Mother’s Day: Fully Embracing The Gift of Motherhood

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Mom in her late 40s. She’s now 89.

On Mother’s Day and everyday, enjoy and honor who you are, and where you are as a mom.  No need to mimic Mother Jones, Martha Stuart or any of the array of other talented and resourceful mom’s in the world.  Just be true to who you are and where you are in your life.

If at any point as a mom we feel we need to step up, we need only begin by making a quality decision to make a change, and still no need to be down on ourselves.  The change we desire may be as simple as a decision to simplify our life so we can think more clearly, or reduce the drama and stress that so easily drains our finances, time and energy and pull us away from our children, time with God and what’s really important.  So, whether there’s something we’d like to change or step up in as a mom, we can feel good about doing it because we see the need and not because we’re comparing ourselves to other mom’s.

At the end of the day, our relationship with God, our children, family and loved ones are the most important things in life.

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Mom (on left) in her early 60s with a cousin-friend.

As mom’s we have sufficient challenges without creating unnecessary internal conflict and problems for ourselves through comparisons and other self-defeating negative behaviors.  Whatever we want in life is as close as our next decision to change, seek help or to love ourselves unconditionally as God does.  No sickness or mistake – great or small, can separate us from the love of God, so there’s no need to sweat problems that we can do something about – with God’s help.

So, this Mother’s Day, give yourself the gift of self-love and total self-acceptance, as one made in the image of God, and to whom God has endowed with the gift of motherhood in whatever form it’s given. There are no perfect mothers because moms are a part of the fallible human race.  So, there may be mothers who seem perfect because we only know a part of their story. We’re all out here together working to be the best mom’s we can with the help of God.  So we need not accept self-defeating behavior from ourselves or others.

Embrace the gift of motherhood along with God’s grace and mercy to empower us to bring up and inspire God-fearing, loving and kind children who can make this world a better place just who they are and what they bring to it.

Motherhood is a gift and an honorable journey to be a part of.  And, no greater gift can a mom give than to give herself, her child/children and family than love, faith and knowledge of God.  From my perspective, that’s about as perfect as it gets. And, the same God who met my mom where she was years ago on a dirt road in her time of need, as a mother of seven children is the same God who will meet us where we are and love us unconditionally today as mothers!

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Happy Mothers’ Day!

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The Heart of Mankind: An Indicator of Societal Wellness

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Proverbs 20:27 refers to our spirit as the “candle of the Lord” that searches the deepest parts of who we are. Those words remind me of the parts of ourselves that we may attempt to conceal from others, our underlying motives and thoughts, and truths we fail to acknowledge. Then, I wonder about the condition of the hearts of people who cause so much suffering in our society today, and in the past among my enslaved ancestors who struggled all their lives to access what God already had given them – freedom.

My great-great-grandmother was born into slavery. Her parents ran away from their slave master’s plantation, and lived in the forest, where my great-great-grandmother was born. When they were found by their slaveholder my great-great-grandmother was about nine years old. Her father was shot on site in front of her and her mother to make an example of him, so they would remember to never attempt to be free again. And from what I’ve been told, my great-great-grandmother never cried again from the time of her father’s murder until her death. At nine years old, I guess she had no more tears to shed, as she’d probably already endured the worst of the worst.

In some ways it feels a little uncomfortable that this scripture brings back thoughts of my great-great-grandmother’s sufferings. Maybe I reflect on her when I read this scripture because it leads me to wonder how much darkness had to exist in the minds and hearts of the slave owners, lawmakers and citizens of that time for them to support the cruelty and dehumanization of slavery – for so long. It was as if they snuffed out the candle of their conscience to prevent it from drawing attention to those areas of their hearts that needed change.

Back then, slavery was the new normal. It was legal, lucrative and well supported. And if the institution of slavery was any indication of the condition of the hearts of humanity at that time, it shows how depraved a society can become when its will overrides the will of God.

We’ve come a long way as a society and nation, but we have not arrived. Slavery and injustice, in various forms and to a lesser extent, still exist. The names, players, rules and their broad appeal have changed, but the roots remain: greed – the love of money and it’s wares – and a mindset of supremacy.

