Day: July 2, 2013

Where are Ordinary Black Youth in Pop Culture?

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Being young and black in America today must be hard. The experiences of black youth are so often left out of the national discourse, it probably seems like no one really understands their plight. On the few occasions that stories about them appear in pop culture, particularly television and film, they’re often shown in one of two ways — the overachiever, the kid that “makes it” despite the odds, like Jay-Z, or the lazy underachiever, the thugs and welfare moms that so many on the right often allude to.

While it’s a great testament to our nation’s progress to have stories about Will Smith’s talented kids and Obama’s smart girls, we need to make “ordinary” black kids a commonplace as well.
The voices of these at-risk youth need to be heard and their stories need to be told, but there’s another perspective that we also need to hear — that of positive, average black kids. In their own way they’re invisible — kids that are more like The Beaver and Wally than gangster Frank Lucas, and are neither marginalized or at the proverbial mountaintop. Their stories seem to be regarded as unrelatable to a mainstream America that still values blonde hair and white picket fences.

It’s easy to understand why this happens. In the more than four decades since the Civil Rights Movement, black youth are still lagging behind. Many of the statistics and stories that we hear about young African Americans, much like the ones Bryan Stevenson shared on recent Moyers & Company shows, are abysmal. Add in the other “isms” that all too many black youth are familiar with, like classism and sexism, and you can see why there’s an anxiety about the state of young black America.

One of the stories that did receive a lot of media attention in the recent past is the Trayvon Martin case. He was the teen killed last year in Florida by a man who allegedly thought he was threatening his life. Putting the politics of the case aside, Trayvon, a young middle-class black kid, with two involved (if not together parents), who liked hoodies, his girlfriend, Twitter and Skittles, is probably a good example of your average black kid. But how much does America really know about the Trayvons of the world except when violence intervenes? When do their stories get told? When do we understand that most black kids aren’t all that different from white kids?

I know a bit about this because growing up I was that Trayvon. I wasn’t what many would classify as a “burden” to society, but I wasn’t the next Barack either. I lived in a single parent household that was loving and instilled the values of hard work and sacrifice. And I was far from an anomaly. I was surrounded by other black families like mine, some with more money, some with less, some with fathers and mothers together, some with only fathers, but many were happy, working and middle-class Americans.

Rudy Huxtable, Moesha Mitchell and Laura Winslow
In the eighties and nineties, mainstream network television and film was better about showing middle-class black families. Girls like Moesha, Rudy Huxtable and Laura Winslow looked like me. Today however, with a decreasing number of black family shows — and an explosion of celebrity culture — storylines about average black youth are even rarer. While it’s a great testament to our nation’s progress to have stories about Will Smith’s talented kids and Obama’s smart girls, we need to make “ordinary” black kids a commonplace as well.

I’m lucky that the lives of black youth aren’t hidden to me. I am surrounded by a number of young black men and women that are doing well, that are smart and talented and talk endlessly about annoying parents, relationships, and even politics. But popular culture is a powerful tool. It shapes and defines many of our beliefs about our larger society. And while it is important to voice the stories of those that need it the most — those that have been left behind, discriminated against and crippled by injustice in an all too often unequal society — we must also hear more about ordinary black kids, who are more the norm than the exception.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

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You’ve seen the commercial, “Can you hear me now? Good!” 34 year old Paul Marcarelli of New York City got the nod to represent 50 people who drive 100,000 miles a year to test the reliability of the cellular network. Yes, those are his own glasses, too!But now the phrase, “Can you hear me now?” has become part of our vocabulary.
And its certainly a phrase that God could ask of us. Do you hear God talking? This is a question that is so often abused and mis-used “God told me” I am al-ways so leery and reluctant to say, “God told me” I don’t want to put words into God’s mouth.

