Unrest

George Floyd’s death was quite possibly the tipping point of America’s pent up rage. As I watch the unrest in the streets, I can’t help but acknowledge it has moved into my being. I speak to quell the holy shout growing in my soul:

ENOUGH!!!
How uncomfortable are you willing to be for the sake of truth? Bold truth spoken in love is the only real change agent, the only real freedom fighter. Despite the chaos in the streets, love is still the greatest power known to man. We cannot fight with anything less. We will never move forward on lies and political correctness. Many white Americans are afraid to speak on race to the point of cowardice, but many black Americans speak on the pain and anger of it to the point of irrationality. I’m not afraid, but I am aware that this could cost me something. I’ll risk it.

I would rather hear from leaders who voice hope, and who help us move toward healing. The leaders I’ve seen, seem lost. Some of them are angry and hurt to the point of discrimination and hatred themselves. They are stirring up and perpetuating the very thing they claim they want to fix. Many are buying into lies and notions that leads to more death and destruction. They are transfixed by pain or paralyzed by emotion. They speak of change from a place of fear. Fear never gives life. It only destroys it.

Most alarming of all is truth is being pushed out of the conversation purposely, or it is entirely ignored. With every lie that is told, I grow more desperate to hear an honest conversation, one which will lead to constructive change. I write this in an attempt to begin one. It will please neither the white community, nor the black community with whom I share pigment and racial experiences. I don’t speak for all black people. Nor will I pick a team. Truth is disrespected by both sides of the issue. I will attempt to address each lie with truth. This will be raw, and even cringeworthy at times. I do this not to shock you, but to be honest. My hope is that those who have ears to hear will hear, and that God will be exalted, and pleased that I tried.

THE LIE OF RACE AND RACISM

Somewhere along the way we accepted the lie of race, and by extension racism. Once we did, we began fighting the wrong battle. It is the nature of a lie to redirect. Our eyes, hands, ears, conscience and spirit all testified that people by nature are of the same race; human. Yet, we chose to focus on, and define each other by variations in features. We made the lesser thing to define the greater thing. It is consistent with man’s judgment. He regards what is seen outwardly, and devalues the divine. Once we did this, we were doomed to fight a battle that cannot be won, because “racism” is not the core issue. Evil is. Sometimes that evil is expressed as hatred for an entire group or class. Sadly, in the hearts of those who make room, hatred will never localize. It always seeks to expand. For the sake of this post, I’ll use the word “racism” and hatred interchangeably.

Some time ago I watched a teacher name Jane Elliot conduct what she called the “Brown- eyed Blue-eyed Experiment.” It was intended to show whites what prejudice is like by segregating them for a short time, and treating them differently based on eye color. The experiment taught many what it felt like to be discriminated against. Some with the preferred eye color quickly bought in to their superior roles, proving that should we eradicate discrimination based on skin color, it would easily reemerge on the basis of something else. In this case it was eye color, but it could be hair color, height, weight, finances, whatever. This reveals that true “racism” is a heart issue. Wherever we managed to eliminate this problem within our society, unless we correct the heart, which is the root of it, discrimination will simply take another form. It’s like firing a thief from your business, but electing him to your government. His character hasn’t changed, only the schemes he uses, and the location from which he robs you.

Mrs. Elliot borrowed the eye experiment from Hitler. For the Nazis, it wasn’t an experiment. It was a test, a measure used to qualify levels of whiteness among Jews. Millions were killed based on it. The difference between life and death hinged on lighter tints and shades in eye color among the same group of people. No logic needed. Evil is resilient. It will find a reason to carry out its purpose. Ultimately, only God can destroy it. Obedience to His wisdom is key.

Unfortunately, many in the church have walked in disobedience to God regarding how we love others. As a result, we suffer from some of the same issues in the church that confronts non-believers. If Sunday morning services are any indication, society is ahead of us where integration is concerned. This is not a reflection on the wisdom of God, but rather a reflection on our neglect and rejection of it. So many Christians want to join the fight against racism. It’s noble, but we have to connect to the truth first; some of us are a part of the problem. We must ask God to reveal sin, and do as He says, remove “the log” out of our eyes first. Then we will be able to help others.

Help, should not imply harmony. As we comfort those broken by hatred, we cannot allow their emotions and pain to lead us away from, and blind us to the real problem, evil. The church must be careful that in our zeal to show compassion, we don’t sacrifice the cure, the truth, the purpose and power of the cross. It is an opportunity to confess God, and speak of His transforming power in us. We, as all men are corrupt in nature. The evil we fight is in us all. Perhaps it’s a fulfillment in the things that we own, the way we look, the position we hold, who we know etc. Truth is man’s heart is fixated on having an edge. We all have it. This is our pride. It is why Jesus came. When we single out racism as the demon of all sins, deserving a special kind of venom, we deny the truth and allow the root cause of it to live. That is, that all men want to be God in some way. He has an internal desire to feel superior to someone. This is Eden 101.

We looked at God Himself, the creator and sustainer, in the middle of His property, and pretty much said, “I think I’d rather be god over myself. I can do this better than you.” How then are we expected to elevate another human being to our level, if we are trying to elevate ourselves to the level of God! Man has no genuine interest in real equality. It is at conflict with our desire to reign. It is therefore contrary to our nature to look at another man and say, “I will make him equal to me.”

It’s time to stop romanticizing the lie that we can “fix racism” without God. He is the only good in humanity, and only His way works. His death made man’s restoration possible, it puts an end to what separates man from God and each other: Sin. Evil. God alone gives us the love we need for each other. There is not a social program on the earth that could do this. His plan is perfect. We are unable to improve upon it; Therefore, God does not prosper a way that is not His. So, until we connect with holiness, and view life in His light, we will continue to hate each other. We will do so even in the name of religion, because it is not a system that values life, it is a person. Those who follow God will love their neighbor regardless of color. Those who do not love, do not know God.

Now discrimination unlike “racism” isn’t entirely a negative thing. We do it in many situations to keep ourselves safe. I will not walk down the dark alley with the mysterious van. I will not give my bank account information to the “prince” of Ghana who wants to bless me with millions. In many areas we accept that discrimination is natural. You do not love my child like you love yours. Nor do I expect you to. And who can convince you that your baby isn’t the best baby ever born? Let’s not complicate the issue by confusing the meaning of the word. It can mean the unjust treatment of a certain group, or just drawing a distinction. One is needed to make wise decisions, the other is never needed. If I decide not to go to a particular Mexican restaurant because it has a poor sanitation rating, that’s probably smart. If I decide that all Mexican restaurants are unclean that’s imbecilic. Any area where we have made a sweeping generalization, especially on a mystery motive, is a red flag.

Whether we are the perpetrator or victim, believers dealing with “racism” or any sin already know what to do. We don’t need a new plan. The old one works. Go to your brother, and try to solve your difference. Communicate with him. That’s biblical. That is how we handle hostility and grudges. We reach out to the people holding the grudge, and we listen to their heart. We allow them the opportunity to hear ours, and we respond based on the truth, not on how they feel. If your brother feels sad because his wife cheated on Him, you weep with him, but you do not let the pain he is experiencing cause you to partner with him if he decides to go and murder her lover. One reaction holds the power of life, the other produces more hate and division, so that the end result of the original wrong, is surpassed by the foolishness that follows.

Unfortunately, this is what I see some in the church now doing. We seem to want to compensate for past attitudes and failures by replacing it with an attitude of acceptance of everything. Due to where it leads, I find this scarier than “racism.” It means we are willing to sacrifice truth for what we feel. Our feelings are now our gods. Think of the implications of that? Currently, those who do not conform to the “group feeling” on a matter are being corrected, reeducated, silenced or destroyed. Thus far the harm to those individuals have only been financial, but evil is unquenchable. It will demand more. If we don’t address this now, those who are most powerful will control whose “feelings” are most worthy to be honored, and maybe even permanently silenced.

Right now, it looks like it is mostly the feelings of blacks that matter. I definitely want black people to have a voice I have a personal interest in it, but no one voice should control a free society. Especially when it mimics a hostile takeover, and establishes fear as its might. These dynamics will shift to other groups. Each with a more radical mission than the last. For these reasons we must govern ourselves based on righteous principles. In our quest for unity let us throw off everything that hinders and entangles our walk-in truth, and pursue the hearts of all men with the good news from God. The best way to fight “racism” is to live in complete obedience to the wisdom of God. If we lay down our cross to pick up the banner of anything or anyone other than Christ, we join the defeated, and do a disservice to the power of God. Fight for the hearts of men, and the kingdom of God. It is not a one issue battle. It is not a fight to cure a symptom. It is a war against the cause, the disease of evil that penetrates our very nature. The only cure is Christ.

SYSTEMIC RACISM

I do think racism is systemic, but not exactly in the way some want me to. All evil is systemic. It is built into the system, the flesh of men. It becomes institutional because men lead institutions. Many in the black community believe white power, over a system designed by him, and for him is the main opposition to black progress, and success. It is a true lie.

How long are we to pretend systemic racism is only a matter of white oppression, and give black leaders a pass? I recently watched Oprah hold a forum among black Americans. It was on systemic racism. She included those who shared congruent views, but excluded those who did not. She and others routinely ostracize the voices of black libertarians, independents, and conservatives. This exclusion screams discrimination. It is at the very least, discrimination of thought, and as a result help. Selecting only those with whom you agree, is actually fixing the conversation to favor your outcome. She was doing the very thing she was hosting a forum to remedy. Black leaders in America, and others have created a system whereby they discriminate against conservative voices entirely. They deny them every opportunity to advance or have input in the black community. It’s a blatant double standard. It’s a minor example, but please acknowledge that prejudices exist among people of the same group.

Should we only focus on fixing “racism” coming from whites? Do we ignore it among ourselves? No. We should start with us. We have been fighting “racism” for years. I believe our unity is paramount to the success of that. It may even be the pivot on which the system changes. At the very least addressing all the problems we face, will make us stronger. It also preempts infighting. If we can change the “man in the mirror” we can surely change the world.

It is undeniable that people of the same groups hurt each other. In many cases, it is a more effective weapon than any outside force. I remember the Rwandan genocide. The horror of the Hutus and Tutsis, and the caste system in India, teaches me compassion nor protection is assured on the ground of color alone. Even my personal history highlights this. I was teased because I’m a darker shade on the black spectrum. I’m not attempting to equate name-calling to systemic racism. I’m simply acknowledging our equal opportunity to create such a system. Truth comes before change. The fact that I’ve been called “nigger” by whites does not outweigh being called “tar baby” by blacks. Both were meant to demean.

Let’s be honest before the Lord who already knows our hearts, we discriminate within the black community. Be it skin color, or even hair type, it’s there. Judge rightly. Whether perfect equity or superiority in society, neither secures equality among blacks. Color aside, I don’t want to be considered less than any man. That’s tantamount to trading a master for a master. I’d rather be free. This conversation is a lot deeper than we are willing to go. Our community needs healing from the inside too. Don’t be mad because I told the truth. Be humbled before the Lord by it. God will not bless hypocrisy among us. Nor will we ever be made whole by telling half the truth. Honor God and put the Kingdom over culture, and country. Be prepared to surrender your “black card” for your believer card any day.

If we are going to talk about systemic racism, we have to deal with it on both sides, blacks and whites. I see systemic racism among blacks, in that we discriminate against other blacks. Some of those who are wealthy, have built on the backs of the poor in their own community. The most discriminated group in America is black conservatives. Blacks have joined with whites to bully them into silence. That’s because evil will partner with evil, regardless of color. These black people are ignored, and in most cases, they are not considered “black enough.” They are “Uncle Toms.” Am I to pretend I don’t see that, and that that discrimination is different? How? I argue that it is worse, because the perpetrators know what it feels like to be silenced. They claim to know what it is like to be denied the opportunity to advance, and yet they do it to others.

I would also have to call out the systemic issue of abortion. How are we going to talk about systemic racism and not mention that? Margret Sanger was a pioneer in the eugenics movement. She advocated forced sterilization. Neither she, nor founder Alan Frank Guttmacher, were vague about the goal of Planned Parenthood. It was “population control.” Their words. I realize that this message has been scrubbed. If you go to sites like Wikipedia these people have been deified. They are now leaders in the field of “reproductive rights.” They were pioneers in “family planning.” Come on! They intentionally instituted policies that have led to the slaughter of millions of black Americans. If it’s family planning why is most of the “planning” happening in black communities? Why is most of these “family planning” clinics setup in black neighborhoods? Why are we continuing to sacrifice our babies in these clinics because someone told us we need to adopt their plan? Murder is not a plan. That is genocide. It was calculated. It was introduced in the black community as hope, for struggling moms, as an alternative for low income people, by people who were white, and boldly racist.

There is no more excuse for our ignorance. We would look into this if we were honest. Stop letting politics rewrite history, pervert your integrity, and tell us how to think. Go read Margaret Sanger and the Negro project. Read reports like Birth control and the Negro. Even though there is a push to recharacterize her and recast her image, and to make the motives of people like her less known, you can find it if you want too. Is it worth a few hours of your time to investigate, and see that murder was planned and determined for us as people a long, long time ago? That we were considered “unfit, the lowest elements of society, the great problem of the south, something to be remove for racial betterment.” At the time Sanger advise that this project should not be carried out by medical white men. “Why? Perhaps for the same reason she said,

“We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” Margret Sanger.

These are the very words of the pioneer in the “birth control movement.” If we truly care about systemic racism in the black community, we would confront this. But we don’t want to know. It would inconvenience us. We would have to change, so we close our ears and disparage those who dare to speak the truth. It truly makes me angry because we want others to hear our cries for help but we ignore the very children in our womb. It is our privilege to take their lives. It is our privilege to ignore their murders because it is what is best for us. That sounds a lot like the very thing we are accusing whites of when we say systemic racism and white privilege.

