Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Father's Day Message to the Fathers That Mourn

I don't fully understand what happens inside.

I can't explain the shift.

But it seems that when we experience loss, our eyes are opened to others around us that have lost as well. We feel just a little deeper for those experiencing pain. We are more empathetic, more sensitive, more aware somehow.

Living through loss can be devastating. I've share a lot about the loss I experienced in 2015, when my Mom and Dad became very ill and passed away three weeks apart from one another.

Since then, I've had days when my grief followed me around like a storm cloud, threatening to send a lightening bolt right through the heart of me.

Days that storms brought thunder that shook the ground beneath my feet, threatening to upend me.

Days that I've moved through the day as if on auto-pilot.

I've also had days, and now weeks, when I can feel God's healing balm within me. Days that I believe I'm stronger and wiser and better than before. Days that I know I've grown, not only in spite of my pain and loss, but because of it.

And yet, I know I'll never be the same again. My perspective is forever changed. I am forever changed. I am somehow more sensitive, more caring for others who hurt.

Now mind you, I've always been a "feely" kind of girl. I tear up quickly. I hurt for perfect strangers whose stories of difficulty and challenge I read, watch or hear about. Watching a touching movie moves me as if I actually know the folks I'm watching. I'm not a pet person, and it still breaks my heart to hear about someone intentionally hurting an animal.

After I lost my parents, however, I became even more connected to others' feelings. I care more. I feel more.

I guess I'm experiencing what the Bible explains in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 1*. When I experience trials and loss, God comforts me. Having received comfort from the Lord, I can in turn comfort others when they experience trials and loss.

So when I heard about the Orlando shooting and the 49 people who lost their lives, my heart broke.

Each murdered and injured person from that nightclub was a son or daughter, a sister or brother, a spouse or friend. Each one has left a wake of people that loved him or her. People that will grieve their entire lives for them. People whose lives will never be the same again. People that are forever changed.

It is to this group of folks, the ones left behind to continue to do life here, that I dedicate this post.

I dedicate this post especially for the fathers that mourn their children - gone-too-soon.

For the fathers of the 49 Orlando shooting victims, I mourn with you.

For the fathers of every victim from the countless school shootings that are becoming far too commonplace in our country, I mourn with you.

For the fathers of every victim of senseless crimes in every city, suburb and rural community around the US, I mourn with you.

For the fathers of fallen US soldiers from every military branch, I mourn with you.

For the fathers of those killed in terrorists attacks around the world, I mourn with you.

For the fathers that have lost a child to illness -- including mental illness -- since last Father's Day, I mourn with you.

The world mourns with you.

You are loved - by us who share this global community with you.

You are also loved by a compassionate, loving God. A God that has not forgotten or disregarded you. A God who sees your pain. 

A God who sees YOU.

* "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Roots: What we learn from History & Our Story

Last night, I finished the final episode of the History Channel's TV miniseries Roots.

To say I was pleasantly surprised at the historical and emotional depth of this remake of Alex Haley's 1977 miniseries Roots, based on his personal genealogical history and biography, would be an understatement. I was a young girl when I watched the first Roots with my family, and I'll never forget how much that movie impacted me so many years ago.

As a matter of fact, as I watched the first episode of the remake, I sadly thought, My parents would have loved this movie. I'll miss talking about this with my Mom tomorrow.

Well, in honor of my sweet parents, and my other ancestors that have gone on before me, today I want to share three themes from Roots that moved me. I could probably list ten, but here's just a few that spoke the loudest to me.

1. We African Americans were blessed with strong and brave ancestors

I loved the focus on the pre-slavery era of African slaves. Kunta Kinte's story did not begin on a plantation in the American South. Born into the strong Mandinka tribe, his story began in West Africa. 

As an African American, I have often seen my people portrayed during the era of American slavery. This is a fascinating and important part of our history that displays our strength and resilience as a people. Yet our story did not begin there. It began on the continent of Africa -- a continent that endowed us with inner strength and resilience.

Roots mastered the display of this strength and resilience, with Kunta Kinte's proud resolve and fortitude.

2. Strong families were the roots that stabilized and upheld a strong people

When Kunta Kinte completed his tribal "rites of passage" into manhood, one of his elders asked (paraphrased), "As a man, what is your most important contribution to your tribe?" The answer was not as I thought - defending the tribe or providing material needs. No. Their most important job was to raise and lead a strong family. 

Amen to that.

This theme of strong families permeates throughout Roots. From generation to generation, we witnessed devoted fathers and mothers lead their children and grandchildren to create legacies of love, integrity and faith.

