|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on July 21, 2021 at 7:40 PM||comments ()|
July 21, 2021
Fathers play a critical role in the healthy development of children and families. This is why it's important to address structural and systemic barriers that prevent Black men from being fully present in their children's lives—so that all families have a chance to thrive.
My wife and I have been married since 2019, but we’ve known each other since we were 14-year-olds. We are raising a blended family. She has a daughter who is 9 and a 7-year-old son. I have a son who is 8, and together we have a 2-year-old son.
The pandemic has profoundly shaped my parenting experience in numerous ways. I had to transform my house into a combined virtual school, daycare, and work setting. The last year has negatively impacted our seven-year-old, who is autistic, mostly due to disruptions to the in-person support that he needs to truly thrive. Navigating these evolving dynamics, while working, running a household, and trying to stay sane has been extremely challenging. But being present in my children’s lives makes every moment worth it.
My father left when I was 3 years old. Because he wasn’t in the picture for my upbringing, in some ways, I am trying to reach an ideal as a father that I couldn’t actually see as a child. Something inside pushed me to be different, to counter the “absent Black father" narrative.
When I was younger, my perception of a father’s role was very different than it is now. I grew up in Newark, New Jersey, where norms for a Black child, a Black young adult, and a Black man could be stifling. The limits were very clear on what society deemed appropriate for a Black man, and how you were supposed to interact with others. I was never comfortable with those unwritten rules.
Once I began surrounding myself with other fathers of color, I started to realize I wasn’t alone. Media, television, and popular music perpetuate this idea that Black dads aren’t in their children’s lives, and that’s simply not true. Good Black fathers do exist, but it’s taken more time for our experience and contributions to be recognized.
It is so important and powerful for a child to have a father figure. I see that my kids’ view of fatherhood is being shaped by what they see in me.
Parenting in a Pandemic
Before COVID-19, my wife was working full-time at a university. After giving birth to our son, I supported her decision to leave her job so that she could dedicate more time to care for our children and our home. Caring for four children, including one with special needs and another who just learned how to walk, especially during the pandemic, is not a one-person job. It requires flexibility and patience. Even tasks as simple as taking out the garbage become complicated if the timing isn’t perfect.
One of our most challenging times during the pandemic was when my wife became ill and we worried that she may have contracted the virus. As we awaited her test results, she was quarantined in our room for several days while I took on the responsibility of caring for our children and for her. During that time, my family depended on me most as a father and husband, but I still needed to work in order to provide food and housing for all of us.
It’s difficult to give 100 percent of who you are to each of these distinct roles, and I struggled silently in fear of imposing guilt on anyone who depended on me. Even after my wife recovered, I suffered through many sleepless nights, anxious about who I was letting down each day—my kids, my wife, or my coworkers?
As I became better at expressing my feelings to my wife and colleagues, I also gradually began to better balance my roles. I didn’t want to be that dad who is always working and isn’t present in my kids’ lives, and they all understood that. I’m grateful to have the flexibility to be the best father, husband, and professional that I can be. Every day during my lunch period, I put my youngest down for a nap. Feeling his small hand grab my finger as he says “Dada, go to sleep?” is my signal that it’s time for the highlight of my day. My wife and I alternate helping our school-aged kids with their homework, preparing lunch, and taking the entire bunch outside to play. The silver lining in these times is how closely I get to watch my kids grow up before my own eyes.
Supporting Caretaking with Policy, Culture and Leadership
I recognize that I am blessed to be able to find balance. Many obstacles prevent fathers from being fully present in their family's day. Because of the environment I grew up in, I intimately understand the forces holding people back. I’m referring not just to a culture that only encourages men to pursue a very narrow set of traditionally masculine career paths, but also systems that make it difficult for men to take time off when they have a new baby or a sick parent. There is no question that policymakers can do more to break down those barriers with reforms like paid family leave.
There’s a role for employers here, too. It’s really important to build a culture that doesn’t just extend paid family leave benefits, but also encourages employees to use them when needed. I used to be nervous to take time off when someone in my family got sick. This added anxiety and stress made the situation even more difficult. I no longer feel that way, and wish others had that autonomy. I am grateful that I can take time off and be an active parent and caregiver during this devastating time.
