Every so often, Little Man screams out, “Thank you, God!” He got it from me, I suppose. When I get to church, I shout y’all! I shout in my house when God shows up. I shout in my car when the gospel song hits the right spot. I’m a shouter. Little Man usually places his praise in the right context, but every so often he will shout at the “wrong” time.
We were listening to a country singer during the Dallas Cowboy Thanksgiving game halftime show when he yelled it out again. He threw his four year old little hand in the air and shouted, “Thank you, God!”
Baby Girl looked at him and dryly said, “Really J? It’s a country song.” We all burst out laughing because there he sat with his hand in the air, praising as though he was unaware he wasn’t supposed to be.
I wish we could all be more like little man. I wish I could praise out loud, for all the world to see even when I seemingly have nothing to be shoutin’ for. I wish I could thank God no matter the time, trial, or place. I wish I could forget to keep it together in public. I wish I could fall to pieces and make a fool of myself in the midst of my trials, and not care a bit what people may think.
Little Man’s praise was contagious. After he said it, I felt a “Thank you, God!” welling up in my spirit. I just kept saying it.
Baby Girl looked at me at one point and said, “Ok, mommy. Calm down.” But it was too late. His infectious, ill-timed praise had sunk deep into me and I fought for my right to praise God whenever I feel like it. I said at least three more “Thank you, Gods!” that evening.
While I said it, I remembered that even though things aren’t the way I want them to be, that even though I can’t buy myself a pair of winter booties or celebrate my 13th wedding anniversary with a trip to some place tropical, I can still find a million reasons to say “Thank you, God!”
While I said it, I reminded myself that ill-timed praise especially confuses the enemy, and that a “Thank you, God,” may be the thing that breaks the trial barrier.
I was reminded that we should live in the light of gratitude for all God does for and is to us.
Little Man reminded me that there is no designated day or reason, no good or bad time, no specific season to say, “Thank you, God!”
When I looked, I found that He had simply reminded me of something Bible writers had written thousands of years ago. (Psalm 107:8-9, 1 Chronicles 16:34, 1 Timothy 4:4-5, Psalm 95:2-3, Psalm 7:17, Psalm 100:4, Psalm 106:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
On Tuesday, I wrote of my experience as someone of African ancestry who recites the pledge of allegiance to the United States of America but has never really felt that all the clauses were for me, particularly, “…and justice for all.” I also shared that because it is written there, I will hold America accountable.
So where does that leave me? Inspired. It probably should leave me daunted, but instead I am energized to finally take my place among the great civil rights activists and say, “Me too. My people deserve all America has to offer too.”
For a moment I wondered where do I start? What can I do to help ensure justice for all? God is always faithful when we are sincerely looking for His leadership in our lives.
Today’s post is strictly about things we each can do locally to hold America accountable for that clause.
- Decriminalize minor infractions
We can lobby to change the category of certain crimes to instead be listed as civil infractions. This means certain “crimes” will no longer involve jail time and definitely do not warrant much more than a warning and a “move it along please.” It also means they will not be on a list of crimes police officers can meet their monthly quotas with.
- Ensure community oversight committees accurately represent the population of the community
No police officers or former police officers should sit on this committee. This is a conflict of interests. Ensure that the population of your community is being represented by members from that population functioning on the committee.
- Get the data and assess
Data about police actions (shootings, etc.) are public record. Find the data and begin to assess if excessive force, racial profiling, or unwarranted murders are an issue plaguing your community. This will be important as you address the oversight committee with your concerns.
- Establish an independent office for prosecuting police officers
Every state should have an independent party responsible for prosecuting police officers. It is a conflict of interest for the District Attorney’s office to do it because they work hand in hand with police officers on other cases all year long.
Finally, because harassment and unfair detainment doesn’t just happen to African Americans
- Curb ICE’s authority at the precinct
Stop allowing ICE to have the police detain someone that may have immigration issues (this is a form of racial profiling). This causes many immigrants to avoid officers whether they can be of assistance to the police or if they have great need of the police themselves. Make ICE pay to detain someone at the precinct, when necessary, rather than utilizing hard, earned tax dollars.
