52 Weeks of Gratefulness #14 – William Chapman

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For William Bill Dad Chapman

In Week 14 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for William Chapman.

What is it about us and food?

Our best moments seemed to be around breaking bread. This is the best picture I have of you because often when we’re together, we’re too busy eating for me to take pictures. And, here I’m sharing a meal with you and Tan at the Starkville Korean Church where you were a long time friend and faithful minister to that congregation.

The very first time I remember our sharing a meal together was at the men’s luncheon that meets on Thursdays at New Horizons Christian Fellowship, another place where you were also a long time friend and faithful minister. That’s where I got my first real glimpse of you and your cheeky attitude. I remember saying to you, “I solicit your counsel and give you authority to correct me,” and you snarkily replied, “I was going to do that anyway because I already have that authority.” Smart butt. That was the point that we became friends.

We’ve shared several meals since then, each time you were ministering. The first time I came to visit you in the hospital, you said “What do you have for me?” and you went on to teach how when a minister is visiting the sick, they should come either with a Word, a prayer or a song. With each visit we’d edify each other and then share a meal.

At your funeral, I learned that you did that all over the place: at the Starkville Korean Church, the Starkville Chinese Christian Church, Second Baptist Missionary Baptist Church, New Horizon’s Men’s Lunch, Mississippi State Christian Faculty Forum, teaching online Bible classes to people in China and on, and on. By God’s grace, that’s who you are: a minister and connector to the beautifully diverse, international, multi-ethnic, global body of Christ.

This brings me to our last meal together on Monday, April 4th 2022, where I also administered communion to you. You shared how you and your family were making your funeral arrangements. Your final remarks to me are etched in my soul. The first being, “I see no downside. Either Jesus will be the first face I see or that of my wife Tan. To live is Christ. To die is gain.” And, your last being, “Make sure they emphasize the importance of the diversity in the body.”

But, here you are, a white man, taking communion to your lips from my hand, a black man, as though you were receiving it from the Lord Himself.

Not once have you ever uttered, “I don’t see race.” Rather, you saw my blackness and did not consider it as a flaw but a feature of God’s design and embraced me. You did this for many others.

As I consider your last words to me, “Make sure they emphasize the importance of the diversity in the body,” and as I look around at your funeral, at those who have been born, grown and connected by your ministry, I see no need, your life has already done that. What I will do instead is endeavor to continue what you’ve done.

How fitting that we quite literally shared your last supper, a sacrament that connects us to every believer past, present and future, through the body and blood of Christ. Jesus said that “many will come from the East and West and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11). What a glorious day that will be when you and I are assembled with believers from every nation, tribe and tongue (Revelations 7:9) to sup again with our Lord (Mark 14:25)!

Thank you for sharing a spiritual, cosmic, much more beautiful view of the kingdom than our natural, limited perspective allows. I’m grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #13 – Mrs. Cunningham

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Mrs. Cunningham (Twitter)

In Week 13 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Cunningham.

I only remember three things about Mrs. Cunningham:

The first is that she ate these weird looking apples with red jelly covered seeds that she use to suck on at her desk. I’d later come to learn this fruit was called a pomegranate.

The second is this story that she told us in class about someone in her family who was going so fast on a motorcycle that when he crashed the force of the collision hurled him into a telephone phone, sticking him to it by his ribs. It was at that point I decided never to ride a motorcycle.

The third and most important is something she said to me that changed my life forever.

Throughout my life, black women, especially, have had this superpower of perceiving and projecting the best version of who they believed we were destined to become. In the depths of my soul I know that no other voice besides God’s has greater impact in a young black man’s life than that of an affirming black woman.

This wasn’t some Jedi mind trick or some form of psychological manipulation. I believe they earnestly believed in your potential. They seemed to always approach you in the context of the promising view they held of you. Even when they caught you in the midst of wrongdoing, they would say something like, “Now, Mr. Luckett, I know you’re a gentleman and gentleman don’t act like that.” They conveyed an expectation that you wanted to live up to.

One day, Mrs. Cunningham looked intensely at me, to the point I was embarrassed and thought I was in trouble, and she said to me, “Mr. Luckett, you’re a leader. See me after class.” It was that day that she made me a school crossing guard for G.N. Smith Elementary. I remember her walking me to the Principal’s office and giving me my uniform. It was the old fashioned kind, it wasn’t a vest but sort of a reflective belt with a strap that ran diagonally across your chest. I revered that uniform and felt the weight of its responsibility every time I put it on. It was too big for me but I grew into it. My job was helping people to safely get from one point to another. The profundity of that never left me.

