Month: March 2014

Being Created In Jesus Likeness Through Challenging People

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One of the most challenging aspects of pastoral ministry is dealing with difficult people. These are people who need help but seem to challenge you at every turn as you try to provide that help.

In my quest to become more like Christ and humble in remaining teachable this morning I ran to the scriptures to find the answers I need to fuel my soul to yield to the challenges God has put into my life by way of difficult people and trials of life. I thank God for the many blessings of yielded vessels He has put in my life that allows me ears and hearts to bounce difficult question off and be rendered an array of insights to glean from. This being a sensitive issue, I had to seek many tried men who have experienced the intricate struggle of loving in-spite of being disrespected and targeted for hatred.

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How should the church respond and minister in these situations? Everyone has to relate to difficult people—and most of us have been difficult people ourselves at one time or another! Therefore, every Christian should know how the gospel guides us in these relationships.

Two passages that guide me in this are 1 Peter 4:8 and Ephesians 3:14-19. In the 1 Peter passage, we are called to “love one another deeply.” The word translated deeply can also mean “constant”. “Keep love constant” would be a good translation. The word describes something that is stretched or extended. The love of the saints keeps stretching, in both depth and endurance. This connects nicely with Ephesians 3 where Paul prays that we would “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…” Persevering love grows out of the gospel. You must start here if you are going to find the strength and incentive to go the distance with people.

With these scriptures as guidance, I offer a list of ten ministerial skills that I learned as I discipled one individual who came with many difficult problems.

I will call her “Nancy”. She is in her 40’s and seems to be a sincere believer in Christ. She is in a bad marriage. She is someone who would classically be labeled bipolar or manic-depressive. She has successfully isolated herself from people in her church because once they get to know her, they become overwhelmed by her. Here is the challenge: How do I love Nancy well? What will it look like to be useful to her in her growth in grace? These lessons have taken me many years to learn—and I am still learning with other “Nancys” that God graciously and wisely places in my life. I will speak directly to you, the reader, about the difficult people God calls you to serve. Sometimes I will refer to Nancy in particular and sometimes to difficult people as a whole.

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Lesson 1. Pay Attention to the Heart (Yours and Theirs)

The category of the heart must be kept on the radar at all times.

Yours—God has ordained that this person be in your life. The first pastoral exercise is to pay attention to the common temptations to sin that different kinds of difficult people pose to you. Manipulative “borderline personality”? Angry and oblivious? Addicted and deceitful? Unstable “bipolar”? You may be tempted to overpower, or to appease, or to avoid such people. You will likely move typically in one of these directions or bounce back and forth between them in an effort to get some relief. You end up, if you are not carefully attending to your own heart, sinfully responding to the challenges that the difficult person is bringing into your life. If you do this, how then can you call this person to respond to life in godly ways when you aren’t even responding in godly ways? This, by the way, is true of any relationship.

Theirs—As you get to know difficult people, you begin to see the particular types of suffering that each person has experienced. You begin to see typical ways that the person tends to respond. With people who evidence what may be a more physiological component, keep that in mind as you seek to pastor them well. With someone who is manic-depressive, don’t let behavior on either extreme of the continuum fool you. Don’t get hijacked by the momentary emotional state. With Nancy, many elements were at work at any given moment when I would talk with her: a bad day with her husband, children, person in the church, no sleep, fear of the future… or a good day with her husband, children, person in the church, and lots of sleep. Each person is responding in either a godly or ungodly way to events. What patterns do you see as you get to know them and move towards them? What are their typical ungodly ways of dealing with life and what tends to drive those behaviors? There will be opportunities to help a person see these things. Find simple Scripture passages that will provide guidance during these times, and experience the joys of biblical repentance in the midst of the difficulty.

Lesson 2. Clearly Define Who Sets the Agenda

The common language that is often used here is the language of “boundaries”. I think that can be helpful but it does not go deep enough. Who sets the agenda in any relationship? God does. The only difference is what the agenda will be not who sets it. God sets the agenda in all of our relationships and He does here as well. Recognizing this, reminds you that you—the helper—are also under the gaze of God. The language of “boundaries” typically gives the impression that as the helper, you must set boundaries in order to protect yourself from being taken advantage of. If we think of this in terms of God setting the agenda, the end result will be you loving the person well rather than just protecting yourself.

With Nancy, because God set the agenda, there were times when I made sacrifices that were appropriate. Some of these decisions affected my family and lifestyle: the phone call at home late at night, or the sudden appearance at my house or office. Then there were other times that I told her I could not speak with her at that moment but would be willing to talk to her at some later time that we both agreed would work. There were times though, that I was tempted to agree to speak to her immediately because I did not want her to dislike me, or I was fearful that she would tell someone in the church that I had not cared for her like a good pastor should. Saying no at these times was an expression of godliness and love for Nancy. There were instances that I told her to go home and get some sleep and then call me that afternoon at the office. Grace-driven acceptance of a person does not mean open-ended availability.

It is important that you take the initiative to communicate some guidelines for the relationship and to alert the person that there will be many times when you will not be available. Be clear about when and where you may be contacted. Do this with love and then have godly courage to say no a few times early on when you think the person has moved beyond what is appropriate for the moment. If you are too available, it will likely lead to anger in you, because you assume that the person should respect boundaries like other people do. Don’t make that assumption. Another reason to set limits for people is because otherwise it may be too easy for them to go to you before they cry out to God. You, in effect, could be the very person who is making it too easy for them to avoid dealing directly with and depending upon Christ.

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Lesson 3. Have Biblically Realistic/Optimistic Goals

Here is a place where your theology of the Christian life means everything. The doctrine of sanctification sees the Christian life through the biblical lens of slow, steady, back and forth progress. It’s realistic: change is incremental. It’s also optimistic: there is progress. For me, as I got a handle on the practical pastoral implications of this biblical understanding of the Christian life, it made all the difference in the world.

When Nancy was really depressed, I was thankful that she was still coming to church and seeking help. When she was particularly upbeat and euphoric, I would avoid being duped and then let down when she was depressed again. Without this leveling view of the Christian life, you will be a manic-depressive enabler!

Lesson 4. Redefine Love

If you do not re-define love biblically, you will be very disappointed if you are called to help other people— especially difficult people. A succinct definition of love is found in I John 3:16, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” That’s it. Love means death. Let me nuance that some. Loving people well is the most inefficient thing you could ever do, but according to Jesus, it is the godliest thing you can ever do. I John 3:16 goes on to say, “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Another way of thinking about this is exchanging the word “servant hood” in place of the word “success.” We are not called to fix people; we are called to serve them. The sooner we lay hold of this biblical priority, the sooner we will not be undone when someone does not “get better” right away or remains in our lives for a long time. Imagine in John 13, when Jesus washes his disciple’s feet—if he thought in terms of success—he would have kicked the bucket over, screamed at the disciples and stomped out. When you look at the characters in the room that night, success would not have been a word that would come to mind. And yet Jesus served. Paul Miller makes this wonderful observation in his book Love Walked Among Us, “Jesus’ tenderness with people suggested to me a new, less “efficient,” way of relating. Love, I realized, is not efficient.”1

It was through the “Nancys” in my life that I realized what it was like to work with people. It’s messy and inefficient and I don’t like that. And yet, it was just where God wanted me. I needed Nancy as much— if not more— than she needed me. I needed her in the sense that I needed to be more like Christ. I needed to see how much I wasn’t like him. I needed to see how desperately selfish I was and that if I did not redefine love along biblical lines, I would continue to be a selfish person who only met with people because I had to.

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Lesson 5. Give the Person Hope

For someone like Nancy, change doesn’t seem to be something that is very visible or tangible. There were times when she was so discouraged that she thought suicide was a possible option. One of the practical ways to help someone like Nancy have hope is by clearly defining some things that can reasonably be accomplished and stating these in simple measurable ways.

Ask the person, “What do you want to see God do in your life over the next week?” You will be amazed how this re-frames the person’s view of the future. This question encourages them to think about the possibilities of being different and of living differently in the coming week. Maybe their circumstances will not change, but maybe they can change instead. The simpler the goals are— the better. Do this within the context of the gospel and Christ’s covenant love for them.

Lesson 6. Call the Person to Serve

Another critical place a difficult person often needs to grow is in the area of loving others. The Bible says that everyone has been given gifts and can encourage, bear burdens, and be used in the lives of other people. As you attend to the heart issues in a person’s life and as you frame the relationship to serve the sanctifying purposes of God, a hopeful call to loving others is only appropriate.

Nancy had a husband and two children whom she could love and serve. She was surrounded by other wives who were struggling in their marriages. It is not good for difficult people to simply “take” from their families and friends. This is destructive behavior that is not pleasing to God and it is driven by a host of attitudes that God will not bless. Calling people to serve others will move them towards people and outside of themselves. It will help them see that they are valuable members of the body of Christ, and are not the only people who struggle.

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Lesson 7. Connect the Person with the Body of Christ

This is important for two reasons. First, it is only within the context of others that difficult people are going to die to themselves. Secondly, it is only within the context of other people that you can adequately help the person. My experience is that difficult people need a host of helpers that are all doing basically the same thing in concert with one another.

I always encouraged Nancy to stay connected. I knew that I was not sufficient for her growth. But that is nothing new, is it? We all need many people around us speaking into and acting in our lives and on our behalf. I would structure contexts for discipleship for her. Thankfully, she would do a lot of this on her own, too. Though sometimes her involvement with others was selfishly motivated, thankfully it was with wise women who knew how to love her well. She was also connected to a small group Bible study where she was surrounded by a group of people who would keep up with her.

Your failure to do this reveals as much about your heart as it does the heart of the difficult person. When people are overly needy, and we do not share the load, it reveals that we may be overly needy of their need of us!

Lesson 8. Work Wisely with Other Helpers

It is inevitable as you work with difficult people that you will be criticized by them. Sometimes they will do this to your face, but most of the time they will do it with others who are reaching out to them. The illustration that I think works here is the illustration of a child. If the child does not get what is wanted from one parent, the child will complain to other parent in an effort to get it. If you are helping a difficult person, chances are you are not the only person in their lives. They are amazingly connected! If you know this from the outset, you can begin to find out who else they depend on. With that information, you can wisely seek appropriate ways to make sure that the various helpers do not get caught between the complaints of the difficult person. When a difficult person complains to you about someone who has not helped them, use this as an opportunity to remind the difficult person that the person they are speaking about does care for them. Encourage the others to do this as well.

There were occasions with Nancy where I would have to remind her of how much God had been good to her by giving her the friends she had. It was also an opportunity to challenge her to learn to love even when she was not getting what she wanted from others.

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Lesson 9. Connect the Person to Christ Himself

What could be more obvious and yet what could be least obvious. People need something and someone more than you. They need Christ. If you are not careful, you may be the one person that keeps them from him if you love yourself more than you love the difficult person. One of the temptations in pastoral ministry is to forget who the Chief Shepherd of the sheep is. A gentle reminder: it is not you. I remember being in the midst of a broader family crisis with Nancy. The weight of it all was coming down on me. Sometime that week a friend called me and sensed the weight in my voice. He spoke gently and lovingly to me when he said, “Tim, remember, you are not the ultimate shepherd of the sheep, Jesus is.” His words cut and healed at the same time. They called me to repent of my people, control, and success idolatries. At the same time, they reminded me that Jesus was more concerned for and able to help this person than 1000 pastors working at once. We need to connect people to Christ to remind them as well as ourselves that we are not the Chief Shepherd of the sheep.

Lesson 10. Remember: We are All Difficult People

Finally, a helpful reminder that is always appropriate to remember as we serve difficult people. From God’s point of view, aren’t we all difficult people? Romans 5:8 sums it up nicely when it says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Verse 10 goes on to say, “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life.”

Conclusion

These 10 lessons are ministerial ways that I have grown in wisdom within the context of ministerial ministry. Helping difficult people is challenging but if you see it as a extension of the gospel into the everyday lives of God’s people, your path will be clearer and your love more “constant” because it depends less on you and more on the God who calls you to do it. My pastor and other ministers and brother of the faith have made me see my errors in dealing with difficult people by looking at my struggles first. I have great men of God surrounding me and keeping me accountable to Christ and ministry. I am struggling with being faithful to my calling due to the discomfort surrounding serving God in a time when dogma’s and tradition supersede the simplicity of Jesus Christ gospel, but Jesus sat down and had dinner with these same struggles and brought about the New Testament of Righteousness by Faith. Let us work while it is still day.

One Seed of Hope That Linkedin with Someone’s Faith Equaled a New Life

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“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress …” (James 1:27, NIV).

Scripture clearly and repeatedly exhorts Christians to care for the fatherless. And, with 127,000 children waiting for a mother and father in the U.S. foster care system and numerous infants needing loving homes, answering the biblical call to care for orphans is no small task.

In 2007, Ke’onte was just eight years old, News 8’s Gloria Campos featured him as a Wednesday’s Child in hopes of finding a family to adopt him.

Following a failed adoption and disappointment, Gloria did another report on Ke’onte two years later, in hopes the second time would be the charm.

Now 14, Ke’onte returned to WFAA to surprise Gloria Campos, live, during the News 8 at 10 broadcast.

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Having a passion to serve and treat others as you would want to be treated is equal to self respect and having a compassionate heart. Seeds like that grow into viable organisms. Gloria Campos had purposed in her heart to let her difference make a difference in this young man’s life and now he is restored with hope that will help his parents have joy and those of whom he will touch in his school environment as well as community at home.

There are several touching stories like this. Adoption can be risky business for both parties but restoration of discarded human beings as well as animals is the work of a Powerful God. Only He can soothe pain and fill voids and create clean hearts.

Adoption has been gaining attention as a national priority in the United States. More than 150,000 adoptions take place each year, but there are still 127,000 children waiting for adoption in the U.S. foster care system, as well as infants born to birthmothers not ready to parent. In light of Christ’s command to care for orphans, the number of children without loving homes is more than just another social issue; adoption is a Christian concern.

Defined as the permanent, legal transfer of parental rights over a child from biological parents to adoptive parents, adoption is an important social practice that promotes the well-being of children, families and society. Though there are several different categories of adoption, every adoption scenario gives adoptive parents the same rights, responsibilities and joys as biological parents, and gives adopted children the same legal, social and emotional benefits of birth children.

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Adoption positively impacts all those involved with the process. It gives birthmothers the assurance that their children will be raised in stable families, gives adoptive parents the joy of parenting, and gives children the opportunity to join a permanent family and grow up in a loving home. Adoption also promotes the social and economic well-being of our nation because an adopted child is less likely (than the child of a single mother) to grow up in poverty, more likely to obtain an education, and more likely to have an involved father.

Adoption is also connected to important social issues, such as the sanctity of human life and the definition of family. Adoption upholds the sanctity of human life by providing a positive alternative to abortion for birthmothers who feel unable to parent. Adoption contributes positively to family formation by creating the opportunity for children waiting in foster care to have a loving mother and father—replacing what the child has lost.

