Friday, December 28, 2012

Russian Ban on U.S. Adoptions: Pray for these Children


Why do children pay for the idiocy of adults?

Today Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that bans adoptions of Russian children by U.S. citizens. This ban was reportedly developed in retaliation for a US law punishing Russians accused of violating human rights.

As the mama of an eleven-year-old boy adopted from Russia in 2003, my heart breaks for the children that will never be adopted due to this new law. According to UNICEF there are approximately 740,000 children without parental care in Russia.

"Alternatives to the institutionalization of children are essential, including permanent foster care, domestic adoption and inter-country adoption," said Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF. "All children deserve an environment that promotes their protection and well-being. Russian children -- indeed all children -- need to be in protective and loving families..."

Amen, Director Lake.

Why has it become so hard for adults to get along? Why are politicians around the world (including our own) fighting like children? And why do the real children have to suffer for their bickering?

I've seen some of these precious orphans during my time in Moscow, Russia. My eyes tear up as I recall their smudged, smiling faces when we drove away from the orphanage with one of their friends.

They were too young to understand their predicament. They were too young to understand the word orphan. They were too young to memorize the statistics for occurrences of homelessness and crime for children that age out of Russian orphanages.

They were beautiful children -- children that deserve a chance at one day having a family of their own. Even if that family happens to live clear across the waters in a strange country called the United States of America.

Will you pray with me for the heart of President Putin?

Will you pray with me for his fellow leaders and advisors?

Will you pray with me for 740,000 Russian orphans?


Love,

Carla


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Jesus: Don't Leave Him in the Manger


Okay, I'll admit it. I can't say I loved the movie Talladega Nights, but quite of few of the lines made me chuckle.

As a matter of fact, the main character Ricky's prayer over the family meal actually has me in stitches every time I think of it. Here's a sampling:

"Dear Lord Baby Jesus... Dear Baby Jesus, we also thank you for my wife's father, Chip. We hope that you can use your Baby Jesus powers to heal him and his horrible leg... Dear Tiny Infant Jesus..."

In the middle of his prayer, Ricky's wife Carley interrupts. "Hey, um... you know, sweetie, Jesus did grow up. You don't always have to call him baby. It's a bit odd and off puttin' to pray to a baby."

Ricky, frustrated with his wife's assertion says, "Well, look, I like the Christmas Jesus best when I'm sayin' grace. When you say grace, you can say it to Grown-up Jesus, or Teenage Jesus, or Bearded Jesus or whoever you want."

He later continues, "Dear Tiny Jesus, in your golden fleece diapers with your tiny, little fat balled up fists..."

The funniest thing about this prayer to me is the truth in it. The first time I saw it, I thought "now that could preach."

You see, most people are most comfortable with the "Christmas Jesus" laying in a manger, cooing adorably. That Jesus is heart-warming and sweet.

Few people like to envision Jesus as the God-man who overturned market tables, furious that His temple had been converted into a marketplace of thieves. They don't like the thought of a bloody and beaten Jesus hanging on the cross. And the image of Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father, with immeasurable power and authority doesn't necessarily invoke warm and fuzzy feelings.

But if we're going to pray to Jesus, walk with Jesus, live for Jesus, we've got to embrace not only the baby Jesus in a manger in golden fleece diapers, but the grown-up Jesus in all His glory and majesty.

This Christmas, don't leave Jesus in the manger. Please, friends, remember that dear Baby Jesus grew up.

Love,
Carla


Friday, December 14, 2012

The Connecticut School Shooting: What Can You and I Do?



Most of you have heard the news already.

A young man of about 24 entered an elementary school in the small town of Newtown, Connecticut and killed 26 people. I've heard that twenty of those people were mere children.

As the news drones on and on and the facts stack up about this heinous crime, many of us are dumbfounded. How could someone enter a school and randomly kill so many young, innocent children? Why didn't someone see this coming? And what can we do to prevent another massacre like this one?

Well, I don't have any answers to these questions. But I do want to share what I plan to do in the midst of this national tragedy.

Look Up

At times like this, no one has any real answers. We debate about gun control and the government setting the example for the rest of the world by getting along. We stress that we've got to be more vigilant about stressing mental healthcare for our family and friends.

But really there are no answers.

So, at this time I'm looking up. Looking up to the One that's omniscient (all-knowing) and has all the answers -- even the answers He chooses not to share with me. Even in times like this, He gives me comfort and assurance. He's still the King of Kings. He's still sovereign. And He's still in control.

Look Out

In this time of tragedy, I find myself focusing a lot less on myself and my life. My problems seem ridiculously miniscule compared to what others have suffered today. Compassion and empathy rule my heart. I think of how the mothers of those sweet children that passed away must feel. And it brings me to tears.

Looking out also brings me to my knees in prayer -- prayer for the victims' loved ones, prayer for New Town, Connecticut, prayer for this country. And in prayer I thank God for a day when there will be no more death, no more pain, no more suffering. I thank God for heaven, where little children won't be in danger of being shot down by an evil gunman.

I thank God that faith in Christ can give me this hope for a better day.

Have you found this hope in the Son?

Look In

Today, I've remembered to look into the faces of my own children and be grateful. I'm so thankful for my children with their rambunctious, imperfect selves. I'm thankful that three of them went to school today and returned home -- safe and unharmed. I am thankful for my husband, a great provider and protector and lover of God.

I look within my own home, and instead of scorning or correcting every flaw I see, I am simply grateful.

Love,

Carla





Friday, November 30, 2012

Thriller Turns 30: There Will Never Be Another...




Today marks the 30th Anniversary of King of Pop Michael Jackson's Thriller, considered one of the greatest albums of all time. 30 years ago, this album was released and went on to sell over 42 million certified copies (with estimates actually reaching 110 million). With hits like "Billie Jean," "Beat It" and "Thriller," this album is still the best selling album of all time.

I was a young lass when this album hit stores -- back in the day when you had to physically enter a store and purchase an album. (For my younger readers, those were also the days that dinosaurs roamed the earth.) I can't remember exactly who in my household purchased the album, but I'd guess that my sister -- ten years older than me -- made the transaction.

What I do remember? For me, Thriller was love at first hearing.

Over the years, I've come to love a lot of music and many artists of various genres, but I don't think anyone's music has been quite like Michael Jackson's. It was revolutionary... mesmerizing.

When I was a little girl, I remember my parents discussing the greats of their time: Jackie Robinson, Joe Lewis, Nat King Cole, and many others. The comment they would make over and over again, especially when one of "the greats" passed away was, "Man, there will never be another."

