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~Made In America~

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In today’s United States, is being black determined by the color of your skin, by your family, by what society says or something else?

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.

Ambrose Redmoon

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.

Dale Carnegie

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; its in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

 

What is black? Race. Culture. Consciousness. History. Heritage.

A shade darker than brown? The opposite of white?

Who is black? In America, being black has meant having African ancestry.

But not everyone fits neatly into a prototypical model of “blackness.”

Scholar Yaba Blay explores the nuances of racial identity and the influences of skin color in a project called (1)ne Drop, named after a rule in the United States that once mandated that any person with “one drop of Negro blood” was black. Based on assumptions of white purity, it reflects a history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.

In its colloquial definition, the rule meant that a person with a black relative from five generations ago was also considered black.

Your take on black in America

One drop was codified in the 1920 Census and became pervasive as courts ruled on it as a principle of law. It was not deemed unconstitutional until 1967.

Blay, a dark-skinned daughter of Ghanian immigrants, had always been able to clearly communicate her racial identity. But she was intrigued by those whose identity was not always apparent. Her project focuses on a diverse group of people – many of whom are mixed race – who claim blackness as their identity.

That identity is expanding in America every day. Blay’s intent was to spark dialogue and see the idea of being black through a whole new lens.

Soledad O’Brien: Who is black in America? I am

“What’s interesting is that for so long, the need to define blackness has originated from people who were not themselves black, and their need to define it stemmed from their need to control it,” says Blay.

Blackness, she says, isn’t so easily defined by words. What is blackness for one person may not necessarily be that for another.

“And that’s fine,” Blay says. “Personally, my blackness is reflective of my ancestry, my culture and my inheritance.”

“Black,” in reference to people and identity, she says, is worthy of capitalization. Otherwise, black is just another color in the box of crayons. (CNN, like other news organizations, does not capitalize black or white.)

For young Americans, what’s black is gray

Black and white

Kathleen Cross: Black as a descriptor of color makes her identity hard to accept.

California author Kathleen Cross, 50, remembers taking a public bus ride with her father when she was 8. Her father was noticeably uncomfortable that black kids in the back were acting rowdy. He muttered under his breath: “Making us look bad.”

She understood her father was ashamed of those black kids, that he fancied himself not one of them.

“My father was escaping blackness,” she says. “He didn’t like for me to have dark-skinned friends. He never said it. But I know.”

She asked him once if she had ancestors from Africa. He got quiet. Then, he said: “Maybe, Northern Africa.”

“He wasn’t proud of being black,” she says.

Cross’ black father and her white mother never married. Fair-skinned, blue-eyed Cross was raised in a diverse community.

Later, she found herself in situations where she felt shunned by black people. Even light-skinned black people thought she was white.

“Those who relate to the term ‘black’ as a descriptor of color are unlikely to accept me as black,” she says. “If they relate to the term ‘black’ as a descriptor of culture, history and ancestry, they have no difficulty seeing me as black.”

At one time in her life, she wished she were darker – she might have even swallowed a pill to give her instant pigment if there were such a thing. She even wrote about being “trapped in the body of a white woman.” She didn’t want to “represent the oppressor.”

She no longer thinks that way.

She doesn’t like to check the multiracial box. “It erases everything,” she says.

She doesn’t like biracial, either. Or mixed. It’s not her identity.

“There’s only one race,” she says, “and that’s the human race.”

“I am a descendant of a stolen African and Irish and English immigrants. That makes me black – and white – in America.

Blackness and culture?

Biany Perez, 31, loves Michael Jackson but she doesn’t know the Jackson Five. She didn’t know that “Good Times” was a television show about a black family struggling to survive in south Chicago. Nor was she able to pick up certain colloquialisms in the English spoken by the black kids in the Bronx, where she grew up the daughter of Dominican parents.

Some people questioned Perez’s blackness because she didn’t fit into their definition of black.

She spoke only Spanish at home. She watched Telemundo and listened to Puerto Rican boy band Menudo.

She wasn’t black enough because she was Latina and not Latina enough because she was black.

“The way I look shakes the image of Latina,” says Perez, a program manager at a nonprofit in Philadelphia. “As I started getting older, I felt more comfortable in my skin.”

Now, she calls herself Afro-Domincan.

“I think black is a broader definition I also embrace,” she says. “Black is more than just saying that I am an African in America. It’s political.

“It’s about me connecting myself to my ancestors.”

For Perez, black is about empowerment.

Biany Perez: Too Latina to be black, too black to be Latina?

Kristina Robinson calls herself black over Creole.

Colorism

Creole identity is a complicated thing in Louisiana, says Kristina Robinson, 29, of New Orleans.

It’s an ethnicity, a cultural designation for people descended from colonial settlers in Louisiana, mainly of French and Latin lineage.  

The term Creole was claimed by the French and Spanish settlers in colonial times but it also referred to Africans and people who were a mixture of races. Those mixed-race descendants became a unique racial group and sometimes even included Native American heritage.