And yet, the adoption process has been recently burdened by initiatives that ignore its purpose and promote unrelated goals. Anti-life forces rarely mention adoption as a positive alternative to abortion, and same-sex advocates reject mother-father family structures as the model for adoptive families. It is no wonder then that the fundamental purposes of adoption have come under attack and that adoption has become a topic of political controversy.

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Recognizing the importance of adoption and current political threats to the practice, Focus on the Family is passionately committed to not only promoting adoption among churches and families, but also to advocating adoption policies that promote and defend the well-being of children, parents and families.

While orphan care is clearly a biblical mandate for churches and families, adoption is also an important policy concern that impacts other efforts to defend life and family. The option of adoption allows pregnant women who do not think they are ready or able to parent to confidently choose life. Also, adoption provides orphans the filial relationships that God intended for all mankind to have. In other words, it grants children who are waiting for homes the hope of receiving loving families.

Children’s Needs Lost to an Agenda

Along with the sheer challenge of finding loving homes for all children who need them, the current political climate – particularly movements to redefine the family – makes child placement even more difficult. While adoption is meant to provide children with a mother and a father when the original family is broken, unfortunately, the adoption process is now used as an avenue to advance homosexual rights. Efforts to advance rights and protections for homosexuals often place a higher priority on an individual desire to parent, rather than a child’s need for a mother and a father. Today, it is not enough to promote the practice of adoption; we must also defend adoption against initiatives that would distort its purpose.

As evidenced by the fight for adoption rights by same-sex couples, the current movement to protect and promote homosexual rights threatens the adoption arena and children’s best interests. Though they might push for it, homosexual couples—and all couples for that matter—possess no right to adopt. Rather, children have a right to grow up with the love that only a mother and a father can jointly provide. Adoption placements should acknowledge that placing a child in a family structure with a married mother and father is in the child’s best interest. Unfortunately, current anti-discrimination policies and judicial decisions often negate the best interest of children in the name of tolerance and equality.

One conflict has already risen to the surface. The movement to promote individuals with same-sex attraction as a legally protected class threatens the work of adoption agencies that hold moral convictions against same-sex adoption. Certain anti-discrimination laws in the U.S. ultimately mandate that adoption agencies allow same-sex couples to adopt children. These acts stifle the freedom of independent adoption agencies to decide that concern for a child’s best interests requires them to make placements in married mother and father homes rather than with gay or lesbian-identified couples, or cohabiting heterosexual couples. Ultimately, sexual orientation laws that were meant to prevent discrimination actually violate the freedom of adoption agencies that hold religious or moral convictions against certain adoption placements, and deprive a child of either a father or mother. Adoption agencies are forced to decide between closing their doors and violating their deeply held beliefs.

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This has already happened. In 2006, Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination laws pushed Catholic Charities of Boston, one of the nation’s oldest adoption agencies, to leave the adoption business in order to uphold its religious convictions about marriage and family. More recently, an Arizona-based Internet adoption registry was forced to stop providing adoption services to Californians after the company was sued for refusing to provide services to a same-sex couple.

Clearly, laws should be passed protecting the moral and religious rights of adoption agencies, which should be able to help children find the loving homes they need without violating their deeply-held religious convictions about marriage and family

In summary, adoption is an important Christian concern. If we as believers are to fulfill our biblical mandate to care for orphans, we must support initiatives that: encourage adoption; advocate policies that promote the well-being of children, parents, and families; and reject measures that negate the best interest of children, deny God’s design for the family or threaten the moral rights of adoption services.

#banbossy: Leadership Lessons From Successful Women

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Some of today’s most powerful women joined forces to encourage young women to take on leadership roles, saying that being called “bossy” makes girls feel insecure about taking on the same roles as men. Along with Girl Scouts of American and Lifetime, they have created an inspiring PSA to #banbossy

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With women comprising just 4% of corporate CEOs, 14% of executive officers and 20% of America’s government officials, we’re facing a persistent leadership gap at the highest echelons. To move forward, we must first take stock of what is working.

The following eight leadership lessons, synthesized and updated from a keynote given last year, come directly from the women who know what it takes to get to the top.

Stay Determined

The world’s most successful women really want it–and remain determined even in the face of obstacles. They have the skills, and they put the time in. But more importantly, they have the desire to do something great. Beth Brooke, global vice chair of Ernst & Young , was diagnosed with a degenerative hip disease at age 13 and was told by doctors she may never walk again. Before going into surgery she promised herself she would walk—no, she would run—and aspired to become one of the best young athletes the world had seen. Not only did she walk, she went on to play several varsity sports at her high school, earned multiple MVP awards, and later played Division I basketball in college. She made up her mind, and she didn’t quit. She brought that same determination to her career and today ranks among the 100 most powerful women in the world.

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Be Courageous

Women at the top aren’t fearless. They move toward their fear to continually challenge themselves. That takes courage. In 2011, Beth Mooney, CEO of KeyCorp KEY +1.27%, became the first woman ever to lead a top-20 bank in the U.S. Mooney began her career as a secretary at a local Texas bank, making just $10,000 a year, but soon realized she wanted something more. In 1979, she knocked on the door of every big bank in Dallas and asked for a spot in their management training programs. At the Republic Bank of Dallas, she refused to leave the manager’s office until he offered her a job. After waiting for three hours, he finally agreed to give her a chance if she earned an MBA by night.

That was a turning point in her career, one of many, powered by a courageous call to action—to champion herself and what she knew she was capable of. Later, she had the courage to move into roles she’d never done before, to pick up and move across the country, and to stick with it for three decades. If you’re not a little bit scared every day, you’re not learning. And when you’re not learning, you’re done.

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Think Bigger

In order to achieve big success, you have to have big impact. When Michelle Gass, who is now leading 33 countries for Starbucks, started at the coffee chain, she was asked to architect a growth strategy for a just-launched drink called the Frappuccino. Her mantra: “Let’s think of how big this can be.” After countless hours testing ideas, she decided to position it as an escapist treat and added ice cream parlor fixings and new flavors. What began as a two-flavor side item is now a $2 billion platform with tens of thousands of possible combinations. Gass repeated her go-big-or-go-home strategy when she took over Seattle’s Best Coffee. She decided to take the sleepy little-sister brand to new heights by partnering with Burger King, Delta, Subway, convenience stores and supermarkets. In one year, the brand exploded from 3,000 distribution points to over 50,000.

Take Calculated Risks

As CEO of Kraft Foods and now Mondelez International, Irene Rosenfeld is very familiar with this one. A couple years ago she completed a hostile takeover of British candy company Cadbury. Not long after, she surprised the business community again with a plan to split Kraft into two separate companies, a North American foods company and a global snacks company. To move the needle, you have to make a big bets—but never rash—always based on a careful study of the outcomes. You have to know what you have to gain, and if you can afford to take the hit if it doesn’t go your way.

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Remain Disciplined

It takes discipline to achieve and maintain success. You simply can’t do everything, and the world’s most powerful women stay focused on the areas that will have the biggest impact—from both a leadership perspective and a career management perspective. Sheri McCoy, the new CEO of struggling Avon Products, is currently implementing a huge turnaround at the century-old beauty company. Interestingly, when I asked what the biggest challenge would be, she said: “Making sure people stay focused on what’s important and what matters most.” It is very easy to get distracted by new trends, new markets, new projects—but when you extend yourself too far, the quality of your work suffers across the board.

Hire Smart

Over and over again women at the top say their best strategy for success is to hire people who are diverse, passionate and smarter than themselves–and then listen closely to their perspectives. Hala Moddelmog, president of Arby’s Restaurant Group, believes surrounding yourself with people of different backgrounds—including gender, race, geography, socio-economic and personality types—will help round out your conclusions. “You really don’t need another you,” she says. Similarly, staying open to different viewpoints keeps you ahead of the curve. Claire Watts, the CEO of retail and media company QVC, schedules open door times every Tuesday, so that anyone in the company who wants to come talk to her, ask her a question or share something they’ve noticed can do it then.

Manage Your Career

Denise Morrison, the CEO of Campbell’s Soup, knew from a very young age she wanted to eventually run a company, so she asked herself what are the kinds of things I need to do to prepare for that? That might mean management experience, global exposure or revenue responsibility. She always looked at her career as: Where have I been? Where am I now? Where am I going, and what are the right assignments to get there? If her current company would work with her to deliver those assignments, she was all-in. But if it didn’t, she knew she needed to move on. “We apply these skills in business, and yet when it comes to ourselves we rarely apply them,” she said.

Delegate At Work And At Home

The most successful women have learned that they have to have help, and they have to have faith in the people around them—at work and at home. It’s not easy, but it’s critical over the long-term. Katie Taylor, the CEO of hotel brand Four Seasons, admitted to me that she is a bit of control freak, but for the good of her and everyone around her, she tries to delegate. “Sit on your hands, if you have to,” she said. “Get yourself to that place.”

Kissing and Harassing to Demoralize a Society of People

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The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices raise serious concerns over racial profiling, illegal stops and privacy rights. The Department’s own reports on its stop-and-frisk activity confirm what many people in communities of color across the city have long known: The police are stopping hundreds of thousands of law abiding New Yorkers every year, and the vast majority are black and Latino.

An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio closed a divisive chapter in New York City history Thursday when he announced that his administration had reached an agreement with the civil rights lawyers who challenged the Police Department’s abusive and racially discriminatory stop-and-frisk program in federal court.

The agreement clears the way for the Police Department to carry out reforms ordered last summer by Judge Shira Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan, and thus to repair its damaged relationship with minority communities. The judge ruled that the department’s stop-and- frisk tactics violated the constitutional rights of minority citizens and said that city officials under the former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, had been “deliberately indifferent” to these illegalities.

An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports:

In 2012, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 532,911 times
473,644 were totally innocent (89 percent).
284,229 were black (55 percent).
165,140 were Latino (32 percent).
50,366 were white (10 percent).
In 2013, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 191,558 times.
169,252 were totally innocent (88 percent).
104,958 were black (56 percent).
55,191 were Latino (29 percent).
20,877 were white (11 percent).

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Every time a police officer stops a person in NYC, the officer is supposed to fill out a form to record the details of the stop. Officers fill out the forms by hand, and then the forms are entered manually into a database. There are 2 ways the NYPD reports this stop-and-frisk data: a paper report released quarterly and an electronic database released annually.

The paper reports – which the N.Y.C.L.U. releases every three months – include data on stops, arrests, and summonses. The data are broken down by precinct of the stop and race and gender of the person stopped. The paper reports provide a basic snapshot on stop-and-frisk activity by precinct and are available here.

The electronic database includes nearly all of the data recorded by the police officer after a stop. The data include the age of person stopped, if a person was frisked, if there was a weapon or firearm recovered, if physical force was used, and the exact location of the stop within the precinct. Having the electronic database allows researchers to look in greater detail at what happens during a stop.

In response, the city argued that minority residents were stopped more frequently because they committed more crimes. But evidence at trial showed that those being stopped were overwhelmingly innocent, that blacks and Hispanics were stopped in disproportionate numbers and that officers were more likely to use force against minority citizens. Mr. Bloomberg appealed the decision. Mr. de Blasio’s criticism of the policy, and his promise to drop the appeal, helped propel him into office.

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The setting for the announcement from Mr. de Blasio, Police Commissioner William Bratton and the city’s top lawyer, Zachary Carter — a community recreation center in the mainly minority Brownsville section of Brooklyn — powerfully reinforced their message. Brownsville was ground zero for the stop-and-frisk program at its height. A Times analysis in 2010 found that the police had logged nearly 52,000 stops within eight or so blocks over a four-year period. This meant that young people in the area were growing up in the equivalent of a police state where they could be detained on the sidewalk at any time for no reason at all. The fear and distrust that flowed from this undermined confidence in the Police Department, making it all the more difficult for officers to do their jobs.

Mr. Bratton, who has made good community relations a cornerstone of his career, acknowledged as much in his remarks. “We will not break the law to enforce the law,” he said. “That’s my solemn promise to every New Yorker, regardless of where they were born, where they live, or what they look like. Those values aren’t at odds with keeping New Yorkers safe — they are essential to long-term public safety.” Mr. de Blasio spoke movingly of the toll that the program has taken on the social fabric and on minority youth, many of them deeply alienated by tactics that have presumed them criminal until proved otherwise.

The city can now set about taking the corrective steps that Judge Scheindlin ordered. She has selected Peter Zimroth, a respected lawyer and former prosecutor, to serve as a monitor. His responsibilities will include developing new reforms governing Police Department policies and training and discipline on stop-and-frisk. These measures should help to bring police policies fully in line with the Constitution.

So I…pull over to the side of the road, I heard
“Son do you know why I’m stoppin’ you for?”
Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hats real low,
Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don’t know,
Am I under arrest or should I guess some mo’?
“Well you was doin’ fifty-five in a fifty-four.
License and registration and step out of the car
Are you carryin’ a weapon on you I know a lot of you are.”

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Behavioral profiles that rely on an individual’s conduct are far more
accurate than profiles that depend on an individual’s race. When officers take
race into account to develop a criminal profile, they rely on stereotypes about
criminal tendencies of minority groups, rather than objective and rational criteria
for suspicion.

This use of racial stereotypes to detect criminality violates
multiple amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Despite the fact that many strong
arguments against the practice of racial profiling may be derived from the
Constitution, the legal system in the United States has utterly failed to effectively
address the problem of racial profiling. Thus, the legal system perpetuates a
class structure in which society may continue to socially oppress African
Americans
by portraying them as possessing uncontrollable and innate urges
toward criminality. Racial profiling is a denial of equal treatment as well as a
reflection of the historical stigmatization of all African Americans.

The specific analysis of New York’s racial profiling problems detailed above illustrates the
manner in which society ignores the role of this historic stigmatization when
examining racial profiling.

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Many who speak out against the practice of racial profiling link its existence to slavery in this nation. Courts have consistently failed to acknowledge the connection between demonizing African Americans, as a means
of justifying the institution of slavery, and racial profiling practices used by police in contemporary American society. Historical presumptions that developed to maintain the slavery system continue to remain; these presumptions base themselves on the assertion that African Americans are habitual criminals that should be under constant suspicion.

The stigma of criminality attached to African Americans by white society was developed as a means of social control over the enslaved and later emancipated African Americans. By creating an image of blacks that portrays them as prone to irrepressible violence, white society effected the perception of slaves as subhuman. This perception reinforced the belief that the institution of slavery was needed to restrain African Americans. By placing whites in
constant fear of blacks, white citizens would be more willing to accept black subordination to ensure white safety. Abolition of the slavery system proved ineffective in negating centuries of historical, legal, and cultural stripping of African Americans’ humanity. Racial profiling of African Americans has always been and remains to be a part of the nation’s social and legal fabric.