I find it hard to unite with many people of my color in this area. I cannot reconcile the hypocrisy here. If racism is systemic, the battle to end abortion is ground zero in the fight. We are killing the hope in our community. Abortion is contract killings made legal, and advanced for the express purpose of taking out as many black lives as possible. I cannot get behind any movement that will not acknowledge it, much less fight against it. Instead, many of us support it. It is dishonest to advocate for our rights, while denying others, and then try to shut down those who point that out. I can never partner with someone who only wants me to say what they want, especially when it concerns denying the truth. So, pardon me if I’m not crying over the life that you do have. My heart is broken for the lives many of our children didn’t get to have. Instead I ask that you join in the fight for them.

Abortion is not the only “help” that has been less than helpful. Many Welfare programs offer us resources in exchange for our hopes and dreams. To accept welfare programs indefinitely, is to agree to live according to the state’s idea of your value. I’m not bashing aid. I’m bashing the system of living of aid as income. It is not a life plan. We should never grow comfortable or conditioned to easy money given by authority. We certainly shouldn’t trust it. Nor should we expect to advance in this way.

Wherever you are given something you have to pay for it in some form. We must ask ourselves why are there incentives to get on these programs, but not to get off? What has the cost of these things been? Much like abortion, they look like the answer, like hope, like light, but it is not real light. It is a cozy a trap. It keeps you living up to the government potential, and under yours, or God’s potential for you. Much like abortion has led to stagnation in our community, elimination of promise, and inequality in wealth, these programs also lead to stagnation in our success, redistribution of promise and inequality in wealth. At best they were designed to help for a short time, at worst they were intended to disable. I have come to believe the latter. They pacify to complacency, and if you want to oppress a man never give him a reason to fight. He might actually win.

Systemic racism? Yes, but not in the way it is being presented. We are not being robbed of opportunity in the zillions because whites are currently subjugating us. We made that concession decades ago. We are currently being robbed of growth, power and success because we have agreed and supported the calculated destruction, lies and desire of those who see us as too ignorant to know better. We have furthered them, and destroy any who dare speak against them. It is systemic racism by agreement, systemic racism through cultural consent. That is the bad news and the good news. We can change all of this if we truly examine all the ills in our community, unite and think for ourselves. We don’t need anyone’s permission to heal us. We can do this, but as long as we promote and support politicians who tell us what it means to be black, count on systemic racism being around for a while. This is a fight for all Americans, but black Americans must lead it.

BETWEEN US

I’m attempting to address the whole truth or at least as much of it as I can. Now, I don’t for one minute believe that there aren’t discriminatory practices carried out specifically against the black community. I’m not giving anyone a pass for doing so. Most blacks, myself included, are treated with a presumption of innate ignorance. It leads to things like low expectations regarding intellect. From it proceeds a host of discriminatory questions, insinuations, and false offers of aid. It shows up in strangers telling you what you can and cannot achieve or afford, explaining things you already know in painfully simplified details, attempting to speak for you as though you need a translator. I’ve been given old food, offered unacceptable living conditions, and damaged materials, simply because I wasn’t expected to know what quality is. It is the same spirit I see in the handouts from the government. Conveniently, this presumption of innate ignorance also leads to a dismissal of our valid concerns regarding prejudice. We are considered too biased a source. One which cannot be trusted to recognize racial problems, much less point them out.

Additionally, we are treated with an attitude of suspicion. We are not afforded the benefit of the doubt as often. This leads to incidents of extra vigilance, surveillance and aggressive “justice.” It’s the cause of questions like, did you pay for that?” It’s the reason I’ve been followed in stores, and in my neighborhood. It’s the reason I’m stopped leaving stores while the white friends I’m with, are not.

I do not believe Derek Chauvin woke up that morning with “kill a black man” on his to do list. But it’s the “little foxes” that often cause the big damage. Some are still debating the cause of Floyds death. Was it the knee or something else? Seriously? Discard the fact that he actually appeared to be taking pleasure in what he was doing, and almost taunting the crowd with it, had he gotten off of that man sooner, after he stopped resisting, perhaps he could have received help sooner. Maybe there is another camera angle, but I saw no resistance, nor did the onlookers filming, and pleading with him to get off Floyd. It’s reckless to apply added force where it is not needed. To deny medical care while you do so, is cruel. Whether it was racial or not, it was not right. To behave so recklessly while in a position of power is abuse. But it’s familiar, arrogance with a certain casual disregard. It hurts. Blacks have seen this abuse so many times and in so many ways.

This is what the outrage in the streets is about. Blacks know that for every George Floyd who dies on the streets, there is a million more faces that don’t die. They are stopped and delayed for little are no reason. It is frustrating to be pulled over, and hear an officer fumble for a reason why. In those instances, you are happy to go home, but fully aware that the “powers that be” seem to exercise a little “more power” over you. For me, and for many blacks the question isn’t is racism real. We know it is. There is no debate among us. The hatred we have experienced is as real as apple pie, and the Fourth of July. The question is: how do we respond to it? What’s the solution? Before we can come together and fix it, we have to acknowledge it. Some still don’t see it.

It’s been my experience that white people seem to think more of hooded robes, and racial slurs when defining racism. Many of the things which affect black people outside of that escapes them. They don’t always recognize it, because they are not dealing with the same things. That’s fair. On some levels we are living in two Americas in terms of how we are viewed. I compare it to an argument between an old married couple fighting over the same topic all their relationship. They have the same fight repeatedly, and every time they will disagree. Neither side changes their mind. They just leave with the same unresolved issues. They tolerate each other for a while, but the problem is just beneath the surface. It pops up every few months or so.

At this point, race in America is a lot like that couple. Neither party is completely wrong. They just have different viewpoints. In many ways I see blacks as the offended party saying, “look at what you did, and continue to do to me.” Meanwhile whites are like, “you are still here, it’s not that bad. Get over it so we can move on.” It’s very much like, a nagging wife, and an obstinate husband, only more dangerous. At least the couple’s problem involves two people, who will both die, and take their fight with them. As a society the conversation involves everyone. It is passed from generation to generation. It’s been going on too long, and neither party signed up for it, or likes their role in it. The only thing we can agree on is that we are all tired.

Believe it or not racism is not the only thing that black people want to talk about, but we’re just experiencing it more frequently than white Americans understand. It’s dehumanizing. Some of us are holding things back. We don’t share much of it. It is a difficult thing to navigate what to tell. I’d rather walk through it with my God, than tell a friend who downplays it or dismisses me. I find that more painful. It’s easier to keep the most heartbreaking things to ourselves. It’s also hard to let the people who are hurting you know that what they are doing is effective. Why strengthen the arm of one who would use it to torment you? Right or wrong that’s the reasoning. So, on the one hand blacks nag because they want you to get involve, but many keep a barrier around their hearts, because if they really shared, they risk more hurt.

I’ve heard some ask, “Why can’t we focus on what’s right and not what’s wrong?” That’s a fair thought, but what’s wrong still happens pretty often. And then when you look over and see one group of people not as affected or even concern by some of what’s wrong, it gets a bit hard to swallow. Especially, when you are struggling regularly with things that others deny exist.
Try to understand. I’ve heard many white people say, “Stop looking at the past, while flashing a rebel flag. Excuse me, but is that not a flag from the past? Or is that the new flag of 2020?

Others, have been quick to say that slavery ended centuries ago (they mostly get the date wrong) but they ignore the fact that civil rights is a more recent thing. We are still living among people who fought for it, black and white, and all were affected by it.
I’ve met so many whites who say “racism is wrong. I’m not that way, but my…” Then they proceed to out the family members who are. These same people then advise, on how “we (black people) need to move past it.” I’m always astonished that they don’t see the obvious contradiction between that, and saying, “black people need to get over it,” and the existence of their racist relatives. If your uncle’s family are racists, are they also hermits? Unless they are hermits, they are interacting with the public, with me, my family and other black families. They are the ones following me around stores, clutching their bags like life support, serving the person of their color preference when I was clearly first. Some are hiring, and firing. Others are making arrests.

Now you’d like to think that they don’t act that way in public, but it does seep out, and it expresses itself in many ways. If you are going to give advice to the black community about moving on, then make sure you are equally advising all racist acquaintances to do so as well. I’m not telling you not to love your family, but you are also called to love the family of God. If you will stand for the truth across the board, it will bring healing to all around you. You don’t have to have all the right words, but until our identity in God supersedes our identity in the world, we will never have reconciliation.

I think the anger over the continued dismissal, denial, and complacency, from the white community has pushed some black people to their breaking point. Even Christians are justifying and softening their stance on sin in desperation to express their rage. They are saying things like, “I don’t agree with the violence in the protests, but I understand it.” They then go on to express the “understanding of the violence” with greater passion than the condemnation of it. What is that? Let’s not make sin relative for the sake of getting even, and “social justice.” People are being murdered over televisions. Are we so desperate for action, we’ll accept anything? That feels more like revenge.

I’ve also heard some in the church say looting, rioting, and violence is acceptable because black people have tried peaceful protest, like kneeling for the national anthem, and no one cared. They received more criticism and venom over being unpatriotic than the cause of their kneeling. Defenders of violence rationalize that peaceful attempts are dismissed, and blacks continue to be considered violent thugs despite their attempts to draw attention to inequality. They reason that it’s time to act like the hoodlums we are presumed to be, if that’s what gets us equality. To hear a believer, express this is astounding. Do whites get this privilege? Are you also willing to say white people can act like racists because they are exhausted from being constantly accused of it? Do all the whites who have fought against hatred, but are still being labelled hopelessly racist, do they get to apply this rationale too? Following the logic that violent protesters are just acting the way that they are assumed to be, then white people should be able to act racist as they are assumed to be. This is madness.

Another thought that has been expressed was that “Martin Luther King was a good man, but Malcolm X had the better idea.” And to that I say, for every Malcolm X there is a David Duke?” Hate breeds hate. Is that what we want?

GOT YA!

For many the video of George Floyd has been the “got ya” video of our failure on racism, that includes in the body of Christ. Many people can now see what blacks have been saying and they are ashamed. Many blacks now feel they have the proof of what was known and rejected all along, and their anger, pain, sadness and fear over it is real. White people if you have been dismissive of what is going on with regard to your fellow Americans, repent and commit your way to the Lord. He will guide you to love others, and show you how to carry your brother’s burden and not his bitterness or live within the boundaries he puts on you.

Black American, despite the pain soften your heart to hope. There is no amount of pain that allows you to impose, restrict or silence the voices of others. You cannot say you want racial reconciliation but allow only one race to speak. That’s superiority. We know what that feels like. Say what you need to say, but allow the other side to have some thoughts and ideas. Will they say some things that infuriate you? Probably. Are they going to understand it all? Probably not. We need patience to live with each other. That is why it is a gift of the Spirit. It came from Heaven. God has it with us, and we need it to interact with each other. There is no such thing as being too patient here.

We must fight our hearts to forgive the hardest things. It wants to hold on to every wrong, and make sure it is accounted for. It is accounted for by our savior who died for it. Let us also remember, God has said “vengeance is mine. I will repay.” Why do we lay aside the counsel of God because we hurt? Is our God no longer just? Will evil always win? Do we not trust His justice, or do we think He will somehow be complicit? Rise up people of God choose Him and follow his ways. We will not solve “social injustice” through legislation or anything that the world is proposing. You cannot legislate evil and hate out of the heart of man. I wish that no one were racist, but if you can figure out how to legislate hatred out of man and love into him, you would have effectively solved the greatest problem of all time, rendering every faith and god unnecessary. If the atheist wants to abolish faith they should work on that problem, because the quest of faith really is the desire for love and significance.

If we did manage such a fete, it wouldn’t last long, because the laws come from the purity of the heart of the one who wrote them. Without absolute goodness, the law of the one giving it is always vulnerable. What I’m saying is if man managed to create a perfect code of laws, then it is only as strong as his character. And should he change his heart, he will also change his word. The perfect system would then be at the mercy of whoever is in charge. All men know and live this. How many times do we intend to do something, and fail? Whether it is New Year’s resolutions or life goals, we write them down and often don’t keep them. The law can only benefit us if we keep it. Those who have a heart and a mind rebellious to the law of God and the law of man will always break it.

WHITE PRIVILEGE

Racism is so subtle. It is a shape shifter. It can be the obvious insult like, “porch monkey” or “ape,” or come in the form of a “compliment” like “you’re pretty for a black girl.” But sometimes it happens even when nothing is said. It is attitude, or reluctance to serve, and eagerness to dismiss. I will admit that sometimes it’s hard explaining these things to others. It further complicates conversations on the topic. Many are angry that whites are even afforded the luxury of ignorance here, and that they are not navigating these things with regularity. Terms like “white privilege” start getting thrown around. White privilege is used to describe the discrepancy between how hard a black and white person have to work to achieve the same goal. It is the belief that an advantage is historically, disproportionally and automatically assigned to the ones who lead this society since its founding. I struggle with this. I believe there is a kernel of truth. Slavery definitely wasn’t for the benefit of the slaves, and how long that advantage lasted, and is it still in a handicap for blacks today is more the question.

I tend to disagree with the extent of its affect today. It’s not that racism has gone away, but at what point do we say it is over? Do we seriously think we will ever have 100% compliance against black discrimination? I don’t think we can. If we could, why not reform murder, and molestation out of society? We recognize the impossibility based on human nature. We don’t attempt to suggest eliminating other sins in this way. I feel we are being dishonest. The only way hate ends, is if we end all humanity. Why are we setting a higher and more impossible standard here than with all other sins? It is in its own special class, so it deserves a special treatment. Treating this sin like the unpardonable one, gives us an excuse to hold on to bitterness and to keep fighting the same problem forever. We will create more laws, and more programs and more failures as a result, because it will merely shift the privilege from one group to another. With everything I receive because I’m black someone will be robbed because they are not. I do not want to gain in this way. Many will argue it’s about leveling the playing field. I don’t believe that. If that were true how come we are only advocating it for one group of people? Has no one else in America been wronged? I seem to remember this land belonging to another group of people before whites and blacks got here. They should be at the head of the table of any discussion regarding wealth redistribution. In fact, they should decide who gets what. To leave them out is disrespectful, and it feels a little more like targeting, an excuse to exploit a situation that can never be repaid.