But in popular representation, Robinson says Creole has come to be defined as skin color.

She doesn’t want to deny the rich Creole history but she doesn’t identify as such if it means moving away from her blackness.

Black people think that her embrace of Creole means a rejection of being black.

“I never wanted to distance myself from my black ancestors,” says the creative writing graduate student at Dillard University.

“They are the ones who claim me.”

In her light skin, Robinson understands the insidious ways of colorism, a system in which light skin is valued more than dark skin.

“Colorism is a major problem within the Creole community and the black community,” she says. “It’s underdiscussed. It’s perplexing and vexing how to work out this idea. I can see how the one drop rule is why we have so much colorism in our society.

“One drop is a lie,” she says. “Black plus white doesn’t equal black or it doesn’t equal white. It equals black plus white.”

She calls herself black. But other people think she is from India or the Middle East, especially in her academic work environment, where she does not have black colleagues.

“The assumption is I am not black,” she says.

Ultimately, she believes environment plays a big role in identity.

Few people, she says, think that of her sister. One reason may be that her sister has more of a button nose. But another reason is that she works in a field with more black people, whereas Robinson finds herself in academic settings where she is the sole black woman.

Robinson acknowledges her lighter skin gives her privilege in a color-conscious society.

“But in those situations where you have to identify yourself and you choose to identify yourself as white – there’s a big denial going on there.

“I do think it’s troublesome when someone who is of mixed race chooses to deny that part of them that was oppressed,” she says.

James Bartlett: White privilege means the freedom not to have to address race.

Race equals identity, or not?

Race is a social construct; identity is personal.

That’s how James Bartlett, 31, views it.

“I’m black, I’m biracial,” he says of his black father and Irish mother, who met and married in Louisville, Kentucky, just a few years after a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

He was raised in an all-black neighborhood; his mother was the only white person on the block.

“I interchanged between saying I am biracial and I am black,” he says. “The culture I live in is black. I felt black because black people considered me black. That was because of the one drop rule.”

But later, when he went to Ghana, the locals thought he was from Lebanon. Kids called him “Oburoni,” the word for a white man.

Bartlett felt as though he were being told he was not who he really was even before he could interact with them, as though they were taking away his black identity.

“It put me on the complete opposite side of the coin,” Bartlett says. “The first reaction was to put me in a box.”

In America, people thought of him as a lot of things but not usually straight-up white.

“It’s difficult for me to separate race and identity,” says Bartlett, the newly named executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Diasporan African Arts in Brooklyn.

He is black, he says, because he didn’t grow up with white privilege. What is that? The freedom, he replies, to not have to address race.

“I definitely didn’t grow up with that,” he says.

Being white in America is also knowing that people who look like you are always representing your interests in institutions of power.

“That is the essence of white privilege,” he says. “Regardless of changing (demographic) percentages and numbers, racial representation is going to remain out of balance for quite some time.”

In some ways, Bartlett says, he has been more attuned to race as a light-skinned black man than he would have been had he been darker.

Bartlett feels white people in America are threatened by the tide of color across the nation and that it will give rise to an us against them” mentality.

“I think blackness will change, too,” he says. “The biggest change in the near future will be the end of blackness as a diametric opposite to whiteness.”

Charles Cloud: He could have passed for a lot of things. He chose black.

Here and abroad

Charles Benjamin Cloud, 63, remembers a time when he was angry at all white people. That was in the time of the white water fountain and the black water fountain.

“They had their side of town; we had ours,” he says of his childhood in New Bern, North Carolina.

As the son of a Cherokee man and a part-Cherokee, part-black woman, Cloud could have passed for something other than black.

“If I had decided to tell everyone I was Puerto Rican or Mexican, people probably wouldn’t have known a difference,” he says.

But he didn’t.

“I never wanted to identify as white,” he says.

“Blackness is a state of mind more so than a physical experience. But back then, physical appearance was much more of a black identity than it is now.”

Cloud joined the Air Force and traveled the world. His light, ruddy complexion threw people off. The Turks thought he was Turkish; the Iranians thought he was from Iran. He even passed for Greek.

But back home, he chose not just to be American. He was black.

Sembene McFarland gets strange questions because of her skin condition.

Losing color

What happens when you lose your color as is Sembene McFarland, a 35-year-old emergency room nurse in Newark, New Jersey?

She has a condition known as vitiligo and is losing the pigmentation of her skin. The disorder affects people of all races but is most prominent in those with darker complexions.

McFarland describes herself as “garden-variety black” but once her vitiligo became noticeable, she found herself the target of outlandish comments.

When McFarland was working at a cash register job at a Barnes and Noble, a customer told her, “If you got rid of the rest of the color, you would be a really pretty Asian girl.”

“Thank you very much,” McFarland told the woman. “Have a nice day.”

Now, she can’t relay the story without laughing out loud.

Others have wondered: Were you white first or black first?

“That blew my mind,” she says.

Her skin condition shows how people think of being black so literally, she says.

“When I think black, I don’t think a particular shade,” she says.

