Reminded of The State of The Union

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Yesterday, I went out cycling for some exercise at a nearby park. Upon finishing and returning to the parking lot, I entered a conversation with a fellow biker unloading his bike. He came over to my car as I racked my bike to continue the conversation.  He was an older white guy in his mid-sixties. The conversation quickly shifted from cycling talk to the impact of COVID-19. I listened to him for about 2 minutes and then I realized, in my free loving just talk with anyone ways, this person was rimming over with information he had been gathering from his news sources and the circles he travels in, and I had provided him an opportunity to pour out his opinions. I understand the propensity of older people to share their views to enlighten those who will follow them, so I let him finish expressing his thoughts. When he was done, he had given me his explanation of why the corona virus had been particularly hard on New York. In a nut shell, he stated it was due to the illegal immigrants living ten deep in apartments infecting one another. He made sure to make a distinction from undocumented immigrants to illegal immigrants. He also stated the illegal immigrants were most likely “dogs” from their homeland. I am not exaggerating this or embellishing his words in any way.

This wasn’t provocative to me because after living in America and seeing how the mythology of American history is taught and perpetuated, I understood perfectly how he could have these viewpoints. It is no different from labeling native Americans as savages to justify the profits from taking their land. It is no different from labeling African abductees as incapable monkeys, only two-thirds human to justify profits made through their enslavement. The labeling of humans that seek asylum in America is another way of justifying the profits made from government contracts in privately run prisons and holding facilities.

So, I calmly shared with this older citizen that these were not undocumented immigrants or illegal immigrants, these people were first and foremost humans, just like he and I. As humans, they deserved to have their humanity protected and preserved with the same rights and dignities as every other human. I told him that at a minimum, that is what the law of the land should provide to all humans. I explained to him that they were not just human, they were also individuals and deserved to be treated on the merits of their individual selves and we should care about their individual stories. Well, the tone of the conversation changed after that, and he went on to tell me he was exercising and on meds because he had an ailment that was causing his arteries to harden. I hoped our conversation had at least softened his heart.

I drove away pondering the level of continued blindness in what is now the twenty-first century. I don’t think he stopped for moment to consider that he was speaking to someone who has ancestors, which only a generation ago, had to sit in the back of buses and in the rear of trains and barely could vote in the south, due to them being unjustly stigmatized. I don’t think he is aware that this blight is still impacting the lives of many people of color through the criminal justice system in higher incarceration rates and longer sentencing, as well as the financial sector through higher interest loans and higher insurance premiums and lower property value assessments.

It will probably take months, if not years, to get the facts on who has been most impacted by COVID-19. A lack of thorough testing and no country wide standards enforced on documenting and reporting related deaths during the first weeks of the outbreak, will impact the accuracy of statistics. This pandemic reveals yet how far we are from the ideals of The Pledge of Allegiance, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Answering The Call to Life

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If you can go days without praying or you don’t pray at all, you are most likely not fully engaged with the most important facets of your life. I say this because there is a spiritual war going on for your soul, and for control of the masses. Every moment of this current age is filled with deviant intentionality, so we too have to be intentional every moment about combating their influences, as well as being on the offensive for what is true and righteous.

I focused on prayer being key to this engagement, because once your eyes are opened to this battle, you will see it is bigger than any one individually. You will see that it is on a scale that requires allies and support from a power greater than yourself. Once you engage in works like facing the things that make you feel unhappy, to remove its negative influence, or advocating for fairness and justice, or filling your time with things that benefit others as well as yourself, or speaking up for the oppressed and down trodden, the weight of these issues will demand a strength greater than what you can muster alone. The heart of the Creator is close to all of these issues, and when you open your heart to them, there is an opportunity for a communion which gives hope, strength, and vitality.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Dealing constructively with these weighty issues of life will reward you greatly, and they will certainly cause you to draw closer to your Heavenly Father. The deviant forces at work, which I spoke of earlier, would have you be unconscious and inactive in this conflict for life, but you were born for this. We are all present to perpetuate life, for those here with us and for those who follow. We can only accomplish this through connecting with other humans through the love of GOD. Through these connections we establish conduits of living waters to the greater human community, which thirst for Life. We must guard against evil influences that would have us be divided through hate, racism, and xenophobia.

