People over things.

A page from my private notes.

It took me a while to understand what was happening within myself in response to the horrific event on February 14th.  I had the experience and presence of mind to know that we were all navigating through a collective state of shock in the immediacy of the shooting.  I know some of us still are.  As my true feelings began to permeate the shock, my mind was forced to face the sadness of the finality and reality of what had occurred.  These beautiful souls were no longer here in the flesh for their loved ones to interact with, kiss, hug, touch, watch grow.  Though their spirits will always be here,  family and friends have to adjust to their physical absence.   As much as I knew that in my mind and I experienced the deep sadness that it brought, I knew there was another level of pain waiting for me when my heart and mind would connect and I would truly begin to feel.   The longer it took to connect, the more I knew I was in a funky state of waiting.

Eventually it clicked —my heart and mind were having trouble reconciling this horrific reality, because it never should have happened.  This great loss wasn’t due to a sickness, a natural disaster or an accident (even unexpected).  This was preventable, and I know I am speaking for many when I say that it made it more difficult to accept.  Sure, we were initially met with incomprehensible grief, but there was also a righteous anger that came too, competing for its place in our hearts and minds as we processed this loss.

I have not watched the news.  I typically read the news versus watching anyway.  For the last month, I have purposely protected myself from watching, because I was living the news.  I didn’t need any outside source to tell me what I was watching, experiencing and processing first hand.

But just because I didn’t watch, that didn’t mean I didn’t hear.  I heard of young voices demanding change.  I heard of angry parents publically demanding answers.  I’m glad that they’re using their voices, but I worry about their healing in the midst of it.   They shouldn’t have to choose between fervently putting energy towards their battle for healing and their battle for change — their battle for something like this to never, ever so easily happen again.  It was too easy.  I have a problem with that.  It should never have been that easy.

I had a conversation with my sister a couple weeks ago.  She lives in Massachusetts, is a trauma nurse and knows first hand the destruction the path of a bullet can leave.   She also works as a bereavement counselor for parents who have lost children.  She has taken the losses she has personally experienced and directed that journey of enduring heartache to finding hope and healing into helping others walk through theirs.   While catching up with her, she noted that many of these families are challenged with what she terms as “distracted grief”.  I was immediately marveled by the label that so accurately described what our community was experiencing.  The sudden or any loss of a child is hierarchically the greatest pain experienced in life.  Losing a child and having other things interfere with wrapping one’s mind around that loss, impedes on working towards healing.

A message.

Through my processing, I wondered what would happen if we all took 10 seconds to attempt put ourselves in the place of these parents’ shoes, these wives’ shoes to receive such devastating news.  Even in the greatest contemplative conception of that nightmare, we wouldn’t be able to truly touch the pain they are feeling.  And we would barely be able to bare the heartache our imagination would produce.   If this had been you, would you fight with a righteous vengeance to ensure it didn’t happen again?  Fight for the implementation of increased safety measures — tangible improvements on the ones that failed your son, daughter, spouse?  Through the pain, yes we would choose to live on.  We know deep down our loved ones would want that.   We would not, however, be permitted to forget how their lives changed, how our lives changed, and take action to ensure that they were not lost in vain – we’d fight to find purpose through our pain.  As we seek to heal, please do not forget the horror we felt on that day.  It really could have happened to any one of us.

Some encouragement to our tenacious fighters.

Common sense would tell us that this fight has little to do with an elephant or a donkey.  With so many battles in our country to argue or debate over, we shouldn’t argue or debate over the protection of life at all levels.  People should always matter over things.  It seems foolish to argue over what I get to have versus who gets to live.  That will never be a logical argument to the sane.