I didn't understand their words then. But then I grew up to see and hear a few greats myself.

Today, the first thought that popped into my head about Thriller's anniversary was, Man, there will never be another...

There will always be great singers, great dancers, great performers. But there will never be another Michael Jackson.

Today, I leave you with another thought. What will be said about you when you leave this earth? Will people remember you as one of the greats of your time?

Wouldn't it be amazing if when people thought of you and me, they shook their heads, pursed their lips and said:

"Man, there will never be another person who loves other people so well..."

"There will never be another who cares so deeply for the poor, the homeless, the needy, the orphan..."

Or --

"There will never be another who loves and serves God with so much passion.."

We still have time to make a difference here on earth. We still have time to care for those in need of the basic necessities that we frivolously throw away. We still have time to love God and others well.

You still have time to -- as Michael would say -- "make the world a better place, take a look at yourselves and make a change."



Love,

Carla

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2012 Election Results: I'm Just Saying...



You most likely woke up this morning feeling one of two ways:

  • Some of you feel dismayed and discouraged over the election results
  • Others of you feel triumphant and hopeful over the very same results
I actually have mixed feelings about the election. I'm happy that an African American man not only pulled off the election one time, but twice. Last night's election proved that Barack Obama's clinching of the country's top seat back in 2008 wasn't a fluke. For an African American woman that has studied our country's sordid past in the area of race, this fact makes me smile.

On the other hand, the election results around the country reveal some disturbing trends that give me pause...

I. The states of  Washington and Colorado legalized the sale and recreational use of marijuana for people over 21. 

For years, marijuana has had the reputation of being a harmless drug that many claim has desirable health benefits. However, according to a recent Yale study, marijuana can often be a "gateway drug" that leads users to try other, more harmful drugs later in life. Quite frankly, I don't want my children smoking marijuana to celebrate their 21st birthdays. 

II. My home state of Maryland and the state of Maine both voted to legalize gay marriage

I'm not going to beat the dead horse that evangelical christians are beating all over the country today, but I must note that the Bible clearly speaks of marriage as being between a man and a woman. The conclusion: our country has begun to silence God's voice on issues like these. We have become amazingly wise in our own eyes.

III. Oklahoma voted to wipe out affirmative action programs in state government. 

Voters in Oklahoma have decided that affirmative action programs are no longer needed in their state government's hiring practices. Now on the one hand, I see their point. We've witnessed an African American man being elected to our federal government's highest office -- twice. On the other hand, I know a lot of minority men and a lot of women of various races that could use a little help getting their foot in the door. Also, I worry that other state governments, corporations and universities will soon follow suit, eradicating programs that give minorities and women a fighting chance.

What discourages me today are the trends I'm seeing. The United States is rapidly moving the way of its mother country -- Europe. We are abandoning Judea-Christian beliefs and practices. We are abandoning the Word of God. We are abandoning the very ideologies that our country was founded upon.

And yet I am hopeful for our country. I believe in the U.S.A. And I believe in the God that still has the whole world in His hands.

This past Monday, my prayer group began our time with the following scripture, which, on the eve of election day, proved prophetic:
"Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made." Psalm 145:13
God is faithful. He is loving. He's got this. He's got us.

Every president has been confined to office terms, but God's dominion endures forever. And ever and ever and ever...

Love,

Carla





Sunday, November 4, 2012

Orphan Sunday: Let's Get Moving!



Today is Orphan Sunday, and at Mosaic Church, we'll spend the entire morning highlighting the needs of orphans in our country and around the world.

The statistics are staggering: there are more than 150 million orphans in the world. In the United States alone, 100,000 children are languishing in the foster care system, while waiting to be adopted. Many are older children. Some have physical or mental disabilities. Most have deep emotional scars.

Few are in their situations because of their own fault.

Almost all have been grossly neglected or abused by the adults in their lives -- the very people they have trusted to feed, clothe and care for them.

This problem can seem so overwhelming, you might be asking, "What can I do?" There are several things YOU can do for orphans around the world.

1. Pray for orphans in this country and around the world

Psalm 68:5 calls God "a father to the fatherless." If He is their true Father -- and ours too -- we must trust Him to ultimately protect these precious children. Even as an adoptive mother and someone who works diligently on behalf of foster care children in my state, I can't possibly touch every sweet little orphan girl in China or every abandoned baby boy in Ethiopia or every teenager right here in the U.S. that will soon "age out" of the foster care system.

But I can pray.

And so can you.

2. Consider foster care or adoption

I believe every Christian should at least pray about adopting or fostering a child. For many of us, God will call us to engage directly. For others He won't. Not every Christian is called to foster or adopt, but every Christian is called to consider it.

Today I stumbled upon "I Care About Orphans", a ministry of "Focus on the Family." This website presents an easy-to-read chart with the number of foster children waiting to be adopted in each U.S. state in one column and the number of churches in another column.

For instance, while my current state of Arkansas has 1414 waiting children, we also have 6343 churches. In my hometown of Maryland, there are only 718 waiting children, yet there are 5,816 churches. In the huge state of Texas, a staggering 13,481 foster children are waiting to be adopted. But get this: there are 27,505 churches in the "Lone Star State".

The obvious conclusion? If just one person from every church adopts just one of these waiting children, the U.S. would have no more waiting children. Imagine that.

3. Give financial support

There are so many ways we can give financially to the orphan crisis. One would be to find a reputable, God-focused organization working to solve this crisis and give monthly or at least once a year. I currently volunteer for The CALL (Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime), which trains prospective foster parents recruited from local churches, and we are forever in need of donors to help us continue God's mission.

Another way to give financially is to find families that are struggling to raise adoption fees. These fees can be overwhelming for sure (I know from experience), but the burden can be eased by monetary gifts from friends and loved ones. If Anthony and I hadn't been blessed in this way, there's no way we could have adopted my sweet Christian.

On Orphan Sunday, please pray about what you can do. And let's get moving!

Love,

Carla

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 We Must Never Forget



Last year, on September 11th, I published a reminder for us to never forget the nearly 3000 people that lost their lives on September 11, 2001. I remember that day like it was yesterday...

Do you remember where you were on that day?

Well, if you can remember that day, then obviously you were not counted in the number that died that fateful day.

You are here for a purpose.

Do you know what that purpose is?

I believe we all have a special assignment from God that we were created for. I believe we all have gifts and talents and influence that God wants to use to impact the world.