I was a crossing guard 5th grade and 6th grade. I went on to my beloved middle school, Bailey Magnet, looking to serve. I was a class representative to the student government “Knights Of The Roundtable” for 7th grade and 8th grade, class president 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade and student body president 12th grade. I became president of the Metro-Jackson Student Council and the student representative to the Jackson Public School Board. Today, I try to serve wherever I can, largely because my 5th grade teacher said, “You’re a leader.”

She believed it, then so did I. I’m grateful. #52WoG #teachers #education #blackwomen #leadership

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #12 – Martin Coleman

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Martin Coleman (Twitter)

In Week 12 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Martin Coleman.

One Sunday after service, Marty Coleman walks up, “Hey Brother Paul. I understand you have a business that does computer work. There is someone I think you should meet.”

He then waves over a young man who seems tired and despondent. His approach toward us from across the room was slow and labored. He’s disheveled. His hair is matted to his head with gel. His clothes are wrinkled like he had just rolled out of bed with them on. His glasses are so hazed, perhaps from the gel in his hair, that I can barely see his eyes.

Though his approach seemed reluctant, when we started talking, he opened up easily enough. He’s a gamer. He knows his way around technology by having built custom and very sophisticated gaming computers. Brother Marty’s hope was that I would be able to give this young man a job.

This is not long after the Great Recession. One of my largest clients, representing twenty-five percent of my business’s income, was a casualty of the economic downturn. I lost them to closure and many of my remaining clients cut their retainers in half. I feel personally responsible for the people that I hire. Each time I extend employment, my heart and philosophy is to provide that person a home either until they are ready to move on or, preferably, until we’ve helped them to advance in their career. I try not to hire anyone unless I feel there’s a good chance that I can provide that.

But, with the cuts, I couldn’t sustain the staff I had and was scrambling to find safe places for each of my employees to land. By the grace of God, opportunities -even better than they had with me opened up for every one of them. I was so thankful and relieved. Anyone that employs people knows that it is no small undertaking; taxes, withholding, reporting -just maintaining the revenue to make payroll is a tremendous burden. After having miracuously averted the near disaster of having to lay staff off, leaving people who are dear to me without means to provide for their families, I was perfectly content to go it alone for a while. I did not have any appetite for hiring anyone else and going through that again.

But, God.

My default position on the proposition of hiring anyone was flatly “no”. But, there was this nagging notion that this wasn’t just about hiring someone. I had a sense that this may be from God. But, I resisted it. It wasn’t anything I wanted to do. Business wasn’t great. I didn’t even know if I could really financially afford another a person but that nagging notion would not relent. I shared it with my wife who said, “If you believe this is something God is leading you to do baby, you need to be open and to trust Him.”

So, I begin to move in the direction I believed God may be leading. I start making calls. I learn that the young man is in recovery from a drug and alcohol addiction, has not long gotten out of prison and is staying with another brother from our fellowship. But, I find myself with a compassion I cannot explain and am moved to keep going. I call the brother that the young man is staying with as a character reference. He candidly and honestly reports, “He’s unreliable, he’s sleeps all day, he’s still drinking and he’s been lying about it.”

The Holy Spirit was like, “I’ll take him.”

I hired the young man that day and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

God provided and we worked together for years. We did more than work beside each other every day, we shared life. We laughed together -a lot. We studied the Bible together. We battled our demons together. We prayed together. We shared our dreams together. What was dear to him became dear to me and the other way around. To this day I can still feel his intense love for his family, especially his son. From that day it became my heart, to the extent that they will allow me, to treat his family as my own. He did the same for me.

Anyone that knows Melissa and I can attest that we are very particular about who keeps our children. They are a treasure to us. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we’d be reluctant to entrust even the Secret Service with our kids. As a result, we didn’t get out much. Observing that, this young man insisted that Melissa and I have a night to ourselves and volunteered to keep our boys. Having watched this young man grow over the years, we humbly accepted without hesitation or concern.

By the grace of God, the young man that had an addiction was transformed into one of the most diligent, devoted and trustworthy people I’ve ever known. He was among those that I can count on one hand that Melissa and I considered leaving our estate to and making responsible for the care of our children should we both die unexpectedly. He is a true and dearly beloved brother.

He would often gush about the difference I made in his life, not realizing the heavenly shift that God used him to make in mine. I have been continually praying to God to teach me to love the way He loves. God answered my prayer and taught me to love by sending me someone to love .