How many Martyr’s are required to just Live?

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‘This Is Going to Ruin My Entire Life’: 18-Year-Old Aspiring Firefighter Charged With Felony for Pocket Knife

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Some of the most important decisions we face in life involve ethical or moral questions. As individuals, we all face life-shaping ethical choices such as: What kind of person do I want to be? What values should I live by? How should I treat others? and What should my priorities in life be? As a society, we also confront fundamental and inescapable moral choices: When, if ever, is war morally justifiable? Should the death penalty be legal? Should all citizens have the same basic rights? When is it legitimate for government to restrict individual liberty? What is a just society?

Law also raises issues of fundamental importance: Does the U.S. Constitution guarantee a right to abortion? Does the death penalty violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishments”? Should preferential treatment in employment and university admissions decisions be legal? Do bans on gay marriage violate the Constitution’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws”? Does the CIA’s rough handling (some would say torture) of suspected terrorists constitute a “war crime” under international law?

Because law and morality play such crucial roles in human affairs, it’s important to be able to think critically about them. A branch of philosophy that seeks to clarify moral concepts and answer questions about what is right or wrong, or morally good or bad. Our main focus will be on moral arguments. A moral argument is an argument that includes at least one moral statement. A moral statement is a claim that asserts that something is good or bad, right or wrong, or has some other ethical quality (e.g., being just, admirable, or blameworthy). Moral statements are normative statements, that is, statements that claim that something has or lacks a certain value, or should or should not be done. Not all normative statements are moral statements. If I say, for example, that Paris is a more beautiful city than London, I am not saying anything about the comparative moral qualities of the two cities.

If I say that it’s a shame that the law has propelled to a level that makes “martyrs” of its citizens that is a moral statement and that is what I feel is happening in our society in reference to the laws that are making all our youths become in jeopardy of living a quality life.

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Eighteen year-old Jordan Wiser is training to be a firefighter. He’s a certified emergency vehicle operator who works as a first responder when he’s not attending high school. And, after just spending 13 days in jail, he’s now facing felony charges for weapons possession.

The weapon? A pocketknife. It was in his EMT vest, and he uses it to cut through seatbelts when he’s practicing saving lives.

How did this happen? According to The Huffington Post, administrators at Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus in Jefferson, Ohio, where Wiser is enrolled, approached the student after someone informed them about videos Wiser had uploaded to YouTube. The videos include reviews of video games and merchandise, demonstrations on home-defense tactics, and an interview with a local police officer. Officials searched Wiser’s car in the school parking lot and found an assortment of items, including a pocketknife, a stun gun, and two Airsoft pellet guns. Wiser said the Airsoft guns were in his trunk because he planned to participate in the sport after school. The stun gun was locked in his glove compartment for self-defense. The pocketknife was inside his EMT medical vest.

For the possession of the pocketknife alone, police arrested and jailed Wiser for 13 days for conveying a weapon onto school grounds—a felony under Ohio law.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time anyone has written about teenagers victimized by weapons ordinances. Last year, Cobb County, Georgia police arrested and charged 17-year-old Cody Chitwood with a felony for bringing weapons into a school zone. The weapons were fishing knives, and they were in his truck, in a tackle box.

At first glance, such weapons ordinances sound sensible. But the criminal law contains the harshest punishments the state metes out, and it should be applied in a proportionate manner. Simply put, it’s absurd to ruin a kid’s life over a pocketknife that he uses to save lives.

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Perhaps additional facts will come to light. But, as it stands, this incident looks like a shameful exercise of prosecutorial discretion—something of which residents of Ashtabula County should take note come November, when the county’s prosecutor, Nicholas Iarocci, is up for re-election. Unless Iarocci’s office is saving some damning revelation for Wiser’s trial, the charges against this young man are unjustified, and should be dropped before they cause him any more suffering.

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The results of any person getting a felony today are equal to becoming a martyr of a new sought designed by the corrupt politicians and socialist of America. From California to New York, Texas to Michigan, a record number of convicted criminals are either being released from cells or serving time in community-based programs as states, under pressure to cut costs, adopt new philosophies on how to handle nonviolent offenders and many inmates incarcerated in the 1970s and ’80s near the end of their terms. In some cases, lawsuits designed to reduce overcrowding are forcing authorities to open prison doors as well.

These days roughly 700,000 ex-cons are hitting US streets each year – a new high, according to Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based advocacy group. While the vast majority of the inmates are nonviolent, some, like Corralez, served sentences for serious crimes and are now winning parole in higher numbers.

The result is an unprecedented test – of authorities’ ability to monitor the newly released prisoners, of social service groups’ capacity to help them forge new lives, of the inmates’ willingness to start over, of communities’ tolerance to let them do so.

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Jason Corralez donned a freshly pressed collared shirt. He had shaved neatly around his salt-and-pepper goatee. He looked like a man about to go on a job interview, which he was. It was a job he desperately wanted, but one question gnawed at him: Would they be willing to hire a convicted murderer?

Mr. Corralez had one advantage as he applied for the position at Trader Joe’s in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. Both his brother-in-law and nephew worked at the grocery store. But as his wife drove him to the interview, Corralez was worried about that question on the application that asked if he had ever been convicted of a felony. He had written: “Will discuss during interview.”

When he arrived at the store, the manager queried him about his résumé. Corralez went through his work experience, which all happened to be from his time in prison, where he had been since he was 17: upholstery work, yard maintenance, small engine repair, clerical tasks. “I explained my job experience,” he says. “All the courses I took – anger management, morals and values.”

Corralez didn’t leave out why he went to prison, either. “I’m an ex-felon for the offense of second-degree murder,” he told the manager. A former member of The Mob Crew, an East Los Angeles gang, he served 24 years for killing a member of the rival MS-13 gang in a drive-by shooting. “This is the person I was,” he said, “and this is the person I am now.”

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According to Corralez, the manager stepped back, stunned. “Thank you for being honest,” Corralez recalls him saying. As the ex-prisoner walked to the bus stop, he knew what it meant. “I took everything that I had accomplished, everything that I had to do to get a second chance,” he says. “But I could see it in his reaction. It was like the nail in the coffin.”

Corralez’s struggle to transition from prisoner to free member of society is one that thousands of inmates across the country are going through as states trim their prison populations on a scale unseen in American history.

God’s Way or Man’s Way: Comments That Will Shock Today’s Young Women

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President Obama presents Presidential Medals of Freedom

President Barack Obama and feminist Gloria Steinem before Steinem received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Liberal feminist icon Gloria Steinem turns 80 today. She once said that “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”

Yet for all her talk about equality and rights, one right she worked diligently to deny millions of both sexes was the right to be born and celebrate birthdays of their own. Once again, in her view, a “woman’s right” trumped the rights of another—in this case, an unborn child.

The fact the Supreme Court is hearing a case today about employers being forced to include abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans—even if it violates an employer’s conscience—is in many respects a testament to the work of Steinem and others. It’s a good example of how the “equal rights” she championed result in stepping on the rights of others.

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The liberal sisterhood railed against a society they said encouraged women to stay at home and raise children. They demanded the marketplace open up more opportunities for women and pay them the same as men. Fine. But what about women who choose differently?

Today’s young women are empowered to choose career, family, and all sorts of combinations of both. But the words of Steinem and other liberal feminists revealed what they believed about American women…

Steinem: “[Housewives] are dependent creatures who are still children…parasites.”

Simone DE Beauvoir: “No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”

Betty Friedan: “[Housewives] are mindless and thing-hungry…not people. [Housework] is peculiarly suited to the capacities of feeble-minded girls. [It] arrests their development at an infantile level, short of personal identity with an inevitably weak core of self…. [Housewives] are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps. [The] conditions which destroyed the human identity of so many prisoners were not the torture and brutality, but conditions similar to those which destroy the identity of the American housewife.”

Steinem has never been a fan of women who didn’t think like her or buy in to her radical feminist political agenda. “Having someone who looks like us but thinks like them (meaning men) is worse than having no one at all.”
So much for tolerance—and the belief that women are individuals who should be free to think and make choices for themselves.

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The administration says a victory for the companies would prevent women who work for them from making decisions about birth control based on what’s best for their health, not whether they can afford it. The government’s supporters point to research showing that nearly one-third of women would change their contraceptive if cost were not an issue; a very effective means of birth control, the intrauterine device, can cost up to $1,000.

“Women already have an income gap. If these companies prevail, they’ll have a health insurance gap, too,” said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center.

Keep Hope Alive In-spite of Uncertainty and Frothy Emotional appeal

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Today is a beautiful day because I am fighting the good fight of faith. I am alive and my purpose is to serve God and love mankind no matter how many times life shows up in its various colors I am to stand with the resolve to press onward. I completed a thirteen month house arrest sentence that almost paralyzed my being in September of 2013, only to find out that my fight wasn’t over. Coupled with living arrangement struggles, financially devastated, and labeled with the scarlet letter “F” (Felon) the penal system came after me once again with a hefty offer of 24 years if I took this debacle to trial, but God and prayer changed those twenty four years to His sovereign will being perfected in my life to 100 more days of house arrest and the financial cloud of doom to pay for this is even more heavy to my soul than serving the sentence.

Hit with the death of two major men of God in my life of restoration and the untimely news of an aligning dad whom I haven’t been able to see in 10 years, the daunting task of everyday limited routines due to the now meager resources and mere existence of purpose I fight the looming depression of uncertainty by self talking and determination of will to believe what I can’t see as truth rather than what I do see as defeat.

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Dealing with change or loss is an inevitable part of life. At some point, everyone experiences varying degrees of setbacks. Some of these challenges might be relatively minor (not getting into a class you really wanted to take), while others are disastrous on a much larger scale (hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks). How we deal with these problems can play a major role in not only the outcome, but also the long-term psychological consequences.

Romans 5:3-5
New International Version (NIV)
3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

On a consumer flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston in the summer of 1987, the pilot heard an unusual noise near the rear of the aircraft. Henry Dempsey turned the controls over to his copilot and went back to check it out. As he reached the tail section, the plane hit an air pocket, and Dempsey was tossed against the rear door. He quickly discovered the source of the mysterious noise. The rear door had not been properly latched prior to takeoff and it fell open. Dempsey was instantly sucked out of the jet.

The copilot, seeing the red light on the control panel that indicated an open door, radioed the nearest airport requesting permission to make an emergency landing. He reported that Dempsey had fallen out of the plane and requested that a helicopter be dispatched to search the area of the ocean.

After the plane had landed, the ground crew found Henry Dempsey holding onto the outdoor ladder of the aircraft. Somehow, he had caught the ladder and managed to hold on for 10 minutes as the plane flew 200mph at an altitude of 4,000 feet. What is more, as the plane made its approach and landed, Dempsey had kept his head from hitting the runway, a mere 12 inches away. According to news reports, it took several airport personnel more than a few minutes to pry the pilot’s fingers from the ladder.

That is a picture of endurance – the ability to hang on when it would have been easier to let go. Many people are blessed with certain attributes, but endurance jumps to the forefront for success in any endeavor. Endurance is the key that keeps us from giving up and letting go.

Endurance “the power of going on in spite of difficulties.” Popular colloquial phrases describe it as: “Keep on keeping on.” “Hang in there.” “Put up with it.” “Stick-to-itiveness.” “Don’t quit.” Its synonyms are determination, perseverance, tenacity, plodding, stamina, and backbone. When endurance is used in the Bible it means “to abide under,” “to bear up courageously,” and “to tarry or wait.”

Henry Dempsey would just say it is holding on for dear life.

The Bible considers endurance a priority. Paul expressed its importance in character development, “And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5). The writer of Hebrews also knew that perseverance was mandatory in the pursuit of character. “For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised” (Heb. 10:36).

The following practical secrets will enable you to develop perseverance.

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I. Accept the unchangeable
Accept those things in life that cannot be changed. William Barclay described endurance as “the courageous acceptance of everything life can do to us and the transmitting of even the worst event into another step on the upward way.” Let’s face it, some events and circumstances are inevitable. Sometimes life is not fair. Injustices creep into every one’s arena. Sometimes, in one way or another, we fall out of unlocked airplane doors.

It helps to remember that God is in charge of our lives. His desire is for us to grow in the likeness of his Son. So whatever enters our life – unfavorable circumstances, tragic events, or irritating people – is for the development of character. Be it good, bad, or indifferent our response to life’s irritants forms our character.

The oyster and its pearl provide a beautiful picture of a positive response to life’s irritants. The pearl is a product of pain. An alien substance – a grain of sand – slips inside the oyster’s shell. On the entry of that foreign irritant, all the resources within the tiny, sensitive oyster rush to the spot and begin to release healing fluids that otherwise would have remained dormant. Eventually the irritant is covered and the wound healed by a pearl. No other gem has so fascinating a history. It is the symbol of stress. The precious, tiny jewel is conceived through irritation, born of adversity. Had there been no wounding, no irritating interruption, there could have been no pearl.

J. B. Phillips understood this as he paraphrased James 1:2-4: “When all kinds of trials crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they have come to test your endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men (and women) of mature character.”

II. Adjust to the obstacles
A young naval captain was commanding his first battleship. As it pierced through the ocean one night, a light was spotted in the darkened distance coming directly toward the ship.

The commander radioed, “Alter your course ten degrees.”

The reply came shortly, “No, you alter your course ten degrees.”

The undaunted captain angrily sent a message, “Alter your course, I am a destroyer.”

The reply came quickly, “Alter your course, I am a lighthouse.”

Sometimes we have to adjust our way to fit the realities of life. Solomon wrote, “A sensible person sees danger and takes cover, but the inexperienced keep going and are punished” (Prov. 22:3). Some circumstances are unavoidable. Disappointments are certain. Obstacles are sure. Losses will occur. The person with perseverance acknowledges the road blocks and makes adjustments. Thomas Carlyle noted, “The block of granite that was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping stone in the pathway of the strong.” When the obstacles of life are stacked before us we can adjust by going around, climbing over, or tunneling under.

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Are you allowing intrusions to distort and disfigure your life? Are their circumstances or people in your life that you have been trying to change? Why not transform these obstacles into growth blocks by learning to adjust?

When we adjust to the detours of life God reveals some of his marvelous handiwork off the beaten trail. Don’t think of adjustment as failure, think of it as an education. Hang on, see what God has in store for you around the next bend in the road.

III. Abide with patience
Someone once said, “You can do anything if you have patience. You can carry water in a sieve – if you wait until it freezes.” Unfortunately, most of us aren’t that patient. When we need it, we usually pray, “Lord, give me patience . . . and I want it now.” Or, as Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, said more eloquently, “I am extraordinarily patient provided I get my own way in the end.”