There is a belief that religion is one of the biggest dividers of people in the world today. This belief is not far from the truth, but the problem is not with “true” religion, the problem is with “false” religion. How do you tell the difference? Any religion claiming divine authority will be built on the pillars of faith:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. ‘This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Being devoted to love, with all your heart, soul, and mind, strengthens community. Loving you neighbor as yourself also strengthens community. These are the pillars of “true” religion. True religion does require some division, but it is a separation from things that are not life producing and sustainable. Healthy division is a part of life. For example, pruning in a garden to make the plants more fruitful. A religion that won’t identify and reject things which produce death or minimizes life is false. The idea that love embraces everything is complete foolishness. Love is always dedicated to that which sustains and propagates life. If it is intent on restricting life or causing death, love will sever its connection to it. That is the only impetus behind any division true religion is responsible for.

False religion causes division as a result of being complicit with hate, greed, perversions, inequality, lies, and any other evil. This is the reason the cross is the doorway to true religion. The cross is where man surrenders self-interest for the universal and life sustaining interest of the Creator. Don’t reject the idea of seeking fulfillment in true religion because of the preponderance of false religions. Yeshua came to make of all humans, one people in Him. He gave His body on the cross that He might raise from the dead another body, which consist of all people willing to lay down their divisive self-interest for the pillars of faith.

So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. (John 2:18-22)

This is why those born again through the cross of Christ are called the “Body of Christ”. It is time for us all to start living the life we were meant to live, through becoming the people we were meant to be: the children of the Most High GOD. It is our true heritage. A languishing world is waiting.

 

 

 

Receiving Love

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Love is splendid gracious favor, adoration, and kindness, which comes to us as a blessing from heaven. It must be received in surrender and humility or else you will resist it unconsciously, trying to find fault with it, because the awareness of your own faults and shortcomings will tell you, it is too good to be true. GOD is the source of all “true” love, and He pours it on us directly, and through His creation, and through those who know Him. Receive this life changing Love with a grateful heart, and let it graciously overflow to those around you.

“Just Mercy” …A Nice Peep

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I saw the movie “Just Mercy” yesterday. It is the story of Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative organization. There is a scripture that says, the Lord is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. GOD is Truth and Light, and this movie does a great job of telling how Mr. Stevenson has spent his life in pursuit of truth to bring liberation to those held captive by darkness. The movie is set in Alabama. A state that has historically depicted the heart of Jim Crow segregation and racism. The movie brings to light the true stories of horror which black people have experienced, being subjected to a judicial system which considers them unworthy of justice; equal protection under the law. Justice, equal protection under the law, is a right of all citizens of the United States. The fact that black people of color currently and historically have been denied that right demonstrates an unwillingness to grant us full citizenship. The evidence is not in the exception of the few but in the status quo of the millions.

A PEW study revealed that in 2017, blacks represented 12% of the U.S. adult population but 33% of the sentenced prison population. Whites accounted for 64% of adults but 30% of prisoners. Another way to represent these numbers is there were 1,549 black prisoners for every 100,000 black adults – nearly six times the imprisonment rate for whites (272 per 100,000) and nearly double the rate for Hispanics (823 per 100,000). Over the past couple of years, the disparity in these numbers has shrunk. It has been suggested by a few studies that this is due to a decline in the use of crack in the black community, curtailing incarceration in connection with drugs. Another contributor to the gap closing is the incarceration of white males has starkly increased due to methamphetamine, prescription opioid and heroin use, combined with the prosecution of white males doubling for sex crimes.