The good thing is: slavery is now illegal! We’ve made some headway in civil rights, and that’s a good start for progressive change. So on behalf of my great-great-grandmother and all the ancestors who endured so much hardship, I’m thankful for “better.” I’m also thankful that God continues to illuminate the inner recesses of our hearts and nudge us to be who He created us to be, and who we pledge to be: “one nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The Resurrection of Jesus: The Gift That Never Loses Its Power

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Jesus lives!

Worthy is the Lamb (Jesus) who was slain for us!  During the days after Jesus’ death on the cross, He was not simply laying in a dark, damp grave.  Jesus was alive in the Spirit, going to spiritual places where his human body was unable to go.  Jesus submitted his body to the grave in order to release His spirit to effectively descend to the lower regions of the earth and take back everything the enemy had taken from God’s people through the fall of Adam and Eve.

For many generations, God continued to protect humankind from harm by instituting the recurring practice of animal sacrifices to deal with the deadly consequences of sin that had long continued to separate God from His creation.  Then, God provided for our security through Jesus’ death and resurrection, ensuring our future and a life more abundant than any of our predecessors.

When Jesus’ body was laid to rest in the tomb, He had spiritual work to do on behalf of  humankind that would secure the wellbeing of our souls and allow us to live an empowered life in the here and now.  So, while Jesus may have been silent atop the ground, He was very active in the lower regions of the earth taking back the keys of death and hell from the enemy of our souls. And when He had accomplished this work, He rose from the dead with all power in His hands, having broken the curse and bondage of sin that had fallen upon all humankind as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve.

Therefore, once and for all, God provided a permanent sin solution and a way to ensure that we always had access to Him.  God gave us the ultimate gift and sacrifice of Jesus, his beloved Son.  Jesus was divine, and only a divine sacrifice would be able to provide a permanent solution to the spiritual problem of sin.  So the sacrificial gift of Jesus as a means to secure our future and access to life more abundantly in relationship with God, makes us some of the most blessed creatures on the planet!  We only need accept God’s precious gift with the love and thoughtfulness in which it was given.

God’s plan for Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection was an act of sheer love and genius. The Bible is filled with passages that express the depth of God’s love for us, one of which is John 3:16.  God’s love for us was, and remains, so strong that He gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in Him can have access to eternal life with Him in the afterlife, and live in communion with Him daily through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  This promise is applicable to us right here, right now, so that we are complete in Him and never alone, even if we emotionally feel like it at times.

Freedom from the bondage of sin, death and separation from God is available to everyone – no matter our ability or disability, whether deaf or hearing, speechless or speaking, rich or poor.  God is accessible to us directly as result of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.  Thank God for Jesus!

Happy Resurrection Day!

 

Black Panther, The Movie

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Nakia and Okoye flank T’Challa in Black Panther. Marvel/Disney

Recently, I went to view the movie Black Panther with friends after hearing so much about it, and the movie lived up to all the hype.  Black Panther was amazing – thrilling, adventurous and engaging!  Themes of  rivalry, betrayal, leadership, and loyalty were all intertwined with pure technological and creative genius.  It was also filled with good lessons about life and being true to what’s true for you.

The Black Panther, King T’Challa, takes the throne after his father’s death; settling into his role as king, he soon discovers a family secret that his father had kept from everyone except for his trusted aide.  At the same time, young King T’Challa struggles to keep his country safe by both hoarding its most precious and valuable resource, Vibranium, which in the wrong hands could be disasterous.  The Black Panther also was preventing immigrants from entering the country, exhausting its resources and negatively impacting their way of life, as he assumed would happen if he opened their borders.

We see the king becoming the man and leader that he needs to be for himself, his family and his country.  Along the way, we can see how the secret problem that his father left behind at his death (a child born outside the country to T’Challa’s uncle) becomes both one of the Black Panther’s and his country’s worse nightmares, and serves as a catalyst for change that helps the Blank Panther and his staff identify the lines of demarcation within themselves and within others close to them. The tares within the kingdom become more identifiable and pits the king and his staff against people they care for and once trusted.  This becomes a good thing because it brings clarity to all concerned about what they need to do and what is right for them and their country.  A battle ensues that will help the country free itself from its arch-enemy – the abandoned, wicked son of T’Challa’s uncle – to become a greater and more socially responsible country.

