Single mothers

~Through us God will take Care of you~

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I find myself being more and more comfortable in relatively complete solitude/isolation.

Before, I longed to have friendships and relationships and felt tremendous sadness that I didn’t, but over the course of the past several months I’m finding myself more and more content with just being alone and not having to face other people. The only true interaction I have is going to the various meetings associated with getting certifications and training to obtain alignment for our Business vision, and even then I try to make myself as small and quiet and unnoticeable as possible, and it seems to work for the most part. Friends I used to see and talk to sporadically have completely fallen by the wayside; they still try to reestablish contact every few weeks, but I systematically ignore their attempts.The only people I actually talk to on a semi-regular basis anymore are my Pastor and selective men of God, and they live over an hour away so I hardly ever have to actually see them. And random texting conversations with my brother who is a pastor in Chantilly Virginia over 3200 miles away.

I think I have just become so numb and so tired of having to climb an Everest of anxiety to have a basic interaction with another person that I have simply given up to take the pressure off. I still have bouts of loneliness sometimes but they are fleeting and usually getting on the internet or resting completely in meditation and expectancy of hearing from the spirit of God on how to move and interact with people in general. Going to church since the hand of God has moved us into Lodebar ( a dry place of isolation) has even become impossible to do. My spirit is tired of dogma’s and traditions that aren’t fostering a loving spirit of unity, but of separatism and divisions within the ranks of theologians and demanding people. My wife and I have been set apart in isolation and we are finding the  joy and purpose of being prepared by God in this uncertain existence.

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I don’t know. Is this a bad thing? Should I be concerned? Am I giving in to social anxiety and slowly becoming a complete shut-in? Will I wake up one day in 20 years completely alone with not a soul in the world who knows me or cares about me and have deep regrets about this? I’m not sure what I should be thinking or doing differently. I have this fantasy that someday soon I will move far, far away and start fresh and leave the anxiety behind and be able to make deep lasting connections with people. I know that’s ridiculous and very unlikely to happen, but the fantasy seems to sustain me day after day, and I kind of cling to it.

This is rambly, I apologize. Just trying to organize my thoughts about this to bring up in therapy and hoping to get some perspectives from people who may have similar issues.