Still, the real issue is hypocrisy. Which of you, black or white would be willing to give up your birthright, and switched with somebody from Haiti, Sudan, Somalia? I mean no disrespect, but who is willing to trade their birthright for someone in India to come here and live as you are, while you go there and live as they would be? Better yet, don’t just give up your birthright, but go only with the clothes on your back to Haiti, Uganda, Ethiopia and work your way from the ground up. Then come back and tell me if there’s no such thing as American privilege. You see, if we are going to talk about white privilege in America, then we have to discuss American privilege in the world. That puts us all in a very vulnerable position. Americans collectively would have to give up their stuff for the inequity in the rest of the world whose people also are exploited.

Let’s not be hypocrites here. Chinese sweat shops are real. African poverty is real. American societies have been beneficiaries of both; yet what are we doing on an individual level to address those things? As painful as it is, we don’t get to prioritize our injustices above those of others. America’s wealth is due to many factors. Should those who rightly or wrongly attribute it to the exploitation of certain nations decide to equalize privilege, and gather on our shores to collect, few will make a distinction between a white and a black American.

The denial is baffling. Many black and white American kids are wearing name brand clothing, three hundred-dollar sneakers, while filming their “white privilege” protests on thousand-dollar phones! It completely escapes them how wealthy they are here. Meanwhile, there are parts of the world where people are literally eating dirt. How could they not know the privilege it is to be born in this country? The system has failed to educate them. There is a large percentage of the world that would do anything to be poor in America. I almost want to scream youth privilege. When I was a kid, we had one tv. It was a luxury. I shared a room with four siblings, and got my first car as an adult. Nowadays these are expected items of most American kids, and still they demand more. They seem completely disconnected from the reality of the handwork connected to providing these things. Youth privilege.

Entitlement is their real problem. Not everyone is supposed to be wealthy. Not everyone is going to be content. Just because the people three streets over have nice cars, doesn’t mean I should have them to. I’m not entitled to anything I didn’t work for. That is an essential part of free societies. The moment we start believing we are entitled to what others have, we will start to demand it and take things from them. That’s not freedom. That’s oppression. It makes me only as free to do and have as much as you deem acceptable. This is not America. The most attractive thing about this country is that it is a land of endless possibilities.

In addition to American privilege, and youth privilege, there is an even larger elephant in the room, male privilege. When do we make males account for their cruelty against Females? We can fill volumes on this one, and still never do it much justice. This is why we need to practice forgiveness. Radical forgiveness. Without it, we are wandering hopeless. Borrowed or inherited pain chains us to the past, and wrecks our future. It continues to add interest and grow the debt we perceived we are owed. The larger it grows the harder it becomes to let go. Whether anger over slavery, or guilt from it, this is true for whites and blacks. We must all learn to free ourselves. This is the greatest privilege of all.

Privilege isn’t a bad thing. As a parent I to try provide the privilege of college and many other things for my kids. Their education will cost us a lot of hard work. We understand privilege is connected to work ethic. Many black Americans feel we have to work a bit harder. We have to be twice as good, at the same job. We have to have the right attitude, or bite our tongues to avoid the “angry black…” label. This pressure is real. There are many people waiting for us to mess up to prove what they suspect, we are worthless, less than and lazy. In many work situations it’s an unspoken fight to prove you are equal to or worthy. I stopped fighting this battle a long time ago. I don’t need to vindicate the color of my earthly heritage, but to reveal the character of my Heavenly Father. It has allowed me to make peace with this pressure.

To be fair I’ve heard of many instances where the opposite is also true, black Americans performing horribly on the jobs, but white employers afraid to fire due to Affirmative Action. Yes, that’s wrong too. Obviously, in those situations the person/s feel none of the pressures I previously described. And while I do understand why we needed such programs; I hate that we still have to have them. I don’t think anyone should be stuck with a lazy employee, when they could have a better one. I fully recognize that Affirmative Action is riddled with problems. It is the very definition of being “judged by the color of our skin, and not the content of our character.” What’s the answer to this? Can America be trusted to judge fairly if AA were removed? I hope so, but I truly don’t know. What I do know is decades after Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, “The Dream” remains unfulfilled. We are still judged by the color of our skin, and others are moved to the back of the line, for the good this reverse “Jim Crowish” law accomplishes.

Surprisingly, there is one potential point of agreement. If white privilege exists, is widespread and debilitating, then it needs to be solved. The question becomes who can be trusted to solve it? Whites are apparently not solving it fast enough, nor would they have any interest, or incentive to. Blacks can’t be an unbiased source. So, if we all accept that it exists, who solves the problem of white privilege in America?

AMERICAN

Perhaps this is where the real conversation on race in America should begin. It seems many black Americans still consider themselves something other than that. They are still searching for a home, a real identity. Many have no stake in this country because they have separated themselves from it. Even the name African-American denotes some special class of American citizenship. You are American. Many fought and died for your right to be one. They didn’t fight for you to be African American. Just one look at us and the fact that we are of African descent is obvious. No one will confuse us with being European Americans. It’s like a desperate grasp for an identity we lost. That’s probably the most tragic part of slavery, the loss of a real identity. We will never get that back in the way that it was intended.

Instead, please accept that a group of courageous Americans, black, and white fought for our stake to make this country work for us, and for us to be included in what we were building, to make us owners, Americans. That is what you are, and no amount of calling ourselves African American will change that. The soles of your feet have never seen the shores of Africa, nor has the soles of your grandparent’s feet. You own nothing there, and unless you are investing there, you have little claim. It’s been a long time since you’ve been truly connected to Africa. Those who built the American Nation share in the hard work and labor, you should share in the rewards as American. They wanted this freedom for you. It is your inheritance

Paradoxically the name African-American seems both foolish and fitting. It’s foolish in that Africa is an entire continent, not a country. The name meant to clarify identity further confuses it. My immediate question tends to confuse some. “What part of Africa are you from?” I have friends who were born and raised in various countries in Africa. Some of them are white. Their parents were missionaries in Cameroon, Tanzania, Nigeria and Kenya. They know the nations, regions and cities they were born in. They know the culture. They speak the respective language of their African countries. They knew nothing of America except that they were white and of American parents. Africa was, is and will always be home. Yet they who have such deep ties to the country are not really allowed to call themselves African American here, because it is a color description, not a true cultural identity. “African Americans,” would you be offended if my white friends call themselves African American? Are American blacks more “African-American” than whites born and raised in Africa? It’s a bizarre reversal, and it feels very discriminatory. How can you be more African, than someone from Africa?

The term “African American” is sad, and fitting in that even with the use of the word “African” which seeks to define, and clarify identity, it adds no clarification at all. Both Africa and America are continents. The person can be from any country in Africa and either of two American continents. The two words tell us nothing about the identity of a person, only that they are of African descent and belong to one of the Americas. The person with the title is lost in a name too big to add real meaning. It’s time to just be an American. Perhaps something so simple will begin to unify us even if only in a slight way.

What’s missed is that the world sees us as American. That’s it. We are one people whether we like it or not. In our efforts to identify let’s remember, and celebrate things that unify. We can celebrate The Emancipation Proclamation, and the end of Jim Crow. And don’t settle for black history being reduced to a month. It is a part of American history. It’s little things like these that serve to further segregate. This time we are the ones choosing it. We don’t need black history month. We need our story told in the United States of America, at all times.

If you are American, you are part of the greatest nation on earth, the envy of many nations. It is a privilege and a blessing to be here. Even when we disagree, at least we know that we can protest, and express it. Let’s not shrink back from ownership in the land. Join the culture and become a part of it. Stop allowing the pain of racial experiences to push you to the outside.

If you are not proud of your country, I respect that at some point you will have to be a part of the system that changes it, however if the change means destroying or targeting one group. It is to slippery a slope. We’ve been down that road before. I’ve never seen a society prosper by blaming and targeting one group of people as the sole contributor of all its problems. In fact, that has been the excuse for many great atrocities.

REPARATIONS

Don’t hear me saying, I do not want equality. I appreciate beyond words the benefits of those who fought for it. I’m not talking about balancing the scales of justice, I’m talking about pursuing things that would tip them in another direction, A lot of people are saying we should impose legislation, and bring a list of demands, and force others to give us reparations for slavery. That sounds good, but that’s not wise. It seems like justice and light, but it’s not. It’s a lie from Satan and all good lies come disguised as light or we would never choose them. This one is no exception and it’s never going to fix the problem. It will tear us further apart. if we were to get reparations, how do you change the heart of a man who isn’t towards you, especially after you have forced him to hand over his goods? He will grow to resent you even more and our society will be left to continue living with an added layer and a deeper divide.

We are being dishonest when we talk about reparations. I’m not saying that it should not have happened, I’m just saying that it is too late for that to happen without us creating more injustice. How does adding injustice to a strained system solve the issues? And just How far do we go back? Do we go back only to right the wrongs done against blacks, or do we go back to the Native Americans? Do we go back to Africa to find the families robbed of their loved ones? Do we demand reparations of descendants of blacks who also participated in the slave trade and owned slaves? Do white Americans, in light of black reparations get to demand reparations if they were exploited too? What about indentured servants? We need to be honest and vocal.

Black people must deal rightly, and not be silent at the potential of gain. Our soul is not for sale. We are children of the truth. We cannot be like Judas and betray the faith for financial opportunity. Be objective. How far do we go back to make it right? How much do we give? Who should give? Should all tax payers give? Are Immigrants expected to contribute to this? How do we make it fair? Certainly, the slave owner that had one slave shouldn’t be charged with giving the same amount as the one who had hundreds? And should reparations be made toward every black person or every family? How then do we trace the number of people to give to? Do we charge other nations that were complicit with the US, which allowed slave ships, supplied and transported people? Should reparations be given to equal number of black Americans as there were slaves? Who decide who gets it?

This is insanity! Savagery was committed against blacks. It should not have happened, but we will never legislate it aright. Those men who owned slaves, who claimed decency, morality, and God should have led the way with reparations. They could have brought so much healing to our land. They should have given, or perhaps their children should have, those who had firsthand knowledge and profit from slavery, but I suppose if they were willing to be that gracious, we would never have had to fight a civil war. But to try to hold their descendants responsible over a century and a half after the emancipation proclamation is unjust. Perhaps you can twist a few passages to drag out support for your belief, you will not find overwhelming biblical support for holding the children responsible for their father’s sins, unless the children in their hate for God continue to practice the sins of their fathers.

All of that aside, how long do we continue to allow this legacy of enslavement to define our future? How long do we keep looking back like Lot’s wife and counting the cost? When will we be able to accept that we have suffered a loss, and like Paul count it rubbish for the cause of Christ? Family, this world is not our home. You have not lost anything that God has not accounted for. Trust Him. He will make this right. We don’t rely solely on the justice of the world to handle our grievances. We give it to our God. That’s what He is here for. Christians were never meant to judge, or fight like the world does. We were not meant to fight fair, but by extreme might. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual evil. Accordingly, the weapons of our warfare are not of this world, nor of the flesh. It has divine power to demolish strongholds. Racism is a stronghold. With it comes arguments, and lofty opinions. These things masquerade as resolutions, but they exalt themselves against God’s knowledge. We must take these thoughts captive and make sure they obey Christ. If not, they will take us captive and waste the hope of God in us. Let’s fight according to the power of God in us. Stop bringing inferior weapons to fight hatred. When others bring the weapons of the world, we bring the weapons of our God. It is superior. We are not supposed to ignore the lie. We expose and obliterate it.

BLACK LIVES MATTER

It is the hottest “social justice” movement, and people are bowing down to it by the droves. It was supposed to be a stance against police brutality. It has become an identity. Anyone who agrees, is a freedom fighter. Anyone who doesn’t, is part of “the problem.” Now hear this; Black lives matter. Black lives have always mattered. Hatred does not alter God’s opinion of me. It cannot change the truth, but the whole truth is not being told here. It is being omitted. It is a cause for alarm.

The group has staked its name on, and garnered support on a slogan the it does not believe. It says “black lives matters” but does not act like it. They treat other black lives as though they do not matter. Black people killed by the police, their lives matter. Black people killed by each other, not so much. It seems the real focus of this group is to educate or reeducate the white community, and authorities. It does not focus on education in the black community. It ignores black on black murder after murder, after murder, after murder… Not once have I seen a protest organized by BLM outside an abortion clinic where we are losing children within our community by the millions. I have never seen Black Lives Matter show up at anything that didn’t involve the furtherance of its business model. It would be nice to hear of BLM reading and mentoring programs. It would be nice to see them doing something other than demanding something of others. Surely, we can explore, what can we do for ourselves, and not just, “What can white people do for us?” They have a huge platform and massive opportunity. It is missed.

We must discuss murder within the black community. Why are we avoiding this? Every time it comes up, some want the subject dropped immediately. How many young black men have died at the hands of other young black men since George Floyd? It has to be addressed because these things relate. It is not a different subject from police brutality and murder, it is a part of it. Murders, assaults, any kind of criminality within the black community, gives the police valid reasons for their presence there. We increase the chances for these negative interactions when we give them an excuse to come into our communities. Perhaps if we decrease the violence against each other, we can lessen our contact with law enforcement even if only slightly. I’m not blaming any victim for unlawful actions by law enforcement.

I know there will be those who will say that law enforcement will harass black people no matter what we do. True, but how much more would that be the case if given a reason? The is reality there are thugs behind badges. I think that is true of white and black cops. We won’t be able to do much about those other than take legal action. Thankfully, we have cameras. We can also work to develop systems that better eliminate those who feed off of control, and power, from becoming a police officer. I believe there are good cops and bad cops. I will join and agree with anyone who wants to weed out the horrible ones, but the good cops need our support in the midst of this. They are being targeted for wearing a uniform. Could you imagine, risking your life for low pay and the public you are protecting every day, wants you dead. BLM lost me with the whole killing cops chant a few years ago. There are black and white officers. You want “justice” so badly you are willing to kill black officers too? The greater question becomes why are we moving in a way that kills anyone? Some argue that the BLM movement has been hijacked. Then why the silence in it? Why not simply say, “Our peaceful movement has been over taken by those with other interests. We condemn the murder of any police officer.” I’ve never heard it. Silence screams consent.

