Monthly Archives: May, 2013

Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

by Robert Earl Houston

I spent my birthday evening with my wife by seeing the new Star Trek movie, “Star Trek Into Darkness.” Normally, I would have went to the 12:01 a.m. showing, but due to my recent medical procedure, I put it off until tonight and made it a dinner date at the Movie Tavern.

This movie has been called darker than J.J. Abrams’ previous effort and I agree. Most of the time the theatre was almost pitch black and I have to give it to Mr. Abrams – from the opening sequence to the conclusion this is non-stop action. No dead spots. Just when you think things will get “mushy” then action appears out of no where.

The plot is a throwback to the previous Star Trek movies and retells it with precision. Two very popular Star Trek icons are revived by Mr. Abram’s direction – one I won’t mention in fear of ruining the movie – but the other one is a tribble (a tip of the hat to the old Star Trek TV series) which actually has a very key role in the movie.

There was a lot of time spent on the relationship between Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Mr. Spock – who made you feel like you really were looking at a younger version of Leonard Nimoy. Zachary Quinto actually steals the movie and has many of the most surprising fight and dialogue scenes. Chris Pine’s Captain James T. Kirk is good, but there is a different swagger from William Shatner’s version. You get the feeling that sometimes he is made for the captain’s chair and other times, he’s too young for that kind of responsibility.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of he who’s name I won’t call is remarkable but he lacks the look of his predecessor in TV and film. But his super-strength and intellect are to be marvelled and feared at the same time.

The ending is completely plausible and you can see it coming a mile away. However, that’s the key to the movie – to engage the audience in making a sub-conscious decision seconds before a character does. That’s Mr. Abrams’ genius.

For those who are going, you have to know something about Star Trek lore – otherwise the movie will not make any sense. For those us who have, it’s like being trapped in a candy shop with an appetite.

Your comments are welcomed!

The Real Preachers of L.A.

by Robert Earl Houston

Oh no . . . not again.

Those who are determined to make money, glean television ratings, and give a “glimpse” to the world of the Church are at it again. This time, it’s several pastors, based in Los Angeles, who are the stars and the victims.

Reality TV is not new. It could be suggested that the genre has completely taken over television, which once was a haven for excellent scripted comedy and drama – only to see a screen full of competitions, behind-the-scenes views and a view behind the curtain of celebrities and ordinary peoples’ lives.

Reality TV has given us Donald Trump, Fantasia, the Bounty Hunter, Honey Boo Boo, the Real Housewives of Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and the list goes on and on. Most of them are not mentioned here because they have become non-memorable. Can you name five of the performers from “I Love NewYork?”  It’s almost hard to remember the lead performer’s name in “Flava of Love” because these shows are brain cell killers.

As of late, the cameras are now coming into the Church. It saddened me to see “Preacher’s Daughters” and “The Sisterhood” which chronicled dysfunctional, argumentative and non-atypical Christians at our worst. The bickering, back-biting and terrible fellowship that existed particularly in the Sisterhood caused an uprising in the black church community that hasn’t been seen in a long time, forcing the producers from TLC (which is a debate for another day, how could The Learning Channel put this crap on the air?) to yank the series after one brutal season.

And now, several pastors from Los Angeles have consented to be a part of the next evolution of this genre. I want to make a disclaimer initially and say that I know or have met or have worshipped with most of those who are going to be on this show. I respect each and every one of their ministries. Having said that – this is a mistake.

First off, there is no way that producers are going to show the “real preachers” of Los Angeles when most of them don’t drive Bentleys, live in exotic locations, or travel around the world. Most preachers in LA don’t have mega churches and staff exceeding 100 people working at the church. Most preachers are struggling financially or in Los Angeles’ case, are just now coming off of the worst economic times since the Great Depression.

Many L.A. pastors have had to supplement their finances with secular employment. Most pastors still have to visit the sick. Most pastors still have to hold together a congregation that is facing harsh economic times. Most pastors are not household names – they basically do the work of ministry without fanfare, spotlight and consider serving the Lord as a privilege and not as a money making venture. In the words of the late Dr. E.K. Bailey, “if you serve the Lord to get paid, it won’t pay; But if you serve the Lord, it will pay” – and he was not speaking of money, trappings, and in the words of Dr. A. Louis Patterson, “cashmere coats, credit cards, and caribbean cruises.”

