Guest Post: “The Moral Moment” by Dr. Blue

As much as I would love to use today’s blog post to write about fun and lighthearted things as we enter the weekend, my heart has been heavy all week. We began classes for the semester a few days ago, but just before my first class, I ran across a photo snapped on the first day of class a couple of years ago–a sidewalk chalk protest: Mike Brown should be on his way to class too.

“Mike Brown should be on his way to class too.”

As I tried desperately to block out Charlottesville, Virginia and a failure of leadership to provide a moral response, I felt the chilling reality that this could have been Brown’s senior year in college deep in my soul. I voted Tuesday with no hope. It was just part of the process, my right as an American citizen, my duty as an African American. All week, I listened to children who are afraid and talked to students who are now very watchful and careful about their surroundings in a southern city where sightings of the confederate flag is not uncommon.

The question that came up time and time again, “What do we do?” What can we do?

Today’s post (which begins below) was written by Dedrick Blue, D.Min, Dean of Religion and Theology at Oakwood University. In response to the events of the last week, Blue calls us to reach inside and decide what we will do. The question is not “what can we do?” The question, he points out, is “what will I do?” We must answer that question for ourselves and make the decision to act.

***      ***      ***

Each of us will come to a moment in our lives when moral decency will beg for response. These are times of great moral and spiritual crises that test our metal and our faith. These defining moments shape history and shape our personal history. We have come to that moment.

As our nation grieves over the tragic events in Charlottesville, VA which left three dead and 19 injured at the hands of violent-sanctioned white supremacy, we are obliged to pause and reflect upon the meaning of the moment.

While some may argue over whether a Confederate statue should survive, be clear that was not the issue. The issue is whether people–black, brown, yellow, red, Jew, Muslim–should survive. The statue is just a symbol of the genocide perpetrated by white supremacy upon people of color and those not conforming to white Protestant, Anglo-Saxon phenotype.  Those white supremacists are unequivocal in their assertion that the inanimate statue has a greater right to American soil than breathing persons of color. They assert that the history of white supremacy and genocide is the true history of America. In this, they are both right and wrong. Rebellion and genocide are part of our history, but they are not to be our trajectory or our destiny. And certainly, genocide is not to be memorialized as something noble.

Our great Republic has never been perfect. And yet, this nation with Her hands and conscience soiled by chattel slavery, chose to repudiate Her past and march forward toward a more perfect union. This of course was not without costs. Our nation lost nearly a million of its citizens in a Civil War. The backlash from Reconstruction gave birth to Jim Crow and “strange fruit on southern trees.” Churches were bombed, buses were burned, leaders were assassinated, children were incarcerated and voters were intimidated in this march toward a more perfect union. Like Abel, the blood of those sacrifices cry out for justice from America’s soil, and plead that those sacrifices be not in vain.

Now we have come to this moment in our nation’s history, when the President of these United States has chosen to ignore the sacrifices of our bloody, glorious past. My first reaction is to say that he seeks to resurrect the demons of racism and white supremacy. However, truth be told, that ghoulish specter has never ceased to stalk our heels, and continues to lurk in our bedrooms and boardrooms. That poltergeist shoots down unarmed boys in the street, snatches healthcare from senior citizens, sits in legislative councils, and rewards robber barons with tax cuts. And now in this moment, we see our President acting as a medium to call up and invite that demon to sit at his welcome table.

Let us be clear. This is a pivotal moment in American history. It is a moment when this nation will either rise once more and strive toward her credo that “all men are created equal” or will slither back into the quagmire of its racist history.

But this is not just a pivotal moment for America. It is a pivotal moment for each citizen of America. For what is America if it is not each of us? America is not just a government; it is a people bound together by constitution and geography, but even more importantly, bound together by ideal. This moment now tests not only the government but also that ideal. We as a nation and as a people are challenged in this moral moment to vociferously repudiate the demons of white supremacy. We must not be silent now. We cannot run for cover or place our proverbial head in the proverbial sand and pretend that if we ignore it, it does not exist.

Neither can we retreat into apocalyptic passivism which takes the position that all these things are just signs of the end and Jesus will fix it all when He returns. If we choose to be silent now then, we do so at the peril of our souls. For our streets are stained with blood, our children cower in fear, and evil parades with torches of terror in our parks. Real people are dying.

To call upon our God to act, but refuse to act when God calls is spiritual schizophrenia at best and downright hypocrisy at worst. The God we serve is not only moved by injustice but moves against injustice. The examples are replete in Scripture. I need not repeat the stories of God’s intervention for the slaves of Egypt; His denunciations of oppression in the Book of Micah; or His admonition in the Torah to embrace the widow, the orphan and the stranger.