I want to encourage the fighters who feel like you are in a war zone fighting for the simplest and most fundamental rights we have – you are not ill-equipped.  Your fight is right and it is just.  Thank you for allowing your youth to remind us of what we lost on our journey to adulthood – fervor, zest, hope in our unified power for change.  There is no argument that can stand against the right to protect your life and win.  I understand and value our historical right for freedom, but there is no good win in a fight for freedom that values things over life.  Our constitution was created and progressively amended to ensure inclusion of rights for all, not for some.  The fight that you are in, has been modeled before you and the resistance that you feel has been overcome before you.  Keep fighting the good fight, you’re on the right side of this and you are not alone.  Your courage is contagious and moves those in the back row further towards the front, as they become empowered by your relentless effort to keep pushing forward and your tenacity in not succumbing to distraction or resistance.

Final thoughts

This battle of the human heart has just begun its restless struggle of wrestling with the convictions we used to so easily pacify with apathy.  My hope is that we are not comfortable with remaining passive and do whatever we are uniquely called to, to fight for what is right.

One week from now, people will gather worldwide with a singular message.  A single agenda.  People matter more than things.  They should have always mattered more than things.  Somewhere along the line we got this out of order and now these kids are leading us back to the place where we got lost, simplifying the direction of our narrative.  We are sorry that we did not fight for the children of Sandy Hook like we are fighting now for our own and those to come.  I implore every reader to fight with conviction as if this had happened to you.  I cannot imagine a household that would stand for inclusion of access to this type of weapon if it had indiscriminately taken the life of your child or spouse.  There will always be sickness and evil in the world.  To say this was a painful wakeup call for all of us is an obvious understatement.  Now we are faced with responding – would you rather fight for evil and sickness to lose ground, or selfishly hold onto your “mine”, ignorantly thinking you will be protected the next time evil indiscriminately strikes?

I’ve been humbled to join the fight begun by others, #neveragain.

 

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Rainbows, Confederacy and the Cross Part 2

In this two part series on some of the hottest topics dressing the front pages, I addressed the fall of the confederate flag following the slaying of nine African American church members at the hand of a young white male.  You can find that post by clicking here.

Today I seek to address another polarizing topic of discussion – rainbows and the cross, the Christian response to the legalization of gay marriage.

I recall the day that the Supreme Court ruling came down.  It was the same day as the funeral for the slain Senator Clemente Pickney.  Before proceeding to deliver a powerful eulogy, the President sent out a tweet, I imagine to summarize the sentiment behind this ruling: #LOVEWINS.

Rainbows highlighted avatars and profile pics for days across social media from Huffington post, to the White House, to your average citizen in support of the ruling.  It was a colorful week to say the least, as the multicolor symbol of “love” was not exactly embraced by everyone.  Many that stood in opposition spoke loudly on social media, declaring their disagreement with the ruling, citing scripture as their defense.  And what may have previously become a blurry divide, became distinctly clearer that day as the large majority of the voices challenging the ruling were laced in anger and again identified with being Christian.  As previously posted by a fellow blogger, I strongly agree that this message is not the message of love that Christ followers have been instructed to live out:

“12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14.

I have been known to boldly speak the truth in love…in love is the key phrase.  Love does win when it is clearly communicated.  I think the words expressed out of anger from those identifying with being Christian were spoken out of fear.

Fear of what?

Fear of change?

Fear of losing the value of traditional marriages?

Fear of decreasing the number of traditional families?

Newsflash!  That is happening anyway and gay marriage and gay rights are not the cause.  We are.  We are the ones that are representing the traditional marriage, we are the ones that are representing the nuclear family, and we are the ones who are not holding this institution sacred.   And to further our relational demise, we do not make these relationships seem appealing and worth fighting for because we are so quick to dismantle them.  In writing this I hate that there exists statistical validity to this thought that comes to mind: Divorce is a disease that holds no prejudice, not even in the Christian home.

As Christians I would say that there is something to learn from watching the reactions of those who fought and won the legal right to marry.   One does not have to agree with the ruling to note the sad reality that they fought for a blessing we so clearly take for granted.  Even if our marriages do not end up in divorce, they are not representative of the image that was given to us to represent.

“25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…33…each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”  Ephesians 5:25,33, NIV.

Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church —sacrificially; He died for His people and wives respect your husbands.   Does this directive match the image of marriages of today?  Ashamedly not, and that is no fault but our own.  So fellow believers, please save the energy used to speak against gay marriage and turn it inwards towards enhancing our own.   We need to fight to do exactly what Christ called us to do and demonstrate love…first in our homes and to each other and I believe from this overflow, the message of true love will win.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16, NIV

Rainbows, Confederacy and the Cross Pt. 1

Today marks an historic event, nearly one month after the slaying of nine African Americans as they gathered to pray, South Carolina removed the confederate flag from the state capitol grounds.  And I am glad.

I was on vacation in the mountains of North Carolina, when I first heard news of a shooting.  We had traveled from Florida with five other families to disconnect and recharge for a week.  With very little cell coverage, if any where we stayed, we heard bits and pieces of news of a shooting in a church, but knew very little details.  The following depicts our conversation in the early part of our ride home as we became privy to the reality of what had occurred.

“People died in that shooting.”

“What?!  How many?”

“Nine. The shooter intentionally left one alive to relay a message…and he’s still at large.”

There were four passengers in my car, two black, two white.

My son, fourteen years old, removed his headphones to ask, “Can we stop to use the restroom?”

My immediate response was, “NO!”  My eyes had just caught sight of the sign declaring our official entry into Charleston, South Carolina.  IMG_3529 Unfortunately, out of necessity we had to make a stop, but I warned my young backseat travelers that it needed to be quick and why.  I recall the emotional temperature of that gas station distinctly.  Managed by both black and white employees, the vibe was still…sullen, eerily quiet, a stark difference from the culture we’d left behind in North Carolina.   

As we returned to the car and resumed the conversation, I found myself saying immediately to my friend, “This guy is not well.”

In the days that followed I pondered upon how quickly I ran to that conclusion.  As a disclaimer, I would not say this was due to the nature of my profession, but to the natural observance of the capacity of human nature.  I had to make sense of this tragedy quickly and my first response was to find him sick, not full of hate.  Later on I understood that I couldn’t allow my mind to entertain that level of evil, therefore I gave him another label that quickly put the scarier thought to rest — he was sickThat was that.  He couldn’t really have wanted to kill those people who kindly invited him into their prayer group, whose presence he sat in for an hour, who likely showed him God’s love during their last moments on this earth.  NO, he was sick, not hateful.

And that was the delusion that I chose to take comfort in.

Our nation has been on the verge of racial unrest as we are questioning the responses of our men in uniform as black men are dying, in circumstances where their white counterparts are not.  We debate the minute details on social media platforms to determine if fair treatment was given to those held in custody, while raw video footage tells a different story.

A fraternity out of Oklahoma State University is removed from campus and its members expelled after it is revealed they boldly recited a racist chant in unison en route to an event. (CNN OSU).

The attached link shows William Bruce James II, an alumnus of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, visibly burdened as he shares his disappointment to hearing the news of the lack of character demonstrated by the group of men associated with his chapter. CNN – William Bruce James II

Stories like this reinforce the reality that we are in danger of a term I call — ignorant ignorance.  Ignorant, out of innocence because you simply aren’t aware, coupled with ignorance because you speak words you do not care to educate yourself about.

I am believing this is part of the problem.  We may have fast forwarded through the ugliness of segregation and racial inequality so quickly, that we have new generations that are not completely void of racism, yet do not truly understand how far we’ve come because we do not want to talk about it…and potentially admit it still exists.  Racism does and will continue to exist, if we do not continue to take active stances against it.

President Obama’s eulogy of the late Reverend Clementa Pinckney, quoted the state senator saying, “Across the South we have a great appreciation of history — we haven’t always had a great appreciation for each other’s history.”

Today the flag came down and I am glad.  As a child this was a symbol of hatred and something I feared.  As an adult I understood other layers of symbolism behind it, but the undertones still remained.  Let’s not wait for another undeniably hateful tragedy for movement to continue forging in the right direction.  We cannot continue to brush this problem under the rug, we are indebted to those who fought so hard to bring us to where we are today.  Let’s set the fear of “stirring the pot” aside and work together to radically change our future.  We owe it to our past.

