Category Archives: culture

“I Just Can’t.”

You’ve seen her.

Cozy cardigan over a cotton tunic, skinny jeans and name brand running shoes. Hair combed just enough for the messy look to be fashionable. Just enough makeup to not feel insecure in the morning drop-off line at her kids’ school.

But you really haven’t seen her.
Because if you did your heart would break. 
Last night’s argument with her husband ended up in a sleepless night. A few hours later the toddler woke up crying. Another fever. That morning, her tween greeted her with silence, unfinished homework, and an unsigned permission slip for the field trip that day. The smelly sink disposal called for white vinegar and the main bathroom hamper overflowed with clothes. She forgot detergent during her last grocery trip.

She drove away from drop off with a beautiful smile and a wave to fellow parents while inside her soul was crushing her to death. With each heartbeat, the deep, torturing pain of hopelessness pounded against her dream of a life she would enjoy. A tear fought its way to the surface, only to be interrupted by the toddler’s feverish whimpers.

What would you say to her? What thoughts would you have when she is at the point where she whispers “I. Just. Can’t.” No religious verse can take away her present. A gentle squeeze of her hand may offer needed human touch, but still her present remains 11as it has for a few years.

 

The tragedy of emotional pain can happen to any of us. Unknowingly we have walked by the young woman whose boyfriend abruptly ended their relationship or the woman who finds herself in a place where her native tongue isn’t widely understand causing her to wander through her present all alone.

The dark night of the soul is an experience that lasts too long for most of us who’ve been in these shoes even for a moment. No matter what the status-single, married, with kids or yearning them, life can be difficult. When the fabric of our soul sheds, the danger signs appear but are unfortunately invisible unless we….unless she lets someone look deeply into her eyes.

How can we as a company of sisters help each other not fall into a living hell? Even the medical community recognizes that a prevention ethic is best. What can we do better so that one of our sisters knows that they don’t have to hide behind a smile and a wave?

Ruth 3:1  Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?

The words “seek” and “security” give form to our compassion and empathy. Seeking involves deliberate action. I picture a person holding a telescope looking into the distance on behalf of someone else. The picture reminds me of Isaiah 21:6 which says: “Go, set a watchman, Let him declare what he sees.” Let’s discover the next steps of our sister’s life! Whether by prayer or research, we can find opportunities that our sister can take hold of to find or rediscover her value. She must realize that her present narrative is a roadblock versus a foreshadowing of her future.

Similarly we can carry vision for our sister’s life. This carrying is more than verbally affirming dreams lost by the wayside. It is stewarding her vision when she is down. The day she rises she will take it back. Ruth of this Old Testament story  was a young widow. She was in a place of transition after the death of her husband, who was Naomi’s son. Ruth was personally aimless but relying on the strength and wisdom of her mother-in-law, who was also in a place of grief and transition. Age and experience is valuable. The years in which Naomi accumulated wisdom and understanding gave her the strength to carry vision for her daughter in law’s life. In current times, this means that older mothers should remember what life can be like for a younger mother. Altruism involves prevention. No woman ever has to get to the point of giving up. Ruth was childless and a widow. She had no acceptable status in her culture. We must be proactive with checking in with our sisters with words of encouragement and offers of practical help. If they can’t find a sitter, we can bring the coffee or tea to them. We need to discard pleasant surface conversations and sit in front of them at a function and say, “How are you doing with the things on your plate?” or “Is there anything that I can pray for you about?”.

Security is essential to wellness. We can guide our sisters to a secure place. Newness can make life topsy turvy for any human being. Is our sister newly married? What about in a new job or fresh out of college? Is she newly divorced? Let’s anticipate her struggle for this segment of her journey. I don’t mean suppressing her natural emotions or allowing her to become codependent on you. A listening ear is like a soft pillow to someone who feels like the foundation is shifting under her feet. Similarly, well-timed words are described in Proverbs 16:24: Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. Every mother experiences something new every few years, a birth, entry to the school phase, puberty, leaving home. Too often, we, the sisters, wait for our churches, schools and community organizations to offer classes or events . We can be the class or event on cloudy afternoon if we shift our schedules and make space to serve and be what God envisioned for sisters to be. We must protest the dividing lines of economics,race and education and be a company of sisters. Even shared faith does not matter. Life challenges all people.

If we make this a part of our lifestyle, then we won’t see her, the one with the tear finally falling as they teeter on the brink of giving up everything on this side of heaven. Her pain and her woes don’t have to be medicated with the secret stash of liquor, drugs or the darkness of her bedroom. Sisterhood was created to keep our chins up when they begin cowering, our eyes fixed when they begin to wander and our hearts strong when weariness comes close. If you are Naomi, go find a Ruth and if you happen to be Ruth, don’t hide behind a smile and a wave. Let us see your eyes.

images (8)

 

Saints, God is Cheering You On!

