Murders at the Juice Bowl, What’s the Church to do?

Downtown via:Courier JournalOn Thanksgiving day, Shawnee Park is known to be a place of celebration. The Juice Bowl is an event that has a long history of the community coming together to watch some football and to have a good, family friendly time. It’s always been a place of fun and excitement that your family would go to prior to having thanksgiving dinner.

November 24th 2016, the Juice Bowl brought national attention because of an incident that really had nothing to do with the Juice Bowl. An incident escalated that resulted in 7 people being shot, and 2 of those being murdered within the park. The incident though unrelated to the Juice Bowl tainted the name of the Juice Bowl on a national stage.

I love the outdoors. Living right near Shawnee Park is amazing for me because the park is huge and absolutely beautiful. Living outside of the west end for most of my life, taught me a false perception of Shawnee Park. I always assumed it to be a place of murder, violence and hate. Since living in west Louisville, I have come to know it as a beautiful, tranquil place within the city of Louisville. Amazing open fields, Baseball fields, basketball courts and an amazing loop that can be driven or ran to see some of the beauty that the park has to offer.

On this day though, Shawnee Park became known once againto be a place of violence. And with all of the murder and violence our city has seen this year, the church needs to ask ourselves what can we do?

I am writing an appeal to Christians, churches and specifically pastors.

Our community needs us.

They don’t need us to be on the television making our names known. They don’t need us to hijack the deaths of others to build our own platforms and legacies. They need to know that we are here to seek to see REAL change. They want to know that the gospel we preach on Sundays from the pulpits brings real change. They want to know that this Jesus who preached radical teachings about selling all we have and giving to the poor, turning the other cheek and loving our neighbors as ourselves, is not something isolated to the other neighborhoods in the city, but applies in all neighborhoods.

They want to know that the church can fill the void that is seen by seeking to belong. So many people are seeking to belong. They are seeking to find that belonging through membership in gangs, masons, social clubs and biker gangs. But they don’t know if joining a church will fill that void of belonging. They don’t know if they are seeing that from the church. People joining churches and finding true family. Finding real community.

The question we have to ask ourselves though is, do we really believe that? Do we believe that the church is what people are searching for when they seek to belong to something? When we watch movies like Goodfellas and see the closeness that these guys had for each other and for the family, do we believe that the church can be that close? We should. The Bible says that we have been given the keys to the kingdom. We have Jesus who prays on our behalf. We have the Holy Spirit indwelling all believers. We have angels, God’s warriors working on God’s behalf. The Church is well equipped. And we are a part of something as great as anyone can imagine. Being on the front lines of the work of the Kingdom of God.

Our city needs to see the love that the Bible says that we have for one another. The city needs to see the amount of heart ache and compassion that we have on others. Living in communities that live and die by the bullet, we need to show that we are willing to turn the other cheek. The city needs us badly. And our prayer must be that in the moments that people turn to us for answers, that they will see the active Gospel that we preach. They will feel the love that the bible says we have for one another. They will realize that all of the searching for community in gangs, clubs and other avenues is found better and more real in the church, then any where else.

I am devastated by the violence that our city continues to act on. I am crushed to think of the bodies of teenage brothers who were dumped down the street from me. I am torn up to think of the baby girl shot dead a block from me. And once again, I am hurt to see the lives taken at my favorite park in the world.

I do believe though with all of the violence that there is a groaning that is going on inside of our community. A groaning for more. And I believe that the church has what our community is crying out for.

What to Do About Louisville’s Murder Rate

Downtown via:Courier JournalAs 2015 comes to a close, we will take time to remember all that the Lord has done this year. We will remember the mountain tops as well as the valleys.

There is one aspect of 2015 that I am thankful to say goodbye to though, and that is the most violent and murderous year the city of Louisville has seen in decades.

81 people have been murdered this year (over half are unsolved) at the time I am writing this. 81 people. Stop and think about that. 81 people who should have lived to see 2016 but because of someone’s decisions, they are no longer here.

As Christians, we should not just shrug our shoulders and hope that “at least it’s not our kids or family”. The biggest thing we can do is something that every Christian can do, Pray.

Why Prayer?

I already hear the haters. People are quick to down play the power of prayer. But in the words of a great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, “… [The] power of prayer can never be overrated.… If a man can but pray he can do anything. He who knows how to overcome with God in prayer has Heaven and earth at his disposal.”