But I also believe that we all have a general calling in life. It may take on different forms and utilize different methods. I believe this calling can be found in the Bible:

He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy 
and to walk humbly with your God.* 

No matter where we live, where we work, who we are, God wants us to be just (fair, right, true) and to love mercy (kindness, compassion, empathy) and to walk humbly with Him.

Have you given your life to works of justice?

Do you extend mercy towards others?

Are you walking with God -- loving Him, spending time with Him? Do you live humbly -- with the constant reminder that He is God, and you are not?

God's calling is simple, yet so profound. Easy, yet so difficult.

Are you changing the world for the better? We owe it to those who lost their lives on 9/11 to make our country -- the world -- a better place. 

We owe it to the One who gave His life so that we might live a life worth living.

Love,

Carla


* Micah 6:8



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Republican National Convention: I'm Just Saying...

You'd think after I ruffled more than a few feathers with my last political post, Republicans vs. Democrats: Who Gets It Right?, that I'd leave this presidential race well enough alone.

I don't think there's any other topic that gets people more riled up than politics. And I can't think of many other topics that people will go to their graves believing they are absolutely 100% right, and everyone else is absolutely 100% wrong.

It baffles me. It amazes me.

It annoys me.

So today, I begin with a disclaimer. I am 100% sure that my political thoughts and beliefs are not 100% right.

And as you read, I beg of you -- would you consider that perhaps your political thoughts and beliefs might not be 100% right either?

That being said, on this first day of the Democratic National Convention, I'd like to share some thoughts about the Republican National Convention from last week.

I'll start with some highlights:
  • Condoleezza Rice: Condie's speech was my absolute favorite, but then again, I'm kind of partial to this brilliant, bright spot in the political world. She spoke with compassion towards "the AIDS orphan in Uganda, the refugee fleeing Zimbabwe, the young woman who has been trafficked into the sex trade in Southeast Asia; the world's poorest in Haiti." She applauded the government's assistance toward the least of these, along with "the compassionate works of private charities -- people of conscience and people of faith."
  • Condie also spoke of the crisis in our K-12 education system, which she called "the civil rights struggle of our day." I must quote her to capture the full essence of her thoughts: "Today, when I can look at your zip code and tell whether you are going to get a good education... We need to have high standards for our students... And we need to give parents greater choice -- particularly poor parents whose kids -- most often minorities -- are trapped in failing neighborhood schools." Amen, Dr. Rice!
Mia Love
  • I enjoyed seeing some diversity at the podium as well: In addition to Condoleezza, there was Mia Love, the African American U.S. Congressional candidate and mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah and Susana Martinez, Governor of New Mexico, and our country's first Hispanic female governor. Women, minority women even, are making great strides in the U.S. political arena. Amen to that!
  • And while I can't personally rave over Ann Romney's speech, I appreciate hearing from the wives of candidates. Our men cannot lead -- our families, our churches, our country -- without their wives supporting them. Ann proved her wholehearted support of her candidate-hubby when she took her turn in the podium.

And of course, there were some duds last week:

  • Clint Eastwood... I'll sum this up with just three words -- What was that???
  • Governor Mitt Romney spoke of love for his family, his country and for the American Dream, but my heart dropped when he revved up with these words: "We are a nation of immigrants. We are the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the ones who wanted a better life, the driven ones... They came not just in pursuit of the riches of this world but for the richness of this life. Freedom. Freedom of religion. Freedom to speak their mind. Freedom to build a life... This is the essence of the American experience..."
If I could sit across from Governor Romney, I would share these words with him:

Governor Romney, when you speak of these immigrants that came to America for a better life in pursuit of freedom, you left out the ancestors of those of us whose forefathers and mothers came to this country in chains, on slave ships, stacked up like sardines in inhumane conditions. When our ancestors crossed the borders of America, they lost their freedom and were deemed a mere step above livestock.

Governor Romney, it was difficult to hear about your dreams for our country when I felt left out of your speech. Does your dream include me? I sure hope it does...

In November I will cast my vote. But don't be so quick to decide which way I'll vote. On many issues, I side with Republicans. On other issues, I side with Democrats. My heart is torn on yet other issues.

I'll never share here which way I will vote. But I will vote with conviction for my God and for my country and world -- in that order.

Will you do the same?

I'm just saying...

Carla

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gabby Douglas: She is Not Her Hair


In my last post in Deep Waters, I raved about Gabby Douglas. After watching her Olympic Gold performances and her even more inspiring interviews with reporters, I had to be the 4'11", 90-pound powerhouse's biggest fan.

Perhaps I still am.

This 16-year-old's courage to leave her home and family in Virginia to train in Iowa exceeds that of most adults I know.

...Her courage to shine and smile her way through the ups and downs of life on the uneven bars, the balance beam and the floor exercises of the Olympics, even when she'd lost her winning streak.

...And her courage to face the criticism and questions in cyberspace about her family's financial state, her absent father and worse of all -- her hair.

The ignorance that I've seen from others, mostly African Americans, about Gabby's hair, brought to mind a favorite song of mine by R&B recording artist India.Arie...

"I Am Not My Hair"

Little girl with the press and curl
Age eight I got a Jheri curl
Thirteen and I got a relaxer
I was a source of so much laughter
Fifteen when it all broke off
Eighteen and I went all natural
February, two thousand two
I went on and did 
What I had to do
Because it was time to change my life
To become the woman that I am inside
Ninety-seven dreadlocks all gone
I looked in the mirror for the first time
And saw that, hey

I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within

Good hair means curls and waves
Bad hair means you look like a slave
At the turn of the century
It's time for us to redefine who we be
You can shave it off
Like a South African beauty
Or get in on lock 
Like Bob Marley
You can rock it straight 
Like Oprah Winfrey
It's not what's on your head
It's what's underneath...


Most African American women have their own hair journey they could write a song about too. I certainly have my own. 

By the time I turned five, my mother had begun the bi-monthly ritual of straightening my hair with a pressing comb. At age ten, I got my first chemical relaxer. And at age thirty I broke my Mama's heart, cut it all off and rocked an Afro. Recently, I've settled for natural hair (chemical-straightener free), but I usually have it flat-ironed straight. 

The bottom line is we African American women have many choices regarding hair. I love the diversity and versatility. 

But why is the self-hatred concerning our hair so prevalent, so deeply embedded, that we have to Tweet and Facebook cruel comments about Gabby's hair looking less than perfect? 

Obviously hair was not her priority.

Gabby's priority was winning Olympic Gold Medals

Our priority should be the fact that she did.


