Opening the Gift of the Present

The GIft

Today as I ate my lunch, I decided to do a little research regarding, “How to increase focus and concentration” and I found some nuggets to add to my treasure chest. In my search, I found that what resonated with me more was actually some information on what to focus and concentrate on more so than how to increase focus and concentration.

These days I find it increasingly rare to have someone’s undivided attention. Once upon a time it was considered rude to engage someone without stopping what you were doing to make eye contact. When someone looks directly at you it is a sign that you have their attention. These days you are often forced to share someone’s attention with personal electronics like mobile phones, laptops, and other multimedia devices. There are times when multi-tasking is the best way to be productive and then there are times when giving less than your undivided attention results in time thwarted. Sometimes when you are not fully engaged in something that is occurring, you miss cues and subtleties that give important information causing that time to be less fruitful.

We have been given life by a GOD that is detailed to an infinitesimal degree. He packs so much into every moment we live. The secret to abundant life is learning to be fully aware in every moment we are blessed to live, in order to be mindful of the present goodness. Be sure the things you focus on are worthy of your time, and if anything is worthy of your time, you should make sure you get everything you can out of it. Prudence is one of the truest markers of maturity and enlightenment.

Enjoy these exerts from an article I read from a website called “The Art of Manliness” :

“Modernity has given us a lot of comforts and conveniences, but it has also unleashed a torrent of stimuli competing for our attention. To live a truly flourishing life amidst this cacophony of distractions, mastering your attention is key. At the end of your life, who you’ve become, what you’ve learned and accomplished, and who’s there at the end with you will be the sum total of what you chose to pay attention to each year, day, and hour of your life. Will a series of cat videos flash before your eyes? Or will you look back on the deep conversations you had with your family and friends, the books that changed your life, and the little details you discovered in all the places you visited?”

“Practice attentive listening. Focus isn’t just useful for intellectual endeavors. It’s also an essential interpersonal skill. The ability to be present with a loved one or friend builds your rapport, intimacy, and trust with them. At the same time, making an effort to focus all your energy on someone else strengthens your concentration muscles overall. It’s win-win. So next the time you’re talking with your main squeeze, put away your phone and listen as attentively as possible.”

Practice mindfulness:

“Mindfulness is simply focusing completely on what you’re doing, slowing down, and observing all of the physical and emotional sensations you are experiencing in that moment.”

All the life you have is happening right now, everything beyond this present moment is a matter of faith.

 

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Revelations from the Eye of the Storm

The Exercise

I had a discussion recently with a white male friend of mine about the different perspectives people can have based on their life experiences. The conversation led to him sharing how he knew he was a beneficiary of white male privilege in America and how that privilege has led to a disconnect sometimes when it comes to him understanding the Black perspective. The next day he sent me a couple of different links to videos of Jane Elliot’s “Brown Eyed/ Blued Eyed” exercises. Some of you may be familiar with the work of Jane Elliot but in case you are not, she is an educator that has done some good work on exposing the racism innate in American culture. Her work began the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. She did an exercise with her primary school students, who were all white, to help them understand the struggle Dr. King was involved in, which ultimately cost him his life.

In her exercise, she poses two groups against the other; one group represents people of color (brown-eyed participants) and one group represents white people (blued-eyed participants). Jane Elliot then has the brown-eyed group partner with her as she subjects the blue-eyed group to the reality of American racism as experienced historically by America’s non-white citizens. It was very surprising to see the level of anger and frustration exhibited by the Blue eyed participants as Jane treated them with contempt and disrespect, even though they had been forewarned and knew it was a staged exercise. For me, it had the effect of validating my own experiences in a new way. The experiment showed me how mentally disruptive even small doses of racism could be on its victims in less than 30 minutes, not to mention its potential impact when endured for over 400 plus years. I always knew that Black people were strong, but it was illuminated in a whole new way as I watched people buckle under weights I carried as a child; weights that only got heavier with the increased gravity that comes with age and the responsibilities of life. It reinforced the belief I have that if all men are created equal, then there are external forces creating the large disparities seen throughout American society.