The-Journey-From-Syria-Matthew-Cassell-CeasefireHow often do we crawl into our coziest chair and gleefully open our Bibles to discover something that God wants to share with us? Consistently our God pulls us into his presence to give us the security that comes through his constant love. A child always is secure when he knows he’s loved, desired and affirmed. This is our God. He’ll never leave us or forsake us. After a time, He leads our gaze outward but only because he wants us to give out what he’s poured into us. It’s like a back and forth game that a child would play with a parent.  Maybe you’ve witnessed the cute giggles as the little girl runs to her Daddy’s lap and then runs several feet away for a few minutes only to return to her Daddy’s loving embrace.

Our view of God the Father is crucial to our wholeness. We can’t possibly run to a Father that we think is always criticizing us, watching us with a stern eye or ready to take away some of His blessings back for our bad behavior. Scripture says that the goodness of God leads us to repentance. Repentance is having a change of mindset. How ironic that by continuing to unleash his goodness towards us, we will slowly but surely change the way we think and behave for the better.

The beauty of becoming can be, if we let it, a process of brutally naked surrender to a God that whispers hope, affirms our efforts, and gives us courage for a journey that none of us are prepared for.

westmorland-story-background-july-2015Arduous but seasonal, this journey is a long adventure. I believe in a Loving Creator that does not give us more than we can bear but knows that if we glean from his wisdom and blanket ourselves in his care, we can actually face battles head on and win. We can win at parenting! We can win at adulting! We can win at reflecting Christ to our co-workers! Instead of blaming our kids, our bosses or our chaotic world, He helps us recognize the weaknesses that keep us from riding through every storm in peace. The prize is loving others better and our own spiritual maturity and emotional health.  Old baggage is burned and chains of insecurity that have made moving forward a challenge, are discarded.

No matter what your stage and season of life, you can begin to appreciate that this journey of personal transformation refines the quality of our love for others and provides a healthier well-being for ourselves.

Keep running dear saint. God is cheering you on!

101
(This is an excerpt from the introduction of a manuscript that is almost finished.)

 

Believe You are Threatened? – The Crime of Belief

via Daily Prompt: Believe

Public schools today are on lockdown in Charlottesville, Virginia. My children’s private school headmaster sent an emergency email to parents about an hour ago regarding what media is calling “a social media threat”.

images (3)This threat comes because some human being believes that the massacre of Las Vegas needs to be duplicated here in Charlottesville. Apparently this human is upset about the recent Lee Statue debate and the city decision regarding it’s removal.  Our nation’s racial history is the centerpiece.

What one person believes threatens us all.

Be sure, I’m a believer… of good health and wellness, in racial equality…in Christ. I believe in home cooked meals and a daily dose of dark chocolate, as well as the freedom of speech and the freedom to peaceful protest. Keyword: peaceful. Some of my beliefs threaten someone, somewhere. For example, statists despise my belief in parental rights and those who are pro-choice are dismayed that I am a pro-life African American woman.

Does belief have to threaten at all?

As a Charlottesville resident, I’ve written posts in the past two months centering on the problem and my solution for those who feel threatened by someone else’s belief system.

“Let’s be neighbors and respect each other’s individual intellectual property when it comes to belief and speech. I learned the importance of this at a very young age as a young black girl living in a mostly white suburb.” Respect the Rules of My House

“Some whites sincerely didn’t like the end of slavery, go figure. They really believe that they are being taken over by other ethnic groups. I don’t get it, but it’s true. They’ve suppressed their anger and fear until now. Likewise some black and other minorities are tired of not only systematic and institutional racism, but also of individual encounters with these white people. Some of these white and black Americans, have stayed segregated and have no one of another race to call friend. Some don’t want that blessing.  They just want to unleash their suppressed anger.

1 John 2:11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

If we truly believe that humanity is a band of brothers of every tribe and tongue, then there is a disconnect between our belief and reality. While there are those in our present day who would say that some humans are genetically inferior than others, most of us shake our heads and ignore their utter stupidity and warped need for self-adulation.” Who Let The Dogs Out?

What you believe doesn’t have to threaten or offend me.
IF you are a white supremacist, I’m okay with you. I have my own belief about the reason why you believe what you believe, but I’m not bothered by what you believe about my racial identity.

IF you are atheist, I am not insulted by the nonexistence of your spiritual belief.

The issue for all of us is when belief becomes action. From proselytization to Las Vegas shootings, protests, demonstrations to political legislation, we are afraid of the consequences of individuals putting their beliefs to action.

The problem we face, collectively, is that we cannot control what others believe. We despise this reality. But belief is innate to our human species. We can prosecute crimes when they come against our life or liberty. But we cannot, and I pray that we will never be criminally punished for believing what we choose to believe.

profile

 

 

 

Respect the Rules of My House

stock-vector-vector-illustration-of-male-neighbors-talking-over-fence-133161437Most mornings I do a quick perusal of my Facebook Newsfeed. I came across an article that made my heart ache a couple of weeks ago. I ended up taking a few minutes to jot down some thoughts in a quick post. This “quick post” has gotten pretty high approval ratings Lol and I’ve decided to delve more deeply into the societal issues that were on my heart when I wrote the first post. Here is a lengthier, more controversial, but heartfelt cry to those who don’t want to respect the rules of my “houses”.