But one can’t learn patience by listing to a sermon unless the sermon is so long they have to practice it while they listen. Nor can they learn patience by reading a book unless the book is so boring that they have to muster up patience to finish it. The only way to learn patience is by facing this hurly-burly world, taking life as it comes. It is holding on, gritting your teeth, clinching your jaw, riding out the storm.

And that is not easy. Joyce Landorf writes, “God’s waiting room is the most difficult aspect of the Christian experience.”

In the Greek language, the term for patience is often translated “long-suffering.” It’s a compound word. The first part means “long or far.” The second part means “hot, anger, or wrath.” Putting it together we literally have “long-anger.” We have an English expression “short-tempered.” We would not miss the meaning very far if we called patience “long-tempered.” Patience is that ability that keeps us from blowing up when events don’t go our way or losing our cool when others upset us.

Believers are exhorted to display patience. James wrote, “Therefore, brothers, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:7-8). James shows how the farmer demonstrates patience. A farmer cannot make it rain or give growth. He must rely on God to act in the most wise and merciful way.

The secret of patience is abiding. We must learn to rest and endure under the load of pain and suffering. We abide under the load of pain and suffering by abiding with a God who is faithful. We must not only learn to abide in Christ but also abide with Christ under the struggles and the pressures in life.

IV. Affirm the presence
As we progress toward a life that resembles Jesus Christ we must always remember that God is with us. Sometimes God is like a teacher instructing us with the construction. Sometimes God is a fellow-worker challenging us to excellence. Sometimes God is a spectator encouraging us to keep on keeping on. Whatever situation we find ourselves, God is always with us.

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I recall the long and grueling basketball practices in high school. The gym was not air-conditioned. We would run forever, it seemed. My legs would throb, my side hurt with a splitting pain, and my chest pounded like it was about to pop out. I wanted to quit. But then something wonderful happened. My body would provide a miraculous gracious replenishing of energy, known as a second wind.

As we run toward a distinctive life of character we will experience a similar feeling. Getting started possesses no problem. We get bogged down as the race continues. A time comes when our personal resources are exhausted. Yet as we endure, God seems to give us a spiritual second wind.

Isaiah described this miracle: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV)

The secret is found in affirming God’s presence. The world says give up, drop out, run away. God says to just trust me, lean on me, and fall into my arms. God is with you to support and sustain you. To give you hope, courage, and strength to continue. He has promised, “‘My presence will go [with you], and I will give you rest'” (Ex. 33:14).

Ignance Paderewski, Poland’s famous concert pianist and prime minister, was giving a series of concerts. A mother, wishing to encourage her young son’s progress at the piano, bought tickets for a performance. When the night arrived, they found their seats near the front of the concert hall and eyed the majestic Steinway waiting on stage. The mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy eventually made his way through a door marked, “No Admittance.” When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.

Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” His mother gasped, but before she could retrieve her son, the great piano master appeared on the stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. He whispered to the boy, “Don’t quit – keep playing.” Leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon, his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and young novice held the crowd mesmerized.

In our quest for contagious character, unpolished and incomplete though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and again, “Don’t quit – keep playing.” And as we do, he augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best but the results aren’t exactly graceful flowing music. But with the hand of the Master, our character can truly be beautiful. Our responsibility is to not quit, to keeping playing; his part is to fashion a masterpiece.

Remember God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. And, he’ll always be there to love and to guide you to great things.

Conclusion
Are you close to quitting? Please don’t do it.

Are you tired of trying to live for Christ? Hang in there.

Do you feel like giving up on the Christian life? Roll up your sleeves and get back in there.

Can’t resist temptation? Accept God’s forgiveness and keep on living rightly.

Do you feel that sorrow and disappointment greet your every morning? Hold on. Help is just around the corner.

Endurance prevails. “Blessed is a man who endures trials, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him” (Jas. 1:12 NIV). Remember you are not a failure until you give up. You are not a flop until you let go.

So don’t quit. Never give up. Keep going. Hold on. God’s rewards await us in the distant future not near the beginning; and we don’t know how many steps it will take to reach the prize. No breaks or time outs exist; we must work every day of our life. It has been said, “Life is like reading a book. It begins to make sense when we near the end.” Endurance maintains the stamina needed to see the end and embrace the prize. So fight another round, rise another time, and, above all, like Henry Dempsey, don’t let go.

The Game of Life

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Romans 12:2
The Message (MSG)
Place Your Life Before God

12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

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Life is a game just like all of the other games. The only difference is that life is the only game that we don’t realize is a game. Each of us has made up, largely unconsciously, a set of rules (our values)–based on our worldview and our beliefs–and we think our rules are right and inherently true. And everyone else’s is wrong. Well, sorry to break the bad news to you but, our rules aren’t right and theirs aren’t wrong.

I’m not suggesting that we do anything different than what we are already doing, all I’m suggesting is that we acknowledge that what we think is real, is actually a game. We made up the rules and now we can play the “game of life” full out; we can be happy when we “win” and dissatisfied when we “lose.” But realize it is only because we said so> And here’s the bottom line; It is always possible to remember that we made up the rules, even if they were made up unconsciously and adopted largely by osmosis form our culture and our parents. And when we do that, we can also remember that events have no inherent meaning, at which point the pain and suffering result from”losing at the game of life” can be dissolved on the spot.

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All of us have a story. Many of the chapters have already been written by choices that we have made, situations that we have encountered and by people that we have met. Our story is filled with challenges that attempt to stretch us to our limit; pressures that pull the energy right out of our soul. We grope around looking for direction and at times the only voice we hear is the negative voice calling us back into our painful past.

So we have to make a decision. Do we risk going into a future filled with more uncertainty or do we retreat into the painful past just because it’s familiar?

The Old Testament contains a story of a group of people who were oppressed, mistreated, and demoralized. At one point in their lives they were enjoying peace and success, but circumstances changes and they found themselves enslaved to a foreign government. Their days were filled with hard labor and unrealistic expectations. In their despair, they cried out to God for help.

God heard their cry and sent a deliverer. His name was Moses. Through a series of miraculous events, Moses led this group of slaves out of Egypt. They were headed to a new land filled with new opportunity, but something happened in the process. Their road to success took an unexpected turn.

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Exodus 14:8-16
The Message (MSG)
8-9 God made Pharaoh king of Egypt stubborn, determined to chase the Israelites as they walked out on him without even looking back. The Egyptians gave chase and caught up with them where they had made camp by the sea—all Pharaoh’s horse-drawn chariots and their riders, all his foot soldiers there at Pi Hahiroth opposite Baal Zephon.

10-12 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and saw them—Egyptians! Coming at them!

They were totally afraid. They cried out in terror to God. They told Moses, “Weren’t the cemeteries large enough in Egypt so that you had to take us out here in the wilderness to die? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Back in Egypt didn’t we tell you this would happen? Didn’t we tell you, ‘Leave us alone here in Egypt—we’re better off as slaves in Egypt than as corpses in the wilderness.’”

13 Moses spoke to the people: “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians today for you’re never going to see them again.

14 God will fight the battle for you.
And you? You keep your mouths shut!”
15-16 God said to Moses: “Why cry out to me? Speak to the Israelites. Order them to get moving. Hold your staff high and stretch your hand out over the sea: Split the sea! The Israelites will walk through the sea on dry ground.

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Hidden Agendas

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Everybody has an agenda.

Study over this text. There were many people crowded into the house at Capernaum. Everyone in the house had their own agenda for being there. The purpose of this message is to ask this question: Is your agenda, God’s agenda? That is, are you and God operating on the same page?

Satan had an agenda:
His agenda would have been to keep Jesus boxed inside the house, and also, to keep those who really needed to come to Christ outside of the house!

The multitude had an agenda:
They wanted to see some wondrous sign or miracle. Many people come to Church only to see a sacred ceremony or a magnificent performance. How disappointed some of the people in our text must have been when Jesus simply sat down, and preached the “Word” unto them?

The Pharisees had an agenda:
They had come to be seen of men. They wanted the crowd to see them with the leading prophet of the day. No doubt they had also come to show to others that they were wiser than Christ.

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The four friends had an agenda:
Whenever we take up prayer request at the Church, there is always a long list of concerns regarding those who are sick. These four men were desperate in trying to bring their friend to Christ for a physical healing.

Peter had an agenda:
Some regard the Gospel of Mark as the Gospel of Peter. It is thought that John Mark had received much of his information from the apostle Peter. The house referred to here in this text, was assumed by many to be the home where Peter lived. Now, perhaps you can understand why Mark included the description of the roof of the house as to being “broken up!” Peter had agenda, “Who is going to repair my roof?”

Many of the people who attend church more concerned about the appearance of the church building than they are concerned about the people who attend the church. If you are going to use your church building for the cause of Christ, no doubt, your church building will get broken up a bit in the process!

Jesus had an agenda:
When the paralytic man was lowered through the roof by the four friends, Christ looked up and said, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” That was the agenda of Christ!

Sin is the root core of all our troubles. Christ had come to remove the curse of sin. Rather than sending the Pharisees away, or the people away, or the sick man away, or the roof breaker uppers away, Christ’s agenda was to send “sin” away!

When our agenda becomes God’s agenda, good things will happen! Note that the man was healed and the people saw their sign and wonder. When we get on the same page with God, good things do happen!

With all of my heart I want to see the blessings of God upon our Church, but if God is going to bless us, we must link up with God’s agenda, “To seek and to save that which is lost.” God’s business is in the soul saving business. May God’s Hidden Agenda not be so hidden within our Church!

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“Aha! De Forest Worthless Glass Tube

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Mark 15:29-30 (The Message)

29 People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament: “You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days – 30 so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross!”

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Contemplation is a deterrent sometimes to forward progress. Listening to our speculative natures based off others input can stifle our purposes for life or our dreams. I am asking this question to night, Am I pursuing the dreams God has given to me?

Years ago`in a federal court room in New York, a sarcastic district attorney presented to a jury a glass gadget which looked something like a small electric bulb. With great scorn and ridicule, the attorney accused the defendant of claiming that this “worthless device” might be used to transmit the human voice across the Atlantic! He alleged that gullible investors had been persuaded by preposterous claims to buy stock in the company–an obvious act of fraud.

He urged the jury to give the defendant and his two partners stiff prison terms. Ultimately, the two associates were convicted, but the defendant was given his freedom after he received a severe scolding from the judge. The defendant was inventor Lee De Forest.download (2) The “worthless glass bulb” that was also on trial was the audion tube he had developed–perhaps the single greatest invention of the twentieth century. It was the foundation for what has become a multi-billion-dollar electronic industry.

No matter how harsh the criticism or how stinging the sarcasm aimed at your original ideas, pursue them further. Take them to their logical end, either convincing yourself that you were wrong, or creating something new and beneficial!! The examples of Jesus are so powerful, we have His word to reflect on as a model of how to move in Him. Jesus picked disciples and educated them on how to move in the spirit with focus on performing evangelism and the Fathers will for their life in-spite of the ridicule of those tried to save. You will be talked about in the church, you will be mistreated by those you worship with, you will have inspirations and ideas that will not be accepted, you won’t always be used as you feel you should, you will not be encouraged or respected as worthy to be in alignment with certain clicks with your church due to caste status or education, but you will be exalted by Christ in due time.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us, say Amen!!!!!

Evil is Always Present

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“We were heartbroken to learn today that funds were stolen from the church over the weekend,” the church said. “This includes cash, checks and envelopes containing written credit card information, and it is limited only to those funds contributed in the church services on Saturday, March 8 and Sunday, March 9, 2014.”

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We are in warfare, whether we are aware of it or not.
Bible says we have an adversary – 1 Pet. 5:8.
The Devil has never been and would never be our friend or ally.
He will do everything to make our worship/service of God uncomfortable and unbearable – 2 Cor. 4 &11(Apostle Paul went through a lot).
Many believers cave in under the pressures designed by the enemy to destroy them.

We have been statistically well informed that we cannot win because of;
Our past failures and sins.
Our circumstances which are seemingly impossible.
Our perception of the unpleasant and unfavorable circumstances we face.
Due to our sins – Heb.4:15; 2 Cor. 5:21.
Due to our insensitivity to the Holy Spirit – Lk. 4:1.
Due to being outside the will of God – Lk. 22:42.

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Due to lack of faith – Jam. 1:2.
Due to our limited resources – Jn. 6:9 (The little lad’s lunch); 2 Cor. 3:5.

These statistics raise our level of doubt and unbelief – Heb. 3:17-19; 4:11.
And it is impossible to please God without faith – Heb. 11:6.

To overcome in life, a different mindset is needed – Rom. 12:1-3; Prov. 23:7.
How do you view yourself and the circumstances you face – Jn. 16:33; 1 Pet. 4:12
What is your perception?
What do you see? What you “see” is what you “seal”.

I specialize in teaching perception – Prov. 4:7; Jer. 1:4.
Every subject that I teach has a perception slant to it.
Perception = Understanding => getting it, seeing it, appreciating it.
My passion is to help people “get it”, to help them “see it” by Faith.
The essence of wisdom is to give you proper perception.

Faith is a perception.
All things are not possible, naturally – Ecc. 3:1 (There is a time for everything).
Your perception changes your possibilities.
It will not snow in the Sahara Desert naturally but it did on Sun February 18, 1979.

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To Overcome, you must see or perceive yourself in the following light;
1. I am an over-comer – 1 Jn. 5:4; 2 Cor. 2:14; 1 Cor. 15:57-58; Rom. 8:37.
The concept “over-comer” speaks of having done, not going to do.

2. I was designed to reign and rule – Rom. 5:17.
I’ve been anointed to dominate – 2 Cor. 1:20.
Jesus moved and talked as the anointed one – He spoke with authority – Lk. 4:18.

3. I’m born of love and it never fails – 1 Cor. 13:8.
Love paralyses all the powers of darkness – 1 Jn. 4:18.

4. No test/trial/temptation/examination can overcome me – 1 Cor. 10:13; Ps. 34:19; Jm. 1:2-4.
They are common – moderate (there are no severe temptations) – 1 Pet. 4:12.
God will never allow me to face a test that I cannot overcome.
I can function well, irrespective of the test / pressures I am facing or under – (I can bear up under it).
I don’t have to feel sorry for myself, and I don’t need anyone to feel sorry for me.
No weapon fashioned against me shall prosper – Is. 54:17; Ps. 125:3; Num. 23:23.

5. God’s power is able to put me over – Is. 40:1-5; 41:10, 43:1-3,19; Joel 2:24.
His power gives me victory over the enemy.
He is able to keep me from falling – Jude 1:24.

6. I am programmed to win – 1 Jn. 2:20 & 27, 5:14; Rom. 5:17.
I am a stranger to failure.
I have the nature of God – Eph. 2:10; 4:23

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7. I am part of the Body of Christ – 1 Cor. 10:14-16; Eph. 1:16.
I am the temple of God / Jesus’ body is God’s temple God will never allow His temple/Jesus’ body to be defiled – 1 Cor. 3:16-17.
I am not alone; other believers are on my side – 1 Cor. 12:12-14, 26-27.
No believer is my enemy, no matter what they say or do – Rom. 12:3-5; Eph. 4:25.