These are just five ways you can begin to effect change in your local community, city, and state. These changes may seem insignificant, but think of the decrease in police stops once certain “crimes” have been decriminalized and can’t help officers reach their monthly quotas.
Think of how different the narrative would be if oversight committees were presided over by men and women who are being unlawfully harassed day in and day out. How different the narrative would be if we took our concerns along with statistics, rather than emotions, to dismantle racial profiling and unnecessary force.
While the conversation has just begun for many, for me, it has come to an end.
It’s time now to act.
You can find five more ways to effect change in your local community where I found these five at https://m.mic.com/articles/121572/15-things-your-city-can-do-right-now-to-end-police-brutality#.lSmL5NU9b
Contact me if you’d like to get involved in the fight against police brutality. Contact Us
As I contemplate the Pledge of Allegiance all Americans identify with, I wonder about the last clause… “and justice for all!” It sounds weirdly familiar. I try to remember where I heard it, but memories are drowned out by bloodstained, American streets crying out, “Where is my justice?”
I turned on the TV to see if it was something I saw there, but video after video of innocent men being gunned down by those that are supposed to protect and serve erased the notion that media echoes this clause.
Growing up, I always felt “justice for all” didn’t include me or people that look like me. I lived with an “except” that is implied or unspoken. Historically, African Americans have never had the privilege of easily believing this clause for ourselves. We have never had the ease of dreams or nonchalant strolls into white picket futures.
We have always had to fight for that clause.
Today, no matter how implied or unspoken that “except” may be, I vow to hold America accountable for that clause. It belongs to me and my people too, and somewhere in the annals of my mind I know I have heard it elsewhere. As fraught with struggle as it is in the context of our country and our ethnicity, it rings true in a very simple way somewhere else… in another context that gives me the power to peacefully fight, yet still love those who oppose.
Now I remember where I heard it.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Being “in Christ” is “justice for all”, and this context supersedes any other. This context powers my faith to work, to peacefully resist, to change the narrative. This context keeps me from duplicating the insidious hate perpetrated against me.
This is real freedom… real justice… real good!
Join me for Thursdays post to see what you can do locally (in your city) to change narrative.
I remember very clearly the yearning I had to be loved—not married, though I thought they were one and the same at the time. I desired a love that many cynical singles and sad marrieds told me did not exist and wouldn’t materialize for me.
I hadn’t seen it in my home, church, or extended family as a child or adolescent. Yes, marriages had stayed together, but many seemed as though a Band-Aid held them together.
All I had was my faith in the God who’d created me and love, and who I believe placed the desire for true love in my heart. Where else would it have come from? After all, so many people around me were settling for watered-down, counterfeited versions of love. Somehow I tenaciously held on to a concept of love given to me by God, and I refused to let it go.
When I got married in 2003, I knew my husband was the man God had prepared for me, so imagine my confusion when one, two, three years into my marriage, I still felt the void that I had felt as a single woman. I didn’t have as much time to lament over it, but it was still there. Don’t misunderstand. My husband is a man of God who loves me to no end. He is wonderful, and God has confirmed numerous times that we belong together, so I knew He had chosen my mate. We perfectly balanced each other and mirrored Christ to one another, but something was still missing. It felt like the void was for something deep, concentrated, saturating, fulfilling, never-ending, and life-changing. During my fourth year of marriage, I bowed my head to tell God that I didn’t understand.
As I poured out my heart before God concerning the deficiency that threatened to cripple me, He whispered, “It’s me.”
“What’s you?” I asked.
I AM what’s missing. I AM the only One who can and will be everything you need. I crave to listen to you always and never grow weary of hearing what comes from you. I see beauty every time I look at you. I alone can truly solve your problems, heal your hurts, and therapeutically banish your issues. While you are still speaking, I am answering the unutterable cries of your heart. I love you so much that I gave my life so that we could spend forever together. I AM the Lover of your soul. It’s always been Me.”
