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Of Some….And Others

Jude 22-23

22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:

23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

KJV

Among believers and unbelievers alike there are found two general classes of people who walk contrary to principles found in scripture–those who do so ignorantly, not understanding the doctrine aright, and those who do so willfully and intentionally by providing some rational justification for their actions. And here Jude provides two separate prescriptions for such classes: For the first class, enduring (non-judgmental) compassion and love is what may invite such persons to consider their lives in light of the wisdom of such principles, doing so “in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves.” For the second class, the expression “save with fear” suggests that such believers or unbelievers must be communicated with uncompromising truth. (Though much in contemporary American society resists such communication, this ought not be the case.) For there are a great many people whose lives will be spent in utter misery owing to our failure and fear to speak plainly both pleasant and unpleasant truth. Such communication will often prove to be what “pull[s] them out of the fire,” for though they reject and ignore such words, such a communication will forever be lodged within their conscience, and with this very awareness they will be reminded one day. Still further, such a communication ought be done so with deep and abiding love for the person, yet not for the “garment spotted by the flesh.” For one’s garment whether clean or unclean, typifies the righteousness and unrighteousness of one’s works throughout scripture, and in the case of both unbelievers and (faltering believers) we can only stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ:

[Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.] KJV Revelation 19:7-8

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The Race Question

“ONE of the first questions that I had to answer for myself after beginning my work at Tuskegee was how I was to deal with public opinion on the race question.It may seem strange that a man who had started out with the humble purpose of establishing a little Negro industrial school in a small Southern country town should find himself, to any great extent, either helped or hindered in his work by what the general public was thinking and saying about any of the large social or educational problems of the day. But such was the case at that time in Alabama; and so it was that I had not gone very far in my work before I found myself trying to formulate clear and definite answers to some very fundamental questions.” – Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education(1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

As a prelude to the second chapter, “Building A School Around A Problem,” contained within his book, My Larger Education (1911), the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University discussed his need to not only build a school but to do so “around a problem.” And like similar undertakings when starting something anew, it was never a question of Booker T. Washington’s professional preparation, training or skill set; nor was it ever a question of his personal “integrity” and “knowledge”. Rather, Mr. Washington found himself consumed with the “problems” of race that persons were more concerned with than the work of “building a school” designed to partly address these matters. And Mr. Washington makes it crystal clear how he would proceed to begin grappling with matters beyond the strict performance of his duties associated with being principal and president of Tuskegee: “ONE of the first questions that I had to answer for myself…” Note, no one was qualified nor experienced enough to assist the 25-year-old Booker newly arrived in Tuskegee, Alabama (Macon, County) in 1881, where the idea of starting an institution would be entirely foreign to a group of newly emancipated slaves who possessed no literacy nor life experiences beyond the rural locale. (He would also have to learn to communicate with former slave owners who had never encountered a gifted, visionary educational leader who could read, write and think beyond what they had probably expected.) To be sure, advisers similar to General Samuel Armstrong, founding principal and president of Hampton Institute (University) could certainly provide guidance on the actual work he was doing and on these matters in general; but on the day-to-day matters of living, learning and leading in Tuskegee, Alabama, this young founder had to find out “for myself.” And what is crystal clear is that he not only did so but he did so in exceedingly, demonstrative and effective ways for everyone to see in both Tuskegee and throughout the world for over 34 years at the helm of Tuskegee. Here again, this is why we celebrate his “vision”, his abilities as a “leader” and his extraordinary-not ordinary-“genius” in this the centennial year (1915-2015) since his passing. And in this writer’s opinion, “vision,” “leader” and “genius” are the greatest 6-letter words in succession.

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Stronger and Stronger

2 Samuel 3:1

1 Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but

David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and

KJV

Whosoever believes that strength, wealth, wisdom, maturity, resources and a host of other desirable attainments is an overnight process (absent from struggle) possesses hopes, dreams and ambitions that the men of God of old did not experience: For these men often “waxed stronger and stronger” while contending for a long time; And perhaps there is no better example of this than that of King David. While one could begin easily enough with Saul’s pursuit of David in his youth, even when David would be king at Hebron (over the house of Judah) at age 30, he would not be king over all Isreal until age 37 (after reigning for 7 years and 6 months over Judah). Though Saul had been dead for some time, David would still need to contend with Saul’s house until God would bring about what was promised. And while David contended, fought and struggled, God was causing him to wax stronger and stronger, while his enemies waxed weaker and weaker:

[And the LORD thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.] KJV Deut. 7:22

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Personal Conveniences

‘Ever since the beginning of this school, we have made it a point to try to secure teachers who would be willing to work wherever and whenever duty called, and in this respect I feel that we have been unusually successful. This school is supported almost wholly by people who make sacrifices of personal conveniences in order that they may give to us, and I cannot feel that it is right to allow a teacher to refuse, without adequate reasons to give a small sacrifice of her time to work that has the good of the girls in view, while at the same time our Northern friends and others are doing all they can to support the school in the belief that each teacher is willing to perform her duty in the same spirit that they give the money. We have a large number of girls whose mothers have entrusted them to our care [and it] seems to me that you should count it a privilege to go into their rooms once in a while and get acquainted with them and help them in a way that will impress them all through their lives. Such work should not be counted a task.” “February 9, 1895,” – Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

No single individual can ever be fully and thoroughly compensated at the level he or she deserves especially for all the good that one is able to do for students when working in an institution of higher learning. From attending events that celebrate student success in the classroom to cheering students on as they represent the institution’s proud brand and heritage in extracurricular activities, there is not a price that can be put on these interactions. And this was precisely Mr. Washington’s point in his communiqué to one of his teachers at Tuskegee Institute (University). Non-profit work, which includes higher education, is indeed a revenue-generating endeavor, but revenue and high salaries are not the principal reasons for the existence of such organizations. The mission of non-profit organizations like Tuskegee University serves humanity in a number of ways, and the work of the university is to provide an education both inside and outside the classroom to equip a student for future employment and life-long living and learning. This is why it is generally “count[ed] a privilege to go into their rooms once in a while and get acquainted with them and help them in a way that will impress them all through their lives. Such work should not be counted a task.” For the man or woman who helps a single student on his or her pathway to full adulthood during such an impressionable period will be rewarded with something greater than mere money. This man or woman will be rewarded with the sense of knowing that his or her work has impacted not only the future of a single student but the lives of many others who will also become impacted through the single life of a single student.

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In Presence Am Base

2 Cor 10:1-2

10:1 Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:

2 But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.

KJV

Many who are described as introverted, timid, fearful or unlearned simply because they are deferring, self-effacing, meek and quiet in the presence of others are often a strong reservoir of inner strength, discipline, counsel and wisdom, which for our sakes and their own, makes it necessary for them to operate in deep humility. Otherwise, such men and women would be considered arrogant, attention seeking or self-aggrandizing if their deep giftings were fully on display when they seek to serve. Among the many wonderful revelations of God that Paul shares with his readers in his letters to the Corinthians was the disposition and personality of God’s ministers when communicating the mysteries of the gospel with those who would hear. For these men and women knew that to bring attention to anyone but the one to whom all glory is due would be indeed be as those “walked according to the flesh” and gloried in themselves. Still further, such men and women, as sincere ministers of God, declare similar to Paul in their service to God and others: “I seek not yours but you.”

[But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.] 2 Corinthians 4:7 (KJV 1900)

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More Upright in Heart

2 Chron 29:34

34 But the priests were too few, so that they could not flay all the burnt offerings: wherefore their brethren the Levites did help them, till the work was ended, and until the other priests had sanctified themselves: for the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests.

KJV

Although there have always been ebbs and tides in the quality of the priesthood in the history of Israel and Judah, God has always left a remnant in the midst of His people who would remain upright in heart. While God has often used prophets, judges and even civil servants for such a task, in this instance, it was the Levites who were found faithful due to their willingness to remain faithful to God. Although all priests were apart of the Levitical order, all Levites were not priests; these performed a variety of services (such as singers, scribes, judges etc.) throughout the sanctuary and among the people. And this parallel resembles the body of Christ today. For while some men are full time stewards in the house of God, other members serve in helps ministries as well as fulfilling their own vocational calling in their respective careers and callings in the civic sphere. Yet, most importantly, we find here that God was no respecter of persons in describing the Levites as more upright in heart than the priests; He regarded not the titles of the men who served Him but ther hearts.