Your Perception is Colored by your Words – Jer. 1:4-12; Matt. 6:31.
You must see to perceive – Mk. 4:11-12.
What you say, you see because words paint pictures.
Speak words of faith.
Say what God says about you.
Declare who you are in Christ, what you have in Christ and what you can do in Christ

Your Home Is A Little Church

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Children who are living in an environment where Family Violence is occurring are also at a high risk to experience violence and/or abuse either directly or indirectly. Witnessing or experiencing Family Violence has an extreme negative impact on children that can result in emotional and psychological trauma.

Children exposed to Family Violence can develop behavioral difficulties, for example:

Low self-esteem
Increased levels of anxiety
Repressed feelings of fear, anger, guilt and confusion
Regression
Clinginess
Aggression/temper tantrums
Sleeping problems, such as nightmares, difficulties falling asleep etc.
Fear of being touched or close to someone
Lack of trust
Fear of making mistakes
Restlessness
Suicidal thoughts
Inability to form stable relationships
Eating problems, such as increased or decreased appetite
Stress-related physical symptoms, such as bed wetting, headaches, stomach aches etc.
Poor school performance
Difficulties to concentrate
Decreased cognitive abilities
Lack of social competence
Self-harming tendencies, such as hair pulling, nail biting, etc.
Alcohol and drug abuse
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Children often feel responsible for the violence and do not understand that it is a problem between adults. They might feel that parents are fighting because their school performance, fighting with siblings etc. The egocentric view of being the center of the world increases this view and their fear of being the cause for the violence and abuse.

In particular older children feel the need of protecting the ones that are being hurt, such as the victim of abuse and/or younger siblings. This might bring the child in dangerous situation with an increasing chance of getting hurt directly.
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2 Timothy 3:1-8
English Standard Version (ESV)
Godlessness in the Last Days

3 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.

The Bible condemns spouse abuse by demanding a lifestyle of love and compassion, which rules out the violence in the home. Whether abuse is mental, physical, or verbal, abuse does not fit with the Christian lifestyle. No member of the home has a right to hurt other family members.

Paul tells husbands, ‘Love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it … So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church’ (Ephesians 5:25, Ephesians 5:28-29). If a husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church, he will not consider abusing his wife. Christ gave Himself for the church, and loves and nourishes it. As they follow His example, husbands will love and nourish their wives.

Abuse denies love and diminishes the wife. As Adam received Eve, his wife, God said, ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). A man who abuses his wife acts as if he hates his own flesh, because he and his wife share this ‘one flesh’ relationship.

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Paul wrote, ‘Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing’ (Ephesians 5:22-24). Some men have, unfortunately, taken their position as head of the household as license to abuse wives and children. Submission does not give permission for abuse.

In the verse preceding his admonition to wives to ‘submit yourselves unto your own husbands,’ Paul wrote of ‘submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God’ (Ephesians 5:21). Neither the husband nor the wife is to ‘lord’ authority over the other, but both are to mutually submit to one another in love. Submission does not allow or condone abuse, or protect an abuser from the consequences of his actions.

Peter amplifies the proper view of submission. ‘Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear’ (1 Peter 3:1-2). He adds that the Christian woman who adorns herself with a meek (strength under control) and quiet spirit may win her non-Christian husband (1 Peter 3:3-6). ‘Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered’ (1 Peter 3:7). The godly husband who properly honors his wife will dwell with her in peace and love, and would never consider hurting her. The church must help families learn to live in love and peace, without violence.

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There Is A Message; Do You Care?

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Oppression typically operates as a system. This means that there are multiple forces taking away someone’s power based on a part of their identity (their sex, sexual orientation, skin color, etc). All of these forces work together to marginalize, subordinate, dehumanize, or otherwise devalue groups of people.

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Nas & Damian Marley – Patience Lyrics

Here we are
Here we are
Yeah
This one right here is for the people

[Hook] x2
Sabali, sabali, sabali yonkote
Sabali, sabali, sabali kiye
Ni kêra môgô

[Verse 1: Damian Marley]
Some of the smartest dummies
Can’t read the language of Egyptian mummies
An’ a flag on a moon
And can’t find food for the starving tummies
Pay no mind to the youths
Cause it’s not like the future depends on it
But save the animals in the zoo
Cause the chimpanzee dem a make big money
This is how the media pillages
On the TV the picture is
Savages in villages
And the scientist still can’t explain the pyramids, huh
Evangelists making a living on the videos of ribs of the little kids
Stereotyping the image of the images
And this is what the image is
You buy a khaki pants
And all of a sudden you say a Indiana Jones
An’ a thief out gold and thief out the scrolls and even the buried bones
Some of the worst paparazzis I’ve ever seen and I ever known
Put the worst on display so the world can see
And that’s all they will ever show
So the ones in the West
Will never move East
And feel like they could be at home
Dem get tricked by the beast
But a where dem ago flee when the monster is fully grown?
Solomonic linage whe dem still can’t defeat and them coulda never clone
My spiritual DNA that print in my soul and I will forever Own Lord

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Major forces that make up a system of oppression are:
*Diminished legal rights/status of the oppressed group
*Negative attitudes and heightened violence toward the group
*Decreased social investment (money, resources) in the group
*Interpersonal prejudice
*Employment, educational, institutional discrimination/exclusion
*Oppressed group’s identity reduced to stereotypes
*Loss of power and freedom within the group
*Oppressed groups adopting destructive beliefs about their own group (internalized oppression)
*Perpetuation of the oppressor’s power
*Privileges afforded to the oppressor

Throughout most of the world, the most privileged groups are: light skin, male, heterosexual, transgender, conventionally attractive, Christian/Gentile, healthy/able bodied, wealthy/financially comfortable. These various groups have historically been, and currently are, some of the major groups that contribute to oppression. But, that doesn’t mean they have to be!

WHAT IS INTERNALIZED OPPRESSION?
When people are targeted, discriminated against, or oppressed over a period of time, they often internalize (believe and make part of their self-image – their internal view of themselves) the myths and misinformation that society communicates to them about their group. Exploited peasants might internalize the ideas that they can’t do any other kind of work, that their lives were meant to be as they are, and that they’re worth less than people with wealth or education. Women might internalize the stereotype that they are not good at math and science, or people of color might internalize the myth that they are not good workers,

When people from targeted groups internalize myths and misinformation, it can cause them to feel (often unconsciously) that in some way they are inherently not as worthy, capable, intelligent, beautiful, good, etc. as people outside their group. They turn the experience of oppression or discrimination inward. They begin to feel that the stereotypes and misinformation that society communicates are true and they act as if they were true. This is called internalized oppression.

Internalized oppression affects many groups of people: women, people of color, poor and working class people, people with disabilities, young people, elders, Jews, Catholics, immigrants, gays, and many other groups.

Not all members of groups that are discriminated against or oppressed necessarily turn stereotypes inward. Many remain proud of their heritage, or are able to take prominent places in the larger society through their exercise of effort, intelligence, talent, interpersonal skill, and self-respect. Many members of oppressed groups try to escape their situations by emigration or other means, and many succeed. Some rise up and overthrow their oppressors, although this can cause nearly as many problems as it solves.

Don’t assume that just because someone is a member of a group that has experienced bias, he is suffering from the results of internal oppression. Individuals are different, and have different experiences and backgrounds. If you assume internal oppression in all cases without getting to know the individual at least a little, you may, in trying to be helpful and empathetic, find that instead you’re being condescending or insulting.

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It is important to note that internalized oppression is not the fault of people whom it affects. No one should be blamed or blame themselves for having been affected by discrimination. Nevertheless, as community members, we have to face these barriers in order to achieve our goals.

While the stereotypes that people internalize are imposed by society, we all, whether we are members of the favored majority or the oppressed or unfairly treated minority, have a personal responsibility to confront those stereotypes. As members of the majority, we need to help and support those in the minority to see that their personal worth has nothing to do with society’s current or past prejudice. And as members of the minority, we have a responsibility to listen to those among us who challenge the majority view, and to analyze and challenge it ourselves. We may need support and guidance in doing so – that’s what Paulo Freire provided to those he worked with, and what he wrote about.

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There are two ways that internalized oppression functions:

Internalized oppression operates on an individual basis. A person believes that the stereotypes and misinformation that she hears are true about herself. She holds herself back from living life to her full potential or she acts in ways that reinforce the stereotypes and are ultimately self-defeating.

Internalized oppression occurs among members of the same cultural group. People in the same group believe (often unconsciously) the misinformation and stereotypes that society communicates about other members of their group. People turn the oppression on one another, instead of addressing larger problems in society. The results are that people treat one another in ways that are less than fully respectful. Often people from the same cultural group hurt, undermine, criticize, mistrust, fight with, or isolate themselves from one another.

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WHY DO COMMUNITY BUILDERS NEED TO UNDERSTAND INTERNALIZED OPPRESSION?

Understanding internalized oppression is invaluable for community builders. People simply can’t fight effectively for themselves when they believe the problem is their own fault or that something is inherently wrong with them. To empower communities to become more effective at fighting the battles for better health care, good education, a safe environment, and adequate jobs, community members have to learn how to overcome the discouragement, confusion, and divisions that are a result of internalized oppression.

A Clear View

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Matthew 5:1-12
The Message (MSG)
You’re Blessed

5 1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

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The Gran Telescopio Canarias, one of the world’s most powerful telescopes, sits atop an extinct volcano on La Palma, Canary Islands. Inaugurated in July 2009 by King Carlos of Spain, it offers astronomers an unusually clear view of the heavens. Located at 7,870 feet, the telescope is above the cloud cover, where the prevailing winds are dry and turbulence-free. Here, near the equator, scientist can study all of the Northern Celestial Hemisphere and part of the Southern.

Jesus chose a mountainside to teach His followers about the characteristics of a lifestyle yielded to God. There He taught them that attitude not altitude, was the key to having a clear view of the Father. Tucked into the passage known as the beatitudes, Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. This is not just for the few who try to achieve it, but for all who will humbly receive it. To have a heart that is clean in God’s eyes, we need to accept the Father’s pardon through Christ His Son. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse [purify] us from all unrighteousness”(1 John 1:9).

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A mountaintop is a great place to see the stars, but to clearly see God requires a change of heart.

Since by faith I have clear vision,
Your blest Word is rich and new;
Men with eyes by sin distorted
Cannot all its treasures view.

To get clear view of God, focus on Jesus Christ.

I can See A Cloud The Size Of My Hand

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As I watched this movie last night I was struck with innovative thoughts on how to become a philanthropist myself in-order to get Second Chance Alliance off the ground. Visualization is a technique used by winners in all walks of life. If you really want something to come to fruition, then you have to put your imaginative mind to work. See the result in front of you, play the game you are going to play in your mind or watch yourself accepting your success. The only limit is your own mind. I watched another video that showed the brand I desire for my dream and man what a experience of rejuvenation I experienced from “Home Boy” Industries.

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Nothing is going to improve when you feel lousy about yourself and your chances in life. A positive mindset will reset an erring period of bad luck. It will turn that half-empty glass into the half-full glass; the rainy day into the silver-lined cloud. Seize opportunities to change and move on. You’re about to create them!

Visualization is sort of like hypnosis: if you don’t think it’ll work, it won’t. Thinking positively is the first step to making sure this visualization is actually effective. It’s the first step to making these desires a part of real life. Visualization and faith are powerful ingredients. I was feeling bad that I can not seem to find anyone to buy into my dream to bring this sought of program to Riverside County, but I am connected to all the power one needs and that is The God of the universe.

My passion is the reason God woke me up this morning, and just the thought of it can keep you up late with excitement. But not everyone knows exactly what his passion is right away. Don’t worry — whether you’re looking for your passion to find a new career, or if you’re looking to get completely immersed in a new hobby or activity, there are a number of things you can do to find your passion. My past has fueled this passion and God has poured this same vision of hope for helping others into my spirit.

The prison looms today as a central feature of American society. Since 1976, we have been building on average one prison every week. More than two million Americans are now crammed into the nation’s still overcrowded jails and prisons. In fact, there are now about as many prisoners in America as there are farmers. Over half of those incarcerated are people of color. More than four million Americans, again mainly people of color, have been permanently disenfranchised because of felony convictions, many under laws enacted explicitly to prevent African-Americans from voting. (1) Studies have shown that this disenfranchisement has had a significant impact on the outcome of presidential and senate elections prior to 2000. (2) We need no detailed studies to show the direct impact of this disenfranchisement on the most recent national election. Prior to November 2000, one third of the African-American men in Florida were convicted as felons and then stripped of their right to vote, while thousands more were purged from the voting rolls as alleged felons by fiat of a corporation hired by Governor Jeb Bush. If only a small percentage of Florida’s 204,000 disenfranchised male African-American citizens (not to mention the other 200,000 disenfranchised ex-felons in Florida) had been allowed to vote in 2000, even the U.S. Supreme Court could not have installed George W. Bush as President of the United States.

As the prison has become ever more central to American society, oral and written literature created by American prisoners and ex-prisoners has become ever more vital to understanding its wider significance. One central theme unifies the entire body of American prison literature, a theme that emerged from African-American experience: Who are the real criminals? As Frederick Douglass wrote in 1845 about the law-abiding citizens of America: “I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery.” A hundred and twenty five years later, George Drumgold, writing from Comstock Prison, expressed a similar idea in this couplet:

They say we’re the criminals, a threat to society
But in truth they stole us, so how can that be?

But there’s a difference. Unlike Drumgold, Douglass did not have to be convicted of a crime to be enslaved.

Prior to the Civil War, African-American slavery was not legitimized or rationalized by any claim that the slaves were being punished for crimes. That was to come next. The necessary legal transformation was effected in 1865 by the very Amendment to the Constitution–Article 13–that abolished the old form of slavery:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States . . . .
Article 13 actually wrote slavery into the Constitution of the United States, but only for those people legally defined as criminals. So America now had to transform the freed slaves into criminals–by law and through culture.
Why? Because massive slave labor was needed for the plantations, coal mines, lumber camps, railroad and road construction, and prison factories, where during the Civil War white slaves produced equipment for the Union army.

The former slave states immediately devised legislation–the Black Codes–branding almost every former slave as a criminal. These laws specified that many vaguely defined acts–such as “mischief” and “insulting gestures”–were crimes, but only if committed by a “free negro.” Mississippi’s Vagrancy Act defined “all free negroes and mulattoes over the age of eighteen” as criminals unless they could furnish written proof of a job at the beginning of every year. (3) “Having no visible means of support” was a crime being committed by almost all the freed slaves. So was “loitering” (staying in the same place) and “vagrancy” (wandering).

