Monday, January 15, 2018

TODAY on MLK Jr. Day

TODAY is MLK Day. The day we honor and remember a great man in our nation's history.

A man who lived, fought and died for the freedom of African Americans and all people.

TODAY I celebrate this man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And to celebrate Dr. King and his legacy I'd like to share a few more things that have happened TODAY.

TODAY I sat on a pew in one of Franklin, Tennessee's historic African American churches and listened to some amazing gospel music and powerful testimonials.

TODAY I stood up in that pew and applauded the spoken word shared and raised my hands to some soul-stirring songs like God is and Every Praise.

TODAY I marched with my husband, my children and a large group of people through the streets of Franklin. A mixed group full of black folks, white folks, Latino folks and native American folks.

TODAY we dreamed of unity and justice. The same dreams of Dr. King.

And I also made a really fun discovery...

TODAY I found a school assignment I'd written on January 17, 1984 when I was a freshman in high school.

Here's a pic of cover page of that assignment (apparently before I began using a desktop computer).

And here's a pic that I shared of my family in that assignment. In the summer of 1976 my entire family - parents, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins - traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to visit Dr. King's gravesite and the Center for Social Change. (I'm the second kid on the left)

TODAY I read the concluding paragraph of this assignment:
Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered on April 4, 1968, but his teachings and beliefs will live on. Late last year, President Reagan signed a bill making his birthday a national holiday. Now, hopefully, all children of all colors will know that school isn't out on January 15 so they can catch up on their sleep, but to celebrate the birthday of a great man in history, Martin Luther King, Jr.
TODAY I feel blessed, knowing that my children did not use the day to catch up on their sleep. Our day was filled with black church experience and marching through city streets with people of various skin hues and cultures and backgrounds and watching Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech during the 1968 March on Washington.

And yet...

TODAY I look into the eyes of the little pigtailed girl in this picture from 1976 and wonder, is our world the world she thought she'd be living in? 

(That's me in the denim overall shorts with my Mom, my Dad, my sister Sherri and half of my sister Lori. Apparently not a professional photographer!)

That little girl inside me is hoping for a better TOMORROW.

A TOMORROW where people are not accepted and appreciated in spite of their differences, but because of them.

A TOMORROW where more churches are filled with people of different nationalities, skin hues and socio economic groups.

A TOMORROW where Christians fight for poor children in subpar housing and second-rate schools as passionately as they fought for them in the womb.

A TOMORROW where we empower disenfranchised communities, instead of gentrifying them with million dollar homes and coffee shops.

A TOMORROW where we give disadvantaged people job opportunities in lieu of playing Santa Claus for their children each year.

A TOMORROW where people can agree to disagree on social media, instead of unfriending and writing each other off.

Can I get an AMEN?!!!

Because of men and women like Dr. King, we are blessed with laws that protect our freedom to vote, attend racially diverse schools and ride in the front seats of public transportation.

However, we have not arrived to the Promised Land that Dr. King spoke of so eloquently. We have a ways to go. And in recent times, it seems that perhaps we have taken a few steps back.

But I am hopeful. As I see more female leaders and leaders of various skin hues in education, the corporate world, politics and entertainment, I believe change is a-coming. 

TODAY I'm dreaming of a better TOMORROW.

Will YOU dream with me?

Saturday, December 16, 2017

This Christmas: Sharing a Little HOPE for the Holidays

I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But...

This holiday season, it seems I just keep hearing about one sad situation after another. Here's a sampling of a few:

  • A teen girl struggling with life-altering anxiety and depression
  • A young mom of two beginning chemotherapy after undergoing a double mastectomy
  • A mom of two adopted kids out of work and facing the threat of homelessness
And the very worst of all... The mama whose mental illness and hopelessness led her to take her own life - just weeks before Christmas.

The holidays can be a wonderful time filled with faith, family and fun. 

The holidays can also be a difficult time, a time when problems magnify, at least in our own minds. 