“But nobody ever sees how far the things we shouldn’t feel can take us. I just want to walk along the shore for an hour, watch the waves rearranging whatever they can. I like the way the sea encourages me to think about the past, as if I could leave it where it is: the moon on the water, the stars that gleam and are gone.”
Genesis 21:145-21 
In a time of great rejoicing, when everyone else would have been having a good time; Sarah looked over in the midst of the celebration and saw that Ishmael was making fun of her new son Isaac. Paul tells us in Galatians that he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born of the spirit. Filled with rage that her son was being tormented, she immediately told Abraham to send the woman and her son away. But Abraham was a righteous man, and he was unwilling to comply until God assured him that he would care for Hagar and her son. Filled with that assurance, Abraham acquiesced and gave Hagar a skin full of water and a loaf or so of bread and sent her off into the desert. He did the best he could, but after this moment, Hagar would be all alone. Who knows how long they journeyed in the desert, finally the water was gone, and thirst began to set in. Ishmael now greatly humbled by his thirst walked beside his mother until he could go no further. Finally Hagar sat her son down under a scrub of a bush and walked a short distance away. Her heart was breaking because she knew there was nothing left to do but die. She couldn’t walk far away because she didn’t want her son to die alone, but she dare not stay to close lest she be forced to watch her son die. Now in despair she began to sob. And then God showed up. My friends this story for all it’s familiarity is both touching and powerful. For all it’s harshness, it is full of promise and hope for those who would despair at their last moment. Because whether it’s our lives or someone else’s, life itself is hopeless and painfully unbearable until God shows up. Hagar is for us a model representing single mothers everywhere, and her story displays both the problems and the solutions in God’s program for single mothers. In Hagar especially we see God’s love for those women in our world who have been abused and misused, forgotten and forsaken, the single mothers on welfare, the woman fleeing abuse and living with her children in the family shelter. As God loved and blessed Hagar, God will love and bless each of them. They may be forgotten by the world, but not by God. That’s a significant section of our local population which our church should be poised to meet. The struggles that single mother’s face are enormous, and not every one is as fortunate as May to be surrounded by a family that helps and a church that loves and forgives. Many single mothers, struggle alone to fulfill the jobs of both mother and father, a job they were not designed to fill. When troubles mount and hopelessness rears its ugly head it becomes hard to find God in the midst of the struggle. That’s where we come in. There are people in our community from all sorts of backgrounds languishing in depression and need. They need to be reminded by our works as well as our words that God is a very present help in time of trouble. And God can use us; we here at God’s Restoration Church (May & Aaron) -Second Chance Alliance are His hands and feet to lighten the burden of single mothers and disenfranchised individuals.  I’m convinced that we as a church need to be active in our statement of faith. Our God is a living God and He want’s us to be his living hands and feet on this planet. We can make an impact on single mothers and challenged individuals if we accept the restoration of our challenged life and assist those  in our community. We can lift them up, and lead them to Jesus; and we can meet their needs in the name of Christ – and in so doing serve Christ Himself.
 I want to take Hagar’s name as an acronym to show you what we can do to change a life. If there’s one message we need to bring, it’s this: Through us God will take Care of you. 
HOPE – Try to imagine Hagar pushing off into the wilderness, supplies for a day or so at her side, and her son walking beside her. She’s been ousted by the boy’s father – someone she couldn’t even call her husband. Now she’s alone and terrified, wondering what’s she’s going to do when the bread and water give out. Then look at Hagar putting her son under the bush and walking a stone’s throw away to sit and wait hopelessly for her son’s death.
Single mothers often deal with feelings of guilt, real or imagined, combined with tremendous feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness. Single mothers are also dealing with the sudden stark reality that this child is going to take the rest of her life to raise, a life some of them had barely begun to live themselves. It doesn’t matter how they got to be single mothers; Teen pregnancy, Divorce, being widowed, or abandoned. They’re often struggling alone, isolated and scared of the future; they need CONSTANT ENCOURAGEMENT. 
Think about the enormous power that hope has to give life where none existed before. Imagine also the overwhelming power of hopelessness to destroy a heart and crush a human being beyond repair. The first thing we can bring to the single mothers in our community is Hope. The Second is Assistance.

ASSISTANCE. Need comes in a hundred different flavors. Sometimes it’s financial, sometimes it’s emotional, or moral, or whatever else we daily rely upon. Just like everyone else, unsaved single mothers need Jesus. Just like any other person, the saved need to be taught solid Christian principles. And just like everyone else single parents need A SUPPORT SYSTEM. God’s design for the family means that at least two people are there to bear the burden of raising a child. But a single mother doesn’t have that luxury. Hagar had no person to turn to, and she despaired. How fortunate that she called out to God for help. And He provided. Do you realize that God’s provision for many single parents is us? James 1:27 says that we should care for widows and orphans. We are God’s hands to take care of those who need God’s help. What that looks like take a thousand different shapes. It might mean some of the men in the church doing maintenance on a car or a home. It might mean the women helping with the children, and giving advice when it’s asked for. Unwanted advice often does more harm than good. And let’s not forget the deep need that every person has to be loved.  And though we sometimes think of assistance as monetary, I believe most people prefer the dignity of earning a living to a handout when given the chance. Sometimes we may need to assist someone financially, and I believe that’s God’s use for us from time to time, but more than that we might be able to help with daycare so that mom can get a secure job. Thirdly they need a strong faith in GOD. GOD A STRONG FAITH. Can you imagine the emotional problems Hagar experienced. First she’s an unwilling partner in a pregnancy, then she’s beaten by her mistress, then she’s ousted by her child’s father at Sarah’s demand. Bitterness, anger and resentment are to be expected, As well as despair, and feelings of rejection. Only God is capable of curing the heart, as we take care of picking up the pieces. We can assist single mothers by encouraging them to hear God’s voice. To be in the Bible and to Pray. Just like Hagar, every parent, even single parents, need a strong faith in God to deal with the inner wounds in the heart. No matter what her reasons for being a single mother: divorce, death, or a child out of wedlock; the reason doesn’t change the result – and the need. With a relationship with God in place, next comes the need for:

 ACCEPTANCE – Far less today, for good or for ill – single mothers are no longer singled out for ostracism and public humiliation. But often there’s still a secret fear that she won’t be accepted, and sadly that feeling is often strongest in relation to the church. How desperate some of these women are to be loved and accepted, and how vital that the people that extend that hand be Christians who along with a kind heart offer words of forgiveness and acceptance – not just from God, but also from us.