The impetus of racism is the need to justify a system of oppression. Ta-Nehisi Coates in an article from “The Atlantic” quotes David Blight, A Yale Professor, on the subject of The Civil War and Reconstruction. Blight says that at the maturation of Slavery in America it was the largest financial asset in the entire U.S. economy, worth upwards of $3.5 billion, exceeding the profits of all manufacturing and railroads combined. The bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. This would explain America’s wicked obsession with oppression as a means to profit. See Ava Duvernay’s “13th” production for a well-documented illustration of this point. Racism is perpetuated in America because oppression is still government policy. How can the poor and oppressed gain equality in a society where law and law enforcement favors the rich? Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. He is also an American lawyer and Social Justice Activist. Bryan states that in the USA you are treated better if you are wealthy and guilty, than if you are poor and innocent.

If equality in the pursuit of happiness is to become a realization, the epidemic heart disease of greed must be dealt with. Greed is incubated and hatched through selfishness and nourished by fear. Desire infected with greed distorts perception and perverts judgment. The only cure is Love. Love breaks the power of selfishness and eliminates fear. The kind of Love as taught through biblical principles. The love that gives at the expense of self for the benefit of all, contrary to selfishness which takes for the benefit of self without consideration for anyone else. The false dearth created through racism will continue to ravish society, until we all learn to love one another as ourselves. There is but one race, the human race.

[Image is from janeelliott.com]

 

Learning the lesson of Jonah

whale-usa-3d

Yahweh gave Jonah a commission to go Nineveh and call the people to repentance before he punished them. Jonah wasn’t willing to carry the message of reconciliation to Nineveh because he had judged them as being unworthy of mercy and grace. Without delving into the history of the people of Nineveh and all they had done, our merciful GOD Yahweh decided to reach out and offer them a path to reconciliation. Jonah was very reluctant to carry out the commission he had been given. Jonah had no concern for Nineveh and just wanted GOD to destroy them and be done it.

Jonah called himself a prophet of the Most High GOD, and a descendant of GOD’s chosen people. He obviously felt that he and his people were the only ones worthy of the deep riches of GOD’s mercy and grace. I see Christians today with this same disregard for others and mindset of privilege. These Christians want as many chances as it takes to avoid the wrath of GOD, however when it comes to people of other beliefs they want swift judgment. Like Jonah, these Christians have somehow mistaken the grace they have received in this world as something they have earned. When I see the lack of empathy and compassion in many Christians today, I realize they have not learned the lesson of Jonah. Living on the welfare of GOD, some Christians have the nerve to want to hoard the grace of GOD for themselves. They want to create standards and make others earn what they have received freely. “Send in the troops, squash the uprising, unleash the police, they are disturbing my peace,” say these redeemed.

At the conclusion of the book of Jonah, we see our Lord asking Jonah if it right that Jonah wanted Him to come running to his aid when something disrupted his comfort, but when it came to saving the very lives of others who were lost,  Jonah was indifferent. I don’t expect the unbeliever to care about someone other than themselves, but those that confess to have been saved by GOD’s amazing grace, those who have asked for the innocent blood of the Lamb of GOD to cover their transgressions and have been granted redemption, I expect more.

There is a parable Yeshua taught about a servant that had been forgiven a great debt by his King but turned and would not show compassion to a fellow servant that owed him much less. Here is how the parable ended:

“Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.  Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’  And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.” (Matt 18:32-34)

We should not be like the wicked servant in this parable or Jonah, and allow our hearts to become hardened from too much focus on the debts and wrong doings of others. We have to stay sober-minded and remember the debt Christ paid for us.

It is easy to begin harboring ill feelings for a particular religious group or ethnic group if you just believe information circulating in popular media outlets or popular culture. There is a lot of propaganda in mainstream media circulated to form views that serve special interest. News is often reported without disclosing all the facts and it leaves people with misconceptions. We have to care enough to want to know the whole story and be willing to seek out the truth.