Whether it is the obliteration of the possibility of offense or the idolatry of sensitivity, we’ve seen a lot of attack on traditional faith values, particularly when it comes to the hot button topic of gender issues. This traditional value crosses religious lines. When it comes to this one issue, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have common agreement. It’s true that in Christianity, some denominations are splitting over this issue and they have the right to do so. Those who follow a traditional reading of Scripture disagree with the view that scripture evolves or is dictated by ever-changing culture.  Islam is not without it’s inner debates. Some conservative Western born Muslim women disagree with the traditional Islamic view of women and children as being inferior to men. The differences need to be respected, not suppressed or banned.  Right now there is pressure for churches and individuals to not teach or share their faith values because what they believe may offend someone else. In some cases, it’s being touted as hate speech or at the very least…a phobia. Tolerance, one of the gods of the early 2000s has lost it’s luster for a more sinister god, that in my view, lacks basic common sense. Instead of tolerance, society is being duped by the doctrine of compliance.

In other words, there is a segment of society that wants me to change my house rules to comply with their worldview. Right now the attack has begun with houses of faith and houses of self-enterprise. I pray the day never comes when the attack comes to your personal house or mine. Why, oh why can these various “houses” just be respected for having different worldviews and left alone? Let’s be neighbors and respect each other’s individual intellectual property when it comes to belief and speech. I learned the importance of this at a very young age as a young black girl living in a mostly white suburb.

When I was young, we lived in a community with a mixture of Jewish people, Catholics, and Protestants. It was okay to acknowledge the differences and not be insulted or offended. I learned that my 4th grade buddy Jonathan’s family ate matzah and didn’t believe Jesus was God. His mom let me try matzah. I didn’t like it. He invited me to his birthday party at the Jewish Community Center. I was the only black person. Despite feeling a little overwhelmed by the cultural differences, I was ok. Jonathan and his family liked me. We played together almost daily, trying to figure out how to sell our “furniture” that was made from sticks and Ohio buckeyes. No one back then got afraid, indignant or nervous that one of us was going to proselytize the other. My few Catholic friends also had some different beliefs. I went to a mass once and decided at eleven that I liked my faith better. My friend wasn’t offended. It was normal to respect differences of opinion. It was fine for each of my friends to think “our” way was the best and not be offended or feel discriminated against. I’d never expect Jonathan’s mom to serve me ham, just because I like ham. When in each other’s houses, Jewish, Catholic, or Protestant, we knew to respect “house rules” even if we didn’t participate or personally agree with them. We never got offended and thought that the “house rules” were discriminatory towards us. It was our choice to go to that friend’s house or not. 
I miss that era. If people come to my house, house of faith, the business I own etc, they should respect me and the “rules” of my houses. It’s their choice to come or not. We can still be friends even if we don’t agree with the tenets the other’s faith, lifestyle decisions, or worldviews. We can do what my friends and I did as kids: know there are differences and not be offended by them. We don’t have to take their differences of opinion as an affront to our well-being. I had one childhood friend whose “house rules” were uncomfortable to me. Therefore I didn’t go into her house. We played outside.
I hope in this present era that my house, your house, our individual houses of faith, self-employment venues etc will be respected for their “house rules”: tenets, beliefs, worldviews. I don’t like the taste of matzah, You may not believe that Jesus is God. There’s no reason for offense to be taken, just understanding to be offered.

Do you remember the adage that you learned as a child, “Respect your neighbor’s property”? My parents instilled in us an understanding that while we share a neighborhood, each property line distinguishes boundaries of ownership. My small four street neighborhood right outside of Shaker Heights, Ohio had a block party one summer. It was a wonderful experience! I remember zooming down the street on my bicycle with kids that I knew and some that I’d never met before. We shared food and fun. However, an unspoken rule remained as I looked around. No one, but no one stepped onto the lawn or driveway of another property owner. We stayed in the street, the area that belonged to us all. I was impressed.

If a person goes into a house of faith, whatever the spiritual tradition, there is an unspoken rule, or understanding, that you now comply with or respect the “rules” of that house. I can’t enter a mosque and expect to be served Holy Communion. I can’t go into a Muslim country as a woman and expect them to let me roam freely without a burka. That would be rude.

Private businesses, schools, churches and homes reflect the values of their founders or owners. None of us wants someone else to come into our home or business and tell us that we have to never eat peanut butter because someone with a severe nut allergy may come over.

No civil authority has the right to censor religious doctrine or individual speech. There is a divine boundary line between state and individual. What is deemed private should never be violated by the ever-changing court of public opinion.  We have a divine gift to believe what ever we perceive is Truth. Our lives reflect this Truth each day in our lifestyles and words. No state or law has the right to make us comply with something different. Traditional faith values as well as other worldviews deserve mutual respect. We do not have to agree with each other’s “house rules” in order to live as neighbors.

.

neighbors Leslie Oshana and Marilynn Taylor(glasses) talking outside their homes.