyd Cannon.

Some relationships must be meticulously cultivated in order for them to survive and bear fruit; talking everyday, hanging out, dinners, trips, birthdays, graduations, gifts, bail, etc. Then there are people like wild plum trees in Mississippi that you stumble upon with boughs of full, ripe, delicious fruit that are either an unexpected delight or refreshment in your time of need. These have been watered by God and this is what Delloyd Cannon is to me -a friend I did not earn but one that is a gift to me.

My life was undergoing a slow but significant transformation. I had not too long ago come through a battle with homelessness. The job I have at this point, selling cell phones at Cellular South, was what helped me get back on my feet. At the time, Cellular South had these tiny kiosks in Walmarts throughout the state of Mississippi. They were approximately 5′ x 5′, manned by one person and even with the spartan furnishings of just a chair and register there was barely enough room to turn around. Despite the cramped quarters, the job was enjoyable because of the wonderful people I got to meet and know. One day, this guy comes along with a smile as wide as the store aisle. His name: Delloyd Cannon. Within a few minutes of our first meeting we’re laughing. He asked me a little about my life and shared a little about his. By the time he left, I thought he might be the coolest and friendliest person I had ever met. After that, he’d stop by the kiosk once or twice a week just to speak. In a few months we became good friends. I was surprised to discover he was not long out of high school. I was surprised because he was mature well beyond his years. And, it so happened he was looking to move to an apartment. Within another few months we were roommates, which in itself was a testament of how impressed I was with him. As an introvert, I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed living alone but I enjoyed my friendship with Delloyd even more.

The most important part of the transformation I was undergoing was I had accepted Jesus Christ into my life and was struggling to align my day-to-day living with what I said I believed. My faith had the strength of a newborn baby while my flesh had that of a muscular, full grown man. Exposing myself to the wrong people or things could set me back years. But, as long as I’ve known Delloyd, he has done nothing to entice or encourage my fleshly appetites. While we were roommates, there was no porn, drugs or even a single drop of alcohol (not that alcohol is bad, but rather its abuse). Even with that, I was still battling mightily with fornication. But from those days until now, Delloyd diligently encouraged me in things that were good and praiseworthy; going back to school, starting a business, marriage, my first child, accepting my call to ministry. He has been there for it all. Fun fact: Delloyd and his beautiful wife Diajarta were the first couple I ever officiated a wedding for.

When we were roommates he would often introduce me to others as “big bro” but I’m sure I’ve learned more from him than the other way around. Another fun fact: Delloyd was the one who taught me to drive a manual transmission (stick shift) vehicle using his old blue Mazda B2000 truck. Besides that, he taught me a lot about being a true friend -lessons that I obviously have not perfected and am still growing into.

What I find most remarkable, is that all in the time we were roommates, I don’t think we ever darkened the doorstep of a church together or even cracked open the Bible together. Nevertheless, I say with great confidence that we loved each other. And, I firmly believe that when we love, we share God, and the better we know God, the more perfect our love becomes. This is evidenced by how my and Delloyd’s love for each other has developed as our respective relationships with God have developed. Also, God’s love never fails. Even after not seeing each other for years, when we reconnect, it’s like we had never been apart.

Delloyd Cannon is a precious gift to me -a friend who remains in my life not because of what I’ve done but because it’s simply who he is. He’s more than a friend. He’s my brother and I’m grateful. #52WoG

Originally posted to Facebook on May 22, 2021.