Yeshua says if you are not with Him then you are against Him, and if you aren’t gathering with Him then you are scattering abroad. If you proclaim that you are with Him, then let your conversation and witness be seasoned with compassion, understanding, empathy, humility, mercy, grace, and thanksgiving toward drawing people unto Christ. You will not be able to do this if you are feeding on the news more than the Word of GOD. You will not be able to do this if you have chosen, like so many people, to turn a blind eye to the facts of history which reveal that all people have committed wickedness. None of us are better and have greater value than the other. This is a key message in the testimony of Christ since He paid one price as a ransom for ALL people.

Through a grateful heart for the redemption that has been shared with us, we too should be eager to carry the same gospel of reconciliation to the rest of the world.

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-21)

 

 

Correcting Sons, Correcting Fathers

correction

A prerequisite to becoming a good father is learning to be a good son. I am specifically talking about being a son to a father. There is purpose and design to a husband and wife conceiving and raising children that many have irreverently dismissed. The dismissing of purpose is always a precursor to abuse. Due to various circumstances, many fathers in our society were never sons to fathers themselves. Having never walked the path of a son to a father, there will be some inherent challenges in the relationship. Challenges in the area of disciplining tend to be the most impacted. If disciplining and correcting the son becomes ineffective, then the son doesn’t become mature and the flaws persist. This scenario has created a cycle of parenting that has produced generations of immature men. However there is a fix and the cycle can be broken. Yeshua gives us the opportunity to becomes sons to the Heavenly Father. The scripture reads in  John 1:12, ” But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of GOD, even to them that believe on His name”. What is this power that He gives… it is the power to obey. As the first-born son of GOD, Yeshua walked in perfect obedience and so abides in the love of GOD the Father. This same power Yeshua exercised over the pride of life, as an obedient son, is made available to us through His cross that we may also abide in the Father’s love and reach maturity.

Again, the challenge comes when we have to be corrected or chastised for our own good. When chastised do we buck up and rebel, or do we submit like a good son? The traits of a good son is that of being humble, teachable, faithful, and receptive to correction. This comes from trusting the Father and an eagerness to please the Father. We must be convinced of the Father’s love for us and then render Him our trust. Our faith and trust will justify all that He ask. The thing that makes disobedience sinister is not the failing, it is the self-justification and reasoning that foils the attempt from the beginning; the mindset that considers the command too hard and unreasonable in the first place, due to the pride of selfishness. It is all the abominable reasoning that is the result of pride exalting personal opinion to personal truth. Personal truth equals personal reality which essentially makes a person the deity in their own world. This is why the scripture says in 1 Samuel 15:23, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” The disobedient son conjures up something of his own, instead of trusting and submitting to divine authority. Yeshua, of whom GOD said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him ” (Matthew 17:5) operated from “not my will Father but yours be done”.

The good son accepts correction because he realizes if he failed it is on his own part and it is the just response of a loving Father. The good son realizes that if he is punished for disobedience, it is because he didn’t humble himself when he should have. Hebrews 12:6-8 reads, “ For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes. You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline? Now if you are exempt from correction and left without discipline in which all [of God’s children] share, then you are illegitimate offspring and not true sons [at all].”

When men resist correction from divine authority, it demonstrates that they are not being matured in the son-ship offered by Yeshua. On a deeper level it shows that they have not yet given control of their lives over to GOD. We must consider the gospel of Yeshua the Savior until there is nothing in us that contends with the call to the cross. Through this process we will find the approval we seek as sons from GOD the Father and the anointing to serve as Father’s ourselves.

 

Love, Pure From the Source

cloud heart

My first Love and most intimate friend is Yeshua, the Savior and Redeemer. No one that I know or has ever known can compete with the  love he has shown me. He never ever tires of me. Every time I reach out to Him, He is eager to engage me. Every detail of my life is significant to Him, no matter how small. He never entertains accusations brought against me, not even for a second. He is my greatest advocate. His responses to me are always based on what is best for me, no matter what the cost is to Him.

