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Friday, November 30, 2012

"The Next Step" an incomplete play by A. T. Graves II

I'm working on  a short play, and I'm stuck at a certain place in the dialogue.  Read it and help me out.  Post comments with your ideas for the rest of the dialogue.

"The Next Step" by Anderson T. Graves II
Person:            Hey, Society.  I just got out of jail.  I have nowhere to stay, nothing to eat, and no money.  They revoked my driver’s license and I owe $1,000 in fines even though I spent all that time in jail.

Society:          So, what are you going to do?

Person:           I guess I’ll sell some drugs and rob some people.

Society:            Are you kidding me?!  Don’t do that.

Person:             Well then, Society, what should I do?

Society:           Get a job.  Pay your fines.  Get your license back, and build a better life for yourself.

Person:            O.K., Society, you’re right.  I’m willing to work.  Gimme a job.

Society:            [laughing] What?  Are you kidding me?  I’m not going to hire you.  You’re  a criminal with no permanent address.  I mean, you don’t even have a driver’s license.

The Person walks away from Society.
Enter the Streets.

Streets:                                Hey, man.  What’s up?

Person :               I just got out of jail.  I have nowhere to stay, nothing to eat, and no money.  They revoked my driver’s license and I gotta come up with $1,000 or they're gonna lock me back up.
Streets:             Oh, man.  That’s messed up.  I tell you what  Here’s a couple hundred dollars and a place to crash for a few days.  All I want you to do is sell these drugs and rob a few people.

Enter the Preacher, interrupting the conversation with the Streets.

Preacher:            No!  Don’t do that.

Person:             Why not, Preacher?
Streets backs away, but not far, and stands smirking, listening, waiting.

Preacher:            Because it’s wrong.  Following the Streets again displeases God, and just sets you up to end up back in jail, or worse.

Person:           O.K., Preacher, you’re right.  So, you got somewhere for me to stay until I get on my feet?

Preacher:            No.  I don’t have anywhere for you to stay.

Person:               You gonna hire me?

Preacher:            I can’t.  I don’t have a job to give you.

Person:                Hmmmph.  You know, Preacher, there’s this verse in your Bible.   James 2: 16.

“If one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” 

And there’s this other passage.  1 John 3 17 & 18.

 “Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

So tell me something, Preacher.  Why should I listen to you or to Society, when according to your own Bible, the Streets are the only one that are showing me love?



My spirit is burning right now and I'm trying not to preach, but here it is:  Mediocre Christianity is a sin.   A sin.

Mediocrity means being/ living/ doing about average.


Do you know what average means?  Do you ever think about how pitiful and insulting it is to give God your average anything?

We hear the word average and think, “Good and normal.”

Average is often normal, but it’s never good---- at least it’s never good when it’s applied to things of the God’s Kingdom.

Average is the mathematical synonym for mediocrity.  In fact, the mathematical term for  average is the word mean.  In the King James Version , the word mean has this etymology:
Of things, "inferior, second-rate," from late 14c. (a secondary sense in Old English was "false, wicked"). Notion of "so-so, mediocre" led to confusion with mean (n.). Meaning "inferior in rank or status" (of persons) emerged early 14c.; that of "ordinary" from late 14c.; that of "stingy, nasty" first recorded 1660s

Average is fine in a lot of things (height, shoe size, age, income), but God doesn’t ask us to give Him what’s average.  God commands us to give Him what’s best!

We should not be satisfied with the average, the middle, the medium, the mediocre in our service to God.

Mediocrity is basically hallway between the very best and the very worst.  On a chart showing average, half the picture would be what’s bad or failing, half the picture would be what’s acceptable or passing.  Average would be right on the line between the 2 halves.

Picture that chart and consider what you’re doing when you choose average worship, mediocre offerings, average time, mediocre planning, medium energy, and just plain regular service in  the church.

Mediocre Christianity does not mean that you never give your best.  It doesn’t mean that you never perform with excellence.  But, being a mediocre Christian does mean that about half of what you give God ------ is garbage.


We go to church 2 Sundays a month on average and feel like that’s pretty good.  What boss would accept you showing up to work half the time?

We go to Bible study and Sunday School a couple times a year or never and thus remain ignorant of God’s Word and ways, but “No big deal.”  But, would you be pleased if your wife, husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend hadn’t learned anymore about you after 10 years than they knew the day your relationship started?

We show up on Sunday expecting a Dove Award winning choir led by a Grammy Award winning musician housed in a climate-controlled, impeccably clean building sitting on a manicured lawn; but we neither tithe nor give on a consistent basis.  In fact, what you dropped in the offering Sunday is less than the tip you left at Applebee’s Friday night.   Try giving your landlord a tip instead of the rent.  Try walking past the bouncers at the club saying, “Not this week.  I don’t have any change.”