The real preachers aren’t spending their time in makeup and worried about lighting. The real preachers are in prayer, preparing to feed the flock on Sunday. The real preachers are referees and then peacemakers. The real preachers are non-unionized counselors and then vision casters. The real preachers help put lives back together again without the benefit of camera one and camera two. The real preachers have to hold the hands of the bereaved, counsel with the brokenhearted, visit jail cells, and get the unglamorized duty of being in the room with an emotionally torn family as their loved one takes either one of or the final breaths that they will take on this side of the Jordan.

I have no intention on spending any time watching this series. I was through with the Sisterhood after episode one. I was turned off by the Sheards after a few moments. I just don’t believe that anyone’s walk with the Lord is going to be strengthened by watching us act foolishly on television.

The story is told of a mother of a church who lived right next door to her pastor and first lady, who had marital problems. It was known throughout the church that they had problems, but mother came to church every Sunday and sat on the front pew while the wife sang and the husband preached every Sunday.  One of the young people walked up to her one Sunday and said, “Mother, did you hear all of the yelling and screaming at the parsonage?”  She looked at her and smiled.  Another adult came up and said, “Mother, I heard she cussed him out, what did you hear?”  She looked at him and smiled.  Perplexed, they went to Mother’s daughter and said, “we tried to get information from your momma about what’s going on with the pastor and his wife.” The daughter said, “you don’t understand. She’s been deaf for years. She doesn’t come to church for what the pastor and wife got going on in their house, she comes to church for what the Lord has done for her.”

I’m turning a deaf ear on this . . . and focusing on what the Lord has done for me . . .

Your comments are welcomed!

Homegoing of a Saint: Dr. Nimrod Q. Reynolds, Anniston, Alabama

From the Anniston Star Newspaper

The Rev. Nimrod Q. Reynolds was born into the Old South, which had many charms and a great evil — racial segregation — a system that demeaned the worth of all individuals of color regardless of their talents or attainments.

Fortunately, he lived to witness the death of that civilization, and of the system nurtured by it. He had something to do with ending that system nationally and everything to do with positive change locally.

He was Anniston’s first civil rights leader as pastor of 17th Street Baptist Church, the historically prime leadership post for the black community. He was the first leader to make the daunting journey across the color line to open communications with the then-pastor of First Presbyterian Church J. Phillips Noble as a portal to the larger white faith community.

He was chairman of the Anniston Improvement Association, which initiated demonstrations to open employment to blacks in business. He was appointed to the first Human Relations Council, which together with the bi-racial leadership organization COUL (Committee of Unified Leadership) helped steer the community through the many crises from the 1960s through the 1980s.

His leadership was more than moral; he put his life on the line. He bore stab wounds, suffered when he was one of two black pastors attempting to integrate the public library —with approval and support from library and council leaders — and were attacked by a mob. As he admitted to friends, he was frequently afraid but his commitment to the “movement” never wavered.

“Leader” is a word used casually but it had a special meaning for Anniston’s relatively successful passage through the civil rights years. Rev. Reynolds was a leader in the sense that his people would follow him and, crucially, someone who had the authority to make an agreement — and to make it stick.

In recent years he lamented the fact that the old civil rights leaders, sidelined by age and time, had left a vacuum that was filled by bogus leaders, by demagogues, who could make noise but did not have the authority to settle issues.

A city whose growing irritation with the ineffectual noise of black and white demagogues on the recently ousted City Council had reasons to feel nostalgia for Rev. Reynolds’ brand of leadership.

When he passed from the scene it was not just the passing of an era but the passing of an epoch. There will never be another time like those, which tested his talents as a moral man and leader.

The civil rights movement was witnessed by millions of eyes and interpreted by millions of different, conflicting opinions, but only those who were on the front lines knew what the struggle was like and what it meant. The Rev. Nimrod Q. Reynolds was one of them.

Read more: Anniston Star – Editorial N Q Reynolds — Anniston pastor was cornerstone of city’s civil rights movement

Pics from the Past: San Diego Zoo (2204), San Diego, California


by Robert Earl Houston

I worked for the Internal Revenue Service in Portland, Oregon many, many years ago. I worked in the Audit Division which allowed me to assist the Agents in building their cases for primarily conference with the taxpayer and sometimes against the taxpayer.

Every tax season the audit bureau would receive directions for this year’s audits based upon received taxes that were selected in what we called TCMP – the taxpayer compliance measurement program. For example, one year it could be clergy returns; another year it could be auto mechanics; another year it could be taxpayers with a high amount of charitable contributions.

Having said that, I think IRS has done itself and our President, Barack Obama, a disservice in targeted 501(3)(4) corporations with the words “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in this title.