What makes matters worst is that it's also a time we assume we should be happy and joyful. After all, Christmas is a time that we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. We sing...

Joy to the World, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!

We sing beautiful songs that remind us that the joy of this season doesn't come from wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree. Or from Santa Claus. Or even from the family and friends that we love dearly. Joy comes from Jesus and experiencing His love for us.

But when that joy is missing, especially at Christmastime, that fact can cause guilt and shame. It can sap the last bit of happiness and joy that we may have inside.

So... if you find yourself struggling with joy during this holiday season - or you know someone who is - please read on for some things I've learned while struggling during the Christmas season. Maybe I can extend just a little "Hope for the Holidays".

1. You are NOT alone.

Loneliness is universal. Everyone feels lonely at times, even when surrounded by people and a bunch of noise. The thing to remember when you're feeling lonely is you are not alone in your loneliness. 

Another thing to remember is that this is a day and age when we must fight for connection. I recently had lunch with a good friend, and at the end of our time she said to me, "Let's commit to do this more often. It doesn't make any sense for both of us to be lonely in the same city." 

Can the church say AMEN?!

In the new year, commit to make more time to connect. Have coffee with that lady with which you enjoy those snatched 5 minute conversations after church. Go with a coworker to lunch. Walk around your 'hood and meet a few neighbors you've seen but never actually spoken to.

Community is vital to our souls, but it is also very challenging. And don't allow the illusion of social media to replace time actually connecting with others. Social media is great, but it is not a replacement for looking beyond a steaming cup of coffee or tea into the eyes of a good friend, or sharing a meal with a family member or talking with neighbors on a beautiful, crisp day.

Make it a priority. I am.

2. Expect to feel your losses in a deeper way during the holidays.

This Christmas will be the second I'll experience without my parents. When December rolled in, I found that I was feeling extra bluesy. After days of wondering "What is wrong with me?", a lightbulb flickered on and I remembered that I'm still grieving my folks. The reality is this: Christmas will never be the same without them.

We all have experienced loss, disappointment and trauma in our lives. That is a fact and a guarantee from the day we are born. But there's something about the holidays that seems to amp up any losses we've already experienced, be it illness, marital and family difficulties or loss of a loved one. If we enter the season with challenges already looming around us - or even within us - those challenges will probably increase in intensity during the holidays.

For me, just recognizing this truth makes me feel a little less crazy and a little more normal. It helps me cope with any blues I might experience. 

And it helps propel me to the third thing I wanted to share...

3. Be willing to get help when needed.

There comes a time in our lives when we just get "stuck", as I call it. When we fall into an emotional rut, and just can't seem to climb, kick or fight our way out of it. 

At that point, we have to move beyond pride, self-righteousness and religious cliques and find the help with need. For some of us, help might be sharing with a trusted friend/family member, a bible study group or a pastor. For some that help might come from spending intense, extended time with the Lord, in His word and in prayer. 

And for some, after trying all that, we must reach out to a professional resource. Counseling can be a lifesaver - literally. Talking with a skilled, compassionate, trained counselor can really propel us towards self-awareness and healing. I can't recommend this enough for anyone stuck in an emotional rut. Sometimes we just need someone to help lift us up out of that rut. 

God is the true Healer, but just like a trained physician's hands, He can use the healing touch of an amazing counselor too. 

I promise you. I'm a witness.

My wish this Christmas is that we all find HOPE during this and every holiday season.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Toxic Charity: The Gamechanging Way to Engage Charity & Community Service

While my heart has been stirred towards community impact and development in recent years, I just read a book that spoke to my heart in a powerful way. Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton is a gamechanger for real.

I don't have time to share every single point of this book, and you certainly don't have time to read every single point either, but I just have to share a few highlights. First of all, this book is for anyone who has the desire to effect change in his or her local community. It's for anyone who wants to see people living in poverty empowered, children being taught in substandard schools enfranchised and disintegrated families restored.