 RELIEF. Hope, Assistance, God, Acceptance and finally Relief. Single mother’s need A SAFE PLACE FOR THE CHILDREN. We live in a predatory society. Safety for these children is a top concern. From the church nursery to the homes of some of our members, every mother knows how vital it is that her children are cared for. Hagar put her dying son under a bush so that he could die in what little comfort she could manage, and then she moved to the distance a bit. She didn’t want to see him die, but she couldn’t dare leave him either. If we provide a safe place for a child, we are serving Christ’s most favored people! On top of a safe place for the child, mom herself needs a safe place. John Fuder nails down one of the greatest problems facing Single mothers as ISOLATION. He says, “[single] moms are isolated and alone – living their adolescent years shouldering adult parenting Responsibilities.”  Often, there is no-one to help them. They must be both father and mother, provider and caretaker for the child they are barely equipped to handle.

Eventually the stress needs a release valve: TIME ALONE. Every mother needs some time to herself. And single mothers often have no way of achieving this. Again, time alone is fed by having a baby-sitter available whom they can trust. I’m convinced that if we could get a roster of baby-sitters available to put in the hands of single mothers; we would do much – not only for the child, but also for the mother. Jesus said, “whatever you’ve done to the least, you’ve done to me.” How many of you would be willing to baby-sit Jesus? I’ve had fragments of this message in my mind and in my heart for over a year now. Long before We dealt in some measure with this issue in our own body. But I have waited.  And now even coming to this section on Hagar many weeks ago, I kept finding other topics to cover on Sunday evening. Not for fear certainly – and not for lack of passion either. God has burdened me with a ministry that I am not equipped to carry – a ministry to single mothers and ex-offenders in our community. Today I’m asking God and you to look into your hearts and to find someone who’s heart stirs with a passion to search out these single mothers in our community. Someone willing to have their own hearts broken in the struggle for another woman’s soul.

Dysfunctional Black America

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Over the weekend, President Obama took time out of addressing graduates at the celebrated, historically-black, all-male, private college, Morehouse, to remind about black men who make bad choices, chalking up failures to The Man and myriad other excuses.

“We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. But one of the things you’ve learned over the last four years is that there’s no longer any room for excuses. I understand that there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: ‘excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.’ We’ve got no time for excuses – not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that’s still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned. And whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured – and overcame.”

True.

But why do a roomful of young, black male college graduates, in particular, need this admonishment against excuse-making and expecting goodies they have not earned? Surely our Commander-In-chief would argue against conservative charges that real racism is dead and that his America is rife with lazy, irresponsible and demanding (black and brown) “takers” Why, then, do his speeches to black Americans so often warn against creeping pathology? (For instance, the 2008 Father’s Day speech that centered on shiftless and absent black sperm donors, instead of men who take the role of fatherhood seriously and are present and active in their children’s lives, whether or not they are part of a married couple.)

Of course, our President isn’t the only person seemingly subconsciously invested in the idea of inherent black dysfunction. In Michelle Obama’s speech to graduates at historically-black Bowie State University, the First Lady complained about young, black students with dreams of hip hop celebrity and urged parents not to accept failing schools. Ta-Nehisi Coates brilliantly addressed hand-wringing over hip hop aspirations in his piece, “How the Obama Administration Talks to Black America.” But it is also worth noting how offensive it is to suggest that the average black parent needs to be told to seek the best education for their children. And why lecture black college graduates, who have clearly demonstrated a belief in the power of education?

Hyperfocus on alleged black faults and how “we need to do better” is an outgrowth of the way black people have absorbed the race biases and stereotypes of the majority culture over centuries, combined with our desire to prove our own decency.

