Saturday, November 29, 2014

Unrest: Jesus, the Source of Peace

We have only just finished a holiday that we spent touting the things for which we are thankfulThat's a good thing. We spend the next day trying to get deals on material goods, which... in and of itself is not a bad thing. Saving money is a good thing (if you were going to spend x amount anyway, and you want to save an additional amount. I have other thoughts if you were shopping for yourself or your home and getting prodded into spending money you don't have or didn't want to spend, other than because of a corporate holiday.)

But the country, with Thanksgiving and it's associated smudge on our nation, remains in a state of tension and unrest. With the turmoil of Black Friday (and the, no less than, three videos of people harming one another over things like a stuff toy, or in one garments. Yes, pannies...), we are still experience unrest in places like Ferguson, St. Louis and places where people are really hurting. People are genuinely wondering if it will ever get better.
Jeremiah 6:13-15: "Everyone, great and small tries to make money dishonestly, even prophets and priests cheat the people. They act as if my people's wounds were only scratches. 'All is well,' they say, when all is NOT well. Were they ashamed because they did these disgusting things? No, they were not at all ashamed; they don't even know how to blush. And so they will fall as others have fallen; when I punish them, that will be the end of them. I, the Lord, have spoken."
Um... That sounds like our world today. Doesn't it? No? You don't think so? Let's see:
--Corporate greed and money being the biggest issue: Check.
--Everyone wanted a deal, an angle, or a hook up: Check.
--Even churches and the preachers being concerned about money and politics: Check.
--People minimizing hunger, poverty, and civil exhaustion from inequality: Check.
--People in power minimizing the damage to the population from greed: Check.
--People saying... it's all okay, even when it's not: Check.
--Lack of shame for misdeeds and sin and harming others: Check.

The scary part is what comes next. God is getting tired of it all. And when God says it will fall, and punishment will come... then it WILL. When God says that something will come to an end, it will. But... is that it? Is there nothing we can do? Is this dismal view the end? No.
Colossians 1:15-20: "Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God. He is the firstborn Son, superior to all created beings. For through Him, God created everything in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen things, including spiritual powers, lords, rulers, and authorities. God created the whole universe through Him and for Him. Christ existed before all things, and in union with Him all things have their proper place. He is the head of his body, the church; He is the source of the body's life. He is the firstborn Son, who was raised from death, in order that He alone might have the first place in ALL things. For it was by God's own decision that the Son has in Himself the full nature of God. Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the WHOLE universe back to Himself. God made peace through the Son's blood on the cross and so brought back to Himself ALL things, both on Earth and in Heaven.
Jesus IS God. And through Jesus, we are able to be reconciled to Him by His sacrifice for us. Otherwise, there were laws... SO MANY laws to be kept. Detailed, complex laws. Before we knew Jesus, our lives were full of selfish, hedonistic, godless and wicked endeavors. I know, for me, that I had self-seeking ways. To quote "The Talented Mr. Ripley," 
"Well, whatever you do, however terrible, however hurtful, it all makes sense, doesn't it? In your head? You never meet anybody that thinks they're a bad person."
How true is that? We justify EVERY thing we do. We have stubborn, unrepentant hearts (Rom. 1:18; 2:5, 8). And yet, we long for peace. Pageants are filled with hopeful young women that answer: "World Peace" when asked for what they wish. And like our strife-filled world, we clamored for peace and tried to find it, but our efforts failed. Humanity has FAILED.
Yet.. when we come to Jesus, all of that changes. Can change. Will change. We have been rescued. We are out of the dominion of darkness. We are brought into the Kingdom of the Christ. (Col. 1:13). Every sin has been forgiven. Every sin in the past, the present, and the future has been/will be forgiven. Justice must be satisfied and divine justice and recompense was satisfied by the sacrifice of Jesus. We have become new creatures in Christ, washed clean by His blood (2 Cor 5:17). With the power of sin broken, we can live lives acceptable to God. We can be IN the world, and not OF the world. Non-Jews can be grafted into God's plan of salvation and receive and enjoy the benefits of adoption into the family of God. We can experience God IN us... God sent the Holy Ghost as a comforter and partner (Acts 2:38) in helping us be both powerful enough to live IN the world and give us the strength to be separate FROM the world. The spirit of God IN us is our personal guide in our daily life, helping each of us experience Christ’s peace (Rom. 8:6). We also can look forward to an eternity spent in heaven, where righteousness, tranquility, and joy abound (Rom. 14:17).
Our unity IN and WITH Jesus came at a great price—the sacrifice of His life. Christ gave His life for us so that we could be reconciled to God (Col. 1:20). Christian lives are to testify that Jesus is the source of our peace. God has done all this for us.
--Does your life communicate this message? This message and testimony to the power of what God can do in you?
--Don't give up on people yet; don't judge others or their pain just yet. 
--Be a minister of reconciliation. Be a peacemaker. Be a person that looks on civil unrest and disparate lives with mercy and compassion.
--Your life was much like any other person before Christ. Don't forget where God brought you from and look on others that NEED God with mercy. 
--Don't look on others in judgement, because some of US were just like that, or worse.

I love y'all. Be good to each other.

#JustBeingMichael ツ

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Great Is Thy Faithfulness: So Thankful

Great Is Thy Faithfulness: So Thankful...

#DailyProverbs 1 Chronicles 16:30-34: "...The earth is set firmly in place and cannot be moved. Be glad, earth and sky!
Tell the nations that the Lord is king. 
Roar, sea, and every creature in you; be glad, fields, and everything in you!
The trees in the woods will shout for joy when the Lord comes to rule the earth.
Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good; his love is eternal."