 

Carla

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Being Confident In This

Intrigue, exhilaration, disappointment, triumph.

These words describe the emotional roller coaster I rode the other night watching the Olympics.

I was intrigued by the beauty and precision of these amazing athlete's bodies. I was exhilarated by their displays of strength and talent. I was disappointed by the elimination of Jordyn Wieber from the all-around gymnastics competition. And I felt triumph whenever our country seized another medal.

But the moment that brought the most radiant smile to my face was during gymnast Gabby Douglas' interview after qualifying for the all-around competition. Nicknamed the "Flying Squirrel" for her aerial performance on the uneven bars, this 4'11", 90-pound powerhouse has completely stolen my heart, with her infectious smile and sweet spirit.

When asked how she kept her nerves at bay at the Olympics, Gabby replied, "I meditate on scriptures like, 'Be confident in this.'" She went on to say that the bible gives her comfort.

I'm loving this little 16-year-old's reliance on the Lord and His Word. And I'm totally inspired by her willingness to share her faith so openly on worldwide television.

Specifically, Gabby has inspired me in the following ways:


To sacrifice personal comfort in order to achieve a goal

In order to train at the level of skill and intensity that Gabby needed to soar to the Olympics, she and her mother made drastic changes in her life. When Gabby turned a mere 14-years-old, she moved from Virginia Beach, Virginia to West Des Moines, Iowa to train with Liang Chow, who had coached Olympic champ Shawn Johnson for the 2008 Olympics. Gabby has sacrificed a normal teenage life to live with a host family, all for the goal of advancing her gymnastics career.

I can't imagine allowing any of my four babies to live so far away to pursue a sports career, but I am loving the dedication and sacrifice that Gabby and her mother have modeled. It has caused me to take personal inventory of my life as I wonder if I need to be more sacrificial in order to achieve my life dreams and goals.

To remain confident when I'm in the minority

I have seldom seen Gabby without a radiant smile on her face, a smile that glows from the inside out. I observe this beautiful brown girl and it inspires me to keep my head up in all circumstances. Unlike the first half of my life, the last half has thrown me into many, many environments where I find myself in a drastic racial minority. I have attended multiple bible studies, board meetings, ministry meetings and writers' groups where I am absolutely the only non-white person.

This scenario has characterized a good portion of my life in this season, and young women like Gabby encourage me to stay the course, be confident and continue to shine.

To always be ready for opportunities to share my faith with others

The most important inspiration I've received from Gabby and so many other young Christians like her, is to openly share my faith in Jesus Christ whenever He affords me the opportunity. My heart is to never, ever force my faith or ideals on anyone else, yet, I know that I still have to tell my story. And my story begins, continues and ends with the Lord.

And as long as the Lord gives me breath, I hope to share that whenever and wherever I can. 

Carla



So how about you? Has Gabby or any other Olympic contenders inspired you? Feel free to share here.




Thursday, July 12, 2012

He Keeps Flipping the Script


My life has been full of surprises. I'll share a few of them:
  • I said I'd never marry a preacher. Well, I didn't marry a preacher, I married a corporate guy who, seven years later, became a preacher.
  •  When my husband Anthony and I decided to adopt a newborn baby girl from the United States, the Lord chose a 2-year-old toddler boy from Russia for our family instead.
  • After relocating cross-country from Tennessee to Northern Virginia in hopes of planting a new church there, after only one year, the Lord clearly directed us to Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas. (Note: In case you haven't noticed, Arkansas borders Tennessee. Surely moving costs would have been a lot cheaper if we would have moved right to Arkansas from Tennessee.)
As I share this list, I must admit, I wouldn't change not one of them. My life has been enriched by the surprises, the unexpected circumstances, and even the challenges of God flipping the script that I had joyfully written for myself.
 
And lo and behold, He's done it once again.

After following my dreams of becoming a full-time writer for several years now, God has taken my heart and mind through a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift that I'd love to share with you.

You see, for years now, if you would have asked me to define my career (outside of being a wife and mom, of course) I would have confidently stated: "I am a writer that advocates for social justice, primarily in the area of adoption and foster care."


Today, my script reads more like this: "I am a social justice advocate, primarily in the area of foster care and adoption that also writes."


It may sound like a simple change in samantics, but for me, this changes everything.


For instance, when I considered myself a writer first, I was consumed with the next writing gig, getting my byline out there and building my "platform." (By the way, platform means building an audience of readers and establishing myself as an expert in my craft and my personal interests.) And while there's nothing at all wrong with any of these endeavors, for me, they are no longer my primary focus.


Now my focus is on opportunities to share God's vision and hope for orphans around the world and around the corner. I still write, blog, post to Facebook and tweet, but I am no longer consumed with my blog stats (how many people read my blog) or how much activity I see on my personal Facebook page or how many people follow me on Twitter.


What ignites me now? Encouraging others to consider adopting or fostering a child. Pouring my time and energy into The CALL, whose mission is "to educate, equip and encourage the Christian community to provide a future and a hope for the children in foster care." Trusting God to bring opportunities for me to write for His glory and His alone.


And I'm absolutely resolved to continue to encourage, uplift and sometimes challenge others here at Deep Waters to love God and love our neighbors.


Even when their skin color is different from ours. Even when they belong to a different social class. Especially if they're poor or homeless or fatherless.


Even...

If they belong to the other political party.


But I won't go there again. :)


Love,

Carla

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Republicans vs. Democrats: Who Gets It Right?

I don't know about you, but I'm a little weary of all the bipartisan talk these days. Television campaign ads, candidate signs and Facebook posts of people blasting or singing the praises of politicians are wearing me out.

Honestly, I'm looking forward to November 7 -- the day after election day.

I recently read an article in Relevant Magazine entitled "Broken Politics", which took a hard, but fair, look at Republicans and Democrats. Authors D.C. Innes and Lisa Sharon Harper examined how both parties get it right and how both parties get it wrong.

Their conclusion:
"Christians must all recognize their ultimate hope should be in Christ, not in any earthly institution or human theory. Neither one's country nor one's party is the Kingdom of God."
I must agree.

Over the years I've heard many Christians proudly tout the Republican party as the Christian party. As if Jesus Christ Himself would be a Republican if He were walking the face of the earth today.

I've also heard many criticize the Republican party for being elitist and self-centered - the party of the rich and comfortable.

I disagree with both of these assertions.

Both parties represent a facet of the heart of God.