There’s also a cultural piece—caregiving responsibilities can impact someone’s career growth. It’s so important for those in senior positions of power to understand this. Even if you have the right policies in place, people may judge or subtly dismiss those who actually take time off to provide care. Supervisors must lead by example, and be aware of implicit biases.
These false archetypes of what a leader looks like can influence decision-making. Even a well-meaning supervisor could ask themselves, “Should I avoid giving more responsibility to someone who is a caregiver?” They may have good intentions, but that outlook could hold someone back. It’s not just about having the right policies on the books; it’s making sure they are implemented equitably as well.
Bringing it Home
I’ve also seen what male caregiving can do to help a family grow and thrive. When my wife was raising her son who is autistic, as a single mom, her caregiving role was overwhelming. Depending on the resources available to you, based on where you live and your level of support from family or friends, single parenthood may be extremely tough. You may be constantly putting out fires, burned out, and strained. You may not have the flexibility to plan for the future if your present feels like a nightmare. How can you think about investing if you can’t even pay the bills? There were little to no resources available to her and her children in the city where she lived, so she relied heavily on her mother to navigate through that phase of her life.
For me to take on the role as her partner has had a great impact on me. I also see that my wife now has more freedom to dream. She became a certified life coach, discovered her passion for psychology and is taking college courses. We launched a podcast together where we have real, honest, and transparent discussions about relationships, family, and careers. To hear her aspirations and see her grow is breathtaking. At the same time, our son’s development has gone through the roof. This has been so uplifting for all of us.
As someone who has been impacted by false narratives, and is working to bring about a new one, I’m grateful to be involved in this work. In my life at home, I know that I may not always have the perfect words to express how I feel on command, but my children know that I love them, and my wife does too, because I show them every day. There is nothing more important to me than that.
Like me, many men of color take pride in caring for their children and families. To read more about our experiences, check out the new brief A Portrait of Caring Black Men and Every Family Forward’s Man Enough to Care series, including their thought provoking survey of real men who care for others
Dwayne Curry, Author
|Posted by email@example.com on June 6, 2021 at 4:00 PM||comments ()|
Is Your Community a Food Desert?
When you think of deserts, you might think of barren places with extreme temperatures and little precipitation where plants and animal life is minimal. Food deserts are very similar in that there are few to no options for accessing fresh fruits and vegetables. They exist in impoverished areas where families and communities struggle to grow and develop healthy. Food deserts are common in areas with smaller populations, higher rates of abandoned or vacant homes and where residents with lower levels of education, lower incomes and higher rates of unemployment live.1 Sounds familiar? Sounds like predominantly Black neighborhoods? According to a 2014 study at Johns Hopkins University, food deserts are a disproportionate reality for Black communities. The study compares US census tracts of similar poverty levels and found that in urban areas, Black communities had the fewest supermarkets, white communities had the most, and multiracial communities fell in the middle of the supermarket count spectrum.1 If you live in a food desert, you can help raise awareness that your community is not a reflection of a healthy America and that many people with type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions are dying because of this healthy food disparity. Begin talking to local retailers about selling healthy vegan foods, and share ideas with local policy makers (city councilmembers, county commissioners and state legislators) so that food equity becomes a reality in your community.2
1. The Annie E. Casey Foundation. February 13, 2021 Food Deserts in the United States. https://www.aecf.org
2. Food Empowerment Project. Food Deserts. https://foodispower.org/access-health/food-deserts/
|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on May 1, 2021 at 3:30 PM||comments ()|
By: Laurice Howell, DrPh., RDN, LD
Healthy eating should not be exhausting or an occasional act. You can make a conscious decision to choose healthy foods every day, and once this habit is established it becomes automatic.
Start by being a label reader. Look for foods low in salt, sugar, and saturated fat. A high intake of salt, sugar and saturated fat is associated with poor health. Packaged foods are generally high in these ingredients, that is why it is important to read labels so you can learn which packaged foods are healthier choices.
Processed foods and convenient meals such as frozen dinners are sodium laden. Instant food products such as instant grits and cereals are also extremely high in sodium. Choose foods with sodium 140mg or less.