Instantly the hole was filled, and I felt the true love I had been searching for my whole life. I had been looking for a human to love me like that, but it isn’t possible. When God looks at me, He sees the beauty that will be instead of the character challenges I face now. He delights in sitting in my presence always. He judges rightly, but it doesn’t feels like human judgment that can never be erased. It is in spite of love, not because of love. I had been looking for someone to love me, but I should have been looking for someone who could love my soul. The most infuriating thing is that while I searched frantically for love, He had been patiently offering me this deep, far-reaching, perfect, awe-inspiring, crazy, like a riot in the heart with nothing to be done love!
When the world around you is daunting, when your heart shudders at the thought of facing another day, when your energy wains as you contemplate where you must expend it, let the tears fall freely, but be careful where they land.
Once I had no place for my tears. If I cried them at work I was looked upon as weak. If I cried them at home I was looked upon as hormonal. If I cried them alone I spiraled into self-loathing. This emotional super power I was given seems too to be my kryptonite.
Once I had no place for my tears because no one received them as waters brimming out of my soul’s longing for more. No one saw them as rivers of waters drawn from the deep of my dreams, but cut off by damns seeking to cap my potential. No one saw them as they were.
I have found a place for my tears, my dreams, my hope, my selfish utterings of “I want my life back.” I have found a place for tears where they are honored. A place where they are saved to become the dreams that seemed deferred, marred, or slurred by the ugliness of a sin-sick world.
I have found a place for my tears. A place where they are what they are, no more and no less. I must confess when I found this place I didn’t believe such grace existed. My human mind had been twisted with judgmental spaces, absent stares, and cold, unfeeling faces.
I had lost the belief that I could cry openly and still be a woman, strong, born from slave stock. I had forgotten that she too cried once, but still survived. I had forgotten that He too cried once, but still gave His life.
I have found a place for my tears. They are in His bottle, every one. He doesn’t miss one that falls. He doesn’t judge me wrongly. He holds my head as I weep, rubs my back when my sobs cause me to convulse, and watches me ‘til I sleep.
There, in His bottle my tears find a place where their Captor looks into each one like the heart of me and finds a way to bestow dignity on what others see as disgrace.
He’s always loved me, when I was barren, when I was lost, when I was devalued, when I was homesick, when I was broken, when I was humiliated, when I was poor, when I was afraid, when I was not enough. He has them all… in His bottle… my safe place for tears to fall.
It is national poetry month, so I would be remiss if I didn’t post at least one poem this month. This poem represents just a few of the strongholds women specifically face. As I prepare to speak to youth this weekend on the topic of forgiveness as the catalyst for destroying generational curses…
Chains, I face them every day and it seems they formed in so many ways, over so many days, link by link. Controlling what I say, what I think. They’ve bound me as long as I can remember. They are such a part of me I now wear them fashionably. Today they’re a barely there skirt, tomorrow a flirty low cut shirt because now the sum total of my body parts is how I gauge my worth.
My father taught me this when he told me I was born to do for him all that my mother wouldn’t do. So now he haunts me all throughout my life, and I can never quite quiet the voice that tells me it was my fault, the assaults were because I deserved it. My mother turned a blind eye because I wasn’t worth saving. This voice, this chain is the root of my craving for older men who view me as their possession and why I’m undaunted when I find they are married. It actually makes me feel more wanted.
These chains leave me to think I can’t be loved by anyone though I’ve never done anything to deserve such a sentence. Even friends walk away and leave me with the thought that no one can stomach me for long. What’s wrong with me?
He left. Without so much as a word. I didn’t even know until I got home to a half empty house. That’s why he wouldn’t answer the phone. I had given him all of me in holy matrimony. Promises were made, plans were laid. We’d shared a bed, I love you’s had been said and now he’s gone. Friends stop by and sympathize and say, “it must be tough.” But none of them know what it is to live with the feeling that you just weren’t enough.
At least you had someone once. You know what they say, better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. I have been single for so long that I’ve given up hope that I am desirable at all. My mother once told me that no one would ever want me. It seemed at age 8 she was already disappointed in who I would one day be. While other parents told their kids they were great, she would look at me like I was the part of her she’d always hate.