One year ago, I was in the middle of turmoil. I was gravely ill. I was heartbroken over the loss #MamawSue. I was confused by the dreams the Lord was giving me. I was in limbo. I was not in church, and yet, I was no longer in old habits of the world. Thanksgiving was hard... But it was all working towards a purpose. God's faithfulness and planning are immaculate...

July 15th was the day a sweet couple reached out to me... They really don't realize how much I was affected.
August 20 was the diagnosis that scared me. I was ready to quit. I was ready for death...
October 20 was the turning point where I tried, but only for those around me. I still didn't get it...
November 2 was a loss that rocked our family, and a mantle of prayer was given to me that I wasn't sure I was ready for...
December 21st was the miracle that changed my life forever. Drs. Payoosh & Patel still keep in touch...

As specific anniversaries pass of comfort, fear, loss... I'm left to wonder; without each step, who knows if I'd have had the same outcomes. Without each puzzle piece, who knows where I would be. God's faithfulness and detail is immeasurable. I write a lot in exhortation of others. I minister to others. But this was to me, for me, and about me. God was faithful to me. As the anniversary looms of God's divine intervention in my life, and the miracle that paved the way for the biggest miracle of my existence... here's what I know:

I'm alive. I'm healed. I'm forgiven. I'm saved. I'm restored.

I'm... thankful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Let's talk about Moses for a minute...


Moses was talking to God years before he had to actually do anything. He spent time with God. He and God communed. He learned God. That's what gave him the strength to do unpopular things.

How must Moses have felt when God directed him to confront his adopted brother?

How must Moses have felt to know that God told him to disrupt the country in which he grew up?

How must Moses have felt to know his nephew was dead?

Pharoah, and those in power had marginalized and vilified the Jewish people. The Israelites were crucial to business and labor, but at the end of it all, they were slaves and abhorred by the Egyptians. Yet, Pharoah never relenquished his hold or his power. He never "mistreated" his slaves, per se. Only punishing those that "deserved" it. Many of the Jews were comfortable in Egypt. They loved their captivity. Many were prominent. They were well-respected, but they were still slaves, and still looked on as inferior. The thing is... it was still slavery and it was still not in God's greater plan.

It took TEN plagues and curses from God for Pharoah to admit that the power had been ripped from his hands and that the Israelites could go to freedom. The last resulted in the death of all of the first born children to each family. It took that for the leaders and people to realize that this could no longer go on.

Not only that, but the Jews plundered the Egyptians for their gold, silver and clothes for their journey to freedom. They were actually funded through their captors. And they miserably marched on... They went through the Red Sea on dry ground, only to still complain of the journey ahead, the journey as it went, and the journey away from comfort into freedom and responsibility.

Ask yourself a few questions:
--God always has a plan. You can be IN it, or you can get run over BY it. Which do you prefer?

--When people are hurting, enslaved, and marginalized... what is your attitude about it? What will God have to do to you to get your attention? Can you learn by Plague 1, or does He have to keep going through Plague 10?

--When you judge others for their methods and their ways of expression in worship, or in pain, or in disappointment to life events, someone is judging yours as well. What would you like from God? How would you like to be treated by God? Then treat others that way. Yes, it's that simple. God told us He would treat us and judge us by the judgement we show others. That's scripture.

--Are you an Egyptian in this story? Do you lord over others or prevent freedom? Do you do that in life? In work? In finance? Do you do that spiritually? Do you harm others with your mouth and your words? Do you harm others with your vote? If so, how? How can you change that?

--Are you an Israelite? Are you grumbling that your freedom costs and is hard? Do you wish you could have it both ways? That your slavery, inaccountability, comfort, and finances flowed freely, but you were considered free? Do you wish you could just nap and forget about it all? Are you tired to the point of giving up and stopping? Well, you will NEVER get to Canaan and your promised land if you REFUSE to leave your comfortable captivity in Egypt. Get up. Keep Going.

Some of you will read this and interpret current events. Good. That's good if you see that. Some of you will read this and take this as a spiritual application. Very good. Leave your spiritual bondage and start your Exodus today. Do it without hesitation. Some of you will read this and wonder who it's aimed at, and if it's liberally slanted for current politics, or if I'm being conservative and talking about leaving sin and worldliness...

Good. Think of those things. You should leave your sin behind you. And you should find yourself leaning towards helping the poor and hurting. Why must we assume those are mutually exclusive: to be conservative and holy in our love of God and liberal and helpful with our love to humanity? Why not assume both are possibly and follow the scriptures?

I love you all.
Jesus loves you all.
Now, get up and go do something good for someone.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


So here is my ‪#‎DailyProverb...
It's just something I need today…


Now, “grace” is defined in the dictionary as “a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior.” One of its synonyms is “forgiveness.” We also say that someone is merciful, lenient. We say that someone’s grace is what gave us a break. When someone has pleasing qualities or elegance, we say they are “graceful.”

I mess up lots. I am not always graceful. I don’t always say the right thing or come across the right way. But that is my lack of gracefulness. I need God’s grace constantly to make me right. I need God’s forgiveness and leniency to stay right and to continue a right path. I am selfish. I am privileged. I expect grace. I expect forgiveness from others, from God and I expect them to understand or assume I am coming from a good place and coming from a well-meaning place.

But that’s not fair to the world around me, because I don’t always extend the same grace back… I don’t always assume positive intent. I don’t always give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t always speak softly and carefully to people.

I am so sorry, y’all. I really am.

Grace, from God, from others… is a gift. It’s unmerited. You can’t earn someone’s grace. Grace is usually extended with no expectation of anything back. That’s likely because the one’s that NEED grace cannot pay anything back.