As BLM condones the war on cops, those who will be affected most are in the black community. What then? More and more police officers are leaving the job. Who wants to be assassinated for their career, for wanting to help? The streets are hard enough as it is, as law enforcement dwindles, these areas will become more and more lawless. What’s the plan to combat that? We cannot work indiscriminately against the police and expect them to be there when we need them. The reality is we need good officers. Let’s protect them. They protect us. There is no doubt education with in our community regarding police interactions need to take place. Massive efforts should be made to teach people what actions can be taken if they are being harassed or stopped unlawfully. It cannot hurt to arm a person with their right as a citizen, and what is expected of them by their local government.

We must also acknowledge that we teach people how to treat us. How can I disrespect my kind repeatedly before the world and then tell the world my kids matter? How could I demand a respect for my family, that I don’t give them? This is what is happening in the black community. We do terrible things to each other, with uncomfortable regularity. Then, we expect people to treat us sacredly. I’m not saying they shouldn’t. They should, but let’s not pretend that we are not setting a horrible example of how to treat us, by the way we treat each other. It’s the classic “do as I say, not as I do.”

Further, I take issue with any organization that is resistant to hearing “all lives matter.” Fight the battle that you want to fight, but how can you be offended by the push back of people who are exercising the same freedom you are? If a group wanted to fight for all lives that’s noble, as long as they carry it out. I long for the day when that is actually the case, we start fighting for all lives, and no longer have to segregate the cause. Again, no need to explain it. I get the point behind Black Lives Matter, but I do not believe it will bring positive changes. I think it is dangerous. We have chosen to fight for crumbs of black equality. It is the “social justice” hill we will literally die on, because the cause is dishonest. The weapons less effective, and because it repels not unifies. Just imagine if every cultural group banned together and started fighting for its right to “matter.” That’s an excellent way to begin a civil war.

The greatest movements in any nation happens when everyone can get behind it. Whether it was the Civil War or Civil Rights, many people across racial lines were involved. That is why we are free. That is why we have rights. We needed all involved. This admission angers many blacks, still it is true. But for the help of other white people, we’d still be doing a lot worse in this land. We have to acknowledge good in all people. We need to fight for all people. The betterment of black people in America, betters all people in America. The same is true of any other race. Until all lives matter, none will.

The whole thing is also kind of silly because the goal of fighting for black lives, is to decrease injustices against blacks and elevate our treatment to the level of all lives. So, saying “all lives matter” is restating the mission of Black Lives Matter. Unless, that’s not the real goal at all and it’s more akin to “some lives matter more.”

I am dumfounded that we could be so easily misled. In an effort to fight for a worthy cause, we sprint after an ill-crafted lie. It is especially alarming when it is followed by those in the church. Are we that desperate for meaning that we would abandon the teaching of God to follow a cleverly crafted scheme? Unity cannot build on exclusion, and it is only attained through faith. I believe this is why Dr. Martin Luther King never reduced his fight to one group of people. He fought for the betterment of all men, and women. The rights of black people happened to be the pressing issue of that time, but it was always about more.

My point is, his was a holy quest, one for the hearts of all men. It sought to lighten the burdens of the downtrodden, while calling the hearts of the oppressors to humility. He recognized that blacks were oppressed by hatred, and whites were oppressed through it. All lives mattered, and all were impacted. Had he fought merely for a social ill, how he fought, who, when and where he fought would not have mattered. It is the why that guides the fight. Fighting against a social ill isn’t enough. Social ills are a collective manifestation of the individual heart. Until you bring unity to the hearts of people nothing changes. This is the goal of faith. That is why we are to treat others in the way we want to be treated. If we follow this teaching, we will never need anyone to tell us black lives or any other lives matter. We might even be kinder to pets.

I think the real problem just might be that black people don’t realize just how much their lives matter. I recently heard a very passionate young lady compare being in America to playing a monopoly game, in which you always lost, and enabled your opponent’s win. Many people agree with this. It’s lethally false. It might explain the disparity in our community.

There are clearly those in the black community who have been winning in America, and for a very long time. The real question is, why are some winning, and others are not? If the system was failing us as a whole, I’d agree but it is not. And despite the outcry blacks in America have done some remarkable things in the past decades. I’m not sure where else on planet earth, and what other group would have been able to advance so fast? All of this was in spite of obstacles thrown in their way. So, why are some blacks making it, while others are not?

A strong argument could be made for education, motivation, inspiration, resilience and drive. I could even make one for nature. I grew up poor by American standards, but I lived near the beach. Even when my situation was rough, I could always look around and find hope in the beauty of nature and nature’s God. I couldn’t imagine growing up in the inner city of even small-town USA much less, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles. Just thinking about it seems stifling on so many levels. Still, I think the real reason some black Americans are able to advance, and others haven’t, has to do with leadership.

Whether in the home or outside the home, the failures within the black community relates heavily to not having leaders who love us enough to encourage us forward or challenge us with truth. We have “leaders” but not servants. They are humbugs, charlatans. Many of those “leaders” has seized the opportunity to climb to the top by exploiting the very community they are supposed to be helping. They were led by the love of money, not their love for us. Some even have the audacity to call themselves “Christians.” They are “rip off reverends.” Strong, and wise direction is urgently needed.

White people cannot really help us with this. They cannot lead in the black community, because they cannot lead in our homes. Further, it is not their responsibility nor would we trust them to. If they cannot lead in our homes how then can they lead in our neighborhoods? How can we blame them for what goes on in our streets? They cannot be the face of inspiration for a black man, but if we fail in our homes, they can be the leaders in justice administration, incarceration, and more.

It’s happening. The number of single parent households among blacks is highest in the nation by far, and there is no dispute that single parenting puts kids at greater risk for many negative outcomes including prison time and limited education. It’s not my intent to get in to the stats. Not all dads are great dads. Not all moms are great moms. But one need not be a genius to know that you are twice as likely to be home by curfew, do your school work, clean your room, and more if you have double the accountability to do so. These are the things that set you up for success. They hold your feet to the fire, teach you to work hard, and advance you whether you want to or not. My parents made me do so many things I would not have done without pressure. Some of them are the foundation of my life. There is NO substitute for parenting, or people who love you and push you to succeed. It’s hard for a school or institution to have that kind of influence.

In place of parenting we have programs that are meant to support and empower. The lie of empowerment is that we can do anything to add power to another human being. Only God can do that. We can encourage, and provoke people to want better for themselves, but we cannot go beyond affirming their value, and their ability to do so. To empower, you have to stir up something in a person that says, “I want more than the expectation assigned to me.” This idea of giving people everything that they demand to help them is false. It creates adult infants, because nothing they possess came from themselves, by their own hand. You didn’t empower. You just taught them how to accept the handout, and they will continue to ask for one. That will become the source of their empowerment, gifts. If there were such a thing as empowerment, then it would be this: you empower people when you move in a way that encourages them in their value, and teaches them to act upon their God-given gifts.

BLACK POWER

All men are born free. They choose to live restrained. I see this in all communities, but definitely among black Americans. A strong argument can be made that they are the most powerful group in America now, and have been for a very long time. But the saddest thing is, they don’t see it. They don’t see where their power in this country lies, the black vote has the potential to turn the political system on its head every two, and four years. It is, an should be used as the swingiest vote in America. We don’t use our power. We don’t seem to care or understand the amount of influence and wealth we amass for those for whom we vote to give our power by proxy. Unfortunately, we have been giving it to the same people over and over. They aren’t even “shucking an jiving” for it anymore. Instead, they are now telling us what it means to be black. It’s sad, but fair because they have invented the narrative of what it means to be black. “Vote democrat. Support abortion. You need welfare. You can’t make it without us. Everyone else in the political process who is white, is a racist, except us Democrats. All white Democrats are completely non racists.”

We bought this garbage. To the point where we silence any black person who disagrees. The person doesn’t need to be republican. They can be any other group, but if they are not saying what the Democrats say, they won’t be listened to. It’s very sickening, and not unlike having a master. If we want change, it’s time to do something different. A change in us will bring change to us. We certainly, can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.

We have been giving our power to one group for so long, they no longer respect us or it. I truly doubt they ever did. They have their strategy. It works. They threw a few black people some crumbs to seem inclusive, but have not kept their promises to us. They constantly remind us how disadvantaged we, and our communities are, yet they have been the ones entrusted with the power of our vote, and caring for our communities for decades. How could we still be in the same position when it was their responsibility to fix it? Black lives do not matter to them, only green does. We cannot keep giving this power to the same people. Let the lives of those who fought for our right to vote mean something. Give it the dignity it deserves. Hold these leaders accountable for the promises they do not keep, and the lies they tell. It’s time to vote something other than Democrat. If you do it just one time, they will realize the black vote is not a guarantee. Nor can it be manipulated. They have to work for it. They will change tactics.

And it’s the tactics that are most distressing. For the sake of political gain, this country gets ripped apart every few years. There is big money in racism, because it secures the loyalty of a swing voting bloc. Black folks. The media is complicit in this, they tell us all about the racism that is happening all around us. Don’t get me wrong. I want to hear about it. I want to join that fight, but I started to get a little concerned when I realized there were zero stories of white men being shot by white or black police. Am I to conclude that this never happens? Nowhere in the United States is a white man shot by a white or black police officer? Or a black man shot by a black officer? Hmmm. I guess there are no black officers in America. Just white ones bent on lynching.

Interestingly, there is also NO black on white crime in all the land. Black people never harm whites. It is always the other way around. I cannot remember hearing one incident of discrimination towards whites. It never happens. Black people are either perfectly discrimination free, or something more sinister is at play here.

I’ve also watched breathless white reporters talk about the latest offensive statement by such and such. They were all just so offended. I was supposed to be outraged and offended too. They were appealing to that innate ignorance they think we all have. They have to tell black people when to be offended, because apparently, we don’t know.

The media’s obsession with race is sick, and hypocritical. Which “reporter” is going to look into why abortion rates is higher in the black community? That’s a real race issue. Who is going to have the audacity to report on crimes in the black community? Crickets. Which one will examine democratic policies and the effects on the black community? I bet they would if they were having a remarkable success. Or they would do it if republicans were failing as miserably as they are there. We need to stop being used and letting people tell us what to think and act like. They don’t care about us. They don’t know us. They never really did. They just know what we bought into and what has worked for the last 60 years. It’s time we show them that the black community, is more than eating hot sauce, quoting a spiritual and a Jay-Z concert. It is also more than voting for one party as Biden seems to think.

Now, at this point you are probably thinking, “Why make this political if you claim to be a Christian?” Simple. In the name of politics an entire group of Americans have been systemically oppressed by the Democrats. No, I do not think Republicans are blameless. They allowed the Democrats to corner the market on the black vote through their silence on black issues. The Democrats managed to advance the message that any other group than itself, is racist. Black Republicans can’t even speak. White ones are running scared. They won’t even talk about race for fear. Meanwhile, Democrats abused, ignored, and exploited the black community. They instituted the policies that have killed our children. Robbed us of growth, wealth and success. I will not be quiet because this is a political issue. It is a human issue. And these people owe us an apology for treating us like a whole lot less. They should be ashamed to ask for our vote despite failure, after failure, after failure. They should be ashamed to accuse other whites of being racists despite their record on the issue. They should be ashamed of pretending they understand blacks despite never addressing or offering anything other than handouts in the decades they’ve had our votes. They have no plan for us other than to keep us enslaved to their ideas. They have gone after our preachers and into our houses of faith, and perverted the only compass left among us. Our leaders have prostituted their positions for their advancement. Therefore, I will not be silent in the face of such brazen disregard for the soul of our community, and the cruel impacts their agenda has had on it. They are the ones who owe us an apology. They need to repent for continuing the evil handed down, and imposed upon our communities for a long time. Eugenics. Stagnation. The criminal injustice system. Ghetto confinement via poverty. This is their legacy. They shouldn’t be asking for our vote. They should be asking for our forgiveness. The scriptures teach God loves justice. Theirs is coming.

God wants more for the black community. We matter greatly to Him. We are more. We can do, and be more. We need to return to the only ruler who has ever cared for us. God. His Word will never lead us wrong. Additionally, black Americans should get very familiar with the constitution. Despite its reputation, it is for us. I’m not the only one saying these things. People much smarter than I, are out there. Listen to Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Voddie Baucham, Larry Elder, Candace Owens, and more. Hear them out. You have nothing to lose. It’s unfortunate that these voices are the ones dismissed. They are the ones that actually care. It’s hard to hear the truth sometimes, but only the people who love you will dare tell it to you in the way these people are doing. Resist the urge to think they are talking down to you. They are not. They are talking up to you because they believe you can understand. The ones selling you the same lines every election, but making no difference are the ones talking down to you. They are confident in your ignorance. That’s irreconcilably disrespectful.

UNITY

The really neat thing about all of this is, there are so many loving people in America. In the midst of this mess we must push back against the harmful nonsense, and fight for each other. I refuse to believe all white people are racist. To do that would be to deny the strangers at the back of our neighborhood, who unprompted, offered me the use of their property. I would have to deny one of the friendliest most caring people I have ever met in my life, an officer who helped me at night in the rain, the firemen who helped me change a tire, the one who wanted to help me install a car seat. An older white man from Louisiana who told me the secret to his gumbo recipe. These were all strangers. This list could go on for a yard if I included all my friends. Let’s not let evil separate us. That is the way it will conquer us.

Can this country stand to improve? Yes. Let’s do it together. Let’s talk to people, not shout and them and not shut them down. Any movement claiming that it is about equality, and shutting any one group of people down is lying. It’s about supremacy. We solve problems through unity and communication. Freedom makes connections.