Many of the new convicts were leased. The convict lease system had a big advantage for the enslavers: since they did not own the convicts, they lost nothing by working them to death. For example, the death rate among leased Alabama black convicts during just one year (1869) was 41 percent. (4) Much of the railroad system throughout the South was built by leased convicts, often packed in rolling iron cages moved from job to job, working in such hellish conditions that their life expectancy rarely exceeded two years. (5)

Besides leasing convicts, states expanded their own prison slavery. The infrastructure of many southern states was built and maintained by convicts. For example, aged African-American women convicts dug the campus of Georgia State College, and prisoners as young as twelve worked in chain gangs to maintain the streets of Atlanta. (6) Some states went into big business, selling products of convict labor. Hence the vast state prison plantations established in Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, where cotton picked by prisoners was manufactured into cloth by other prisoners in prison cotton mills. These plantations dwarfed the largest cotton plantations of the slave South in size, brutality–and profitability.

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The stigma associated with being an ex-felon in America is unlike anything a person can comprehend unless they walk in the shoes of ex-felons. People get ill everyday but they somehow recover and are able to seek opportunity and they are made whole. Ex-felons on the other hand suffer for a lifetime for decisions that they made in the spur of the moment. Some people understand the dynamics associated with persons who struggle daily to regain their respect and dignity in their communities because they were previously convicted of a felony. Then there are those who believe that once a person has been convicted of a felony they should be treated as felons and denied opportunities for the rest of their lives. We have programs in every state that offers assistance to ex-felons being released from prison, yet, every time ex-felons complete applications for employment, they are constantly reminded that some things never change.

In America ex-felons carry the stigma of being convicted for life. A conviction is like the metaphorical scarlet letter. When people see you they see your conviction because many folks in America will never let you forget that you committed a crime.

Today we are beginning to witness a paradigm shift in how ex-felons are treated. Unfortunately it is not because of the reasons that we would think. Ex-felons are treated different now because of the economy. Many states, counties and cities are receiving fewer funds for housing prisoners and have released prisoners who in times past they deemed posed threats to society. Decisions such as these makes rational people think about whether these people actually ever posed a threat to society in the first place.

According to the research, there are approximately 2.8 million ex-felons currently locked up in jails and prisons in the U.S. African American make up approximately 47% of the inmate population in the U.S. yet they account for only 12.7 % of the population in the U. S. African Americans are disproportionately represented in every state in the U.S. This means that their percentage in the prison population is greater than their percentage in the state’s general population. Sixty (60%) of the one million people who are released from prison return to prison within 3 years many of them much quicker!

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Today Ex-felons are visible in every facet of life. America and Americans are becoming more tolerant of ex-felons in sports, media, education, military and areas in which felons benefit organizations but corporate America and political entities continue to maintain a strict stance against ex-felons. However, there are states such as Louisiana who allow ex-felons to run for public office after being released from probation or parole for fifteen years.

Ex-felons have a much lower rate of recidivating when they are released to stable living environment and caring families. Without these two safety nets most ex-felons are DOA-Doomed on Arrival. Ex-felons who are released from prison and acquire gainful employment, have the support of their love ones, and are connected to a higher power are much more likely to stay out of prison longer and in many cases never return.

No ex-felon should be punished for life. Once ex-felons are released from prison they should be treated like any other citizen. Corporations who do not hire ex-felons based on their criminal records only, in my opinion should not be supported by the ex-felons or their families. In some recent research in which I surveyed 100 of the largest corporations in Texas, many of the HR Departments responded to the questions of Do your corporation hire ex-felons by saying that each decision is made on a case by case basis. That was a common response from employers. In my book “Why Are So Many Black Folks In Jail”, I constantly remind readers that if corporations refuse to hire qualified ex-felons solely based on the fact that they committed a crime in their past not taking into account that they have paid their debt to society, then “if they don’t hire we don’t buy”. The best way to get people’s attention is to affect their wallets and pocketbooks! Ex-felons have much more power than they think, if they harness and organize their power!

Stand “Your” Ground- Press Towards The Mark

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As I was sitting this morning in contemplation of what should I do to acquire finances to open Second Chance Alliance a transitioning housing facility with the intent to reeducate “Felons”, I began to pray to receive wisdom on how to see this vision through. In the past I devoted much consideration and effort in getting the DBA and Dunn’s number and Cage number and Government.Gov registration all the while interviewing 167 times last year only to be told 88 times after being blessed to get to the final offering stage for those positions that we don’t hire felons.

Perplexed and at times totally down trodden I speculated defeat. Having 26 years in the work force as Production Supervisor and Engineering and other rolls of leadership and two degrees I figured I was a good candidate for any job. Reality sat in and I seen the hideous practices associated with the stigma of having a felony conviction. I really want to make a difference with my life as to help others with the opportunities needed not to return to a life of defeat. There are a lot of success stories of felons getting a second chance and receiving degrees and moving forward, but the numbers are staggering still for those who don’t get those opportunities.

Edward Simmons is a young man with impressive credentials: He graduated with honors from Rutgers University this year and is headed to the University of Cambridge on a prestigious Truman scholarship.

But on a typical job application, the first thing an employer might notice about Simmons is that he’s an ex-felon.

Simmons, 28, served two years in prison for dealing crack cocaine: He got out in May 2010 and has been clean since. Though he’s successfully turned his life around, he says discrimination against those with a criminal record is very real.

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“There have been a lot of times that I haven’t been offered an opportunity because of the stigma,” said Simmons, a New York native. “A lot of companies have a blanket policy that excludes anyone who’s had any contact with the criminal justice system.”

In recent days, two major discrimination lawsuits have been filed alleging conviction and arrest records were used inappropriately to deny employment. The first, a class action against Accenture Inc. , holds the consulting firm discriminated by using a 10-year-old conviction record to automatically disqualify Roberto Arroyo from a full-time job even after he’d proven himself. The second alleges the U.S. Census Bureau’s requirement that all applicants be run through the FBI database and provide proof of the dispositions of any arrests, was onerous and discriminatory.

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The lawsuits come as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission works to step up enforcement in cases of discrimination related to background screening. The EEOC, in fact, is expected to release new guidelines soon that will re-emphasize the importance of analyzing screening results on an individual basis – and require employers to use empirical data in support of their hiring decisions. That means considering factors like the length of time since the offense, and what the job seeker has done since then. “Many employers have started using very fuzzy criteria,” says Sarah Crawford, senior counsel with the Washington D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which filed the lawsuits . “They have blanket bans on hiring people with any history at all. You can’t do that.”

(To backtrack for a sec: It’s important to remember there are no specific protections for ex-offenders under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But restrictions on hiring people with criminal records have been found to have disparate impact on certain protected groups, and are therefore considered discriminatory. Bureau of Justice statistics, for example, show that 17 percent of African-American men have been incarcerated, compared to 8 percent of Latino men and 2.6 percent of white men. African Americans make up 13 percent of the population, but account for 38 percent of felony convictions. Latinos are twice as likely to be arrested as whites. So arbitrarily screening out anyone with a record, discriminates against blacks, Latinos and other minority populations.)

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The story caught some employers off-guard: “Federal EEOC Warned Census Bureau of Likely Discrimination.” The article describes a lawsuit brought by the EEOC and others against the U.S. Census Bureau alleging the bureau’s system of criminal-background checks unlawfully discriminated against up to 100,000 Blacks and Latinos “who are more likely to have arrest records than whites.”

Although pre-employment checks are common, particularly for federal employees in a post-9/11 era, this practice is fast becoming an area of hot litigation. In 2003, the Society for Human Resource Management noted that 80 percent of its members conduct pre-employment criminal-background checks. Employers beware: The EEOC is leading the charge, but the plaintiffs’ bar is not far behind. Because background checking is usually a “systemic practice,” if it is found to be unlawful, the damage exposure could be huge.

Why Employers Conduct Criminal-Background Checks

Employers conduct criminal-background checks primarily to protect:

Their customers
Their employees
The general public
Their property
Their reputation and assets from legal liability

Some businesses, such as daycare centers, nursing homes, hospitals, nuclear power plants, educational institutions, transportation agencies, law enforcement, and security firms, must be more concerned than others with the safety of their customers. Even without a statutory mandate, the rise in “negligent hiring” claims with large potential damages, along with heightened sensitivity to workplace violence, post-9/11 security concerns, and increased liability of company officials, has enhanced corporate wariness of hiring high-risk applicants. Reliable criminal-background checks can assist employers’ efforts to reduce that risk.

Why Would Anyone Oppose Criminal-Background Checks?

Several reasons:
1. Civil-liberties advocates and criminal-justice reformers oppose background checks because they often rely on inaccurate records and reduce opportunities for ex-offenders to make a full and productive return to society.
According to the EEOC, it is unfair and a violation of Title VII to rely on arrest records only, where not supported by a conviction. Even where there is a conviction, the EEOC’s position is that the applicant should not be barred for offenses that do not “present an unacceptable risk.”

Many state legislatures concerned with employability of ex-offenders are enacting or considering statutes limiting the use of criminal-background checks. For example, Hawaii limits employers’ background checks to convictions within the past 10 years that bear a direct relationship to the responsibilities of the position.
Do Criminal-Background Checks Disproportionately Screen Out People From Underrepresented Groups?

It is both conventional wisdom and the position of the EEOC that employers’ use of criminal-background checks may violate Title VII because non-whites are disproportionately represented among those with criminal records.

However, a 2006 study in the University of Chicago’s “Journal of Law and Economics” found otherwise. The study concluded that “employers who check criminal backgrounds are more likely to hire African-American workers, especially men. This effect is stronger among those employers who report an aversion to hiring those with criminal records than among those who do not.”

In theorizing why criminal-background checks lead to increased hiring of Blacks, the authors observe: “In the absence of criminal-background checks, some employers discriminate statistically against Black men and/or those with weak employment records.” As another University of Chicago professor suggested, “in the absence of accurate information about individuals’ criminal histories, employers who are interested in weeding out those with criminal records will rely instead on racial and gender proxies.” That is, they are more likely to assume the prejudicial view that non-whites have criminal records, absent the facts.

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Is the EEOC Actively Seeking to Limit Criminal-Background Checks?

In 2005, the EEOC issued an informal discussion letter taking the position that an employer using a “blanket policy” of refusing to hire anyone with a history of arrest or convictions violates Title VII because the policy “disproportionately excludes members of certain racial or ethnic groups, unless the employer can demonstrate a business need for use of this criteria.”

In September 2009, the EEOC filed the lawsuit EEOC v. Freeman Companies (Federal District Court, Maryland), alleging that the company used criminal-background checks to “unlawfully deprive a class of Black, Hispanic and male job applicants of equal employment opportunities.” The case is in the discovery process. (The EEOC filed another case, EEOC v. PeopleMark [Federal District Court, Michigan], with similar allegations.) As further evidenced by its recent lawsuit against the U.S. Census Bureau, the EEOC is leading the effort to curtail employers’ use of criminal-background-check policies.

Do Criminal-Background Checks Violate Title VII?

This area of law is evolving. The cases recently filed by the EEOC will likely provide guidance to employers in formulating their policies and practices. Until then, one recent U.S. Court of Appeals (Third Circuit) case sheds some light on where the law is headed. In El v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, the employer terminated a traditionally underrepresented employee who transported individuals with mental and physical disabilities when the employer’s post-hiring criminal-background check disclosed a 40-year-old conviction (with no subsequent criminal activity) for second-degree murder. The court held that the employer must demonstrate that the criminal-background check is “job related” and that the disqualification is required by “business necessity.” The court ruled that the employer adequately demonstrated the severity of the crime and the heightened vulnerability of its passengers with disabilities. The court implied that some criminal-background-check policies may violate Title VII, although the employer’s policy in this case did not.

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How Can Employers Legally Conduct Criminal-Background Checks?

This has suddenly become a tricky area of the law, and until further case law is developed, employers conducting any type of routine criminal-background checks may be vulnerable to challenge. Here are several tips to assist employers:

With the assistance of your legal advisers, know the statutes, regulations and case law in your jurisdiction. There are differences among the states, and between federal law and the states, that must be taken into account in considering workplace screening policies.
Review current criminal-background-check policies for consistency with the “business necessity” requirement and the EEOC position. To the extent the EEOC’s position is upheld in the courts, employer policies that take into account the nature and severity of the offense, the length of time since conviction, and the relationship of the offense to the job sought are more likely to be upheld. If necessary, modify pertinent policies and applicant questionnaires to reflect these considerations.

Routinely audit applicant/hire files to determine whether your criminal-background-check policy disparately impacts any group. If so, explore the reasons for the disparate impact, and if it is not justified by business necessity, amend the policy and its implementation.

If this is an area of particular concern to your business, monitor your local and federal legislative developments, and examine whether your company should lobby on this issue. This area of the law is actively changing, and employers need to be vigilant in monitoring the latest developments and implementing best-practices compliance policies.

Do I Possess Godly Character?

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If God can do all things, why didn’t He just create us with perfect character?
Many people have wondered: Why didn’t God in the beginning simply create humans as spirit beings without human nature? Why did He first make us physical—from the dust of the earth—then offer us eternal life only if we vigorously resist the weaknesses of our flesh?

If God can do all things, why didn’t He just create us with perfect character? In other words, what is the purpose of this difficult and trying physical life? Couldn’t our heartache and suffering have been avoided?

Of course God could have done all of that—if He had been willing to create us without the personal character we need for making personal choices. It all gets back to our free will, our freedom of choice. God Himself had a choice about how man would be created. He could have made us automatons, functioning like programmed robots whose only course of action is to carry out the instructions of their maker. But He chose to create us like Him, capable of making choices that are limited only by our knowledge and character. This requires that we learn right from wrong and that our character develop gradually by our decisions under God’s guidance and assistance.

Is God actively creating character in human beings?
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians:2:10).”. . . Be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and . . . put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians:4:22-24, King James Version).

God is not finished with us. We are still His workmanship. He is creating in us “righteousness and true holiness”—His character. As long as we are human, our character is not firm; it is not permanent. We can change our minds and behavior. We can make mistakes and learn from them. We can learn from the fruits of our right and wrong choices.
Since we can change our minds—and repent of our errors—God can change us even more and create in us the will and the capacity to steadfastly choose what is right over what is wrong. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).Of course, God requires that we first recognize and willingly reverse our wrong behavior by allowing His Spirit to empower us to make those changes. Then we can become a new person “created in righteousness and true holiness.”

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What aspect of our character is most important to God?
“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel:16:7).

The Bible uses the word heart to describe our innermost thoughts, motives and attitudes. God knows what goes on inside our minds. He evaluates our intents and motivations (Hebrew 4:12-13). The internal aspects of our character count the most with Him. He considers our behavior in light of what is in our hearts (compare Jeremiah:17:10; Deuteronomy:10:12).

Can God change our hearts?
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel:36:26-27).