The Republican party tends towards the statutes that Christians have upheld for many years, one being the sanctity of life. The fact that life begins at conception. That every life has meaning and purpose. That every life should be protected, even in the very first hour of life being knitted in his or her mother's womb.

The Republicans get that right.

The Democratic party tends towards the statutes that Christians should be upholding, like caring for the poor, the widow, the alien (or "undocumented individual," as we say today). The fact that every life has meaning and purpose. That every person - old or young, rich or poor, homeowner or homeless person - should have an opportunity to survive and thrive in the world. That everyone should have a full belly and a place to lay his or her head at night. That everyone should have access to adequate health care.

The Democrats get that right.

But each party gets it wrong too. And I won't belabor that point, because quite frankly, I'm tired of all the political bashing.

Instead, I'd like to leave you, my Brother, my Sister, with a few words from the Lord on the matter.
"Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save." Psalm 146:3
"My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 (The Apostle Paul speaking)
My conclusion? Pray and ask God for His path for you in this next election. Open your heart and ears to those who have different political beliefs. Don't condemn another for belonging to the opposite party.   By all means, vote on November 6. And pray daily for the guy that gets elected - whether you voted for him or not.

And most of all - trust in God, not in man.

Trust in God, not in the Republican party.

Trust in God, not in the Democratic party.

After all, He really does have the whole world in His hands.

Carla

So what say you? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Breaking Out of the Ordinary



This week I watched "Dead Poets Society." A lover of quotes, this movie was made for nerds like me. I've been quoting lines from the movie ever since.

I offer you one here, delivered by John Keating (played by Robin Williams), an English teacher at a prestigious prep school for boys:

"Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, 'Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.' Don't be resigned to that. Break out!"

Do you strive to find your own voice in the world?

Have you ever felt that "quiet desperation"?

Have you known the urge to "break out" of the mold of your life?

I believe there are two facets to this need, this desire, this desperation.

1. We are called to something bigger than ourselves

As far back as I can remember, when I was but a little pigtailed girl in Baltimore, Maryland, I've believed that there was something more, something big that I would accomplish one day. Now if you'd have asked me back then, I would have probably boasted about a future career as a dancer twirling around the stages of the world. On another day, I might have spoken of my plans to become a doctor. And yet another day, I would have eagerly shared my dreams of becoming a teacher.

Yet throughout my entire childhood, I could have pulled out a portfolio of poems and short stories that I kept tucked underneath my bed. And my family could recount multiple plays that I had directed and co-written, along with my cousins. And my elementary and middle school teachers would tell of the little girl that led class programs and won student government elections.

But I also recall a time when I lost my "mojo." It happened during eighth grade, I think. I suddenly found myself surrounded with hundreds of super-bright, super-talented kids. I no longer felt special or extraordinary. And I kind of lost my way.

And yet within me, that voice constantly proclaimed, "Carla, you're destined to do great things. You are special. You are amazing."

Funny thing is, the less I listened to that voice, the quieter it became. And for many, many years, the voice was almost silenced.

Almost.

2. That "bigger than us" plan was designed by God

That voiced was almost silenced, until I came to know the Lord one day during the beginning of my college career. He reminded me that He had created me for a purpose, for His purpose. And He told me that I was special to Him. That I was amazing because He made me so.

Now years later I am still discovering His purpose for my life. There's the obvious: I'm called to support and love my husband. I'm called to raise my children with love and godly influence. I'm called to tell others about Him. I'm called to uplift, encourage and pray for my friends, family and church family.

Then there's the specific: I'm called to raise awareness about the needs of fatherless children around the corner and around the world. I'm called to provide a home to children I did not physically birth, but love just the same.

And I'm called to write, write, and write some more.

As the mystery of my life unfolds, I realize I may have more unknowns in life than "knowns."  But this one thing's for sure: I hope to never allow the silencing of His voice again. I will strain to hear His heartbeat. I will strain to see what He is doing in the world. And I will pursue His purposes for me, seeking to align them with His activity in the world.

I'll leave you with one more quote from Mr. Keating:

"To quote from Whitman, 'O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?' Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"

So what of it? What will your verse be?

Love,

Carla



Thursday, June 21, 2012

It Starts With Me: Race in the U.S.

This week my mind returned to the issue of race in our country. I've recently written about race as I revisited the  20th Anniversary of the Rodney King riots. (Coincidentally, this same Rodney King was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool on June 17. Rest in peace, Mr. King)

Our Sons Are Trayvon examined the balance of justice and mercy in the racially-charged murder trial of George Zimmerman. I've also written about results of the 2010 US Census and what those results predict about the changing face - literally - of our country. And of course I had to write about that book that had us all talking about the history of race in the South, The Help.

Recently two occurrences got me thinking about race once again: one being the election of the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the second being my husband's participation in a local panel examining and discussing race relations in our community.

Let's take a look at the first.



On Tuesday, the largest Protestant denomination elected Reverend Fred Luter Jr. of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans as president. This marks a huge step in the right direction for a Christian organization that has historically gotten it wrong in the area of race. Prior to the Civil War, the SBC supported slavery in the U.S., and much of the last century witnessed the organization's support of racial segregation.

It seems this time they've gotten it right.

Rev. Luter does not consider himself a token in the denomination either. "If we stop appointing African Americans, Asians, Hispanics to leadership positions after this, we've failed," he said. "... I promise you, I'm going to do all that I can to make sure this is not just a one-and-done deal."

Blessings to you, Reverend Luter and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Now, on to the second.

This past Saturday, my husband moderated a panel discussion on racial relations in our current city of Conway, Arkansas. A small, quaint city, Conway sits just north of Little Rock, the capital of Arkansas. Honestly it's pretty quiet here,void of the hustle and bustle of a big city. I wouldn't say things are moving and shaking a whole lot around here.

But on Saturday, as I sat on the old wooden pews of a small African American baptist church here, I could sense a fierce energy in the room -- a room full of local pastors, politicians, educators and businesspeople. There's just something about discussing race amongst Southern folks that gets things brewing.

The air conditioning was on full blast, but the temperature rose several times during the discussion.

One man in the audience expressed intense dissatisfaction over the city's police officers' handling of African American males. Another mentioned that the panelists and audience members had skirted around the major issue in his mind, which is pure racism.

One panelist, who happened to be African American, stated that he doesn't care if people like him. He simply wanted equal economic opportunities and employment. Others argued that when people don't like you because of the color of your skin, they're not going to hire you for those equal jobs.

A young Caucasian pastor proclaimed the root of racism was sin, and the entire room hushed.