This is the change I want to see in my local community, in all 50 states of America, and all over the world. This is the change you want to see too, I'm sure.

However, there is an enemy that's been working against this kind of family and community empowerment that you might not know about. At the heart of this enemy is a desire to do good, to serve those less fortunate, to make a real lasting difference in the world.

And this heart to do good is what makes it so hard to see its error.

The enemy I'm speaking of is something we Americans are asked to participate in almost every day of our lives. It's something that I have personally participated in my entire adult life and maybe you have too.

This enemy is named CHARITY.

I know what you might be thinking. Isn't charity a good thing? Aren't we supposed to give to those less fortunate than ourselves? Doesn't the Bible tell us to be charitable?

The simple answer to those questions is YES. We are supposed to give to those less fortunate than ourselves. However, we must give mindfully, purposefully and responsibly. We must give in a way that improves the lives of our beneficiaries. We must give in a way that doesn't harm the very people we want to help.

The opening paragraph of Toxic Charity runs out the gate with these words...
In the United States, there's a growing scandal that we both refuse to see and actively perpetuate. What Americans avoid facing is that while we are very generous in charitable giving, much of that money is either waisted or actually harms the people it is targeted to help.
The old preachers used to say... If you can't say Amen, say Ouch! I said "ouch!" over and over again while reading this book thinking about how often I've gotten charitable giving wrong.

AND how often our nonprofits get charitable giving wrong.

Toxic Charity repeats an "Oath for Compassionate Service" that can serve as a measuring stick for our charitable giving programs.

The Oath for Compassionate Service
  • Never do for the poor what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves.
  • Limit one-way giving to emergency situations [like natural disasters].
  • Strive to empower the poor through employment, lending, and investing.
  • Subordinate self-interests to the needs of those being served.
  • Listen closely to those you seek to help, especially to what is not being said.
  • Above all, do no harm.

And from there Lupton, who has spent decades of his life in Atlanta partnering with communities neighborhood by neighborhood, proceeds to explain why our typical acts of charity harm the very people we want to help.

I'll give an example that spoke volumes to me, especially because I read it at the same time a local ministry in my city was sending emails about a Christmas program they've been doing for years. Lupton describes an initiative he began when he first moved to urban Atlanta. The program was simple. Well-meaning folks in the community would "adopt a family" during the holidays, buying toys for the precious children from lower income families. Sounds beautiful, right?

During these "Santa's helpers" deliveries, the children were ecstatic, ripping open their packages. The parents, on the other hand, were less thrilled, and the dads were often MIA. When Lupton inquired about the fathers' absences during these deliveries, this is what he discovered...
...After organizing these kinds of Christmas charity events for years, I was witnessing a side I had never noticed before: how a father is emasculated in his own home in front of his wife and children for not being able to provide presents for his family, how a wife is forced to shield her children from their father's embarrassment, how children get the message that the "good stuff" comes from rich people out there and it is free.

And this is the challenge of most of the charitable giving programs that we in the US organize and support. This kind of giving is heartfelt and gracious, but it can also be emasculating and disempowering to the recipients. And over a long period of time, it can actually do more harm than good.

Another way to approach the Santa's helpers initiative? A nonprofit can set up a Christmas "store" where community families shop for toys and gifts for their children at a very low cost. These toys and gifts are donated by those same Santa's helpers, then sold (not given) to parents at a cost way below market price. This way parents come home with those gifts as if they've shopped at the local WalMart, wrap those gifts and present them to their children on Christmas morning. The parents are now Santa's helpers, instead of local middle and upper class strangers from the community.

Everybody wins.

And that's the bottom line of responsible charity. EVERYBODY wins, especially those who desperately need support, encouragement and empowerment.

It only takes a little more thought, a little more planning and a LOT more conversations with the people we're wanting to help. You and I can help detoxify the charity in our communities and our churches.