McFarland was 16 when she first learned she had vitiligo. It was tough. At that young age, no one wants to stand out.

Later she laughed. In high school in Mississippi, her classmates always joked she wanted to be white. She spoke like a white person. Some people said she sat like a white person – all proper.

Now here she was, turning white.

In the end, McFarland says, it’s not about black or white. It’s all the shades of gray that make people uncomfortable.

Brandon Stanford: My complexion is not black but I am black.

Unique but certain

Brandon Stanford’s parents met in school in New Jersey. His mom’s Irish family rejected her for dating a black man.

They’ve been married 37 years.

In that time, a lot has changed about being a child of an interracial marriage. For one, the man who occupies the White House is the son of a Kenyan man and a white American woman. Many Americans think being mixed is “cool.”

Stanford, 29, has his own take.

“I wouldn’t say that being mixed race is either cool or not cool,” he says.

“I’d say it’s a reality that one can choose to embrace by seeing the beauty of a world where the possibilities of transcending the limitations of race and racism exists if one is able to recognize the oneness of humanity. Is this not what our democracy is supposed to represent?”

Stanford, a graduate student in African-American studies at Philadelphia’s Temple University, has had his identity questioned by both whites and blacks. That makes being mixed race difficult for some.

Some times white people speak about black people in front of Stanford, assuming he is white. He lets them go on for a while and then says: “By the way, I am one of them.”

“I have a unique position in the world based upon what my complexion is,” Stanford says. “I always have an opportunity to unsettle people’s minds.”

But Stanford has never wavered on his identity.

“My complexion is not black, yet I am black,” he says.

Stanford doesn’t deny his Irish ancestry. The Irish, he points out, were thought of as inferior by the English. They, too, faced discrimination in the United States. Black people were often called the “dark Irish,” he says.

But the Irish in America distanced themselves from the anti-slavery movement in the interest of joining the white mainstream, Stanford says. That’s where his connection to the Irish stops.

“I identify myself as African-American because of the history of the culture,” he says.

Kaneesha Parsard: Blackness stems from a moment in history.

The past in the present

Black unequivocally.

That’s how Kaneesha Parsard, 23, grew up. She was the daughter of parents who immigrated to the United States from Jamaica in the 1980s.

She didn’t understand what her father’s ancestry – her grandfather was Indian – had to do with her.

“I took the one drop rule pretty seriously,” says Parsard, a graduate student in African-American studies at Yale University.

Parsard’s father was born in British-ruled Jamaica. He was raised with Indian people but identified as black because, she says, of how exclusionary Indian communities can be in Jamaica.

She began to think about her own identity when roti and chicken curry appeared at the Thanksgiving table.

“What I have come to realize is that … people’s history is intertwined, that being mixed race is not at odds with being black,” she says.

“When we think about blackness, it’s usually along a black-white context,” she says. “But there are many histories, interesting histories of resistance.”

For Parsard, blackness stems from a moment in time in 1492, with the discovery of a new land and a history of brutality that followed.

Appearance is a primary factor for many Americans in determining race and identity. For Parsard and others in Yaba Blay’s project, it’s not.

 

~Make Sure “Your” Math Equal God’s Standards; Finish “Your Race”~

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“And the Lord said . . . Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31, 32).

Our faith is the center of the target at which God doth shoot when He tries us; and if any other grace shall escape untried, certainly faith shall not. There is no way of piercing faith to its very marrow like the sticking of the arrow of desertion into it; this finds it out whether it be of the immortals or no. Strip it of its armor of conscious enjoyment, and suffer the terrors of the Lord to set themselves in array against it; and that is faith indeed which can escape unhurt from the midst of the attack.

Faith must be tried, and seeming desertion is the furnace, heated seven times, into which it might be thrust. Blest the man who can endure the ordeal!

Paul said, “I have kept the faith,” but he lost his head! They cut that off, but it didn’t touch his faith. He rejoiced in three things–this great Apostle to the Gentiles; he had “fought a good fight,” he had “finished his course,” he had “kept the faith.” What did all the rest amount to? St. Paul won the race; he gained the prize, and he has not only the admiration of earth today, but the admiration of Heaven. Why do we not act as if it paid to lose all to win Christ? Why are we not loyal to truth as he was? Ah, we haven’t his arithmetic. He counted differently from us; we count the things gain that he counted loss. We must have his faith, and keep it if we would wear the same crown.

~Being Sensitive To God Is Having Vision~

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“A man without a vision is a man without a future. A man without a future will always return to his past.” (P.K. Bernard)

“A knife cuts because it has a narrow focus” (Cleddie Keith)

“A coward dies a thousand deaths, but a brave man dies only once”(Roman soldiers)

“When God predetermined our destiny, He factored in our stupidity. Therefore there’s always enough time to finish?” (Larry Randolph)

 The level of sacrifice that an environment requires will determine the size of people that will follow” (Kris Vallotton)

A progressive revelation of an ageless revival for our generation is growing in our hearts. It is for those who went before us and for those who are yet to be born. Yet, the question of how the vision is to be implemented remains.