Moreover, he showed me other believers who did not just love in word but also in deed. They truly behaved as people of one heart and one soul, who had all things in common (Acts 2:44, 4:32). They opened their homes, they opened their hearts and treated this young man’s burdens as if they were their own. Their labor yielded a harvest of new life not only in him, but also in me, revealing to me the authentic Church in power and glory. Thank you Brother Marty for this life changing introduction. I’m eternally grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #11 – Dr. Joe Bumgardner

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Dr. Joe Bumgardner
Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Dr. Joe Bumgardner

In Week 11 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Dr. Joe Bumgardner

I love old people.

I considered intently whether to say that. I try to be purposeful and measured in every word I say. “Old people” carries a pejorative connotation while “young people” does not. And, for this reason I chose to use it. We need to take back the words “old” or “elder” and restore them to their rightful honor. There are treasures that can only be gained with age, experience and mindful contemplation over time. When we dishonor and dismiss our elders we’re poorer for it, throwing away wonderful gifts of unimaginable wealth.

Dr. Bumgardner is in his “ninth decade of life”, as he puts it, and in that time he has amassed a great wealth of wisdom to share.

My boys and I have never been hunting. It was something new I thought we could do together and more than the hunting, I was interested in the lessons about life that we could glean from it. I was also interested in the idea of developing a useful skill and was attracted to the efficiency of the bow. So, I approached Dr. Bumgardner because I knew he as an avid outdoorsman and a skilled bowhunter.

My proposition was to hire him as a coach and pay him to tutor us, but he would have none of it. At the moment that I approached him, Dr. Bumgardner set things in motion to help us along on our journey of bowhunting. Just an hour or so after we met, I received an email where he had charted out next steps for us to consider. He had already contacted people and made arrangements for us to get measurements for our “draw length”. Unlike going to the gun range, you can’t just rent a bow and fire off a few to get a feel for it. A bow is largely customized to its owner. I didn’t know that at the time and wasn’t prepared for how expensive it was. But, Dr. Bumgardner wouldn’t let that stop us. He again made calls and managed to borrow a bow from another hunter with a draw length similar to us so that we could, at least, get an introduction. He then invited us out to his home to give us our first lesson.

It was like we had hit a vein. Dr. Bumgardner was so full of wisdom and experience that he literally erupted. In one hour with him, I gained more knowledge and insight than if I had read a whole book. He shared safety considerations, mechanics of the bow, physics of the arrow and its release, the anatomy of game (deer, turkey), etc. etc. I left with an entirely new lexicon; limbs, cams, biscuit, cock / hen fletch, peep sight, release aid… I could spend several hours deconstructing what he taught in one. It was like drinking from a fire hose.

Dr. Bumgardner is an old man whose age and experience affords him the ability to offer more than I could ever hope to consume. I am grateful that he is eager to share his wisdom and am humbled that he is willing to pour that into us. I am committed to soaking up everything I can and paying it forward so that not a single precious drop is wasted. Dr. Bumgardner I rise before you and honor you. I’m grateful. #52WoG

P.S. Special thanks to Eddie Myles for allowing us to borrow his bow. I’m grateful to be surrounded by such kind, giving and compassionate people.

The Deceitfulness Of Riches

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com The Deceitfulness Of Riches

For weeks, I’ve intended to:
visit a loved one,
sit with a dear brother,
put in quality family time,
write that note,
make that call,
share that word.

Why haven’t I?

Because I’m occupied with what I have to do to make the money to keep what I’ve got.

And, I’m preoccupied with what I have to do to get more.

“what I have to do…”

I’ve been in bondage.

The world says I can attain the good life if I somehow manage to get the right combination of things. But, Jesus teaches that the things that make for my peace are in knowing the Father and following Him, forsaking all else.

I know the truth, but at some point I again embraced the lie.

This deception offered me fool’s gold, robbing me of what matters most: precious time loving people who are dear to me and dear to God, in exchange for the worthless: a nirvana I might experience some day if I manage to get and do all the right things. (Spoiler alert: It’s a lie. Fulfillment never happens this way.)

Working for more stuff and living more life are in opposite directions. And, I’ve been going the wrong way!

My focus should not be on how to keep what I have or how to get more. My heart should be set upon attending to my Father’s house rather than seeking my own interests and pleasure. When I have the same heart as the Father (as demonstrated by Jesus, His only begotten Son), then my pleasure comes from seeing His house provided for and prospering.

So, I pray “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit with in me!”.

I’m on a journey now
to lay aside that which ensares me,
to divest myself of what weighs me down,
to sell what I have to share with those who lack,
to live with less so I have more to give:
to follow Jesus.

I repent.

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #10 – Legacy Of Willie Lee Harris

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For The Legacy Of Willie Lee Harris

In Week 10 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for the legacy of Willie Lee Harris.

His cancer is terminal.