Step one is reading this book.**

** Step two towards supporting and engaging effective community development is watching Poverty Inc., an equally powerful documentary currently on Netflix.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

STEP: The Inspiring Story of Grit, Advocacy & Community Impact

Last weekend my family and I watched STEP, a powerful documentary featuring a group of high school seniors from a public charter school for girls in Baltimore City. Directed by Amanda Lipitz, Step follows the real life story of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women's step team and the graduating seniors from the team. The poignant portrayal led to an award at the Sundance Film Festival, and after watching it, I concur.

Disclaimer: Of course I'm a little partial to this story since Baltimore (pronounced Bal-de-more by natives - LOL) is my hometown. However, anyone with a heart for young people, for education and for witnessing others receive a "hand-up" in life would be inspired by this story.

Now before I list the reasons YOU should find this movie and watch it too**, I'll answer a question some of you might have right now...

What is a step team anyway???

I'm so glad you asked!

A step team is similar to a dance or jump rope team. Popularized by historically black fraternities and sororities, "stepping" is an athletic and artistic form of movement that includes dance moves, clapping, stomping, etc. The key to stepping is that the steppers moves are coordinated, as they step in sync. There is no music - the steppers create the rhythm and musical accompaniment through stomping, clapping and sometimes rapping or chanting.

Okay, I hope that clears that up. Now on to why Step moved me so deeply...

The thing that stirred me and moved me to tears about Step was the commitment of this school to its students. The administrators and teachers were willing to walk with every single student - up treacherous mountains, through thickets of scary forests and down into dark valleys.

One student in particular, Blessin Giraldo, had a fascinating story. Blessin is a student we've all seen - extremely bright, talented and totally possessing the "X factor". You know what I mean... When you meet someone and know immediately that he or she just has "it". The "it" is difficult to name or even describe, but most strong leaders, world-changers and culture-shifters have this quality. And dear Lord, does Blessin have it.

And yet, in spite of all the "it" Miss Blessin has, she also has a lot of unfavorable things wrapped up in that package. She lives in a broken and dysfunctional home. She has a hot temper. She misses a bunch of school. And she doesn't study hard nor apply herself in class. This girl is drowning in a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure and on her way to nowhere.

There's so much talent and potential in that girl, you watch her story and want to scream. But just when you think you might scream your head off, the teachers, administrators and counselors wrap around this young woman who's drowning in a cycle of despair and poverty. They pull her out of the raging sea she's resigned herself to, and the passion with which they grab her from the waters touched me in a deep place.

This school fought for this girl, and it's obvious that they've fought for others before and others after her. Somehow the folks at this school understood that THIS IS WAR - a war for the souls of our children and teenagers. A war that begins with experimentation and ends in drug addiction. A war that begins in curiosity and ends in sexual addiction and a string of unplanned pregnancies. A war that begins with despair and hopelessness and ends in suicide.

A war that begins with generational poverty and ends in generational poverty.

Yes, this is war y'all. And our mantra must be, has to be, "No one left behind."

This was the mantra I heard in my spirit while watching Step. No girl left behind. No family left behind. No community left behind. 

The leaders of this school were not satisfied that the majority of their students attended school every day. They weren't celebrating that most of their girls were earning good grades. They didn't hang their hats on nearly every girl graduating and planning to attend college.

This school ran after the ONE. 

The one wounded and bleeding. 

The one fallen on the battlefield.

This is the story of Step. The story that models how we too must run to care for the ONE. The story of why we must give, and assist and cry with the one who's hurting. This is why we must carry the one in risk of getting left behind.

This is why we must reach into the deep sea of despair in our own communities and cities, and grab the hand of someone - maybe a child or teen - that's drowning right this very moment.

Because it is unacceptable for even one to to fall.

For even one to drown.

For even one to be counted a casualty.

THIS is why our schools exist. 

THIS is why our churches exist. 

THIS is why the Body of Christ exists.

So what does this mean for you and for me? For the average folks that don't make laws or run the court system or hold a leadership position in the public school district?

