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Acceptance and Approval

When all others have stopped, God is still applauding you.
– Kirk Byron Jones

It’s Not About the Hoodies!

Photo Credit - Flickr_bMethe

My first post on this topic was filled with so much pain and emotion that my thoughts were incohesive, and I believe that is ok. Though my heart is still broken, hopefully this one will be clearer.

This past Sunday many churches and groups across the nation held what they referred to as “Hoodie Sunday.” Individuals stood in solidarity with Trayvon Martin’s family through this action. I commend churches and others for supporting the family in such record numbers and celebrate it as a great thing. But if we stop at making it about hoodies and skittles we fail!

It’s trendy to get in on this by wearing a hoodie, and make claims to care (and perhaps all involved actually do); but what will we do after this “big” case? People of color are being profiled, targeted, discriminated against and even slaughtered every day. These are individuals who will never make front page of a paper, be a blog post, cnn video or protest rally. And the silence prior to Trayvon has been somewhat deafening. And yet, rather than be too cynical I consider that maybe this situation is what we need to put a little fire under us and move us to a place of saying enough is enough. Let’s hope so. Here are some observations to consider that flow from the current situation at hand.

Unanswered Questions
There are questions in this tragedy that remain unanswered. Did Trayvon confront Zimmerman (the 911 tapes indicate that Zimmerman followed Martin)? Did Zimmerman feel threatened by Martin? Why did Zimmerman deem it necessary to shoot and even more importantly, why did he deem it necessary to shoot to kill? Why have the Sanford police department delayed arrest for a month? There is much that we don’t know….
What we do know is that Trayvon Martin is dead and his family and loved ones are experiencing intense grief. We also  know that death did not have to be outcome. We know that George Zimmerman is eleven years older than Martin was and weighed approximately 100 pounds more, and pursued Martin when instructed not to. The 17 year olds death was  unnecessary and avoidable – still it happened.
We know that the Sanford police department made certain that Martin’s system was checked for drugs and alcohol (even though he was the one dead), and failed to do the same with Zimmerman. Seems absurd to me!
Systemic Racism
As an African American woman I am intimately acquainted with racism. It is not an individual challenge, it is systemic. There are structures and power dynamics that work against people of color (not solely African American) in this nation called the US. And the truth is that systemic racism is more difficult to eliminate. People do not give up power easily. For those who make people of color feel as though we are somehow imagining that racism still exists, the disproportionate prison rates, reactions from dominant cultural groups when race is mentioned, and even educational institutions provide ample evidence that we are not naive and overreacting. It matters not whether individually we are the ones who put the structures in place, what matters is that we take responsibility for eradication of systems and structure that are oppressive to people groups.
Cultural Callousness
I hate that Trayvon Martin, an innocent teen is dead! And I wonder if perhaps this is one of the incidents that can be used to move society from a place of apathy and cultural callousness to a place of cultural sensitivity. Trayvon is not the first African American teen to be the recipient of violence. This type of thing happens all the time and we fail to care deeply enough to act and say enough is enough or even more importantly to engage in preventative measures. It’s time to change!
Societal Biases
It matters not how spiritual or not spiritual one is, all cultural groups have their biases, preferences and affinities. This is normal, natural. The trouble arises when we move beyond biases to a place of disregard and disdain for those who differ from us. Biases are not license for hatred, discrimination and violence. I do not often take things personal, however in the middle of the Trayvon case and all of the emotional pain it causes, I read an article and tweet reactions to the popular Hunger Games and admittedly it sent me over the edge. The overt racist comments by not just one, but many nearly took me by surprise. Perhaps this is because most racist individuals I have encountered are not as blatant.
I then read of another hate crime towards an Iraqi woman and became even more baffled by the audaciousness of any cultural or racial group to see themselves as somehow greater than another. We’re better than this aren’t we? In the depths of my being I believe that EVERY individuals is precious and valuable because of our Creator!
Additionally, there are those who minimize the realities of racism and biases as though we are somehow imagining these things. To deny a person their right to their stories is to insult their equality as unique creations of God. To deny a person’s story is to see them as liars, disrespect them, invalidate their experiences and further exasperate the issues of inequality.We must deny no one the right to have a story!
So, like I said, it’s really not just about hoodies, it goes much deeper than that. And the question remains, what are WE going to do about it from this day forward?  ” Now we must go from wearing hoodies to transforming the hood as we fight for justice! – Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III

Trusting God Again…

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Here comes randomness!