If we yield our will to God, He will empower us through the Holy Spirit to live by the principles of righteousness as He defines them in His laws. Each of us must be “a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy:2:15). It is through studying the Scriptures that we “may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy:3:16-17).

God writes what we learn in our hearts by His Spirit (Hebrews:8:10; 2 Corinthians:3:3), making it a permanent part of our thinking and nature.

How can God be sure what is really in someone’s heart?
“What is man, that You should exalt him, that You should set Your heart on him, that You should visit him every morning, and test him every moment?” (Job:7:17-18).

We face trials and difficulties so God can know how committed we are to His way of life. He has to find out if our character will endure hardship and suffering. Only then can He trust us with the powers that come with eternal life. This life is not only for building character; it is for testing that character.

Why did God test ancient Israel? “And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deuteronomy:8:2, compare verses 15-16).

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Does God test the faithfulness of even the righteous?
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter:1:6-7[6]).

Even the righteous are tested to see how faithful they remain in their commitment to God (Psalm:11:5). When we face difficult choices, God can see how committed to Him we are. Only when we obey Him under duress is the depth of our character fully evident. Paul tells us we should “glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans:5:3-4, compare Revelation:2:10).

Will God allow us to be tested beyond what we can endure?
“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians:10:13, New Revised Standard Version).

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“Today”

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I am occupying a dwelling “Today” that society said I didn’t qualify for due to my past record. I am sitting in this dwelling suffering from Sickle Cell Anemia “Crisis” and meditating on my past. I grew up in a home consumed with a polytheistic culture and a spirit of over achievement which resulted in me graduating at the ripe age of 16 and going on to pursue my career by attending Syracuse University while simultaneously serving my country. The past always has haunted my peace due to the many challenges I had to endure getting out of the home I grew up in. Once I graduated college I went on to become a Navy Seal. I had a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, but elected to turn down a commissioned officer rank and serve as an enlisted. I am pondering “Today” the decision I made that may have plagued my success in life. Once I received my orders to report to The USS Enterprise and then be detached to Desert Shield I was in contemplation once again, because the BUDS training never equaled to the reality I had to face once in the thick of combat.

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I remember while sitting under the glare of the moon in a hostile country wondering if being here was better than being at home with all the pressure and dysfunction I ran from. I heard a voice within my inner man say Aaron I am here, “trust” me to set your life in order. Uncertainty about what the future held for me at the age of 21 with a 2 year old son and wife back home depending on me and I am here fighting an enemy that hasn’t done anything to me.

I am asking this question tonight, What keeps me from being content where God has placed me “Today”? There are so many other challenges that took place in my life to get here where I am tonight, like imprisonment as a soldier and a civilian, drug addiction to cocaine and addiction to fame and fortune. The deaths of 3 children a mother and two brothers while serving my country and as a civilian. I received my call to Christ at the age of 8 years old, only to be restricted in how and who to worship.

Family dysfunction can be any condition that interferes with healthy family functioning. Most families have some periods of time where functioning is impaired by stressful circumstances (death in the family, a parent’s serious illness, etc.). Healthy families tend to return to normal functioning after the crisis passes. In dysfunctional families, however, problems tend to be chronic and children do not consistently get their needs met. Negative patterns of parental behavior tend to be dominant in their children’s lives.

After going to prison and losing several homes and other securities my life had gotten accustomed to I blamed my dad and his influence he once had on my life. I am going to pursue release from this fog by looking to the healer of our souls.

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Proverbs 3:13
The Message (MSG)
The Very Tree of Life

13-18 You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom,
when you make friends with Madame Insight.
She’s worth far more than money in the bank;
her friendship is better than a big salary.
Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth;
nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.
With one hand she gives long life,
with the other she confers recognition.
Her manner is beautiful,
her life wonderfully complete.
She’s the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her.
Hold her tight—and be blessed!

Psychologist William Marston once asked three thousand people, “What have you to live for?” He was shocked to discover that 94 percent of the people he polled were simply enduring the present while they waited for something to happen–waiting for children to grow up and leave home, waiting for next year, waiting to take a trip, waiting for someone to die, or waiting for tomorrow. They had hope, but no ongoing purpose for their lives.

Only 6 percent of the people identified relationships and activities in the present tense of their lives as valuable reasons for living! The 94 percent would be wise to recall the words of this poem by and unknown author:

During all the years since time began,
Today has been the friend of man;
But in his blindness and his sorrow,
He looks to yesterday and tomorrow.
Forget past trials and your sorrow.
There was, but is, no yesterday,
And there may be no tomorrow.

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Instead of dwelling on your past mistakes, make a new start by thanking God for all the good in your life. I thank God for the ability to write and focus through my pain, I thank God for my trials and His deliverance through them all. I thank God for His word that renders so much solace when I am perplexed and confused. Guilt is concerned with the past. Worry is concerned about the future. Contentment enjoys the present. I have new mercies “Today” to escort me through difficulties from yesterday. Thank you ABBA for Your “Grace” to press onward..

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Are You Experiencing Narcissism As A Christian?

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So, In my examination of self this morning I am looking at the topic called Christian Narcissism. The bible strongly admonishes us to examine oneself ( 2 Corinthians 13:5). In this examination I found key discrepancies within my own temple. There are several point of views within this topic, especially related to Christianity. Instead of taking the critics standpoint I will take the optimistic and see what I can do to change myself from the erosion of my personality and witness to the world.

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Narcissism , Freudian term, drawn from the Greek myth of Narcissus, indicating an exclusive self-absorption. In psychoanalysis, narcissism is considered a normal stage in the development of children. It is known as secondary narcissism when it occurs after puberty, and is said to indicate a libidinal energy directed exclusively toward oneself. A degree of narcissism is considered normal, where an individual has a healthy self-regard and realistic aspirations. The condition becomes pathological, and diagnosable as a personality disorder, when it significantly impairs social functioning. An individual with narcissistic personality disorder tends to harbor an exaggerated sense of his own self-importance and uniqueness. He is often excessively occupied with fantasies about his own attributes and potential for success, and usually depends upon others for reinforcement of his self-image. A narcissist tends to have difficulties maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships, stemming largely from a lack of empathy and a propensity for taking advantage of others in the interest of self-aggrandizement. It is often found in combination with antisocial personality disorder.


Narcissism describes the trait of excessive self-love, based on self-image or ego.
The term is derived from the Greek mythology of Narcissus. Narcissus was a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. As punishment, he was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus pined away and changed into the flower that bears his name, the narcissus.

In psychology and psychiatry, excessive narcissism is recognized as a severe personality dysfunction or personality disorder, most characteristically Narcissistic personality disorder, also referred to as NPD.

Sigmund Freud believed that some narcissism is an essential part of all of us from birth and was the first to use the term in the reference to psychology.

Andrew Morrison claims that, in adults, a reasonable amount of healthy narcissism allows the individual’s perception of his needs to be balanced in relation to others.

The terms narcissism , narcissistic, and narcissist are often used as pejoratives, denoting vanity, conceit, egotism or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others.

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Celebrating narcissism
Dandyism
A dandy is a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and the cultivation of leisurely hobbies. Some dandies, especially in Britain in the late 18th and 19th century, strove to affect aristocratic values even though many came from common backgrounds. Thus, a dandy could be considered a kind of snob.

“A Dandy is a clothes-wearing Man, a Man whose trade, office and existence consists in the wearing of Clothes. Every faculty of his soul, spirit, purse, and person is heroically consecrated to this one object, the wearing of Clothes wisely and well: so that the others dress to live, he lives to dress…And now, for all this perennial Martyrdom, and Poesy, and even Prophecy, what is it that the Dandy asks in return? Solely, we may say, that you would recognise his existence; would admit him to be a living object; or even failing this, a visual object, or thing that will reflect rays of light…”

Narcissism is the term used in psychology to describe a preoccupation with self. It is a Greek term taken from the name of the mythological Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image and was doomed to die because he would not turn away from it. A narcissist is a person who displays a high level of selfishness, vanity, and pride. He sees everything from a “how does this affect me?” perspective. Empathy is impossible for the narcissist because his only perspective is the one centered on self. In psychology, narcissism is seen as a broad spectrum of conditions ranging from normal to pathological.

The Bible says that we are born sinful since the fall (Romans 5:12). This means that we are born with only sinful tendencies and no ability to be “good” or righteous on our own. What we call “human nature” the Bible calls “the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21). Part of our sin nature is a total focus on self. This focus, also called “egocentrism,” is how babies see and experience the world. Narcissism is like egocentrism in that the adult still relates to the world like an infant, a perspective that impedes personal growth and relationships.

Psychological theories about narcissism suggest that the narcissistic person uses defense mechanisms to idealize self so that he does not have to face his own mistakes (sin) or flaws (fallen state). The diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder outlines the behavior patterns of a narcissistic person as being haughty, non-empathetic, manipulative, and envious; he also possesses a sense of entitlement and grandiosity. From a biblical perspective, it is clear that these heart conditions are due to pride, which is sin (Proverbs 16:18). The Bible tells us to “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). The narcissist routinely disobeys this command.

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Pride is a reason people do not feel they need a savior or forgiveness. Pride tells them they are “good” people or have a “good” heart. Pride also blinds people to their own personal responsibility and accountability for sin. Narcissism (pride) masks sin, whereas the gospel reveals the truth that leads to remorse for sin. Narcissistic traits can be dangerous because, at their worst, they will lead a person to destroy others to satisfy the lust of the flesh (2 Timothy 3:2-8).

The Bible addresses the issues related to narcissism as part of our sinful natural self (Romans 7:5). We are slaves to the flesh until we place our faith in Jesus, who sets the captives free (Romans 7:14-25; John 8:34-36). Believers are then slaves to righteousness as the Holy Spirit begins the transforming work of sanctification in their lives. However, believers must surrender to the Lord and humble themselves in order to have God’s perspective rather than a selfish one (Mark 8:34). The process of sanctification is turning away from self (narcissism) and turning toward Jesus.

All people are narcissists until they either learn how to cover it and get along in the world or until they recognize their own flesh and repent of their sin. The Lord helps people to grow out of narcissism when they receive Jesus as their savior (Romans 3:19-26). The believer is empowered to begin loving others as himself (Mark 12:31).

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I am inclined to believe that there is an epidemic of narcissism taking place as we speak in the world in Hollywood, churches, home and communities alike. I see from my perspective a prevalent outbreak within my community of interest “gangbangers” and the “disenfranchised” families and their children.

The narcissism epidemic involves two related processes. The first is the rise in narcissism among individuals, and the second is the change in the larger culture’s values, beliefs, and practices. I hope to address the cultural-level change one day soon as I further study and evaluate myself.

An epidemic is usually declared when more individuals are affected than would be expected in a population. If we use the recent past to formulate those expectations, there is clearly an epidemic of narcissism.

We know that narcissism has increased over time among individuals based on several datasets. College students now endorse more narcissistic traits than college students did in the 1980s and 1990s; in one large sample the change seemed to be accelerating after 2002. An Internet sample of the general population also showed higher narcissism scores among younger people than older people. Perhaps most disturbing, a 2005 study using a large, randomly selected sample of Americans found that nearly 1 out of 10 people in their twenties had experienced NPD — the more severe, clinical-level form of the trait. Only 1 out of 30 people over 64 had experienced NPD in their lifetime — even though they had lived 40 more years than the people in their twenties and thus had that much more time to experience the disorder. This suggests a large increase in NPD over time.

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How did we get here?

There is no single cause of the narcissism epidemic; instead we point to several contributing factors in life. Admiring oneself is now considered crucial to success in life. This began in earnest in the 1970s, became more influential with the self-esteem movement in the 1980s and 1990s, and today is taken for granted in American culture. We see this in slogans like “You have to love yourself before you can love others” and at preschools with young children singing, “I am special/Look at me.”

At the core of narcissism is the fantasy that you are better than you really are (and better than those around you). Any process that allows that fantasy to exist despite the less glamorous reality is an opportunity for narcissism to thrive. For example, the Internet allows people to create phony images of themselves and seek fame and attention. Easy credit has allowed average Americans to pretend they are wealthy and successful (at least until the foreclosure sign went up). The inflation of grades and other feedback in schools has lets kids believe they are better students than they really are. And the list goes on.

Finally, the explosion of shallow celebrity culture promotes narcissism as not just acceptable but desirable. Celebrity gossip and happenings are now found on mainstream news channels. The social models we see are often advertisements for a narcissistic lifestyle.

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Has the narcissism epidemic affected everyone?

Yes and no. No, not everyone is narcissistic. But the epidemic has sucked in non-narcissistic people too. At one time, only Hollywood types did things like get plastic surgery, whiten their teeth, and shape their eyebrows; now these appearance enhancers have trickled down to ordinary people. And many humble people have had to deal with the consequences of working with, dating, or otherwise associating with a narcissist at one time or another.

The epidemic has reached most groups in society. The trend appears in poor neighborhoods and rich ones, in all regions of the U.S., and across many different ethnic groups. As I continue my search for truth I will read the book called, the epidemic — now strongest in North America — also appears to be spreading to many cultures around the world.

There was one difference by group: Most data shows that the increase in narcissism is larger among girls and women. Males still score higher on narcissistic traits than females on average, but girls and women are catching up. This is not entirely surprising in an era of pedicure parties for 5-year-olds and breast implants for high school graduation. As parents of girls, we’re scared too.

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Isn’t narcissism necessary in an increasingly competitive world?

Some degree of self-promotion is more necessary now than it was in the past. However, there is a big difference between being able to talk about your strengths at a job interview and talking about how great you are to your wife, kids, co-workers and anyone else who will listen. Not only is this kind of pervasive narcissism not necessary, but it will hurt you in the long run. Narcissists also tend to be overconfident and take too many risks. This works great during boom times but causes spectacular failure when things turn south. (If you remember 2008, this might sound familiar.)

“We” Together Can Bring “Peace” In Our Communities. “Yes We Can”

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Two Los Angeles gang members appear to have emerged armed and dangerous in the middle of Syria’s civil war, a senior counter-terrorism official confirmed to ABC News, sparking security concerns back on the West Coast.

In a video posted recently on YouTube, a heavily gang-tattooed and camouflaged duo, who call themselves “Creeper” and “Wino,” brandish AK-47s while saying that they’re “in Syria, gangbangin’.”

Though a version of the video appeared to have been posted online just in recent days, the footage first came to the attention of authorities a month ago, Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief for Counterterrorism Mike Downing told ABC News Sunday.