I like to read. I really enjoy reading religious material. I like the commonly accepted Bible. But I really, thoroughly enjoy less read material. I love the lost gospels. I love anything that’s gnostic. I really like reading less-common material from the same era as the prophets and the early writers. I love the Pentateuch and any historical or contextual texts from that period. They give me a fuller picture of what I perceive as God. They give the stories I love color and texture. They complete the picture for me, they don’t detract from it. My love for that is a gift. It’s a gift from God and it’s a GRACE extended to me. I don’t get bored debating ancient history with my Sister and splitting hairs over what someone might have MEANT to say in a scripture and what history around that writer might have influenced. To me that’s fun.

My lack of grace makes me forget that everyone doesn’t think that’s fun. My lack of grace makes me forget that some people don’t have access to that kind of education. They can’t order random books from Amazon or spend their kids’ food or rent money on it because they woke up interested in that topic for that day.

When I like to get revved up, I like to read the Acts of the Apostles. I read it a lot. That book speaks to me on many levels. It re-affirms my theological beliefs in Oneness. It reminds of the Divinity of Jesus. It makes me feel good about the early Church’s historical practices. I feel like the community spirit, grassroots movement and the way they took care of one another was a good thing. And I couple this reading with common sense, historical reading, and contextual clues for how the Earth was historically and philosophically at that time. All of which are available to me through grace. Today I read Acts 15:7-11. Feel free to read it. You’ll like it. Peter basically tells the elders and the original disciples to quit pestering the Gentiles and quit making them conform to random laws that the Jews themselves had trouble upholding. He preached grace. WE, as Gentiles, are able to be saved by grace alone. We didn’t have to be. God didn’t OWE us anything.

So, Michael?? What are you babbling about today?

Okay, let me wrap this up and bring it together: We are privileged people. We are spoiled. We are not careful with one another. We don’t treat others well. And yet… the ENTIRE time, we expect to be treated well. We expect to be judge on our intentions, even as we judge the actions of others. As people that are Christians, or those that accept the Christ or the divinity of Jesus as the Christ, we readily attribute our salvation to God’s grace, but what does “this grace in which we stand” mean to us now (Rom. 5:2)? How does it work out in everyday life, especially when we’re going through periods of trial or suffering, or failure?

1. God's grace releases supernatural power within us so we can endure life’s hardships with a good attitude. Or at least an attitude that doesn't end in despair or devoid of hope. Grace keeps me hoping. Grace keeps me believing in the good of people, and loving people instead of just checking out in life and giving up on those that disappoint me, or hurt me. Grace may even, in fact, make it possible to "see the light at the end of the tunnel" in what He is doing in us through the adversity.

2. Grace builds our confidence in God. Grace, and proof that God is working in your life, breeds additional belief and increases your faith. Nothing looks hopeless when we focus on God instead of on our problems.

3. Grace gives me the discovery that assurance of God’s sustaining presence as He walks with us every step of the way. It's hard to feel that mind-numbing depression or sense of loneliness, if you are not alone.

4. Because I've experienced God's care for me, I am able to show empathy and love to others facing hard times, and going through experiences that God helped me through.

5. During trials and tribulation, grace works to transform our character so that others can see Jesus reflected in us, a better version of us, and the product that we become (hopefully for the better) having gone through difficulties.

Challenges in life are unavoidable. So we need a daily dose of God’s grace if we are to walk through trials with confidence that there is great reward on the other side; confidence that there is MORE than just this. That there is a Heaven and that our loved ones and friends are there... I've heard it said, and I've quoted this numerous times: "Grace is God giving us what we DON'T deserve. Mercy is God sparing us from what we DO deserve."

Way too often, I've cut God out of the equation in my life. I rely on God to save me, I rely on God to protect me, but I have kept God out of my daily and intimate decision making and relied on my own abilities. If God’s grace was needed to save us, then logic says we would also need it for the rest of our days. Only through a continuous infusion of sustaining power can we live. Grace turns your victim moment into victory. Grace will turn your shame into shouting. Grace will help you realize your dreams when you thought you were destitute.

Happy PRE-Friday, Y'all! 
I Love Ya.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Seek Ye First


Today, let's talk about "Seek Ye First..."

It’s been said that the reason America doesn’t experience the power and revival that the rest of the world feels is because we pray for revival, and they pray for unity. They pray to be united together in Christ, while we pray that God blesses us and gives us more. I don’t care for hearsay or click-bait. So I’ll clarify, when I write “it’s been said…” I mean that Bro. Baily told Pastor and Sis. Ballestero; I was privileged to hear it.

Unity brings about a lot of things. Unity in learning. Unity is purpose. Unity in our sacrifice. It gets God's attention. When Jesus started delegating authority to his followers, his disciples, he gave them rules. God gives us plenty of promises... but with every covenant, every promise comes a requirement, a rule, a guideline. God is an orderly God and we can work the plan and be blessed. He tells us in His Word what His expectations are. We don’t have to cry out, cut ourselves or beg God to speak to us, when we’ve got the living Word in us, and his scriptures in front of us. But he also expects us to follow the rules... and to follow Him.

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Disciples (Luke 9:1-6; see also: Mt 10.5–15; Mk 6.7–13)
Jesus called the twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases. Then he sent them out to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick, after saying to them, “Take nothing with you for the journey: no stick, no beggar's bag, no food, no money, not even an extra shirt. Wherever you are welcomed, stay in the same house until you leave that town; wherever people don't welcome you, leave that town and shake the dust off your feet as a warning to them.
The disciples left and travelled through all the villages, preaching the Good News and healing people everywhere.

That first verse says that He called them together.
Then He gave them power.
Then He gave them authority.
Then He SENT them... and He sent them with NOTHING but His power, authority, and commission.