I was moved by the number of white movie goers in the theater to see this film. It stirred hope in me that there is growing interest in understanding the root causes of the disparities seen across this nation in the quality of life between the masses of blacks and whites. I also hope that more of my white sisters and brothers will venture beyond regular news sources to documentaries, films, and articles that publish truth not aired in the mainstream, which go a long way in explaining the catalyst for protest carried out by black people. Instead of seeing the protesting of blacks as unpatriotic, maybe people will begin to see it as a reasonable response to the hypocrisy displayed by a country that boast one nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Some films and documentaries I would recommend are “13th” by Ava DuVernay, “Black In Latin America” by Henry Louis Gates Jr., “The Way They See Us” by Ava DuVernay, and of course “Just Mercy” by Destin Daniel Cretton.

The Official Theme of Black History Month is “The Vote”

The Vote

The theme for Black History month this year is “The Vote”. This is the sesquicentennial of the Black vote or its 150th anniversary. This month the founders of Black History month, The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, brings focus to the historical inclusion of African Americans into the category of “people” with certain unalienable rights. The Declaration of Independence, known as one of the founding Charters of Freedom, declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It took the U.S. 346 years to finally acknowledge Black Americans as humans with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. From the first documented ship that arrived in Virginia with the human trafficked from Africa (1619), until the Voting Rights Act (1965), was 346 years. This is an indictment on the Christian roots of this nation. If the framers were truly enlightened, and this was a Christian nation, it would not have taken over 350 years to see that Black people are heirs of Christ as well. The fact that many confessing Christians view America as a Christian nations exposes a deep root of delusion, and the lack of a true relationship with Christ the Savior. The Book of 1st John states that whoever says they love GOD, yet hate their brother is a liar.

Even after the passing of the Voting Rights Act, there were still many obstacles to the polls, from terrorism by white supremacist to voter suppression by governing bodies. The latter is still n issue today in the former Jim Crow states. In 2013, Alabama officials argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby versus Holder, that the protections provided under the Voting Rights Act were no longer needed to prevent discrimination, and on June 25th of that year the court agreed. This has opened the door for polling changes previously blocked by the VRA to be instituted, like the “exact match” policy which has been proven to disproportionately affect the black community.

The struggle continues….

 

Making The Choice To Be Human

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To treat someone humane means to treat someone as you would want to be treated. It means to show others the same sympathy, consideration, and regard you desire for yourself. Any time you fail to show this to another person, in that moment, you are being inhumane. I know what it is like to be treated inhumanely; to have someone look toward you but never actually see you, because they have projected on you an image conjured from ingrained ignorance and misinformation; to have your voice deflected by a belief that it is inherently missing a tone of relevance. These examples may not seem significant, however, they identify the underlying darkness which enables one person to mistreat another or for one part of society to abuse another. This includes all forms of injustice rooted in inequality and hate, for example, the enslavement of humans, the general marginalization of humans, and all forms of human exploitation.

I said earlier that I know what it is like to be treated inhumanely, but I also know what it is like to be inhumane. I grew up in a culture where the dehumanization of others has been normalized. I grew up watching the genocide of the indigenous people of North America as entertainment in “Cowboy and Indian” movies. I watched sporting events which debased the humanity of Native Americans like the “Red Skins” and the “Braves”. As a kid, at a Braves game, I would watch “Chief Knock-a-Homer” arrayed in eagle’s feathers and beads do a dance on top of the Braves dugout to summon a home-run. It doesn’t matter if “Chief Knock-a-Homer” was Native American or not, it was unconscionable. As a child I watched “Looney Tune” and “Warner Brothers” cartoons objectify female characters as sex symbols and stigmatize them as helpless nagging dim wits. In these same cartoons, Mexicans were often portrayed as lazy, slow speaking people, often surrounded by flies. These inhumane images, as a form of entertainment, was an attack on my own humanity in the form of desensitization. The destruction of Black humanity has been so prevalent and obvious I don’t think it’s necessary to site an example, but just in case there is an extraordinary chance that someone is scratching their head over this, let’s take the U.S. Government. It should be unnecessary for there to be constitutional amendments and Civil Rights Acts and Voting Rights Acts and Anti-Lynching laws to ensure the obvious, that all men are created equal and should have equal citizenship, but that is not the case. There must be authoritative monitoring and enforcement of individual’s civil rights or people get destroyed. We wouldn’t need big government if the majority of Americans didn’t have such small hearts.