Which brings me to my take on the whole issue, for whatever it's worth.

I believe our problem with racial relations in Conway, in Arkansas, in the South, in the United States can be solved through relationship. Yes, I think it's just that simple. Relationship with God. Relationship with one another.

If my relationship with God is one that's evolving, growing and exposing me to more of His truth, then I should reflect His heart for people -- people of all shapes, sizes and colors. He loved the Samaritan woman at the well. He loved Jews and Gentiles alike. He loved us when our hearts were turned completely against Him.

And as my relationship with Him matures, I, like a lush tree with roots deeply planted in the warm, dark soil, should produce beautiful, sweet and fragrant fruit that smells like Him. One variety of fruit that my life will produce: intimate, life-changing relationships with others.

And that's all kinds of others. Others that look like me. Others that don't. Others that come from my kind of neighborhood. Others that don't. Others that already know Him personally. Others that don't.

It's just that simple y'all. For real.


Carla


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Heart for Orphans


Happy Siblings: Jada, Christian and Joelle


When I share my heart on the topic of adoption, I usually don’t know where to begin. My compassionate heart for orphans – around the corner and around the world, as I say – was truly birthed out of my heart for God.

When I view God’s heart in the scriptures, I see a loving, merciful God Who continually looks out for the underdog. The poor, the alien, the widow – and yes, the orphan – may oftentimes go overlooked by the world. But the poor, the alien, the widow and the orphan are much like Hagar, mistreated by her master Abraham’s wife, Sarai. In Genesis 16:7 we find Hagar alone in the desert, having fled her tormentor’s home.

She is hungry. She is thirsty. She is completely alone in the world.

Or so she thinks.

While she withers under the desert sun, the angel of the Lord visits Hagar and speaks life to her. He tells her she is expecting Abraham’s son and that her descendents would one day be too numerous to count.

She would not die in the desert. She would live.

And Hagar “gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me... I have seen the One who sees me.’” (Genesis 16:13)

Like Hagar, God sees the poor. He sees the alien. He sees the widow. And yes, He sees the orphan.

And we should too.

For many years now, God has given me eyes to see the orphans of the world. He has gifted me with an overwhelming compassion for them. And He has moved me to do something about that compassion.

How has He specifically moved me?

I. Adoption

First of all, God moved my husband Anthony and me to adopt children into our family. In 2003, we adopted a little cherub-faced 2-year-old boy into our family from Russia. Christian – Sergei when we met him – is our resilient, athletic and compassionate 11-year-old son who just happened to be living in a Russian orphanage when we first met him. With part African heritage, he is a rare find in Russia. And we praise God we found him.

Joelle, our spunky, giggly 7-year-old “girly-girl” joined our family in 2005 at only 5 months old. We didn’t travel very far to bring her home – only Pennsylvania. Yet raising this fun-loving, diva-licious girl has been an adventure for sure. And I can’t imagine our family without her.

II. Encourage Prospective Adoptive Families

As soon as my husband and I adopted, we were like people that had been on the vacation of a lifetime. We wanted to share the joy we’d found in adoption with everyone we knew. We were living out James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...” And we wanted other Christians to do the same.

Today, my husband and I continue to be a “go-to” couple for adoption. When a couple, or single person, begins praying about adoption, they often call us with questions and concerns. We love being used by God to encourage others to adopt, and we love walking with others as they answer the call to adopt.

II. Adoption Advocacy

I have devoted a good portion of my life to advocating for orphans. My husband and I sponsor needy children overseas. I began a ministry at our previous church that constantly communicated the need for the Church to “look after orphans” and partnered with other orphan advocacy ministries. I have also joined a missions team to an orphanage in Brasil, where I fell in love with every single child there – from age 3 to 17.

But today, my efforts are primarily stateside. I currently serve on the Statewide Board of The CALL (Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime), lending my social media, communications and organizational skills to this awesome ministry. The CALL’s (www.thecallinarkansas.org) mission is “To educate, equip and encourage the Christian community to provide a future and a hope for the children in foster care.”

Providing that future and hope begins with providing our hearts and our homes. And that’s what I hope to do for the rest of my life.

Will you consider doing the same? Will you pray in faith for God's will

Carla

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

One Line "The Avengers" Got Wrong



Okay, so let me start by saying that I'm not the first to pick this bone. The buzz has already started. Apparently others have written about this. Even MSNBC has shared some unfavorable sentiments about it.

But it makes a lot of sense. Usually when you're fighting mad about something, someone else is too. And it feels good to know I'm not alone.

But this past Friday night when I sat in a dark, crowded movie theater watching the hit Disney movie "The Avengers" with my husband, I felt all alone during one particular line.

Here's the backdrop: Thor, a demigod and member of the Avengers, has an evil brother Loki, also the villain of the film. While discussing Loki's wickedness, Thor begins to defend his brother. His spiel sounds a lot like, Well he's not all that bad.

Then fellow Avenger Black Widow makes the huge observation, "He killed 80 people in 2 days."

Thor replies with, "He's adopted."

Now, let me begin with an honest admission. When Thor flippantly delivered the adoption line, I laughed along with everyone else in the theater.

But by the time the next line was spoken, my mind had left the movie theater. My mind and heart had transported back home to my son and daughter who happen to have been adopted. My heart hurt for them. Especially my son, because I know he's been dying to see the movie.

And how do you explain to an 11-year-old boy that you don't want him to see the movie, not because of too much profanity or illicit sexual content, but because of a line that you know will hurt him to the core.

A line that sheds negative light on adopted children.

A line that will communicate to him that the adopted child is always the bad seed.

A line that perpetuates the stereotype that adoption is something weird, freakish and unnatural.

Disney missed the mark in a big way on this one. "The Avengers" does not present adoption as another beautiful way that God forms families.

Come on, folks. It's 2012. When are we going to get this thing right? I recently blogged on Five Things Not to Say to Adoptive Parents, and I have received a huge response. Apparently, none of us wants to be the idiot that says the offensive thing to the adoptive families we know. But the reality is, haven't we all been that idiot at some point? I know I have.

But, the important thing is we should learn from our mistakes, and try to do better next time.

When is Hollywood going to learn from its mistakes? How many anti-adoption lines -- or even storylines -- do we have to endure before these folks get it right?

And what do I, a loving adoptive mother, do in the meantime? Do I not allow my children to see these movies? Do I take them, but distract them when the demeaning lines are spoken?