Prayer is powerful!

In the same token though, I remember the words of Frederick Douglass when he desired freedom from the bondage of slavery. He said, “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” What the world wants to see is not just Christians who will say that they are praying for this or that person. That comes across as a cop-out for why we as Christians don’t want to be involved. We need to BE praying and also BE proactive with seeking to find solutions to this violence.

I am calling on all Christians in Louisville, Kentucky to pray for our city.

Pray for the families of those who have been murdered. The sons and daughters who will not have a mother or father. The parents who never got to see their child graduate high school and have to endure the nightmare of any parent, burying a child.

Pray for us who are missing on 81 gifted citizens of Louisville who could have been the next Councilwoman, Mayor, Pastors or teachers in our communities. We are missing out by not having these people here.

Pray for our leaders. These are trying times. We know that not all leaders have the common good of the community as their best interest but thankfully our city does have a lot of good leaders who want to see these numbers decrease, to see these murders solved and to see justice served. We gotta pray for our leaders that they would be given wisdom on how to deal with these problems instead of just having a bunch of meetings. We gotta pray that God would show them how to reach those most being influenced towards gun violence.

Pray for those who are doing the killing. We are all created in God’s image. Each one of us are tied together through our creator because we are created in his image. When someone easily and casually takes the life of another, they are becoming numb to the value of an image bearer. God created the person who was killed and the killer. The killer needs to know that God loves them and that he brings hope to the hopeless. He can change a heart of stone. He is a God who saves sinners, me being the worst of all.

Let our actions stem from our prayers. Let’s pray without ceasing by getting up and praying as we walk into our community. Let’s pray as we seek to mentor youth in our communities. Let’s pray as we strategize ways to eliminate the drug epidemic in our city. Let’s pray as we seek to have camera’s put in our alleys. Let’s pray as we seek to eliminate hazardous materials being shipped and sold in our community where children are playing in the streets. Let’s pray as we begin to hold parents accountable for their kids’ actions on our buses. Let’s pray as we demonstrate to gang members how retaliating with violence is going to affect their little brothers, little sisters and their future children.

As for now

Last night, as I was about to fall asleep, I heard the noises I dread hearing but hear daily, “pop pop pop”. After checking to see that all my family was safe, I thought about this blog post. I realized that one of the few things that I can do about all of this madness is the most powerful thing that I can do, that is pray.

Dear Katina Powell

Dear Katina Powell,

I am writing you an open letter for a simple reason. Because I want you to know who you are. I have seen the quotes and the different things you have said in your book Breaking Cardinal Rules. I know all about the situation that is going on with the University of Louisville, yet I won’t be addressing that right here. I simply want to write a letter to you.

You have mentioned unashamedly that you sent your daughters to strip and prostitute themselves. As well you have mentioned that you would go  to church on Sunday afterwards.

Most people read those things and were stunned. I read those things though and wanted to write you this letter to tell you something that is simple and true; You are valued and loved!

Your value is not found in your body. It is not found in your ability to pleasure someone sexually. It’s not even found in your looks or your ability to hustle. No, your value is deeper and intrinsic.

You have value because the God of this universe who created the sun, moon and stars created YOU in his very image! He spent time creating every detail of your being.

But not only did he create you with deep value, he loves and cherishes you. And his love for you is amazing because it’s not a love that is based on your circumstances or what you do for him. His love has no condition to it. It is a great love that swallows you up completely as you are.

That is amazing, isn’t it? God loves us in spite of our selves.

I write this to you because seeing the news and reading the stories about you and the other ladies who are considered escorts, are all loved and cherished by God. Each of you are special. And I want you to know that as the book has come out and it’s apparent that you were in need of money, which means you may be searching for something in your life, God is in the business of giving hope to the hopeless.

He saved me, a sinner from a life outside of him. My life of sin deserved to be punished. I was a wicked and evil person who deserved judgment for my life of sin. But he had shown grace on me. I found out that he loved me so much that he sacrificed his only son Jesus, to die a horrible death THAT I DESERVED! The cross was shaped for me and I deserved it. It should have been me suffering eternal death because I am the one who sinned. But Jesus died in my place! That is true love.