We want God to call us. We want God to give us power. We want God to give us authority. We are not very keen on God sending us. We are even LESS keen on God telling us that we are to have the bare minimum. We need a lighting budget. We need cordless mics. We need earbud monitor systems. Anything less than state of the art is a slap in the face to us.

We tell God these days that we “can’t” do ministry unless we are assured that it’s comfortable, will fit in our schedule, and we are able to ensure that we are properly paid. People want to play in church on Sundays, but they don't want to practice during the week. They want to be in the big churches and have the nice systems... but they can't see themselves helping a small church that might be one person, acoustics, and doing it simply to ensure that God's name is glorified in worship. And most people want a check. I am not correcting Paul. I believe the workman is worthy of hire, but it’s about communal generosity, not wealth or prosperity. Do you think a man of God will be uber-wealthy? Do you think if he is, he’ll keep it, or spread it for the Kingdom? Do you think about the camel and needle? What did Jesus really mean when he sent his followers, his friends… the men that would be with him out into the world and into towns like this? With nothing? As nothing? As people that would need kindness, and alms from strangers to survive?

Would YOU do it, if that’s how God called you to ministry? Could you? What did Jesus really mean by that? Like, really mean... Is it possible He meant to leave everything behind? Live in a commune?

Oh… wait... He kind of said that, didn’t he? Matthew 8:22 is where Jesus told the rich young ruler, a teacher of the law, and an actual disciple to leave it all.

All of it?

Yes, all of it. He told the rich young ruler to come with him. And he meant right then!!! He told him to leave it all behind. He told the young man to walk with him daily, forsake his home, his business, his money, his servants his house, his family. Jesus told him to say goodbye to all of that and come prepare. Jesus knew that His immediate rise and fall were coming. He knew that the Gospel would be spread. He knew that eternity was in the balance. The ruler just thought of that day. What were his tasks THAT day? What were the things he needed to accomplish THAT day?

Do you get caught up at church?
Do you get fired up and mean well and want "more" of God? More power? More help? More blessings?
Do you feel the rush of a preacher’s message and tell God you’ll follow him, literally, anywhere?
Do you balk when God accepts your offer and asks you to commit to following Him and leaving your world behind? 

What about the passage in Luke to the one in Matthew? It’s nearly identical in the technicalities of what is offered as the story, but it offers a few more insights into Luke’s pragmatism and writing style. He focuses on the different phrasing used. Matthew captured the beauty and majesty of the whole “Son of Man” thing, but Luke cuts to the point: If you don’t follow God, and obey God, you are of no use to God. #Boom

The Would-be Followers of Jesus (Luke 9:57; see also, Mt 8.19–22)
As they went on their way, a man said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lie down and rest.
He said to another man, Follow me.” But that man said, “Sir, first let me go back and bury my father.” Jesus answered, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.
Someone else said, “I will follow you, sir; but first let me go and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus said to him, Anyone who starts to plough and then keeps looking back is of no use to the Kingdom of God.

Could you do that and leave everything for God? Would you?
What did Jesus mean when He said that anyone that ploughs looking back is useless?
What keeps calling you to back?
What has a call so strong that you won’t keep looking forward at the task God has for you?
What is so powerful, grand, or important that the straight and narrow row you should be ploughing will be crooked or stopped due to your inability to look forward?

Ask yourself those questions and answer them honestly. Answer them truthfully. Do you think you can follow God and let Him truly mold you and use you? Or will you offer all of the reasons that YOU are the special case that He should work with? Will you convince God that you deserve the mantle of leadership and prestige and want the power to proclaim the Gospel, but YOU deserve to be let out of the sacrifice and the path that God would have you walk.

Seek Ye First: God and Possessions (Matthew 6:24; see also Lk 16.13)
No one can be a slave of two masters; he will hate one and love the other; he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

See, here is where the rubber meets the road for most people. Most conservative citizens in the Bible Belt consider themselves to be “Christian.” The matter is that they are conservative. They have values that are conservative. But their love of money is a problem and it’s one that will overshadow the rest of their testimony. You cannot love money and serve God. It’s POSSIBLE, but incredibly NEARLY NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN that a rich person will make good moral choices and make it to Heaven. Jesus just flat out said it: A rich person will work to make more money and hoard and keep money. They just don’t usually end up using it to make the lives of the downtrodden and poor and needy better, or even tolerable.

You can even sing the songs, wear the right clothes, look the part and be a teacher of the law, a ruler, or a disciple of Christ… but if you won’t drop YOUR plans, and YOUR life, and YOUR mindset, then you are missing the point. The Gospel has been spread. It’s been put out there. Those in charge of it have mutilated it. They’ve abused it. They’ve bastardized it for selfish gain… God can handle all of that. I’m not an apologist, nor am I ashamed of it. The cruelties done in the name of Christ were done by politics, greed, and for control. They were not done in LOVE. But, without love, we are clanging cymbals. We are useless. We are ineffective. Why? Because God is Love (1 John 4:8)  See, if you are not full of love of Christ, even for those not like you, then you don’t know God.

Seek Ye First: God and Possessions (Matthew 6:25-34 ; see also Luke 12:22–31)
“This is why I tell you not to be worried about the food and drink you need in order to stay alive, or about clothes for your body. After all, isn't life worth more than food? And isn't the body worth more than clothes? Look at the birds: they do not sow seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren't you worth much more than birds? Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?
“And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. It is God who clothes the wild grass — grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burnt up in the oven. Won't he be all the more sure to clothe you? How little faith you have!
“So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings."

What are you doing FOR God?
When God called you to follow Him, did you only agree on YOUR terms?
When God told you to share the Gospel, is it only in the situations of which YOU approve?
When God asks you to step out in faith and help, is your obedience only when YOU are comfortable? 
When God tells you to do something, is the schedule set only when YOU decide?