But God’s supposed to find that behavior acceptable because you still do pretty well--- on average. 

Malachi 2: 7     You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’
By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’
8     And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil?
Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?”
asks the Lord of hosts.

Oh, I know.

You give when you can, but you need something to enjoy for yourself.  You come when you can, but you work hard and you need to rest.  You don’t like to drive at night on Wednesday; and in the summer when it isn’t dark during Bible Study, you want to enjoy the evening while you can before it starts getting dark early.  You don’t participate in every thing, but you think that you do enough.  Looking around, your Christian walk is about -------- average.

Which is another way of saying that our Christian walk is about half good and about half garbage.

Now I know that everyone’s not called to  preach or to pastor.   Everyone’s not meant to be on the staff of a ministry.  But excellence in the things of God doesn’t mean that you (necessarily) have to quit your job and move into the church or fly off to be a missionary in Haiti or some nation with a lot of consonants in its name.

The antidote to mediocre Christianity is simply to focus on those things you do that you know please God and do those things consistently and completely.

 You know where the Holy Spirit has convicted you to do more. It’s those areas where you say, “Yeah, I know I should, but…”   Move your “but” out of the way and just do what you know you should do. 

From doing what you SHOULD do, you’ll eventually grow to the point of doing what you CAN do.  And from there, you’ll see God use you to do what you thought COULDN’T BE DONE.

When you get a church of people walking in such consistent faith that God regularly does the impossible then you have what the church was always meant to be------ a place where miracles are the norm and  nothing is ---- average.

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a pastor, writer, community organizer and consultant for education and ministry.

Call him at 334-288-0577
Email him at
Friend Anderson at

To hear sermons, read devotions, and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme@blogspotcom If you want to be a blessing to this ministry, contributions may be made by check or money order.

Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A WORD TO THE WISE. Proverbs 29: 5. "Traps & Antecedents"

Proverbs 29: 5     A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.

Proverbs 29:5.  First, the grammar issue.  In Proverbs 29: 5, does the pronoun his refer to the neighbor or to the guy who flatters the neighbor?  

We English teachers call this an “unclear antecedent.”  The word antecedentmeans the cause that produces the effect, the person to whom the pronoun refers. 

Stay with me, now.

When someone showers you with flattery, that is with compliments that you haven’t earned, what that someone may be doing is pulling down your guard, getting your to weaken your defenses, buttering you up before they stick you in the oven.  The flatter-er may be trying to distract you from the trap they want to spring on you.

In the mind of the trickster, the net is for you.  You are the prey.  You are the reason for the trap.  As far as the flatter-er is concerned, you are the antecedent.

But (and here’s the beautiful clarity of the Bible’s ambiguity), when you walk in righteousness according to the Spirit, God confuses your enemies’ plans.  They intend for you to be the antecedent; you are the reason for the trap.  God makes them the antecedent; and the tricksters get caught in their own nets.  

When you love the Lord and you walk according to His purpose and His calling in your life, then God makes all things work together for your good.  All things.  

So, when the praise is insincere, when the compliments have an ulterior motive, when the pats on your back are probing for a good spot to stick the knife----- even then---- God will cause all of that to work to your benefit.

When people try to distract you while they put a stumbling block in your path, don’t go off.  Just say, “Thank you, Lord, for sending them with a stepping stone to take me higher.” 

When someone “promotes” you into a situation they’ve arranged to guarantee your failure, don’t ball up into a fetal knot and wait for your doom. Just say, “Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to push beyond my comfort zone, to grow in knowledge, to increase my skills, to expand my circle of resources, and to excel for Your glory.”

Now, not every compliment is  a trick.  Sometimes praise is just simply sincere praise.  But, you don’t have to stress over whether it’s sincere or not.  

Praise can encourage and inspire you, but compliments should never decide your actions. 

Let God lead you according to His plan.

What I’m saying is: If Jesus is the reason, the cause, the author, the antecedent of your actions; then it won't matter what the other reasons/ antecedentsare.

---Anderson T. Graves II

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is the pastor of Hall Memorial CME Church
Call/ fax: 334-288-0577
Email us at
Friend Pastor Graves at

If you want to be a blessing to this ministry, contributions may be made by check or money order.

Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

Monday, November 26, 2012


The latest in our 4th Sunday sermon series on Relationships. 
The message is called THE STRANGE MATH OF MARRIAGE

Listen well.

Podcast Powered By Podbean

---Anderson T. Graves II
Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is the pastor of Hall Memorial CME Church
Call/ fax: 334-288-0577
Email us at
Friend Pastor Graves at
If you want to be a blessing to this ministry, contributions may be made by check or money order.