These chains have multiplied and created sub chains that seek not just to imprison me, but also my family. They cause me to act in a way that visits my iniquities on my children day by day. Thereby creating chains for another generation.
My father left us when I was 3, so naturally I look for rolling stones. When I had my daughter that man rolled so fast no moss could even be found on the spot he once lay. Now my chains are hers and though I know it’s not what she deserves, she can’t see her own worth. I want to free her, help her overcome the damage done by that rolling stone, but I can’t help because my hands are tied by my own.
I want to be free. Free from the chains binding me. I want to see me like God sees me. I want to let myself believe in all that I can be. I don’t want to be who the enemy keeps calling me. He’s called me out my name for far too long. I don’t have to be who he says I am because of things I’ve done or things done to me. My past is just that…passed. Right now I’m shedding the old man and grasping the new. I want to break down the walls that keep hurt out, because they’ve kept God out too. I want to love functionally and forgive those that have hurt me. And I don’t want to hurt you. I want to be healthy and dine on success, be the best I can be. Use my gifts and talents fruitfully. I want no longer to be tied down, nor to drown in self-pity, nor to wallow in low self-esteem. I want to deem myself worthy of being really loved. I want to live without fear. I want to hear the sound of my own voice affirming me. Not the sound of the enemy lying to me. I want to repair the fabric of my being. I want to shed these chains. I want to be free!
Most of our negative narratives have been around for a long time. It is important to reprogram your negative thoughts to make room for positivity. In order to do this, you must first find where the negative thoughts originated. Were they intentionally or unintentionally communicated?
Often we hear things that become a part of our narrative just as we first heard them, in the voice of our mother, teacher, coach, boss, or sibling, but sometimes we transfer them and begin to hear them as our own voice. Then it seems you are telling yourself these negative things all day long. Before long, you don’t believe in yourself, your abilities, or your value.
You enlarge your difficulties, challenges, and faults. Soon much of the running dialogue in your head is in line with these destructive phrases and you become crippled with fear about moving forward in certain areas of your life.
You wonder how you got to this fearful place and how you will ever get out of the wicked cycle of stagnation. You want desperately to succeed, make moves, and achieve the great things you were created for, but you have no idea where to start.
Then sometimes, no one audibly tells us anything. We simply build a narrative based on what we see happening or not happening around us. These are the hardest to find because they were communicated silently and unintentionally. You’ve heard the phrase, “Children live what they learn,” haven’t you?
The girl who never sees dad open the door for mom never has the chance to believe she is worthy of such treatment. The son whose mother yells at his dad builds a narrative about deserving verbal abuse. The child who never sees her parents read the Bible or pray believes she can live without God.
I was raised by parents who valued education. My dad struggled to get his degree part time while raising a family. I watched my mom study for certificate after certificate in the field of nursing. Without even saying anything, they were communicating the importance of a good education. That’s a great narrative, right?
I just knew I needed to do well in school, go to a good university, and have a stable, practical, in demand career. While those are great goals, never once was the idea of being an entrepreneur, stay at home mom, or artist introduced. No one in my family had built their own business from the ground up.
No one in my family had used their talent, or what they loved to do, to make money and sustain their life. If we dreamed out loud, we were told to focus on what was important. This communicated that art or entrepreneurship was impractical, unstable, and unimportant.
No one told me I couldn’t be any of those things, but no one ever told me I could be. Up until very recently, I had been living my life without ever exploring the possibility of starting and running my own business because I’d never seen it done or been encouraged to explore it. Many moments fed the negative “I can’t do that” narrative.
How do you change a narrative that was not intentionally communicated that you may not even know is there? Well, I’m happy to offer two more practical tools for overcoming your negative narratives, the intentionally communicated ones as well as the unintentionally communicated ones.
Yesterday we looked at counteracting the intentionally negative phrases we have heard with intentionally positive phrases. Today we will take a deeper look at counteracting in the form of an activity.
Close your eyes and listen for one of those destructive phrases to surface in your mind. As soon as you hear one, pretend it is on the radio and dial it all the way down until you can’t hear it anymore. Once it is silent, picture a future, well put together version of yourself saying something to you that counteracts the negative phrase you just dialed down. Then wash it all away with the sound of waves lapping the shoreline.