Don’t miss it. Don’t you dare miss what God has for you. I often wonder if the rich young ruler witnessed the crucifixion. If he told his children and grandchildren that he knew of Jesus and had a chance to go with Him. What did he think after that encounter when he left, saddened?

What about you? Do you leave saddened?

How many encounters have you had with God? How many times has God given you a chance and reached out to you? How many times has your heart been pricked with conviction and you feel the Holy Ghost urging you to talk to Jesus? How many times have you begged God to keep giving you chances, because you are "not ready." How many times have you told God that you need to take care of a few situations, just be patient while you correct and work on a few loose ends? That's not how it works with God. His love is infinite, not His patience. If you are consumed with worldly things, they will be the things that choke your relationship with God. They will be your demise. You will miss the point, and you will miss your chance.

I ask you again:
What has a call so strong that you won’t keep looking forward at the task God has for you?
What possession is worth communion and following Christ? You just "have" to have it.
What idol do you have that you have put above following Christ? You just "can't" give it up.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

#TodayImGrateful for Veterans

#TodayImGrateful for Veterans.

1944 - Papaw James WW2
And it's true. I am truly grateful for the service rendered to our country, for ideals, for what we interpret as "freedom" in toto. In particular, I am grateful to one amazing veteran and his family - my grandfather, James. He had a brother, Obie, that served. My grandmother's brother, John M, served. Their parents served. My paternal grandfather, Burl, servied. My paternal uncle, Creighton, served. But my Papaw James was a special and unique individual to me. He was a giant in my life. Probably one of the only male role models I can look to with pride and admiration.

We called him Papaw James.

He loved his family. He loved my grandmother fiercely and nearly insanely, and he loved his children. When the time came and he had grandchildren, he loved us. He would constantly play with us, talk to us, and yes... reprimand us. He was of an older generation that were stricter, but he was one of the most hilarious people I have ever known.

1944 - Papaw James
WW2 Uniform
I never understood him growing up because his life was based in realism. He and I never came to certain places of "understanding" because, to him, I was a dreamer. The BEST advice I've ever been given came from my grandfather and grandmother. They were conflicting, they didn't make sense at the time, and I never appreciated them or their wisdom until later in life. (Isn't that the great tragedy of growing up?!? We finally understand what they meant and want to talk with them, but it's too late...)

My grandmother told me: "Darlin', knowing yourself is important, but 'being' yourself is overrated. Be whoever you darn well want to be." She meant that, too. I think she was nearly prophetic. Don't accept whatever is handed to you. Don't be what you are told you must be. Look inside, find that spark, find that fire and be who you want to be. Be the best you you dream up! Be more than people can imagine for you!

My grandfather was of a different mindset. He was pragmatic and a worrier. He had been kicked and knocked a few times and he was one that would hope that your dreams came true, but he planned for disaster. The advice I remember from him was gathered at his kitchen table. We sat there talking over my day and all of these amazing things I was dreaming up for a project: "Pet, could you pull those curtains back for me? Do you see out there? What do you see? I'll tell you. That's a real world out there. You hear me, Nut? You need to grow up a little. I understand that you have big hopes and big dreams - but those don't get handed to you. What are you going to do to make it happen?" I hated being told that. I hated the fact that he didn't jump on my dream bandwagon and immediately drop everything to ensure my hopes and wants and wishes were fulfilled. It's also the best gift he ever gave me. It hurt, but it resonated. It stuck. The lesson stuck and over time I can attribute my successes to the fact that I KNOW it will never be handed to me. I will have to work harder, overcome prejudice, fight more, plan more, pray more, put in MORE hours, and do any and every part of every detail I must do to win. He knew that me coming from rural and beginnings and being a spoiled and sensitive boy would be tough. He knew I'd need to work that much more. Best advice ever.

1944 - Papaw James & Bunt Henderson
My family was held together by those two. Mamaw was the oldest and the matriarch of her family. My grandfather, the same. We always had every holiday at their house. Everyone came. Everyone. Some of those traditions are being lost by those of us left. We don't visit the cousins. We don't make the small times as special. But we should. My twin cousin, Michelle, and I keep vowing to do better. Amanda and I are promising, promising, promising to meet more. But we don't. I call Lou Nell and talk some, but I need to go see John M and Howard soon. Do you have veterans in your life? Giants that inspired you? Thank them. We don't know what they know or what they go through.

Do you have coworkers that served or are serving?
Do you have friends that you respect that served?

Remember that most go away as children. They leave as freshly scrubbed 18 year olds and come back older. They come back having seen things we may never see, or never know. I romanticize my grandparents and my family because we all sat around together. Those stories were passed to us, including the horrors. My family loved one another, supported one another and prayed for one another. We kept each other. Not all veterans have that. Reach out to veterans and thank them.

#JustBeingMichael ツ

Monday, November 10, 2014

Privilege Vs. Intersectionality

This isn't a religious #DailyProverbs. It's got scripture. It's got references, but it's not about spiritual things, per se. It's civil. It's about civil issues.

Warning, Disclosure and Bias Trigger: This is long. This won't be popular. I'm writing this as a Christian and from my perspective. I'm writing this as a person of diversity and faith. While I'm not really talking to any one group; I suppose I'm talking mainly to people that already identify as Christian, and also to those that are detractors of community organization, intersectionality, and truly level-setting expectations in working collaboratively. Most of the people that already know all of this, are feeling some of the same frustrations I feel. I am certainly not #mansplaining it to the women that work for equality. But I hope that women and all races that assume mixed or pale men can't help will listen and work together.

Everyone is usually happy with others, until they don't get something they want from them. That's a huge generalization, meant to cover a wide variety of things from work, business, social circles, school, and ministry. People want or need something; you give them the service or the product. They are happy; thus, you are well-received and liked.

