Check Yourself

The United States has gone through many changes during 2020. We have experienced a global pandemic, virtual learning, turbulent elections, and protests for and against racial equality. Through all of these events, I have sought to educate myself about what I can do to make a difference – not only in the lives of my family, but also my community. 

So, who is my community? In the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus teaches us that everyone is our neighbor and we are to show mercy and compassion to all. I strive to show the love and grace of Christ to everyone I encounter. Over this past year, I think we all have become aware of the systemic racism our neighbors have experienced. You may say that the enslavement of African-Americans is in the past, but when you look at how they have been limited in how much of the “American Dream” they can achieve, you will see that enslavement still exists – just in a different way. You may disagree with their cries, but you no longer can say, “I didn’t know.” 

In an effort to educate ourselves, my husband and I have joined a Racial Justice Small Group at our church. It is composed of members of our church, Black and White, who seek to educate themselves on issues and events of systemic racism, learn our personal bias, and seek opportunities to make a difference in our community. During the month of March, I am participating in the YWCA’s 21 Day Racial Equality & Social Justice Challenge. I have been reading articles, watching videos, and listening to pod casts on racial injustices in this country of not just African-Americans, but also Asian-Americans and Native Americans. 

You might have learned about the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s in school, the groups of people who helped African-Americans register to vote, and the Jim Crow laws of the South. Did you learn about the James Crow laws of the North, how banks redlined areas, or Black Wall Street? There are many aspects to our country’s history that people would like to ignore. We can no longer ignore what minority groups – Black, Asian, Native American – have encountered. Our actions need to change, but first our thoughts need to change – so our hearts can change.

When I was a teacher, if I wanted to let a student or students know they weren’t meeting classroom expectations, I would say, “Check yourself” to the class. It was a gentle reminder to the class, without calling out anyone by name. I am finding that I need to check myself at times. My hope is by being aware of my thoughts, I can change those thoughts. The enemy likes to get into our thoughts, in hope of manipulating us to commit a sin or multiple sins – like the people who ignored helping the man who laid on the side of the road bleeding to death in the Good Samaritan parable. 

You may be asking, “What are those thoughts I might need to check myself on?” 

What is your first thought when you see a person of color driving a very expensive car? 

What is your first thought when you hear a minority saying certain words “improperly”? 

What do you think when you see a woman wearing a hijab? 

What do you think when you hear the name White Feather? 

            What do you think when you see a group of teens who don’t have the same skin color as you?

            What do you think when you encounter people who don’t look or speak like you?

Do we let our thoughts control our actions or do they stay simply a thought? The enemy knows that if he can get into your thoughts, he is a step closer to controlling your actions. We need to check our thoughts and make sure our actions are like those of the Good Samaritan. Do we see others the way Christ saw others? Do we have compassion for others the way Christ had compassion? Do we listen to others when they talk to us, like Christ did, or do we talk at others the way the government and religious leaders did? We need to take the time to educate ourselves about what is happening in our communities, listen to the cries of our sisters and brothers, and figure out how to be a part of the solution. Every journey starts by taking the first step, but before we can start we need to check ourselves. 


Hope is NOT Lost

At this historic time in our country, many are struggling so much that they have lost hope. It is easy to understand how one could lose hope in a future for their family, in the future of their city, in the future of this country. So much is going on that it is a perfect storm of illness, death, destruction, divide, anger, apathy, greed, superiority, and lack of faith in humanity. Yet, in the middle of this hurricane of life there is still hope. 

If you look for darkness and death you will find darkness and death, but if you look for light and life you will find light and life. The stories of hope are out there, you just have to find them. Why aren’t they the first stories on a feed? Simply, stories of hope don’t get the most hits. Most people like to read about darkness and death to either feed their need to believe all is lost or to make them feel better about themselves. If we are to grow as individuals and as the human race, we must start to look for hope to shine light in every dark corner. We must rise up and start sharing hope!

