SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT

Wow! April is almost over . . . and this is the last week of jazz appreciation month, too! Many of my Facebook friends have placed posts of historical jazz figures and their compositions this month! Thanks. One of my favorites is Grover Washington, followed by Keiko Matsui with a taste of Japanese jazz! The NBA playoffs are in full swing, and I may have a chance to introduce the “Stop The Violence” campaign to a group of perhaps 500 middle and high school students next Friday, May 6th, at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center on Sistrunk Blvd in the FTL along with a pregnancy prevention presentation for them by Andrea Jean Baptiste and her organization which specializes in such activities! I will keep you posted.

Speaking of jazz – progressive jazz and fusion jazz in particular – it was the way I made it through college since I was a student disc jockey on WPRB in Princeton many years ago. Interesting thing, as with many of my contemporaries from back then, it is still a way for me to nourish my spirit and soul! Oftentimes, I pop in a CD or simply log on to “Pandora” and hit up my favorite artist! Just listening in the quiet of my flat, occasionally watching my fish dance in the aquarium or relaxing over a meal and let my worries dance with the tunes I am listening to and be quieted is a way to nourish my spirit! The beach side also provides the solace that my spirit seeks in steps toward essential nourishment, too! And, as I write . . . and you read . . . I am nourished spiritually! Thank you all!

“The natural world is a spiritual house . . . . Man walks there through forests of physical things that are also spiritual things, that watch him with affectionate looks.” – Charles Boudelaire

and . . .

“Fine friendship requires duration rather than fitful intensity (especially with oneself!).” – Aristotle and . . . . “Know thyself!” – Socrates

May we grow to understand the nature of things, both physical and spiritual, and learn to befriend one another, especially ourselves!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence

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Easter Blessings . . .

Happy Good Friday, Family . . . and as you must have known T.G.I.F.!

Well, Holy Thursday was yesterday and Good Friday is today . . . followed by Holy Saturday and finally Easter Sunday! You know, so often I find myself meditating … or just thinking, if that word works better for you … about the real meaning of Easter. When growing up, our family always made it a point to get us new “duds” aka clothes, including a new suit and shoes for me and Hank; new shoes, a new dress and matching bonnets for Edna and Barbara; and Mom and Dad were “decked out” as we went as a family to Bethel Baptist Church there in the Projects on Easter Sunday. It was like we had our own Easter Parade! (I still have a picture on my night table of my mother and father and my daughter, Ayanna with an inflatable bunny rabbit, all together on an Easter Sunday . . .)

Now, I ain’t no preacher ( ‘scuse the slang there!) so I am not going to give you an Easter Sermon on Good Friday. Yet, I hope that some of you have a chance to read up on what the Resurrection means symbolically, and, perhaps even get a chance to go to an Easter Service in your own communities. You see, for me, much of this modern world has lost the traditions of family, church, friends … even the value of the school community and teachers who spend so much time each day with the world’s children. I remember my father used to MAKE us go to Sunday School and bring home a card with the lesson on it! We would talk about it and then sit down to Sunday dinner together in our tiny apartment’s kitchen, say grace and then enjoy that time together.

Calvary Chapel is holding an Easter Service in various locations including Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale at 6am and 9:30am. Then there are several other service locations, including Boca Raton and the Calvary Campus on Commercial Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. Afterwards, one will have time to experience the meaning of Easter with family and friends for the rest of the afternoon.

“I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day.” – Albert Camus

May the spirit of Easter and the blessings that spirit may bring to you be with you, your family and friends . . . and love one another!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence

How Could They Let This Happen?!

I am not sure if any of you saw the story of the young hispanic woman here in South Florida who was divorcing her ex-marine husband due to continued domestic violence. It all happened in a judge’s chambers where the final decree for the divorce was being signed. The husband was ordered to pay child support for his two infant children, and, upon hearing the judge’s decree, the ex-marine stormed out of the chambers and then returned with both fists doubled punching the woman in the face incessantly! Most people were caught by surprise, except the woman herself who had been denied a restraining order to protect her from the husband.