So glad you asked...

Do you know a child in your neighborhood, child's class or church children's ministry that needs a "hand-up"? Do you know a family that needs one? Do you support a school, ministry or nonprofit reaching the kids and families in your community that are drowning in despair and poverty? Do you volunteer for any organizations committed to leaving no child, teen or family behind?

If you open your eyes, the opportunities right in your own community are endless.

Come on y'all. 

No kid left behind. 

No teen left behind. 

No family left behind. 

No community left behind.

Let's do this.

** FYI - We found Step on Redbox

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

This Is Us: TRUTH about adoption and foster care

So... there's no denying one thing about me.

I am a huge advocate for vulnerable children.

This advocacy has led me to work for schools that serve lower income children, nonprofit ministries and today as coordinator for my church's adoption and foster care ministry.

It's led me to lead workshops and panels and write many, many blog posts about adoption and foster care.

It's also led me to become an adoptive momma.

Okay so... I'm kind of a fanatic about this issue.

So you can imagine my surprise and joy last year, when I viewed the first episode of one of my favorite shows and was immediately pulled into an amazing adoption story. For me the storyline of Randall, the adopted son of the leading characters in This Is Us, has brought the issue of adoption to prime time - finally.

For a girl that grew up on the '80s sitcom Different Strokes, that featured two black boys adopted by a wealthy white guy, I think a story like Randall's is overdue.

In Randall's adoption story we see the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the heartwarming and the heartbreaking.

In his story we see TRUTH.

Because adoption is the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the heartwarming and the heartbreaking. Take it from an adoptive mom of two like me.

As if last season wasn't enough, this season of This Is Us has peeled open a new layer of truth - the truth of foster care. Randall and his wife Beth have decided to enter into the world of foster care, taking in a teenage girl whose mom has been incarcerated. We watch their new life unfold, and while it's still a Hollywood depiction, we see truth.

Here I want to point out 3 TRUTHS that I've witnessed in This Is Us...

1. Love can't always move mountains, but it can get us over mountains together

One thing I love about This Is Us is Randall and Beth's marriage. They are honest and loving and real in a way that makes me love them both. They are educated and smart and successful AND they are absolutely and unapologetically African American. Beth rocks her natural hair with graceful poise, while telling Randall off like a million-dollar-an-hour corporate attorney.

So of course they take on their foster care placement with poise, authenticity and love. They take it on like they take on all of life - with ride-or-die togetherness.

When my husband Anthony and I decided to adopt, we did so while wearing our most fashionable rose-colored glasses. I truly thought that love would conquer all, and that no matter what challenges our adopted child faced, we would stare down and tear down those challenges together as a family.

Today, I realize that love does not conquer all. The love I have for my children doesn't take away the ache in their souls for their birth families. The love I feel for them doesn't make them feel less different from their peers and classmates being raised in their biological families. The love I give my children doesn't eradicate their feelings of abandonment.

And yet they desperately need our love. Adopted and foster children often worry that they were relinquished by their birth parents because they are damaged, unworthy - unlovable. After all, if they were beautiful, smart and perfect, their birth parents would have wanted to parent them.

For this reason, our children need to feel loved and accepted by us, no matter what.  They need to know that even when they mess up, we still love them. They need to know that we love them enough to stay with them - forever.

That we will never leave them.

Not ever.

2. Adoption and foster care will bring great highs and great lows

Last week in This Is Us, Beth spoke those words almost verbatim while she and Randall discussed their new foster daughter. She mentioned something along the lines of, "Well everyone said this is how it would be. They said we'd have lots of highs and lots of lows."

I can remember the joy of "Gotcha Day" - the day we brought our adopted children home - like it was yesterday. By the time we adopted, I had already experienced giving birth to my oldest son Kalin. I already knew the joy of childbirth and parenthood.