Determine how many teaspoons of sugar are in a packaged product. To do this divide the grams of sugar by 4. For example, if a food package states 12 grams of sugar it would have three teaspoons of sugar. Also, look at the ingredient list, if the first, second, or third ingredient is sugar, the product is high in sugar. Look for products with lower sugar content and purchase food packed in their juice.
Foods that are high in saturated fats include red meats, dairy, butter, ice cream and baked goods, limit use of these foods. Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils, these contain unhealthy trans-fat. You can find this information by reading the ingredient list. Use healthy fats in moderation. Healthy fats include olive oil, soy, corn oil, sunflower, and peanut oil.
Eating healthy also means eating more fruits and vegetables. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Go for fresh fruits and vegetables. If you cannot find fresh fruits and vegetables look for canned or packaged fruits and vegetables that are low in salt, sugar, and fat. Limit the use of refined grains. Go for whole grains such as barley, wheat, oats, brown rice. Make ¼ of your plate whole grains.
For protein foods include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, quinoa. Limit red meats and avoid or limit processed meats such as bacon and sausage. Make ¼ of your plate protein foods.
Keep yourself hydrated by drinking enough fluids throughout the day. Try drinking two 8oz cups of water before each meal. This will keep you hydrated and make you eat less. Skip sugar drinks and limit juices to two serving per day.
When cooking your meals cook mostly baked, broiled, steamed, boiled, or roasted foods. Limit frying to cut down on calories. Remember, you can form a habit of choosing healthier foods. This will do your body good.
|Posted by email@example.com on April 6, 2021 at 4:50 PM||comments ()|
Forgive and forget!
By Betsy Rodríguez MSN, DCES
Many people view forgiveness as an offshoot of love -- a gift given freely to those who have hurt you.
Forgiveness, however, may bring enormous benefits to the person who gives that gift. If you can bring yourself to forgive and forget, you are likely to enjoy lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and a drop in the stress hormones circulating in your blood. Back pain, stomach problems, and headaches may disappear. And you'll reduce the anger, bitterness, resentment, depression, and other negative emotions that accompany the failure to forgive.
Of course, forgiving is notoriously difficult. Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive. It is not an easy process. And sometime forgetting may not be a realistic or desirable goal.
Despite the familiar cliché, 'forgive and forget,' most of us find forgetting nearly impossible. Forgiveness does not involve a literal forgetting. Forgiveness involves remembering graciously. The forgiver remembers the true though painful parts, but without the embellishment of angry adjectives and adverbs that stir up contempt.
Forgiving (and Forgetting) Crushes Stress
Angry seems to carry serious consequences. As I said before, when focused on unforgiving responses, your blood pressure flow, your heart rates increase, brow muscles tense, and negative feelings escalate. By contrast, forgiving responses induce calmer feelings and physical pleasant responses. It appears that harboring unforgiveness comes at an emotional and a physiological cost. Cultivating forgiveness may cut these costs.
But how do we cultivate forgiveness? You can’t just forgive. However, you can create conditions where forgiveness is more likely to occur. There are specific practices that diminish hostility and self-pity, and increase positive emotions, so it becomes more likely that a genuine, heartfelt release of resentment will occur.
How to Encourage Forgiveness
I encourage you in the practice of gratitude -- the active effort to acknowledge what's good in your life. Gratitude is simply focusing your attention on the positive things that have happened and that creates a biochemical experience that makes it more likely that forgiveness will occur.
Stress management, whether through meditation, deep breathing, prayers or relaxation exercises, also helps quell the stress of anger and resentment
You can also change the story looking at you as a survivor who is hopeful about the future rather than as a victim with a grievance. You can change, 'I hate my husband because he didn't love me,' to, 'life is a real challenge for me because I didn't feel loved as a wife’. This statement makes forgiveness so much more possible.
The goal, however, is emotional forgiveness, in which negative emotions such as resentment, bitterness, hostility, hatred, anger, and fear are replaced with love, compassion, sympathy, and empathy. Reach for forgiveness- Revenge is based on powerlessness and it's doomed to failure.