We can see his body weakening. On this particular day, Mr. Harris seems to be doing remarkably well. Where he had been confined mostly to a chair or his bed, he’s walking around, talking, doing stuff. The reason for all this activity is that he wants to make the house more secure. His sons and grandsons are there to help him check locks and install security bars on the windows.

This is the last thing Mr. Harris did before leaving this life: making his wife secure. Mr. Harris knew he was dying, but in the face of death he thought about protecting his wife.

What an awesome legacy. This is the stuff my extended family, my wife and consequently my children are made of. I’m grateful. #52WoG

P.S. This is the day the family traditionally celebrates the birthday of Mr. Willie Lee Harris, even though we learned some years ago, that according to his birth certificate, he was born on March 11. That’s a window into a whole other discussion about the black experience, government and historicity, but suffice it to say we’re glad this man was born and we honor his legacy, especially today.

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #9 – Encouragement From A Sister

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Encouragement From A Sister

In Week 9 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for encouragement from a dear sister, Carrie McCarty Copeland.

For a while, I’ve been sad and discouraged –suffering silently. And, then my wife shares a message that was just sent to her by Carrie Copeland,

“Good morning, I’m praying for you and Paul today!! Whatever you two are facing God is in the midst…”

What extraordinary timing and how remarkably on the mark! I know I am not alone but it made all the difference for someone to take the time to make the truth real. Thank you sister, Carrie. This is church. I’m grateful #52WoG

The Myth Of Black Exceptionalism

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com The Myth Of Black Exceptionalism

A major downfall of my community is our participation in the myth of black exceptionalism.

The notion fed by a pitiful desire for proximity to whiteness that suggests those blacks who have somehow made it to the table (irrespective of how dubious the means) are somehow “different” than other blacks, a “credit to my race” -exceptional, but as evidenced by the limits imposed on our influence while at the table, still inferior.

I, however, am not exceptional in any way. I am what happens with a semi-stable, home-owning, two parent family and very modest resources.

I went to an elementary school in Atlanta, Georgia, that exposed me to a second language, German, in the second and third grade.

My parents could afford to supplement my education with activities such as piano lessons.

I was afforded opportunities in a well funded Jackson Public School District who could recruit exceptional teachers and offer programs such as Bailey Magnet School and the Jackson Academic and Performing Arts Complex.

I had opportunity through APAC to participate and compete in the visual arts and classical voice (what some think of as Opera, but its a little different).

I had opportunity at my high school, Bailey Magnet, to participate in string orchestra (violin), debate, forensics, student government, etc. etc.

See, I am not exceptional, I am an average person that is a confluence of those investments. People, by in large, are products of our investments. So, if we want different outcomes, we must make different investments.

What’s most needed in the black community, in my opinion, is not welfare but wealth.

The outcomes we find undesirable; crime, teenage pregnancy, and other ills of poverty are not because my people are deficient or broken, it is because of a broken system that artificially constricts the flow of resources to protect the advantage of some by starving the investments in others that are necessary to produce the outcomes we claim we want.

One of the most poignant examples of this “artificial constriction” was made during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, where the FEDERAL Housing Administration (not some backwater town in the deep South, mind you, but the federal government) adopted a documented policy to extend credit to whites, irrespective of their credit worthiness (they were essentially begged to take the loans) while creating racially restrictive conditions, where blacks were not only excluded from the loan program but were barred from even renting homes subsidized by FHA loans. It is to this day, one of the most significant contributors to the wealth gap. Many whites who were languishing in poverty as a result of the Great Depression, were lifted out by one of the largest government interventions (welfare program, if you like) in U.S. history -being given an appreciable asset, homes, while blacks were pushed further to the margins.

Beginning to address the problems we face today will require interventions on the scale of those that contributed to them. As much as it was true for whites during the depression, it is true for blacks today: the path out of poverty begins with possessing an asset that reliably appreciates in value. And, education ain’t it. It’s what we’ve been peddled -straddling us with enormous debt and very often useless parchment. But, in my opinion, that’s putting the cart before the horse. Education is important, but generally education should be profitable. It’s not alchemy. Education cannot create something out of nothing. At a societal level, education is a means of growing production and profit. What good is knowing without the wherewithal to do? What good is know how when we have no where to apply it? Therefore, education follows wealth.

Everything I do is driven by a God given love of my community as a whole and a desire for all of it to thrive. Blacks are a part of that community and we’ve got a tourniquet constricting the flow of vital resources throughout the body. So my efforts to eliminate these restrictions are not merely to benefit blacks but for the well being of us all. So, you want to stop kids from breaking in your truck? You want to deal with the issue of crime sustainably? It’s not more prisons. We’ve tried that. Making the long-term, positive investments for the outcomes we want is where we start.