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This isn’t just about the President and First Lady. I’ve sat in many a pew and auditorium seat, wedged between other black folk, wondering why a speech meant to inspire me instead sounds like an unspoken accusation or a caution against some sin I never dreamed of committing. There is something about a chance to speak to a room full of fellow African Americans that seems to make the siren song of respectability politics nigh irresistible. And amidst the “show ‘em you’re one of the good ones” boot-strapping oratory is always a clutch of disturbing implied messages: Mainly that WE are the ultimate problem; not centuries of systemic racism or classism or educational and prison systems rife with inequality. And that, deep down, we are who they say we are. That even the best and brightest of us are one good, finger-wagging speech away from every affront to mainstream Judeo-Christian, middle-class, patriarchal American values. (Of course, the only values that matter.)

This sort of thinking reveals itself in many ways. For example, the entire let’s-teach-black-women-how-to-be-marriageable industrial complex hinges on the idea of inherent black, female dysfunction. But this scolding of black America is even more problematic and damaging when conducted by our country’s leader–the person ultimately in charge of education, healthcare, housing and countless other systems. Black people don’t need Barack Obama to lecture us about why education is important for our children; we need to know what steps his administration is taking to ensure that our children have an equal shot at good, accessible education. And we don’t need a black president tacitly confirming the worst ideas of the African American community by using nearly every engagement with us to urge us to fix ourselves.

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The inability to cope with life in a white supremacist society, the shock of witnessing extreme acts of violence, or the loss a loved one to a preventable illness (causes) can all lead to anger, depression, suicide, violence, and substance, physical, and mental abuse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, a Black man or woman in America commits suicide every 4 hours (suicide is now the third leading cause of death among black men between the ages of 15 and 24.)

Psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint, M.D. of the Harvard Medical School and author of the book, Lay My Burden Down, writes ”You can’t prevent illness or suicide if you don’t talk about it and gain some knowledge about it.”
◾Irritability
◾Changes in appetite
◾Changes in sleep habits
◾Headaches, stomach aches, pain all over
◾Chronic fatigue – not wanting to get up in the morning
◾Sadness that continues for up to a month – spontaneous crying
◾Social withdrawal – a loss of interest in activities and things once considered enjoyable

Another example of physical self-destruction: According to a study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011 there were 279,384 black murder victims, which means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks, resulting in the 94 percent figure. Even though blacks make-up only 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims.

Cancer, lung disease, AIDS, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease are all very preventable illnesses. And yet, Black men and women continue to destroy themselves with poisoned foods and lack of exercise. While access to nutrition indeed plays a factor, ones eating habits are particularly influenced by ones mental condition. Indeed, many Black men and women eat because they are unhappy, and they are unhappy because they eat.

We smoke, we get high, we get drunk, we fight, and we kill ourselves and each other. This behavior is just a symptom of the root illness: being Black and vulnerable in a society that devalues Black life, denies Blacks justice, and pollutes Black communities with cancer causing foods, poisonous air and water – all while feeding them mental images of the good life that lies just across the racial divide.

Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder is both complicated, pervasive, and prominent in the African American community. Books have been written on the subject that I suggest you read. Understanding the subconscious psychological effects of this disorder is the key to the mental (and ultimately the physical, cultural, and political) liberation of Black people the world over.
Financial Self-Destruction

Experiencing the shame and frustration of being locked in poverty (cause) can lead to an unhealthy material obsession (money, clothes, shoes, cars) . Typically, these victims are not equipped with the knowledge to successfully manage what little money they have, and so they quickly find themselves trapped in a perpetual cycle of spend-broke-hustle-spend. Due to the psychological effects of poverty on the victim, the result is financial self-destruction.

Source: The percentage of people in deep poverty was 13.5 percent of all Blacks and 10.9 percent of all Hispanics, compared to 5.8 percent of Asians and 4.3 percent of Whites. While non-Hispanic Whites still constitute the largest single group of Americans living in poverty, ethnic minority groups are overrepresented (27.4 percent African American; 28.4 percent American Indian and Alaskan Native; 26.6 percent Hispanic, and 12.1 percent Asian and Pacific Islander compared with 9.9 percent non-Hispanic White).

These disparities are associated with the historical marginalization of ethnic minority groups and entrenched barriers to good education and jobs. – American Psychological Association and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012 Study

Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder is the sum total of the emotional and psychological impact of our abduction and separation from Africa, slavery, Jim Crow, the crushing of the Black American Revolution (starting with the deportation of Marcus Garvey and ending with the destruction of the Black Panther Party), the Black indoctrination in a system of white values, beliefs and supremacy, and the establishment of an economic caste system.