By practicing this daily you can begin to wash away many of those negative phrases you have been living with. Go ahead. Try it now. I’ll wait for you to finish before I move on 🙂
This next tool is for those sneaky, unintentionally communicated negative narratives such as “I can’t do that because it hasn’t been done by anyone I know.”
Create a vision board.
The first thing you should do is brain dump. What do I mean? Write all your dreams down on paper. Don’t leave anything out. Write your ideal situation and what it includes.
Without evaluating if you can have them, if they are practical, if they make sense, just write down anything and everything you would love to be able to do. Then research them and find pictures that represent them. Arrange these pictures on a board anyway that you like.
My vision board is arranged with Christ in the center and the four areas in which I would like to experience growth on each corner. I have Healthy Spirituality, Healthy Body, Healthy Career/Ministry, and Healthy Relationships. The pictures that will get me to each goal are leading to and coming from Christ. This reminds me of two things: make Jesus the reason for all I do and advancement is not possible without Him.
That’s my board, but yours could be about one topic or many. It could be organized or organized chaos. That’s what is great about a vision board. It is yours!
Hang your board where you can see it often. Pray over the goals you placed on there as well as all the little steps in between. A vision board helps you take what is in your head, being marginalized by your negative narrative, and put it where it is real and visible. Each time you look at it, your pictures say someone has done it, so it is doable! This in turn makes it more believable… more possible!
By dreaming out loud, you give your eyes the chance to behold what your negative narrative won’t let you believe. By beholding, you will become changed, motivated, activated!
Your negative narrative may be the one thing standing between you and…
Last week we dealt with forgiveness as a way to overcome the barriers that past hurts erect. This week, we will look at overcoming the negative narratives that many of us live with, and I’ll give you practical tools for changing your narrative.
All day long we hear voices. Not because we are schizophrenic, but because somewhere between 5 and 6 months of gesticulation we develop ears and can hear.
From that point on, we hear a myriad of things, some good, some bad. Some of the things we hear stay with us for a lifetime. You know the phrases, “You’ll never amount to anything.” “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” “You’re a bad little girl.” “You’re so stupid.”
These things that have been said to us lodge in our memories and our minds automatically call them up when faced with a situation where it is applicable. For instance, when you seek to start your own business and you become paralyzed with fear because, “you’ll never amount to anything.”
Or perhaps you are taking that statistics class in your first year of undergrad and you’re sure you will fail because, “you’re so stupid.” Or maybe you are dating a really great guy, but you believe he will never be happy with you because you just can’t “be more like your sister”.
In my youth, I had a family member tell me I was pretty at best, but certainly not beautiful. She substantiated her claim by comparing me to women in pop culture who were considered beautiful. This coupled with not being told I was beautiful in my childhood or youth, and the constant stream of pop culture’s biased definition of beauty created a major issue concerning my view of my own beauty.
I could hear her saying it when I was dressing to go out, or choosing a new hairstyle, or when I met a new prospect for a romantic relationship. I struggled with believing I was beautiful and this in turn caused me to seek false lashes, fake nails, synthetic hair, make up, jewelry, et cetera. I constantly sought to add on to me so that one day I would finally add up to beauty. Of course those add ons never worked. I always felt a dollar short and a day late where beauty was concerned.
I would eventually embark on a journey to a place where I could love me and find my own beauty, but it took a long time to get there. Only after receiving and believing God’s view of me was I able to have a positive view of myself and my beauty.
There were some tangible things I did, however to interrupt the negative narrative about my beauty and replace it with a healthy, balanced perspective.
One thing I did was…
Counteract the negativity with positivity immediately. Every day I told myself, “You are beautiful.” I said it whenever I heard that negative phrase in my head, “…pretty at best.” But I also said it while grooming in the mirror, and when I had a bad breakout of adult acne. I said it when a guy I liked wasn’t interested in me.
I reminded myself of my beauty, so that I could effectively fight the urge to cover up, add on, or believe that acne, a lack of interest from a guy, or anything external could impact my beauty.