Now when God looks at my life, he sees the life of Jesus. That is GRACE. Getting something I didn’t deserve. Jesus took my penalty. Now I can live freely serving him. I am not chained down by sin any longer but I battle my sin. I learn to live my life in repentance. Repent means to turn away from(Go in opposite direction).

Katina, I don’t know you and I can’t assume to. You have had circumstances in your life that have brought you to where you are today. But what I do know is that Jesus does offer hope to new life. He sat daily and talked with all sinners like you and me. I wanna share a last story that I really believe encompasses how we have to come to God.

This is from the Bible. Luke 7:36-50

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

No matter our circumstance, God is a God who is ready to forgive and to give us new life that is in him. Katina, I pray that as I write these words, you would realize the hope in the Good news of Jesus. He can save you and give you a new life. A new slate. A new start.

That happens when you give your life to him. I hope and pray that this public letter makes it to you. I pray that this is received in love. I pray that you and the ladies you work with come to know the greatest lover of all. And I pray that like this woman and millions of others of people, you’d find new life in Jesus Christ.

God bless you Katina,
Mark Singleton

There are some great God honoring programs that reach in the adult entertainment business. One of them in Louisville is Scarlet Hope.

As well, if you want to follow Jesus, connect with a good, bible teaching church in your area. If you need help finding one, please message my wife and I and we would love to help you find that. In West Louisville there is a good one called New Breed Church that meets in Shawnee High School.

When Not Helping Hurts

10398604_75131031835_8299277_n[1]Listen, I am like you. I wanna help the poor. I wanna help the Urban poor specifically.

But I also read “When Helping Hurts” and “Toxic Charity”. While I loved those books and was extremely challenged after reading them, I felt somewhat how you feel afterwards.

1. I felt discouraged about the amount of work I have put into serving the poor.

And I also felt

2. Confused about the direction I should go now in my ministry, not desiring to have a toxic or hurtful ministry.

Listen friend, this is a short but sweet call to some of us who needed a kick in the butt from those books but also for grace that we need to continue on after we have found out that we weren’t doing it right.

1. I like you felt discouraged about thinking through on whether or not my past ministries among the poor had been hurtful or wasteful. When I say discouraged, I’m talking about a discouragement that kept me from wanting to strategize ever again on this stuff thinking that I was gonna screw up others lives.

But God has done a mighty work. In time of doing Urban ministry for some years and learning these lessons on the ground, I have submitted my past work under the hand of a sovereign God who works IN SPITE of us. I felt like I was the worst for a while. I was down and out. But God revealed to me through his scriptures that he has ultimate control and has had it the whole time.

The work done in the past he may have used to impact many people in ways I will never know until heaven. I don’t need to be discouraged about the things done in the past. While I learn my lesson in realizing that there are better ways to do it, I also acknowledge that there is a sovereign God who may have used those things for his glory, and I can peacefully move forward to a new stage of ministry.

2. Confused on where I should go now in my ministry.

I HATE screwing things up. There is a lot of psychology to all of that, but my initial reaction to WHH/TC was nothing. Doing nothing. Not wanting to mess up so not doing anything.

In time I have realized that that is the wrong reaction to all of this. Don’t be afraid to work among the poor. Don’t be afraid to reach out within an Urban community. Just do it with care. Take all that you have learned in thinking through these tough questions of concern for the poor, and let your work be intentional and well thought out. But by no means, Don’t quit working.

I have thoroughly enjoyed ministering within Urban communities. I have learned a million things and screwed up a million times, but as well, I have noticed how simply my being there can be good for the community. Don’t be discouraged but be ENCOURAGED that Gods hand may have worked in spite of strategy mistakes you made in the past but also in that you have learned from those mistakes and can minister in a more effective way.

Disclaimer: I LOVE the books, When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity. PLEASE read both. Just afterwards, consider this article.

An apology of sorts…

Well, let me put it to you like this…

Things have been hectic. I’m sorry for you not seeing me lately. 😦

But I’m back! 🙂

We just welcomed our 4th child into this world. And there have been a lot of life shifts going on. Everything from preparing to go back to school, to ministry stuff,  and to other endeavors.

I didn’t have the $mulah$ to re-up my website domain. Because of that, I haven’t been able to write on here. But I’m back now. And with a little budgeting I will bring my domain back.

With coming back, there will be some changes made. So be ready young world, I’ll be back on my blogging game.

Hey #BBN and #L1C4, Let’s enjoy this!