“For the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”- 1 Samuel 16:7

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Living Men and Women

“I said I would take living men and women for my study, and I would give the closest attention possible to everything that was going on in the world about me […] I said to myself that I would try to learn something from every man I met; make him my text-book, read him, study him and learn something from him. So I began deliberately to try to learn from men. I learned something from big men and something from little men, from the man with prejudice and the man without prejudice. As I studied and understood them, I found that I began to like men better; even those who treated me badly did not cause me to lose my temper or patience, as soon as I found that I could learn something from them.” – Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Of his many writings demonstrating the magnanimity of Tuskegee Institute’s (University) founding principal and president, this sits on top: The most learned men and women are those who continue to learn, and there is no greater “text-book” to learn from than the lives of men and women. And Mr. Washington not only learned from great men and women-those who have achieved fame deservedly or not-but he learned “from big men and something from little men.” He even learned from his enemies. Any man or woman “with prejudice” is an enemy to humanity because this person has predetermined expectations of what a person within a racial, ethnic, socio-economic, religious or organizational group is capable of without regard to examining the merit and makeup of the singular individual. Even in this, Mr. Washington was able to “learn something from them.” When one learns about people, you learn about yourself. And this understanding leads to one of the most important facets in leadership and service to others: All people understand and show favor to one who recognizes that his or her condition is very much like everyone else’s.

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Not Yours, But You

2 Cor 12:14

14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.

KJV

Whosoever lies awaiting for the day when their children (or those within their charge) become so increased that they will repay them with material possessions for the services of rearing them, grossly misunderstands what the apostle suggests here about parental responsibilities: “For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” To be clear, expressions of appreciation, gifts, honor, money and service ought not be neglected in giving honor to those who have labored in rearing the lives of future men and women (natural and spiritual). Yet and still, the belief that children owe (as debt) some measurable, material return to them who the Lord has charged with the responsibility to care for, nurture, make provision for, teach and train for their own lives and future families is not consistent with God’s expectations. For such a responsibility (though perhaps lessened in degrees as children take their place as mature men and women, naturally and spiritually) is never rescinded in the eyes of God. For much like God the Father, when one seeks the welfare of sons and daughters, it is forever, because their attitudes are that we desire, “not yours, but you.”

[A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children.] Proverbs 13:22

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Fisk University

“To [George Augustus Gates]…If you take the position of President of Fisk, and later on you feel that I can be of real service as a trustee, I shall be willing to think favorably in that direction. I do not think well to act, however, in the matter now. Serving as a trustee of Fisk will not take so much of my time as in the case of the other institutions for the reason that I am already pretty well acquainted with the Fisk plant and also with the methods and policy of the institution, and I take for granted that a large part of the meeting will be held in New York. As I stated to you in my verbal conversation, in case you take the position, in my humble way I will stand back of you and support you in every way possible, and Dr. Frissell I am sure will do for the same thing. Both of us feel that there ought to be at least one strong central institution in the South for the higher education of the Negro, and that all things considered, Fisk is by far the best institution to be strengthened and supported in a way as to make it serve this purpose. Yours very truly.” 

– Booker T. Washington, “October 7, 1909”

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, had not only ascended to the posts of both professor and president in his long and stellar academic career, but had also served as board of trustees member. (Among other institutions, he had served on the board of trustees at Howard University during the tenure of President Wilbur Patterson Thirkield.) All the same, Mr. Washington had not only been routinely and regularly approached to assume presidential posts at other institutions, requested to speak at other institutions and selected for awards and honors at other institutions, he was often conferred with to take on posts of “stewardship” in the capacity of a board of trustee member. President George Augusta Gates, who would eventually be named as president of Fisk University, was ultimately successful in securing the services of Booker T. Washington as a trustee member. (This would be the modern-day equivalent of securing the appointment of one of the most well-placed, wealthiest and most influential African Americans in the world.) Unsurprisingly, Booker T. Washington’s appointment to Fisk’s board of trustees during the Gates administration coincided with Fisk’s eventual $1M endowment, which was reached in 1920. To be clear, Fisk University was preeminent before Washington’s arrival to its board of trustees for it had produced stellar alumni-perhaps none so well regarded as W.E.B. Du Bois as well as his wife Margaret Murray Washington. Nevertheless, as he had done with respect to all of his professional achievements as a professor and president, a man of “integrity” and “knowledge”–the first and second greatest 9-letter words–the man Booker would not sit idly by in his capacity as a Fisk board of trustees member and not utilize his “influence,” the third greatest 9-letter word, to help make a great institution become still greater. And his able and “influential” service in the capacity of a board of trustee member is yet one of the many proud reasons why Tuskegee University celebrates in this the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015), Booker T. Washington-a man who did not just write words worth reading but lived a life full of works worth reading.

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