I would advise Americans, black and white to consider that not everything is about you. We’ve been engaged in the most self-absorbed discussion in our country. We have so monopolized the conversation, that Americans of other cultures can’t even speak. “Racism” isn’t all about you. Even the vilest of racism is at the core not about you. Nor is the greatest injustice just about you. It can affect you, but it is not about you. Evil just made you the excuse, the target, and regret just made you responsible. But others exist. We must be moved by love, and consideration for each other not anger, or pity. The ignorance and guilt connected to those things wants to intimidate, and control us. Never let that happen. No one gets to define us but God. Anyone of us can be a victim of terrible things, hatred, rape, robbery, but we cannot allow it to make us its victim forever. As painful as it is, we must find a way forward. Perhaps that’s what Dr. King meant when he said, “If you fly then run, if can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” Love is the only way forward. Some of what’s happening in our country is very backwards. Resist it. Reach out to other people. It’s easier to discriminate against whole groups of people when you don’t personally know or love anyone from that group. The more people you know and love from that group, the harder it gets to disregard their collective humanity.

We need to learn to trust. Expecting a white person to be racist because he is white is also racist. I’ve been guilty of that. My past encounters shaped this few. In fact, I taught it to my children. I wanted to protect them. Based on my experiences, I taught them to learn to appreciate the Klan member in the sheet. At least he’s being honest. It’s the ones that act like your friends that are dangerous. Their robes are better hidden. I see now that I was teaching them suspicion. Essentially, “keep your discernment on a swivel around whites.” I’ve had my own growing to do. We are all broken and far from perfect.

It’s God who makes the difference. I tend not to trust people. He made it clear to me that He’s not asking me to trust people. He’s asking me to trust Him, and to do what He says regarding them. The reality of this freed me. I had so much distrust for people, I had distrusted God who is faithful. That is the end result whenever we handle matters this way. We have a choice. Wherever we put up walls to reject pain, and stave off hurt, we hide it from God, from light. These hidden areas are the darkness in us. They never bring life. If we are open to the light, the truth, we begin to see so many instances aren’t even about race. Some of them are ignorance cast as “racism.” I have witnessed things a black person have done, and shook my head in disbelief. If I can see it is ridiculous, white people can see too. Ignorance is ignorance race aside. Let’s not apply intent where we are unaware of one. Nor, should we confuse how things make us feel, with how we should forgive.

SUPER SIMPLE SOLUTIONS

In the interest of healing, I think we need to get involved in the lives of people who don’t look like us. That might mean speaking to a neighbor, mentoring, or taking a dance class. It’s surprising the bonds we can form through activity. It might even mean changing churches. There is no reason why the church should be segregated.

Find a cause in another community that you can champion. Get behind it, and get to know people as you do. Many of these things require little effort. They are things that we’d naturally support.

We don’t need to expend our energy fighting issues that aren’t real. Many of the grievances I’m hearing, I question and suspect that they are backdoors to invite chaos into our society. They would lay great foundations for other types of government. Black Lives Matter. Reparations. White Privilege. These are fronts, and excuses for other systems of control. That might sound harsh, but if you look at the solutions to these issues, you began to get an idea where advocates of “change” in these areas want to take this country. Hint: It’s not closer to freedom and democracy.

Let’s not join the masses of those shouting rebellion and revolution. We know the real problem is good and evil. We also know the real solutions. Fast, pray, and tell of God’s goodness. We cannot neglect those. Cry out for the repentance, revival, and restoration of man to his maker. The only sure way to end hatred is to introduce others to the love of God.

Talk openly with each other. Risk the awkwardness and vulnerability. Prepare to be honest in those conversations. Expect to be hurt by them challenged by them, and patient in them. You are going to hear some crazy things. You are going to hear the truth. Don’t shut it down, even when painful. Truth is the only path forward.

Be courageous. Don’t allow the insanity to shut you down. Speak truth. This is a great country and it can be greater, but it won’t be if we tear it to pieces because it’s not perfect. If you can’t be happy in American, and make it here, you won’t be satisfied anywhere.

Let go. Don’t allow the weight of hate to pull you under. There is joy. Never let go of it. It is our strength. Believers have the fruit God’s Spirit. We are equipped to triumph over the world, by overcoming evil with good.

Be courteous. The potential of such simple decency is stunning and disarming. Have the same regard for others. Don’t merely tolerate people. It shows. Be genuine. When you are in the public space do exactly what I see happening right now. Everyday people are a little bit kinder. There seems to be a silent conversation, and apologies passed among strangers in glances. We know this is crazy, and most of us don’t agree.

Black American, calm down, not everything is about race. White American, wake up, not everything isn’t. As long as we are alive there will always be someone trying to put us in our place to establish theirs. The harder we fight for each other, the less we’ll have to fight with each other.

After all these words, there still scrolls left unsaid, but it all can be summed up in this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus- The only Justice.

Green

I feel it my responsibility to help clear up a misconception. Christians do care about the environment.

Somewhere along the way the presumption was made that those in the community of faith, care only about the heaven they claim to believe in, and not about the planet they live on now. That’s false. I was green before green was cool. I am not alone. There are many believers like me who’d like to guard the beauty that surrounds us. Our concern for the environment isn’t motivated by fear. It has nothing to do with the destruction of the world, and everything to do with responsibility.  We believe our God designed this earth. It is His spectacular work. We enjoy it. It is our honor, and a beautiful responsibility to care for it.

It’s the reason you might find me picking up trash in a parking lot though there is an attendant hired to do that very job. He may be assigned that task by His employer, but I believe that I’m assigned that responsibility by the Creator. I have to avert my eyes so that I don’t run around cleaning up behind everyone in North America.

While many believers care for the planet, we do not worship it. This is the key distinction. The faith community differs with culture on the hope we have for the earth. Those who do not believe, or trust in God the Creator, are forced to embrace fear. They must react to, and from this panic based on their own provisions. They have somehow managed to back themselves into an environmental corner. Believing that there is no creator, and no hope for Earth- beyond this earth- means humans must now do everything to save it. It’s all up to us. Yikes! If that’s true, we might as well start saying our goodbyes immediately. Have we learned nothing from history? Man has never met a  good thing he did not destroy.

Even as many insist on the urgency of saving the planet, they still drive cars for  convenience, fly on airlines, ride boats, and use a slew of products and chemicals hazardous to the environment. They support businesses that are harmful to the planet, all while preaching- yes, it’s preaching- “save the planet.” I’m not being ugly. I just see the obvious hypocrisy of championing going green, and remaining unwilling to be personally inconvenienced. Perhaps if I didn’t believe in God, and trusted in the power of man to save me, I’d be on that bandwagon, and in a similar dilemma too. Although I’d like to think I’d do it a bit more earnestly, but I digress.

Understanding the potential disaster that man is, as a believer I clean up behind him, but realize he is in no more position to save the planet than he is to save himself. He is a walking contradiction, and a hypocrite even when he intends the best. It’s pitiful. Whether we are making big plans to save the world, or lose twenty pounds, we almost always trade it for what is most convenient. Our immediate gratification and pleasure.

Today we marvel at the wonders of the world that have survived, but consider the wonders that didn’t survive. I’m talking about those ruined deliberately. Even now we have groups that go about destroying history. Man lives for himself, for today. So, I take care of the planet, but I don’t go to the extreme of believing it is all up to me, or up to us. I will simply do the best I can. I hope that it encourages others to do the best they can, but I don’t have a “god complex.” Nor do I believe I control the destiny of the earth, or put faith in my ability to reverse the damages of the world.  Instead, I believe that the one who knows man is a time bomb, and made all things perfect before, can do it again.  This is the source of my hope, the unstoppable power of the creator and restorer. That alone keeps me from going “green insane.”

It is not my intent to discourage anyone’s zeal for the environment. I share some of that concern. I grew up in wide open spaces, and have often lamented the fact that my kids don’t know the unbridled joy of eating food picked daily by their own hands. How do you describe the delight of selecting and biting into a tree ripened mango, or a sun ripen pineapple? These are my memories of nature. I was perpetually soaked in fruit juice. Our yard produced so many wonderful things. It was hard to know if we kids were eating the fruit or if the fruit was eating us. Our clothes were stained with whatever was in season and its juices ran down our faces, hands, and sometimes even dripped from our elbows. It was bliss. And that’s to say nothing of the scenery. Growing up on an island meant beaches for miles, and too many breathtaking sunsets and sunrises to number. There was the wonder of dolphins, and fish bigger than I was. The wealth of beauty around me was more than I can list. These and more made me fall in love with raw nature. But life is different now. So different.

It was raining when we pulled up to the hardware store the other day. We managed to find a place upfront and directly outside the “Garden Center.” I was busy thinking of our lucky parking spot when the sign brought me back to reality. It reminded me of a thought I’ve been having more frequently in recent weeks. “Why a garden God?” With all the power He has, of all the places he could have chosen, the Lord decided that His plans would be in a garden. Just to be clear, we are talking about God. The all-knowing, all-wisdom God, chose a garden. Not a mansion. Not a fortress. Not the ocean or a cave. A garden.

As I looked at the plants laid out on the sidewalk, I couldn’t help but think how greatly we had sold ourselves short. The enemy got us to trade Eden for a “Garden Center.” I find myself in them several times a year buying pots of beauty, trying to make my yard look like the Eden my heart knows is home. A futile pursuit.  Still, there is something about the magnificence of nature, speaks which deeply to me. Even as I question the creation of possums and frogs, I can’t deny that there are other things, like the color of the cardinal, sunrise on crystal waters, hummingbirds, peonies, and even rocks that directs this creature’s heart to the splendor of a creator.  If you’ve ever stood on a mountain, marveled at the mystery of a storm, or strained your neck to see the tops of massive trees you’ve likely felt it too. Awe. Wonder. What brings it out in us is as different as our personalities. I have friends who are amazed by turtles, and snakes. Not my thing, but hey, whatever. Point is, there is something out there that speaks to you. It’s another reason I am “green.” Except, I don’t call it “green.” I consider it gratitude. Believers should protect these beautiful treasures because without words they tell of our great and good God. I’d rather not have our experiences with nature reduced to the “Garden Center.” Its message is just not the same.

Selfishly, I long for the fulfillment of my hope in the Lord. Last year Hurricane Dorian hit my home. Whenever a hurricane hits the islands so many things are lost. Orchards from my child hood. Property. Shorelines.  Vegetation is wiped out due to saltwater from storm surges. Erosion changes the landscape. It takes years to recover. We never really do. And that’s just the environmental cost. The monetary and psychological damage is crushing. I want God to restore the planet because I knew what my islands look like before, Lili, Floyd, Ike, Hanna, Frances, Andrew, Irma, Joaquin, Dorian and many more like them.  I want to see that again. I do want to care for what we been given, but I wholeheartedly long for the restoration of all things. Ironically, my great hope for earth is truly heavenly.

 

 

 

 

Secrets

Secrets

Some stories want to be told. They come pouring out effortlessly, and sometimes unexpectedly. Then there are others that as one friend told me, “you take to the grave.”
I’ve been thinking about that second class of secrets, the “take it to the gravers.” I’m not sure I agree. I’m no advocate of broadcasting one’s business, but perhaps there is one person, or maybe a few people with whom you could entrust your entire story. How tragic to leave this planet and no one knew you. I mean really knew you.

I think of people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Could you imagine keeping secrets and then not being able to control when they are told? Your disease decided it. Or what if you lost the ability to recall some memories again? I suppose it could be relative to the memory. Most wouldn’t care about losing a terrible one. Those are the ones we want to forget. But even horrific memories have played a role in the shaping of who we are, and can transform those around us. Imagine if the Jews who suffered at the hands of Hitler never shared their stories. What if they chose to protect themselves from the pain and shame of those recollections? What if they chose to be viewed as strong rather than vulnerable or victims of the Nazis? What if Jesus suffered, but never shared the extent of His suffering? God in the hands of man. Talk about a story of humility. We don’t naturally enjoy revealing the hardships and humiliating moments of our lives. Shared or not, these stories are as much a part of the shaping of who we are as anything else. My point is, suffering though by definition painful, isn’t powerless or pointless. Victimization reveals vulnerability, but it doesn’t negate hope or cancel victory. Often it produces it. Triumph has its roots in tragedy, so your narrative, no matter where it falls on the spectrum of good and bad has value. Even if not for you, the telling of your story might prevent a thousand disasters in the lives of those around you.

I realize how scary this must sound. Weirder still, is that it is coming from me. Trust does not come easily to me. It is rather elusive actually. I have to know you, prove that you listen, and are loyal. It’s about a two-decade process. Even then, that doesn’t guarantee that I’ll lay it all out for you, only that you’d be in the running if I ever decided to. Still, I can’t help but wonder who is served by keeping anything a secret? It is the “why” behind the action that gives me pause and has me questioning Why do we keep secrets? Protection seems the obvious answer, but is it really protection? What and who are we guarding against? And what do we keep out, by keeping our guards so high? Perhaps we keep out judgment, and persecution as a result. But consider that we also keep out healing, health, and growth. Who is really served by protecting a secret? Further, there is some indication that the desire to self-protect might be driven by a weakness. That, I find unacceptable. Let’s eliminate that. Actions from fear and weakness are no way to live.

I understand that there are things you could only share with a select few. There may even be things that you can only share with one person. The point isn’t that we walk around spewing our story like a Grimm’s fairy tale, but that we share it. All of it. The main reason is freedom. Whatever is hidden has power over you. You are a servant to it. It is the silent overseer deciding how you could act. Who you could be around. How much you can truly be loved. And isn’t that the whole reason people hide secrets anyway? They want to protect the public view of themselves, an retain whatever value can be gained from that view. Love. Fear. Idolization. Respect. We have an internal evaluator ever asking, “How much would I be loved and accepted if these things are known of me?” How would people view me if they knew…?”
Mostly we hide what we are or have done because we don’t want others to know the “real us.” It is too risky. It could be a potential impediment to them loving us. Respecting us. But the desire to hold onto social approval is a mighty snare, built on the fear of man. It is a weird sort of prison, one built by the hands of the captive to protect him from the thing he actually wants. Meaning we want love, so we don’t disclose out of fear of rejection or a denial of love. But because we don’t disclose, the attention and affections we receive are not real. They are not based on truth. They are for the person we pretend to be. They are not based on who we are, but who we are not, who we purport to be. We are then forced to stay in that prison, because we have built an image on falsehood. Even under the best of circumstances when we play the part well, when everyone believes the lie of the image we present, there is no real peace in the love and respect garnered there. Instead there is conflict because we know the truth. Still, we must maintain the image to maintain the acceptance. This is the broad ramifications of secrets. They change you. They imprison you. They make you become something you are not to protect the thing that you actually are, have done, or want.