The issue comes into play when you say no. Or when you note that you can't. Or, even if you won't. Maybe you disagree. Or maybe your priorities conflict with their priorities. If you can't make a service because you are previously committed to another event, sometimes that causes hardship on the person that needed you. But what of the other commitment? You can't back out on that either. YOU have to manage your schedule and your priorities. You cannot blame anyone else. YOU control your life. You will ONLY do or NOT do exactly what you want. If it is a priority, you will make it happen. If it is NOT a priority, you will let it slip. The same is true for ministry schedules, for work schedules, for making meetings and being present, for working on projects - even with those you don't like or with whom working can be difficult. If the end result is what matters to you and that is your priority - you will overlook some of the personality conflict. If the process or your own participation is your priority, you generally can become a problem yourself in the way you interact and work on a team. These conflicts may start off easily solvable and seemingly trivial. But with time, bitterness, and left unresolved - they become bigger stories in our head. They result from a sense of entitlement that people feel for your time and effort. The people assume you are available and they are upset when you are not. Or they begin to treat you differently, make comments or remarks that become increasingly aggressive or even untrue. They begin to confront you about conflicting priorities. Or they make it personal and not based on solving the issue of covering both events, both projects, or both issues. They make the issue about you and them, not ensuring both priorities are met. People really do just want you to do what they want. But, that's not always a realistic answer. you just can't operate in life that way. You still have to manage your resources and your time. You will find that in the management of your time and priorities, conflict happens. These feelings we are discussing today are a result from that privilege.

Sometimes, you have to get over yourself in ministry or work and make the end result your goal. Your personal glory, your personal recognition, and your personal pride have to, sometimes, be put on hold while you make choices for the larger community and the greater good. People in a church, that claim to be Christians are some of the very first to hurt you. Real hurt. Deep hurt. It's usually from the mouth. (James 3:5) The reality of working with other humans in business or ministry is that you may have to forego one priority, or re-prioritize, or even table it until the immediate priority is met for the greatest and farthest reaching effect. You cannot always be completely rigid in either process or policy when the end goal is a common policy, product, or event that will benefit the most people, with the most impact. Human nature is to prioritize our pet issues first and then address others. Real leaders have to weigh and balance the entirety and larger scope of a project before the needs of the few or one, or (most painful) personal goals.

What happens when workers, volunteers, team members won't compromise? What happens when they won't work together on all issues for all people for the common greater good? What happens when one team member shuts down or quits and the others have to pick up the slack? What happens when one musician in ministry will only do things when it's for larger services but not for small groups that really need help? What happens when it can't be spread across multiple people that could do a lot of good? What if it's always the same faithful workers and team members that give and work and pick up slack? If it cannot be resolved, resolutions must be made. Ties must be broken. Conversations must be had. Hard choices are made. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

[The goal, however, is intersectionality.]

That's my personal goal in my relationships, work and ministry. And it's what I work towards in my life. The rest of this is written biased from the perspective that intersectionality is the best answer to many of the tensions we feel from conflicting priorities in activism, social change, and ministry.

I don't always make my legal, political and moral stances public because I was taught not to do that. I was raised that we didn't put signs in the yard for candidates. I was raised that we don't talk TOO in depth about politics. We may be bold and proud in our faith, but we don't proselytize and abuse our faith by flaunting it. I was raised not to talk about money. And to be honest, I was raised not to ask about money. My mother thought it was rude... and it was tacky to ask people how much things cost, or where they got something, or what they believed or thought about certain topics. You smiled in public and left your dirty laundry at home! It was both the best and worst upbringing because it was a classy and nice way to be; but society has changed so much that it's become moot and kind of useless in witnessing in ministry and cutting to the chase in social reform and policy. So, needless to say...

[It's safe to say I was raised with a fair amount of privilege.]

And?? So?? What does that even mean? It means that I get certain advantages because of my color, the amount of money I have, or am assumed to have, and my education. To a degree, it means I get advantages because of my grammar and speech patterns. White men like the way other white men talk. Since there have been centuries of white people in power, it means that the speech, patterns, and social graces set forth by those in power have permeated to other races in power. That's why people that are well-spoken and use grammatical context are said to "talk white." It means that the generally accepted standard of success that I naturally fit into makes my life easier and not harder. I don't have to do the work, and then defend the fact that I did it. I just get to do the work and let it stand for merit. It means that the opportunities I've been afforded come from intangible bouts of groups of people, over generations, pushing me towards success.

I'm going to let that paragraph stand for itself. Most people are going to BALK at it and become defensive. But it's true. Now, does that mean it's been easy, or fun, or even a journey that others could complete? No. Does it mean that we are all "plug and play" as people and that we are all interchangeable? No. The fact is, I am the ONLY one that could be me. I am the ONLY one that could do what I've done. I'm the ONLY one that messed up what I've messed up. I'm the ONLY one that was there when I was a broke drunk and spiraling out of control. I'm the ONLY one that salvaged and worked on the things I've worked on. I'm the one God healed. I'm the one that God delivered and I'm the one that God saved. I'm the one that God called to be Michael K. And I'm the one that could only access what God has for me. (Jeremiah 29:11) Maybe that's privilege; but it's also pathway. It's also PURPOSE. To be me, and to have my blessings, you must also bear my curses. If you want my healing and testimony; be sure you want the disease and pain that is on the way to that victory.