One famous Proverb says:

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law - Proverbs 29:18

Vision is the bridge between the present and the future. Without it we perish or go “unrestrained,” as the New American Standard Bible puts it. Vision gives pain a purpose. Those without vision spend their lives taking the path of least resistance as they try to avoid discomfort. The level of sacrifice that a vision requires will determine the size of people who follow. Sacrifice separates the small from the great.

Consider the example of a young man who has just graduated from high school and joins the military. As soon as he steps off the boot camp bus, the sergeant starts yelling at him. He has to march over to the barbershop and get his head shaved. Then he is up early in the morning to exercise with someone screaming at him and talking about his mother. Just a month before, he was in high school. He would have never put up with any of this nonsense from his teachers or classmates. But somehow his whole mindset has changed. Why? He is enduring the “cross” so to speak, because of the joy on the other side of it. He realizes that boot camp is preparing him for a greater destiny. His vision of the future is giving his present physical discomfort meaning and purpose.

So many of us go through life not understanding the purposes of our trials. We spend our days walking a crooked path, believing that every obstacle in the road is a problem and something to be avoided.

The second part of this Proverb says, “But happy is he who keeps the Law.” The law isn’t just something God gave to Moses. It is also the restraint, boundaries and disciplines we develop around our life to direct us through obstacles instead of around them. These obstacles become baptisms of fire that forge our character so we can attain and maintain a life of greatness.

WHAT IS VISION?

Vision is what we see, but it is also the way in which we see. Vision is the lens that interprets the events of our life, the way we view people and our concept of God. If we have a scratch on our glasses, it may seem like everybody around us has scratches too, but the problem actually lies with us because our vision is impaired. Jesus said that our eyes are the windows of our heart. Paul prayed that the eyes of our heart would be enlightened. In other words, we perceive with our eyes but we see with our hearts. Our minds receive images from our eyes but our heart interprets these images. If our heart becomes bitter, jealous, hurt or in someway infected, the lens of our heart is distorted. What we perceive is happening and what is really going on could be two completely different things. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). The word truth used here is not referring to the Bible itself, (although all truth is rooted in the Bible) but here the word truth means reality. Jesus is saying, you will understand what is real and that will free you. So many of us live in a virtual reality. The way we view life can feel and look real, or make perfect sense, but still not be real at all. Have you ever watched a good movie and gotten totally into it? You experience all the emotions of real life. You may even leave the theater still “feeling” the movie, but it was just a movie? it was never real. The truth is: we see what we believe to be true. Another way to put it is, if you have the wrong pretext you will misunderstand the context. Having a revelation of what is real will deliver us from a life of torment that virtual reality often causes.

ESTABLISHING CORE VALUES

Therefore, the things we believe to be true determine the way in which we interpret life. These “things” are called “core values.” Core values are the lens or eyes of our heart. It is important for us to realize the incongruence between what our core values presently are and what we really want them to be. Often, the things we say we believe and the things we actually believe are not the same. We must understand that it is not the truths that we believe in our head that are our core values, but rather the ones we believe in our heart. The things we perceive to be true determine the way we respond to the world around us and to God who lives within us.

These core values also help define the part of the flock that we find ourselves called and attracted to. The children of Israel experienced this principle when they came into the Promised Land. Joshua assigned land to them according to their tribes and divisions (Joshua 18:10). In other words, they received land according to their diverse visions. For instance, if they had a vision for farming, they probably did not go with Caleb to the mountain country but instead were given land that best facilitated their vision. Therefore the land they were given and their vision was congruent. From this perspective, it is not very hard to see how some church splits happen. Sometimes pastors, in their zeal to build their churches, attract people that have a vision for things that their churches or “land” (metaphorically speaking) will not sustain. This dual vision eventually ends up in di-vision.

FORESIGHT, INSIGHT & OVERSIGHT

True Godly vision consists of foresight, insight and oversight that come from His sight. Foresight is like looking at life through a telescope. This outlook allows us to know what is ahead as it connects us to our future. Foresight is the element of vision that helps life make sense and gives us the motivation that we described earlier.

Insight is like viewing life through a microscope. This perception gives us an understanding of why things happen in life. It also helps determine the underlying motivations of the heart.

Oversight puts life into context. It is like flying over our house in a helicopter. There is a perspective that we can only receive from this vista that helps us understand where we are with respect to where everything else is. The sons of Issachar are great examples of this kind of vision. The book of I Chronicles says that these men understood the times and had knowledge of what Israel should do (12:32). People that are blessed with this type of vision often have great wisdom concerning the seasons of life.

His sight assures us that the vision we have is from God. A vision from the Lord creates a mission from heaven. This is illustrated in the life of Moses when he went up on the mountain, received a vision of the tabernacle, and was told to construct it according to the pattern that he had received. (Exodus 24:16-28:43) Visions like this are just “pipe dreams” without some sort of administrative plan to complete them. A lot of people have lofty ideas about things they would like to accomplish for God but they seem to have no sense of how to see the dream fulfilled. There are entire books dedicated to this subject, therefore, I will just give an overview of how to accomplish a vision.