An already sizable, anti-government, anti-Obama constituency in this nation is already looking for something, anything to harangue the President about. To his credit, we haven’t had to endure the scandalous hearings of the past administrations going as far back as Kennedy (Vietnam), LBJ (Vietnam), Nixon (Watergate), Reagan (Iran Contra), Bush 1,  Clinton (Impeachment), and Bush 2 (Iraq).

Any of us who are black understand that when holding jobs that have never been held by “us” before, we are encumbered to be better, work better, strive better, negotiate better, and conduct ourselves better because of the eventual extra level of scrutiny.

Do I think President Obama initiated this? Of course not. Why would President Obama go after the Tea Party via the IRS? He’s already defeated them in the arenas of ideas. If all they have left is Sarah Palin as a spokesperson who has been banished to Facebook, he’s won. They have been supplanted by the NRA which was formerly known as the National Rifle Association and now could be labeled the National Republican Association, they are weaning in their influence. Their main lighting rod, President Obama, will step off the stage in 2017 and that will signal the end of crazies like James David Manning, Orly Taitz, Pamela Barnett and others of the un-loyal opposition, who have suggested terroristic responses to the President or arrest or him being transported to Guantanamo Bay.

However, whoever gave the direction to IRS for this year’s TCMP program to go after the Tea Party is not worthy to continue in government leadership and should be brought forward. They did not have the President’s best interests at heart, and wouldn’t serve his best interests by continuing in office.

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

by Robert Earl Houston

Some sources have reported that this may be the end of the line in the Iron Man series of movies.

I hope they’re right.

Iron Man 3, which features Robert Downey, Jr., Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sir Ben Kingsley, is the third and most difficult part of the Iron Man series. I actually did not enjoy the movie. The premise was weak, the ending reminded me of The Dark Knight’s demise in Batman 3, and the storyline in the middle of the movie put me dangerously close to falling asleep.

When I go to see an Iron Man movie, I want to see Iron Man, not Tony Starks. I knew I was in trouble at the beginning of the movie when Tony was having difficulty in putting on a uniform that he himself designed. It was unbelievable especially in consideration of the closing scenes when he moved from uniform to uniform with ease.

Also, the scenes with him and a young boy seemed absolutely implausible. In 2013, if a grown man showed up in your house and the child didn’t report it to his parents and allowed him to stay in a garage by himself???? Didn’t make sense and the inclusion of the child into the story line looked like the writers were either out of ideas or the kid is somebody’s child.

Don Cheadle, one of the era’s best actors was reduced to the wise talking sidekick. Gwyneth Paltrow has become a character that is neither believable or consistent. One minute she’s demure, the next she’s a super hero. One minute she’s afraid of heights, the next minute she’s cool with it. Very disturbing.

I have always enjoyed Ben Kingsley until this movie. His character was deeply, deeply flawed and honestly, unbelievable. Also, it feeds into this anti-Arab or anti-Muslim hysteria that I’m sure Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mike Huckabee and others would find nourishing. It’s a waste of Oscar winner talent.

The customary battle scene was more about Tony Starks than Iron Man. I paid good money to see IRON MAN, not the Tony Starks Movie. I wanted to see him, in uniform, taking down the bad guys. If I wanted to see a movie about a guy who is smarter than the enemy but lacks any super powers, I’d watch Batman . . . oops, I already have.

The end of the movie suggests an illogical conclusion . . . however, I hope it’s true.

Your comments are welcome.

Stress Kills!

by Robert Earl Houston

I have been a student of preaching since 1977 and I’ve watched the best of gospel preachers down through the years. However, I want to let you in on something I have noticed in these 35 years plus – stress kills!

The preaching assignment on Sunday morning is not the total equation of a pastor’s job. Actually, those are probably the most comfortable hours for the pastor, because that is he or she’s primary calling and responsibility. I’ve never heard a pastor say “I hate preaching” or “I don’t enjoy proclamation.”  No, pulpit preaching to a pastor is like a fish in water, a bird in the air, and it is our natural habitat.