I encourage you who are reading this blog to read the scriptures that offer biblical guidance on forgiveness and how important it is to forgive others as we have been forgiven by the blood of Christ. With the grace and mercy shown to us, we are always able to start new with God. When we repent, we are given full forgiveness of our sins because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Considering our new beginning, God commands that in return, we forgive others and extend grace as we have been shown grace. It can be one of the hardest things we face in life! The pain and hurt others cause us is real and great. But, the pain of living with bitterness and unforgiveness can poison your soul and destroy you. When we forgive others, we are not saying what they did was OK, but we are releasing them to God and letting go of its hold on us. Forgiveness does not forget, but it does set free from bitterness and grudges.
Colossians 3:13- “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on March 12, 2021 at 9:50 PM||comments ()|
March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme is “personalize your plate”. The goal of the month is to celebrate the diversity of Americans as unique individuals with personal needs; also, it’s to promote creating nutritious meals to meet individuals’ cultural and personal food preferences. Across March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the nation’s largest nutrition organization, is recommending that Americans give attention to key weekly messages. These messages include avoiding distractions while eating, hydrate healthfully, take time to enjoy your food, include healthful foods from all food groups, learn how to read the Nutrition Fact Panels, use a grocery list to shop for healthy foods, plan healthful eating while traveling, reduce food waste, practice proper home food safety, and thrive through the transformative power of foods.
As I reviewed this list and considered all the clients that I serve, I applaud the national movement to improve the nutritional intake of Americans and as I usually do, I plan to do my best to celebrate the month and help my clients, family, and friends to follow the key messages, personalize their meals, and ultimately improve their health. However, even with the best intentions, this goal will be harder than ever before to achieve since we are in the middle of a syndemic. As I connect with Americans during this syndemic, many are reporting mindless eating, excessive weight gain, feeling traumatized, and experiencing growing unforgiveness related to personal, work-related, and marital or other relational transgressions. Many have been locked into their homes for almost a year, and families are fraying at the end because of the dynamics existing in the home. The need to address these issues and other relational concerns are long overdue. In other words, it is time to implement trauma-informed care for all our clients, since business as usual will not get to root cause issues that have surfaced during this syndemic. But where does one start? What to do to get people on track and to even give the key messages related to National Nutrition Month a second chance. I am glad you asked. Here are a few ideas to try this month.
• First, complete a forgiveness assessment if you have not done one before. See more at:
• Next, ensure that you develop weekly or biweekly menus for your household. Doing so will guarantee that you save money on your food budget.
• If you are unemployed and need food assistance, take the time to apply for these benefits. Also, check out the Aunt Bertha app, 211, church pantries, and food banks to fill any needs that you might have.
• Build a social support network, believe me even in the pandemic, this is possible with virtual Zoom parties, Facetime, Family recipe contest, Pajamas parties, etc.
• Keep a running shopping list in your kitchen and only buy what you need when you go shopping. Remember to wear a mask, keep social distance, and never go shopping when you are hungry.
• Be open to trying new and exciting ways to transform your foods. You would be surprised by the many ways that spinach for instance can be incorporated into your meals. Try something new each week!
• Be mindful and know what you are eating and why.
• Do not eat while you are watching the TV. We suggest that you get up and exercise at each commercial break.
• Take time to sit at the dinner table and have a conversation while you eat your meals.
• Get an accountability partner to check in on you and to encourage you to stick to your meal and exercise plans.
• Weigh-in each day or week, so you can know what is happening with your weight.
• Keep a food diary. Do something that I have done, log the food before you eat. Try my Fitness Pal, Fitbit, and other similar apps to help to keep you accountable. As you log food across the day, you would be surprised at what you will refuse to eat as the calorie, and fat tally keeps mounting. Give it a try!
• Find new ways to cook your food. Believe me, oven-style fried chicken tastes just as good as the one deep fried.
• Use fruits, vegetables, and small servings of nuts as snacks to keep the munchies away.
• Drink more water than sweetened tea or other beverages.
• Put down the fork between bites and give yourself at least 20 minutes to enjoy your meal. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to signal to the belly that it is full. So, rushing will add more calories and eventually more weight. So, stop to taste the flavor of your foods.
• Be mindful, creative, and eager to try something new this National Nutrition Month. Doing so can build healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Won't you give it a try?
Could you share with me what you have done to eat healthily during the pandemic, and one thing you will do differently this nutrition month?