I also reminded myself what God thinks of me by reading His love letters and sitting in His presence on a daily basis. I counteracted the negativity with healthy perspective on what beauty is and where it originates. I counteracted it with the truth about who I am, the truth that my Maker alone can impart.
No one knows you better than your Creator. Long before others had opinions, you were made to be great in the annals of God’s mind. View what He says about you as unchangeable truth and relegate everyone else’s comments to the opinion category. Then rehearse what He has said about you until you believe it.
I place words that God has spoken to me on my bedroom wall, so that they are the first thing I see when I wake up and the last thing I see before bed. I read them quietly and audibly until I believe them and they become my new narrative.
When we view people’s opinion of us as the truth of who we are, we make them an authority on the subject and automatically take on negative narratives that destroy our self-confidence, but when we put them in their proper context we allow our minds the opportunity to evaluate and decide whether or not we want to believe it.
It takes faith to believe what an unseen God says about you when the world is screaming something else, when the enemy is whispering lies about you in your ear on a constant.
What has God said about you? Have you had the right perspective about yourself or have you allowed the opinions of others to bleed into your narrative? What will you say to counteract the negativity you have been ruminating on?
Check out the song The Curse is Broken by Todd Galberth for more inspiration.
We left off on Tuesday at step 3 in the process of forgiveness. I’m just going to jump right in with step 4. Why delay? We’ve been bound by harbored hurt far too long!
Step 4 – Address the perp
The perpetrator may or may not know they have hurt you. If we are discussing being wronged by a loved one, church member or friend, then it is important to address the person who has wronged you. This makes them aware that they hurt you and that their behavior is undesirable and unacceptable to you.
Making them aware of the infraction affords them the opportunity to apologize and correct their behavior.
I would like to note here that you do not need an apology to complete the process of forgiveness. That is what is so great about it. Offering forgiveness is not contingent upon anyone but you. This comes into play especially if it was an act of violence such as domestic abuse, rape, robbery, or the individual is unstable in any way. I do not advise approaching the individual, as this may cause you further harm.
If the situation calls for it, the Bible is your perfect guide for how to address someone that did you wrong. First you go and talk to them alone. If they will not receive you go next time with a witness. You should take someone that won’t make the other person feel as though you’re about to “jump” them. That is to say, take someone neutral that won’t cause the other person to feel ganged up on. (Matthew 18:15-17)
Step 5 – Fight the urge to punish the perp by withholding forgiveness (that actually punishes you)
Don’t give in to the idea that you are hurting the other person by withholding forgiveness. Half the time, they ain’t even thinkin’ bout you! But when we are embroiled in malice and grudge we are constantly thinking about them. We wile away the hours we could be using for brainstorming success, hearing from the Lord, and living on purpose to hate on someone who hurt us.
Another reason forgiveness is crucial is found in the Bible. When we don’t forgive, God won’t forgive us (Matthew 6:15 & 18:21-35). When we allow grudges and hurts to fester, it blocks spiritual growth. We cannot get closer to God with sins in between, and we can’t get rid of sin unless we forgive others their trespasses.
When your relationship with God is off, then every aspect of your life is thrown off in turn. Sure, you may experience success according to the world’s standards, but fulfillment will elude you until you make peace with hurts and those that have violated you or your trust.
Without forgiveness… you are FaithWalkin backwards. You are walking amongst the graves like a demoniac… angry, irrational, bitter, and fearful.
So, how can you harness God’s power in your life, work, ministry, and FaithWalk? How can you ensure that nothing stops us as we seek excellence in every area of our lives? We all need to unclog our hearts and lives by releasing the hurts and by offering others what is offered to us every day.
God’s power cannot fill us unless we make room!
When my dad passed away last December, I felt at peace in knowing I had long since made it through the process of forgiveness and he knew he was forgiven and loved by his daughter.
He would have been proud of my book, proud of my life coaching firm… proud of me, but I wouldn’t have had the room for all this success if I hadn’t let go of past hurts.
Opening the doors of your life to allow success to get in is only a byproduct of forgiveness.
The true prize is feeling happy, healthy, and whole. The true prize is peace!