So, what can you do to find hope? One thing you can do is to start the day with a positive attitude. Determine that this day is going to be a good day and find one thing that will make it a good day. For instance, I am thankful to have a supportive husband, and it is a good day because I get to watch him read and study his Bible. No matter what else happens today, my heart has this joyful moment. It could be a good day for you that you are up, showered, dressed, and did your hair. It could be a good day for you because you just walked 8 miles or ran your first 5K. What is your one thing that will make this a good day for you?

How do you spread hope? Find something that isn’t political, one-sided, or racially charged to share on your most used social media platform. For instance, a story about how young children started a lemonade stand to help children effected by a natural disaster or a story about how a family pet that was lost because of a natural disaster was reunited with its family. Hope can be found in the middle of a pandemic. One example is when a restaurant had to shut down and its freezer and cooler started to fail, the manager shared all the food with his employees and his neighborhood. This act of kindness helped many who had lost their jobs. On my Instagram feed and Facebook Page I share a Bible verse each day. Hope can be found in the simplest of things. How will you share hope today?

When I say that hope is not lost, I speak from experience. Every time something has happened to me I have chosen to look to the bright side, not that I didn’t have dark moments it was just I didn’t want to live in the dark. I chose to live in the light. To see each day for a new chance for hope. Erin O’Donnell said in a song, “Every day begins and ends with hope.” I hold this thought in my heart each day. There is hope of what will be and hope in what has happened during the day. I have hope that this country’s differences can be worked out and real change can happen. I have hope that more will lead with love and not anger. 

Hope is an attitude. You have control over your attitudes and how you react to situations. You can see doom and gloom or you can see light and hope. The choice is yours. 

“Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.”     Elie Wiesel

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”       Michelle Obama

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”     Desmond Tutu

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.”     Emily Dickinson

“I’m telling you there is hope. I have seen it, but it does not come from the governments or corporations. It comes from the people.”     Greta Thunburg

“Be hopeful. Be optimistic. Never lose that sense of hope.”     John Lewis

“Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.”      Desmond Tutu

We Must Stand-Up Against Injustice – It’s What Jesus Did

I’ve always chosen to live out Jesus’ commandment to “Love others as I have loved you.” I am struggling with what is happening in my country. My emotions and thoughts are all over the place. I am appalled by what officers did to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all crimes against others because of the color of their skin. I am frustrated by those who are choosing to destroy property and kill innocent bystanders. I am dumbfounded by what the president did to peaceful protesters – for a photo op! The devil is having a field day with America right now. 

When I saw the video of Mr. Floyd’s arrest, I couldn’t believe how the officer had his hands in his pockets and the look on his face was the look many have as they kneel down to have a casual day at the beach! Even with people asking to check on George Floyd, people saying you are killing him, and most importantly the words of Mr. Floyd – “I can’t breathe” – the officer was unaffected. Some want to say this was just excessive force and not racially motivated. I don’t know how one can’t see this as racially motivated. The fact that this officer wasn’t arrested immediately is racial. If it had been a black officer kneeing on a white man, that officer would have been arrested immediately. There is a double stander in this country. 

As a teacher of Ancient World History and U.S. History, I have to teach my students that since the beginning of man there has been a desire to belittle and control others. We study slavery in every culture we study, including early Mesopotamia, ancient Israel, the Roman Empire, ancient China, as well as the United States. Slavery has always existed, and unfortunately, to my students’ disbelief, slavery still exists. These are hard conversations to have, but they are necessary to educate and to change things. Every year, I tell my students that they need to educate themselves on past and current oppressions so they can change the world. Because of the events of the past few weeks, I pray that parents, government officials, school officials, churches, and community leaders are having these hard conversations. 