PRACTICAL IMPLEMENTATION

The first part of accomplishing any vision is to take it from the unseen world and bring it into the natural realm. This can be accomplished by simply writing down the vision. Articulating the vision on paper pulls the dream that is in your spirit (that no one can see but you) into the visible world so that others can capture it in their own hearts. Tools that help to visualize the mission such as architectural drawings, models, testimonies of others who have accomplished similar dreams, or visits to places that have a common purpose are all helpful in capturing and defining the vision for both yourself and others who will come alongside and help.

Then the LORD answered me and said, ‘Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay - Habakkuk 2:2-3

There is an old story about three bricklayers that helps illustrate what it looks like when people receive motivation from taking ownership of a vision:

There were three bricklayers working beside each other on a wall. Someone came up to the first one and said, “What are you doing” “What;’s it look like I am doing?” he replied sarcastically, “I am laying bricks!” The man asked the next guy on the wall what he was doing. He said,”Can’t you see what I am doing? I am building a wall.” Then the last man was asked what he was doing. He exclaimed, “I am building a great cathedral for God!”

Who do you think will do the best quality work and be the hardest worker? Vision causes people to love their work because they can see the big picture. Someone once said, “If you want to build a great ship, you can go out and find some talented craftsman or you can find a person who loves the sea.” Imparting God’s vision to the team around us is the single most important factor in seeing the mission accomplished.

The next step is to create a plan to accomplish the mission. The Bible says:

Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed; the plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD - Proverbs 15:22 & 16:1

From these two verses we see that although the vision must be from God Himself, men are to help develop the plan that brings about the fulfillment of the vision. Notice how Solomon highlights the fact that developing plans in a vacuum, (without the expertise and insight of others who have different gifts and perspectives than we do), will ultimately end in frustration.

It’s important for administrative people to understand that they are there to administrate the mission. The word administrate means, “add-to-the-mission,” not change the mission. Visionaries often do not like to work with administrators because by nature administrators are refiners and finishers. Sometimes administrators do not understand that they are being brought in to help visionaries determine how something should be accomplished, not what should be accomplished. If the vision is so large that it requires the help of Heaven (which it often does when it really is from God), it will be important that the visionary impart the vision and the faith to see it accomplished to the team. First Timothy 1:4 says that the administration of God is “by faith.”

FEAR COUNTERACTS FAITH

People often disguise their fear as wisdom when they enter into a supernatural mission that can only be accomplished with the help of God. Moses had this problem when he sent the twelve spies in to the Promised Land to determine where they should enter. Ten of the spies misunderstood their mission and somehow thought they were being asked whether or not they should take the land at all.

This type of misunderstanding of the roles people are invited to play in the mission has caused the demise of so many would-be miracles, paralyzing the church of the living God. For years, the people of God have often settled for what can be accomplished by human effort and ability, because we have allowed the opinion of faithless people to determine what we will achieve, instead of being faithful (faith-filled) to the vision we saw “on the mountain”. This is a perversion of the gospel of the kingdom. We should never settle for anything less than what God told us to do.

SETTING GOALS

After the plan is established, goals must be set. The Bible says:

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus - Philippians 3:14

Goals are simply the vision broken down into smaller pieces that are measurable in time and space. In other words, they are specified parts of the mission that we will accomplish by a predetermined date. Many people don’t like to set goals because they think that if they are not able to accomplish them on time, they have failed. The truth of the matter is that, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.” Great leaders know that setting goals is what gives the mission a sense of urgency. Urgency is a friend to managers as it sets the pace for those who are carrying out the mission. If wisdom is used in goal setting, very little management is needed to motivate the workers since urgency manages them. However, be careful not to give your workers more to do than they have the faith to accomplish in a given time period. If it is too much, they will not even try, just like trying to catch a bus when it is already a block ahead. You probably won’t even run after it, as there is so little possibility of you catching up to it. On the other hand, if the bus just starts to pull away from the curb when you get there, you will probably move out of your comfort zone to try to catch it. Yet, setting goals too low will not create a sense of urgency at all. People will not be very motivated and it will result in a lot more work for the managers.

When your vision is honestly birthed by God Himself, He will be delighted to direct your steps

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The final stage of seeing the mission accomplished is establishing your steps. Proverbs says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (16:9). Psalms says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the one who holds his hand” (37:23-24). Steps are your day-in, day-out walk with God: the step-by-step, moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour decisions you make and the things you do that take up your time and use up your life. When your vision is honestly birthed by God Himself, He will be delighted to direct your steps. The most important thing to remember about your steps is that they should be found somewhere in your mission. Go back through your planner from the previous month and retrace your steps. Does it look like they are directly attached to your mission? If not, either redefine your mission or redirect your steps. Remember, history is at stake.

Please check out our vision God’s gift to us. We feel like Noah sometimes, people are laughing and this is non-sense but I know It’s real and it will come to pass though it tarries we will wait.