This is OUR FAULT, Not Theirs (repost by Caroline H. Hendry)

The decision has been made, the law has been set into motion…and the world is watching.


Now how will you choose to respond?

To all those who are upset with this week’s Supreme Court ruling on Same Sex marriage, I offer you this compelling post from a fellow blogger, Caroline   Please feel free to share your voice and comment below.   My personal thoughts will follow shortly.

Beautiful Life with Cancer

flag for post

This article is written to Conservative Christians.  It is written for people that oppose homosexual marriage. All others, come back tomorrow, or read on if you wish, but I am addressing those that are in opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision to make gay marriage the law of the land. If you stop here, I hope to see you tomorrow and I love you.

To: Caroline and Conservative Christians,

If you have a problem with the Supreme Court’s decision to applaud gay marriage, if you disagree with gay flags bombarding Facebook and all other social media, if you see gay marches and shake your head, THIS IS YOUR FAULT!

Do not quote Bible verses, do not shout at them that they are sinning, do not cry that it is their fault that our morals are headed for destruction, do not yell that every TV show has its symbolic gay couple…

View original post 500 more words

File a Restraining Order

Today’s post is connected to this week’s Question of the week: If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow this person to be your friend?

My son is one of the most creative, funniest, left of center, out-of-the-box thinkers that I know.  And I seriously do not say that because he is mine, anyone who knows him would say that same.

  Which brings me to this little gem I found in his backpack: letter2c

Yes, you read that correctly, he wrote (and served) a restraining order!  He’s in middle school and the son of a therapist, so maybe that gives a little explanation as to how he came up with this? lol! (Though I absolutely take zero credit :))  Raising Isaiah has been a wonderful adventure and I am grateful for the opportunity to lead himI will say that when I slow down and press in close enough, he has often taught me.

Now, I have blurred the names to protect the ‘innocent’- 🙂  But I wanted you to have a real visual as to what he did.  When I asked him why he “filed” a restraining order, he said he and a friend had continually asked the classmate to stop bothering them in class and he wouldn’t stop, so they took the next logical step 🙂 and drafted a restraining order, with witnesses and all!  He had a problem, he addressed it directly, that didn’t work and he took it to another level.  (He is friends with the ‘defendant’ in this case, but he just wasn’t going to tolerate the persistent irritation.)  He wasn’t content with the constant negativity that met him each day and he wasn’t going to allow it to become the norm.  We should all do the same – why do we allow our negative thoughts to drive our behavior and dictate our mood?

2 Corinthians 10:5, reads, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  NIV

That is some pretty strong language there – demolish, take captive…God knew how difficult it was going to be to wrestle our thoughts to make them fall in line with His truth about His creationHis masterpieces.   He gave us directives, not suggestions.  He gives us His word to cling onto to remind us that we do not have to live captive to the lies we tell ourselves.  So today, on Isaiah’s birthday, I present to you the “Isaiah Challenge” and implore you to file a restraining order against the lies that bind.   The lies that tell you you are not good enough, that keep you wrestling with jealousy, that keep you pinned down by the memories of the mistakes of the past…that stifle your voice that prevent you from fully experiencing the freedom that you have been given through a relationship with Christ.  Tell those thoughts where they need to go and what they are and are not permitted to do.  Take back the control over your temperament and your feelings.  If you feel heavily weighed down by these thoughts I highly suggest that you seek out a Christian counselor in your area to help walk you through this process.  YOU DO NOT NEED TO LIVE THIS WAY.  Get your truth in order and serve the devil his papers today!

Why I had to get ‘offline’ to get ‘inline’

The days of social media have gotten us so “engaged” in each others’ lives…virtually engaged.  At the beginning of this year I came off most social media sites: facebook, instagram, etc.  I know—the majors.  I kept twitter mostly for work/educational purposes, but rarely viewed it.  As a result I had to continually remind my friends (my real ones) that if you want me to know something, “You’re going to have to tell me, not tag me.”  It’s wild that that is such an abnormal idea these days.  I fear for the millenials and beyond.

