September 11th: Destruction can serve as a Distraction or an Opportunity

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Today marks the 16th anniversary of September 11th.  I will always remain grateful for the officers, firefighters, city officials and now utility workers that are out in the streets today working tirelessly to keep us safe in the wake of this storm, as they were 16 years ago.

September 11th.  I remember the conversations I had in the immediacy of the knowledge of the attack.  The fear of the unknown was palatable.  After checking in with family, I called a childhood friend that worked for a Congressman in DC.  A moment of relief washed over me, as I heard his voice answer the call.  He answered,“What happened?!” He had just deboarded a plane.  Together we pieced together the news of what had just occurred.

Even amongst the brave, widespread fear had settled in the hearts of Americans.  I recall a sign posted with red solo cups on a nearby private school for Muslim children.  This was not a declaration of a “DRUG FREE SCHOOL”  or a push for their local “PTA”.   Their sign read, “WE LOVE THE USA”.  This was their white flag declaring we are not them – the extremists, the terrorists

We survived the attacks of September 11th as a nation.  The by-product was a sense of unity during this season, a unity our nation desperately needed at the time.  The enemy lost again.

On this September 11th, we remember the fallen, the brave, the thousands of lives lost 16 years ago and the families that lost them.  Today we begin our own restoration in light of the natural attack we just endured.  In the absence of a personified target to blame – our focus is still on rebuilding and restoration…and formulating a new foundation.


As Floridians we took heed of the destruction this type of danger brought to Houston just weeks prior with Hurricane Harvey.  Although we had been down this road before with Wilma and Andrew and those in between, the dodging that we had been blessed with in recent seasons, did not seem promising this time.  We evacuated out-of-state, to shelters or bunkered down in homes shielded by shutters and hurricane proof glass to ride out the prolonged symphony of rains and the taunting pervasive winds.  Alarms pierced through our homes in the wee hours to prepare us to brace for the strikes.  We prepared for the worst and prayed desperately for the best.

The storm has passed.  Miraculously we made it through, given its true potential.  Our hurricane season is not over though ––it has actually given birth to yet another season of opportunity for bridge building.  Beneath the distractions our world may bring, lays the spirit of humanity.  The spirit that compels us to not just see, but in times like these, earnestly seek those in need and find a way to meet it.  During these times strangers become neighbors, neighbors become friends and friends become family.

Let’s make the most out of this opportunity to give back.  Enroll with your local Red Cross, connect with a food bank or homeless shelter.  Join forces with your local church or synagogue that are collaborating to provide relief to ourselves stateside and to the surrounding islands ravaged by this storm.  Feed a firehouse, police station, bless a utility worker, meet your neighbors :).

I would love to hear your stories of community and connection in the days and weeks to come.  In a time when we sensationalize divide, let’s override the system with stories of humanitarian pride.

Praying safety for you all!

Joycy

 

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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

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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

Update! Do you believe in Modern Day Miracles? I do!

A little over a month ago I asked this question here on this blog, because I knew I had been blessed to be in the presence of a miracle unfolding.   Although we knew it would take time for the culmination of this miracle to unfold, the reality of the miracle was sealed in my mind that day, because ONLY God could have orchestrated the details to occur in such supernatural succession, that it would have been foolish to doubt that His plan would succeed.  As the details surrounding this monumental event continued to unfold, more began to believe in the reality of this miracle.  God’s hand was in this, around this, before this and in front of this.  He had prepared the minds and the hearts of those He needed to move as quickly and decisively as He needed them too.

Being privy to details that only a few knew, my mind was blown at how God chose to bless the faithfulness of a couple, while rocking the worlds of those that surrounded them. I do not think that it was a coincidence that He chose to center this miracle in the presence of a core group that had the capacity to influence a multitude…He wanted us to see first hand, to be ‘eye-witnesses’ and share His story — GO, TELL — just like others did thousands of years ago when He walked on this earth, and even before and after. The God of the Bible is and has always been the God of today.  He can do in your life, what He has done in countless others…we just need to believe that He can.  He shows up, in the midst of our everyday Christianity to remind us that He can to exceedingly more than we could ever ask or imagine.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV

This is not just a story of a baby, just like the miracle of Jesus is not just the story of a virgin birth.  God is preparing us for greater things, your experience and perhaps your participation in the things of God are limited only by the depth of your belief in what God is capable of – “according to his power that is at work within us…

He is able, are you able to believe?

Update! What is the difference between Guilt & Conviction?

Thank you all for your responses on social media and on this blog.  I enjoyed reading your thoughts!  When I considered posing this question it was a result of a thought I shared with a friend the week prior.

Here’s what was impressed upon me:

Guilt turns you inward, conviction turns you upward towards God.

When I think about guilt I think about our internal thoughts about ourselves in relation to our behavior, past actions and even sometimes the perpetual consequences of our actions.  We live in seasons of guilt when we are convinced that there is no recourse for our failures.

When I think about conviction, I consider it as the point in which I know my thoughts or actions have been sinful and I consider it a good thing.  It’s the point in which I become aware of a clear fork in the road where I have the blessing to choose to make a shift in the right direction, before I settle into a season of guilt where I have lost sight of this opportunity and am instead trapped inside my feelings.  Guilt keeps you buried, conviction sets you free.

Responding to conviction is courageous though.  It requires the convicted to acknowledge a failure —to oneself, to God and maybe to another.  This step of courage is followed by a HUGE win, because we are immediately set free from the bondage the secret sin would have otherwise held over us.  This is not to say that we escape the consequences of our actions, but the guilt that prevents us from moving forward is no longer in our way.

One final thought: choosing to follow where conviction leads, paves the way towards breaking the chains of patterns of destructive behavior.   I would rather bear the sting of conviction, than live in a cycle of ignorance that prevents me from living the life that God intended.

Well folks, these are my thoughts!  I look forward to hearing more from you during next week’s Question of the Week!

Do you believe in “Modern Day” miracles?

We have read of miraculous things happening during “biblical times”, but do you think true miracles happen in our day and age?  A miracle by definition is defined as,

A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.” Oxford Dictionary

It has also been described as:

“A highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.Oxford Dictionary

Have you ever experienced a true miracle? Do you believe in miracles?  I welcome your thoughts and would love to hear your stories on any miracles you have witnessed or experienced.   Please share your comments below!