Mail all contributions to:
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

A WORD TO THE WISE: Proverbs 29: 4

Proverbs 29: 4     The king establishes the land by justice, but he who receives bribes overthrows it. (NKJV)

The king by judgment establisheth the land: but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it. (KJV)

Proverbs 29: 4.  Some translations of Proverbs 29: 4 use the word bribes.  Other versions use the term gifts.

It’s easy to see why a leader who takes bribeswould undermine the progress of his people.  .  Leaders who auction off their influence and judgment will obviously exploit and oppress anyone who can’t meet their price.

But the corruption of gifts is much more subtle.  Gifts don’t necessarily buy influence, but they do influence access. Gift-givers become “friends” of the administration, and trusted “advisers” to the leadership.  At first gifts are simply accepted, but then they can become expected, then requested, then required.   Once we get to that point, access to leadership becomes possible only for those who can meet the price.  So then, call it a gift or call it a bribe; the damage is all the same.

A bribe-corrupted leaders will overthrow the progress of the group/ community/ municipality/ company/ church. 

Now, the reality is that leaders and organizations need supporters, and they need income.   The task for us leaders is to make sure that our judgment is not determined by the income of our supporters, but it is not an easy balance.

Go too far one way and you open yourself up to corruption, and you hurt your people.  Go too far the other way and you block legitimate blessings, and you hurt your people.

The safe zone exists within the bounds of justice. 

Pastors should listen to the good, tithe-payers who contribute generously to our appreciations; but we have to equally minister to the entire congregation and community----including the non-giving, the seldom-attending, the never-shouting, and the not-actual-a-member-but-need-to-talk-to-somebody so I’m calling anyway.

For their own good and for the good of their constituency, elected officials can’t only be influenced by the campaign check-signing, tax-paying, productive citizens.  They also need to hear from and consider the views of those who didn’t vote for them, those who didn’t vote, those who don’t pay taxes, those who don’t agree with their views, and those who don’t make (a good enough) contribution to the community.

We have to be sure that support (or the lack of it) does not affect how we define justice.

Sometimes the majority is wrong.
Exodus 23: 2     You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.

Sometimes the sympathetic underdog is wrong.
Exodus 23: 3     You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.

Sometimes the non-contributor is right.
Exodus 23: 6     “You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute.

The point isn’t whether or not you got/ will get a gift out of the decision.  The point is to decide justly.
Leviticus 19: 15     ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.

Stay within the boundaries of justice and money won’t corrupt you.  Step outside of justice and money won’t save you, and it won’t protect the people from you.
---Anderson T. Graves II

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is the pastor of Hall Memorial CME Church
Call/ fax: 334-288-0577
Email us at
Friend Pastor Graves at

If you want to be a blessing to this ministry, contributions may be made by check or money order.

Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

Friday, November 23, 2012


I skim through Facebook and other social networking sites, and I see all of these people posting detailed personal business.  I don’t just mean their individual personal business.   I’m talking about husbands and wives having divorce-level arguments in real time.  People name names, dates, places, and positions from their last date for all the world to read.    An online it literally means ALL OF THE WORLD.    

O.K., you have a public persona.  Fine.  No problem.  But here’s where I’ve been perplexed.

The same people who publish this material in the most public of all public forums then add addendums like,

“Mind your own business.”

“Who asked you?”

“All you haters stop worrying about what happens between me and my man.”


You uploaded pics and conversation summaries at 5 minute intervals.  You created an interactive online timeline of your romantic involvements. 

But you think it’s ------- private?

I was so confused, but then I had an epiphany.

“Love is a game.”

Actually, it isn’t, but we say that it is. For years, maybe for centuries, people have referred to  the “game of love.” 

Now, follow me with this.

It used to be that we thought about romance as an analogy of some activity involving points, loss, victory, and strategy played on a board, in a room, or on a field; but played within defined boundaries.  When we talked about the game of love, we imagined a metaphorical game of basketball, or football, or chess, or cards. 

Now, when people hear the phrase, “Love is a game,” they think of Halo, or World of Warcraft, or Mario Kart for Kinex.   The virtual worlds of those games give the illusion of privacy while actually broadcasting and sharing massive amounts of data about your every move.

And now, “love is a game” in which people you don’t know join your quest and have crucial influence on your success or failure.

Now, “love is a game” in which unsolicited character wander into your area and affect your gameplay.

Now, “love is a game” that’s played online.

So 2 things.

First.  Stop playing the game of love over the internet.   You’ll never really win.  There will always be someone adding a new puzzle, a new character, a new algorithm to waste more of your time.