To the best meals ever!
|Posted by email@example.com on February 4, 2021 at 2:35 PM||comments ()|
Unsettled by issues at work and at home, Matt decided to take a walk. The evening spring air beckoned. As the infinite sky deepened from blue to black, a thickening fog spilled slowly over the marsh. Starts began to glimmer, heralding the full moon rising in the east. The moment, for Matt, was deeply spiritual. He’s there, he thought, God is there, and He’s got this.
Some people look at the night sky and see nothing but nature. Others see a god as distant and cold as Jupiter. But the same God who “sits enthroned above the circle of the earth” also “brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name” (Isa. 40:22, 26). He knows his creation intimately.
It is this personal God who asked His people, “Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is dis-regarded by my God’?” Aching for them, God reminded them of the wisdom in seeking Him. “Do you not know? Have you not heard?...He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (vss.27-29).
We are easily tempted to forget God. Our problems won’t disappear with an evening stroll, but we can find rest and certainty that God is always working toward His good purposes. “I’m here” He says. “I’ve got you.”
'Thank You, Lord, for a night sky that helps us glimpse eternity. We
can’t begin to understand it fully, but we know it is there, and we
know You are there. Help us trust You for what we don’t know."
We should give God the same place in our hearts that He holds in the universe.
From Moments With God
|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on January 13, 2021 at 9:55 PM||comments ()|
By Karen Boone, MN, MPH, RN
We all have goals in life. One of my goals is to keep women from dying from cervical cancer. That may sound like an impossible goal, but I think its possible. In this blog post, I will share with you how cervical cancer can be found early, treated, and even prevented altogether. At the end I will tell you how you can help me keep women from dying of cervical cancer.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. ( Cervical cancer - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic)
Does a virus cause cervical cancer?
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is very common in the United States and is passed from one person to another during sex.
Can cervical cancer be prevented?
Here’s how you can prevent cervical cancer: Get the HPV vaccine if you are in the age group for which it’s recommended. The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. It is recommended for preteens (both boys and girls) aged 11 to 12 years, but can be given as early as age 9 and until age 26. Get recommended screening tests. The Pap test helps find cell changes on the cervix so they can be treated before they turn into cancer. The HPV test looks for HPV, which can cause cervical cancer.
At what age should a woman start getting Pap tests?
At 21 years old. Women should start getting Pap tests at age 21.
Should a woman get a Pap smear every year?
If you just had a Pap test and your Pap test result is normal, your doctor may say that you will not need another Pap test for 3 years. If you are 30 to 65 years old, you can choose to get a Pap test only, an HPV test only, or both tests together. If these results are normal, your doctor may then say that you can wait 3 years to be screened again if you got a Pap test only, or 5 years if you got an HPV test only or both tests together.
What are symptoms of cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer usually starts with no symptoms. As it develops, it may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you, such as bleeding after sex. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor.
Is it normal to have some vaginal bleeding or spotting after you’ve gone through menopause?
If you’ve gone through menopause and have any vaginal bleeding, you should report it to your doctor. And for women who have not yet gone through menopause – if you notice that your periods are heavier, last longer than is normal for you, or if you are having unusual bleeding between periods, talk to your doctor.
Can cervical cancer be cured?
Cervical cancer is highly curable when found early and treated soon after it is diagnosed.
Are all women at risk for gynecologic cancer?
All women are at risk. Each gynecologic cancer has different risk factors, and risk increases with age. To help lower your risk: pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you; make healthy choices such as eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy weight, not smoking, and practicing safe sex; share your family health history with your doctor; get the HPV vaccine if you are at an age when it is recommended; and get screened for cervical cancer regularly.
CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) provides breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women across the United States. You can find a free or low-cost screening for cervical cancer. Find a Screening Program Near You | NBCCEDP | CDC
So….how we do keep women from dying from cervical cancer?
Let every woman know that she can prevent cervical cancer by getting HPV vaccine if she is age-eligible. Let every woman know that its important to get routine Pap smears. Let every woman know its important to get treatment if her Pap test is abnormal. Let every woman know that screening and treatment for cervical cancer is available for women who don’t have insurance.