That's the key to remember... everyone has issues. Everyone has been hurt. My parents were hurt by their parents, and so forth, and back generation after generation all the way down to me. Everyone has something to overcome. Mine has been confusion, self esteem, anger, and the infamous "hay bales, sweet tea, and glitter!" Being where I am now, in ministry, I am acutely aware of how I treat others IN addiction, IN sexual problems, IN alcoholism, IN a life of pain and theft, and self-medication and abuse. That's why we are to be kind and thoughtful of others. Privilege in one area doesn't mean you've not been damaged in another area. Our world and our society today talks about privilege quite a bit. If you are a straight white male, you are considered to be at the top of the food chain. You are demonized and even in some cases criminalized. Perhaps, even historically rightly so. History has made quite a case for this to be true. Straight white males do seem to be the ones that have run the world for centuries and brought us to what our society is today. But that's not the only story. That's not even the whole story. I am viewed as Caucasian and privileged, but that's not MY whole story.

[Believe me, growing up in rural Mississippi, people never passed up chances to tell you how different you were than homogenized versions of white settlers of the past.]
--Or if you were effeminate. There are men that are not these burly, butch things that like to spit and kill. They are heterosexual, and they are good men, but in areas, they area ostracized for knowing grammar and how to use dinner utensils. Or for knowing the word utensils.
--Or if you identified as gay. That's the worst thing ever these days. Christians have open license to hate gays. They are un-savable, unsalvageable creatures upon which the conservative right wing of government has unleashed it's fury. They are viewed as sub-human and undeserving of Christ. They are viewed as those that God cannot love. The word "gay" will allow Christians to overlook scripture, to ignore commands from Christ, and are the de facto punching bag for the church. That's not scriptural or what Jesus said. He died for every human alive.... even gays. He died so all humans could be saved. Personal pet peeves and prejudices cannot and will not change what God would do.
--Or mixed-race. Because if you weren't lily white and pure in the South... well, that's just not acceptable. We are pedigreed and pompous people. We are proud of our heritage and we want others to understand why DAR and SOC are important traditions. I mean, we are good looking. And old white ladies will whisper about peoples' colors and talk about just how beautiful mixed babies are... but they just know "how hard it will be on them..." Bah. It's just like we are expected to attend the American Legion benefits and join the Eastern Star so our grandparents will be proud. But not if you are not all white. If you own that, admit it or celebrate it, you're not okay. It's different today, but in the 80's it was still quite taboo. In the 60's and prior, it was considered sin. There were even men that skewed the Bible to say that black people should be slaves because of Noah's son and a curse. That was taught... in churches... in the 80's. [Ponder that for a minute.]
--Or even just quiet. Or liked something different like art. These are not status quo and as such, they are not acceptable norms of behavior.

Any anomalies were considered bad. And any anomalies gave others license for open season in bullying, in taunting, in name-calling, in locker-stuffing, in shaming, in degrading, in humiliating, in attempted-shooting (even by stepfathers that thought you'd be better dead than gay), or in the fact that if you were TOO Jesus-centric and on the fringe because you believed the words of Christ, then you were still not "conservative" because you truly believed that feeding the poor and helping the needy was a priority. [Trust me... rural Mississippi will SET YOU STRAIGHT when it comes to who gets help and who should be shunned!]

We all make assumptions. It's life. We all have our beliefs. I have mine. We even learn and grow as we age. My "hardline" beliefs from the 70s and 80's changed in the 90's. My beliefs and ideals of the 2000's into the present have changed. You assume that I am a certain way because of one outfit I wear at a work conference or at a church service. You assume that I look a certain way and get certain rewards.
--Unless I speak and someone assumes I'm gay. "Hay bales, sweet tea and glitter." And no matter how hard I try to be butcher, it's easier to be myself and let the Lord handle it.
--Unless I wear short sleeves. I NEVER get pat downs at the airport in suits. I am usually rushed through security due to my clearances. Unless I wear casual clothes or short sleeves. Then I am asked 20 questions and asked to confirm my ID information and I'm almost always "randomly" selected for a pat down. I look like prison rough trade in short sleeves, and I get treated as such.
--Unless I am asked about my beliefs. I have friends... FRIENDS... that still try to pin me down on if my beliefs are this or that and do I agree with them on scripture translations. Do I really mean to go back to the UPC? Do I really believe in Acts? Do I really think God healed me? Do I really think God delivered me from a life of unhealthy habits? People freak if you start telling the truth instead of watering it down. And they judge you.
--Unless you know my history with substances. It's not pretty.
--Unless you know my family history with drugs. It sucks when your dad's in jail for drugs.
--Unless you know that I long to be "good enough" for God - but know that it's STUPID to think any human being could be good enough. God loved us enough to make a way for us, even though we are pitiful and helpless before Him.

To assume I'm this bastion of privilege and that I lucked up and got pushed to the position I'm in is ludicrous. It's been a battle since my birth. So, don't tell me I won't understand you. I may not be able to identify as you, but I can sympathize and help where I can. I want to help. When you assume all of the above about me, you are doing exactly what you decry and don't want done to you. You want to be viewed as competent on your merit. You don't want your genitals or your sexuality or your race to be in indicator of your skill or your ability. Why do you assume any of mine were? When I offer to learn, and I offer to help and I work towards intersectionality and moving all humans forward in this world, and you want to deny my past hurts and the microaggressions committed against me; that makes me want to stop. It makes me want to pack up what little privilege I have and use it for me and my pet causes and leave you to yours. That sounds awful, but compassion exhaustion is real.

[What's your point, Michael?]