However, there are stressors that have nothing to do with Sunday proclamation. Let me identify three:

a.  Lack of Support – A pastor with a vision, training, enthusiasm and zeal finds him or herself burnt out and in some cases decimated when that pastor goes to a church that doesn’t want vision, could care less about training, does not share in that enthusiasm and zeal is a thing of the past. The Bible aptly describes “where there is no vision, the people perish” but conversely where there is no people (support), the vision perishes.

b.  Lack of Sleep – I know this sounds elementary, but by nature of our calling, we are constantly feeding our minds and our hearts and digesting information almost 24 hours a day. Come on preachers, let’s admit it – from newspapers to magazines to internet to television to radio to observations . . . we are always processing information. Even on vacation, we process. We look for things, we think theologically . . . the remedy to this is sleep and when I say sleep I really mean shabat – you need REST from routine, REST from information overload and if it’s just a few moments each day, you need a landing space, without distractions to empty your thoughts.

c.  Lack of Soap – Huh? Soap? In other words, you need someone in your life (primarily the Lord) that you can cleanse your soul with. You need to find someone (and I’m not advocating spouses, I’m advocating someone who is benign to you and your circumstances) that you share your victories, your sorrows, your pain, your tears, your hopes, your visions, your dreams. You need to “unload” with someone who is going to help you re-calibrate when necessary and not necessarily exercise your demons but at least help you identify them.

I pray that this will help Pastors not to become the next great preacher who died too young or in the words of the book, “The Epitaph of Eager Preachers,” died while climbing.

Your comments are welcome!

Homegoing of a Saint: Dr. Arthur T. Jones, Tampa, Florida

Dr. Arthur T. Jones is the founder and Senior Pastor of Bible-Based Fellowship Church, Inc. He is also co-founder and Executive Director of the Florida Mass Choir, Inc.  He is an ordained minister, singer, songwriter, Bible student, record and video producer.  His Christian affiliations are numerous having served in ministry and music capacities in Florida, Texas, South Carolina and Georgia

Dr. Jones is a retired marketing executive of the IBM Corporation.  Over half of Dr. Jones’ work experience has been spent in management positions.  During his tenure at IBM, he held several technical and marketing management positions.  His extensive experience uniquely equips him to speak to the multi-faceted dynamics of management and ministry.  He now devotes his energies to full-time ministry, writing and community-involved initiatives. His other professional and community affiliations and distinctions include:


  • A.T. Jones Ministry
    The Caribbean Graduate School of Theology,
    Kingston, Jamaica
  • AT Jones Ministries, Inc.
  • The Heritage Music Foundation, Inc., Los Angeles, California

Dr. Jones has a most extensive gospel music catalog, recording and producing 14 LP’s, CD’s and Video/DVD’s with the world famous Florida Mass Choir.  In March of 2002 Dr. Jones released his first solo CD entitled “Speak For Me.”   For the crafting of Speak For Me, in addition to writing and co-writing on the project, he collaborated with two Grammy Award-winning veteran producer/songwriters, Rev. Oliver W. Wells and V. Michael McKay.  Speak for Me has the fervency of yesterday balanced with the freshness of today.  Every lyric is derived from the Word of God, and every word is vocalized as if standing in the very Presence of God.

Dr. Jones’ significant travels include Israel, Egypt, Switzerland, Greece, China and five (5) preaching and teaching missions to Africa.  He has visited visiting Senegal, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, The Central African Republic, Niger, Kenya, and Burkina Faso  (formerly The Upper Volta).  His initiatives on the continent of Africa has to date yielded five churches (all named after their mother church, Bible-Based Fellowship), one middle school, The Bethesda Academy, one high school and one Technical School.

He travels extensively throughout the United States, Africa and Europe preaching, and teaching and is a highly sought after lecturer on the college and university circuit.  Dr. Jones is a Molefi Asante/Jeremiah Wright/Cornel West scholar of United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio.

Dr Jones and his wife, Doris, reside in Tampa, Florida.  He has two daughters Shonda and Natalie and two sons, Arthur T. II, and Darren.


Homegoing of a Saint – Bishop Roy Anderson Holmes, Washington, DC

From the African Methodist Episcopal Zion News Service:

The funeral arrangements for the Right Reverend Roy Anderson Holmes, Presiding Prelate of the Northeastern Episcopal District of the AME Zion Church:

Memorial service at Metropolitan AME Zion Church, Wednesday, May 8, 2013, Visitation/viewing from 4-7 PM, services at 7 PM; Reverend Terry L. Jones Sr., Pastor

Funeral service at Greater Walters AME Zion Church, Chicago, IL, Monday May 13, 2013, Visitation/viewing, 10 AM, service at 11 AM; Reverend Joel D. Miles, Pastor.

We continue to keep the Holmes family lifted in prayer.

Bio information:

Bishop Holmes was born April 13, 1951. He is married to Mrs. Lovetta Goodson Holmes. He is the father of Krista M. Holmes; Mrs. Kimberly M. Strickland (Rev. Mwana Strickland); and granddaughters Niya and Teirra.