Info retrieved from Cervical Cancer | CDC.
|Posted by email@example.com on December 17, 2020 at 4:40 PM||comments ()|
December is finally here and the end of the year 2020 is in sight! As we start planning for the Christmas season, I know that we all have mixed feelings about 2020, but if you're like me, you are still alive, then we have much to be thankful for, and I believe that we will end the year better than we began. Better you say, are you kidding me? Many Americans have lost loved ones to COVID and other diseases this year, many are un or underemployed, some are now homeless, even more are depending on Food Banks to supplement their food budgets, and many are suicidal having lost all hope. America is in the fight of its life with an invisible virus that has wreaked havoc on the health of the population and disseminated the economy.
The Department of Labor reported in October 2020 that almost 8% of working Americans or 12.6 million individuals were unemployed. In 2019, unemployment stood at 3.5% and impacted 5.8 million Americans. Things are even bleaker on the food security front, and National Geographic (2020) reported that 50.4 million Americans were living in food-insecure households. Put another way, “one in six Americans could go hungry if the COVID pandemic persists.” The news media outlets have documented mile-long lines for food across the nation, and Food for America (2020) reported that about 70% of these individuals have never needed food assistance before. Today, deaths from COVID -19 stood at 282,000 with COVID -related hospitalizations at an all-time high. Many of us know someone or have family members or friends who have become infected or died from this virus. We are tired, worn out, grieving, restless, and stressed, but the pandemic is far from over. Despite this fact, many are mad with themselves, their old bosses, family members, friends, and even with God. How could God sit and allow this to happen? Does he not care?Believe it, God has been with us on this COVID journey, and I do not believe that this has taken him by surprise. While it is difficult to write or even say this, I expect that God will work something good out of this year. As Joseph said in Genesis 50:20, “what the enemy meant for harm, God uses for good”. I challenge you to look for the good in each day. I guarantee that you will find it. Stay prayerful and continue to take it one day at a time. God will see us through this crisis.
One good that has come out of 2020 is a few new COVID vaccines. As we wait expectantly for the FDA approval of the first COVID-vaccine, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon, but the arrival of the vaccine will bring new challenges. For instance, experts still need to ascertain exactly how we will get 60 or 70% of the American population to take the two-dose vaccine to build herd immunity. It will be a herculean task trying to convince individualistic Americans to think of the common good, and to take the vaccine to benefit others. To add insult to injury, historically, two-dose vaccines can have “incompletes” since life happens, and individuals forget to come in for their second dose. To make matters worse, African Americans and other minority populations ravaged by COVID-19 are sounding the alarm about their unwillingness to take any COVID vaccine. At the time of writing, National Public Radio (NPR) reported that only 42% of African Americans reported that they will take the vaccine compared to 83% of Asian Americans. Overall, 60% of Americans reported to the Pew Research Foundation (2020), that they would take the vaccine if it were available. Yet, these numbers will continue to change, and the CDC and other health agencies will need to convince each person to take the vaccine. Of course, it will take months after the vaccine becomes available for our lives to get back to any semblance of normal, and no one can predict what that “new normal” will look like.
Regardless, if we survive this pandemic, we should remain hopeful with the assurance that God has taken us through an unprecedented time in our history. Together, we will make it to the other side of this crisis. So, let us support the health of our brothers and sisters and consider taking the vaccine so that we can build herd immunity. Only then can we get back to some semblance of normal in 2021. As we end this year, I am grateful to have the privilege to live in this country, be employed, have a family that loves and cares about me, and to have a growing and deepening relationship with Jesus Christ. Despite its challenges, are you grateful for 2020? Do you plan to take the COVID vaccine? What will it take to change your mind to accept the vaccine? Please drop me a line to share your thoughts. Looking forward to your feedback.