MY POINT IS: I see many memes and many calls for justice because of the stereotype of the listless and criminal black man. I see many that decry the foul nature of saying all black women are angry. Or if you have natural hair, you must be an activist. If you have dreadlocks, you must do drugs. Or if you are Hispanic with the genetic lottery winnings of olive skin and dark hair/eyes, you are in America illegally. It's sad because people really think if that's the case, you probably swam over. But Hispanic or Latino people with lighter hair or eyes are more acceptable? Or if you are white, then you are well off. Or if you are a white girl, "you can't even"... or all white guys are "frat-tastic." Or all Asains are smart. Or all Asians are good at math, or play violin... Or if you don't speak English, you hate America. Or if you are poor, you are lazy. Or if you are disabled, you are a mooch. Or if you have ever received assistance, you just didn't try hard enough. Or if you are gay, you are promiscuous. Or if you are trans, you are confused. Or if you are a Muslim, you are a terrorist. Or if you are Jewish, you are greedy. Or if you are a Christian... you are a hater of anyone different.

The human race is a genetic melting pot. The human race is the only real race. Race based on skin color is a created construct that was used for division. It was used to separate and divide and yes, for those in power, to conquer. So, why do we divide and compartmentalize one another? Why don't we all work together for a better world? A better life? A better country? A better way to treat one another?

MY POINT IS: We have to work together. Not just as Christians/Jews/Muslims, but as human beings. Not as white/black/brown/red/yellow... but as HUMANS. Not as men/women in a binary, but as HUMANS. We have to live together and work together and survive together. Yes, you may know many, many, many of us that create the stereotype of white male privilege. With our paler skin, and our ability to get or keep jobs. Our access to power and funds and control. We can help. We are not all bad. We are not all going to be evil. So, don't stereotype all of us. Unless you would like the same treatment back, that is. The exhaustion is real. And the even sadder reality is that compassion exhaustion is a real thing. Some of us do actually try to make a positive difference. We want women to succeed and to thrive. I respect, love and in some cases have even idolized women. We want races to be equal and we want merit and character to be what we consider. I would MUCH rather know that merit is the entire case in work than any other consideration, but that's because my job market calls for daily proving of new ideals and levels of tech and industry. Politics aside, it's imperative that the work is done is immaculately. That's a merit-based industry. I don't believe in being "color blind." We don't want to be blind to culture, but we want to be aware that culture aside, there are extraordinary people of all races, nations, and cultures. So, why exclude any of us from helping? When men or especially pale men, try; why lump us in with everyone else? If we are really all trying to be taken seriously by our merit and the content of our characters, why do that? Yes, I understand already that you may be tired of educating people. [Every day. All the time. About things they should already get. Yes, it's tiring and yes, it gets old.] But, for those of us willing to learn; it's disheartening to hear how we are immediately thought to be unable to know or learn. I want to help disenfranchised people. I want people to feel safe and that their citizenship brings certain responsibilities and privileges. But I don't want to feel intrusive if I'm just another stereotype that you won't work with...

MY POINT IS: When you become so rigid, and you define your success as your separation from others, you fail. Christians especially. We are NOT to be OF the world, but we are to be IN the world and a light TO the world. We as a whole have failed. We are splintered. We are not unified. UNITY will unlock many things both in the spirit and in the flesh. We pray for revival, but we don't pray for unity and wholeness. And when help is offered, we reject those that would help us. When that happens to me, it makes them want to pack up what privilege I DO have and use it for my own causes. Most people area like that. Here is a hot-topic case-in-point: Gay marriage is a white gay male issue, primarily. I don't care what anyone thinks of it morally or from a faith-based issue. I have my thoughts and you have yours and we all have ours. Right or wrong, I'm talking a civil and legal issue. And, because of the push and power behind it, it's passing... It's passing because of money and power. Think about that. DINK money, if you will... What about universal access to clean drinking water? What about the corporation that said that shouldn't be a basic human right? hat about causes for black women in America? What about access to affordable housing, childcare and the ability to try to do better with dignity and not as a charity-case? What about school to prison pipelines? How are those going? Black men being demonized, arrested or even killed just for walking down the street at night? Even further away from success. How about genetic changes to food and how the poor are kept unhealthy by fake food being cheap and healthy food being a privilege for the well off? That's not going well. How about human rights for job security? How about "at will" states and pregnant women? How about the path to legal immigration and treating human beings decently? How about people that can speak three languages and know computers but clean your toilets because you think brown people with language barriers are inferior? What about the fact that you can be arrested for feeding the homeless? How are all of these other issues going? Not so great if you ask me.

We are all splintered. We are not working together. We are rejecting help from those that are different because we require rigid acceptance and approval. I don't have to like you, love you, or agree with you to WORK WITH YOU on a better world. Your rejection of me is also a rejection of my access to privilege, power, and funding.

We have all got to remember to work together. I don't hate anyone based on differences in thought, faith, or culture. What I know is that there will always be those that I don't click with and that I am not overly fond of, but that doesn't mean we can't work together on jobs, projects, in ministry, and for a better world at large if they are not of my faith. I can love in Christ when my nature is to retreat. I am a mixed-race, recovering, celibate Christian that loves Jesus and works too much. I have strong beliefs in what I think God wants from me to be holy and to be complete in Him. But I also don't push my personal convictions and requirements onto others. I also don't believe that I should be cruel, shun, or reject others based on my personal faith and my commitment to God. And I still try to love those that are not like me. I try to love everyone and show that love because my faith in Christ commands it. My faith teaches that the love of Christ will draw people to Him and that His perfect love can save them. My heart and my life are different because of Christ. My work ethic, my pastimes, my conversation, the things I hope for and work towards are different than they used to be.

Regardless of your skin color, your hair texture, your nationality, your country of origin or your faith in a higher power, spirit or religious ideal: Be kind to others. Work with others and teach them when possible. Don't get tired of teaching others to be their best, to do their best and to work together with others to consolidate EVERYONE'S best. Use intersectionality to promote common goals and reach across faiths, and races, and priorities.

Show God's love.
Y'all be good. Love y'all.