A huge irony of this country’s history is that the first colonists fled their home countries because they were being oppressed, and they ended up oppressing the Native Americans and others who were different than them. Last year was the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship arriving in the English colonies. While the slave ship was captured, the colonists didn’t send the ship away. They kept the ship and its contents – including the African slaves. A few of the slaves became indentured servants, which is a “fancy” form of slavery, but most became slaves working on farms. The colonists now had the taste of slavery as a workforce for their farms. 

I used some of the materials in The New York Times Magazine’s The1619 Project in my classroom this past year. The Project has some very thought-provoking articles and poems – created by African-American journalists and artists. The poem “Middle Passage” by Clint Smith is deeply moving and gut retching about the Middle Passage of the trade triangle – the side going from Africa to the New World transporting slaves. I used this poem in my classroom to try to help my students understand what the slaves endured. As a white teacher, I feel it is my responsibility to teach my students, and anyone I encounter, to respect the history and culture of others. The first step in respecting each other is educating ourselves on what each other is enduring. I can sympathize with my minority students, but I can’t empathize because I’m white. (I encourage you to read the Project, there is a link at the end of my blog.)

While I don’t condone the destruction of property and killing of bystanders, like during many of the protests, I do understand the need to protest. This country was founded on protests. The colonists were being taxed without representation in Parliament, their property was being seized and destroyed by British soldiers, and they were being forced to buy goods only from Britain. The colonists sent representatives to talk to British officials and pled their cause, which Parliament ignored. In the end, the colonists were left with no choice but to protest. Unfortunately, many were killed during those protests – which led to the Revolutionary war. The American Revolution inspired the French Revolution. Maybe what is happening in America right now can inspire others to stand up again the injustice in their country. 

When early Christian Americans realized they could use African slaves to work their farms for them, they felt they needed to justify the enslavement of humans. This is when the myths about those of color were started. It hurts me to my core that there are still those who consider themselves Christians that still believe these myths, and think they are better than anyone else. Jesus Christ would seek out those who were the societal outcasts and show them love. He shared God’s love, mercy, and compassion with ALL people – even those who were trying to kill Him. The Good Shepherd would leave the 99 to find the one. He gave His life so we would have life. I wonder, when Jesus comes again will He be treated the same as He was before – there were those who knew Christ as the Son of God and those who wanted to kill Him because they felt He threated their power. Remember, Jesus was from the Middle East – His skin wouldn’t have been white. Will Jesus be treated with love or with hate? 

In trying to find comfort in the Bible, I read Proverbs and my heart dropped when I read the following: 

Proverbs 29: 22-23, 25 

“An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression. 

A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor. 

The fear of man is a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is set securely on high.”

Because everyone has a different background and interprets scripture differently, here is what I see in the above verses. To me, the first verse is saying that when we see injustice we need to do something to stop it, but not let our anger take over and cause us to do things against God. The second verse is reminding us when our pride takes over we will fall into sin, but when we are humble we can bring honor to our cause. The last verse is reminding us that when we let fear guide us we will fail, but when we trust God to guide us we will succeed. We can’t let our anger and fear control us, this is what the devil wants so we stray from God and His plan for us. When we fear others because of the color of their skin, their religion, their culture, their beliefs, their sexual preference, their lifestyle, or anything different than us, we are falling into the devil’s snare. Jesus told us to love each other and showed us how to see in our differences we can find common ground to work together for the better good. 

2020 has been filled with many incidents to cause fear: Covid-19, stay at home orders, unemployment, schools shutting down, riots, earthquakes, hurricanes, all on top of everyday struggles. The world is one big ball of stress and needs a big hug. We need to use this time to focus on what we can do to better ourselves and help others. We need to start to live more Christ like and share God’s love, mercy, peace, comfort, and compassion with others. We can’t be shellfish and keep it all for our ourselves. Speak out and don’t stay silent any longer. This world won’t change if we stay silent. There are countless times that Christ stood-up for those who were being unjustly ignored and persecuted. We must stand-up against injustice – it’s what Jesus did. 

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