Until next time,
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on November 23, 2020 at 9:50 PM||comments ()|
November a Time of Thanksgiving
Guest Writer: Stasea Austin
November is a busy month: National Diabetes Month, Thanksgiving, and even my birthday. So, it was difficult for me to decide what to focus on for this blog. To sum up, the state of 2020 thus far, has been rough. Rough, in what way you may ask? I am glad you asked. To begin, 2020 threw us many curveballs. We started with bright and hopeful anticipation for a wonderful 2020, but many had not even given up on their new year’s resolution when COVID reared its ugly head. Rough in the state of the unrest, upheavals, stock market roller coasters, economic unrest, and unemployment seen across the nation. Even more frightening are the many lives lost and those continuing to succumb to this dreadful virus. It has been a terrifying time when young and old questioned their mortality, and we all had more questions than answers. For instance, one might have asked, why did we need anything but pajamas in our closets? Why do we need to pay for a car which has been parked for months? Worst yet, why pay insurance on the parked car since there is not a possibility of a wreck in a locked garage? Why did we built massive office buildings, churches, mosques, temples, etc. when they now sit empty as many are locked in their homes? These and many other questions remain unanswered as we struggle to find our feet again. Our new normal is almost surreal with masks gloves, sanitizers, and face shields. Dare cough or sneeze in public and the look of disbelief on faces as people move away from you is almost laughable if it were not a serious issue. Many Americans, my family included lost family members to COVID. Death has been a constant companion for all of us as we watched the news or tried to visit the sick and dying. An unprecedented year!
But, despite the pandemic, losses to COVID, the elections, and more; there is still room to be thankful. I have been working throughout the pandemic as a Flight Attendant and I am beyond thankful that I have remained well. I am alive, as are you. I have my health, my family, and a job, and blessings still flow forth, despite the difficulties. Given the year, we have had, we have a lot to be thankful for! A practice my mother continues to recommend is that each night before retiring for the night, that I find one new thing to be thankful for. Try it and soon you will realize that a heart of gratitude leaves no room for complaints.
So, let us remain vigilant in keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe and sound and remember to be thankful for all that we have. On this Thanksgiving, also try to examine your well-being and search to ensure that you have no unforgiveness in your heart. If you do, work to let it go, so that you can be free. In the meantime, be grateful, be thankful, and stay safe.
Please share with us what you are thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Until next time,
|Posted by email@example.com on October 23, 2020 at 2:40 PM||comments ()|
A Spiritual Perspective for Racial Reconciliation
By Pastor Emanuel Williams
The Need for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in America
Beginning in May with the death of George Floyd every time you and I turn on our TVs or read the AJC, there is a report of an event that has sparked racial unrest and the need for racial reconciliation is mentioned. So, let’s examine this issue:
• During this year, there has been racial unrest across the United States as a result of incidents in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Kenosha, Louisville. In light of these incidents, politicians, business leaders, and clergy are talking about the need for healing and reconciliation between blacks and whites.
• Businesses and community groups are calling for the formation of councils and committees to monitor race relations within the community and for steps to bring about racial reconciliation.
• However, the United States is not the only nation to experience racial violence and the potential for civil unrest.
A. I would like to cite the historic example of a recent event in which the role religion played a major role in achieving racial reconciliation.
(1) During the 90’s the nation of South Africa was facing a crisis. A majority black government was preparing to come into power, and the world held its breath as to what would be the outcome. Could there be a peaceful transition from white to black political power after decades of racial unrest and injustice? But just as God raised up Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt, God raised up a man to resolve the acute crisis and to bring reconciliation.
(2) Archbishop Desmond Tutu oversaw South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and was able to instill a willingness among whites and blacks to forgive. In one instance, a white officer confessed his role in a massacre and asked for forgiveness. In the audience were people who were wounded in the incident and people who had lost loved ones. But when the officer asked for forgiveness they did not rush to strangle or assault him but applauded. Such examples of forgiveness led to widespread reconciliation.
(3) My point is that through Bishop Tutu’s moral and religious leadership, bloodshed and revenge were avoided and a road to a peaceful transition of the government was accomplished through racial reconciliation.
(4) During this period there arose a phenomenon - The Spirit of “ubuntu”
(a) It was another example of a religious practice that helped to prompt and promote racial reconciliation in South Africa. The word “ubuntu” was used to describe someone who was generous, hospitable and compassionate and who shared whatever he/she had.
B. In his memoirs, Bishop Tutu says that at the very core of ubuntu is a true understanding of brotherhood and fellowship as expressed in the New Testament Greek word Koinonia.
Forgiveness versus reconciliation
• Is unilateral Is bilateral
• Requires only one person Is reciprocal
• Decision to release the offender Effort to rejoin the offender
• Requires change in thinking about Involves a change in behavior
The offender by the offender
• Is a free gift to the one who has Restored relationship based on
Broken trust restored trust
• Extended even if it is never earned Offered to the offender because
It has been earned.