Black Panther was a winner for me for several reasons.  First, the movie in many ways was true to life in that it reveals the internal struggle we all face when confronted with conflicting choices concerning our values, beliefs and those we love.  And more importantly, the movie showed how different characters faced such conflicts, and aligned head and heart with their truth and what was right for them.

These hard choices could be seen when the king’s lead bodyguard General Okoye had to (a) decide between her duty to protect and serve king and country, regardless of who the reigning king was, or abondon her duty to the throne based on her dislike for the wicked cousin who had overthrown the Black Panther, and (b) choose to fight for what’s right and true in her heart, even if it means losing the man she loves in the process, or holding on to him and against her own conscience rejecting her truth, when she comes face-to-face with her lover in a battle to reclaim the throne for T’Challa.

Then, there was a similar situation with Nakia, the ex-girlfriend that the Black Panther, King T’Challa, still loved.  Nakia had to decide to go back to her life elsewhere so she could be true to her passion for helping the less fortunate or staying with King T’Challa and walking away from her ministry to the needy, since she and King T’Challa had differing opinions about allowing these immigrants into the country.  And, King T’Challa  himself struggled to let go of old ways and processes that did not add value to his personal life, his country or its international relations, and their ability to affect positive change.

Second, the movie shows that positive change is possible when we commit to truth and doing what is right and good for ourselves and others.  Thus, the Black Panther was able to make right some wrongs in his thinking and in previous poor decisions made by his deceased father that had left the country in turmoil.  Whereas before, he primarily focused on potential problems – the danger of the Vibranium in the hands of others, the negative impact of immigration and helping the needy, and separation from the woman he loved in order for her to fulfill her purpose.  King T’Challa went no further than those negative thoughts, and concluded that things had to remain the same to avoid safety issues.  Eventually, however, he began to focus on potential solutions more than problems, and found that allowing things to remain the same was not an option that would yield the results he wanted.

Thus, Black Panther shows us that at our point of need and/or pain, we have the greatest potential for positive change, if we’re willing to take one positive action at a time. 

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T’Challa/Black, Nakia and General Okoye on a mission to find a thief.  (Photo: Marvel Studios)

Third, the movie was “real” as some would say, meaning it was an honest depiction of human behavior, especially in the Black community.  In one particularly “real” scene, General Okoye went on a mission with the Black Panther, Nakia and Shuri, his technology savvy sister, to locate a thief who had stolen and planned to sell one of his country’s Vibranium artifacts.  On this mission, they had to dress the part in order to fit into their surroundings. (Keep in mind that the General Okoye is strong, fearless, no-nonsense and bald!) So on this mission, General Okoye wore a red dress, high-heel shoes and a long, flowing wig –  all of which was out of character for her and cramped her style.  When the three of them located the thief they were looking for in a club, a fight ensued, and General Okoye, who was an excellent warrior, pulled the wig off her head and tossed it! I assume ditching the wig helped her to not only fight more effectively but feel more like the warrior that she was.  How true that is to life. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve seem my mom pull off her wig in public, if she was tired and especially if she got hot!  And, in church on Sunday, one of the female ministers at church, who shall remain nameless, got excited while speaking to the congregation and alluded to pulling off her wig if she got too much more excited about praising God! Of course laughter erupted all over the church.