Many of us aren’t completely fake. We just have a few things we’d like to keep to ourselves. I think that’s the problem. That thing is “keeping us to ourselves.” It hinders us from being a light to another. From being seen. It keeps us closed off. Greater still it hinders us from the free flow of the divine work in us. Primarily because the power of someone’s life relates heavily to what they have been able to overcome, learn from, and celebrate as a result of their journey. It is the story of what God has brought them through, is bringing them through, and allowing them to keep surviving. Maturity, and growth is revealed in the things we have been able to honestly overcome. It is also the thing that is most attractive about us. Do you think anyone wants to hear about overcoming alcoholism from a person who has never had a drink? No. We want that story from the horse’s mouth. Suffered abuse? Guess who you will be more likely to reach, or relate to? An abuse victim. Point is, often the things we are trying to hide or protect in us or about us, is the potential light in us. It will be the thing that draws others to us, to God, to freedom. Don’t hide it under a bushel or a of basket of fear.

The “what” in our story is important, because it highlights the “who.” What we overcame shines a light on “how” we did so. Specifically, “who” helped us. To downplay the “what” in our story is to undercut the “who” and the power of “how” they helped us.

Earlier I mentioned weakness as a reason we don’t share. I don’t mean to sound cruel, but often it is. We are too easily shaped by the opinions and applause of others. If our junk risks those most valued things then we clam up. We so esteem the thoughts of others, that we treasure their opinions above wholeness. Above God’s glory. It is a very sad and apologetic sort of life. The careful covering of secrets is a constant reminder of not being worthy enough, a continuous apology for, and an acknowledgement of not being up to some perceived level. It also screams unforgiveness. It is unforgiveness of someone or of ourselves, because when you are free of a thing, you don’t need to guard it or treat it with such high regard. You are free to share it and shout it from rooftops. You overcame it. It doesn’t have any control over you. You control it. It is a thing of your past, something that you’ve moved beyond, like 80’s perm and big hair. You don’t tip toe around it. You talk about it. You are bold with the truth, and the “secret” becomes a strength. It does your bidding. Not the other way around.

Still, the biggest drawback to secrets is living a lie. You end up losing out on purpose because of them. It is an impossibility and a fruitless effort to spend your life attempting to satisfy everyone else’s expectations. The end result is you’ll live below what you could have been. Is that thing worth it? What are you hiding? Who are you protecting? Why? Consider how it’s controlling you? Let the light in. Take a risk. Expose the darkness to someone you trust. Allow real love to enter, and give the light of your story a chance to shine. Then, and only then can you be free. Truth alone, liberates the soul.

Accused and Punished For Me

Read below. Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2wB_LPcD34

I was a voice in that crowd
My actions screamed consent
Loud. Bold. I was proud.
Calling back in time,
Crucify Him! Crucify Him! CRUCIFY HIM!

I chose Barabbas that day.
Rebellion no stranger to me.
Defiant. Brazen. Pride exalted.
I yelled approval for evil above the masses,
I choose sin! I choose sin. I CHOOSE SIN!

He was silent that day for me.
The Word, His words births galaxies,
Wrecks enemies.
Defending Himself would render me guilty.
Love was silent that day for me.
His silence was for me.
His silence set me free.

He was accused and punished for me
Lies aimed at the flawless.
Hatred in my heart.
I wielded the whip of brutality
With precision and skill
A thirst for pain. A hunger to kill.

My guilt was the force behind the nails.
His blood on my hands.
Ungrateful. Violent. Dishonest.
I chose acceptance over righteousness.
I offered Him no comfort in His suffering.
Innocence was rejected by me.
Insulted by me. I denied by me. Betrayed by me.

I was dead.
And in my condemned state
Satan held my proxy.
I jeered. I mocked.
I belittled love in the process of saving my life!

Still, He remained faithful to His goodness.
He laid aside purity, nobility and ability.
Endured the cross. Disregarded shame.
Embodied humility.
Eyes fixed on joy to come.
The author and finisher of faith.
Delivered the hope of glory.

He gave justice all it demanded.
His punishment the total price of my innocence.
Mercy and grace flowed from the veins of the blameless.
His blood is life! The rescue of my soul.
I was blind. I was His enemy
He pardoned my treachery. My ignorance. My hypocrisy
Absolved by the divine
Made new by the immaculate. A matchless lamb.
The ultimate servant. An unconquerable king.

It’s not by works that I have done.
I am the best of the Pharisees
Supposing if Jesus were here today,
I’d offer dissent to injustice.
I’d be a voice for Him.

He is here today. Here now.
How often I fail to speak. To stand.
Instead, seizing every opportunity to advance my temporal kingdom,
Except the gift provides the courage, and the Spirit provides wisdom-
I fail disastrously. Grievously. Thoroughly.
Always!

I stood convicted in a sea of souls.
God stepped in front for me.
I am the fruit of the grisly cross.
He bore the guilt. I was lost.
Time and distance made my deeds no less
Sinners and soldiers are the same.
My actions gave evil its cause,
His actions gave me His name.
He became that vile thing I was proven to be.
I was the sin. Now I am free.
He was accused and punished for me.

Hoarding Fails

It was a drastic oversight. While the world was busy hoarding toilet paper, I should have been hoarding Pledge. With a state shutdown in full swing, and movement restricted, the dust bunnies in my house could no longer be ignored. Forced to face the long-delayed music, I made my way to the grocery store. The only thing I hate more than dusting is ironing. I was desperate for the only thing that would make the dreaded task easier, furniture polish.

Be still my beating heart. They had it in many forms and brands. It appeared I was not the only one not taking into account all my needs. No, I did not grab three cans. I’d be lying if I said the thought didn’t occur. Compassion for others who hate dusting as much as I do, prevailed.

Pledge wasn’t my only hoarding fail. A few weeks before the toilet paper apocalypse, I had a mind to procure a few things. This relates heavily to being Bahamian. In addition to being a vacation destination, the Bahamas is also a hot spot for storms. Due to the unpredictability of the damage from hurricanes that frequently threaten, it’s almost cultural to keep some supplies on hand. Armed with this intent, I made a few stops into Costco. I didn’t go out of my way, but whenever I happened to be near one, I detoured. That was before the world as we knew it ended.

The first trip was routine. By the second trip about a week later, you could sense the unspoken panic. It wasn’t a frantic thing, but the fear was almost palpable. It was on that trip that I grabbed some toilet paper. Not for hoarding purposes. We needed it. Good thing I did. The final trip was madness. Any attempt at being subtle about hoarding was gone. Carts were piled as high as they could go. Some were so high the shopper could barely be seen over them. As you probably know, Costco sells everything in bulk, and nothing in small quantities. I do most of my shopping there. Hoarding is built in to the membership. But if you are hoarding Costco sized items, you are in the big leagues.

It was that final trip that caused me to buy Lysol, and Clorox wipes. Neither of which were on my mental list.  I reacted to the environment, and bought based on everyone else. I truly went shopping for half of what I got, but the scenes around me, made me entertain the question, “What if? It wasn’t a “what if” related to the virus. It was what if related to the nature of people. What if I couldn’t get to the store? What if the fear gets crazier? What if there is no food left because of it? Perhaps you think I’m being a little bit dramatic. I guess you had to be there. The amount of people in that store at opening time on a Thursday morning, rivaled Black Friday crowds. Though I blew my budget, in some ways I’m glad I did. Days after that trip, pictures of grocery stores with empty shelves started trickling in.

I was happy I found the needed supplies for my family. But as the days went by, I began to realize all the things I did not have. Some of which were essential. Alcohol. Neosporin. Conditioner and hair products. Seeds. A router. Pledge. Seasonings. Bit by bit the list grew to reveal the flaws in my planning. I have a college kid. All classes are now online. An excellent  router is a must. How could I have missed that? Every time I ventured out for a needed item; I bought additional stuff. I bought the necessities, but also what I thought I might need. The trip to the store to get “a few lunch items” turned into hundreds of dollars. The trip to get “a pack of hotdogs” became eighty bucks. No plan. No vision. Costly. I stopped going. It was too frustrating.

Right about now preppers across America even while saddened by these events, are breathing a sigh of relief mingled with, “I told you so.” Tucked away in their bunkers, and safe spaces is enough food to last them years. Their properties are producing. All these seasons of waiting and preparing for the impossible to happen, has refined their skills and commitment to living off the land. Still, I wonder if amid their solar radios, rain barrels, batteries, and medical supplies they are finding that they too forgot something?  A job, a trade, an investment that didn’t hold or should have been considered? Are they living independently of the food, power and financial systems, but finding that their well-being is tied to the people in their local communities who are dependent on those supplies? How is the trickle down of that reality affecting them? Maybe they are realizing that independence is a myth. On some level we need each other. We can’t do it all. We need the stores, the vendors, the gas stations, cooperative weather conditions etc..  Or perhaps preppers are discovering the emotional impact of things they hadn’t considered, like owning masks that health care professionals are dying without. What quality would you need to hoard for your conscience to tolerate withholding life giving supplies? Did they prepare to let people die, while they live? Perhaps compassion would be the thing that they realize they did or did not hoard? Or perhaps they do have compassion and mercy, and are finding that despite being prepared, they feel better giving their supplies away.

While it is my bent to want to prepare for every eventuality, my husband is unlike me in that way. It’s not that he doesn’t believe in disaster planning, it’s more “how much” and at “what cost” is his issue. If I’m honest, I felt his lack of consideration and planning for such matters, bordered on negligence. Several years ago, I tried to get him to consider our personal preparation for situations of mass pandemonium, and sustainable living as the answer. He did. He simply wasn’t interested in longterm planning. His fundamental objection was, “Are you as a believer, prepared to live in a world where you have, but would have to deny people what you have so that you, and yours could live? Are you prepared to see people begging for food, dying from starvation, and not help them?” Would you be willing to fend off your property, and stuff against someone desperately trying to fend off death.  I’m not. I wouldn’t want to live in a world like that. I’d rather die and go to the God and Heaven I claim I believe in.”

Apparently, he did consider the idea. His was just a different consideration. Whereas my conclusion was to fill the store houses, and live off the land, His was, trust God. Now that is the quintessential, and most indefensible Christian answer. It should be our response almost every time, but it’s not the one I wanted. I wanted him to dream, an plan our retreat with me. What happens when your heart is set towards preparing like Joseph, but you are married to a man like Moses? “Let’s just obey the Lord, head for the wilderness and see what happens.” Our wilderness found us with no longterm answers for the COVID -19 pandemic.

If I were thinking argumentatively, I would have offered “Joseph” as counter to his Moses like defense. Truth is I wasn’t thinking about anyone else as much as I was myself. Me and mine. My family. My friends. Back then there was a certain pride in the wisdom that I had the foresight to prepare. Thankfully, my heart has moved on from its singularity. It didn’t get its desired homestead. That’s not a bad thing. I now know I would have trusted in it, and my supply of fruit, quail, or whatever I decided to raise. Living without it, has made me look to God. Still I wonder, did we do the right thing? As the media constantly updates the death toll, offers no hope polls, I reflect. I’m witnessing the spectacular dismantling of a thing we trusted more than God. Our economy. And I wonder all the more, “Did we do the right thing?”

I can assure you even if I had gotten my way years ago, and I had my prized farm, there was no way I would have considered the importance of toilet paper. Amassing paper products? No. It was not a part of my plans. I would not have thought to collect an extra router or two. Nor buy Pledge. Had I accounted for all my physical needs, I would’ve never been able to assess the emotional, and spiritual ones. I’m just now realizing those. As a believer, I didn’t consider the need to reach out to people, check on them and offer what I have. Kindness. Doesn’t that defeat the whole point of hoarding? Jesus told a rich man who wanted to follow him, “sell all you have and give the money to the poor.”  How is that for a longterm plan! Yet, that’s the God of my hope, the one I believe in. I imagine myself having a stash of supplies, and feeling safe only to wake up one morning, and be prompted by Him to give it away. I don’t think I could have prepared for this. At least not by way of collecting things. I do think we did the right thing. The “see what happens approach” was the best one I could have taken.

I have seen the Lord’s hand in the wilderness of no plans. On that last trip to Costco, everyone was buying Lysol. I entertained getting some weeks before. I keep it on hand, mostly for disinfecting hotels. My stash was low, and summer travel is approaching, so it was a bit of a seasonal priority. With everyone in the store buying multiple packs that day (Costco sells them in sets of 4) it seemed more of a need. I decided to get some. Of course, I was in the checkout line, and watching everyone else buy them before I realized that I had forgotten to pick it up.

At the register next to mine was the manager of the store. He had five packs. I heard him explain to the cashier that four were for the store, and one for his personal use. Yes. I eavesdropped. After paying for the items, he attempted to store them under the register, but  after I asked to borrow a pack to scan, he changed plans and carried them off.  With one of his packs factored into my bill, I told the cashier I’d get mine from the sales floor. She and the bagger warned me that they were probably all gone. If you saw how many people had multiple packs of Lysol, you’d understand why. The bagger decided to attempt to retrieve my item anyway.

Excited that I remembered it before I got home, I paid for my items, made a cafeteria stop, and left. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I never actually waited to see if  the bagger returned with Lysol, or get my money back if he didn’t. It was nearly twenty dollars. I’m too cheap to lose that amount. I made a quick call to the store, explained the situation, and then made the twenty-five minute drive back. I wanted the Lysol more than the money. I was greeted and ushered to the first person who could assist me. Then a second, and a third. All wandered off to get help. Finally, with a Lysol recovery team dispatched, the manager whose purchase I borrowed for scanning purposes, walked by. He saw me waiting, and offered his assistance. Among a sea of customers, he seemed to have remembered me from earlier that day.  I explained. He asked that I hold on a moment, and he too wandered off. As I waited for him, an employee came by carrying a box of Lysol. They were not four packs, but individual cans. It was clear the packs purchased for the store were already opened to be dispersed. Meanwhile, helpers one and two came back to confirm there was no Lysol. They sold out that morning. I thanked them, and continued waiting for the manager.