And yet adoption brought a different kind of joy. On the day we officially adopted Christian I looked into his big brown eyes, and I marveled at the beauty of my new baby boy. He was gorgeous, and we had nothing to do with it. He was a mystery, and I was thrilled, knowing I'd have a lifetime of discovering who God had created him to be. It was exciting in a new way, and I couldn't wait to begin this new adventure.

I felt a similar joy, excitement and wonder when we brought our Joelle home two years later. Who is this precious baby girl? I wondered. Again, I couldn't wait for this new adventure.

Both times, however, I was ill-prepared for the challenges of this adventure. I wasn't prepared for the heart-wrenching conversations, for seeing my child crying himself to sleep, for the contagious angst and sadness of abandonment and separation from their first families.

I was ready for the highs, but dear God, so unready for the lows.

And now I lean in to God DAILY for the strength to make through the lows, knowing He is able, even when I am not.

3. Adoption and foster care requires ALL of me - FOREVER

When Beth pulls out their ancient baby monitor, to keep tabs of their newest family member throughout their first night together, I smiled and nodded. I get it. They know they will grow to love and accept this young girl, but on that first night, she is a stranger to them and their precious biological daughters. This small gesture reminds me that parenthood, and all its weight and responsibility, never ever end.

We don't put away the baby monitor when the baby grows up.

If I've heard one thing over and over again from older parents, it's that you never stop being a mom or dad. No matter how grown our kids become, we still love them and want to the best for them and kinda want to do it all for them - forever.

Case in point... Monday night my son went to a Tennessee Titans game. The weather had just taken a turn for fall, and Anthony said to me, "Did you check to see if Kalin took a jacket to the game?"

I chuckled and said, "You know I was dying to text him and see if he had a jacket, but forced myself not to. At some point my big boy's going to have to figure out when to wear a jacket to a football game."

So if Ant and I are any indication, we parents have to release and allow our children to grow up and become adults. Yet we still want to guide them, advise them, help them find their way. We still pray as hard for them - maybe harder than when they were little, when we could trace their every move.

Adoption and foster care are no different.

You never stop having the conversations about their birth mom's choice to place her was a loving choice. How she chose life for him, when she certainly had other alternatives. You never stop reminding them that their moms probably think and wonder about them every day - and a whole bunch on their birthdays. You never stop reminding them that they were placed for adoption because of sin and imperfection in the world and in their birth parents' lives, not because of their personal sins and imperfections.

And sometimes, it seems like you'll never stop wiping tears.

But just like we have become the number one supporters in our 20-year-old son's life, instead of holding his hand and clearing his way, we will one day move to the sidelines of our adopted children's lives. They will move away, build lives for themselves, delve into their passions and callings, and we will hopefully be consulted occasionally for advise and support. They will always be our children, and we will alway fight for and with them. Yet, we will do it by invitation only.

And we pray they invite us often.

After all, in our hearts, we still haven't put the baby monitor away either.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Legacy: What Will We Leave the World?

I've been thinking about one word a lot recently... LEGACY. My thoughts can be traced to a recent event in my life.

This past week I spent time in my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. I traveled home for my Uncle Alvis's funeral on this past Monday. His funeral was one of the most precious I've ever attended. The room was filled with people whose lives have been touched one way or another by Uncle Alvis. Family members, colleagues, neighbors, fellow church members -- we all crammed into his A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) church home to reminisce and illuminate a life fully lived.

My uncle spent his life serving college students as a professor in the School of Social Work at Howard University in Washington D.C. (my alma mater, by the way - HU!!!). As the president of Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina for a short time. As a member of the peace corps in Liberia, West Africa (which my family and I visited when I was only 4 years old). As a social activist for African Americans in our nation's capital and beyond. As a political enthusiast (and Republican, like my Dad, believe or not). As a family historian and writer.

As a man who constantly searched for opportunities to lift up the poor, the hungry, the outcast. 