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~America;He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery, I Love Loving, Not Hate~

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“I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today to take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late. The book may close. And don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, “You’re too arrogant! And if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name. Be still and know that I’m God.”  “

Thirteen years ago today, the U.S. suffered a terrorist attack the likes of which it had never seen before. The incident set off a series of aftershocks with deep and far-reaching implications. Although the U.S. has struggled mightily to extricate itself from the tangles of terrorism, that prospect has become increasingly bleak with the rise of the Islamic State, a turn of events that has left the U.S. with no choice but to refocus its attention upon Iraq. In my opinion , there remain three major problems that have yet to be resolved over these past 13 years, the sum of which has exacerbated the situation even as the U.S. redoubles its efforts to fight terrorism.

Now, let me make it clear in the beginning, that I see this war as an unjust, evil, and futile war. I speak to you today on the war in the Middle East because my conscience leaves me with no other choice. The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the truth. “Ye shall know the truth,” says Jesus, “and the truth shall set you free.” Now, I’ve chosen to speak about the war in Middle East because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.

First, there exist certain peculiarities behind why al-Qaida attacked the U.S. These qualities point to egregious flaws in Washington’s Middle Eastern policy and remain an area that the U.S. refuses to address.

The U.S. made the decision to provide financial and material aid to jihadi organizations such as al-Qaida. At the time, the U.S. needed these fighters to disrupt the Soviets in Afghanistan, and as jihadi embraced the idea that “all [Muslims] under heaven are one family,” they were naturally loathe to permit the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at the expense of their Muslim brethren. In this way, as the U.S. propped up al-Qaida, it was simultaneously grooming its own future adversary. After the Soviet withdrawal, the choice was simple for al-Qaida to fix its sights on the U.S. as its next target due to the Western power’s rejection of the establishment of a Palestinian state in favor of Israel, an agenda that runs directly counter to the interests of Palestinian Muslims.

And so despite U.S. claims that it opposes all forms of terrorism, the measures that it adopts have often only bred further terrorist activity, as the U.S. is unwilling to thoroughly digest and understand the factors underlying the terrorist mindset, and therefore cannot properly eradicate the root causes of this disease.

Second, why were U.S. policymaking mechanisms unable to prevent the Iraq War? The U.S. touts itself as a democratic nation in possession of the most sophisticated and scientific policymaking systems on the planet. Iraq was not party to the 9/11 attacks, and when the U.S. launched its “pre-emptive” strike on Iraq in the spring of 2003, it found that the Middle Eastern state had not even developed weapons of mass destruction. Yet while obviously lacking evidence, the U.S. still decided to launch the Iraq War. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s shortcuts in its intelligence operations resulted in an inexcusable error on the weighty question of whether to go to war.

When the U.S. Senate voted upon the declaration of war, then-Senators Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and John McCain all made grave mistakes by giving their support. The three were all eventually to fail in their separate bids for the presidency, but setting the U.S. military on the path to invasion was an act of grievous irresponsibility to other countries, as well as to the U.S. itself. Regardless of whether a product of flawed judgment or pandering to the electorate, they all proved themselves unworthy of becoming president. Instead, it would be a state senator from Illinois who would go on to assume that mantle. That person, Barack Obama, opposed the Iraq War, was later elected to the U.S. Senate, and finally ended the war in his capacity as president.

Third, why has the U.S. not offered an apology for the damage done to Iraq? Although the U.S. military has since withdrawn, the war cost Iraqis dearly in personnel and property, as well as triggering a severe societal and economic crisis within the country. Despite this, the U.S. has yet to issue an apology for the invasion, hold to account those responsible for launching the war, or make recompense. The Iraq War not only backfired upon the U.S., but plunged the Middle East into chaos and shattered the stability of the region. Now, the Islamic State has proclaimed the establishment of a state in Iraq and Syria, fomented a widespread humanitarian crisis and forced the U.S. to take military action because of its violent inertia, all of which are inextricably linked to the initial U.S. war against terrorism. But is the feigned nonchalance with which the U.S. has responded the mark of a responsible power?

Thirteen years have passed since the attacks of 9/11, but the U.S. is still unwilling to reflect upon the reasons it was targeted or apologize to and compensate the nations it has harmed, a fact that will ensure the bitter lessons of that day go entirely wasted.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing, as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we’re always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on. Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony. But we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for in all our history there has never been such a monumental dissent during a war, by the American people.

Polls reveal that almost 68% Americans explicitly oppose the war in Middle East. Additional millions cannot bring themselves around to support it. And even those millions who do support the war [are] half-hearted, confused, and doubt-ridden. This reveals that millions have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism, to the high grounds of firm dissent, based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Now, of course, one of the difficulties in speaking out today grows the fact that there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty. It’s a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war against ISIS  is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.

I have seen the damage these wars can cause first hand. I am still trying to get compensated for the scars I came home with that aren’t visible to the naked eye. I have escorted hundreds of soldiers home in these coffins and some of them I heard their last words. They went something like this “Can we really trust that our death will make a difference”? or “Can we  “TRUST” in our leaders back in Washington?