These experiences have all created deep, intense feelings of fear, anger, and self-hatred amongst African-Americans, resulting in self destructive psychosis.

The suicidal, self-destructive nature that many Africans and African-Americans suffer from can be impossible to diagnose. Resistance and denial create within us powerful psychological barriers that block our ability to honestly assess our thinking errors. As you read this, ask yourself if you indeed are resisting truths that lay at your core. It is perfectly normal to resist looking within the dark shadows of your subconscious, but this must be done if we are to heal our collective self esteem and break the psychological chains that have been forged for us, and that keel us in bondage today.

Until we do so, all the gun programs, AIDS walks, Black conscious lectures, mass movements, and Stop The Violence concerts in the world will have a minimal effect.

Until we truly examine the causes and effects of PTSD, we as a community – and you as an individual – may be subconsciously programmed for racial, financial, physical, cultural, and psycho-sexual forms of self destruction.
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What’s Going On?

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A government, for protecting business only, is but a carcass, and soon falls by its own corruption and decay.

Amos Bronson Alcott

Are payday loans a good source of emergency cash? Thanks to misleading marketing, many of its consumers unfortunately think so. Corruption painted as help only in low income communities. Can you see what is taking place under the guise od humanity and helping others?

“Payday lending stores are opening their doors in low-income neighborhoods at a rate equal to Starbucks [opening its doors] in affluent ones,” states NAACP Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond to illustrate how payday lenders are rapidly sinking their roots into our communities.

Many payday loans trap consumers by encouraging them to repeatedly pay high fees for borrowing small amounts of money. The average loan size is $375; but borrowers end up paying about $520 in interest. And repeat borrowers, many who secure an additional loan to pay back their previous loan, account for 91 percent of all payday loans per year.

Single mothers, African-Americans and Latinos are overwhelmingly targets for payday loans, according to studies by FDIC and CFSI.

Mass predatory lending products and deceitful financial practices contributed to the 2007 financial crisis. However, with foreclosures being the focal point of the crisis, payday lending has not been discussed as prominently– until now.

Payday lending’s economic impact cannot be understated as it drains the economy significantly. A recent study by the Insight Center shows that in 2011, payday loans cost the U.S. economy nearly one billion dollars and thousands of jobs. Payday loans reduce household spending by taking away money that consumers could spend on businesses, which in turn fuels business growth and job creation.

Consumer advocates, along with state and local governments, are initiating efforts to protect consumers from these types of “debt traps” in disguise. The Obama Administration established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to help protect consumers from the disastrous financial products on Wall Street that financed and contributed to the greatest losses of wealth for the average American in modern history.

Recently, the CFPB released their initial findings on payday loans. Their report found that these loans are not used regularly for emergency cash – which could be easily paid back in a short period of time – but rather by those who do not have enough income to meet their regular expenses. The study concludes, “These loans raise substantial consumer protection concerns.”

This study proves that small dollar high-cost lending is predatory and unfairly targets the economically weakest members of our community. They exploit consumers’ inability to meet their regular financial obligations while stripping wealth from segments of our society that can ill afford it.

Financial institutions, including Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), have joined the CFPB in cracking down on the banks it oversees by issuing guidelines on their payday products called deposit advance loans. These guidelines require banks to better assess the customer’s financial capability to pay back a loan so the consumer can better avoid being caught in a debt trap. They also require that each deposit advance loan be repaid in full before issuing another deposit advance loan; and that banks cannot offer more than one loan per monthly statement cycle.

At the NAACP, we engage the community around predatory payday lending by connecting NAACP state and local units with CFPB national field hearings and representatives and hosting fair lending workshops nationwide to inform consumers of how to beware of these debt traps.

Whether payday loans are dispersed through storefronts or well-respected financial institutions, accountability is key. We are encouraged that government agencies, along with other consumer advocacy groups, are moving on all fronts to protect our communities from economic exploitation. Economic empowerment and justice are at the root of advancing racial equity. And we must eliminate barriers to economic justice like predatory payday lending, which weakens the economies of so many Americans.