I can imagine the scenario going like this: Black Widow mentions the 80 murders in 2 days, then I whisper into my son's ear right before Thor's adoption line, "Hey Christian, this is some good popcorn, isn't it?"

Ahhh, I've distracted him long enough to miss Thor's line. But he's no stupid kid. I imagine him frowning over the laughter all around him, and then saying, "Awww, Mom. You made me miss one of the good jokes. I wonder what I missed?"

And I'd think to myself, Sweetheart, you didn't miss anything you need to hear. You missed a joke that poked fun at the very institution that brought you to our family. You only missed two words of the film, but they were words that could have caused you pain that would have taken a long time to repair. 

Those two words are words I don't ever want my children to hear. As a matter of fact, they were words that the rest of us don't need to hear either.

Unlike the Avengers, I can't save the world from all the evils that lurk out there. I can't rid the world of every mean word spoken about adoption. And unfortunately, I can't use Captain America's shield to protect my children from every insensitive comment, joke and perception about adoption firing around out there.

But I can speak my mind about it to you, my friends.

And so I have.


Carla




If you've seen The Avengers, how did that line make you feel? Did it slip past you or were you offended? Share your thoughts here and join the conversation!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Book That's Breaking My Heart: Kisses From Katie



I've been reading a book lately that's absolutely breaking my heart.

This book tells the story of Maria who walks the streets of a slum in Uganda to beg for food every day.

It's the story of Rose and Brenda, orphans that were abandoned and left to grow up in an orphanage.

It's the story of David and Bashir who were abducted, sold as slaves and forced to kill as child soldiers.

And it's the story of a petite, Caucasian twenty-something young woman who left her home in wealthy Brentwood, Tennessee to live in Uganda, East Africa to serve the poor, forsaken children there. (By the way, I lived in the neighboring town to Brentwood for almost a decade and had the privilege of meeting Katie on a few occasions.)

This young woman is relentless in her love and passion for these forgotten children. She is relentless in her pursuit to live out the Gospel of Christ.

Katie's words are enlightening.
"Adoption is wonderful and beautiful and the greatest blessing I have ever experienced. Adoption is also difficult and painful. Adoption is a beautiful picture of redemption. It is the Gospel in my living room."
Her words are convicting.
"I know I cannot walk into a village and tell a child that Jesus loves her. She cannot comprehend that because, chances are, she has never been loved. I have to feed her, clothe her, care for her, and love her unconditionally as I tell her that I love her. Once she can understand and see my love, I can begin to tell her about a Savior who loves her even more. That is the truth for these children - that they are loved, that they are valuable, that they will not be left as orphans but that they have a plan and a hope for the future."
Her words are heart-breaking.
"The truth is that there are children like this all over the world, sick, starving, dying, unloved, and uncared for. The truth is that the 143 million orphaned children and the 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases and the 8.5 million who work as child slaves, prostitutes, or under other horrific conditions and the 2.3 million who live with HIV add up to 164.8 million needy children. And though at first glance that looks like a big number, 2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians. The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left. This is the Truth."
Last night these words brought tears to my eyes that streamed down my face. What are we doing? Are we playing church? While we fight over who will lead worship next Sunday and where our next women's retreat should be held and how our new church buildings should be designed, people around the country and the world are dying.  

Dying.

What am I going to do about that? What are you going to do about that? What are we going to do about that?


Carla


Think about it: what can you/we do about this epidemic? Think about it. Pray about it. And let me know what God is saying.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Five Things Not to Say to Adoptive Parents

The Hendricks Clan


"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." 

Did you grow up hearing that adage? I don't think I reached age ten before I realized how false that saying is. The scars of sticks and stones heal with time.

The scars of hurtful words? Many of us will take our share of those scars to our graves.

If you have adopted, you've heard your share of ill-timed/insensitive questions and comments. Many will come from the lips of perfect strangers. This can be annoying, but in the end, feels rather harmless. Yet sometimes the offenses come from the people closest to us -- parents, grandparents, siblings, long-time friends.

Some of those words have left scars on your soul. And maybe on the souls of your child.

This post is not only for those of us that have adopted. This post is for our family members, our close friends, our fellow church and community members. This post is for our loved ones who may be very happy for us, but curious as well. This post is for those who have questions, but don't know how to pose them in a politically-correct manner.

Here's a list of Things Not to Say to Adoptive Parents:

1. Can't you have your own?

Now there's two problems with this question. First of all, the word "own". When I gave birth to my two biological children, they were my own. When I adopted my other two children, they likewise became my own. All of my children are my "own."

Secondly, this question implies that I have adopted as a second-best, alternative option. Now, while many people adopt after suffering from infertility (I suffered from a secondary-infertility), adoption still isn't a second-class method of having children. I personally like to call adoption, "God's Beautiful Plan A."

2. Which ones are your natural children?

Personally, I don't mind when people ask which of my children are adopted, and which are biological. I sometimes play a game, and have them guess which ones. This is specifically fun with my family, because my biological children have red hair, unlike myself and my husband.

However, I despise the word "natural." Natural implies that adoption is "unnatural." All of my children are natural children. Two just happen to have been adopted, while the other two are biological.

3. Do you know anything about his/her real parents?

I am my children's real mother. I feed them everyday. I help them with their homework. I tuck them in bed at night. Trust me. I'm their real mother.

However, I have talked to my children about their birthparents. They know they grew inside another woman's tummy. It's no secret around our household. But we have learned to use the right vocabulary to discuss our family's history.

And, on that subject, let me add that we have to be very careful about asking personal questions. Some adoptions have very troubling circumstances surrounding them. Anyone outside the immediate family must be very sensitive when asking questions, and truly understand if parents are unwilling to answer them. Many times we withhold information that we wouldn't want our children to know until we're ready to tell them.

4. What's the child's health background?

Again, this is a very sensitive issue. Sometimes, especially in the case of international adoption, adoptive parents may know very little about our children's background. Sometimes we know a lot, but don't feel comfortable revealing those issues. Our children might have mental illness, drug abuse or disabilities in their family history.

But guess what? So do our biological children!

5. Why didn't you just adopt from fill in the blank?

When my husband and I adopted our son Christian from Russia, an older family-friend said, "With all the Black children in the United States that need to be adopted, why would you go all the way to Russia to adopt?"

Now how in the world do you respond to a question like that?

I shared that my husband and I didn't pick my son. God picked him for us. We opened our hearts to the Lord's will in the area of adoption, and He chose to lead us to a little two-year-old boy in a Russian orphanage.