Just from the characteristics of His love I have mentioned so far, no one I know can approach the fervency of His love. This is not to diminish the love from my wife or my family or friends, but it is to show the strength, depth, and excellency of my Savior’s love for me, and there is still more. His love is not stifled by the ugliest of my flaws. In full view of who I am, His love has had the same intensity for me, for every moment of my existence. He pursues me relentlessly. He prepares a heavenly banquet of blessings for me every day of my life, regardless of how much I leave on the table due to my evolving earthly palate. He is Love and He is faithful and true to himself regardless of me.

If you are looking to anyone else or anything else to fill the boundless cup of your soul, you will never be truly satisfied. I am a grateful benefactor of Yeshua’s boundless grace and mercy and I just want to give the greatest lover of my soul a shout out during this Valentine’s weekend. After the roses have wilted, the candy has been eaten, and the candles are all burnt out, there is one still willing to celebrate the most intimate love with you every day, GOD. The best lovers are those that learn from the best, Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).  Never settle for less.

Don’t Let Pride Take You For A Ride

Male and female was created by our Maker,

The devil has conceived the genderless and the faker.

To love and promote Truth does not equal hate,

There would be no families to value without first choosing the right mate.

Love whomever you will and let your heart be free,

But sex and marriage is for heterosexuals by God’s decree.

If you think love means tolerating all things then you have misunderstood,

To love is to live in abandon to God, allowing Him to choose what is good.

Love is not a feeling or an emotion or lust;

It is obedience to God’s word and sanctifying Him with your trust.

If any of this seems offensive, just search your heart and you’ll know it is right,

Children of God don’t march in pride, they walk humbly in the Light.

The Great Value of Woman

Recently, I attended a Men’s bible study where there were several men that had wives, mothers, and sisters that had battled or were in battle with breast cancer. I was moved by their testimonies as they shared their experiences.
One guy was asked if he was ready to nurture his wife with love as she prepared for her first round of “chemo” because she was known to be physically attractive with long blonde hair and some physical changes could be on the horizon. Another guy described his mother after she had loss several pounds and all of her hair; how frail and different she appeared, yet the essence of her was untouched.  Lastly, there was a brother there that had two sisters that ended up battling cancer at the same time and he remarked how they would often talk about how “Fly” they looked in their expensive wigs.
In this world of carnality, so much emphasis is put on physical appearance that the pressure for women to be physically attractive has to be almost unbearable at times. I would imagine that this kind of pressure further exacerbates a cancer experience. This social dynamic often distorts a women’s view of her own value. In my lifetime I have found few women that understood there true virtue and value. Unfortunately, many women use a mirror to assess their value or the reaction of others to their physical appearance. Well, one of the greatest discoveries I have found in my adulthood is that this world does a horrible job of reflecting true value. I consider this a great discovery because it led me to finding a truer and more stable standard from which all people should gauge there value; the Creator.
I just wanted to take this opportunity to affirm the great value of women worldwide.
Your beauty and strength lies in how you love. Your love is divinely sacrificial and nurturing; you spark life. If you looked at love as a river from which all mankind drinks, the greatest tributary would be women. Woman, your sensitivity to the issues of the heart and your faith has stirred the heart of Yahweh to bestow great mercy, grace, and favor upon you. Look at how Yeshua the Messiah lifted up His daughter who had the alabaster box of oil in Luke chapter 7. This woman expressed love so lavish that the Savior said, ” Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Mark 14:9) Look also at the woman that had an issue of blood for twelve years that was able to “touch the heart” of the Savior with her faith, trust, and hope. The power to embody all of that through a simple touch speaks to the sensitivity of woman that is nothing short of a gifting.
In each case, Yeshua the Messiah told each woman that their faith had saved them. Woman, your faith and love has caused you to be blessed and has been a source of light and inspiration for generations. Thanks for letting your love endure through all that you endure!