God acts!

We also learn from Scripture that in the time of moral and spiritual crisis, God not only moves into action but He also moves people into action. Moses had to agree to go to the most powerful ruler in the world and demand release of the Hebrew captives. In another era, God called upon a woman named Esther to reveal to the king a wicked plot to destroy the Jews perpetrated by the racist Haman.

God moves against injustice, but He uses people as His agents. And each of person has to come to that moral moment when he/she has to decide that the call and the cause are greater than the comfort of willful ignorance.

Every generation must face its moral moment. Martin Luther King, Jr. faced the moral moment on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Rosa Parks faced the moral moment on the back of a bus. Heather Heyer faced the moral moment on a back street in Charlottesville.

This now is our moral moment. We must choose to hear the call and choose a response. The call comes to each of us in a different way. I dare not be so bold as to declare how God speaks and how He speaks to you. But I will be so bold as to say that God does speak and He always looks for a response.

One of America’s greatest statesmen, Dr. Martin Luther King, declared:

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right. 

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Moral decency demands a response!

–Dr. Dedrick Blue, Dean of Religion and Theology, Oakwood University

Photo from Pixabay

The Ripple Effect: Sharing Kindness with Our Words

Last week ended with my feeling “less than kind,” so I’m happy to revisit the postcards I received for prompt two of Love Notes 20 to increase and fortify my kindness quotient. The prompt was “Share kindness…” I know. I know. I’ve done a number of kindness posts recently–eight, to be exact–but there’s so much more to share on the topic.

My partner, Jenni P, sent another postcard from the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. I’m convinced someone had a talk with her about my postcard “likes.”

Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site

She loves Mother Teresa, so she wrote a MT quote as her message:

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.  –Mother Teresa

Christine must have been peeking over her shoulder because their messages “echo” each other!

“Share Kindness,” postcard crafted by Christine B.

Connie F sent photo inspiration, featuring another favorite–trees.

“Roots in All Direction,” photo by Connie F.

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots spring up and make trees. –Amelia Earhart

I love how Connie completed the prompt:

Sharing kindness has a ripple effect. We never know how far a kind word or gesture will go.

Lastly, my Austrian postcard pal, Andrea F, crafted a tag postcard featuring a photo of a quirky mailbox. I’m slightly amazed that she sent it “naked” (with no envelope) and it made it to me in almost pristine condition.

“Kindness and Confetti,” postcard made by Andrea F.

She reminded me to “throw kindness like confetti” and to toss a little in the direction of myself–which is the sentiment written on the back of the postcards I sent.

As for my part, I “crafted” a “minimalist” postcard. That’s what I’m calling it, at least. I cut leftover white cardstock down to 4×6, printed a kindness scripture onto the cards, used the Cricut to transform miscellaneous scrapbook paper into hearts, and glued the heart to the cardstock.

“Be Compassionate,” handmade postcard by Me!

Interestingly, within the context–just a few verses before Ephesians 4:32–the instruction is given to:

Let no harmful language come from your mouth, only words that are helpful in meeting the need, words that benefit those who hear them.  –Ephesians 4:29

The compatibility of our messages is uncanny, almost as if we’re sharing one mind on the matter of kindness.

So much unkindness is (typically) rooted in our speech that we must be reminded to be kind with our words and to speak only what “benefits those who hear them.” It takes nothing from us to speak a tender word or encourage someone along the way, but often we behave as if giving to someone takes something from us. Actually, the effect is just the opposite–treating each other with compassion makes room in our hearts to give more and make our world a better place.

It took very little work and very little effort to make my postcard. Likewise, kindness takes little, if any, work and effort.

I’ve made a conscious decision to share kindness with my words and “be generous” with my love to increase my kindness quotient this week. Want to join me?

Sunny Inspiration: Look Up!

My neighbor’s sunflowers came in beautifully and I made a few trips to capture them in their various stages. I managed to capture dozens of pics–one is featured in Finding Love Notes, Naturally, posted a couple of weeks ago.

I decided to work with a couple of the photos yesterday–one featuring a sunflower with its “face” turned upward and the other a “downcast” flower leaning away from another that is still full of life. The photos were on my mind and I wanted to combine them with words that speak their language.

The blooms are visual reminders that when the “stuff” of life is coming at us full force, all we have to do is stand firm, “face the Sun,” and rest in the embrace of the One who is always near.

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” Sunflower PhotoArt by Me!