She said, “I knew he was capable of that but I didn’t think he would do that in that place . . . where I thought I would be safe! I am afraid for my life and I know that if and when he comes from wherever they will send him, he will come to finish the job he started!”

Okay, from drama to deranged behavior, no one was able to subdue this monster, since no deputies were present in the judge’s chambers, except for an attorney who held the man in a bear hug until deputies entered and tased him two times before he loosened his grip on this helpless woman! Now, I know the failure of the court system as I once had requested a restraining order and was denied. The gentleman continued to harass and stalk me until I personally stopped him. I also know the horrors of domestic violence first hand because my oldest sister was murdered by a man in Mount Vernon, NY, who, on her birthday, beat her until she was unconscious . . . and later died . . . I hope they protect this woman in whatever way they can because now they know that she really needs it!

As I prepare my “Stop The Violence” kickoff at the Boys and Girls Club here in Broward County, these things fuel my energy and purpose, yes, and love for my fellow human beings!

“I wasn’t exactly brought up in one of those Norman Rockwell paintings you used to see on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.” – Reggie Jackson

The difficulties and confusion I feel may just be part of real life. Serenity comes when I accept the mixture that real life is. (TOUCHSTONES, April 20th)

May the peace and the love of our Creator enter our hearts to stay . . . forever!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence

CHANGE!

Perhaps, one of the most important things in our lives may be our ability to accept change … and embrace change … and Just Do It! – CHANGE! It seems that the secret is to know when and how to change most effectively, not to mention why …

Part of the story I left out from last Sunday’s Sermon by Pastor Bob was that most humans challenge God – Our Creator – when things begin to change … like getting older! He joked how his 13 year old daughter was telling people that she is 13 and a half, and, how people who are 66 seldom if ever say that they are 66 and a half! When younger, we want to get older. Yet, oftentimes, when older we challenge the inevitable process of growing older, trying to look younger or act younger, complaining about the oncoming aches and pains associated with physically declining bodies and health … woe is us!

In addition, he mentioned that we often compare our lives … financially, or even our love lives – the fact that we may be single and others are happily paired up (was he talking to me!?) or so it may seem … or maybe they really are, and we may lose patience to accept those circumstances in our lives and wonder if partying and playboy (or playgirl!) lifestyles maybe the answer to our seemingly aloneness … Too deep? Yes, I get tired thinking about these things sometimes … so …. I meditate and pray …

“Are you willing to be sponged out, erased,/cancelled,/made nothing?/Are you willing to be made nothing?/dipped into oblivion?/ If not, you will never really change.” – D. H. Lawrence

The book called TOUCHSTONES is one I was given many years ago when I suffered from not being able to change a lifestyle of partying and mischief … if you know what I mean. So, I began to read it on a daily basis along with a publication called “Daily Bread”. It is like an anecdotal “Bible” for me … so many of the quotes and anecdotes I share with you all come from there. There is more than one type of addiction, so to speak, or obsession … so I share these passages in hopes that we may find something … anything … in the words … I pray!

“Today, I surrender again. Each day I learn to surrender and grow deeper.” – TOUCHSTONES, April 13

Yesterday was a tough day for me … my daughter’s birthday … last day of the pay period … and I worked through it …. Topped it off with a night at the gym … then home …

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
http://www.excelwitheducationalexcellence.wordpress.com
Ps. – Going over to the Hotel Trina on A-1-A tonight for a monthly gathering of aficionados of the “Boys and Girls Club of Broward County”, as a friend, Solveig, has informed me of these activites. I’ll keep you posted.

Be Yourself … Because You Are You!

One of the things I like most about life is that if you take the right attitude, coupled with some spirituality, supportive friends, wisdom and knowledge (easier said than done!), we can get through a lot of things. Some of you may remember that I had mentioned a rather tough last week for me. Yes, it was one of those times when I had to put into effect some of the basic tools that I myself advocate through Educational Excellence’s platform. You know, the praying, meditation, working out, surrounding oneself with good people and staying focused on the blessings in life …. Amen!