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Shuri, Nakia, General Okoye and Queen Ramonda 

Lastly, the movie was great because it instilled a sense of pride in one’s self and your lineage, and that’s something that the Black community, especially needs.  This pride is not so we can go out and try to take over anything or move to Africa, as some naysayers have suggested.  Most Black people do not want to go back to Africa.  We were never there!  So, all we can do is go visit.  I’m sure many of our ancestors from a time gone by were in Africa; but those of us here now, were never there so there’s nothing in Africa for us to go back to.  The pride I’m referring to is soul affirming.  Everyone needs a little affirmation and feel-good support sometimes, especially when you are a part of a population of people who have for generations been made to feel disempowered, less-than, useless for nothing more than hard labor, low-wage jobs, producing offspring, and making money to build wealth for others.  It takes a different kind of person to understand and/or empathize with where Blacks and other populations who have experienced generations of such prejudice, abuse, inhumanity and other hardships imposed upon them by the society and/or country that literally was built on the backs of their suffering.  This kind of empathy is not a skill that all people can lay claim to or grasp the genrational impact that lives on; nonetheless we all should aspire to cultivate it.

The Black Panther was an all-around great movie.  If you haven’t seen the movie, I encourage you to do so.

From the Poor House to the White House: Invaluable Lessons We Can Learn From ‘Ordinary’ Bricks

single brick“Even a common ordinary brick wants to be something bigger than itself,” said one of the actors in the movie “Indecent Proposal.” These words, I believe, describe the desire of the human spirit.”

I believe we all want to feel that we’ve made a difference in someone’s life or contributed to the betterment of a person, family or noble cause. And by doing so, it makes us a part of something bigger than ourselves, and that’s the way I believe life was intended to be.

However, when anyone in a family or society attempts to live in isolation, without regard for anyone else, the person and society suffers the consequences.

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If, for example, we each imagine ourselves as bricks joined together to create the foundation of a home, when a large section of brick is cracked, jolted out of place and damaged, such as may happen in an earthquake, it impacts the stability of the entire foundation and everything resting upon it. And depending on how long the damaged foundation goes without repair, it further weakens over time, becomes unstable, and dangerous – just like damaged and hurting people and animals left to themselves without medical attention.

Whereas, a problem that could have been remedied without harm to others becomes a death trap to many – all because of the homeowner’s failure to acknowledge and respond to a known safety risk.  wall-3082742__340 fallen broken brick

The scenario of the damaged brick foundation highlights a few of the deeper issues involved in much of the craziness – mass violence, racism and all those other “isms” in our society and world – caused by damaged, hurting people who have been left to themselves to do whatever, without intervention. It also reveals the fact that damaged though some people may be, they still have an impact on our society as a part of the whole of humanity, just like those damaged foundation bricks we’ve been referring to.

Therefore, it’s important that we understand and consider the impact of allowing our damaged, hurting and/or emotionally broken sisters and brothers to roam aimlessly in their pain without attempting an intervention. Intervention can take many forms but needs to come from a heart of love, meaning we take appropriate action that will both be “good to” and do what’s “good for” the person and society.

Damaged and hurting people will need our love – not necessarily our friendship, as love will give them what they need regardless of their behavior. And sometimes loving them may mean reporting them to the police, a pastor, a guidance counselor at a school or someone else who cares about the person’s wellbeing.

If we simply befriend them, and they begin acting crazy, we just may give them “the middle finger” and walk away. As in our example of the damaged bricks, overlooking their need further damages them and could place others at risk, and that’s what we want to avoid. We need look no further for proof than the shootings in Parkland, Florida; Columbine, Colorado; or Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where three promising students were killed several years ago over a parking dispute or worse – prejudice.

 

Although the story of the brick foundation is only an example, it shows us how things can go bad when we think that we are not our brother’s and sister’s keeper, and when we think people can be damaged privately and not be damaging in public. What is festering inside a person will at some point show up externally – in public life. (Read what was festering inside the Columbine shooters.)

While bricks may be interconnected by mortar, our families and society are connected by blood, love, sacrifice and a God who created us all.

So, regardless of our ability or disability, gender, race or creed, we remain a part of something (many things) bigger than ourselves: the family of God, the human race (the only race God created)  and our family and friends. Our place in each of these circles matters, as does each brick in the hypothetical brick foundation.

From the poor house to the White House, and all points in between, this perspective should guide our interactions with each other to ensure we never disregard or dehumanize any human being. At the moment that we stop seeing people as human, flesh and blood with loved ones and feelings, hopes and desires, then we begin to churn out a society of mass murderers, terrorists, human traffickers and slave traders. And we, by God’s design, are better than all of that, although we have not always been a nation or world that acted according to our true identity as people created in the likeness of God.