One common question I heard during this transition was, “Oh are you fasting?”  My response, “No, I am just off of social media and I feel better for it.”  My mind was clearer, I was focused on things that mattered; things that required my full attention.  I became more intentional to spend time with people in real life, to check on people in person – to engage in this new invention called “eye contact”.  Try it – it’s amazing! 🙂 I had to get “offline” to get back “inline”.  It became so draining, so dissatisfying! I needed to detox from the whole system of caring about likes (to be honest I really didn’t care about that part) and perusing others’ posts and profiles and get inline with making time for family, friends, proper rest and accomplishing goals instead.  For the purposes of this website I am back to using Facebook, but only to engage others —I login and log right back out.  I refuse to allow myself to sit idle anymore and allow time to fly by and have nothing of value to show for it; especially when I knew God had called me to greater things. Yikes. 

Social media does have its notable benefits, naturally, but I do challenge you all to assess your use of social media and find a healthy balance.  I found mine and am better off for it! Please share your tricks on how you manage your social media mania.

Thanks!  Joycy

by Prince Ea

BLACK is not a bad word

I have the sweet pleasure of volunteering and being in a position of influence for teens.  I do not take this position lightly.  It is a blessing to be able to relax and kick back with these girls as a mentor, but please hear me in this – I learn from them too!  And I’ll let you in on a little secret, sometimes they may drop a new word or phrase and I roll with it like I totally know what they’re talking about…only to slip away to my trusted friend google to maintain my cool points ;).  The real truth is they know that I may always be a step behind the new stuff, but I will always be a step ahead with the old stuff.  Speaking of, I’m about to blend an old thought with a new one – BLACK IS NOT A BAD WORD.  Let’s unpack this statement for a minute.  In the context of race, I think you all know what I am talking about.  And let me set the stage for my perspective in this conversation before I completely unpack.  I have traveled to various countries as well as all over the U.S..  I am currently living and have lived most of my adult life in South Florida.   South Florida is home to a blend of cultures, nationalities and religions; and a point of entry for many immigrants still today.  I bring up these details because it has been my experience that even in this environment, our kids are still hesitant to use the word, “black” (or African American) when describing a person.  Yet, I have no problem using the words ‘white’,’ Latino’, ‘Asian’ and yes, even ‘black’….because black is NOT a bad word…unless somehow, somewhere our kids are still taught that it is.  It was interesting to view the vast responses to Ferguson and the stories that followed.  Those who were bold enough (*please read through my sarcasm*) to sit behind a keyboard and site their opinions online may not have been as bold in person – why?  These situations will not change unless we are willing to take the stigma away from having open conversations instead of carrying on in private.  We have come a LONG way as a society, but we certainly have a long way to go.  I believe we may have become stagnant because we are afraid to ruffle the feathers of the nation or of our communities, but guess what — it’s happening anyway.

Our kids do interact with each other, and I would say for the most part do so well; BUT we cannot be ignorant to the fact that our longstanding opinions of each other have indeed infiltrated this millennial generation.  I recall an opportunity recently that I used as a teachable moment.  A young girl (teen) was excitedly telling me a story about a performer.   In her excitement she forgot his name and began to describe him instead.  I quickly knew who she was referring to, but I paused as I watched her hesitate and search for every other word to describe him but “black”.  We have a great rapport, so I allowed it for a minute before I finally said, “He’s ‘black’, you can say it.  If I were to describe you to someone else I would say ‘white’.  There is nothing wrong with that.”  A bright smile revealed her relief.  She may have felt uncomfortable saying that word in front of me, but she didn’t need to be and I needed her to know that.  I told her, “black is not a bad word.”

So I challenge you to begin interacting with others, not just on your commonalities but on your differences – this is the only way that we will truly learn from each other and put the mistakes of the past in the past.