Now, since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have three major reasons for bringing the Middle East and 9/11 into the field of my moral vision. There is…a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in the Middle East and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed that there was a real promise of hope for the poor, the disenfranchised both black and white, through the Poverty  Program. There were experiments, hopes, and new beginnings. Then came the build-up in the Middle East. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like ISIS continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube. And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and speak on it it as such.

Societies in failure mode because of American wars of genocide to control oil resources and any other political nonsense they can use to mis-inform it’s citizens.  Oh, my friends, if there is any one thing that we must see today is that these are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. They are saying, unconsciously, as we say in one of our freedom songs, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around!” It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo, we shall boldly challenge unjust mores, and thereby speed up the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing, unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of mankind. And when I speak of love I’m not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of John: “Let us love one another, for God is love. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.”

 

~Thinking Matters~

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“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).

What a challenging weekend this has been. I attempted to take on all the concerns of my life all by myself. I wanted to fix everything that was apparently wrong in the natural life I was living by trying to fix matters myself. Having faith means walking in it. Believing God for the things hoped for and the evidence of the unseen. I had to surrender to the natural thoughts I had about my son and daughter never getting out of prison, I had to surrender the thoughts of being unsuccessful in fore-filling God’s purpose for my life, I had to die to the feelings of failing at being an instrument totally used of God to perform the spiritual duties He has purposed for my existence in this life. Lord, I pray you keep me from day to day, show me how to worship and surrender to all the harassing voices of darkness, feed me until I want no more of the natural life style here on this planet. I see myself as He does tonight based off being in community this weekend. I shut all the windows and doors tonight and got before my God and this is what He said:

This is the happy season of ripening cornfields, of the merry song of the reapers, of the secured and garnered grain. But let me hearken to the sermon of the field. This is its solemn word to me. You must die in order to live. You must refuse to consult your own case and well-being. You must be crucified, not only in desires and habits which are sinful, but in many more which appear innocent and right. If you would save others, you cannot save yourself. If you would bear much fruit, you must be buried in darkness and solitude.

My heart fails me as I listen. But, when Jesus asks it, let me tell myself that it is my high dignity to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings; and thus I am in the best of company. And let me tell myself again that it is all meant to make me a vessel meet for His use. His own Calvary has blossomed into fertility; and so shall mine.

Plenty out of pain, life out of death: is it not the law of the Kingdom?

Do we call it dying when the bud bursts into flowers?

“Finding, following, keeping, struggling,
Is He sure to bless?
Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs,
Answer, ‘Yes.”‘

~The voice of sin may be loud, but the voice of forgiveness is louder. —D. L. Moody~

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Insight

In James 5, James defines and describes the deep and intimate connection that should exist between Christian brothers and sisters. Confession (5:16) requires deep openness and revealing of that which we would rather hide—our sins. But James says that confession of sin is to be met with prayer, not judgment. He goes on to say that the healing mentioned in verse 16 is related to the covering of sins in verse 20. Confession must be coupled with a change of action. Without change, confession is merely a response to guilt feelings. Godly sorrow for sin leads to a different direction in life. When we hear others’ confessions, we help each other to continue on the path of righteousness.

One of the most difficult inner conflicts we have is our desire to be known versus our fear of being known. As beings created in the image of God we are made to be known—known by God and also by others. Yet due to our fallen nature, all of us have sins and weaknesses that we don’t want others to know about. We use the phrase “dark side” to refer to aspects of our lives that we keep hidden. And we use slogans like “put your best foot forward” to encourage others to show their best side.

One reason we are unwilling to risk being known is that we fear rejection and ridicule. But when we discover that God knows us, loves us, and is willing to forgive even the worst thing we have done, our fear of being known by God begins to fade away. And when we find a community of believers who understands the dynamic relationship between forgiveness and confession, we feel safe confessing our sins to one another (James 5:16).

The life of faith is not about showing only our good side. It’s about exposing our dark side to the light of Christ through confession to God and also to others. In this way we can receive healing and live in the freedom of forgiveness.

Lord, help me to expose my sin,
Those secret wrongs that lurk within;
I would confess them all to Thee;
Transparent I would always be. —D. DeHaan
The voice of sin may be loud, but the voice of forgiveness is louder. —D. L. Moody

~Accountability Not Exploitation=Integrity For All~

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I do not deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation and oppression of my people by the whites.

Nelson Mandela

Police Release Disturbing New Details in NFLs Latest Domestic Violence Case

There is no question that the National Football League deserves to be under the national media microscope. The apparent proliferation of NFL players committing violent or abusive acts, and the soft punishments imposed on them by the League have deeply and understandably troubled millions of Americans. Perhaps most egregiously, it seems that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was content to bury the evidence that former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice viciously struck his wife.