Education and Honors:

Bishop Holmes is a graduate of Morris Brown College and the Hood Theological Seminary. He also received a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary in 2002.


His pastorates include churches in Chicago, Illinois; Pittsburg, PA; Elizabeth City, NC; Whitmire, SC. Bishop Holmes was elected the 92nd Bishop of the AME Zion Church at the 47th General Conference, 2004.


Bishop Hoilmes has held positions with the AME Zion Connectional Budget Board, Ministerial Relief; delegate to the General Conference; delegate to the World Methodist Conference; Presidents and Secretary of Hood Alumni Association; Life Member, NAACP. He’s also a recipient of the UNCF Alumni Award, Morris Brown College, City of Chicago Honorary Street sign (June 2000 – Roy A. Holmes Blvd.), Who’s Who in Executive and Businesses 2002 and the 2003 Monarch Award in category of Religion from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Homegoing of a Saint: Rev. Danny Mitchell, Shreveport, Louisiana

From the Shreveport-Times Newspaper

Funeral services are pending for the Rev. Danny Mitchell, a former Louisiana state representative and pastor of New Elizabeth Missionary Baptist Church in Shreveport. He died Thursday at age 69 from complications of cancer.

Whether in the pulpit or the state Capitol in Baton Rouge, he was known as a gun control advocate, for his fight against crime, particularly gangs, and poverty and was involved in efforts to help erase racial divisions within the Baptist denomination. Mitchell served eight years as District 2’s voice in the Louisiana House of Representatives, having unseated Alphonse Jackson for the post. Mitchell suffered a heart attack in 1997 in his second term.

His church, with a multiracial congregation that numbered about 1,000 in the early 1990s, was known under his leadership for its attention to youths, offering summer programs and aiding youths in finding job opportunities. On one day, Mitchell pulled from his desk an envelope of guns and knives confiscated during a youth program.

Changing neighborhoods requires more than just a fancy, or even well-attended, program, he told The Times. “Until you change a person’s heart, you have not alleviated the problem. The church must become active in sharing the good news with people.”

Mitchell’s work drew attention. For instance, the keynote speaker at an observance May 31, 1992, celebrating the 11th year of his pastorship was then-Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards. Both preached messages of racial unity that Sunday afternoon.

“Last fall on the night of the election when I went to bed knowing that a majority of white people in Louisiana voted for David Duke, I knew things were not completely well,” Edwards told those gathered at the church. “But as I walked in here today and noticed how clean and well-kept this building is, it reminded me that if we lay aside our prejudices and problems and work together, things work out.”

Afterward, Mitchell, Edwards and Shreveport Councilman Joe Shyne toured the area near Lakeview Food Market, site of street violence the previous night. “As those of you who drove by last night know, it was frightening,” Mitchell said. “But we’re going to be out there trying to resolve conflicts without burning down our cities.”

Mitchell was born at Charity Hospital in Shreveport to Crabon Reed and Willie Mae Mitchell, according to his entry in R.W. Norton Art Gallery’s oral history project. He had several stepbrothers and sisters as children of both parents.

Mitchell was living with his great aunt and uncle in Leesville when his mother died “very young” of kidney failure. So his grandmother raised him in a “three-room shotgun house without a bathtub,” according to the account. To earn money, Mitchell caddied at a country club and picked and chopped cotton on a nearby plantation.

He recalled experiencing “a lot of racism” as a child. “I kind of went into a state of denial,” he is quoted as saying. “This was a bad dream and ‘poof’ I was going to wake up and it was going to be over.” Mitchell remembered Shreveport in the 1960s as “a very dangerous place.”

He served in the Air Force in 1964-68. On his way to his duty station in England, Mitchell was visiting family in Shreveport and wanted to swim in a local public pool. Police prevented him from doing so but, because of that incident, the facility later was opened to all, according to the account.

Mitchell entered the University of Maryland while he was in the service and later completed his education at Southern University. After his military service, he worked for Modern Clothing Store in downtown Shreveport and later purchased the business, changing the name to Modern Fine Men’s Clothing Store. He also opened The Jazz Workshop in 1970.

By 1976, Mitchell said, he had received his call into the ministry. He continued as pastor of his church during his tenure in the statehouse. “I was a licensed preacher. I used to be a street preacher, doing one on one,” he once told The Times.

When asked what he has given his church, he replied, “Bascially, my life.”

Divorced in 2000, Mitchell married Yvonne Moore on March 17, 2002. Together, they had six children and 10 grandchildren.

“He loved all of God’s creatures, and his goal in life was to have everyone have a home in glory,” she said.



by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

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