3. Our communities, country and world are strengthened by unity

From the disunity amongst various African tribes that facilitated the American slave trade to the institution of slavery itself to the disarray of the Civil War era, we see firsthand how disunity infects our communities like a cancerous tumor, leaving sickness and death in its wake. Roots illuminated the ancestral roots we share with one another. One example: Chicken George's birth was the product of his African American slave mother Kizzy and his Caucasian slave-owner father Tom Lea.

I look at my biological children today, my "Brown Gingers", and think of the different races that are represented in the blood that runs through my veins. To reject any other race is to reject the blood that possibly runs through our own veins. As a nation -- and a world even -- we are more the same than we are different. More connected than apart. We Americans are interconnected, much more than we realize -- our history intertwined. Likewise, our future depends on our interconnection, our support and respect for one another. 

I'm not here to preach y'all, but during this presidential election season, it's painfully obvious that our country is horribly divided, splintered even.

Roots reminded us that we rise when unified. We fall when divided. 

Whoever makes it into the White House, we must work towards unity as a nation.

Can I get an amen?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Stephen Curry - Why We Love This Guy

This post might be a bit premature...

After all, Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors still have a road ahead of them - against the Cleveland Cavaliers - to the NBA Championship. And if it goes anything like their last run, Curry and his cohorts will be fighting until the very end.

And yet, I thought I'd share today. But first - a few words from Sports Illustrated after Monday night's game:
"[Curry had] just scored 36 points. He'd finished off an unlikely 3-1 series comeback. And he'd reminded those who doubted him -- whether in the media or chuckling at a podium -- that he remains the most illogical, impossible basketball player on the planet, a two-time MVP whose toughness continues to be second-guessed, as Steve Kerr said, only, 'because he looks like he's 12 years old.'" **
Steph Curry has captured the hearts of NBA enthusiasts and people like me -- people who watch a game here or there. And when we do watch, don't get fired up until the fourth quarter. Okay so... I admitted it, and got that out of the way.

So although I wouldn't include myself in the NBA enthusiast camp, I am very much a people enthusiast. I love interesting people that rise above the fray. People that make the world different -- and just a bit better. 

Steph is one of those people, and from my vantage point, here's why...

1. He's open about his faith, but not preachy

Steph doesn't shy away from speaking about his faith in Jesus Christ, but his delivery is seamless, it seems. In his MVP speech he shared, "People should know who I represent and why I am who I am, and that's because of my Lord and Savior." This brother makes his faith known, but he does so in a way that's natural, refreshing and appealing. In a way that others might actually find attractive.

When I think of all the up-and-coming athletes, like my 15-year-old son Christian, I'm grateful for ballers like Steph - unashamedly Christian and a beast on the court.

2. He brings so much authenticity onto the court and into the world

Steph's popularity reminds me of another young African American man who became a game-changer for his particular sport. Tiger Woods drew us regular folks into golf like never before. His relationship with his father-trainer, his diverse background, his youth... He was so -- REAL.

Steph has a similar appeal. He's the boy-next-door or the cousin you can't wait to hang out with during the holidays. He's so -- REAL. His funny facial expressions, gestures and boyish grin throw so much humanity into the game.

And if he wasn't authentic enough on his own, what about that interview he did with his cute-as-pie daughter in his lap, telling her Daddy to "Shhhh..." Oh my word... Isn't she just the cutest? That little precious, sassy baby girl reminded us that these "larger-than-life" athletes (or musicians or movie stars) might be wealthy and famous, but at the core, they're all regular folk like us.

3. His athletic ability defies logic

Now if you're an NBA enthusiast, it's probably killing you that I made this my third point. But an-ty-way... When I started following Steph's career, I loved hearing about the countless naysayers he'd defied over the years. The college coaches and program directors that overlooked him for recruitments and scholarships. The critics that said he would never play professional ball. The haters that claimed that at 6' 3", he was way too short to be taken seriously.

And who, I ask, is laughing now?

Steph's rise to fame reminds me of a popular Bible story we've all heard a bunch of times. It's the story of a young Hebrew boy who brought down a 9-foot giant named Goliath. A boy who's father had sent him to deliver lunch to his older brothers while they fought the Philistine army. A boy who's victory against that giant -- via a rock and slingshot -- defied all logic.

Yep... Steph reminds me of David -- long before he was a Hebrew King. When he was just a boy and the most unlikely of heroes.

And don't we all love unlikely heroes?

I sure do.

** This quote is an excerpt from writer Chris Ballard's "The Improbable Magic of Steph Curry Leaves Us Speechless Again".