• Unconditional, regardless of Conditional based on repentance
While we know that FORGIVENESS has its basis in Christianity and the teachings of Jesus, what about RECONCILIATION? What is the spiritual basis for reconciliation?
1. Reconciliation and Religion in America “Bound Together: Racial Reconciliation Begins in the Church – Jerram Barrs: Covenant Theological Seminary
A. The biblical framework for forgiveness and reconciliation
Historically, the failure of the Christian Church to speak out for and live out reconciliation between races may tempt people to believe that there are only a few verses in the Word of God which address this issue. But when we turn to Scripture, we find that reconciliation is a core value of our faith. Let me share with you four examples of the relationship between faith and reconciliation.
(1) Common Humanity (Acts 17:26-28) Paul on Mars Hill
“From one man God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:26-28) We have a common origin and we all live and move and have our being in God.
(2) Common Shame (Genesis 5:3 and Romans 3:22)
Secondly, we must recognize our common shame. Not only do we share the same glory, we bear the same shame. We all inherit the sinful nature of our parents, from Adam and Eve right down to the present day. Adam and Eve, we are told in Genesis 5:3, begot a child in their own image, in their own likeness. We share the image and likeness of God, but we also share the image and likeness of sinful humanity. There is a built-in connectedness among the people of this world.
(3) New Humanity in Christ – Jesus went to all people
Whether people were despised because of race, gender, culture, or sin, Jesus went to them. Jesus went into their homes, He ate with them, and they received Him gladly. The Son of God showed us how we are to be. Jesus taught His disciples that after His death He would draw to Himself men and women from every nation on the face of this earth. He declared that His passion is that there would be unity among his followers. John’s vision in Revelation
(4) The Longing of Christ – Highly Priestly Prayer John 17
John 17 records the night of Jesus’ death. What is the passion, the motivation, the longing that fills Jesus’ heart as He prepares Himself to go to crucifixion? John 17:20 records His prayer, “My prayer is not for them [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” Jesus’ passionate prayer before He dies, is that we, His people—all of us—will experience the kind of unity that the members of the Trinity experience.
The longing of Jesus Christ is that we (black, white, yellow and brown; male and female; young and old; from every people, tribe, tongue and nation) may be one. Jesus prayed saying, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Christ’s desire is not Asian-Americans here and Latinos there, Afro-Americans here and Anglo-Americans somewhere else, but rather that we may be brought to complete unit
(5) What stands in the way of unity?
(a) What stands in the way of the realization of unity in the body of Christ? What stands in the way of reconciliation?
• Our pride of heritage,
• our security in our cultural identity,
• our comfort in our color, the result is idolatry
(b) When this pride, this security, this comfort causes us to turn our back on Jesus’ prayer on the night that He died, then all we have is idolatry. It is idolatry that causes us to think we know better than Him how the church should be built before the world and we must repent of this idolatry.
© We need to be prepared to say with the apostle Paul, “I am white, I am English, I am Reformed, I am Presbyterian”—or whatever it may be for you—and say, “I consider this manure.” Those are Paul’s words. It is not just rubbish; I consider this dung in comparison to knowing
(6) How do we move forward from here?
Paul has told us the answer is humility. “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). We must humble ourselves before God’s Word and before one another. We must see the idolatrous nature of our hearts toward our cultural comfort and identity and cry out to God to convict us.
If you have not been awakened to the need for reconciliation in the body of Christ then you need to cry out to God that He will harrow your heart. Ask the Lord to convict you of what His Word teaches not in an obscure verse or two here and there, but what is taught from the beginning to the end of His Word about the unity of the human race and the unity of people in Jesus Christ. We need to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and under His Word. And then we need to make confession to God and to one another because the New Testament encourages us to confess our sins to one another that we might be healed. And we need to be healed.
2. Steps Toward Reconciliation
A. Personal examples of racial reconciliation: military and hospital settings
B. Video: Racism, Social Justice, and he Christian Response
A. Let us humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and under His Word.
B. Then let us make confession to God and to one another because the New Testament encourages us to confess our sins to one another that we might be healed.
C. And let us be healed through the power of God’s Holy Spirit