Sometimes, it’s necessary to face our problems “head on,” stare them down, and conquer them. At other times–when things are out of our control and bigger than we could ever imagine–we have to turn away from our struggles and focus our attention on the One who handles the insurmountable and scary situations for us. Otherwise, the worry and stress can affect our health.

“God Is Near the Broken-Hearted,” Sunflowers PhotoArt by Me!

We feel alone in such situations–it seems no one understands, can provide the comfort we need or help us manage our problems. It is imperative to know that we are not alone, that God is near, cradling us in His protective arms, and carrying us through the difficulties.

When we train our focus heavenward, our problems are placed in proper perspective, and we learn to trust the “Lover of our souls” to manage all our concerns so we can go on living and loving without distress.

I prefer to see sunflowers with a sunny disposition, but the sunflower in the second photo communicated so profoundly and beautifully the message of Psalm 34:18 that I had to capture it–even with the photo-bombing bee. The bee might seem a distraction, an annoyance even, but without bees there would be no flowers.

Wishing you a week filled with sunshine and good things…

Give It Like You Get It

Yesterday, I opened the Bible app and discovered that the “Verse of the Day” focused on kindness. Spirit and Light underscored the many messages about kindness expressed in the postcards I received for the latest round of the Global HeART Exchange.

I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.  –Luke 6:35-36 MSG

The verses not only teach us about how to interact with everyone, including those who don’t love us, but they also promise us we will not regret our kindnesses–ever.

“With Kindness” by Lisa C.

Do all things with kindness…

Today’s “kindness” postcard features an altered photograph of daisies created by Lisa C., a postcard pal I met via Liberate Your Art 2017. Lisa’s note captures the lesson of Luke.  Do all things with kindness, that is generously and graciously, with compassion–the way God deals with us.

Our heavenly Father showers us with compassion, even when we are at our worst, even when we behave more like His enemies than His children. He is enamored with us, absolutely loves us beyond our earthly understanding. As the beneficiaries of such compassion and deep love, how can we treat anyone unkindly?

The natural result of His kindness toward us should be an overflow of kindness to others–friend and foe alike.

Microblog Mondays: He Restores My Soul

My little one is sick for the fourth time this season, so when I woke up this morning, worried and stressed, I needed a simple and familiar scripture to start the day. I opened the Bible App and the “Verse of the Day” provided the first few verses of Psalm 23–just what I needed to help the little one get through the day.

“He Leads Me Beside Peaceful Streams,” Wheeler Lake, Huntsville, Alabama.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
Psalm 23:1-3a NLT

microblog_mondays

Morning by Morning…

When I awakened this morning, I felt overwhelmed by my external and internal to-do lists and deflated by life in general.  I pushed through my desire to hide from the world today and climbed out of bed only two minutes later than planned.

Shortly after breakfast, I heard my little one, who typically opens his blinds first thing in the morning, exclaim from his bedroom, “Wow, look at the sky!”  I raced to his window and beheld this gorgeous pre-sunrise sky.

Morning Sky

“Morning by morning…”

You know what happened next. I threw on a couple of jackets, grabbed my camera, and raced outdoors because an early morning sky can transform from dramatic to ordinary in the blink of an eye.

New Mercies

“New mercies…”

I didn’t spend a lot of time outdoors, but the few moments alone with my camera and the sky reset my mood.  While gazing at the sky, I began to sing a line from “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” one of my favorite hymns–“Morning by morning new mercies I see.”

All I have needed...

“I see…”

The sky led to the song and the song led to the biblical text which inspired the hymn:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV

I’m walking with gratitude for the awesome promise of “new mercies” each morning, and I am a bit “lighter” knowing that God’s “great love” will rescue me, even from myself.

The Day After: God Is Still in Heaven

god-is-faithful

My hubby woke me up at about 1:00 a.m. with “the news,” and  I fell into a brief but desperate shock about the election results. To survive that moment, I turned away from news media and social media and inward and upward toward God.

Seconds later, one of my students messaged that “they,” the students, needed something encouraging from me.  I told her my mind and spirit were too hurt for wisdom and offered the only thing in my head at the time: The chorus to the song “Because He Lives,” written by Bill Gaither, has been playing over and over and over and over in my head since I heard the news.

Because He lives

I can face tomorrow

Because He lives

All fear is gone

Because I know He holds the future

And life is the worth living

Just because He lives.

She responded enthusiastically, “Yes! That’s just what we need!”

I embrace the truth of those lyrics. God is Sovereign and that is why I was able to get up, get moving, and face today.  This moment is simply this moment.   It will pass.  We’ll work for change.  We’ll get beyond it. And eventually, we’ll be okay.