As we go further into 2018 and approach the end of Black History Month, I challenge everyone to move forward with awareness and sensitivity to what is right and true for you, as well as thoughtfulness and empathy for others whose journeys may be totally different from our own. And finally, move forward in prayer and oversight for our damaged and hurting fellow human beings – pledging to love them enough to play some small role in preventing/minimizing suffering and harm to themselves, and especially to others.

Moving Forward Under the Shadow of the Almighty in 2018 and Beyond

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The shadow reflecting the presence of God with us wherever we are.  Photo courtesy of pixabay.com.

The person who maintains a mindset of prayer and/or a heart open to the voice of God will remain under God’s watchful eye/covering (Psalm 91:1, my paraphrase).

As I read and reread Psalm 91, I realized just how much substance each verse contained and how the verses spoke volumes to my state of being and moving forward in 2018, so I thought I’d share Verse 1.  Since I love the poetic wording of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, I’ll restate the paraphrased verse above as it appears in the KJV.

 

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1, KJV).

Maintaining ourselves in the presence and companionship of God offers the benefit of ensuring that we are under God’s continual oversight, His watchful eye.  And as we go about our lives in 2018 with this awareness of God’s presence within us and with us, it will help us to, first, acknowledge and clear our own internal baggage and clutter, as well as release and find a place of peace and healing for any brokenness and pain from the previous year(s).

Second, mindfulness of God’s presence will help us to sync our hearts and minds with the will and purposes of God for our lives so we can know with some level of assurance what we need to do – and don’t need to – moving forward.

Third, maintaining God in our awareness draws us nearer to Him, shows we honor and worship God in our hearts and have made Him an integral part of our lives and who we are – not simply a worship routine that we do only in a corporate worship service at church.  This is key because our lives are very personal, and when we need help and direction, we need it to be God-inspired for us, personally.

So, let’s make 2018 a year of abiding in the presence of God and allowing Him to communicate and confirm His vision and plan for our lives so we can set our aim at the right targets and score.  Our lives matter to God so let’s make our lives and what we do count for our good and the good of humanity.

God is with you and you are not alone as you move forward in 2018 and beyond. Create good and make your dreams a reality.  Abide in God’s presence and remain under the shadow of the Almighty God.  Selah!

Ready, Set, Go!: Writing and Working the Vision for 2018

As we begin a new year, I believe it’s important to write down the goals that are most important to us; share them aloud with someone we trust to affirm our commitment to them; and more importantly, develop a plan of action in which each action taken brings us closer to the finish line of goal attainment.

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Ready, set, go! Run the race to goal attainment in 2018. Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Earlier, I shared several of my most pressing goals and topics of interest with a friend, and thought I’d share them here as well to help set the course for the year. For 2018, I’ve identified some problematic areas of interest that could use a mindset/perception shift and about which I’d like to discuss over the course of the year to bring awareness and to help cultivate a positive mindset shift for the good of us as individuals and as a society.  The areas I’ve identified include:

  1. the “mad-black-woman” stereotype (and potentially the angry, violent-black man stereotype) to include my theory on the history behind the stereotype(s) and its impact over the years.
  2. the “healthcare crisis” and our commitment to self-care.
  3. a “proactive” rather than a “reactive” response to our individual and societal challenges, from protecting what’s important to us to voter turnout, to engaging our nation’s political and legal systems to oppose injustice and other societal challenges.
  4. a look into the issues of prejudice and abuse, from racial to gender discrimination.
  5. the need for women’s empowerment and self-care among the nurturers in our world who give so much of themselves to care for others.

Although these areas may veer somewhat from the norm of this blog, they remain relevant to how well we love, honor and value ourselves so that the love and goodness within us flows outward from us to others and into the areas mentioned above and other areas of life and society not mentioned here.

Ultimately, when our individual lives touch and positively impact our relationships and interactions at home or work, in the community or nation or wherever our lives take us, we can know most assuredly that we have given a wonderful gift to humanity and further affirmed that we were worthy of admiration all along!