But this is an important question. How does God talk to us to-day, and what does He want us to do? We’re going to spend two separate weeks on it, in fact. Our Key Verse for today: “Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.” — Isaiah 28.23

A. God reveals Himself in a gen-eral way through what He has made.
1. “For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his in-visible qualities¡Xhis eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.” — Romans 1.19-20 (NLT)
2. “The heavens de-clare the glory of God; the skies pro-claim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” — Psalm 19.1-3
B. Show photos of cosmos
1. And what do learned people say? “Wow! How cool that all this just happened like this!”
2. “Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies.
So they worshiped the things God made but not the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever — Romans 1.25 (NLT)
3. Grand Canyon: “Nice job, God”
A. The Bible says that there is a reason for everything un-der the sun
1. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” — Ro-mans 8.28
2. If He works all things for good, then there is purpose behind all things!
B. We don’t want to over-analyze every single thing that happens in our lives, but rather to be more sensitized to the work of God in our lives.
1. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” — Proverbs 16.9
2. “That’s a God thing”
3. Is God trying to tell me something?
A. We are a blessed people.
1. The poorest among us are so much better off than in other parts of the world
2. What we consider ne-cessities are considered luxuries elsewhere
3. That leads to “taking it for granted”
B. Job’s experience
1. “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: Na-ked I came from my mother womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”Job 1.20-21 What we have is from God
2.Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? Job 2.10
3. Deuteronomy 8 from out-line
C. When good things happen to us, when God blesses us, we need to train ourselves to go to God and say,
a. “Thank you”
b. “What do You want me to do with this?”
A. Trials happen. They are a part of life, not an aberration in life.
1. 1 Peter 1.6-7 on outline
2. Hebrews 12.11 on outline
B. What is God saying to us when trials come into our lives?
1. “I love you right where I found you; but I love you too much to leave you there!”
2. SHOW BASEBALL BAT — It takes a lot of planning, sanding, cutting, carving and shaping to make this (BAT) from a tree.
3. How much molding and shaping is it going to take to make you into Jesus Christ?
„« “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son– Romans 1.29 (NLT)

A. CS Lewis called pain, “the megaphone of God”
1. When we hurt, it directs our attention to God
2. Psalm 69.1-3, 13, 16 on outline
„« see also Psalm 77
B. We try and drown out, dull down and hide from pain
1. God sometimes has to turn up the heat, turn down the screws, or lay us out flat on our backs to get us to listen
2. We can complain, yell, get angry but ultimately, eventually, we need to ask, “what is it, Lord?”
3. And remember, our great-est source of pain, may be our biggest opportunity for service
A. We live in a noisy world
1. The quietness of Arizona; Grand Canyon
2. “I can’t hear myself think!”
B. God sometimes speaks softly so we have to listen intently
1. “I wait quietly before God, for my salvation comes from him… I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”– Psalm 62.1, 5 (NLT)
2. Sometimes we just need to “shhhh. Be quiet.”
3. “Then Job answered the LORD: ¡§I am unwor-thy how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer twice, but I will say no more.¡¨” — Job 40.3-5
4. Elijah and the gentle whisper (1 Kings 19)
„« not the wind, earth-quake, fire
5. God sometimes speaks to us with a gentle nudging, persistent prodding, quiet urging do you hear Him?
A. God has spoken. Verbally. Audibly.
1. God’s Words were codified.
“can I get that in writ-ing?”
2. They were written down, collected, preserved and passed down, so we have an inerrant, infallible rec-ord of what God said.
3.teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” — Hebrews 8.3
B. God often warns us and pleads with us not to forget His statutes, His law, His words.
1. “All Scripture is God-breathed — 2 Timothy 3.16
2. This Word we take so granted; we ignore; we use as a leather-bound paper-weight, is the breath of God.
3. Are you listening?

A. But the Word is not the final goal.
1. The written Word leads us to the living Word (not to make us Bible scholars)
2. Hebrews 11.1-3 on outline
3. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus often says, “but I say to you”
4. Jesus shows us God.
“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father¡¦s side, has made him known.” — John 1.18
If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.
B. “The Spirit of God, takes the Word of God, applies it to the Child of God, to make us more like the Son of God.”

God is still speaking today. Ultimately, God is driving every-thing toward His Son, Jesus Christ.
Two questions:
1. Do you hear His voice? “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” — Mark 4.23

2. Don’t harden your heart. “That is why the Holy Spirit says, ¡§Today you must listen to his voice. Don¡¦t harden your hearts against him — Hebrews 3.7-8 (NLT)

Listen for God.
Listen to God.
We need to learn to:
a. See God’s fingerprints
b. Read God’s handwriting
c. Hear God’s voice

Can you hear Him now?

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