As a Louisville fan that has spent time living out-of-state and now am back living in my great state of Kentucky, I am many times conflicted. I desire so earnestly to see the demise of my rival, the University of Kentucky Wildcats. I hope for their consistent failure throughout the year. While living though for several years out-of-state, I became conflicted because Kentucky was still my home. I couldn’t write Louisville without writing Kentucky. Not only as an address but also as an aspect of identity that I hold to.

Throughout the years the enjoyment of the best rivalry in basketball has gotten better and better. Kentucky went through some ups and downs while Louisville began to stand again with the greats of college basketball. Rick Pitino brought Louisville, not only back on the map, but back to being a consistent contender.

Kentucky after some rough transition years brought in John Calipari. And he came with a vengeance. With the desire to not only bring Kentucky back to its former glory but to a platform college basketball had never seen since UCLA, complete dominance. And he has pretty much done so.

Louisville, Kentucky or both have been in the past four final fours. each have won one. Since 2009, Kentucky has won 3 conference tournaments and has 3 regular season championships in their conference. Since 09′ Louisville has won 4 conference tournaments and 3 regular season championships in their conference.

It doesn’t matter what other rivalries are brought forth. This is THE rivalry of basketball.

Because of that and the excitement of March Madness, I decided to do a tribute to both as they begin the tourney. This being such a special year for Kentucky, I know that it will only solidify good things for our state.

To the best rivalry in basketball, Enjoy!

The Cats

The Cards

5 Thoughts from the Oscar’s

My wife and I didn’t plan on watching the Oscar’s, but it was on and wasn’t nearly as provocative as the Grammy’s so we watched to see what was up. While watching, here are 5 thoughts I had throughout the awards show:

1) The Racial Tensions are undeniable and MUST be dealt with before next year.
I never have watched this awards show and seldom will again. It’s just not my cup of tea. While I love film and love a good, thought-provoking movie, the style of the awards show doesn’t fit me, and that’s fine. Needless to say, the racial tensions I saw throughout the night must be dealt with. Not only the fact that they are being protested outside of the arena, but as well the fact that the jokes and statements of the night seemed to degrade people of color.

From Neil Patrick Harris’ attempt to say the Oscars were “the brightest and the whitest” to Sean Penn asking for the Director’s green card. It was cringe worthy and needs to be addressed. And to top it off, the power of the movie Selma was the movie that represented the most minorities and only won for Best Song. It’s a disappointment that with the attempts to highlight many other minorities, the plight for People of Color is still lost in the background of American History.

2) I never thought I’d say it, Lady Gaga did an incredible job.
To be fair, I have not listened to much of Lady Gaga and can’t name a song. I always assume her to be crazy and outlandish. But I couldn’t believe how great of a singer she is. She did a tribute to “The Sound of Music” and honestly gave it justice with her performance.

3) John Legend and Common stole the show.
As a fan of Common, I regretfully hadn’t heard his song, “Glory”. But that performance combined with the racial tensions of the night truly stole the show. I was honestly impressed with the power of the performance. There were tears in the crowd from all sorts of people.

The difficult thing with Selma is that people attribute the time period to be so long ago that it’s beyond memory, but like Common attributed, Selma is still being played out in America through Ferguson and like John Legend said, Mass Incarceration.

4) Terrence Howard was better off not having done that little speech.
Terrence Howard is a great actor. I’ll give him his props. He’s doing his thing with Empire. He’s won his share of awards. But that speech he gave was all rough. The pauses and problem with the mic. It was rough to see. Luckily, everyone will forget about it in the next year or so as I’m sure Empire will be on deck to win some awards in Television.

5) This awards show seemed owned by 5 or 6 movies, and all seemed to have an Indie/Artsy feel to them.
I was disappointed to see that a select few movies pretty much owned every category. I love Indie, Artsy(and foreign) movies. I really do. Those are usually my favs. But as a dad and husband, my family isn’t as in to them so I don’t get to watch as many as I used to and that’s fine.

I was disappointed with the lack of diversity in the films getting consideration. I have heard people take issue with American Sniper, but if the general public liked it, I am curious why it wouldn’t be more considered for more awards. As well with Gone Girl and some other movies. It seems that these awards are held for the upper class of society. They are reserved for a select few. I guess my issue is that why isn’t the selection of films more diverse? I don’t know.