So blacks, especially, who have achieved some affluency must stop perpetuating this lie that we’re special and that other blacks are in their predicament because they lack some innate quality that we, who have “made it”, have. We’re harming ourselves by deflecting from the real conversation to be had – how we’re going to accomplish wealth at scale. When the conversation drifts to a symptom, we must bring it back to the system.

I love you.

Originally posted on Facebook on February 14, 2021.

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #8 – Jarvis Brinson

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Jarvis Brinson
Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Jarvis Brinson

In Week 8 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Jarvis S. Brinson.

I am who I am by the grace of God. As I reflect on my journey, I often find that grace beautifully expressed through the life and influences of others. Jarvis Brinson was such an influence in my life.

When I think of Jarvis, the simple, yet apt description of him would be: he’s just a good guy. Jarvis is and has always been a kind, wholesome, trustworthy human being.

Jarvis was one of my best friends through high school and one of my earliest friends, if not the first friend I had outside of family. Our friendship dates back to elementary school. We grew up in the same neighborhood and his house would be my most frequent destination after school, on weekends and during summers. I remember the grand, elaborate plans we would make for tree houses and forts we were going to build. We spent most of our time planning and discussing our plans. Planning is probably what characterized our friendship the most. We would often walk to and from G.N. Smith Elementary School together, discussing our plans.

One of the things I cherish most about our friendship is that it wasn’t all talk. A product of our mini-mastermind sessions was our both applying to and attending my beloved alma mater, Bailey Magnet High School, an institution that remains unmatched in its impact on my life. I largely have Jarvis to thank for that. He would hold me accountable to act on my plans and I would watch in awe as he’d execute on his.

I’ll never forget Jarvis getting a job over the summer of our 8th and 9th grade years and by 10th grade, this dude had a whole truck. And, it was not just a truck, it was a new truck! I was so impressed and proud of him. He’d sometimes give me a ride to school and would drive with the conscientiousness of a senior citizen. He was meticulous in his observance of road safety and never once did anything to show off. The dude was a freak -a 50 year old in a 15 year old’s body. Well, maybe not a 15 year old’s body. Jarvis always looked mature for his age. Dude had a full mustache and goatee as early as the 6th grade, while I, meanwhile, was trying to fill in the peach fuzz above my lip with my mom’s mascara! About the only give-away that he was a teenager was the music he listened to. I remember the satisfying “thunk” the radio would make when he would insert a tape into it. It was Jarvis that introduced me to genres of music beyond the walled garden of “Kixie 107”. As a preacher’s kid, it was the only secular radio station that was not contraband in my house. His music collection was the first time I encountered “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics”. While Jarvis was buttoned up (or so appeared), his music was not. If there was any rebellious streak to be found, it was in his playlist.

Notwithstanding, Jarvis was the model of maturity. He was rock solid. He was a committed friend that followed through on his promises. He maintained his relationships purposefully and with intentionality. When we graduated and went off to differing colleges, Jarvis would write, yes write, full three and four page letters to stay in touch. In the beginning I would call and once or twice I would visit him but I came to a point in my life where I lost my way. But, Jarvis kept writing even when I did not respond. It is one of my sincerest regrets. I’d like to take this moment to say, “I’m sorry, Jarvis.” I’m sorry for taking your kindness and friendship for granted. I was fortunate to have ever been in your orbit. I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate the value of that. I humbly ask that you forgive me.

Yet, even with all the years that have transpired and my having taking the gift of his friendship for granted, I know I can again have a place with him, not because I assume his forgiveness or presume his graciousness, but because that’s just who Jarvis is.

I told a friend a few weeks ago who’s bearing with a wayward family member this: “When you’re dealing with someone who is lost, it is important that you do not move because the lost can only find their way when they have a fixed point to refer to”. Jarvis Brinson was such a point for me. I’m grateful. #52WoG

*Pictured from left to right, Jarvis Brinson, Paul Luckett and Christopher Johnson for our junior prom.

Black History: We Are Not Victims

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Black History: We Are Not Victims

I reject constant depictions of black history that mischaracterizes us as perpetual victims.

Despite the popular, whitewashed depiction of our people, we are not victims but combatants.

We are and always have been active participants in the fight to live free, with dignity as a people, to control our own destiny, to both contribute to and benefit from the progress of every place our diaspora dwells.

Victims wait for justice from another.

Combatants seize it.

We employ strategy, take ownership of our losses and regroup to win the next battle.

Don’t be deceived, we’ve been fighting from the beginning. Our remarkable progress was not given but blood bought.

And, we will continue to fight until every chain is broken.

This is #blackhistory.