As I sat, reminiscing over these things that I already knew he had accomplished, an interesting thought came to me. I had always wondered about the origins of the "Mother Teresa" deep in my soul. I know my beautiful Mom and Dad had great influence for sure. Interestingly, I believe my Uncle Alvis did too.

As I sat in my uncle's funeral, I also thought about the word LEGACY.

This one word makes me go deep, makes me do a heart-check and makes me ask some hard questions. When I leave this world, what will I leave in my absence? Will I have made the places I frequented better than when I arrived? Will I have encouraged, supported and loved the people I'm blessed to have in my life - even the ones that might be difficult to love at times? Will I have changed the world for the better, even in my little corner of the world?

I am in a period of rebooting of sorts. I'm forty (eh hem...) now. For me, it is time to focus on making this life count, on making an impact for God's kingdom, on seizing opportunities to lift up others in my little corner of the world.

One way I'm wanting to do this is to WRITE. For over a decade, I've focused on ministry and nonprofit work. This I will continue to do, for sure.

But the one question I heard over and over again when I was in Maryland/Washington D.C. was this... "Are you still writing?"

Apparently God's given me a mission here, as small as it may be. I may not have a huge platform. I may not have thousands of Twitter followers. I may not have droves people that would flock to to purchase a book written by me. But God keeps giving me something to say. He keeps encouraging me through others to persist and press and prod. He keeps exhorting me to sit my rear in a chair, put my fingers on my laptop keyboard and WRITE.

And so I have. And so I will. Even when everything in me tells me that it's not enough. That there are more important things that need doing. That I should spend my time and energy elsewhere.

The things that God puts in us are the things that He wants us to give back to the world. What has God put in you? What has He given you to do? Think of all the books that would be written, paintings that would be painted, words that would be spoken, ministries and business that would be birthed - if only we examined our hearts to find the thing God has placed in us. 

So many things can impede us... Fear. Discouragement. Busyness.

Yet so many things can propel us... 

A calling from God. 

Family and friends cheering us on. 

Knowing that someone, somewhere needs to read, see, feel, experience whatever it is we have to give.

What else propels us? LEGACY. Knowing that this life on earth is brief and short. That we will have - at most - 80, 90, 100 years here to make a difference.

Even the Bible speaks to the brevity of life...

"Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."*

Life is short. One day we will all walk the road my uncle, my mom, my dad and many, many others have walked. We will leave this earth to join those who have gone before us in heaven. For those who know the Lord, it will be a day of celebration for sure. 

When that day comes, may it also be a day of remembrance. A day that our family and friends remember a life lived to the full. A life lived for others. A life lived pouring out the things that God has placed in us not to hoard or preserve, but to share with the world.

A life lived with the end in mind. 

That, my Friend, is LEGACY.

* James 4:14

Saturday, September 9, 2017

DACA - Speaking Up for the Dreamers


Also known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

There's been a lot of talk on both sides about DACA recently. The loudest voice has been that of President Trump, who this past week rescinded the DACA program, charging Congress with the task of creating policy to fix the program.

I could say so much about this.

I could list the many scriptures that encourage us to welcome and care for the alien, stranger or immigrant, depending on your favorite translation of the bible.

In fact, according World Relief Global...
"The Bible has a lot to say about immigrants and immigration. In fact, the Hebrew word ger, the closest word to our concept of an immigrant, appears 92 times in the Old Testament alone."
I could also quote what pastors, leaders, politicians and entertainers are saying about DACA. 

Again, there's so much I could say about this issue.

But today, I'll keep it short by sharing a poem I saw hanging on the walls of The Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta

It's a poem written by Martin Niemoller, a prominent German Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

This poem is a reminder that whenever I have the opportunity to speak up for the rights of another human being, I must speak.

It's a reminder that whenever YOU have the opportunity to speak up for the rights of another human being, you too must speak...

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me -
And there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemoller, Holocaust Survivor

The day may come when we desperately need someone to speak for us. 

Until then, may we speak out for those who need our voices today.