“My organized crime and gang investigators found it online and on Facebook,” Downing said. “We’re kind of concerned about their recruitment and whatever other associates they have here… We predicted this would happen — the [organized crime and terrorism] convergence. What we’re worried about is the ones we don’t know about here or coming back to the U.S.”
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Disturbing: This image shows a young girl wearing Disney pajamas pointing an AK-47 rifle at the camera. The image was recovered during a massive crackdown on the Rollin’ 30s Harlem Crips gang in LA

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Violence: In another shocking image a young boy points a handgun at the camera

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Immigration law enforcement has been a key ingredient contributing to the success of criminal gang suppression efforts in many jurisdictions across the United States. Since 2005, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested more than 8,000 gangsters from more than 700 different gangs as part of a special initiative known as Operation Community Shield. This effort has produced incalculable public safety benefits for American communities, despite being criticized periodically by immigrant and civil liberties advocates that are consistently opposed to all immigration law enforcement.

Local governments and law enforcement agencies that shun involvement in immigration law enforcement are missing an opportunity to protect their communities from criminal immigrant gang activity. Policymakers should take further steps to institutionalize partnerships between state and local law enforcement agencies and ICE in order to address gang and other crime problems with a connection to immigration.

Immigrant gangs1 are considered a unique public safety threat due to their members’ propensity for violence and their involvement in transnational crime. The latest national gang threat assessment noted that Hispanic gang membership has been growing, especially in the Northeast and the South, and that areas with new immigrant populations are especially vulnerable to gang activity. 2 A large share of the immigrant gangsters in the most notorious gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Surenos-13, and 18th Street are illegal aliens. Their illegal status means they are especially vulnerable to law enforcement, and local authorities should take advantage of the immigration tools available in order to disrupt criminal gang activity, remove gang members from American communities, and deter their return. Once explained, these measures find much support, especially in immigrant communities where gang crime is rampant.

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On Monday, November 11, 1918—95 years ago tomorrow—in a train car on a railroad siding in northern France in the wee hours of the morning, a group of German, French, and British men wrote their names on a piece of paper. In so doing, they brought an end to the Great War, the European War, the World War, as it was known then.
It had been fought as “the war to end all wars.” Out of its ending arose the League of Nations, the first international organization whose purpose was to achieve and maintain world peace. The kind of devastation seen in the trenches—tens of millions of young men killed, and wounded, and missing—could never happen again.

But one thing led to another, and we humans did what we humans do, and trouble did arise again. And pretty soon they had to add a roman numeral after “the World War,” because another great conflict was exploding everywhere. In ghettos and concentration camps, in firefights and dogfights and naval battles, yet more millions were killed, and wounded, and disappeared, until 1945, when new armistices were signed and the fighting ended again.
Out of the ending of World War II arose the United Nations, a renewed effort at international diplomacy and peace. As details of the horrors of the Holocaust emerged, the world united around two words: Never Again.

But one thing led to another, and we humans did what we humans do, and trouble did arise again. There was Korea, and Vietnam, and Kuwait, and Iraq, and Afghanistan… There was Pol Pot in Cambodia and Idi Amin in Uganda. There were the Serbs and the Croats and the Kosovar Albanians in Yugoslavia, and the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda. There were the Contras in Nicaragua and the Generals in Chile.
Today, in 2014, there are civil wars in Syria and Somalia. There are insurgencies in Yemen and Iraq. There are drug-related conflicts in Mexico and Colombia. There is inter-religious fighting in Israel-Palestine. There is inter-ethnic fighting in Sudan and the Congo. There is gang violence in Hartford and New Haven and Bridgeport and Boston.

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One thing leads to another, and we humans do what we humans do, and over and over again, we end up in trouble. When we look at human history—the past century, the past millennium, the entire arc of our existence—it is easy to feel like we’re caught in a never-ending cycle of violence and death and destruction. It is easy to think that these conflicts are intractable, that more fighting is inevitable, that the ideal of world peace is an unachievable pipe dream.
And that’s why we need the prophets. That’s why we need visions from the likes of Jeremiah. That’s why we need the message we heard this morning. We need to be reminded of God’s promise that violence will not be the end of us—that peace will prevail at the last.

Jeremiah was no stranger to cycles of violence and death and destruction. More than six centuries before the time of Jesus, Jeremiah was born into a world torn by political and military instability. The Israelite kingdoms were divided between north and south. The Babylonian Empire was gaining strength, and eventually it laid siege to Jerusalem. The king was deposed and replaced by his son; the son was then deposed himself and replaced by his uncle. Eventually, the city was sacked and the Temple was destroyed by the invading forces. All the rulers and leaders were exiled, some to Babylon and others to Egypt. Jeremiah was carried off with them and remained a refugee in Egypt until he died. Jeremiah was no stranger to cycles of violence.
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If you’ve read much from the book of Jeremiah, you’ll know that many of his prophecies foretell destruction and devastation. But the one we heard today is different. The one we heard today promises restoration and renewal, peace and prosperity.

The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness…
I have loved you with an everlasting love…
Again I will build you up…
Again you shall take your tambourines
and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers…
Again you shall plant vineyards…
and shall enjoy the fruit.

Jeremiah says that God promises a world in which those who have survived the sword, the veterans who make it home from their deployments, will be met with grace—with healing for their shrapnel wounds, and support for their struggles with depression and PTSD, and encouragement and embrace as they readjust to peacetime living.
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Jeremiah says that God promises a world in which building-up outpaces tearing-down—a world in which planes will airlift food rather than bombs, and builders will build schools rather than prisons.
Jeremiah says that God promises a world in which everyone can come home again—the refugees scattered to the four winds, and the soldiers killed in far-away battles, and the estranged family members who haven’t spoken in years.
Jeremiah says that God promises a world of restoration and renewal, peace and prosperity. Jeremiah says that God promises. There’s no maybe about it. God says, “There shall be a day.” No matter how tangled-up our world might be now, no matter how checkered our past or uncertain our future, there shall be a day when all who survived the sword will find grace, when all who are hungry will be fed, when all who weep will rejoice, when all who are divided will be reunited, when peace will reign at the last—there shall be such a day.

Information For Our Future, “The Youngsters”: Stop The Violence

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Clarence Glover has a surveillance camera in the chapel of his funeral home. Joseph Garr sometimes carries a revolver in his hearse. Carl Swann Jr. is contemplating leaving the business.

The three directors of black funeral parlors here have been assaulted at services and each has had gunshots fired during burials. Concealed-weapons, pre-funeral intelligence briefings, cameras, panic buttons and armed security guards are becoming as much a part of services as the eulogy.

“I’ve been in this business 42 years and I’m jittery now,” Mr. Glover says.

Across the country, black morticians are changing the way they operate. The reason: a spike in African-American murders — and the violence that sometimes follows victims to the grave. In an echo of more volatile parts of the world, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, African-American morticians report seeing an increase in violent behavior, and occasional killings, at funerals.

The violation of the once-sacrosanct funeral is one byproduct of a little-noticed upswing in the murder rate of African-Americans. The number of blacks killed in America, mostly by other blacks, has been edging up at a time when the rate for other groups has been flat or falling.

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As a result, the black murder-victim toll exceeds that of the far larger white population. According to the most recent statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the number of whites murdered dropped slightly, to 6,956 from 7,005 between 2004 and 2006. The number of blacks killed rose 11%, to 7,421 from 6,680.

African-Americans, who make up 13% of the population, have long had a higher homicide rate than other groups. And the total number of black murders is still significantly lower than in the early 1990s, when the U.S. was hit by a wave of drug-related killings. At that time, though, “funeral homes used to be the most respected places you could walk into beside the church,” says Jeff Gardner, a co-owner of A.D. Porter & Sons in Louisville, Ky., and a third-generation undertaker. “Nobody respects life and the young folks nowadays don’t mind dying.”

What worries law enforcement, criminologists and sociologists is that there’s no unifying theme to explain today’s increase. Some killings are drug related. Researchers trace others to a glut of ex-felons re-entering society. I personally attribute some of this to the new slavery”Jim Crow” tactics in place that don’t allow re-education or fair employment for a race or species “Felons” that are disenfranchised and left to repeat their past to survive. Others correlate the rise in murders to the lack of a proper education.

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Black funeral homes, long a fixture of African-American communities, offer a stark perspective from which to view the trend. There are no comprehensive statistics on assaults or other crimes at funerals. And the violence has not touched all black communities. Still, the topic has become a hot one in the industry.

Rising Incidence of Violence
Last year, the National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association — a black trade group — held a panel discussion at its Philadelphia convention about the rising incidence of violence on funeral premises. Among some strategies recommended: increasing security and not publicizing funerals.

Since 2006, police in Boston, Goldsboro, N.C., Louisville, Los Angeles and St. Louis have investigated black murders that occurred at or immediately after funeral services. Of five cases reviewed for this article, four were at the funerals of other murder victims. Two were gang related. One was a revenge killing. Two remain unexplained.

Sitting in the office of his funeral parlor on Reading Road in Cincinnati, funeral director Mr. Glover, 58 years old, can see images from three cameras at once. They allow him to view all the public areas inside the House of Glover Funeral Service as well as the back door. He’s had the system up and running for three months.

On at least two occasions, he says, gunfire at grave sites forced him to dive into the dirt. “Bullets don’t have names,” he says.

If a funeral has the possibility of “drama,” as he puts it, Mr. Glover hires security at $25 to $50 an hour per guard. He also assembles his staff two hours prior to a wake for a briefing. “We have a meeting so you know who is who, what to look for and watch out for each other,” he says.

Cincinnati is a microcosm of the national picture. Here, black morticians meet regularly. In past months the primary discussion has been about safety. Recently, funeral directors went on local radio talk shows in three one-hour sessions. The subject: escalating violence at funerals.

According to the National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association, the average cost of an African-American funeral is about $4,500. In many cases, the specter of violence is driving costs up. In Cincinnati, security firms make regular appearances at services, adding as much as $500 to the bill. Surveillance systems can cost $2,000 or more just to install.

“We’ve had to alternate funeral procession routes because we have been tipped off,” says Duane Weems, president of Elite Protective Services, a local security firm. “Attendees to the church service will tell us that this gang is waiting down there.”

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Youth violence touches many communities. But its impact on funeral directors is often overlooked. It’s inevitavble that the profession will sometimes hit close to home. Black funeral professionals share emotional stories of their service to those who died too soon.

The black church has come to understand its critical space in the rituals
of the dead. Funerals have been its everyday business, and the black
church brought ceremony and extended ritual to this experience. Its
passion has been, from my perspective, the ways and means of catharsis;
and is responsible in great measure for the sustained resilience
and strength of these vulnerable communities.

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African-American burial and embalming rituals, funeral services and undertaking industry are all examined in Passed on: African American Mourning Stories — A Memorial a cultural analysis of death and dying among 20th-century black Americans. Duke University English professor Karla F.C. Holloway combines historical research with interviews of present-day undertakers and others as she chronicles the discrimination and violent threats faced by black funeral parlor owners; the development of rituals like open-casket services and processions; and the influence of disproportionately violent black deaths on mourning practices. Punctuated with Holloway’s personal stories (including that of her son’s death), the book is an elegantly written survey for general readers and cultural historians alike.

After the violent death of her son, Duke University professor and author Karla FC Holloway found herself dealing with loss, grief and the finality of death. Like many authors, Holloway found that researching and writing about the rituals of death became the catharsis for her own pain.

In Passed on: African American Mourning Stories — A Memorial, Holloway creates a “portrait of death and dying in twentieth-century African-America.” Holloway’s endeavor feels random, and at times, vacillating among historical accounts of the emergence of African-American funeral home businesses, to a short study of violence in the African-American community, to the various “rituals of death” that have developed over the century.

Holloway suggests that the violence that has historically plagued African Americans has played a significant role in the perception of death in African-American culture. She writes, “The generational circumstance may change, but the violence done to black bodies has had a consistent history . . . paired with the cultural expectations of an open casket, presented a particular challenge to the black mortician’s skills.”

Historical factoids, such as the origins of funeral wreaths and observations of such traditions as the “homecoming”– the great trek South when a family member living in the region passes — are interesting, yet when offered alongside pictures, and very real accounts of brutality and violence, her observations seem more like random trivia than seamless information.

The documentation of African Americans and their death passages, as they were, are intriguing. However, Holloway’s transgression from the cultural and historical origins to stories focusing on the deaths of famous African Americans somehow lessens the scope of what seemed to be the true intention of her work, to present a thorough look at death through the cultural eye of African Americans.

Does Music Influence Youth To Commit Violence?

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“And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. ” —Exodus 32:17-19

YES, YES, YES, absolutely, yes, of course, music DOES have a profound impact on youth! You can influence anyone through media, whether it be music or video. But in particular, children and teens have extremely impressionable minds.

1st Samuel 16:23 evidences the incredible power of music. When the lad David played on his musical harp, the Bible says that king Saul’s evil spirit departed from him. My friend (and don’t miss this truth please), if music can be used to make an evil spirit depart from a person, then music can also be used to invite an evil spirit to come and stay!!!

What a shame that our society isn’t filled with beautiful music as it once was. In the early days on TV, amateur family groups were featured playing musical instruments. There were few big shots back then. Nowadays it’s all commercialized music, and you have to sell your soul to the Devil (literally) to become famous. Music has lost it’s purity, like everything else. America was so much better off during the days of the Little League neighborhood baseball teams. Back then you could sell lemonade without a license.

Society never learns… the riots of the 1960’s, Charles Manson, rampant sexual immorality in America, the abortion industry, Columbine, indifference everywhere, tolerated wickedness and corruption… it’s all a consequence of the DESENSITIZATION by Godless television and worldly music! Each succeeding generation of youth in America are becoming more selfish, more wicked, more arrogantly proud, more woefully naive and more distant from the God of the Bible. Entertainment, pleasures and sports have assaulted our youth spiritually—leading them astray from God’s Word, hindering them from coming to the gospel of Jesus Christ to be saved and making them indifferent toward everything good, Christian, decent, moral, upright and holy. We are now surviving as Christians in a sewer society of moral toxicity and rotten decay. Hardly anyone cares anymore!

Moses had gone up upon the mount to get God’s Commandments. When Moses hadn’t returned for a couple weeks, some of the Jews demanded from Aaron (Moses brother) that he provide for them a god. So Aaron reluctantly had them give of all their jewelry, housewares and anything made of gold, melting it into a GOLDEN CALF. The people began dancing, got drunk, took their clothes off and worshipped the golden calf. When Joshua and Moses were coming down from the mountainside, they heard “A NOISE OF WAR IN THE CAMP,” which the Bible says was “THE NOISE OF THEM THAT SING”!

It was David’s beautiful harp playing that caused king Saul’s evil spirit to leave. 1st Samuel 16:23, “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” Likewise, as we just learned from the idolatrous Israelites dancing around the golden calf, it was music (the “noise of them that sing” the Bible calls it) that accompanied an evil spirit of REBELLION!!! Rock music is synonymous with rebellion, sexual immorality and substance abuse (drugs and alcohol). Increasingly we are also seeing body piercings, self-mutilation and tattoos from head-to-toe associated with darker forms of worldly music.

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