Second.  Stop playing with love.   It isn’t really a game. In games, somebody wins, somebody loses, and inevitably somebody cheats.  That’s how romantic love often is, but it isn’t what such love is meant to be.

Romantic love between a man and a woman is the creation of God Himself.  Eros love is the Divinely designed, earthly manifestation of God’s plan of grace. 

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5: 31-33)

Love is meant to be lived-------not played.

And definitely not played online.
---Anderson T. Graves II

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is the pastor of Hall Memorial CME Church
Call/ fax: 334-288-0577
Email us at
Friend Pastor Graves at

If you want to be a blessing to this ministry, contributions may be made by check or money order.

Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116


Thursday, November 22, 2012


It’s Thanksgiving, and I’m thinking about my family.  Specifically, my Mississippi family.  We’re a loud, crazy, church-going, baby-having, everybody’s-child-whoopin’, mac-n-cheese making, potentially lethal-force-using bunch. 

Family gathering include stories of inspiring personal and professional success and reports that include the phrase, “but I think he’s out now.”   We use the n-word liberally among ourselves---both as a term of endearment, as a generic personal pronoun, and as a title of disdain.  Scriptures and profanities are equally common in conversation, often from the same relative; sometimes in the same sentence.

We fight each other (literally, physically fight, not as a figure of speech or a synonym for having a verbal disagreement); but we will defend one another from the cradle to the grave-side service.  Some secrets might come out at the post-funeral repast, but not before. 

People who don’t understand us might think we’re chaotic or contradictory.  But, those people just don’t understand us.

The most beautiful thing about my family, the thing that keeps me coming back here after every time I leave vowing to never return, is our capacity to harmonize contradiction. 

Harmonize.  Contradiction.

If I say something stupid during Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Bessie’s house, then every cousin there will say, “Ted, you might be smart, but that’s the stupidest blanket-blank thing I’ve ever heard in my life. “  Then they’ll spend about 5 minutes loudly explaining precisely how and why what I’d said was stupid.
(By the way, it’s an understood rule in my family that you cannot leave the room during the barrage of criticism.  If you were big enough to say it, you have to be big enough to take what’s said about it.)   

Now later, when the conversation turns to an area in my line of work, those same cousins will call me in and ask my opinion.  And they will seriously listen to what I say.

My folks can acknowledge you as smart while simultaneously berating you for saying something stupid. 

They’ll tell you that you’re beautiful. But if you dress stank, they’ll tell you that, too.

It’s no problem for us to see that you’re great at making money but you suck at handling the money you make. 

We are not taken aback by the contradiction in doing our best to treat everybody right while expecting folks to try their best to cheat you.

A common refrain in my family is, “You know I love you, but I’ll kill you.”
When you hear this, understand that both statements are totally, literally true.

We harmonize contradictions.

This family trait has passed to me the ability to  accept you for who you are without compromising my opinion about whether who you are is immoral, idiotic, or ugly.

I can love you and argue you into the ground and never love you any less.

You can piss me off and still receive my sincere help, because helping you doesn’t mean I’m not still pissed off, and being pissed off doesn’t mean I ain’t gonna help you if you need it.  We can settle up on your consequences later--- and we probably will.

Not everyone can deal with this harmonizing of contradictions.  Thin-skinned, easily offended in-laws don’t usually last very long, but if you survive the hazing of the probationary period you are family for life no matter what your spouse says.  My family endures.  We are stronger and stranger every year, but we are still here and we are still --- us.
The older I get and the better I understand my calling, the more I appreciate and need this crazy family of mine. 

You, too, should take a fresh look at the people you eat with this Thanksgiving.  Beyond and beneath all the stress and holiday tension, find that thing that makes this bunch worth coming back to.  Look at yourself and recognize the good parts that have always been there.   Acknowledge the role your family played in producing those good parts.  And thank God for your family.

Remember this.  Mary was not the only female descendant of King David living in Israel when Jesus was born.  Joseph was not the only male descendant of David left when Jesus was born.  On the night of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the lown was literally full of other men and women with the same bloodline.  Yet, God chose Joseph and Mary specifically to be the earthly parents of His eternal Son. 

Your family is no accident.  In planning you, God planned them.

Think about that and be thankful today for family.

I am.

Psalm 139: 13     For You formed my inward parts;
     You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14     I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
     Marvelous are Your works,
     And that my soul knows very well.
15     My frame was not hidden from You,
     When I was made in secret,
     And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16     Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
     And in Your book they all were written,
     The days fashioned for me,
     When as yet there were none of them.

---Anderson T. Graves II

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is the pastor of Hall Memorial CME Church
Call/ fax: 334-288-0577
Email us at
Friend Pastor Graves at

If you want to be a blessing to this ministry, contributions may be made by check or money order.

Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116