Although some Christians are afraid to admit it, let me be one to admit the truth. I know a lot of Bible, I go to Church, but truth be told, I move from days of being extremely encouraged to days of being deeply discouraged as I consider my life and ministry. Today happened to be one of those deeply discouraging days – a day when I became frustrated with God because I ask Him questions and He won’t provide answers, a day when the things that I hope for seem as though they will never be an experienced reality. A day when vision seems obsolete or at least real far away. A day when I found myself yelling at God because of my frustration with waiting on Him. I am hungry for Him and for His plan for my life. I just want to make a difference…. Yet, there is silence and confusion.

And then I listened to a sermon by one of my former pastors Dr. David Ireland that left me with the impression that I shouldn’t give up just yet, and maybe even use the frustration as fuel to empower me to keep believing and trusting. While listening to the message, I received an email reminder from a dear friend who reminded me of where he (and I) were and where he now is. When we met I think on some level we were both simply trying to figure life out in terms of where we were going and how to fulfill our life purposes. And now just 5 years later he is the owner of a business that he started called The Cupcake Gallery, which has now grown and expanded to the start of an additional company called Uptown Pie Company.

Just one message from him today encouraged me to keep believing, keep hoping, and keep trusting.

Sometimes it is easy to subtly lax into a state of self reliance, and dependence upon others and forget about the God factor – not only the utter necessity of His power, but also His utter willingness to do big things not just for others but for me! So as difficult as things are right now, and with an outrageous level of uncertainty, I have decided to trust God again. Has the feeling of discouragement subsided just yet? No. But my decision still remains – I will trust God again.

Earthquakes, Tsunamis and God

Earthquake Response by the U.S. Navy
*Photo by Fox News Insider

I don’t get the theological connection that some attempt to make between natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and the like and God. Without disrespect intended to my parents and other many others from former generations, I acknowledge that I had parents who made us shut everything off and sit quietly when storms arose because in their words “God was talking.” In essence these words and this practice lead me to believe that when natural storms or disasters occur, God is trying to get through to us and that He had to cause such destruction in order for us to pay attention.

I wonder why God is our default when tragedy strikes. Why is it that some believe that God – through natural storms, is doing so to punish the people he created? Church leaders and political commentators alike embrace the belief that we are in trouble with God, thus the earthquake. Earlier this week Glen Beck alluded to his belief that the earthquake in Japan was a “message from God” to get people to clean up their act. And sadly, a few Jesus followers would agree.

After all Jesus did say that earthquakes would come – that was His prediction many years ago. Maybe the fact that Jesus said when we see these things (earthquakes) taking place we should have a heightened awareness that we are moving closer to His return, is not about his causing these things in order to communicate the message of His return.

Maybe He mentioned it to communicate His awareness of how messed up His creation is and announce His desire to rescue us from this chaos. Maybe His love for us is so deep that He weeps when He sees the destruction that these disasters cause… and maybe He anticipates an end to the pain even more than we do.

What Jesus did not say was that “I will cause earthquakes to occur.” There is a difference! Deep within us is a desire for answers to the question of “why?” Why this, why them, why now? The longing for answers to the unexplainable and intensely painful is part of the human experience. But I have lived long enough to know that the “why” question is not always answerable. Sometimes, it’s just more helpful to ask “what next?”

Unfortunately, many of those who blame the behavior or “sin” of people who experience calamities are not as likely to give equal energy to extending a hand of help, resources, or prayers and reaching out to help people pick up the broken pieces and start over. Grieving with those who grieve is also something that we are instructed to do.

I can keep it real and say that yes, I find myself a bit annoyed when I hear pronouncements of judgment regarding those who are in pain/suffering through natural disaster. In essence I believe that people have multiple foundational beliefs about who God is, and from those foundational views we build ideas and explanations regarding what is accurate. For some, God is nothing more than a strict disciplinarian who will beat us down if we stray from the path He desires. I used to believe that way (I think), but today I believe that God is loving, God is just/fair, and that God is good. Are there consequences for wrong actions – of course there are, but are natural disasters punishment/consequence for human behavior/wrong action/sin? This writer believes that the answer is no.

What do you say?