But even though I had a ready answer for this lady, I was offended. Why not adopt from Russia? Are international adoptions only for Caucasian people?

If you've adopted transracially, you've probably gotten some variation of this question. Why go halfway around the world for a child, when there's such a need here? Why adopt from China? Why adopt an African American child, when you're Caucasian?

Well, your answer may be similar to ours. My husband and I didn't set out to save the world. We just wanted the child that God had hand-picked for our family. That child just happened to be all the way in Moscow, Russia.

Praise God we found him.

And I'm sure you feel the same way about your precious ones. Our children are gifts to us, no matter how they came to us. No matter where they were born. No matter what circumstances brought them into our families.

And that's all we really want our loved ones to know.

Carla




Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Beauty: What Can We Learn from The Tanning Mom?



I've got a bone to pick.

I'm sick and tired of something, and I can't think of a better place to vent but here in Deep Waters. Now let me just say, I'm a fan of print media, especially magazines. Just today I was doing my thing on the elliptical machine fully absorbed in a recent copy of Ebony. So absorbed that a dude I see in the gym all the time said, "Wow, you were in a zone."

Of course I was. I was getting my read on.

But I digress.

So, about that bone I've got to pick. I'm getting so tired of popular women's magazines and their covers. And not just the photo-shopped images of perfection. I'm tired of the headlines.

Here's a few I've seen recently:
  • A testimonial from a star I'll leave unnamed: "How I Lost 30 Pounds and Got My Confidence Back!"
  • "Feel Great Naked: 9 Foods that Burn Fat While You Eat"
  •  "131 Little Ways to Your Best Body"
  • And this little beaut from a billboard on an interstate "Better Legs. Better Life."
So what's a poor girl to think? I'll list the messages I receive from each of these ads:
  • If I lose weight, I'll be a confidant woman.
  • If I eat foods that burn fat, I'll feel great naked.
  • If I do these 131 things, I'll be on my way to my best body. (But what am I going for with the best body thing? Thin or healthy?)
  • If I spend thousands on laser surgery for my legs, I'll have not only better-looking legs, but a better life.
And who doesn't want a better life?

Girls, we've got to stop buying into the world's obsession with beauty. The Bible tells us that outward beauty is fleeting -- here today and gone tomorrow (Proverbs 31:30a).

Let's resist the trap of endless beauty treatments and products, plastic surgery and -- like our new friend, the Tanning Mom -- scorching our skin to a crisp.



Because what we all become aware of, sooner of later, is this:
  1. No matter how many aging creams, botox treatments or plastic surgeries we subject ourselves to -- we are all aging. There's just no way around it, Girls. We're all going to be and look old someday.
  2. Beauty does not bring happiness. Just ask the countless folks in Hollywood who've paid a fortune to look like Barbie. If they've got true joy inside, believe me, it's got nothing to do with how they look on the outside.
  3. True beauty -- the kind that lasts forever -- truly is skin deep. 2 Corinthians says it so well. "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day."
I don't know if the Tanning Mom is guilty of having her daughter tan with her. I'll let the judicial system figure all that out. But what are we teaching our baby girls when we even allow them to watch us tan for hours, and hours, and hours? What message are we giving them daily about their bodies, their hair, their entire outward selves?

Are we encouraging them? Are we telling them they are beautiful on the inside and outside? Are we affirming the inner beauty within them -- their athletic ability, their smarts, their musical talent? Are we focusing more on enhancing their character and the way they treat others, or are we focusing more on their hairdos or the dress they'll wear to the next special event?

Let's encourage the next generation of women to spend more time in the books than in the mirror. And more time in college classrooms than in the tanning salon. And more time nourishing their relationship with God than with boys.

And as their mothers, aunties and mentors, let's make sure we're practicing what we're preaching to them.

Amen. I think I've gotten it out of my system.

Carla

** Drop a comment here and let me know how you feel about our culture's beauty craze. Have you struggled to focus more on your or your daughter's inner beauty, rather than your/her outer beauty?


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Are We All Getting Along?




“Can we all get along?”

Five words. Spoken by an assaulted man. Repeated countless times since that day twenty years ago.

Last week marked the twentieth anniversary of the Los Angeles riots incited by citizens furious over the acquittal of four L.A. police officers that had brutally beaten L.A. resident Rodney King.

Rodney King happened to be African American. The officers happened to be Caucasian. And while Rodney King was no saint (he was a 25-year-old convicted robber on parole at the time), his speeding violation and intoxication didn’t warrant the inhumane beating he received at the hands of the men commissioned to “protect and serve.”

And when those overzealous officers received an acquittal, the city of L.A. turned upside down. The upheaval from those riots led to more than 50 deaths and $1 billion in property damage.

After three days of riots, King emerged from seclusion to speak those infamous five words, “People I just want to say, can we all get along?”

People around America have been asking that same question for the last twenty years: Can we all get along?

This past decade, I think most U.S. citizens would have answered this question positively in regards to race relations. Many of us would have probably stated something along these lines: Well, we’re not getting along as well as we could, but we’re getting along a lot better than we did. 

But then, something happens in our country to shake us up. We are tested. Sifted. A flashlight beams a light right between our eyes. And we notice our reflection in the mirror is not as lovely as we once thought.

It’s actually quite flawed.

February 26, 2012. A day in our country that tested us, sifted us, beamed a light between our eyes. When neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, we realized we hadn’t come as far as we thought we had.

Almost immediately Trayvon Martin’s tragic death became a racial battle. The African American community shouted outrage over this unarmed teenage boy’s murder in his father’s neighborhood. We posed in hoodies, shot pics in them and posted those pics on our Facebook profiles.

While Zimmerman awaits trial, I’ll choose not to speculate on the specific events of that fateful night. I cannot say for sure that Trayvon fell victim to racial profiling. And the question that will never be answered – if Trayvon had been Caucasian, would he be alive today?

One thing’s for sure. Our country is a long way from healed in the area of race relations. We’re not as far as we think we are.

We work together and live together, but few of us play together. And very few of us worship together.

In 1958, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote these words: “Unfortunately, most of the major denominations still practice segregation in local churches, hospitals, schools and other church institutions. It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning, the same hour when many are standing to sing: “In Christ There is No East or West.”

That was 1958. Unfortunately, despite a few exceptions, not much has changed regarding eleven o’clock Sunday morning in the U.S.

But I’m grateful for the exceptions. My husband happens to be a teaching pastor at one of the exceptions - Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas.

May we purpose to link up with the exceptions.

May we be the exception.

Love,

Carla