Everywhere I turned today, people asked questions, seeking answers that would satisfy their disbelief at the outcome.  In a pre-election interview with Christianity Today, Max Lucado responded to a question regarding his thoughts on the 2016 race.  For those of faith, his response is key:

There is still a God in heaven. Even when the person on the throne or in the White House or leading the country is far from God, God is not far from the nation. Books like the Book of Daniel give us hope during seasons when we don’t see any good options…We’re [the Church] people who lead forth in prayer. If we fail at that, then I don’t think we have much hope.

I am certain of this–God is still in heaven. [So] I will continue to make my life a prayer to Him.  My hope rests in Him, not in presidents.  This is what I told my son this morning. This is what I told my students.  This is what I will continue to repeat until the day comes when I will not have to repeat it.

Marching on…

 

Nature Photo Challenge: From Everlasting to Everlasting

Today’s nature photo is brought to you by a far too brief vacation in Maui 10+ years ago.

"Thou Art God," Maui, Hawaii, July 2005

“Thou Art God,” Maui, Hawaii, July 2005

This one’s from an all-day exploration of the island.  It was difficult choosing from the hundreds of photos I shot.  The ocean. The mountains. The sunsets. The flora and fauna.  All breathtaking.  I added the scripture to this one some time ago, so decided to go with it.  I breathe Psalm 90:2 during almost every experience with nature.

I have three distinct happy memories (from) immediately BK (Before Hurricane Katrina): My one month in New York working on my research and hanging out with amazing scholar-friends, the week my hubby and I spent in Hawaii, and my oldest nephew’s wedding in Dallas.  All are wonderful reminders that there was indeed life and joy before that fateful moment.

During our time in Hawaii, my hubby and I seriously considered moving there.  We still think about it every now and then. Who knows? Maybe, next year this time, I’ll be blogging from Hawaii. 😉

Nature Photo Challenge: A New Song

Last week, my brother, Dennis, a talented photographer and graphic artist/designer, nominated me to do the “Nature Challenge.” The challenge calls for posting a photo, on Facebook, I assume, every day for seven days and nominating someone different every day to join the challenge.

When I first read the post, I embraced it. I was tickled pink that my brother thinks enough of my photos to include me and was also excited to share nature photos–my favorite! But…I’m not much of a “facebooker.” I visit sporadically, and even then, for only a few minutes at most. I posted the first day and then forgot about it. Completely.

I don’t want to disappoint my brother or feel like a complete failure (a little dramatic, yes), so I am going to share here and allow WordPress to do the “dirty work” of Facebook posting.

I’m starting over. Today is my new Day 1.

"A New Song," Original

“A New Song,” Original

I shot this photo Labor Day weekend in North Carolina. It took quite a bit of work since the front of the flower was positioned away from view and in the middle of dense foliage.

"A New Song," Millers Creek, North Carolina, September 2015

“A New Song,” Millers Creek, North Carolina, September 2015

I was inspired to work with the photo when Takiyah, a former student, mentee, and sister-in-Christ shared with me her performance of a new song entitled “A New Song.”  Take a listen…

I’m already singing my new song…

Wishing you a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2016.

Note: For a look at Dennis’ work:

“I know how the flowers felt…”

“After the Pushing and the Pelting” (Tulip with Texture)

Today has been one of those days. April has been one of those months.  “April is the cruelest month…” Yada, yada, Eliot…

The Robert Frost poem above so adequately speaks my mood these days.  April for me is usually a one-thing-after-another, stressful, demanding kind of month, relentless in its pushing and pelting.  It is sometimes easier to “lay lodged–though not dead” than it is to keep things in perspective and remember that this is just one “moment” that will eventually pass.

Though it is tempting to just “lay lodged” in this state of mind, I choose to rise and meet the challenges while focusing my gaze elsewhere.

I’d captured the red tulip and several others after the poor flowers had been pushed by the wind and “pelted,” no constantly pummeled, by rain for several days.  I was happy to see them still standing, though a bit bowed.  When I shot this photo, the message was powerful, empowering, and affirming.  It wasn’t just a thing of beauty, but a symbol of perseverance and will, its beauty magnified in its reflection of the Divine.

In fact, I used it a few days later to share a bit of inspiration with family, friends, and colleagues, because such (im)perfect beauty only intensified my longing for Perfection.

“The Beauty of Holiness” (Tulip Original)

It is a little curious that this one flower–one image–captures both feelings so effectively.