He  returned in minutes with a pack of Lysol. It wasn’t until later that day, in the comfort of my home that I realized that may have been the only Lysol in the entire store, the manager’s personal pack. What seemed like my oversight earlier now appeared to be some divine orchestration to get me disinfectant. It may have been the only way I could have gotten Lysol that day or any day in the weeks to come. When the bagger checked, there was likely none left in the store. So, when I scanned the manager’s purchase, I was in fact buying a product that wasn’t there. And as it turned out, I was also scanning the product that would eventually become mine. Were it not for the manager preserving a pack for himself, and being generous enough to allow me to have it, I wouldn’t have one.

Keep in mind, this is Lysol in the land of disease. It was an exceptionally kind sacrifice. Before I left the store the first time, I felt prompted to check my receipt. I didn’t. Once home, I realized my error, and I regretted that I didn’t. But If I had, I would have discovered the issue, or remembered to wait for my purchase. If I didn’t leave without one, they would have just refunded me. I would not have encountered the manager who was willing to let me have his. So, it was my error that enable me to get Lysol. God provided for me through error. That is the only way I would have gotten it that day.

I knew almost instantly, it wasn’t just for me. There were too many coincidences surrounding me getting it to miss that something providential was happening. I resolved, that if it was God’s hand, He had folks in mind that needed Lysol, and he’d show me who. I didn’t have to wait long. Weeks later, pack unopened, I was made aware of two people who needed it. One of them has a very compromised immune system. Neither could find the product anywhere. I gifted them a can each, and smiled thinking about the journey God had taken me on to get Lysol to them. They didn’t plan it. He did.

He planned for my other needs as well. I got my router. Found conditioner in my house, and was provided seeds for my annual garden. My focus was elsewhere. I didn’t even consider seeds until it was too late. They are sold out or back-ordered all over. Apparently, gardening is trending at the moment. In my area, even dirt is hard to find. A sweet friend knew I was looking, and gifted me a loot of seeds. It contained everything I wanted, and more. The Lord is more dependable than all. He does above what we ask, think or imagine. All His blessings are free. In the midst of crisis, we always have a selfless manager. He knows where to find and is faithful to getting us the supply, even the things we never considered.

You see, there is certain futility, in human planning. To say our vision is limited is an understatement. We can’t even imagine our needs, much less plan and provide for them. To truly be safe, and secure we must trust in someone who sees around, and through corners. I wonder how many people thought their jobs were secure? How many people thought their pensions safe, or their health great?  How quickly our best laid plans change. I hope these things remind you, of what they reminded me.

There is no security, save in God alone. If we must hoard, let it be faith to put in the one who knows all, sees all, and can do all. He can make a way in the desert of the uncertain future. He can make wide paths in the wilderness of a broken economy. He is never bankrupt, or without a plan. His love endures forever, and His people can grow fat in lean places. There is no fortress that can protect us from His purposes, and there is no hut he cannot sustain. Great is our God. Wise is the one who stores all their trust in Him. Everything else is a hoarding fail.

Losing Strength

I am failing.

True or not, this is mostly how I view my life. Even the areas that appear successful feel held together by some invisible, and delicate thread. Fragile at best. These thoughts are scary to consider much less admit aloud. But in the interest of truth, I have been failing for a very long time. Even this moment is a reminder of that. Here I sit, writing for the one reader who may, or may not read my post. Few things says failure in the viral, and digital age like a writer without readers.

It’s not just my career. It’s every area of my life. I have battled feeling less than all around. Less of a spouse. Less of a mother. Less of a teacher. Less of a friend. Less of a Christian. Mastery and success in any area eludes me. And since I’m confessing battles, I’ve also been battling the same ten to twenty pounds on and off for years. My hair is the same length. My nails are the same. My habits, vices, escapes, and excuses are all the same. And I’m still comforting myself with the same words. “Someday…”

Sometimes, the promise of someday isn’t enough. I am tire of stagnancy.  Every part of me longs for growth now. Growth is confirmation that progress is taking place. It is affirmation that I’m headed in the right direction. Without it, we can’t see what’s really happening to us, or for us. It’s then easy to become, discouraged, or complacent. I wrestle with both.

But what if we were prepared to fail?

I mean prepared, much like we do for a race, a trip, a career, a marriage, or the birth of a child. In retrospect, I should have anticipated this. I’ve heard great lessons on the benefits of failure; particularly, on what can be learned from it. They were reasonable, motivational, articulate, and well received truths. They made sense in the moment. But, it was easy to agree to accept a nonspecific failure, at some random point in the future. Especially so, while life was running somewhat smoothly.  There was no real connection to how the details of those unnamed failures would affect my life. A friend says it like this, “Anyone can agree to fast while their belly is full.” Similarly, anyone can agree to be courageous in the face of failure, while enjoying a measure of success. But can we embrace failure in the low place? Can we embrace failure when we are already down, and have been down in for a long time, with zero hope or relief in sight?

Embracing failure as a natural part of our process, that’s the hard part. Accepting it, allowing it to teach us wisdom, and hone our vision without hardening our hearts, is a challenge. Still, making peace with the work of failure is essential to surviving it. Don’t hear me saying that we should be excited to lose, or that we should set out to. Nor am I advocating laziness or quitting. Be tenacious. Be a hard worker. I’m just saying don’t tie your joy solely to the instability of winning by those means. But rather, we should be prepared to fail. Often. We should expect to fail continually, and for a long time. We should anticipate it, so that we are not shocked by it, turned away, silenced or stopped because of it.

I used to be a sprinter. The training can be difficult. In many ways this is harder. Track practice lasted a couple hours. But I knew when it would end. I don’t have the luxury of knowing when this season ends. Failure gives no timeframe. It can span decades. With running, there’s also a clear winner. Often, there are no clear winners in life. If there are, it’s hard for human eyes to judge that. Winning is a matter of integrity, and a matter of the heart. We read into actions, and things, but we don’t read hearts well. Sometimes the people who are actually living victorious lives, are not the ones who look like it. The real victory may look differently than the one we anticipate. It can even make a mockery of our expectations.

If I run, I know when, and where I’m starting. I know how far, and fast I want to go. I know the trail. I take the supplies, and encouragement needed for that particular route. But life is unlike that trail. I don’t know the road ahead. The uncertainty, and twists in this journey leaves me grappling at times. Questioning. “Am I on the right track? Am I making the right decisions? God, do you see me? Did you call me? Are you sure?” These things are prayed over. Over and over. But sometimes God doesn’t answer in my timeframe, or in a way that I can understand. Sometimes God is silent. It is an added layer of testing in the midst of the unknown.

Certainty. I crave it. At my core, I am most comfortable with a measure. It lets me know how I’m doing. It pinpoints what areas need improvements, and in what areas I can relax. It serves as a concrete way to evaluate abstract things like talent, goals, dreams and giftedness. But a measure is not always a good idea. It can als serve to value or devalue a thing. I know. I have experienced it. It can be as simple as an inquiry. “So what do you do?” Sometimes, this is used as a qualifier, or disqualifier question. Try answering it with “homeschool mom.” You are the lowest kind of woman. I’m not soliciting sympathy for my decisions. I made, and I stand by them. I stand by them not because I’m too stubborn to admit a fault, but because I believed they were best. Further, those choices made me who I am. I’m just acknowledging that there is a hierarchy in society, and I am at the bottom. This measure does nothing to help when you are already feeling like a failure. These are the moments when you have to know who you are.

So, who am I? I am messed up, a work in progress in so many ways. But that’s just one part of my story. That is how God found me. That is not how He has allowed me to remain. The other side, and what’s equally true is I have a come a long way. I am an overcomer, an unexpected warrior. I have endured many things, and I continue to get up, and get stronger. Anger. Bitterness. Selfishness. Fear. Dishonesty. I’m witnessing the demolition of these strongholds in my life. Love. Joy.  Peace. I’m growing in so many ways. I am more refined in character. More humble, and compassionate as a result of my failures. I am more willing acknowledge these, and all my gifts, not hide them, or live in false meekness. I’m no longer afraid to take a blow, or a “no.” And I have discovered the power of my voice. Yes, I have one. Whereas I once misused, or abused it, I am learning how to use it for the good God intended. I will not be silenced by the following I do, or don’t have. I will continue to fail until I stand in victory.

I’m preparing my heart, mind, and soul for a victory that looks differently than the one I envisioned. I’m not redefining the word. I’m reimagining it. It’s no longer a one-dimensional thing. It is more selfless than I originally considered, more sacrificial than I was ever prepared to be. Failure has led me to truth. It has been a prolific teacher. It has purified ideas. It taught me what success really is. Turns out, I didn’t really know. I was chasing a result. I was pursuing circumstances, not a change of heart. I’m glad I didn’t get the results I was seeking, before I understood the difference. I may have never learned some of these things. I may even be more messed up by them, or been left cherishing  results, while my soul, and will remained deficient, missing the real thing. Starving.

Failure has taught me more about my true desires, motives, and values than I could have dreamed. It has also taught me what real strength looks like. You have to be amazingly strong to keep getting hit, and rising again and again. Sure, it’s courageous to find the strength, and will to win, but do you have strength to fail repeatedly in the same arena? How about before the same audience? Do you have the strength to go on returning to the scene of the defeat indefinitely? That takes commitment to a cause greater than personal pride. Such a thing challenges and refines a person. It changes them, and causes them to lay down their very lives.

Losing takes a power that doesn’t come naturally. It is a letting go, wounds to the ego. We must cling to something or someone greater our ourselves. For me, this can only be God. And nothing has drawn my heart toward Him like the desperation resulting from losing. I have formed a relationship with my creator because failure has taught me I need Him more than anything. He has been my way in the unknown. He has been my vision when blindsided by defeat. He alone knows the way I take. Over the ruins of my failed efforts, He’s building a marvel.  I just keep holding on to, or running back to Him. He keeps picking me up. He never falls, fails, loses or quits.

Perhaps this sounds a little too preachy to you. But we all have a someone, or something that we run to, our personal “pick me up.” They remind us, or tell us of who we really are. They restore our hope. They refocus our gaze on a “someday.” Jesus is my someone. I cling to His reminders. It is the only way I make it through my rough days. The hope of His ultimate “someday…”

So, who reminds you who you are? How do you process failure? Leave a comment below.

 

 

 

“These Three Remain”

Proceed as though you’re certain,
Bold and unafraid.
Let doubt be a pauper.
And worry take the grave.
Faith.

Do, and don’t despair.
Rest in the knowing,
Nothing is impossible with God.
He delights in the showing.
Hope.

Go on and conquer strongholds.
Live in this power supreme.
Great and pure of purpose,
Part of God’s own name.
Love.

Let these three abide in you,
Companions in all places.
Have no loyalties to pride.
Let love be remembered,
Greatest.

And now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1Corinthians 13:13

I had questions. Why faith wasn’t the greatest? It has fueled revolutions. And what about hope? I’ve had days so dark, were it not for hope, I’m not sure I’d be here. It has been my rescue. Still, God in all wisdom, called love the greatest. I reasoned that faith, and hope were both were the most self serving of the bunch. Love is the only one that could be spent on others, without their permission or participation. I can have faith. I share hope, but neither is servant love is. I’m not sure that’s correct. It’s simpler than that. Love is the greatest, because God is love. Love is the greatest. He said so.

 

 

Comparison

Comparison. Is it really a bad thing? I almost feel like this question is right up there with one Satan asked.  “Hath God said…?” If rotten tomatoes could come flying through a computer screen, I’d probably be battling a face full right now.

People hate it. Theodore Roosevelt actually said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’m not sure I agree.  But many have adopted the thought. There is nothing vague about the meaning. Comparison equals nothing good. Still, I’d like to make an argument for the villainous word. I’m not defending the unhealthy, “I want to be like another human” ideology that grips the masses. Many scriptures like Galatians 6:4-5, or 2 Corinthians 10:12, are decided. These passages are even clearer than Mr. Roosevelt. We are told not to make man our measure.  That’s an eternally incorrect, and indefensible choice. What I’d like to highlight is the type of comparison that scripture defends. The “Be ye holy as I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-18. Jesus talked about not doing anything He didn’t see the Father doing. John 5:19.  Paul said something along the lines of, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.” 1 Corinthians. 1:11. What I’m saying is godliness demands comparison, not to another standard, but to perfection. To God. This is how we come to the realization that man is not good enough.

This morning an exchange with a friend ended with a deserved gentle rebuke. She shared the going ons, in a small portion of her life, and invited me to do the same. She didn’t know, only God knew, I was still in bed. I dread Mondays. I also hate getting up late, but Mondays I tend to lag. I was stalling on a workout, homeschooling, feeding the dog etc..  That’s when I read her text. The reality of her world, awaken me to the ease of mine. By comparison to what she shared, my world was okay. It made me get out of bed. I felt the need to make an attitude correction, and to make the best of a good day.

It wasn’t about her life exactly. It was more about the truth. Her world drew my heart back in line with a fact; life could be worse. Those moments have always sobered me. Suddenly, the “pity party” ends, and I can plainly see that most of my problems are  in my head. Life is actually good. I sent her a message to that degree. She reminded me that all of our moments matter, not just the ones we deem more important. She pointed out that if we allow comparisons to dictate sharing, we’d never truly share what’s going on with us. Many have worst situations. Those were not her exact words, but gist of her objection.  Her point was well made.  Thing is, I do agree with it. Mostly. But to me there was at least, one well meaning fly in the ointment. It deserved at least an honorable mention. I couldn’t help but see it. Then I saw a little more, unrelated to the conversation between my friend and I, but triggered by it nonetheless.

The first issue is easy enough to spot. Some problems are simply more pressing than others. That’s not to say one person is more important than the other, but that perhaps their need is more immediate. So, if I’m bleeding out, or I tell you that I lost a parent, that’s probably not the best time to tell me, the woes of your current ingrown toenail. That’s just life. Social graces not only dictate what we share, but when. Furthermore, my feeble attempts at biblical standards regarding talking, loving, esteeming, and honoring others, at times affects what I say. Timing really does matter. It is the difference between consideration and insensitivity. While it is perfectly acceptable to lament your toenail under other circumstances, you probably instinctively know that losing a loved one is a deeper wound than the toenail. Your response is then measured to include all extensions of sympathy, but to exclude all details about your foot.