You are not dehumanized until you replicate the cold-hearted acts of the inhumane. The power to be human and remain humane is yours. Preserve your humanity through the wisdom of GOD shared in 2 Peter 1:2-8 (KJV):

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

January has been cited as Human Trafficking Awareness month. Many people aren’t aware of how prevalent and close to us human trafficking is. It is like a raging sewer of human rights violations happening right beneath our feet. February has been cited as Black History month. This observance is necessary because many of the vital contributions Black people have made to the establishment and development of America, at great sacrifice, go unheralded and uncelebrated. These are two of many socially conscious observances that occur throughout the calendar year. Below, I have listed several similar observances recognized in America. Don’t allow yourself to be alienated from these ethnic and social observances which serve to bring us all closer through the eradication of ignorance and the disruption of ingrained unconscious bias. The more we learn about each other and the events that have shaped this world, the more it is affirmed that the human race is the only race, and all our lives are connected.

 

January

Human Trafficking Awareness Month

February

National Black History Month

March

Greek-American Heritage Month

Irish-American Heritage Month

Women’s History Month

May

Asian Pacific American History Month

Jewish-American Heritage Month

September

National Hispanic Heritage Month

October

German-American Heritage Month

National Italian-American Heritage Month

Polish-American Heritage Month

November

National American Indian Heritage Month

 

Looking Ahead Begins With Looking Back

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The fact that it will soon be year 2020 has prompted many people to have dialogue surrounding vision. These conversations cover everything from visions of businesses, to family and personal wellness. It is always good to aspire and plan, but without clear vision, you could reach your destination only to find it was not really what the soul needed for fulfillment. Clear vision comes from a clear heart. A clear heart is obtained in the same way as clearing a view for your eyes. It involves removing obstructions which hinder a clear view of the focal point.

When we speak of a vision for our life or business etc., we have to en-vision it because it is not yet physically tangible. Envisioning involves looking inside to view something you desire to see outside. So, your internal make up will determine what you are capable of envisioning for your life. Actually, your internal make up dictates how you perceive everything in life. This is why Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Your heart is your mind’s eye, so clear vision begins with getting your heart right. Life experiences, over time, can leave our hearts cluttered if we don’t process them properly. An unwillingness to deal with the past keeps it present.

Properly compartmentalizing your past is not an easy task, but it has to be done. Compartmentalizing your past keeps experiences contained in a way that gives you control over their influence. When this work is not done, bad experiences from the past can influence your emotions negatively today. Good experiences can hold you captive too long, hindering you from experiencing even greater experiences today. By compartmentalizing your past experiences, they are neatly stored a way for constructive reference if needed. Make sure you choose some healthy containers like: [Out of my control], [the best I could do at the time], [I was wrong, but I have repented], [God will help me with this one in time], [Job well done, ready for what’s next], [Thankful for that accomplishment], [Lesson learned, I’ll handle it differently in the future], [I am not that person anymore]. These are some containers that will allow you to bring closure to past experiences that could be cluttering your heart.

This is not a work you do alone. You need the light of GOD’s spirit, His mercy, and grace, to help you sort through the database of your soul. You also need the support of people with GOD’s love in their heart giving affirmation, encouragement, and counsel.  We did not get here alone; therefore it stands to reason we need help making it through.

This process reminds me of the ancient African practice of “Sankofa”. The word is derived from the language of Ghana, which relates to the process of looking back to the past, in order to bring understanding gained to bear on the present, to ensure positive progress moving forward. This meaning is captured in the symbol of a bird looking back, retrieving an egg from her wings, with her feet facing forward.

Wishing you GOD’s best in the near and distant future!