How can a professional athlete continue to comfortably live life as a felon and common everyday human beings are denied everything as a felon?  With a slew of domestic violence cases permeating the NFL, some football fans arebenching America’s favorite fall pastime.
Even after the league enacted tougher punishments for domestic violence and three accused players sat out during games Sunday, the Twitter hashtag #BoycottNFL and calls for Commissioner Roger Goodell’s removal are running rampant.“No football for me today. Fire Goodell and I may return. #BoycottNFL @nflcommish @nfl #FireGoodell,” Scott Allen tweeted.

And the women’s rights group Ultraviolet flew a banner over the New York Giants-Arizona Cardinals game Sunday, saying Goodell must go.

There is no question that the primary goal of this latest campaign on the left is to impose some form of reform on the institution of professional football.

“If pressure from the public keeps this ugly enough that advertisers go further than issuing statements of disappointment and actually turn away, we might just see the kinds of structural reforms that offer some measure of reform at the NFL,”

The call to reform the National Football League would be understandable, though a little excessive, if it was only this recent spate of domestic violence accusations and the NFL’s apparent desire to shield their players from consequence for their actions that spurned the left to demand the reform of professional football. But it is not.

Reforming or even federally regulating this uniquely American game has been a pet cause for many on the left for years.

In early 2013, President Barack Obama told The New Rebublic that he would not allow his son, if he had one, to play the notoriously violent game. His comments came amid a fiery controversy which waxed and waned as most do – a feature of the modern ADD news cycle — about evidence that professional football players suffer from concussive brain injuries long after they leave the field for good.When MSNBC’s Alex Wagner asked Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) if there was “bipartisan support to regulate safety in the NFL,” the congressman said there should be. At the very least, he added, mandatory education programs in public schools about on-field safety should be implemented.

In that segment, The Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel added that the NFL is culpable for the care of its players because of what she claimed was the League’s historic efforts to cover up the damage their players suffer.

For the most part, the left stays on message; Professional and college football are violent, cutthroat games, and they need to be regulated for the good of the players and the fans. Occasionally, however, the veil slips and the perpetually outraged reveal that their true target all along was the game of football itself.

The focus of this post is to present the concept of integrity in professional athletes. Professional athletes are public figures and as such their personal lives become public information in many cases. There are many athletes who display a high degree of integrity in their actions while others do not. Professional athletes are role models and as such their decisions and actions influence a number of people who look up to them. When an athlete has a run in with the law it displays badly on the profession and the team to which they belong. However, there are those who display a high degree of integrity and professionalism but do not seem to get the recognition beyond their immediate community/region.

Many professional athletes are an asset to their communities and deserve to be recognized for their contributions beyond their community. Today it seems that those who have problems get more of the attention while others who contribute positively to their community do not. Those professional athletes who are arrested and convicted of a felony should be penalized financially. There are times that have been in the news where professional athletes have been called on the carpet for their actions. In some cases players have been suspended from playing. When this occurs their pay should also be forfeited, if it is not.

All professional athlete contracts should have a clause establishing rules for acceptable behavior and the penalties for breaking them. If such rules exist they should be more publicized. Everyone makes mistakes and people should be allowed some consideration to some extent. However if the actions and/or behavior is continually repeated and/or involves the committing of a felony offense for which they have been convicted, then their contract should be terminated. It is better to have athletes who respect their profession than those who constantly bring embarrassment. Embarrassment applies to their profession, their team and their community. Conviction must be in a court of law not public opinion. While some fans may not be happy about the situation they must remember that professional sports need to instill integrity in the profession. Professional sports will gain respect from the public if they promote integrity and enforce the penalties that are in place for violations.

 Integrity in our society seems to be lacking today and professional sports can be a leader in making a statement that integrity is important. It must be remembered that being accused of a crime such as a felony does not mean that the person is guilty. Therefore, no penalty or restriction should be imposed unless a conviction is achieved through a court of law. Sometimes news coverage of public personalities gives the impression they have been tried and convicted. News organizations should carefully cover any situation involving professional athletes as to not give the impression the accused is guilty. Many news organizations do cover the news honestly while presenting the facts. Athletes who are convicted, not just accused of felonies should not be continually paid for their behavior especially if it interferes with their performing the responsibilities for which they have contracted.

It must also be considered that as public figures there are those who will try to get attention by accusing professional athletes for crimes they did not commit. This is wrong. Prosecutors should consider the evidence before deciding a case against a professional athlete. If witnesses (s) constantly change their minds it does not provide a reliable basis for making a decision to prosecute. Accusations which constantly change in the details, in my opinion, do not warrant wasting government time and money to prosecute. There are enough cases in our court system. Our courts do not need to be flooded with unwarranted cases that are not supported by valid and reliable evidence.

Another point that must be made is that any person who has a valid accusation against a professional athlete should not be afraid to bring their evidence to the applicable prosecutor. Prosecutors should treat any person bringing evidence against a professional athlete with respect. If it is found that any person or persons bringing accusations against a professional athlete is deemed to be totally unsubstantiated, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

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What-Dreams-May-Come-poster
WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us,while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

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