What you’ve just done is made a comparative judgement between two ills, and wisely decided to release or withhold information accordingly. We do this in many circumstances. One friend announces and engagement, the other decides to delay news of her pregnancy as not to compete or overshadow her friend’s joy.  We make these judgment calls so often, it’s easy to forget that we are doing so.

Our entire life is a series of choices based on actions and reactions, most of which are drawn from comparisons. The conclusion to these comparisons are the resulting discernment, wisdom and judgment calls that motivate us and drive all we do.  “If I do A, B will result. B is not in my best interest, therefore I will not do A.” This is not a verbalized formula. Sometimes we are comparing without thought.  My point is not that we always come to a smart or correct conclusion, but rather that we are always pulling from comparisons to draw conclusions, and decisions about what we want, or think is best.  Just like it’s probably best not to talk to a bald person about my bad haircut, what my friend reminded me of today is timing.

Timing is key to comparison. Perhaps that’s a small part of the reason we ought not do it. When we compare, is as important as what we compare. At any moment someone else could be struggling, or looking really good doing a particular thing. If I compare the mess that I am now to their glory days, then I’m open to receive negative conclusions about myself. This can lead to dissatisfaction. By the same token, good days are ahead for me. How I am today isn’t how I’ll always be, so it is helpful to remember timing. My grandmother used to say, “today for you. Tomorrow for me.” It meant we all get a chance to be in various positions through out our lives.  I have heard of leaders like Billy Graham, and others who were told, “you’d never amount to anything.” Why? The critics were likely comparing who the person was in that moment, to the qualities they thought a person marked for success, should possess. Many will fall short of expectations at some point in life. But as long as we are here, there will always be more to the story. Paul talked about being content in whatever state he found himself. I think contentment has to do with a keen understanding of time. Even if our entire life on earth is horrible, there is coming a day of great hope and joy. These troubles though they linger, won’t always be. There is an eternity to come.

That’s another point of comparison for me. Eternity. When I think of where I came from, where I am now, and what’s to come, I’m almost giddy. Sometimes the comparison between who I am now, and what was, is the only reason to hope. My friend sharing the hardship of a situation was a reminder that, things could get worst. My reflection on what’s to come is a reminder that things will get better.  Both view points draw me to gratitude, and praise. Paul believed that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that’s to come. Romans. 8:18. On some levels a comparison has to be made to believe that the one thing cannot compete with the other, and falls  so far short, it’s not worth comparing. I know that seems like word play, but think of all of the times Jesus quotes scripture. To the Pharisees. To Satan.  As a fulfillment of prophesy. He often referred back to a standard that’s higher. Himself. Hebrews 12:2-3 talks about Jesus focused on the “joy set before Him, endured the cross and despising the shame.” It talks about believers  “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” We are told to consider Him so that we will not grow weary, and lose heart. I think the point of it all is that we have to keep before us a hope that is greater than all else. Do not look at what you can see. Fix your eyes on eternity, and compare what we have now to what’s to come. It is far greater. Additionally, it is helpful to remember that we are not alone. There is something truly comforting about  knowing that, there is another who understands. Hebrews 2:17-18, says Jesus was made like us, meaning He was human. The comparison of shared hardship is powerful. It fosters relationship, and comprehension. God knows what humans feel. He became one.  His ability to understand what it’s like to be us, also makes our hope realistic. The knowledge that what we are doing, is not impossible, and can be done, is of great benefit. It does wonders for endurance.

Concerns about comparison are not unwarranted. It seems what most people truly fear  is measuring one person’s worth by another’s. That’s more an issue of assigning value, and condemnation as a result. Those who do this, are likely looking for a way to measure someone’s worth, or perhaps their own. I believe comparison, like judgment, gets a bad reputation because of where it can often lead. Jealousy. Bitterness. Lust. Dissatisfaction. Coveting. Anger. Additionally, comparison has the ability to impeach the heart like few things does. It will reveal the heart to harbor the maladies I previously mention. Often when people caution against comparisons, what they are really cautioning against is the negative things that can result from such side by side displays. Those are heart issues.

What we must not do, is assume we know where all comparisons come from, and will lead. Nor can we presume to know the condition of the heart drawing the comparison. The heart is often at the center of decision making? We want to believe all comparisons are wrong, like adultery. I can’t make that leap. I just think it’s a matter of the heart, as are most things. Perhaps that’s why we are told to seek God with all our heart.  Love God with all our heart. Trust God with all our heart. As if to cut to the chase, the scripture says to “guard” our hearts or keep it “with all vigilance.” It concludes that out of the heart flows everything we do, or all the “issues of life” as one translation puts it. Proverbs 4:23.

My sister was the first person to make me consider the blessings in comparison. She is not the competitive type. She struggled with her business for years. During that time, she has worked for celebrities. She rubs elbows with the wealthy regularly. She has watched, and even helped others become millionaires. Not only is she not bitter, she is genuinely joyful. One day, during a talk on the topic of comparison, she revealed why. She surmised that God’s blessings on others is proof that God is still alive, kind, and active in the lives of  men. Her conclusion: “If God can do something amazing for someone else, He can do it for me too.” It’s not that He has too. It’s that He is able. Her deduction is a source of hope. That exchange, led me to consider Hebrews 11. We call it the faith chapter. It lists a whole bunch of people who, “by faith” did some amazing thing or another. The takeaway there is similar. These people were like us (that’s a comparison) if God can use them, and their faith, He can use me and mine too.

The same friend I mentioned earlier has been a source of inspiration on a professional level. She is an author. She writes in the midst of great chaos. I don’t write for her, but I’d be lying if I said her faithfulness didn’t inspire my own. Sometimes it has been an encouragement to keep trying even the impossible. Her life provokes me to love and good works as one passage in Hebrews 10 puts it. Now, we may dress these kinds of comparisons up in finer clothing, and call them inspiration. Motivation. Influence. Encouragement. Good works. But in the end aren’t they at the core pulled from comparisons? Something admirable in another person stimulated, or fanned the flames of  a desire for the right thing.  These things prove our comparison issues are matters of the heart. I think the deeper question is, why are we comparing and what do we do with it?  What’s more, ask yourself what is discernment without comparison? What is judgment without comparison? How did we choose Christ without comparison? How about a good spouse? God gave us eyes, ears, noses, mouths, and brains  for good reasons. Not the least of which is to distinguish between choices. We are constantly comparing, and as a result discerning, and judging between things to find the right and the wrong.

There is another reason I defend comparisons. It is a little harder to explain. I’m not even sure I can, but I will try. Comparisons cannot be entirely wrong, because there are some things that are indefinable apart from comparing it to another thing. 1 Corinthians 13, what we call the love chapter has a lot of “love is” statements.  It also has a lot of what love is not. The defining of what it is not, causes a clearer understanding of what it is. Such is the story, of the Pharisees when they concluded that only the act of adultery is wrong. Jesus then pointed out that lust was wrong, and like adultery. Instantly the chasm between the holiness of God, and the deficiency in the morality of man is revealed. We see this again in the parable of the master who hires laborers at different times of the day. They agreed on a fee. He pays the ones who worked all day, the same as the ones who worked a few hours. It made the ones who had worked longer angry. But the Employer pointed out that they all agreed to a wage prior to the work,  and were given it. He defrauded no one. The cause of their anger was literally that He was too good to others. Matthew 20.

Often the way Jesus communicated what was excellent, was by comparing it to what humans thought was a good thing, our best. These comparisons had an upending impact on belief. Some one wants your coat, give them your cloak also. Someone smacks you on one cheek, turn the other to him.  He compared the Word of God to food. Designated love to enemies. And when making a judgment between an expensive perfume being poured on His feet prior to His burial, and the poor, He reasoned that the poor will always be there. He stated that what was being done for Him was the best thing, in comparison to the suggestion of taking care of the poor. He was full of surprises. Many of them driven home by comparisons. Whether it was Martha, and Mary bickering about who is doing the most work, the widow giving her last, and the Pharisees giving out of abundance, remove comparisons from the scriptures, and I’m not sure we’d know how to live. Comparison became the tool that taught us right from wrong in the most profound ways.

I’m not saying I’m correct, and again this is not true for every situation. I’m only saying that comparison is “not the thief of joy.” The rejection of truth and ignorance are more likely culprits. Where holiness and truth are concerned, comparison is not a monstrous thing. It is not the black and white issue we sometimes present it to be. I don’t think that comparisons are always wrong, nor do I think the rugged individualism we boast of, is always right. I am utterly fallible, and I will likely discover something I hadn’t considered as soon as I post this. I didn’t intend this to be a bible study. Truly, I was just expressing what was on my mind. It grew from a thought into a chapter. The last thing I want to do is take God’s word out of context. In a multitude of words, sin is not lacking, so says Proverbs 10:19. This was a workout for my thoughts.  I just see comparisons throughout the Bible. From good and evil, to Heaven an hell, God and man, Husbands and wives and on and on. So many things are compared to one another to make the Word clearer and inform our understanding. I’m no theologian. I’m simply an observer. It is my observation that comparisons are not always the enemy. It is what we compare, and what we do with our thoughts drawn from it.

In the case of my friend, we were talking about sharing where we are in life presently. How does that become a lengthy post? I have no clue. I will only offer that, the ball of yarn that is my reasoning, is all connected. I can pull an extended thought (good, or bad) from anything.  My friend’s text was meant to be a well being check. It was that, but it was a reality check too. Her reality cleared up mine.  She wasn’t asking to compare my bunions to her bursitis. We have neither, and I wasn’t doing so.  If God allows, we’ll have plenty of time to compare aging ailments. She wasn’t asking to be an object lesson either.  But the things we face teach others too.  I can be a bit Captain Obvious at times. Only this time, instead of revealing what was happening around me, and to me, I revealed what was happening in me. It was a blessing to share the newly corrected condition of my heart. Her world offered an unintended invitation to look again through the lens of a greater reality. To see what is. To remember what’s to come. An incomparable glory. I have needed those moments more than I care to admit. I long to be stronger, but I can be fickle at times. I don’t know how long this current fellowship with truth will last. What I do know is this: Things are never as bad as they seem, nor as good as they are going to get. I am so deeply grateful for those comparisons. They serve as faithful encouragers. From those two acknowledgements I draw, and renew strength continuously. They lead me back to truth, and fix my eyes on greater things. More than anything they keep me sane. In a world where I sometimes feel like all is mad, or I am about to go mad, the only thing that makes sense is, this is not the worst. Nor is this the best.  These thoughts give me what I need to survive Mondays, and truly everyday. Remove those two comparisons from my life, and I’m not sure I’d know how I would endure. My hope dwells firmly in what is not, and what will one day be.

Endangered

Save the whale and the tree,
The eagle bald majestic is he.
Protect him by law for all to see.
The human baby,
Though more sacred than he,
Awaits a choice that sets him free,
Or a death sentence in his home,
His habitat, the womb.

A lot has been said about the right to life. We’ve all decided that we are right. As the debate continues, I  hope we’d all pause for a moment. Please consider what we are arguing over. Life. Who lives? Who dies? 

 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is still the best way to live. It applies to babies. No matter your stance on abortion, consider that one day your life could hinge on the will of one who holds more control and power. Choose wisely. Give the treatment you’d desire to receive. 

Small Sin

Small Sin. Quite the contradiction isn’t it?

I recently had a conversation with a friend regarding weight. Among women, it’s bound to come up at some point. I am not overweight. Mostly, because I guard against it. But during our conversation she reminded me of the times my issues with food was dismissed or assumed non-existent because I don’t fit the profile. I’m not fat. That memory triggered the following rant.

I definitely try to stay on top of my weight, but the sin of gluttony isn’t a pound issue. And though it’s harder to see on smaller people, unfortunately in my case, it is still there.
It dawned on me a while back that if a skinny person says they are a glutton most of what they’d hear from believers and non believers alike is, “you’re not fat. You’re in shape.”
It’s as though we can’t see beyond the flesh. We are so committed to judging based on appearances. At the same time, if I confessed to adultery no one will say,” it’s ok. Your husband doesn’t know about it.” Or, “it’s okay. You’re not pregnant by the other guy yet.”
The conviction came that what God calls sin has to be sin regardless of the contradictions in appearance. Perhaps that’s why the church has been less potent. We are so obsessed with how good we look, we disregard the sin in our midst.

In this case, the sin is gluttony. While God calls it wrong, we deem it a minor issue. Instead, we choose and are quick to make swift judgments of others based on size. Not sin. Size. There is a difference. We neglect the fact that weight is not always a true reflection of the heart. A gluttonous heart overindulges in many things. Not just food. All gluttony is greed based. It appears to be one of the silent sins in the church. We either go out of our way to avoid it, and say nothing about it, or we focus on “obvious offenders.” There is nothing wrong with encouraging the discipline and health of another human being. That’s the loving thing to do. But targeting those who simply “look the part” isn’t a fair measure either, nor does it do enough to get to the root of the problem. We must call out gluttony where we find it.
Yes, there are those who are obese, because their actions dictate that. Still, there are larger people who eat significantly less than I do, and are further down the road of self control than I am. Their discipline and restraint puts me to shame. The difference between us is metabolism. The fact that I enjoy sweaty workouts doesn’t hurt either. I hate that their judgment is harsher than mine based on ignorance.

That said, the amount of eye rolls I’d get for mentioning any struggle with food among most people (especially those larger) is ridiculous. It’s like my size negates my sin. I’ve been doing it though. In a group of overweight believers I confess it regardless. Sin is sin. And I’d like to see things like this change in the church. Stop judging by the eye. If we must apply judgement then let it be by the Word according to the Spirit.
Greed and gluttony is not solely a matter of weight. It is a matter of sin. And every believer must agree with God. Our standard of judgment should be above the world’s standard, otherwise why “believe” at all?