Well, Monday’s meeting with Ms. Patricia Lesesne at the Broward County School Board went very well. I met this woman, a Harvard graduate, because of the relentless efforts and belief in me of one of the participants in an Anger Management Workshop I had had the pleasure of conducting with the Broward County Urban League’s Diversion Program directed by my good friend, Deru “Richie” Franks. This young man’s name is Francois Louis, senior at Plantation High School.

After sharing her program called Mentoring Tomorrow’s Leaders Project, Ms. Lesesne gave me an audience in the conference room. With so much going on nowadays, she had to be sure that what I was offering to share was genuine and fit in with the format of this Project, which came into existence after the School Board was notified that the Mentoring Tomorrow’s Leaders Project was one of twenty-four projects in the nation to be awarded the High School Graduation Initiative (HSGI) grant. “This grant will allow for the MTL model to be fully implemented at Boyd H. Anderson High School and Plantation High School – schools that met the USDOE guidelines for dropout rates. Through this grant, all students in both schools, males and females, are able to become an MTL participant.”

This all did not come about at the drop of a hat as most of you probably know. “During the 2007-2008 school year, concerned high school educators at Plantation High School, under the leadership of Amalia Pares-Pomerantz, formed a professional learning community to address the academic needs of African American male students.” “Through the diligence and tenacity of educator, Shirley Baker, Mentoring Tomorrow’s Leaders (MTL) was birthed.”

As a result of Francois’s youthful energy and Ms. Lesesne’s, (Francois former teacher), interest in including people like myself into such a valuable effort, we met, and shared ideas, which we plan to nurture into some workshops for both parents and students in the coming year. Thanks to both of you!

“I had gone through life thinking I was better than everyone else and at the same time, being afraid of everyone. I was afraid to be me.” – Dennis Wholey

May I accept the guidance of my Higher Power in developing a realistic and comfortable self-image. (TOUCHSTONES April 6)

Have a great day and rest of the week …. and be yourself!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence

The Next Episode!

Happy Monday, world!

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well …. Mine was exceptional … yet, I had to take a few steps back and look at myself a little longer. You know when you are feeling well and certain areas of your life are going good, then out of the blue comes a challenge to ones serenity and peace? So it was for me since Wednesday of last week. Yet, I just kept moving forward “in a matter of fact way” and found myself needing to say the Serenity Prayer a few times, keep my mouth shut on two more occasions when people were ranting and yelling and trying to blow my cool.

After a decent Friday night, I woke up early Saturday morning and sang and wore a t-shirt with the letter “L” on it in front of the Main Jail. Why? It was part of the jail’s ministry activity for “Love Out Louder” Day sponsored by Calvary Chapel, FTL. We each had a shirt on with a letter that, when we came together, spelled “Jesus Loves You”, and, accompanied by a guitarist with a small amplifier, we sang songs of praise and worship. Passersby occasionally stopped and some of the people in our group spoke to them about knowing God. We were supposed to go inside the jail but a directive got mis-directed and we had to set up outside. That was fine with me … for various reasons … Many inmates huddled at the windows inside the jail and waved to us … and we waved back!

Sunday was a great day because I had a chance to hang out with some of my married friends and their families both at the Jazz Brunch where Juanita Dixon and a funky band with 3 horns stole the show, and then afterwards at Fort Lauderdale Beach. As I shared some of my “challenges” with a good friend’s wife, she replied: “You know John, when things go smoothly and life seems to be moving forward for you, that’s when more and more obstacles appear to try and throw you off course!” I agreed, and, needed to hear that. This morning I awoke saying the 23 Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer in order to calm my agitated spirit for some of the things that occurred … and … get ready for the next episode!

“What is obvious to me is that we did not create ourselves . . . life is something inside of you. You did not create it. Once you understand that, you are in a spiritual realm.” – Virginia Satir

Have a great day and nourish your spirit.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
http://www.excelwitheducationalexcellence.wordpress.com
Ps. – I am going to the School Board Office this morning to meet with a woman to see how I may work with her with my “Stop The Violence” Campaign.

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